Monday, August 15, 2011

Sungenis and "johnmartin" Studiously Miss the Point [Guest Post on Geocentrism by David Palm]

[link to David Palm's identical article on his blog]

Bob Sungenis and "johnmartin" have issued lengthy "rebuttals" to my two pieces, Neo-geocentrism: Excessive Interest in Usury Comes to Naught and Neo-geo Exaggerations: The Catechism of Trent (see here and here).  I have to put "rebuttals" in quotes because, although both men deployed a great many words and both would probably claim that I have been "answered" and decisively so, the fact remains that neither individual actually engaged the central points I was making. 

The core points that they missed are:

1) The Roman Catechism doesn't teach geocentrism, Copernican heliocentrism, or any other specific cosmological theory.

On this point, in vintage style, Bob deploys a number of debater's tricks to hide the fact that I plainly demonstrated that the Roman Catechism does not teach geocentrism or any other specific cosmological system.  As such, Sungenis totally misses the point when he concludes, "Pius V didn’t say one word about heliocentrism in his catechism, so why is Mr. Palm arguing that Pius V was accommodating heliocentrism? Arguments from silence work both ways."  I've repeatedly stated that the Catholic Church doesn't teach any theory regarding celestial motion as a matter of faith, that Catholics have freedom in this regard.  The whole point that Bob studiously avoided is that the Catechism uses generic language that doesn't dogmatise any one theory.

It's a common debater's trick to try and shift the burden of proof to his opponent.  But remember that it was Sungenis who claimed that the Roman Catechism contains, "One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism..." and speaks of the "Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism".  Obviously, with a build-up like that, the burden of proof is squarely on him to show just where this clear and dogmatic assertion of geocentrism exists in the Catechism.

The problem is that he can't.

As I laid out in my original article, there are a number of passages cited by the neo-geocentrists to try to find geocentrism in the Roman Catechism.  But even Sungenis has to admit that there is doubt about what these actually mean.  So he deploys what he considers to be the show-stopper—the "foundations of the earth" passage—which he claims will, "expel any doubt about what objects are revolving".  The problem is that I demonstrated that this passage has nothing to do with the position of the globe in relation to the universe, but speaks of the position of dry land in relation to water on the surface of the earth.  As I said there, "If 'earth' here means the entire globe then the passage ceases to make sense, since in the last sentence the 'earth' is specifically contrasted with the 'air' and 'water' and God certainly didn't cover the entire globe, including the air and water, 'with trees and every variety of plant and flower'."

What does Bob say to this demonstration?

Sure, I’ll grant to Mr. Palm that 'mundus' could refer to the earth and earth could refer to the land. But that doesn’t get him off the hook with the previous passage that says the sun, moon and stars revolve around the earth. Mr. Palm’s mundus could either mean earth or universe, but the burden of proof is on him to show that it means earth since the catechism has already stated it believes the sun, moon and stars revolve around the earth.
But the careful reader will notice that Bob has added the words "around the earth" to the Catechism because that's what he needs it to say in order to support geocentrism. The fact is, the Catechism never uses such words.  Instead, it uses generic phrases like "certain and uniform course", "continual revolution", "fixed and regular motion", "motion and revolutions" with respect to the heavenly bodies.  And these would apply just as well to the pre-Tridentine theories of Bishop Nicolas Oresme and Cardinal Nicolas Cusa as they would to Copernican heliocentrism and more modern acentric cosmologies.  In other words, the Catechism does not teach anything with respect to any one scientific theory—that was not the intent of those passages.

This answers Bob's other off-point comment, "As such, Mr. Palm will also have to accept the fact that he cannot interpret land and earth literally in the catechism and then interpret the sun, moon and stars moving around the earth non‐literally."  Wrong.  There are really two ways to answer this.  First, the Magisterium teaches that the Holy Spirit did not put specifics about "the essential nature of the things of the visible universe" into sacred Scripture.  Rather, they are depicted according to "what comes under the senses" (Providentissimus Deus 18).  We cannot really expect more from the Roman Catechism than what we get from sacred Scripture itself concerning the precise details of celestial motions. But second,  the motions are literal, it's just that the Catechism does not give specifics about those motions.  Can Bob prove that the theories of Bishop Oresme and Cardinal Cusa are excluded by the Roman Catechism?  No, he can't. It is he who reads subsequent controversies and his own cosmological biases back into the Roman Catechism and adds words that are not there, to make the Catechism say what he wants it to say.

But more importantly, notice how Bob plays both ends against the middle.  He had already implicitly acknowledged that the other passages are not clear, that there was "doubt" that needed to be expelled.  So he deployed the "foundations of the earth" passage which, he claimed, will "expel any doubt about what objects are revolving".  But I proved that that passage has nothing to do with the motions of celestial bodies.  Bob did not even engage my exegetical argument.  (Neither did "johnmartin".)  Instead, he circles back around to claim that the passages that he acknowledged are doubtful are now clear enough to support the meaning of this passage: "the burden of proof is on [Palm] to show that it means earth since the catechism has already stated it believes the sun, moon and stars revolve around the earth."  The problem for Bob is that I did prove just that.

The bottom line is that the Catechism's language accommodates more than one cosmological view, because the Catholic Church does not teach any one cosmology as a matter of faith.  Bob huffs that "Even die‐hard modernists admit that the Tridentine catechism teaches geocentrism. They just don’t want to accept it, but at least they are not foolish enough to force the catechism into a mold that it cannot hold."

But I categorically deny that the Roman Catechism teaches geocentrism or any cosmology at all and the arguments that I have deployed to demonstrate that apply every bit as much to the modernists as to the neo-geocentrists.  But the fact that Bob will side with the Church's enemies in order to save his "pebble" of geocentrism pretty much proves my point: "The neo-geocentrist fixation on their pet cause is like a monkey who reaches into a precious Ming vase to grasp a pebble. Intent only on holding onto that bit of rock and unable to extract his clenched fist, the monkey will happily smash the vase to get his "prize", heedless of the priceless nature of the treasure he has wrecked."

2)  There is no instance in which the Magisterium of the Church has for centuries ceased to teach a doctrine of the Catholic faith.

In Neo-geocentrism: Excessive Interest in Usury Comes to Naught I pointed to instances in which neo-geocentrists attack the very Magisterium of the Church in order to explain their anomalous position.  "johnmartin" deployed a whole list of doctrines which he claims the Catholic Church has "de facto denied" and speaks of "church [sic] silence" prompted by "inept leadership or fear of the science establishment".  Rick Delano speaks of "surrender" and "abandoning" of "binding doctrines" and "dogmas" put forth by the "ordinary magisterium".  And yet I have shown how, in each and every case, the Magisterium of the Church has explicitly reaffirmed the examples they propose, right up to the present day.  This leaves geocentrism standing in utter isolation as the lone alleged exception to the rule.  But the neo-geocentrists are simply wrong: it is not an exception at all because geocentrism is not now and never has been taught as a matter of faith by the Catholic Church, in either her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium.  The Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches 100% of the doctrines of the Faith.  That she does not teach geocentrism demonstrates that never has been part of the Faith.  Neo-geocentrism is exactly as I have described it many times in discussions on the Catholic Answers Forum—an elaborate exercise in special pleading, both scientifically and ecclesiastically.

Now "johnmartin" and Sungenis consistently miss this point.  The former seeks to blunt my criticism of his extreme statements by appealing to what happens on the "local level".  For the record, that is not what he said before.  What he said was, “I’ve presented a list of doctrines that have been de facto denied by the modern church” and “I believe the church silence on the matter of geo[centrism] in the last 300 years is easily accounted for through either inept leadership or fear of the science establishment”.  I don't see any disclaimers in there about this only happening on the "local level".  As such, his new argument seems to be a tacit recognition that his original argument was false.  And it's interesting that this alleged ineptitude and cowardice didn't prevent the Magisterium from explicitly teaching on a wide range of volatile and controversial topics, from contraception to homosexuality to divorce and remarriage.  Are we to believe that this alleged failure of competence and nerve is reserved only for geocentrism?  Again, this is just one more instance of neo-geocentric special pleading.

Regardless, now "johnmartin" complains that he's been misunderstood.  For example:

It is in this context that geocentrist claim that the doctrine of the stationary earth has been dropped in practice (in so far as it is not taught at the local level),...


Geocentrism is then only one part of a larger problem within the church. The doctrine of geocentrism has not been taught at the local level for some time, but then again, many other doctrines have also not been taught for a long time either.
It is true that on "the local level" many things have broken down in many parts of the world in the Catholic Church.  But let's be clear.  We aren't talking about "the local level" with respect to geocentrism.  We're talking about what the universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to the faithful as matters of faith.  And I demonstrated that, while the Church certainly does not teach geocentrism as a matter of faith, she has reiterated her teaching formally in each and every example that "johnmartin" presented as supposed parallels.

Similarly, Sungenis deflects from the core issue by speaking of "what is actually being taught in many Catholic institutions".  But that is not what we're talking about.  We are talking about what is taught by the Catholic Magisterium, to the universal Church.  The Catholic Church teaches 100% of the doctrines of the faith to the universal Church.  She does not teach geocentrism.  Ergo, geocentrism is not part of the Catholic faith.  Period.

If the neo-geocentrists actually could come up with a doctrine of the faith that the Magisterium had not publicly affirmed for many centuries, then they would at least have a parallel.  They can't.  Most Catholics would rejoice in the fact that, even in these dark and difficult times the Catholic Church continues to teach, publicly and solemnly, all the doctrines of our faith.

But not the neo-geocentrists (or at least not these neo-geocentrists).  This fact is a cause of great vexation to them and so they instead scramble to manufacture whatever difficulties they can imagine.  To them, geocentrism must be defended at all costs.  Why is that so?  What has led them to such fanaticism?

At least two reasons suggest themselves.  First, some of these individuals have staked their very reputations on geocentrism.  Perhaps they feel they’ve reached the point of no return and have no choice but to defend it to the bitter end.  Second, they’ve also presented geocentrism in such a way that their personal faith in the Catholic Church is dependent upon it.  In their view, if geocentrism is not true then the Catholic Church isn’t indefectible.

This latter problem particularly concerns me in that others who have the misfortune of encountering such misguided neo-geocentrist fanaticism—whether practicing Catholics or those considering the Catholic faith—may also be adversely affected.  I know this from private notes I have received to date.  But this "all or nothing" approach is, of course, a product of manifest neo-geocentrist exaggeration as to the authority and nature of the ecclesiastical documents that address geocentrism.  For the Catholic who knows his faith, the truth or falsehood of geocentrism has no impact whatsoever on his trust in the Catholic Magisterium.

Unfortunately, these neo-geocentrist fanatics are heedless of the damage they may be doing to others' trust in the Magisterium—all in order to open some glimmer of plausibility for their pet theory to be part of our faith.  And this once again proves my point.  To all appearances they will do anything to hang on to the "pebble" of their private fixation on geocentrism, even to the point of making a shipwreck of their faith and the faith of others.

* * *

Dave Armstrong: I generally don't allow comments for geocentrism threads because of incessant trolling and insulting comments from geocentrist John Martin in particular (who has usually gone by the moniker "johnmartin" in comments; hence David Palm's title and use); sometimes (usually) others as well. This has happened multiple times now. He can't control himself, despite several suggestions from myself that he please do so.

This is my blog, and commenters ought to understand that they are guests and not privileged with unlimited access to comment, no matter how ridiculous or unsavory in nature their comments are. My blog is not a platform for relentless preaching of viewpoints that I don't espouse, and that I think are false and dangerous because they are false. I'm happy to provide links to opposing points of view, though. That's fine.

I haven't had to implement this policy for any other topic in my (2600+) posts, besides this subject matter. Robert Sungenis and another person, James B. Phillips complained about this, but I told them in private emails that I would be happy to list links to replies in this paper (or -- I add now -- any others in this series, where I close the comments).

Accordingly, here is John Martin's reply.

Here's a link also to the reply of Robert Sungenis, entitled, Response to David Palm on the Tridentine Catechism’s Treatment of Cosmology. David Palm has also preserved the reply on one of his web pages, and a counter-response will likely be forthcoming from him.

To give readers an idea of the sort of mentality that John Martin exhibits in this discussion, here is one example of many scores, of his comments: drawn from his reply above:

If Mr Palm wants to push his reputation argument further, I could counter by saying Mr Palm wants to make a reputation for himself and the modern liberal establishment who routinely modify or ignore parts of the faith and explain away church history. So he has taken it upon himself to attack geocentrists at the expense of his own integrity to gain political points with the likes of Dave Armstrong (who routinely places Mr Palm’s posts on his blog and prevents comments being made), and This Rock and Catholic Answers.

Martin's previous reply was filled with personal insults as well:

. . . Mr. Palm is either a very confused man, who thinks he can make half baked arguments and think the rest of the Catholic community will believe him, or he has deliberately and repeatedly lied about geocentrism, the church and geocentrists, thereby placing his salvation in jeopardy. . . .
. . . a novel Palm-catholic faith of his own making. [repeated, mantra-like, four times in four paragraphs]
. . . this is solid evidence that Mr. Palm knows his game is up and he has been and will continue to be exposed as a very confused and possibly evil character who must repent of his actions against the church. I will conclude with this request of Mr. Palm – Your arguments against geocentrism and therefore the church have been answered. Please embrace the fullness of the catholic faith before it is too late.

But here I am (oddly enough) allowing links to John Martin's patent nonsense: altogether typified by this sort of pathetic rhetoric, and also Bob Sungenis' reply.

James B. Phillips, another geocentrist in Sungenis' (very small) circle, continues to berate me in private mails,  for not allowing comments, even though I have explained to him more than once now why (singularly) I don't allow them in geocentrist threads. First, he wrote and asked me why I closed the comments. I replied:

I don't allow comments on these geocentrism posts because johnmartin trolls every time and leaves 10,000 comments (usually filled with the obligatory insults as well).

I'll be glad to leave a link to replies (if someone makes me aware of them). I have no problem with that, but I have less than no patience with trolls and unbridled excess of response, because it's my blog, and commenters are guests on it.

He didn't grasp the meaning of this reply and talked about leaving the link to John Martin's reply himself, in a comment. So I clarified (italics added presently):

I will add it to the paper later today.

He thanked me, and presumably he has read my remarks added to the end of this paper by now,  but then, inexplicably, he started in again today, stating, "I notice that comments are still not allowed . . ." and "I had hoped to get this link [to John Martin's reply] included in a comment." But the link has already been added to the paper (above) as of two days ago. He noted that Sungenis had also replied, and that was added as well, so where's the beef? It's all standard fare with geocentrists, unfortunately. This is part of what I have gone through when I used to allow them to comment ad nauseum. I have only so much patience.

Let me reiterate once again again: I am not required by ethics or some wacky notion of what free speech means, to allow my blog to be overrun by people with goofy, fringe, kooky, extremist (and false) viewpoints. I have been happy to post a link to two replies. This is not enough for Phillips. He is now virtually demanding that I must open up the comments, too. Sorry; that ain't happening. You guys have your own blogs and networks; use them to spread your propaganda.

Lastly, Robert Sungenis commended me for adding the two links, saying "Thank you" (upon learning that I would post the links) and "Thank you for being fair" (upon seeing that I did in fact do so). But that's not enough for James B. Phillips . . . Let him argue with Bob about whether I am "fair" or in fact a wascally wascal.



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