Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Young Guns" in Catholic Online Apologetics: How Different Are They from the "Old Guard"? / Apologetics is Always a Difficult Spiritual Battle

 With fellow apologist Jimmy Akin at my house in 2004. We met again at the Catholic Answers offices this last May

This is a reply to an article by Devin Rose on the VirtuousPla.net site, entitled, Young Guns. My name was graciously mentioned in it. I had some thoughts in reply, that I posted there.
* * * * *

People are people. Catholic apologists are Catholic apologists. Zebras have stripes, etc. I don’t think it is that different. The fringe anti-Catholic wing of online Protestantism despises, e.g., the folks at “Called to Communion” (especially Bryan Cross) just as much as they detest us “older” apologists. I can attest to that, having seen many disparaging remarks. Whoever defends the Church will be in for the same treatment no matter how saintly and non-confrontational they act. That’s just how it goes.

If one is loved by one and all, I question whether they are vigorously defending Holy Mother Church, because many people get offended when you disagree with them (believe me, I know, after 30 years of apologetics in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds). This is a dynamic that hold true in all times and places because it is the perpetual struggle of truth over falsehood; right over wrong. We don’t want to be despised because we are truly jerks and uncharitable (because of our own poor behavior), but if we are loathed because we proclaim Catholic truth, then that is exactly what our Lord predicted would happen. It does not necessarily reflect badly upon how well we did our job, at all.

I have (friendly) quibbles with some of the characterizations: drawing contrasts where I don’t see much of that, myself. You clarified on the charity thing. Good. As for Point 2, Scott Hahn doesn’t interact online much (he doesn’t debate), but all the other “old guard” named are very active in this fashion. We’re all on Facebook and we all interact. Pat Madrid has 5000 Facebook followers; Jimmy Akin is up to 4581. I have 2500 in just eight months’ time. I think most are on Twitter, too (I am). Most use radio and TV and various other media. I’m the least “public,” by far (I just write away in my own home), but I have been on the radio about a dozen times.

As for Point 3 (being systematic), that’s nothing new to me at all: I have over 2600 posts on my blog, categorized in over 50 separate web pages. I deal with everything: atheists, science, sexual issues, war ethics, ecumenism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, anti-Catholics, Orthodoxy, Catholic traditionalism, Church fathers, development of doctrine, romantic theology a la Lewis and Tolkien, conversion and converts, you name it. So that is not “different” from me. The Catholic Answers website is quite systematic; so is Pat Madrid’s stuff, and Scott Hahn’s website(s).

I’m not trying to toot my own horn, or that of the “older guys” or create some kind of silly rivalry (not at all); I’m merely making the point that I don’t see the strong contrast that is drawn in the article, and question the accuracy of using the adjectives “new,” “new era,” “new wineskins,” “different,” “new media.”

Obviously, with each new wave of apologetics and outreach efforts there will be innovations and fresh approaches. I want to see “new guys” who are doing a good job, get more exposure and recognition. More power to all of ‘em. I commend any such efforts and rejoice to see them. But I don’t think there is any essential (or even very great) difference here.

We’re all in this together and can all learn from each other. If someone learns something from me I am flattered and give the glory to God; but I hope to always be open to learning from others, too, including the so-called “young guns.” I don’t want to ever become the “old dog” (at the ripe old age of 53) that can never learn “new tricks.”

* * *

As an example of some of what I was contending above, see the feature article on the anti-Catholic Beggars All site, by John Bugay, entitled, "The Bryan Cross Method Alert" (5-10-10). After all kinds of swipes taken, Bugay concludes at length that Cross's "method of argumentation is inherently dishonest." Earlier in the article he characterized Cross's style as "knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person." It's the old "jesuitical casuistry" charge. Bugay in the combox expressly states this: "I've pulled out my copy of Pascal's 'Provincial Letters,' and I'm going to give them a look, on the topic of 'casuistry.'"

Nothing new under the sun. If Cross is using some kind of "new" method that is distinguishable in any significant way from older ones, the net result in the anti-Catholic's eyes is exactly the same. It's not a whit more effective in convincing people who are fundamentally hostile, than anything that has been done in the last 20 years online. Bugay attacks Cross again in an article dated 3-25-11, saying,

Bryan is one of those individuals in search of “the correctly marketable term,” a new phrase he can coin and throw out there to “the academy,” which will have his name attached to it, and for which people will fawn over him. . . . Maybe, someday, Bryan can be known, like Bultmann, for having discerned “the separation of the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith.”

These dynamics are inevitable. Called to Communion and Bryan Cross are relatively well-known, among the "young guns." Therefore, they are being increasingly attacked and savaged. The same thing will happen to anyone else who crosses paths with the leading anti-Catholics. The closer you get to the "front lines" and the longer you stay there, the more attacks will come (and with them the altogether human temptation to respond in kind, or to act in ways quite differently from a sweet, saintly demeanor). It's the nature of spiritual as well as military warfare.

Once a few points are scored in debate, then the anti-Catholic fangs come out and it is never the same again.  I guarantee that the young guns will not fare any differently, the more they engage these folks. And there is a time for a rebuke and strong language, too, if it is warranted. Jesus did that with the Pharisees; St. Paul did with various opponents (some of whom are named in his letters), and with entire churches (Galatians, Corinthians). Sometimes when a person is rightly rebuked, then the one doing it gets accused of engaging in the same behavior that was rebuked (I know from much personal experience!).

Any apologist who thinks that his work can and will always be "nicey-nicey" and "smiley" and all wrapped up in a pretty bow will have to learn the hard way, and may be in for some major disenchantment or disillusionment (I've seen many people "burn out"). If difficult scenarios and strong (personal) opposition aren't encountered, then (sorry), I don't think an apologist is fully doing his job. Opposition (and hence unpopularity) is inevitable.

With Protestants who are ecumenical, though, there is no problem achieving amiable, cordial, constructive debate. It's like night and day. Therefore, I contend that the essential difference is not some supposedly significantly "new" apologetic method vs. older ones, but rather, the difference in how an anti-Catholic Protestant responds, vs. how a Protestant who considers Catholics brothers in Christ will respond, and how the former responds, in direct proportion to how familiar he is with a Catholic opponent, and how many times he has been bested in argument by same.

Precisely the same dynamic also applies to apologetics in exchanges with atheists. There are the angry, irrational, "anti-Christian" ones (unfortunately the majority), and also the ones who can talk sensibly with those who differ from them. Nothing works with the former, but it is easy to dialogue with the latter. Again, the key is not the method of the Catholic, but the prior outlook of the particular atheist. This is crucial to understand. We won't be "successful" with everyone.

Our task as apologists is to vigorously share and defend the truth, with charity and gentleness and wisdom. The results are up to God, since it is only His grace that moves any heart closer to Him in the first place. Sometimes we are opposed and seem to achieve no result whatever (like Jeremiah); other times there is abundant visible fruit (as on the day of Pentecost or with St. Francis de Sales, winning back many thousands of Calvinists). Jeremiah was not at fault; nor could St. Francis claim final credit for "his results."

The spiritual battle for hearts and souls is being waged on a scale and height infinitely beyond whatever (good or bad) methods we may bring to the table. Our first and always most important task is to be obedient to our call and to be proper witnesses of Christ. If our Lord and many (if not most) saints were persecuted and killed; we will, at the very least, be personally savaged and attacked. We can expect this; if it is not present, we ought to seriously examine ourselves to see why that is.

We mustn't be naive enough to actually think that Satan and his demons won't put up a vigorous fight against anyone who is effectively sharing and defending God's truth and the fullness of the Catholic faith. We can count on it. It's not peaches and cream and all method and PR and getting folks to like us. Apologetics is ultimately spiritual battle. We can be friendly, nice, charming; all that (and I sure hope we all strive to be that way), but that doesn't nullify the fact that it is, bottom line, a battle (thus, "young guns" is a very apt metaphor indeed!).

* * * 

Devin Rose replied, and I counter-reply:

Thanks for chiming in. I did not intend my portrayal of the positive traits of the young guns to imply a lack of those qualities with you and the other more experienced apologists I mentioned.

On my blog a few weeks ago I tipped my hat to you for engaging in discussion with the more virulently anti-Catholic Protestant apologists. You have continued to engage them for many years, which is a service to people, since it is important work to do but often frustrating and even odious.

You are right that apologetics doesn’t change in its essentials. The arguments we make were put quite well by St. Francis de Sales in the Catholic Controversy four hundred years ago. But we put old wine in new wineskins, addressing the particular issues that are important to our separated brethren today. And each new generation has a different perspective on this, and new voices to add. There are contributors on this site, over a decade my junior, and when I read their posts I realize, I would never have said something in that way–it simply would not have occurred to me given my background, experience, and even my particular “generation” (I’m somewhere between generation X and the “millennials”).

Just time for one more comment. Certainly all of us apologists seek to be systematic, but the Called to Communion guys roadmap takes it, in my opinion, to a new level. The way they designed the articles to build on one another, as well as the quality of the writing and the arguments, is unexcelled in my experience. That is not to take away from your work, mine, or any other apologist’s; it’s simply an admirable strength that they exhibit as a group.

God bless your work for the Kingdom.

I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation (leading me to write so much in reply). Good topic.

I did not intend my portrayal of the positive traits of the young guns to imply a lack of those qualities with you and the other more experienced apologists I mentioned.

You clarified that in your remarks on charity
[he had written previously:
I almost left that part out because it implies that the “older” generation is uncharitable, which is not true at all. Also, many of us (myself included) fall to temptation to be uncharitable or trade punch-for-punch, so it is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Sometimes we do better and other times we do worse.
It might be helpful to say instead that the young guns know how to come across better in blog discussions. To be honest I don’t see many of the older generation engaging in comments on blogs, even though they have blogs.]

and again here, and I gladly accept your report, but I think some of the language used in the article actually does logically imply this, if we take the remarks literally, because you emphasize all this “new” stuff, and talk about new wineskins and so forth; then you said “what’s different about these young guns [?]” and “Something is different here,” and mention three aspects: charity, new media, being systematic. If you say they are “different” in these ways, then that logically goes back to us old guys that you mention earlier, since they have to be “different” from someone or something, and that was the referent. See what I’m saying?

All you would have to do to change the logical thrust would be to say that the new guys are characterized or typified by thus-and-such, without the judgment of “different” (from what came before).

There seems to be some subtle negative insinuation against the “old guard” in other choices of words and metaphors; e.g., “hacked through the tangled jungle of apologetics with machetes” (doesn’t sound like very subtle, fine-tuned apologetic work LOL) and “took part in heated debates . . .” The implication is thus left that newer apologists are vastly different in these respects (which I deny is the case).

Again; you say you didn’t intend to draw this stark contrast. I believe you, but sometimes imprecise language can leave an impression that the writer didn’t intend to convey.

I wholeheartedly agreed with the rest of your comments.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Biblical Evidence for Submission to Church Authority and Apostolic Tradition / Biblical Condemnation of the Rebellion of the Protestant Revolt

 Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)

[now available only in Chapter One of my book, Biblical Proofs for an Infallible Church and Papacy]

Prohibition of the Removal of Ancient Landmarks
Submission to Ecclesiastical Authority (Even if Corrupt) and Apostolic Tradition

The Church as the Foundation of Theological Truth and Therefore, the Necessity of Adhering to Her Teachings

Obedience to the Church and Her Leaders

Rebuke and Rule of Church Authorities
The Evil of Schism, Division, and Denominationalism


Ridiculous Anti-Catholic Blaming of Catholic Apologists for Protestant Mistakes or Honest Scholarship, With Regard to Luther's View of the Canon

It's simply amazing, the amount of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda anti-Catholics dishes out. They make Baghdad Bob (remember that clown?) look like Abraham Lincoln. I would have thought that my previous copiously documented examination of this nonsense (Anti-Catholic "Luther / Esther / Canon" Polemics and Attempts to Solely Blame Catholics for a Questionable Luther Citation . . .) had laid to rest many of these bogus allegations.

Anti-Catholics are so used to lying about and distorting anything that Catholic apologists do that they literally could no sooner stop this than Niagara Falls could reverse its course.

Luther certainly did judge books of the Bible (which is technically a different notion from which books he left in his canon in his own Bible), solely on his own arbitrary, self-proclaimed, pseudo-prophetic "authority." It's not just us Catholics (oops, "Romanists") who think this, but even some Lutherans and other Protestants: some of whom are troubled by Luther's cavalier attitude towards the Bible.
I documented this almost seven years ago now, in my paper, Luther's Outrageous Assertions About Certain Biblical Books. For example, non-Catholic Luther and "Reformation" scholar Preserved Smith wrote (this and other sources can be found in the aforementioned paper):

. . . few of his followers have ever interpreted, commented on, and criticized the Bible with the freedom habitual to him. The books he judged according as they appealed to his own subjective nature, . . .

Lutheran Mark F. Bartling (WELS), stated:

It must be admitted that Luther did develop a personal criterion of canonicity that took its place along side of apostolicity and universality (those books unanimously accepted by the early church, homologoumena) . . . It was, of all people, Carlstadt who condemned Luther for this criterion. Carlstadt said: "One must appeal either to known apostolic authorship or to universal historical acceptance as to the test of a book’s canonicity, not to internal doctrinal considerations." [De Canonicis Scripturis libellus, Wittenberg, 1520, p. 50]. This position of Carlstadt was also the position of Martin Chemnitz and of C. F. W. Walther [Compendium Theologiae Positivae, Vol. I. p. 149]

Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), the great biblical scholar, was equally direct in his disagreement with Luther:

No Church could rest on a theory which makes private feeling the supreme authority as to doctrine and the source of doctrine. As a natural consequence the later Lutherans abandoned the teaching of their great master on the written Word.

Moral of the story: when Catholics say things like I did, in this respect, we are not saying anything that many Protestant (including Lutheran) or secularist critics of Luther (Carlstadt, Chemnitz, Walther, Smith, Westcott et al) have not already said. But when we do it, it is supposedly bad research and "propaganda." When a Protestant says the same thing, it is profound truth. Orwellian doublespeak . . . The Catholic is always wrong and the Protestant always right, even when they agree with each other. I agree: it makes no rational sense. Yet this is how anti-Catholic polemicists "reason." 

Now, when I first converted to Catholicism in 1991 and did some critical writing about Luther, I had at my disposal far fewer sources and resources than I have now. I wasn't on the Internet yet (not for another five years, and six till I had my own website). I had one Catholic book about Luther of my own (the notorious, but not devil incarnate, Patrick O'Hare) and photocopies or handwritten notes from mostly two other early 20th century Catholic sources (Grisar and Janssen) from library research. Much of my earliest research utilizes these three sources. I also had Roland Bainton and some Protestant biographies of Luther as well. I had read Bainton's famous Here I Stand in 1984.

My first paper on Luther dates from 1991. Needless to say, I have learned a great deal about Luther since that time (anyone can see how much I have written about him, including now a book) and have refined many of my opinions, as I learned more and more. I systematically purged virtually all references to O'Hare's citations from my papers way back in 2002.

I have modified many opinions in particulars, about Luther. I continue to develop my beliefs about him on an ongoing basis, and remove old stuff. One of my old papers on the topic was entitled, Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact. (the original URL can be traced on Internet Archive). The first version was dated 14 January 1991. There was a "5th Revised Edition" dated 11 November 2002. In the fifth edition, all the material on the biblical canon had been removed. The third edition of 18 January 2000 still contained it, without either attribution or URL. So did the fourth edition of 27 January 2002. But since November 2002, these quotes have not been on my website, in this paper.

The last time the paper was online, according to Internet Archive, was 11 October 2003, so it's been gone almost eight years. Sometime between then and 6 December 2003 it was voluntarily removed as outdated (which is not the same as discredited) research. It never made it to my blog, because that was begun in 2004. When we look at  the particulars anti-Catholics presents to make their case against a 20-year-old paper of mine, they uniformly fail to do so, since they all go back to Protestant sources, in terms of origin in English, and continued use.

Obviously, then, I was refining the paper as I learned more things. Most people would think that is a good and normal thing in legitimate research and inquiry (since all noted researchers and authors make revisions). In this ancient paper of mine, I cited O'Hare at length:

Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses. Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . . Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . . The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . . The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . .

O'Hare was not the original source of these things (in English).  I already documented in my previous paper  that the source of this material in English (far as I could determine) was Sir William Hamilton: a Scottish Protestant philosopher, in 1834. He was utilizing and translating the standard edition of Luther's Works in the18th century (the state of the art at that time): Johann Georg Walch (24 volumes: Halle: 1740-1753). Walch in turn cited the Aurifaber version of Table-Talk, dating from 1566.

Those three Protestant men are the originators of this material, not the Catholic O'Hare, who was writing in 1916 and utilizing the statements of Hamilton. Thus, O'Hare and other evil, wicked, wascally "Romanists cannot be uniquely blamed for this, as if it is poor research and a polemical motivation alone that caused them to pull things out of thin air in the effort to defame Martin Luther. It's just not so. O'Hare wasn't solely at fault. It wasn't simply "propaganda." It had a quite legitimate, scholarly  Protestant textual history.

If O'Hare was a propagandist by using these words (and I myself by using his, which are Walch's translated into English), then so were Hamilton and Walch and Aurifaber. But anti-Catholic critics merely want to bash O'Hare and the embodiment of evil and bad research, Dave Armstrong. O'Hare does indeed often engage in empty "anti-Luther" polemics and lousy research, which is why I don't use him anymore, but this instance is not an example of it.

In the previous paper I already made a lengthy comparison of Hamilton's section about Luther and the canon (translated from Walch, who cited Luther friend Aurifaber), and O'Hare's. Here I'll do it line-by-line (using O'Hare portions that I cited in my old Luther paper):

[Catholic] O'Hare, 1916: Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . .
[Protestant] Hamilton, 1834:  Job spake not, therefore, as it stands written in his book, but hath had such cogitations . . . It is a sheer argumentum fabulae. . . .
[many Protestants (usually liberals who were biblical skeptics) picked this up -- so we observe in a Google Books search -- and noted that Luther regarded the book of Job as a fable or mere dramatic story without factual basis; see also a general Google search along these lines]

O'Hare, 1916: Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . .
Hamilton, 1834: This book (Ecclesiastes) ought to have been more full; there is too much of broken matter in it; it has neither boots nor spurs, but rides only in socks, as I myself when in the cloister . . . Solomon hath not therefore written this book 

O'Hare, 1916: The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . .
Hamilton, 1834: The book of Esther, I toss into the Elbe." [Ib.] ["And when the Doctor was correcting the second book of Maccabees, he said: --] . . . I am so an enemy to the book of Esther, that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and hath in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness. 

O'Hare, 1916: The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . .
Hamilton, 1834: The history of Jonah is so monstrous, that it is absolutely incredible.
[a Google Books search of this phrase reveals that many Protestants cited it throughout the 19th century: several noting that it came from the Protestant Hamilton. It was in common use before O'Hare was even born]

It wasn't only the Catholic O'Hare citing or paraphrasing these sections from Hamilton: not by a long shot. I have linked above to examples found in Google Books searches. Secularist Luther scholar Preserved Smith also did, just five years before O'Hare:

. . . he declared Job to be an allegory; Jonah was so childish that he was almost inclined to laugh at it; the books of Kings were "a thousand paces ahead of Chronicles and more to be believed." “Ecclesiastes has neither boots nor spurs, but rides in socks, as I did when I was in the cloister."

(The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, 268)

The only section that couldn't be traced back to Hamilton was "We have no wish either to see or hear Moses." Very well, then; I did a search on Google Books. Not much turned up. All O'Hare stated was, "Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.'" I agree that this is inadequate, because it has no context at all and could easily be misinterpreted (especially knowing Luther and his frequent rhetorical exaggerations and oft-used sarcastic, non-literal mode of argumentation). On the other hand, O'Hare has not interpreted it himself. In any event, the words themselves do exist in Luther, and in that sense, this is not "propaganda" per se, but the reporting of a fact.

Luther, in his treatise, Against The Heavenly Prophets In The Matter Of Images And Sacraments," wrote (my bolding):

Now then, let us get to the bottom of it all and say that these teachers of sin and Mosaic prophets are not to confuse us with Moses. We don’t want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament. I now speak as a Christian for Christians. For Moses is given to the Jewish people alone, and does not concern us Gentiles and Christians. We have our gospel and New Testament. If they can prove from them that images must be put away, we will gladly follow them. If they, however, through Moses would make us Jews, we will not endure it.
(Luther's Works, Vol. 40, p. 92)

But this dates from after 1955, and wasn't available to O'Hare. Moreover, in  Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette, the author provides extensive context. He states:

There is a passage quoted by Dr. McCave, as reported in his Lecture in The Midland Counties Express, as follows :—"It was Luther who said of the Pentateuch 'We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses; he is master of all hangmen, and no one can surpass him when there is a question of terrifying, torturing, or tyrannizing.' " I have utterly failed to trace this passage.

Collette's book was published in 1884, and he was a Protestant. This could very well be O'Hare's source (the reference to "the Pentateuch" strongly suggests it), in which case again it is a matter of O'Hare citing a Protestant, who is not hostile to Luther at all; a book, in fact, where he is expressly defended. "Dr. McCave" appears to be Canon James McCave, D.D.: a Catholic; Collette is not necessarily agreeing with what he cited, and couldn't trace it. Thus we have:

[Catholic] O'Hare, 1916: Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.'
[Protestant] Collette, 1884 (citing Catholic McCave):  It was Luther who said of the Pentateuch 'We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses . . .'

According to Walch, Luther thought the book of Job was a "fable." This came right from him, as Hamilton stated. According to Preserved Smith (writing in 1911), he thought it was "allegory."

O'Hare drew directly from the Protestant Hamilton, who translated into English the official Luther compiler Walch, who included Table-Talk from Luther contemporary and personal secretary Aurifaber. This is O'Hare's fault that he dared to trust Protestants for accurately reporting the words of their hero Luther? And it's our fault for citing him, doing so? As if anti-Catholics have never utilized older pro-Luther research (they do all the time) and in so doing, trusted it implicitly for accuracy?
Isn't Catholic apologetics fun? This is the sort of garbage we hear from our anti-Catholic intellectual giants on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis: pathetic tactics from historically-challenged fools who are unable to rationally defend their viewpoints.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anti-Catholic Calvinist Steve Hays: Lies, Slanderous Mockery, Sophistry, Rationalization of Grave Sexual Sins: All in a Day's Work, and in the Name of Christ

[Steve Hays' words will be in blue]

Steve Hays runs the large blog Triablogue. He is one of the most atrocious examples of a Christian apologist to be found online today. It's people like this who give my profession a bad name (I am an apologist myself, after all, so I can get lumped in with pathetic examples of apologists like Steve).

The latest nonsense comes in the aftermath of a dispute where I actually sided in part with Steve Hays, over against a fellow Catholic apologist and a Catholic woman and amateur apologist online, who has followed my work for some time (hence, received my amiable correction). It was implied that he wasn't a Christian, and I said he was (though assuredly a pathetic public example of one: giving Christianity a bad name, as well as apologetics). Then some claims were made that he made an illegitimate reductio ad absurdum argument in reply to what he was being charged with. I disagreed and said his use was quite legitimate, logically and ethically. I defended him in this way because he happened to be right, and his accusers wrong, in these particulars of disputational method.

The woman later apologized, in a great display of humility and Christian charity. That was blown off by Steve and not acknowledged, in two mocking posts (one / two). After I had defended his argument and right to be called a Christian, he had to (inevitably, with him) somehow question my motivation (since I am Attila the Hun and Vlad the Impaler all wrapped into one, in his eyes), so he wrote: "Armstrong’s contribution would have been preferable had he not turned this into yet another pretext for self-aggrandizement. But by hogging the limelight, his intervention now looks purely opportunistic."

I always have to be wrong, simply because the man despises me, and because I defend Holy Mother Church and Catholic doctrine. This is par for the course with all of the most active anti-Catholic Protestant apologists.

Hays is not only a first-rate sophist ("give the devil his due": he is very good at a bad thing), but also a world-class mocker, in the very worst, most obnoxious sense of that term. It's his method of choice now, having apparently tired of seriously slanderous insulting rhetoric. Calling folks "actually evil" (4-13-09) or of "evil character" (1-29-10) or "schizophrenic" and characterized by "wild mood swings" and "emotionally unstable" (4-18-10), and in one classic outburst on 7-16-09: "hypersensitive, paranoid, an ego-maniac, narcissistic, with a martyr and persecution complex . . . self-obsessive . . . self-idolater. . . . singular, autobiographical personality cult" or "a stalwart enemy of the faith. . . . no better than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens" (1-28-10) -- all of which was directed towards yours truly -- got old, and so now he is trying to use humor to get across his ultra-irrational contempt, and to smear my name and integrity in any, every conceivable fashion that occurs to his oh-so-fertile brain.

Hence, recently, after his fallacious and sophistical arguments were dismantled in a "discussion" about the former Catholicism of the conservative commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza, Hays stepped up his usual mockery, with profound posts at my expense (complete with lots of photos!): "The Dave Armstrong Photo Gallery" (7-28-11), "Split-personality Narcissist" (8-3-11): where I was delightfully described as a "bipolar solipsist", and "Prima Donna" (8-24-11), complete with picture of a ballerina, where he states: "I'll be the first to concede that Dave is not a team player. By definition, a prima donna can't be a team player. Prima donnas don't play team sports." Then we have the follow-up, "Crowd Control" (8-24-11), with this passage-for-the-ages:

. . . Armstrong is so fond of talking about himself that whenever he goes to confession, you have a line stretching all around the block as other parishioners wait their turn while Armstrong updates his priest on the very latest installments in the story of Dave. The police require advance notification to erect barricades and reroute traffic. Concession stands are wheeled in to feed the waiting parishioners. Tents are set up for overnighters. Trapped in the Confessional with the interminable Dave-a-thon, the famished priest must order delivery pizza on his cellphone.

How could I possibly "refute" that, huh?

Now, I figured I could have some fun with the "team player" bit, and so I went into the combox for "Prima Donna" and wrote:

We certainly know that you aren't a team player, Steve, since you defend masturbation so passionately (no pun intended). (8-24-11)

One Dominic Bnonn Tennant (fellow rabid anti-Catholic) replied:

Wow, much as I laughed out loud at that comment, I hope you're going to confess it to your priest. (8-24-11)

I shot back:

Why in the world would I have to confess telling the truth? It was a joke, and all I said, substantively (the serious point underlying the witty remark), was that he defended it, not that he did it himself: a fact that is indisputable. Look it up. (8-24-11)

Hays does do this, as I have documented twice (one / two). Hays has written (it's still on his site now):

I don’t think that Christians should go around guilt-ridden if they engage in this practice. On the face of it, this seems like a natural sexual safety value for single men—especially younger men in their sexual prime. Like learning how to walk or perform other athletic activities, this form of sexual experience and physical experimentation may train an unmarried young man in attaining some degree of mental and muscular control so that he is not a total novice on his wedding night. . . . I can’t say absolutely if it is right or wrong, but I tend to deem it permissible under some circumstances.

("Too hot to handle - 2", 7-15-04)

But us poor "Romanists" must always be conscious in bigoted anti-Catholic environments, that however much we are mocked, we aren't ever allowed to joke back or have a sense of humor, even when it is perfectly ethical and understandable to do so. That's a naughty no-no. As I explained, I was joking, yet it had a serious underlying point: Hays does actually wink at masturbation and at the very least takes a lax view on it, and compromises. It's the classic tendency of the liberalization of traditional sexuality within Christian circles, that we have seen for at least a century now. But I am not allowed to joke, and because I am so despised in Hays' circles of know-nothing anti-Catholic cronies, based on his years of mockery and slander (what else would people think, who follow him?), I receive back a reply like the following, from Dominic Bnonn Tennant:

I see that reports of your willful obtuseness and self-justification are not exaggerated. (8-24-11)

No attempt to actually interact with the claim that I made: that Hays defends masturbation . . .; rather the immediate personal insult, with the obligatory swipe at my supposed unsavory interior motivations. So I came back with this remark:

Right. Hays defends masturbation. If you can't see that, then I am talking to the wind as usual around here. Be well. (8-24-11)

And Hays himself chimes in with the good old standby , when no rational answer is forthcoming: the catholic sex scandal:

Armstrong defends institutional pederasty. (8-25-11)

Ally Matthew D. Schultz enters in at this point, delightfully supporting by personal example the long stereotype of the humorless Calvinist:

I wonder why Dave so regularly raises the issue of masturbation. It clearly wasn't the subject of this post. (8-25-11)

Yes. The "subject" of the post was that I was a "prima donna": like that is to be regarded as a serious topic? LOL But I don't dare joke about it and make a wisecrack about Hays' defenses of masturbation! Then I made a serious reply:

You're the one defending grave sexual sin, Steve, not I. I have never countenanced sexual abuse from priests. I condemn it wholeheartedly as an abomination and an outrage, as my Church did.
[see the lengthy statement on my "Catholic Scandals" page and my posts collecting many articles about it (one / two) ]

There is just as much (usually more) abuse, statistically, among Protestant clergy or any other large institution, as I have documented more than once. [one / two]

But you sit there and defend what has always been regarded as grave sin, by Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, until recently. Luther doesn't defend it,
[Here's what Martin Luther wrote about Onan and his practice of contraception that is the same in essence as masturbation (ejaculation deliberately separated from any possibility of conception):
Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother.

(Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44; 1544; Luther's Works, 7, 20-21) ]
 Calvin doesn't; 
[Here's what John Calvin wrote about Onan, in his Commentary on Genesis:

I will contend myself with briefly mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth with his seed, so that Tamar would not receive a future inheritor. ]
 most historical Protestants have not [folks like, e.g., C. S. Lewis and John Wesley]. But you do.

You can lie all you want about myself, about my church, mock away and make an ass of yourself, and be a reprehensible example of a follower of Jesus Christ. You only hurt yourself. You're not harming my work at all: it is thriving more than ever, with two new book contracts in the works, etc. (8-25-11)

Without missing a beat, Steve "Whopper" Hays (you can see the basis of the richly-earned nickname by now) promptly put up another post in response, where he assumes the false premise (that sexual abuse is sanctioned at the highest level of the Church, and that individual sin is somehow the fault of the entire Church) and quixotically proceeds with his irrelevant analogy:
On weekends, Dave is a Green Peace activist condemning water pollution downstream. During the week, Dave is employed by the factory further upstream that contaminates the water. Dave the loyal company spokesman stoutly defends the polluting factory while Dave the volunteer protester roundly condemns the pollution.

Then he did his usual obfuscation, obscurantism, and sophistry in a further reply in the latest combox thread (8-25-11) -- my interjections in brackets:

When you have no argument, beg the question. [I have documented above how he defends or winks at masturbation] Are you claiming that Evangelical pastors sodomize underage boys at the same rate as Catholic priests? [see the statistics in the two links I listed above, for sexual mischief among non-Catholic clergy. Sexual abuse is a huge problem in society-at-large] When you don’t have an argument, quote tradition.[opposition to masturbation and the related sin, contraception, historically, is a fact, among all Christian groups. I cited as examples, above, Luther, Calvin, Lewis, and Wesley] . . . Since you’re not Lutheran, that’s [citing Luther's opposition] a disingenuous appeal. [it is absolutely irrelevant what I believe, in discussion of known historical facts: folks' positions on this issue] Since you’re not Reformed, that’s [citing Calvin's opposition] a disingenuous appeal. [is Steve truly this dense, to not get this?] You’re resorting to the same peer pressure that liberals and atheists deploy to bully the masses into accepting global warming or naturalistic evolution.[Right. Rather, I am merely noting what all types of Christians have held about sexual morality, until very recently] I’ve never lied about you or your church. However, that raises a striking conundrum: If I lie about a liar like you, or if I lie about your lying denomination, does that double negation mean I’m telling the truth? [its own refutation . . .] As P. T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." I see you share his business ethic. [his self-refuting "reply" to my mentioning that my work is thriving despite his relentless attacks upon it]

There is no rational discussion with this guy. I've known that for several years now. This is a prime example of why I refuse to engage in an actual back-and-forth dialogue with anti-Catholics anymore, and have not for over four years now. No true discussion is possible. It's literally impossible. It never is possible when extreme hostility is in play. It's like the difference between an angry quarrel with a spouse, with one party in a rage, and a calm, loving, amiable, pleasant mutually respectful discussion with a spouse. It's like night and day.

But on occasion I like to document and expose for everyone to see, the sort of garbage and ultra-irrational slander and tomfoolery that characterizes anti-Catholic "thinking" online today. Is this the sort of person -- a man who "argues" in such a fashion -- who would make Christianity appealing to you if you were an atheist, or Calvinist Christianity look like a great option to you if you haven't decided what Christian communion has the most truth, or the fullness of truth (as we Catholics say about our Church)?

I utterly despise and detest the methodology that Hays uses and several things that he defends. I don't despise him as a person. By exposing his unethical, shameful tactics, which sadly typify anti-Catholic methodology, then indirectly I am showing that there is a much better way than this rotgut, and that way is Catholicism.

I hasten to add that not all Calvinist (or Reformed Protestants) act this way: not by a long shot. I have several Reformed friends, and many more Protestant friends of other persuasions. But sadly, anti-Catholicism and the usual accompanying bigotry is far too prevalent in Reformed circles: especially online (the Internet seems to bring out the worst tendencies of folks for some reason).

Thus, the present endeavor, tedious though it is, is a legitimate aspect of Catholic apologetics: exposing the unsavory methodological tactics of so many of the enemies of Holy Mother Church. Many misunderstand this, and I will get criticized for this post as I always inevitably do, by folks who don't grasp its rationale and purpose.

I am despised and detested by these sorts of apologists because I defend the Catholic Church and her teaching. Period. If it weren't for that, they wouldn't know me from Adam and I would never cross their minds. I would be perfectly irrelevant. But because I defend Catholicism and critique their garbage (and am publicly known in apologetics circles and to a lesser extent, larger theological circles, as one who does this), they attack me personally and engage in all the usual timeworn smear tactics: standard practice for those who have run out of arguments, ideas, and reasonable discourse. What we see in politics in that regard, we also sadly observe in the Christian world of competing theological truth claims.

* * * 

Steve is sadly continuing his mockery; now with yet another attack-post, "Tooting his own horn." He opines (my interjected words in brackets again):

Armstrong is a roided up version of Catholic piety. Incapable of doing any good deed out of purely disinterested concern for others. [Right. As always, Steve knows my interior motivations and every nook and cranny of my heart. Imagine saying about someone else that they don't do "any" deed for the right motives? It's mind-boggling how he cavalierly assumes that he can make such outrageous, unsupported claims. This is "Pharisaic method" x 100. It's wicked. Our Lord Jesus and St. Paul condemn this sort of attitude times without number] When I read his original post correctly defending my use of the reductio ad absurdum (before he had second thoughts and scrubbed the original post), [no "second thoughts" whatsoever; I was respecting the privacy of my Catholic friend, who had apologized; apparently that is a sort of ethics and Christianity that is incomprehensible to Steve; I had to have removed it for unsavory reasons; couldn't possibly be otherwise.] I asked myself, “Where’s the catch? Where’s the hidden fee?” [Again, Hays seems utterly unable to grasp the notion that I did it simply because he was right in that instance, and some Catholics were wrong, and I was defending the truth of the matter, as I saw it. His personal hostility to me (the wicked, "evil" person) is so great that he is almost totally blind when it comes to anything I do. According to his belief in the false doctrine of Total Depravity, he has no option but to think this] And sure enough, it didn’t take long before he dropped by our combox at Tblog to collect tribute. [what tribute? I informed him that a person he was vociferously objecting to had apologized and retracted their position. This should have been good news. But Hays didn't have it in him to accept an apology, because of the rude, boorish ass that he so often is online. Minimal Christian charity was too much to ask of him, I guess] It’s always for the greater glory of Dave. What’s in it for him? That’s the bottom line. [LOL Quite obviously, nothing at all was "in it" for me. I risked offending a fellow apologist; I did in fact cause some pain and consternation in the woman I publicly corrected, which was unpleasant to me. I knew full well from past experience that I would likely be mocked here afresh (precisely what happened). It's ridiculous to think that I thought I would personally gain anything from it, and that this explained what I did. I did it because it was right. Period. End of story.] So naturally he came by, with outstretched palm, demanding reimbursement for his good deed. [this is a total distortion of what happened, and a bald-faced lie. One would think that such continual lying and distorting of facts would become wearisome after a while. But all Hays has (very much like the liberal Democrats today) is insult and calumny, if no rational reply is forthcoming from him. He's trying to make as big a noise and throw enough manure on the wall (at my picture) so that some will eventually stick. But he only harms himself. it doesn't have the slightest effect on anything I do] And, come to think of it, that’s the essence of Catholic piety: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” [leave it to Steve, to utilize a distortion of Catholicism, that was never official teaching, to supposedly describe the "essence of Catholic piety." Thanks for the laughs and comic relief, Steve. That was very rich in both irony and absurdity.]

Not content with this ludicrous piece of sophistry and calumny, Hays waxes eloquently and stupidly in another combox comment:

First of all, masturbation has nothing to do with this post. For some reason, Catholics like Armstrong suffer from a masturbatory fixation. That says a lot about what they have on their minds most of the time.

Yeah, right. I'm a very happily married man, with a beautiful wife whom I adore (and am quite affectionate with!), and four children, yet according to Steve (a single, 50ish guy), I am obsessed with masturbation (as if there would be any need). Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

I'll repeat it again, s---l---o---w---l---y, so that maybe even Steve will "get it" this time, seeing that he has (for all his vaunted brain power) the most extremely difficult time comprehending the argument or tactics that someone else uses. It was a joke! Got that, Steve? He called me a "prima donna" (to add to his collection of 10,000 other insults through the years) and said I wasn't a team player (he was using as a springboard here certain aspects of the previous controversy over the reductio ad absurdum that he used, and I defended). He used humor; so did I. I "get" his, but I know that the serious charges underneath it (his really believing all this patent nonsense about me) are simply untrue, and I know that his "jokes" aren't funny when they are based on lies, because good humor (especially satire, above all) has to be truth-based in some respect in the end.

He talked about "team player" so I got the idea of making a joke about masturbation, since I knew he has defended that. My joke was funny, because even Hays' buddy Tennant admitted that he laughed at it. But Steve doesn't get it.  My joke was based in truth (his views on masturbation), which is exactly why it was funny. But Hays didn't get it, and had no comeback, so he resorted to more insult (including bringing up the ubiquitous sex scandal in the Church) and lied some more, saying I am obsessed with masturbation.

Now, let it be known that I am not saying that Hays himself engages in this sinful practice. Who knows? I don't read minds and know all interior motivations and secret acts of others, as Hays clearly thinks he does. But I confess that I did get a big chuckle over the analysis of Jon the atheist, who wrote on my blog:

I am genuinely baffled that people regard Steve as intelligent. I used to argue at Triablogue prior to being banned and I tried interacting with Steve for a while, but after much effort I finally told him that I would no longer address his criticisms of my statements. He had no ability to actually internalize what I was saying and respond to it in a coherent way.

I honestly concluded that Steve has an unhealthy and unnatural lack of empathy. His inability to walk in someone else's shoes, sympathize, and even understand what a critic would say, in my judgment made discussion with him completely unproductive. I involve myself in online discussions to learn, and to learn you need your critic to understand what you are saying. Steve either could not or would not. So there's nothing to be gained. Why do people read him? I have no clue.

My first inclination regarding his thoughts on masturbation was that it was good to see him defend something like this instead of being so legalistic, as is typical of Reformed Protestants. But having read enough of him and understanding his unnatural lack of empathy it's pretty clear that the only reason he allows devation from legalism in this case is because it's a practice he engages in.

Again, I am not agreeing with his assessment, as to Hays and masturbation, but if Hays insists on positively lying about myself, relative to this issue, then it is fair game for someone else to speculate about him. Hays lies about me and is dead serious; I merely share a chuckle about him, and joke about it: just as in my initial remark that he couldn't stomach and is now trying to spin away so vigorously that he is (physically and intellectually) dizzy as can be.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Neo-geos Come Unravelled (Guest Post by David Palm on Robert Sungenis and John Martin)

[see the URL of this post on David Palm's blog]

Bob Sungenis  and "johnmartin" have written "rebuttals" of my latest essay, Sungenis and "johnmartin" Studiously Miss the Point (they can be found here and here.)  Candidly, all they have done is to provide further proof that the neo-geocentric case is a massive exercise in ecclesiastical and scientific special pleading, gummed together with a hermeneutic of suspicion and a liberal dose of conspiracy theories to fill in the chinks.

I won’t be spending much time on "johnmartin"'s response, for the simple reason that it's silly.  For example, "johnmartin" twice makes the argument that the Roman Catechism teaches geocentrism because a contested section involving the “earth” comes under the heading "The Formation of the Universe."  But in a previous piece he agreed with me that this heading is a mistranslation, all without skipping a beat.  Hello?  Then there’s his commentary on John Paul II's statement concerning the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Here's what the Holy Father said:

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, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium.

Now most people understand that a "statement" means that you use actual words.  But "johnmartin" somehow manages to find geocentrism in the Catechism—despite it not actually being there:

JPII clearly states the doctrines taught in the catechism are “attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium”, which means the catechism is illuminated by the decrees of past Popes against Galileo, the church fathers, who taught geocentrism and scripture, that teaches a stationary earth. As such, the catechism embraces geocentrism as a teaching of the church through scripture, the magesterium [sic] and the fathers.

Right.  Did you get that?  And does his argument sound familiar?  It should.  In other words, according to “johnmartin”, geocentrism is found in what one might call the penumbras and emanations of the Catechism. 

He says of me that, "Mr Palm is a heretic who opposes the magesterium [sic] and as such, he has fallen from the faith" and issues the further rash judgment that, "Unfortunately it is Mr Palm who is making a shipwreck of the faith of many by perhaps making a god out of This Rock and any apologetics association he has association with such as Dave Armstrong or maybe Catholic Answers who back up his anti geocentrist arguments."  In light of such unceasingly silly and boorish behavior, it’s no wonder that Dave Armstrong eventually banned “johnmartin” from making comments at his blog.  Recall, this same “johnmartin” has been singled out for high praise from “top” geocentric “experts” like Rick DeLano and Bob Sungenis.  In spite of such clownish behavior, "johnmartin" expects to be taken seriously enough that he should be answered "line by line".  I think I’ll pass.

Now, turning to Bob Sungenis, while I’ve never been impressed by his scholarship in this area, I’m genuinely a bit shocked at the degree to which his arguments continue to degenerate.  He's supposed to have studied this issue in great detail (Galileo Was Wrong was essentially his putative doctoral dissertation on geocentrism) and yet his reply was just shot through with outright errors, not to mention more of his usual debater's tricks.  Here are just a few examples:

  • "For example, Copernicus’ 1543 book, De Revolutionibus, which espoused heliocentrism, was put on the Index in 1548."

This is false.  The Index of Forbidden Books was not even established until 1559.  I think it's fair to surmise that Copernicus' work could not be put onto the Index before the Index was established.  (Bob's oddly anachronistic argument here is reminiscent of his repeated insistence that the essential context for St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, chapter 11 is the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which took place 13 years after the writing of Romans and 3 years after St. Paul was dead; see here.)

In reality, Copernicus' work was not put on the Index until 1616, after the writing of the Roman Catechism.

  • "Rheticus’ book on heliocentrism was put on the Index in 1541."

False.  Obviously Rheticus' book, like that of Copernicus, couldn't have been put on the Index before it was even established.  I find no evidence that Rheticus' works were ever put on the Index, but my search was certainly not comprehensive.  Even if they were at some point, it certainly was not in 1541 or even in 1616, so Bob's statement is false.

  • "It [the Roman Catechism] never says the earth moves and, in fact, says the earth “stands still”"

False.  The Roman Catechism never uses that phrase.  Once again, Bob is adding words to the Catechism that are not there.  And it's time for him to stop dodging the exegetical argument I deployed that proves that the "foundation of the earth" passage has nothing to do with the position of the globe in relation to the universe, but instead speaks of the relationship of dry land to water on the surface of the earth.  Here is the passage again:

The earth [terram] also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world [mundi], rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.

Notice again that the Catechism states that God clothed the terram with "trees and every variety of plant and flower".  He also filled it with living creatures, "as He had already filled the air and water".  In other words, this terram is something distinct from the air and the water.  The passage makes perfect sense if terram means "dry land", as it does in Gen 1:10.  It makes no sense whatsoever if it means the entire earth, as in "the globe"—which is what the neo-geo needs it to say.

As such, I challenge Bob to provide a coherent counter-exegesis to support his interpretation or admit that this passage says nothing about geocentrism.  That goes for "johnmartin" too, who, as I accurately stated, did not even engage this exegetical argument.  It is Bob's claim that the Roman Catechism contains "One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism..." and he speaks of the "Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism".  This is the passage that he claimed would, "expel any doubt about what objects are revolving".  Thus, he is the one who needs to prove that his is the only possible reading of this and the other passages.  Remember that he is the one making this claim that not even the prelates during Galileo's day made, that the Roman Catechism teaches geocentrism dogmatically and clearly.  He's already given the game away by saying my interpretation could be correct.  To support his exaggerated claims he would need to demonstrate that my view is not reasonable and that his is the only interpretation that is reasonable.  But while he's already given the game away by saying my interpretation could be correct, he has yet to show how his own interpretation is even reasonable at all, let alone the only correct one.  It is past time to stop dodging his burden of proof and provide some, or else finally admit that he has misread this passage.

  • "Oresme suggested the earth might be rotating, but such diurnal motion was rejected by the Index in 1541, 1548 and condemned both in 1616 and 1633."

False.  No such ideas were addressed on the Index in 1541 or 1548, because it had not even been established yet.  And the neo-geos have greatly exaggerated the nature of the condemnations of 1616 and 1633.  See my Neo-Geo Double Standards and Exaggerations on Magisterial Documents and also more detail in a forthcoming essay.

  • "the Tridentine catechism knew of no alternate scientific theory other than heliocentrism when it supported geocentrism. It made no statement accepting heliocentrism. It made no mention of acentrism, or any other view. It gave no credence to Oresme, Cusa, Aristarchus, Pythagorus or any view that said the earth moved;"

Gratuitous assertion and straw man.  Cardinal Cusa's theories were never condemned and Bob has no proof that the authors of the Catechism could not have been aware of them.  And once again, Bob is tilting at windmills.  I specifically said that the Catechism does not teach any cosmological system.  It teaches nothing and rejects nothing about specific cosmological systems.

  • "the Tridentine catechism knew that the Catholic tradition believed the earth did not move and it makes no statement that indicates a break with the Church’s tradition, including no break against the consensus of the Fathers on geocentrism."


  • "How about the damage Mr. Palm creates when he puts the Tridentine catechism at odds with the very Tradition it came from? How about the damage Mr. Palm creates when he says that previous pontiffs, who based their condemnations of heliocentrism on Tradition and Scripture, made mistakes on cosmology, but the current clerics, who base their decisions on the shifting winds of popular science, are correct?"

Again, straw man.  One more time—The Catholic Church does not teach any system of cosmology as a matter of faith.  A Catholic is free to hold to geocentrism.  A Catholic is free to hold to acentrism.  No theory of celestial motion is a matter of faith in the Catholic Church.  Thus, obviously, I never said that the Catechism breaks with any tradition.  Rather, it uses generic language that does not assert any specific cosmological system.  So, enough of Bob's debater's tricks and straw men.

It belongs to a future essay to demonstrate that there is no such doctrinally binding consensus of the Fathers on geocentrism.

  • "the only reason Settele got his imprimatur was because a lie was being circulated by the Commissioner, Olivieri that the Church of the 1600s denied heliocentrism because it didn’t have elliptical orbits."

False.  In the process of accusing a priest of purposeful subterfuge Bob has seriously garbled the facts.  Let me just cite two points here, with more to come in the future.  First, several times in GWW2 (e.g. pp. 233, 244-5, 261, 262) he speaks of Fr. Olivieri as the Commissary General of the Congregation of the Index.  But Fr. Olivieri actually held that position in the Congregation of the Holy Office (the same office that issued the Galileo decree.)  A relatively small point, perhaps, but if you're going to accuse a priest of ecclesiastical treason then it behooves you to get your facts straight.

What's made very clear throughout GWW2 is that Bob doesn't like Fr. Olivieri very much.  Here are just some of the charges he levels.  He accuses Fr. Olivieri of being "devious", of "tortured logic", of putting forth "one of the most ludicrous and egregious forms of rationalization ever propounded by an ecclesiastical ward", of "calculating and deceptive motives", of "duplicity", of "twisting the truth", of "outright falsehood", of "attempt[ing] to twist and distort the truth", of a "concocted analysis", of "specious argumentation", of "malicious distortion of the historical record", of a "deliberate attempt to confuse the issue by inserting the red herring of elliptical orbits", and of "one of the most deceptive pieces of propaganda ever foisted on the Catholic Church".  (Does this level of insult and invective sound like the kind of material you would expect to find in a "doctoral dissertation"?  Not to me.)

But the fact is that Bob has seriously misrepresented Fr. Olivieri's arguments.  In the quote above and in GWW2 Bob boils the whole thing down to a matter of "elliptical orbits".  He asserts, without evidence, that, "'devastating mobility' refers to non-elliptical planetary revolutions" (GWW2, p. 250).  He calls this claim "preposterous" and so it would be, if that was actually what the Commissary General was saying.  But Bob has misconstrued what Fr. Olivieri meant by "devastating motion".

When the Commissary General speaks of, "the devastating motion from which Copernicus and Galileo had been unable to free the motions of axial rotation and orbital revolution which they ascribed to the earth" (Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo, p. 208), he meant that the natural philosophers of Galileo's day (and even Galileo himself) could not figure out how it could be that the earth was revolving around the sun and rotating on its axis and we don't experience that as a devastating motion that lays waste the surface of the earth.  He cites Msgr. Fabroni explaining just this:

The Roman theologians were stressing the great disturbances of which we spoke, that is, the confusion of things produced by the earth’s motion. . . . the waters of the sea, the flow of rivers, the waters of wells, the flight of birds, and all atmospheric phenomena would be completely disturbed and intermingled (Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo, p. 207).

Fr. Olivieri says, rightly, that this "devastating motion" was one of the reasons that the theological commission in 1616 said that Copernicanism was "absurd in philosophy", by which they meant natural philosophy, i.e. science.  But even neo-geocentrists have to admit that this ruling has been proved to be erroneous, that there is now no natural philosophical absurdity in saying that the earth rotates around the sun and revolves on its axis.  How in the world Bob equates "devastating motion" with "non-elliptical planetary revolutions" is a great mystery.  What is clear is that Bob has totally misunderstood and misrepresented Fr. Olivieri on this point.

Fr. Olivieri also pointed to many other instances in which the views of modern astronomers differed from a strict Copernicanism.  Elliptical orbits was one.  He also noted that astronomers no longer believe that the sun is the center of the universe.  They no longer believe that the sun is motionless.  They have solved the difficulties of the "devastating motion" problem, thereby clearing modern views of the natural philosophical absurdity that formed a key part of the evaluation of the theologians of the Holy Office in 1616.  And Fr. Olivieri pointed to additional scientific discoveries and observations—most notably aberration and nutation—that gave additional support to non-geocentric cosmology (these can only be explained in the neo-geocentric system through more special pleading.)

I will have more to say about the actions of the Congregation of the Holy Office in 1820-22 later.  But I believe what I have outlined above shows that Bob has vastly oversimplified and therefore garbled the matter by speaking only of elliptical orbits.  He then repeatedly slanders a Catholic priest based on his own confused analysis.

What's more, I would note something else that I will be expanding upon, namely, that this is all perfectly in line with the Church's actual canonical protocol.  The Catholic Church has taught from time immemorial that canonical censures are to be interpreted strictly.

Laws that establish penalties, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception to the law must be interpreted strictly (c. 18) It is long-standing canonical tradition that restrictive laws must be narrowly applied. . . . Strict interpretation means that the sense of the words of the canon and the scope of its application are limited as much as reasonably possible. (J. A. Coriden, An Introduction to Canon Law, 202-3)

Note well that it is the neo-geos who turn this principle on its head by striving to apply the 1633 decree against Galileo as broadly as possible, to as many people as possible.  Conversely, the Catholic Church applies her canonical principles to modern cosmological views and rules that these don't fall under the disciplinary decrees of the seventeenth century.

  • "In 1833, only 178 years ago, the Church required a disclaimer to be put on Newton’s Principia stating that the “Supreme Pontiffs have decreed, against Newton, that the Earth does not move.”"

This is yet another example of blatant neo-geo exaggeration and what might be termed "fabricative evolution".  Here's what Bob says about this matter in GWW:

when the three-volume edition of the Principia was published in Geneva, the Catholic Church apparently had enough power to assign two Minim friars from the Franciscan order, Thomas Le Seur and Fran├žois Jacquier as editors . . . although Newton assumed the heliocentric system to be true, this was not the belief of the editors, Le Seur and Jacquier, who represented the Catholic Church (GWW2, p. 241).

Here, Bob starts with an assertion, made up out of whole cloth, that "the Catholic Church apparently had enough power to assign two Minim friars from the Franciscan order . . . as editors"  He claims that they were, "commissioned by the Church".  But he cites no evidence that the Church had anything officially to do with these friars being the editors of the Principia.  None.

But in his latest reply to me this gratuitous assertion takes on a life of its own and evolves even further.  Now, suddenly, according to Bob, "the Church required a disclaimer to be put on Newton’s Principia" (my emphasis).  This is, of course, a gross exaggeration.  Two priest-editors with no official mandate suddenly evolve into "the Church".  If there were anyone who would have made hay of these priests' alleged official status, it would have been William Roberts.  Roberts wrote a book attacking papal infallibility based on the Church's handling of the Galileo affair.  Yet, even Roberts called this merely "the opinion of its Roman editors" (The Pontifical Decrees Against the Doctrine of the Earth's Movement, p. 53; my emphasis).

Considering the fact that Galileo Was Wrong was essentially Bob’s putative “doctoral dissertation” on geocentrism and that Bob received particular praise from Calamus International for the alleged depth and caliber of his research, one wonders how he failed to even find, let alone interact with, the copious material I’ve presented here that contradicts his thesis.  It’s not as if this material was hiding somewhere or as if I’ve spent the hours necessary to earn a doctorate.

  • "If the Church came out tomorrow with an official and binding statement and said that the previous Church was wrong in condemning heliocentrism and that science has confirmed that heliocentrism is true and the only cosmology we should accept, I and everyone else would forsake geocentrism in a second."

If Bob wants to assert once again that cosmology was somehow specifically excluded from these teachings of Leo XIII and Pius XII—despite the fact cosmology is considered the most obvious application for their words—then the burden is on him to prove that, not just assert it.  The point that seems to elude him is that these popes laid out a general principle that plainly applies to cosmology.  If he wants to carve out an exception to this principle for geocentrism, then he needs to provide justification from these encyclicals or some other authoritative source—something he has failed to do.  As such, his argument here is nothing more than bare, unsupported assertion—in a nutshell, more special pleading.

After that, he needs to explain why the entire Magisterium of the Church—popes and bishops—behaves and teaches as if these documents were addressing cosmology, even going so far as to publicly acknowledge the probability of non-geocentric cosmology.  Based on history, we can anticipate the likely answer: it’s all the result of ineptitude and cowardice.

Still, if the statement above is Bob's real position then well and good.  But it is very, very different from what he has said elsewhere.  For example:

If we say the 17th century magisterium erred, then it is a fact that the Holy Spirit allowed the Church to err, and if the Church can err in what it then declared as a matter of faith and morals (i.e., it was a matter of faith because Scripture taught the earth didn’t move, and Scripture cannot lie), then it can also err in matters of faith and morals today, and if that is the case then we simply don’t have the Catholic Church we have claimed to have. This is an all or nothing game, gentlemen. We can no longer sit on the proverbial fence and shun one period of our official magisterium as seriously misguided and accept the unofficial musings of another period as correcting the former, especially since modern science gives us no help in substantiating the latter (link).

Or how about a talk he gave in Canada during which this was reported:

Later on in the lecture, he actually said verbatim that if you did not believe in a geocentric universe you were atheist [if Bob denies that he said that, fine, but apparently there is an audio recording of it.]

So which view does Bob hold now?  The Church could teach against geocentrism and that would be just fine, or that if the Church taught against geocentrism we simply wouldn't have the same Catholic Church?

  • "How many times have you heard people use the Church’s supposed mistakes in the Galileo affair to posit that she can make mistakes in other important areas? Too many times. It’s the very argument feminists use for a female priesthood, and homosexuals use to say that the Church is culturally biased against them, or any number of issues that involve an interpretation of both the ecclesiastical and scientific data."

Yes, some people argue this way.  That doesn't make it a good argument.  And how does this make the neo-geocentrist response tenable?  How does this make the scenario they paint any better than the scenario they’re reacting against?  In order to make their case, the neo-geos argue that the Church has been run by such incredibly inept and cowardly leaders from top to bottom that the fullness of the faith has been effectively abandoned and hidden from Catholics for last 300 years!

Fortunately, there’s a way to defend the Church aside from these two extremes that has the added benefit of aligning with the facts.  All the neo-geocentrists need to understand is that any alleged consensus of the Fathers only binds on matters of faith and morals (as Leo XIII teaches) and that the matter of geocentrism was, as Fr. Brian Harrison rightly said, "promulgated only in disciplinary documents, not in formally doctrinal ones . . . [and] was never promulgated directly and personally by any Pope, only indirectly, through the instrumentality of the Vatican Congregations of the Index and the Holy Office".  That is, the Church has never taught geocentrism as a matter of faith, in either her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium.  As the Protestant scholar Karl von Gebler has said:

The conditions which would have made the decree of the Congregation, or the sentence against Galileo, of dogmatic importance, were, as we have seen, wholly wanting.  Both Popes had been too cautious to endanger this highest privilege of the papacy by involving their infallible authority in the decision of a scientific controversy; they therefore refrained from conferring their sanction, as heads of the Roman Catholic Church, on the measures taken, at their instigation, by the Congregation “to suppress the doctrine of the revolution of the earth.”  Thanks to this sagacious foresight, Roman Catholic posterity can say to this day, that Paul V. and Urban VIII. were in error “as men” about the Copernican system, but not “as Popes.”  (Karl von Gebler, Galileo Galilei and the Roman Curia, trans. J. Sturge, London: C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1879, p. 239)

I personally might say "overreacted" rather than "were in error", but the point is that even a Protestant scholar can agree with what I wrote in a previous essay, "The seventeenth-century Popes knew perfectly well how to promulgate doctrinal decrees binding on the whole Church. But they consistently refrained from doing so with regard to geocentrism."  So if someone wants to continue to use the Galileo incident to excuse his rejection of the Catholic Church's authority, then let him.  But a sober evaluation of the actual facts—setting aside the exaggerations of both neo-modernists and neo-geocentrists—provides the solid ground any Catholic needs to be confident in the integrity of the Magisterium.

  • "If Mr. Palm thinks otherwise, he needs to find us a statement after 1943 on full biblical inerrancy, or find a Catholic institution today that teaches it. He won’t be able to."

False.  First, and most obviously, note that 1943 is only 69 years away, which is a far cry from the 300 years Bob needs in order to create a parallel with geocentrism.  But even worse, he's just flat out wrong that 1943 was the last magisterial reiteration of full inerrancy.  In 1998 Pope John Paul II issued the document Ad Tuendam Fidem which amended Canon Law to include measures to be taken against heretics, those who publicly profess views contrary to the dogmas of the Catholic Church.  In its commentary on this document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith laid out three tiers of doctrines and delineated the level of assent that is required for each.  The first category of doctrine contains those which are infallibly proposed, which are "defined with a solemn judgment as divinely revealed truths either by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra,' or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."  Examples include the Virgin Birth of our Lord, His bodily resurrection from the dead, the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff when speaking ex cathedra, the Immaculate Conception of our Lady, etc.  The CDF states that, "These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful.  Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law" (link).

One of the truths which belongs to this category is "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts".  The authority cited for this doctrine is Dei Verbum 11.  This, then, represents an authoritative interpretation of this passage from the Second Vatican Council.  According to the CDF, with explicit approval of the Pope, Dei Verbum 11 teaches "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts," not (as the revisionists would have it) the absence of error insofar as the text in question is salvific in nature or some other such limiting interpretation.  The absence of error in the inspired sacred texts is not limited or modified in any way.

As such, Bob is wrong about the Magisterium not reasserting full biblical inerrancy.  Let’s hope that he will rejoice with us at this good news rather than seeking out additional difficulties in order to hold on to his geocentric “pebble.”

Finally, as for Catholic institutions that still teach full biblical inerrancy, Bob only asked for one, but here are three off the top of my head (I'm sure more could be added): Thomas Aquinas College, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the University of Navarre.  Sadly, we can't add Bob's organization to that list because he was told by his bishop to take the word "Catholic" off his apostolate.

I hope that the material above will further help those who have encountered Catholic neo-geocentrists to see that neo-geocentrism is just as I have described it—an elaborate exercise in scientific and ecclesiastical special pleading, gummed together with a hermeneutic of suspicion and a liberal dose of conspiracy theories.


I would like to make clear that I continue to have mixed emotions about engaging Bob's arguments for geocentrism.  Among other things, I'm concerned that in the process of following these lengthy discussions, some readers may naturally tend to forget or be unaware of far more serious and dangerous problems related to Bob Sungenis' writing:  1) his continuing, public slander of Bishop Kevin Rhoades and 2) his anti-Jewish bigotry.  I want to ensure that no one is unwittingly drawn into these more dangerous areas as a result of these discussions and that I don't ever give the impression that I consider Bob's behavior in these other areas as anything less than outrageously unacceptable.

Bob has ignored the new essays that Michael Forrest and I have written that further expose what Bishop Rhoades himself calls Bob's "slanderous and erroneous" attacks and accusations against His Excellency (links below).  Bishop Rhoades has also rightly described Bob's attacks on the Jewish people as "hostile, uncharitable and un-christian."  Matters have degenerated to the point that a conference in England was shut down in large part because Bob was chosen as a last-minute replacement to speak there (see here.)

I think readers will also find in the documentation below ample parallels to the same sloppy scholarship, tendentious argumentation, and slander that we have seen him deploy here in support of geocentrism.  Bob needs to forthrightly retract and apologize for his ugly statements attacking the Jewish people (which can found here and here).  He also needs to retract his baseless, public accusations of heresy against Bishop Rhoades, issue an unqualified apology to His Excellency, and do penance in reparation for the scandal he has caused.

Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory

A Defense of Bishop Rhoades from More False Accusations by Robert Sungenis

Sungenis' Own Standards of Heresy: Why Don't They Apply to Bishop Rhoades?

* * *

As expected, there are loud complaints from the geocentrists again, from James B. Phillips, whose antics I chronicled at the end of the previous paper I put up from David Palm. As I wrote there (after making links to replies from Bob Sungenis and John Martin):

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 [no comments allowed] 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 . . . 

Sure enough, James "Filthy Jews" Phillips is at it again. He wrote in a mail to me (forwarded to Sungenis, but not to David Palm) today:

I think it is unconscionable that the comment box is disabled for pit bull David Palm's smear article against Robert Sungenis and to a lesser degree John Martin . . .

I wonder who put up the roll of hanging toilet paper at the beginning of the article [David Palm did: it's his article] and what significance, if any, it is supposed to have concerning the article. Is your site now using "scatological adornments" to attract viewers?

In view of Mr. Palm judging Dr. Sungenis to be an anti-Jewish bigot, perhaps Mr. Palm might want to think about the place assigned to Jesus in the Jewish "holy" book the Talmud as Mr. Palm looks at the article's toilet paper: boiling excrement in hell. Or perhaps he may wish to consider what that "holy" book says about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He goes on to rant and rave about Jews, and to complain about David Palm's treatment of Bob with regard to his treatment of Jews. If he wants this to be publicly available, let him post it on Bob's site or elsewhere and I will link to it.

I don't believe I've ever stated, myself, that Bob was an anti-Semite (I haven't gotten involved in all that public controversy at all), but I can certainly see why people might think he is.

David Palm wrote to me:

We have always been very clear as to what we mean by anti-Semitism.  It's right at the top of the blog.  We use the standard dictionary definition, coupled with the Golden Rule.  See this piece, item #5.

* * *

Robert Sungenis has replied, in his post, Response to David Palm on the Tridentine Catechism’s Treatment of Cosmology. (see the second part of it).

* * * 

It comes as no surprise to me whatsoever, that James Phillips attends a schismatic SSPX church, as described in an article in the Los Angeles Times (8-27-11):

"This subject is, as far as I can see, an embarrassment to the modern church because the world more or less looks upon geocentrism, or someone who believes it, in the same boat as the flat Earth," said James Phillips of Cicero, Ill.

Phillips attends Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Church in Oak Park, Ill., a parish run by the Society of St. Pius X, which rejects most of the modernizing reforms made by the Vatican II council from 1962 to 1965.