Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Debate on the Premises Behind Opposition to Deportation of Illegal Immigrants (vs. Andy Kirchoff)

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (2-21-12)

Andy Kirchoff is (according to his Facebook profile), a "GOP-leaning independent Catholic voter." His words (complete words from the original Facebook thread) will be in blue.

* * *

I love his [Clark Durant's] pro-life stance and his education platform, but his immigration position is far too "out there" for me to enthusiastically support his candidacy. He sounds like a NumbersUSA dream candidate.

You're a big fan of illegal immigration?

I'm a fan of keeping gov't from needlessly separating families and communities. Saying that "allowing for illegal immigrants to stay in this country must no longer be accepted" is a rhetorical indication that Mr. Durant is miles apart from me on this issue. It's like how Obama's "I don't want my daughters punished with a baby" shows that he's light years apart from me on the abortion issue.

It was a general statement: nothing in there about separating families. You simply read that into it. But certainly if families of illegals stay then they need to go through a process of legalization. We can't just spit and trample on a perfectly sensible law (allowing immigration through legal channels).

My father was an immigrant from Canada! Perfectly legal. What was he supposed to do: swim the Detroit River, say "to hell with the laws!" and expect to be accepted after so many years here, simply because he is here?

. . . actually, the USA has a history of allowing just that.

The article advocates exactly what I do (paths to legalization through productive citizenship; not indefinite illegal status):

Kentucky was one of the first states to offer squatters a path to legalization. Under the Kentucky system, any squatter whose claim went unchallenged for seven years, and who paid taxes on the land during that period, was eligible for a clear title to the property regardless of who had owned it previously. . . . in 1862 with the passage of the Homestead Act, which gave settlers free federal land if they cultivated it for five years. . .. So should we follow our ancestors' example and offer a path to legalization?

Yes; that is my position. But doing nothing and allowing millions of illegals to exploit our system is outrageous.

You wouldn't allow someone to show up on your own property, build a shack, stay indefinitely and then say he has a "right" to be there.

Obama's statement was general, too, but it revealed deep-seated indication about his ideology. The same applies for Mr. Durant's statement, which indicates that he would prefer that the current law (which demands immediate deportation for illegal immigrants) be enforced. I have no problem "trampling" on such laws, anymore than I have problems trampling on the new HHS mandate if need be. Mr. Durant ostensibly believes otherwise.

You still haven't told me why an illegal immigrant should be allowed to stay: as a general proposition. On what grounds? Make an argument; don't just tell me what you like and don't like; that's like arguing which flavor of ice cream is best: nothing objective.

I think they can stay if they are pursuing legal status and being productive citizens (I agree with what Gingrich has said on this).

More important than obeying civil laws is obeying natural laws. Family unit is part of Catholic Social Teaching; obeying civil laws is not. I'm not saying the law isn't important, but when it comes down to a battle between the two, natural law claims supremacy.

As a "general proposition", illegal immigrants who haven't committed serious crimes should be allowed to stay because they are, by and large, de-facto citizens. Most of them have lived in this country for years, if not decades, and are unable to become citizens because our laws haven't accommodated them the avenues to do so. They are long-standing members of communities, many times having started businesses and employing US citizens.

As a matter of course, the problem with immigration isn't that the law hasn't been enforced. It's the opposite. "The law" in this case is outdated, outmoded, and unable to keep up with the economic needs of the country. It disregards the harm deportation does to families and communities. Like Roe V. Wade, many of our immigration laws are relics from a eugenics-oriented past, and like Roe, they deserve to be overturned.

I see. So you would allow someone to show up on your own property, build a shack, stay indefinitely (let's say he cuts your grass and pulls weeds and uses a nice proper outhouse) and then say he has a "right" to be there" from natural law, and you out of the goodness of your heart welcome him to do so.

Dave, comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act, and numerous guest worker programs are all that same kind of legislation as the Kentucky program mentioned in the article I linked to. The myth of "immigrants exploiting the system" is right up there with Planned Parenthood's myth of "right-wingers wanting women back in the kitchen." It's a myth based on phony statistics made by odious organizations.
Please answer my question about the guy showing up on your property. Humor me. Play philosopher for a moment.

If a man shows up on my property, I'm not obligated to let him in my house. But as the CATO article shows, that's a very poor analogy to the illegal immigration example. Turning this into a "property rights" argument is to miss the point entirely.

So he's not allowed in your house but he is free to live on your lawn and use your water, your garage for a shelter, etc.? Maybe you have a fruit tree and a vegetable garden; now he can be fed, too, from your bounty. And his brother and his family will be moving in soon, too . . . not able to resist all the wonderful opportunities for sustenance that you provide.

If it's my property, my rules apply. I'm free to do what I want irrespective of whether its my house or my yard, or my parking lot, or whatever. But that's not the point. This isn't a property rights argument.

So you would kick them out and say they didn't have the right to be there, huh? What if one of them refused to go? What would you do? Separate families?

I would call the police if someone was invading my property, sure. But that's not what this is about. This is about the state saying that someone's property doesn't matter. Countries and governments do not have the same rights as people (indeed, all they have are powers).

Right now, an illegal immigrant who has been here for years and years can be seized from their homes simply for breaking a eugenics-based immigration law. It's documented, it's happened and is happening.

A person crossing the border to live here is on US property. If he or she is receiving benefits that come from US taxpayers, then we have the perfect right to deny those benefits by enforcing sensible laws. The analogy is perfectly apt and relevant. You simply fail to grasp it. You're inconsistent with your own principles.

You don't apply "bleeding heart liberal" positions when it comes to your own property. You're like the guy who is for gun control and then shoots an invader on his own property (I recall hearing several examples of famous liberals doing just that; don't recall specific names though).

No. This isn't a "bleeding heart liberal" position. I've already cited (and you've acknowledged) how the US gov't has treated its "property." Government does not have universal power of people in its country. That's exactly why the US Constitution was founded on principles of a limited gov't. [ link ]

Explain to me how you can kick these guys off of your property but the US (i.e., states like Arizona and Texas) can't do the same with folks who want to stay illegally in the US. I don't get it. Perhaps you can help me understand these profundities.

I already did explain them. *The government does not have power over people, citizen or non-citizen, when it comes to uprooting people from their property and homes.

Really? How does it ever build a freeway through a city, then? My wife's childhood home got taken out by one in Detroit.

*Only criminal offenses (with written warrants) can bring that kind [of] governmental power to fruition. Immigration laws are merely civil offenses, not criminal ones (which is why SCOTUS is going to shoot down SB1070, among other copycat laws like it). In short, Government, whether state or federal, does not have the rights prescribed to persons. Thank God our founding Fathers saw that.

I'm not talking about someone with property rights. The guy on your lawn has no such rights, which is precisely why you call the police to boot them out (something I would not even do myself, since I always seek to take action without involving legal entities, insofar as humanly possible; nor have I ever owned a handgun, by the way, and have no plans to).


You immediately comprehend that he has no such rights, since it is your property. But you turn around and say that the US government or government of Arizona, etc. have no such corresponding right to kick out a guy living in a barn on someone else's property. It makes no sense whatever, but because of the inherent incoherence of your position, you are forced to adopt nonsense.

And really, if we're going to talk about the Catholic position on immigration, then the "hardline" rhetoric/property rights argument is about as historically anti-Catholic as it gets. I know that sounds harsh, but the historical record is very clear about this. The groups that want to "enforce the laws" have a well-documented history of anti-Catholic animus, and the folks bankrollling them are of Planned Parenthood ilk. The guy who brought about the resurgence of the "property rights" angle to immigration was none other than ex-Catholic Tom Tancredo, whose rhetoric regarding immigration is easily comparable to the "no-nothing" rhetoric of over 100 years ago.

There is a reason why every single US Bishop supported the DREAM Act as a standalone bill (including Cardinal Burke while he was still here). I know that this is a sensitive issue, and I'm not saying that every immigration reform proposal is a good one, but idea that "Cato likes it, therefore it is unCatholic" is simply not going to work given the problems with the other groups who are supporting the "property rights" approach.

I want to understand why you feel you can kick the guy off your land, but our government cannot do so, in your mind. You're not helping me to grasp how your position is possibly consistent. It's very easy to be solely abstract, isn't it? Then when an example or incident "brings it home," all of a sudden it's a far different story.

I've already written about the Catholic [Church's] views on immigration (I agree with what I see there). I'm talking about basic premises (according to my usual socratic philosophical method). Andy's position is radically inconsistent and illogical.

Read my statements again, Dave. The issue is that government doesn't have "people rights." An illegal immigrant is not living on somebody else's property if they bought the land/apartment/house, etc. either, so your analogy doesn't hold water even if gov't did have "people rights." And some form of property ownership -is- the case with most illegal immigrants here in the country today.

Regarding eminent domain, that is, as many conservative commentators noted, one of the great tragedies of the past 5 years. SCOTUS saying eminent domain doesn't matter, and that the gov't can force someone out of their home for a "common good" reason (as I presume your highway example is meant to show), is a tragedy. But that's exactly why laws like sb1070 (which are, again, going to be rightly found unconstitutional ) need to be fought.

I agree with paths to citizenship; I stated that above, several times. So you oppose interstate freeways, too? What if someone doesn't own property and is squatting? Should they be deported? The guy on your land doesn't own your property. You do. You want to get rid of him. So can states do the same towards those who are squatters?

Dave, you are misunderstanding the premise. At issue is the role of government (subsidiarity). We have a limited gov't in the United States that expressedly does not have the rights given to its citizens (hence the CATO article I posted). That is why a "property rights" approach to this issue does not work.

Dave, you are jumping to conclusion far too quickly. Supporting eminent domain doesn't mean I oppose interstate freeways anymore than opposing abortion means I oppose women in the workplace. At issue here is the power of government over people, citizen or non-citizen. Immigration is a civil issue, not a criminal one, and that alone makes state laws on the issue a constitutional conundrum; but that issue aside, government doesn't have the "property rights" that people have (and that the government protects, but by no means "grants").

Here are my questions again that you ignored:

"What if someone doesn't own property and is squatting? Should they be deported? The guy on your land doesn't own your property. You do. You want to get rid of him. So can states do the same towards those who are squatters?"

I couldn't trespass (legally) at an abortion clinic, to save babies. I went to jail for that. If I were like you I could have said, "hey, I don't have to go to jail! I can be inconsistent like Andy!!!"

Regarding "squatting," It is my understanding that state's can't do that, as a matter of law. In terms of the principle, however, and as the CATO article shows, unless an actual person (not a gov't) already has rights to the land, the issue becomes far less about "property rights" and more about the power of the government.

You like freeways, so what do you propose to do differently when a house is in the way? Presently, the owners are given recompense.

People & govt; freeways, so property rights should hold strong here. But again, the gov't isn't a person with property rights.

I see; so someone can set foot in the state of Arizona illegally and find some sandy desert hideout and that's fine and Arizona can do absolutely nothing about it, under pain of being called big meanies and Know-Nothing anti-Catholics by you. But some guy can plop on your lawn and you call the police to remove him. Gotcha. Just so your position is known, for the record . . . Now you're opposed to freeways again. That makes for awfully tedious rush hours . . .

Oh wait; okay, Arizona can't do anything if an illegal is on, say, the property of Grand Canyon National Park (which you and I, with all US citizens, own). He can live there indefinitely in a cave.

But if an illegal immigrant is on a desert plot owned by a private individual, that person (like you) can kick him out and send him to another person's property to be their headache, or (even better) to the Grand Canyon where he'll be safe, since states (so sez you) have no property rights.


False dichotomies are tools of the left, and I won't fall prey to them. If you can't see how I can be for eminent domain (which is to be PRO-property rights!) and still support freeways, I know I'm not going to be able to convince you. Likewise, if you can't see why giving gov't the same rights as a human person is problematic, I'm clearly not going to convince you, either. I can't be responsible for what are clearly deliberate and repeated mischaracterizations of my positions. I think I'm done here. Enjoy your day.

The Immigration Control Act of 1924 (which inspired the system we have today), was written and promoted by eugenicists and supported by none other than Margaret Sanger herself. [ link ]. And of course, that same history of making people into problems (and making the government into a person) continues to this day, as I wrote about... [ link ]

 ‎...and that prejudice continues to this day with sb1070, Alabama's religious freedom violating immigration law (which was condemned by the Catholic League as "morally reprehensible"). Tom Tancredo, Mark Krikorian, Russell Pierce...all of these folks responsible for these laws have histories of associating (if not outright endorsing) white supremacists and neo-nazis. It's not unique to Sanger's time, it continues to this very day, and self-described pro-life Catholics, sadly, are falling for it!

Thank you very much, Andy, for an excellent illustration of profound incoherence, complete with the obligatory parting insult, viciously illogical inanities, and the fleeing of a substantive discussion before anything is accomplished. We can see why Socrates was killed (for "corrupting the youth"). He angered lots of folks as well, when he asked too many probing questions about premises. :-)

Equally boring is the usual equation of my reductio ad absurdum of your position (perfectly acceptable logical argumentation in formal logic) to (YAWN) "clearly deliberate and repeated mischaracterizations of my positions." (ZZZzzzzz......)

A martyrdom complex? Really? That's what happens when your worldview receives a challenge, Dave? No one here is threatening you with death or censorship. I answered your question. You just insist on deliberately misstating my point. Fortunately, barring your own censorship of my posts, the record is clear, and I am proud to stand by it.

Quite the contrary; I will make a dialogue out of this and preserve every word of yours. You're allowed to be a pompous ass on my page if you like: especially in the process of intellectually hanging yourself (because there are important points to be made here).

I have simply maintained that you are illogical and inconsistent, while you have implied that my position is the primary domain of racists, bigots, eugenicists, Know-Nothing anti-Catholics, etc.: none of which I have ever had the slightest agreement with. Ah, now we have "martyrdom complex". Any more insults to add before you depart?

You may not agree with the positions of eugenicists in theory, but the record is clear that the position you maintain regarding immigration is the position of said groups. I'm still waiting for you to refute that - not that I expect that you will, as you would rather focus on red herrings regarding freeways than the issue at hand. But by all means, continue. The more you type here, the more others can see what happened here. After all, you are the one tossing around terms like "pompous ass." (And I'm the one being insulting, here? Hmm...).

"Pompous ass" is far less insulting than comparing opponents to neo-Nazis and every scum of the earth, and stating (twice now) that I am engaging in deliberate lying rather than simply arguing according to the established procedures of reductio ad absurdum and socratic method.

That is precisely being a pompous ass (I always use the term with precision, and do so only rarely): thinking you know something that you don't know and insulting others rather than admitting that you don't comprehend what happened.

My position is that of the Catholic Church, far as I can determine (per my posting and espousal of Catholic positions in a post months ago, that I linked to above), so if you wish to tar Holy Mother Church with the same hideous brush that you paint me with, feel free.

I thought you were departed? Now you have to stay simply to offer insult upon insult: thus proving that you can't argue your positions without same? It's clear that any semblance of rational discussion in your comments has disappeared.

If you play the game of deleting your posts (as often happens in these sorts of juvenile flare-ups), it's too late. I've already copied them.

One can come to the same conclusion as an odious group without adopting the same argumentation and reasoning of said group, sure. However, the very strain of argumentation offered here (this whole property rights angle) comes straight from the FAIR playbook - it was literally invented to bring Republicans and conservatives to embrace their xenophobic agenda, just as "freedom to choose" was Bernard Nathanson's mantra in getting feminists to support abortion.

The organic development of Dave's argumentation (not just his position) could be directly lifted from FAIR or NumbersUSA. It's not a matter of arbitrarily coming to the same position; the very root of the ideology is evident from the argumentation. Dave has unwittingly fallen for one of Satan's cunning traps here, and I will stand firm in offering a course correction, just as I hope he would do the same for me.

Ah, Satan is now with us, too. I'm the dupe (albeit "unwittingly") of the Evil One. How melodramatic. Any more insults? I want to make the coming dialogue as colorful and bizarre as it can possibly be! Let 'em fly!

I have absolutely no intention of deleting anything I wrote here. Why would I?

I could think of several reasons (good or otherwise) but I'll desist.

Now I find out that you were a philosophy major, yet comprehend neither a reductio ad absurdum when it is being used [against you], nor socratic method? Wow . . .

* * *

[replying to someone else] I think the issue should be seriously discussed. But we have to discuss premises (and go beyond the usual party lines when doing it: as Gingrich has attempted to do). That's not able to be done when:

1) The person whose premises you are trying to understand, refuses to either properly explain or defend them.

2) The same person continually engages in "poisoning the well" tactics of comparing every position his dialogical opponent states in the worst possible terms, trying to bring about "guilt-by-association."

#2 is what unscrupulous politicians and the ancient Sophists do and did (and involves logical fallacies), whereas socratic method and reductio ad absurdum (what I did) have a long, honorable pedigree going back to Socrates, and are advocated by every introductory logic textbook as perfectly legitimate.

The idea that I didn't answer your questions, be it regarding property rights, governmental power, freeways, or anything else, despite the multiple times I answered it, is an allegation that the record contradicts: [cited two sections preceded by * above]

Andy remarked (in the combox below) about the above paragraph and the two below:

A comment that Dave omitted from his posting here on his blog, that is nonetheless available on his facebook page (and was posted well before he posted this blog entry, as well):

"Well before" was all of about 29 minutes. I was putting together the blog version of the Facebook thread and Andy put in another comment that I missed because I was busy posting the dialogue. But most of it was citing again two previous paragraphs. What follows below (from the combox) was posted an hour after my blog post was first put up:

Additionally, that I reject the property rights view of the immigration issue is not an indication that I didn't answer his question. The idea that demonstrating that there is a logical connection between the argumentation a party offers and the argumentation offered by others is not sophistry. It is not "poisoning the well." On the contrary, trying to draw arbitrary equivocations between entities that are not equal is sophistry (sophists were famous for saying distinctions were arbitrary). Saying that a person and a government are indistinguishable, either in terms of the property rights question or the general understanding of the term, is something I'd expect from someone completely unfamiliar with basic argumentation - certainly a Catholic apologist or Scripture scholar should know better.

It is fair to disagree with my position on gov't vs. personal property rights. It is not fair to say that I didn't answer the questions presented.

I'm not gonna play logical ring around the rosey with you at this point, after you have thrown up all your usavory sophistical garbage, trying to discredit your opponent rather than argue rationally (rather like some unnamed parties in the GOP primary habitually do).  Now you try to talk sensibly and philosophically, having exhausted the ample supply of manure that you had in your "arsenal." Whatever interest I had in discussion with you is now long since passed.

Let me just note in reply to this last salvo that I didn't claim you gave no "answer" at all. You provided plenty of "answers": but they were sophistical and obscurantist ones.  What I have persistently complained about is your failure to properly explain or defend your view. For example:
You still haven't told me why an illegal immigrant should be allowed to stay . . .
Explain to me how you can kick these guys off of your property but the US (i.e., states like Arizona and Texas) can't do the same with folks who want to stay illegally in the US.

I want to understand why you feel you can kick the guy off your land, but our government cannot do so, in your mind.
The person whose premises you are trying to understand, refuses to either properly explain or defend them.

I did state that there were some specific questions you "ignored" -- which is true: readers can go consult that section if they wish and search in vain for any rational explanations of yours (as opposed to mere bald assertions coupled with poisoned-well accusations: your specialty).

I don't waste time arguing with sophists and epithet-specialists, and those who specialize (consciously or unconsciously) in toying with fallacies. My time is too valuable for that. Accordingly, this is our final attempted "dialogue" (....choke.....).

Andy wrote over on his blog:

My final point was conveniently omitted from his blog posting here, but it's still available in the facebook record, happily.

Note the cynicism, as if I were deliberately trying to avoid something (after posting truckloads of Andy's words and (in my opinion) dubious arguments and methods. I explained this above. It had a very simple explanation. No evil, malicious intent here . . .

There are also other omissions from the facebook exchange, as well.

More of the same. The only things I omitted were comments of others and Andy's replies to those, since this was a two-man dialogue for the educational and pedagogical purposes of this post. There is no moral or philosophical requirement, anyway, that I include every last word, even by others. If one wants those, they simply go to the top of this post and hit the link to the Facebook thread. It takes a tenth of a second and they can get every last word. I have included all of Andy's words in reply to myself.

I get extremely tired of these kinds of asinine complaints (that are recurrent whenever I post dialogues: of which I have over 600 online), when I have already taken the greatest pains to post all of my opponent's words (in reply to me) for all to see on my site.

. . . I'm quite content that the blogger had his conscience pricked enough to write about it. It is my prayer and hope that, just as my hardened heart was changed on this issue after years of obstinate clinging to the other side, his heart will also be changed.

This explains quite a bit. It's classic "us vs. them" paranoid, hyper-partisan-type rhetoric. To disagree with Andy's position is to be a "bad guy": to have an obstinate, hardened heart. This is no speculation; he has now come right out and said it (I already knew the attitude was there). One cannot possibly have a different position and be a good moral person and good Catholic, holding it with a full Catholic (or otherwise Christian) conscience, in good faith. Andy uses the very terminology of regenerate and unregenerate, in effect, the side of light vs. the dark "side" ("hardened hearts" in the Bible refers to being unregenerate and altogether wicked, and certainly Andy must know this; it's classic biblical language and categories). Notice this very closely.

Now, the most fascinating thing is that Andy admits that he held the opposite view for "years". In light of how he has described views in illegal immigration other than his own: bigots, know-nothings, in bed with anti-Catholic prejudicial views about foreigners, etc., we can safely assume that he must have been a bigot in former years (deduced on how he describes other views and his admission to having held them himself). This is very revealing indeed. It means that he thinks he has now "seen the light" and that anyone who differs with him is still in darkness, with a hardened heart.

It's the stereotypical demonizing of political opponents: a thing now rampant in national politics, to the detriment of intelligent, constructive, problem-solving governance. It's going on as I write, this very day: with Republican candidate Rick Santorum being ripped up and down by the media and operatives of the left and the Democratic Party (if there is any difference, anymore) simply for expressing his Catholic religious beliefs.

Having been rescued from bigotry himself (at the ripe old age of 22: a new man, as it were), now Andy is on a mission to get all of us bigots "saved," as he is. Quite obviously, he is projecting all of his past bigotry onto folks like me, and others who oppose illegal immigration in some sense. The problem is that it doesn't fit. He may be condemning his past self, but he is not condemning me in any way, shape, matter, or form, since I have never been tainted by racism or prejudice in my views at any time of my life.

I've been intensely, passionately interested in race relations issues for literally 45 years: since the riots in Detroit in 1967.  I've visited many of the famous civil rights sites (Martin Luther King's house, church, where he was killed, site of his last speech, Selma, the location of Rosa Parks and the bus, etc.). We religiously teach our children to detest racism and all prejudice and teach them the history of slavery, the Undergound Railroad, the civil rights movement, etc.

I've written passionately of the evils of how Native Americans have been treated, and of slavery and subsequent denial of the rights of African-Americans. I detest all such discrimination with every fiber of my being, and that includes Mexican-Americans or any other ethnic group being treated poorly and deprived of due rights. It's why I'm pro-life and have been arrested five times, gone through three trials, and spent time in jail: because my compassion extends to the smallest and most helpless of all among us.

All of that is a matter of record, and I have believed and held and communicated and defended these views for twice as long as Andy has been alive. I met Rosa Parks at a trial about alleged prejudice in Detroit in 1986, before Andy was even born. I was in jail for the "crime" of saving babies from being butchered, before he was a twinkle in his father's eye (back in 1988). Yet here he is arrogantly lecturing me about how my heart needs to be changed, solely based on his past history of bigotry, as if that has anything to do with me, or automatically to do with anyone who disagrees with him.

I absolutely detest such an attitude and condemn it in the strongest terms. Andy's past sins are his own. If he is outraged by his past views and behavior, great. We all live and learn. I wasn't burdened by prejudice, ever, but I had and have many other faults and sins, as we all do. I'm delighted that he has reformed himself by God's grace and has seen the light. Projecting his sins and past hypocrisies and outrages onto myself and others, however, with absurd simple-mindedness, is the height of folly, hypocrisy, and presumption. I'm not trying to just pile on Andy, but rather, I am using this current pathetic example as an illustration of exactly how not to approach an opponent in dialogue.

My hope for him is not that his "heart" ceases being hardened, etc.: as if he were a "bad" person. My concern is that he learns to argue his positions rationally, minus the ridiculous demonization tactics, projection, and hypocritical judgmentalism based on his contempt for his own past behavior. He needs to learn to discuss things objectively, minus the pretense of alleged high moral ground that he supposedly possesses to an exceptional degree, while all who disagree with him are supposedly demons and morons.

And that goes for anyone who attempts dialogue, on political issues or anything else. We all need to guard against this pompous attitude. Heaven help me if I fall into it. I want to be sternly rebuked if and when I do so. May God guide all of us as we discuss issues and share our faith.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The (Abundant) Biblical Evidence for Lent

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (2-15-12)

Someone asked me on my Facebook page: "How come we celebrate Lent...and the word is not in Scripture?"

"Lent" simply comes from Old English for "spring" (I learned that just now). "Trinity" (the word) is not in Scripture, either. Christian church buildings are not in Scripture. "Original sin" (the term) is not in Scripture (the concept is). The biblical books are not listed in Scripture itself. Nothing new here.

The practices and beliefs regarding Lent are all eminently biblical. For example, see this paper of mine:
 "Biblical Evidence for Penitential Mortification of the Flesh (Sackcloth / Hair Shirts)." In my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths I include a chapter, "Fasting, abstinence, and Lent" (seven pages). It contains 50 biblical passages. I used KJV in that book for copyright reasons, but here are the same passages in RSV:

Exodus 24:18 And Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 34:28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Leviticus 10:9 Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations.

Numbers 6:1-4 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink, and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.”

Deuteronomy 9:9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tables of stone, the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.

Deuteronomy 9:25 So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you.

Deuteronomy 29:5-6 I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet; you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink; that you may know that I am the LORD your God.
Judges 13:3-5 And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son [Samson]. Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (cf. 13:14)

1 Samuel 1:15 But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.

1 Samuel 31:13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

2 Samuel 1:12 and they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

2 Samuel 12:16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in and lay all night upon the ground. (cf. 12:21-23)

1 Kings 19:8 And he [Elijah] arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

1 Chronicles 10:12 And they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

2 Chronicles 20:3 Then Jehosh'aphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

Ezra 8:21, 23 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Aha'va, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a straight way for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. . . . So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (cf. 9:5)

Nehemiah 1:4 When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days; and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 9:1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads.

Esther 4:3 And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Esther 4:16 Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.

Esther 9:31 that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mor'decai the Jew and Queen Esther enjoined upon the Jews, and as they had laid down for themselves and for their descendants, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting.

Psalm 35:13 But I, when they were sick -- I wore sackcloth, I afflicted myself with fasting. I prayed with head bowed on my bosom,
Psalm 69:10 . . . I humbled my soul with fasting, . . .
Psalm 109:24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt.
Jeremiah 36:9 In the fifth year of Jehoi'akim the son of Josi'ah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the LORD.
Ezekiel 4:4-12 Then lie upon your left side, and I will lay the punishment of the house of Israel upon you; for the number of the days that you lie upon it, you shall bear their punishment. For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; so long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year. And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared; and you shall prophesy against the city. And, behold, I will put cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege. And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, and put them into a single vessel, and make bread of them. During the number of days that you lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. And the food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; once a day you shall eat it. And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; once a day you shall drink. And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.
Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace, and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
Joel 1:14 Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. . . . (cf. 2:15)
Joel 2:12 “Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;”
Jonah 3:5 And the people of Nin'eveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Zechariah 8:19 Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace. (cf. 7:3,5)
Tobit 12:8 Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold.
Judith 4:9, 13 And every man of Israel cried out to God with great fervor, and they humbled themselves with much fasting. . . . So the Lord heard their prayers and looked upon their affliction; for the people fasted many days throughout Judea and in Jerusalem before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty.
Judith 8:6 She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the day before the sabbath and the sabbath itself, the day before the new moon and the day of the new moon, and the feasts and days of rejoicing of the house of Israel.
Sirach 34:26 So if a man fasts for his sins, and goes again and does the same things, who will listen to his prayer? And what has he gained by humbling himself?
2 Maccabees 13:12 . . . they . . . besought the merciful Lord with weeping and fasting and lying prostrate for three days without ceasing,. . . (cf, 1 Macc 3:47; Baruch 1:5)
Matthew 4:2 And he [Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.
Matthew 6:16-18 And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 9:14-15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (cf. Mk 2:18-20; Lk 5:33-35; 18:12)
Luke 2:37 . . . She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, “He has a demon.” (cf. Mt 11:18; Lk 1:15)
Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.
Acts 15:20 . . . abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood.
Acts 15:29 . . . abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. . . . (cf. 21:25)
Romans 14:3 Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him.
Romans 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Romans 14:15, 21 If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. . . . it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall. (cf. 2 Cor 6:4-5; 11:27)


I wrote at the end of the chapter (p. 322):

The forty days of Lenten observance have several forty day parallels in Scripture (all listed above): Moses’ fasts on the the holy mountain (Ex 24:18; 34:28; Deut 9:9) and his intercession for Israel (Deut 9:25), Elijah’s journey to Mt. Horeb (1 Ki 19:8), Ezekiel’s lying on one side (Ezek 4:6), and Christ’s fast in the wilderness (Mt 4:2).

The chapter following is entitled, "We use ashes to show our penitence" [Ash Wednesday] (three pages). Here are the 23 biblical passages I presented, again from the RSV:

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Genesis 18:27 Abraham answered, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.”

2 Samuel 13:19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent the long robe which she wore; and she laid her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.

Nehemiah 9:1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads.

Esther 4:1, 3 When Mor'decai learned all that had been done, Mor'decai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry; . . . And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Job 2:8 And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Job 34:15 all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.

Job 42:6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Psalm 90:3 Thou turnest man back to the dust, . . .

Isaiah 58:5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?

Jeremiah 6:26 O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, and roll in ashes; make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation; for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.

Jeremiah 25:34 Wail, you shepherds, and cry, and roll in ashes, . . .

Ezekiel 27:30 and wail aloud over you, and cry bitterly. They cast dust on their heads and wallow in ashes;

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Jonah 3:6 Then tidings reached the king of Nin'eveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

Judith 4:11, 15 And all the men and women of Israel, and their children, living at Jerusalem, prostrated themselves before the temple and put ashes on their heads and spread out their sackcloth before the Lord. . . . With ashes upon their turbans, they cried out to the Lord with all their might to look with favor upon the whole house of Israel.

Sirach 17:32 He marshals the host of the height of heaven; but all men are dust and ashes.

Sirach 40:3 from the man who sits on a splendid throne to the one who is humbled in dust and ashes,

1 Maccabees 3:47 They fasted that day, put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads, and rent their clothes. (cf. 4:39)

Matthew 11:21 Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (cf. Lk 10:13)

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. (cf. 15:48-49)

Revelation 18:19 And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, . . .

All perfectly biblical practices, with many examples (most explicit and immediately relevant to the topic) . . . There is nothing "unbiblical" at all in what Catholics observe during Lent. As usual, we Catholics are most in line with biblical teaching and practice. Those Christians who don't practice Lent (like myself in my first 32 years: though I would fast at times) miss out on these important penitential aspects of the faith.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Books by Dave Armstrong: "Biblical Evidence for the Communion of Saints"

 [completed and published at Lulu on 11 February 2012: 152 pages]

[cover design by Dave and Judy Armstrong; photograph by Alenka Rebernik; used with permission]

--- to purchase go to the bottom of the page ---

[linked excerpts are not absolutely identical with the final product]

Dedication (p. 3)

Introduction (p. 5)

The Communion of Saints and Invocation and Intercession of the Saints

1. Reply to Objections to the Catholic Conception of the Communion of Saints (p.11)

2. Samuel the Prophet Appearing to Saul as an Argument for the Communion of Saints (p.19)

3. Biblical Data Regarding Communication from God and Ghosts in Dreams (p. 25)

4. Invocation of the Saints: Essentially Different from Magic and Necromancy (p. 37) [read portion] [read complete translation in Spanish]

5. Biblical Indications of Invocation of Angels for Intercessory Purposes (p. 47) [read online]

Veneration of Saints and Angels

6. Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Saints and Imitation of Holy Persons as Models (p. 57)

7. Explicit Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Angels and Men as Direct Representatives of God (p. 63)

8. Analogical Biblical Argument for Veneration of Saints and Angels from the Disapproval of Blasphemy of the Same (p. 69) [read online]

Images, Alleged Idolatry, “Controversial” Devotional Practices, and Relics

9. Exposition on the Veneration of Images, Iconoclasm, and Idolatry (p. 75)

10. Biblical Evidence for Praying to and Worshiping God While Bowing or Kneeling Before a Statue of a Creature Made by Human Hands (p. 83)

11. Biblical Examples of Worship of God via an Image (Pillar of Cloud, Burning Bush) (p. 89) [read online]

12. The Bronze Serpent as an Illustration of the Proper and Improper (Idolatrous) Use of Images (p. 91)

13. The Biblical Rationale for Crucifixes (p. 95)

14. Biblical Reflections on the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart Devotions (p. 101)

15. Biblical Evidence for Relics (p. 107)

Purgatory and Prayer for the Dead

16. A Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory (p. 113) [read online]

17. Biblical Indications of Purgatory in Matthew 5, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 3 (p. 117) [read portion]

18. Onesiphorus: the Dead Man that St. Paul Prayed for (p. 127)

19. 1 Corinthians 15:29 and "Baptism for the Dead": What Does it Mean? (p. 131)

Penance and Mortification

20. A Biblical Defense of Penance as Analogous to Prayer and Grace (p.135)

21. Biblical Support for Physical, Penitential Mortification (p. 141)


* * *


This volume consists entirely of papers, essays, and dialogues originally posted on my website and blog (both named Biblical Evidence for Catholicism): written between 1995 and 2011. These have been edited, revised, and combined in various ways, in order to clarify the thoughts, eliminate any repetition, and maximize the impact of the arguments.

Most of the queries that I originally responded to came from our Protestant brethren in Christ. These occurrences afforded me the opportunity to defend and clarify what Catholics believe with regard to the communion of saints, why we do, and to demonstrate that Catholic beliefs are in harmony with both Holy Scripture and the beliefs of the early Church.

I have written extensively on the biblical basis of the Catholic understanding of the communion of saints, purgatory, and penance in my books published by Sophia Institute Press: A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (pp. 101-165), The Catholic Verses (pp. 127-179), The One-Minute Apologist (various chapters), and Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (pp. 239-252; 353-379).

This work might, therefore, be considered a supplemental or complementary treatment of various specifics of the overall topic, though many aspects previously dealt with in my other books will be presently touched upon, and this book has enough “new” subject matter to stand on its own right, apart from the others. The relationship of the Bible and Catholic doctrine is the greatest single emphasis of my own apologetic endeavors.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that my own ruminations along these lines may be of some benefit to others, and both edifying and educational.

* * *

Purchase Options:

Paperback (List: $19.95 / 30% Lulu Discount: $13.97)






Part of a ten-book package deal: able to be incorporated into Logos Software search capabilities

Updated on 18 July 2015.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Books by Dave Armstrong: "Classic Catholic Biblical Apologetics: 1525-1925"

  [completed and published at Lulu on 6 February 2012: 246 pages]

[cover design by Dave and Judy Armstrong]

--- to purchase, go to the bottom of page ---


Dedication (p. 3)

Introduction (p. 5) [read below]

Bibliography and Abbreviations (p. 9) [see below]

Brief Descriptions of Apologists (p. 15) [read below]

Classic Biblical Apologetics Listed by Scripture Passages (p. 27)

Index of Scripture Passages (p. 233)

Index of Topics (p. 241)

* * *


The present volume came about as a result of reflection upon two great loves of mine: biblical apologetics in defense of the Catholic faith, and compilations of great historical Catholic quotations and arguments. My overwhelming methodological emphasis, as a full-time apologist these past ten years, is on the former, as is readily seen in the titles of many of my books, such as A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003), The Catholic Verses (Sophia, 2004), and Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths (Sophia, 2009). My website (now a blog) online since 1997, is entitled “Biblical Evidence for Catholicism.”

Also among my books are compilations of the quotations of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and G. K. Chesterton: The Quotable Newman (Sophia, 2012) and The Wisdom of Mr. Chesterton (Saint Benedict Press, 2009).

As I pondered these two strains of what I like to do, writing-wise, I developed a desire to start compiling some historic Catholic apologetics that centered on biblical argumentation, as a counter to the Protestant emphasis (sola Scriptura), and came up with the idea of “post-Protestant Catholic biblical apologetics” that could be collected from online versions (a lot less typing!), since it is all public domain material.

In this way I could continue working in both areas that I really enjoy, all in one new project; and complement the quotations I have already collected. Cardinal Newman mostly concentrated on Anglicanism, insofar as he wrote (relatively little) about comparative exegesis, whereas Chesterton didn’t write biblical apologetics much at all, and was far more interested in opposing the ideas of secularism and agnosticism and dealing with Protestantism from a cultural and historical standpoint.

The person I initially had in mind when pondering this book, was St. Francis de Sales, whose Catholic Controversy is a wonderfully insightful exercise in biblical apologetics, specifically against Calvinists (multiple thousands of whom he won back to the Catholic faith through his tireless efforts). This great saint and apologist will be cited frequently in this book (probably more than any other).

All in all, I shall cite twelve classic Catholic authors, and categorize the arguments or biblical commentary in order of the biblical books. Multiple topics often appear under one Bible passage, and the Index of Topics at the end (69 total) is very handy to locate various subjects. 228 biblical passages are featured (including 50 from the Old Testament).

Only excerpts that utilize directly biblical argumentation will be used. And all or virtually all references to Catholic magisterial sources will be omitted, so that Protestant readers can observe Catholic arguments solely devoted to the text of the Bible: whether positively presenting a Catholic position, or opposing an erroneous Protestant doctrine allegedly supported by the same Bible.

I hope and pray that readers will enjoy discovering and learning from this wonderful treasure-trove of historic Catholic apologetics, as much as I enjoyed locating these precious gems and compiling them in some kind of accessible order.

I intend for this book to be a very practical aid in apologetic outreach, and a reference source. It is essentially a “Classic Catholic Apologetic Commentary”: but devoted to the post-Protestant period up through the early 20th century, rather than the patristic period, or the age of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics, as we often see in other similar works. Perhaps it can fill a certain “time period” void in the apologetic literature.

 * * * 


[chronologically by death dates of the primary authors; sources will be indicated in the text by the abbreviated name of the author and number of book corresponding to those below, with page number also]

[Linked works (by title) are available to read online in their entirety, or in a few cases, to a great extent]

St. Thomas More (1478-1535) [More]

[1] Sir Thomas More: A Selection from His Works, as Well in Prose as in Verse (edited by W. Jos. Walker; Baltimore: Fielding Lucas, Jr., 1841)

[2] Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More: Lord Chancellor of England and Martyr Under Henry VIII (edited by Thomas Edward Bridgett; London: Burns & Oates, 1891)

[3] The Wisdom and Wit of Blessed Thomas More (edited by Thomas Edward Bridgett; London: Burns & Oates, 1892)

[4] Thomas More (Christopher Hollis; Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1934)

[5] Erasmus, Tyndale, and More (William Edward Campbell; Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1949)

[6] The Essential Thomas More (edited by James J. Greene and John P. Dolan; New York: Mentor-Omega Books, 1967)

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) [Era.]

[1] Erasmus-Luther: Discourse on Free Will (edited and translated by Ernst F. Winter; New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., Inc., 1961)

[2] Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies (Hyperaspistes; edited by Charles Trinkaus; translated by Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller; University of Toronto Press, 1999)

Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) [Suar.]

[1] Defense of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith Against the Errors of Anglicanism (translated by Peter L. P. Simpson, 2011; online)

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) [FdS]

[1] The Catholic Controversy (translated by H. B. Canon MacKey; third revised edition, London: Burns & Oates, Ltd. / New York: Benziger Brothers, 1909)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) [Pas.]

[1] Miscellaneous Writings (translated by M. P. Faugère; London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849)

[2] Thoughts [Pensées] (translated by W. F. Trotter, c. 1910; reprinted by New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1958)

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) [Bos.]

[2] A Conference on the Authority of the Church (with Calvinist Minister John Claude; Baltimore: John Murphy, 1842)

Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman (1802-1865) [Wise.]

William Bernard Ullathorne (1806-1889) [Ull.]

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914) [Ben.]

[1] The Religion of the Plain Man (London: Burns & Oates, 1906)

[2] The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912)

[3] Spiritual Letters of Monsignor R. Hugh Benson to One of His Converts (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915)

James Cardinal Gibbons (1834-1921) [Gib.]

[1] The Faith of Our Fathers (Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 93rd revised and enlarged edition, 1917)

Ferdinand Prat, S. J. (1857-1938) [Prat]

[1] The Theology of St Paul, Vol. 1 (translated from the 11th French edition by John L. Stoddard; Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Bookshop, 1952; originally 1923)

[2] The Theology of St Paul, Vol. 2 (translated from the 10th French edition by John L. Stoddard; Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Bookshop, 1952; originally 1923) 

Karl Adam (1876-1966) [Adam]

[1] The Spirit of Catholicism (translated by Dom Justin McCann; Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1954 [originally 1924] )
* * *


[mostly from Wikipedia and the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia]

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)

English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist; counselor to King Henry VIII of England and, for three years, Lord Chancellor. He wrote his famous political commentary Utopia in 1516, and tracts in opposition to the teachings of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. More refused to accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England: a status the king had been given by a compliant parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged the power of the Pope and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535, he was tried for treason, convicted on perjured testimony and beheaded. Many historians argue that his conviction for treason was unjust, and even among some Protestants his execution was viewed as heavy-handed. Erasmus saluted him as one “whose soul was more pure than any snow, whose genius was such as England never had.” Jonathan Swift said he was “the person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced”. G. K. Chesterton wrote that “he may come to be counted as the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English history.” And Winston Churchill stated that he “stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.” The Catholic Church beatified him in 1886 and declared him a saint in 1935.
 Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
[on the cover]

Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, and perhaps the foremost humanist and most eminent Catholic Bible scholar of his time. Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared very important and historically influential new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, and wrote influential works such as The Praise of Folly, Colloquies, and Enchiridion militis Christiani, (Handbook of the Christian Soldier). Erasmus always remained committed to reforming the scandals and moral lapses among Catholics from within, rather than splitting from it; accepted and defended the Church’s teachings, and was an obedient son of the Church: contrary to what many seem to think. In this respect, one is reminded of similar false rumors that have always swirled around Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Erasmus had been somewhat sympathetic to Martin Luther at first (and was even thought by many to be among his party) but quickly grew disenchanted with him and his movement, once he saw the direction it was heading, and the heretical and schismatic tendencies within it. Hence, on 6 September 1524, he wrote to Luther’s close friend and eventual successor, Philip Melanchthon:

I know nothing of your church; at the very least it contains people who will, I fear, overturn the whole system and drive the princes into using force to restrain good men and bad alike. The gospel, the word of God, faith, Christ, and Holy Spirit – these words are always on their lips; look at their lives and they speak quite another language.

His famous defense of free will (De libero arbitrio) was produced in 1524 and Luther responded with his Bondage of the Will the next year, along with the inevitable avalanche of personal insults. Erasmus replied in turn, in 1526 with his sharply critical -- but reasoned and controlled -- Hyperaspistes (A Warrior Shielding a Discussion of Free Will against The Enslaved Will). In 1533 he penned the treatise On Mending the Peace of the Church. Erasmus was heartbroken and perhaps crushed irreparably by the martyrdom of St. Thomas More, with whom he was very close. He died almost exactly a year later.

 Francisco Suárez (1548-1617)

Spanish Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian, one of the leading figures of the School of Salamanca movement, and generally regarded among the greatest scholastics after Thomas Aquinas. He wrote on a wide variety of subjects, producing a vast amount of work (his complete works in Latin amount to twenty-six volumes). Suárez’ writings include treatises on law, the relationship between Church and State, metaphysics, and theology. He is considered the godfather of International Law and his Disputationes metaphysicae were widely read in Europe during the seventeenth century. Suárez was regarded during his lifetime as being the greatest living philosopher and theologian, and given the nickname Doctor Eximius et Pius.  After his death his reputation grew still greater, and he had a direct influence on such leading philosophers and great thinkers as Hugo Grotius, René Descartes, and Gottfried Leibniz. Suárez tried to reconcile the doctrine of predestination with the freedom of the human will by saying that the predestination is consequent upon God's foreknowledge of the free determination of man's will, which is therefore in no way affected by the fact of such predestination, maintaining that, though all share in an absolutely sufficient grace, there is granted to the elect a grace which is so adapted to their peculiar dispositions and circumstances that they infallibly, though at the same time quite freely, yield themselves to its influence. This mediating system was known by the name of "congruism."

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

Bishop of Geneva. He worked to convert Protestants back to Catholicism, and was an accomplished preacher. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly Introduction to the Devout Life, and Treatise on the Love of God. St. Francis was known as a friend of the poor, a man of almost supernatural affability and understanding. He instituted catechetical instructions for the faithful, both young and old, made prudent regulations for the guidance of his clergy, and carefully visited the parishes scattered through the rugged mountains of his diocese. He reformed the religious communities. His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial. He was a notably clear and gracious stylist in French, Italian and Latin. His Catholic Controversy (heavily featured in the present volume) originally consisted of leaflets he wrote as a young priest (27-29 years old) that the zealous missioner scattered among the inhabitants of Le Chablais in the beginning, when these people did not venture to come and hear him preach. They form a complete proof of the Catholic Faith. In the first part, he defends the authority of the Church, and in the second and third parts, the rules of faith, which were not observed by the heretical ministers. The primacy of St. Peter is amply vindicated. After four years of distributing these pamphlets, almost the entire population of Le Chablais (72,000) returned to the Catholic faith, after 60 years of adhering to Calvinism. His work in Catholic apologetics represents some of the most cogent arguments against Protestantism that has ever been written: perhaps unequaled to this day. He was canonized in 1665 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Mathematician, physicist, inventor, and Catholic philosopher.  Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum, wrote in defense of the scientific method, and laid down the basis of hydraulics. He invented the mechanical calculator, and helped create two major new areas of research: projective geometry and probability theory: strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following a mystical experience in late 1654, he had his "second conversion", and devoted himself mostly to philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées. The latter (unfinished at his death) was to have been a sustained and coherent examination and defense of Catholic Christianity, with the original title Apologie de la religion Chrétienne ("Defense of the Christian Religion"). It is hailed as a landmark of French prose. He had elaborated an outline, and at intervals during his illness he jotted down notes, fragments, and meditations for his book. What Pascal's plan was, can never be determined, despite the information furnished by Port Royal and by his sister. It is certain that his method of apologetics must have been at once rigorous and original; no doubt, he had made use of the traditional proofs — notably, the historical argument from prophecies and miracles. But as against adversaries who did not admit historical certainty, it was stroke of genius to produce a wholly psychological argument and, by starting from the study of the human soul, to arrive at God. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote of it: “I consider that it was a beneficient, if not miraculous, circumstance that Pascal was unable to proceed beyond the notes . . . Like a sublime kaleidoscope, Pascal presents us with thought after thought, all shining with truth as they come in mint condition from his brilliant mind” (A Third Testament; New York: Ballantine Books, 1976 , 60-61).

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704)

Bishop of Meaux and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. He has been considered by many to be one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist. He tried to win back the Huguenots to the Catholic Church. In 1668, he converted Turenne; in 1670, he published an Exposition de la foi catholique (An Exposition of the Doctine of the Catholic Church in Matters of Controversy), so moderate in tone that adversaries were driven to accuse him of having fraudulently watered down the Roman dogmas to suit a Protestant taste. Finally, in 1688, his great Histoire des variations des Églises protestantes (The History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches): perhaps the most brilliant of all his works, appeared. Few writers could have made the justification controversy interesting or even intelligible. His argument is simple: without rules, an organized society cannot hold together, and rules require an authorized interpreter. The Protestant churches had thrown over this interpreter; and Bossuet showed that, the longer Protestantism endured, the more the various sects within it varied on increasingly important points. The book is an encyclopedia history of such alterations of dogma. But for Bossuet and Catholics, "the truth which comes from God possesses from the first its complete perfection", and from that it follows that variations means theological errors, since there are so many contradictions or omissions of legitimate apostolic tradition handed down through history. The Catholic Encyclopedia regards him as the greatest orator “who has ever appeared in the Christian pulpit — greater than Chrysostom and greater than Augustine; the only man whose name can be compared in eloquence with those of Cicero and of Demosthenes.”

Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman (1802-1865)

First Archbishop of Westminster. He attained distinction in the natural sciences as well as in dogmatic and scholastic theology; also in Syriac and other Oriental studies. Wiseman's lectures on the relationship between religion and science were praised even by a critic as stern as Andrew Dickson White. In his highly influential A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, White wrote that "it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one great Christian scholar did honour to religion and to himself by quietly accepting the claims of science and making the best of them. . . . That man was . . . Cardinal Wiseman. The conduct of this pillar of the Roman Church contrasts admirably with that of timid Protestants, who were filling England with shrieks and denunciations." He was also noted as a linguist — "he can speak with readiness and point", wrote Cardinal Newman of him some years later, "in half-a-dozen languages, without being detected for a foreigner in any one of them". In 1835 he began a course of lectures, addressed alike to Catholics and Protestants, which at once attracted large audiences, and from which, wrote a well-qualified critic, dated "the beginning of a serious revival of Catholicism in England." He wrote, in the summer of 1839, a famous article in the Dublin Review, about St. Augustine and the Donatists, that drew a parallel between the Donatists and the Tractarians (Oxford Movement) with a convincing logic that placed many of the latter, in Newman's famous words, "on their death-bed as regarded the Church of England." Newman himself had been profoundly troubled by the article, and it largely initiated his journey to the Catholic Church. He wrote on 5 January 1840 (to J. W. Bowden): “Indeed he has fixed on our weak point . . . It is plainly necessary to stop up the leak in our boat which he has made, if we are to proceed.” Wiseman worked unceasingly to promote a cordial understanding between new converts and “old English” Catholics, and to make the Oxford neophytes at home in their new surroundings. Not only by personal intercourse with his fellow-countrymen, but by his frequent appearances on the lecture-platform, he did much to influence public opinion in favour of Catholics. His graceful eloquence, genial personality, and sympathetic voice and manner, enhanced the impression wrought by his intimate knowledge of the various subjects with which he dealt. His delivery was fluent and his style brilliant, and characterized by a command of poetic imagery in which probably few public speakers have surpassed or equaled him. His death evoked expressions of general sympathy from men of every class and every creed; and the practically unanimous voice of the press testified to the high place he had won for himself in the respect and affections of his fellow-countrymen.

William Bernard Ullathorne (1806-1889)

Benedictine monk and Bishop of Birmingham. His father was a direct descendant of St. Thomas More. He worked as a missionary in Australia for seven years. In 1870 he attended the Vatican Council. He lived to see his diocese thoroughly organized, with many new communities of men, the most famous of which was Cardinal Newman’s Congregation of Oratorians at Edgbaston. During his thirty-eight years tenure as bishop 67 new churches, 32 convents and nearly 200 mission schools were built. His chief written works are: The Endowments of Man (London, 1880); Groundwork of Christian Virtues (1882); Christian Patience (1886).; The Immaculate Conception (1855); History of Restoration of English Hierarchy (1871); The Döllingerites (1874); Answer to Gladstone's 'Vatican Decrees' (1875); and a large number of sermons, pastorals, pamphlets, etc.

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)

Benson was educated at Eton College and then studied classics and theology at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1895, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England by his father, Edward White Benson, who was the then Archbishop of Canterbury. His father died suddenly in 1896 and he was sent on a trip to the Middle East to recover his own health. While there, he began to question the status of the Church of England and to consider the claims of the Catholic Church. On 11 September 1903, he was received into the Catholic Church. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1904, and declared a monsignor in 1911. Benson was a prolific writer, in various genres, such as historical and science fiction, children’s books, devotional works, plays, poetry, and apologetics. His titles in the latter category included The Religion of the Plain Man (1906), Paradoxes of Catholicism (1913), Christ in the Church: A Volume of Religious Essays (1911), and Non-Catholic Denominations (1910). He became the most popular Catholic novelist in England. A lecture he gave at the University of Notre Dame during a visit in 1914 was described in the Notre Dame Scholastic (25 April 1914) as follows: “Father Benson's address was remarkable for the same facility of expression, cogency of reasoning, and forcefulness of phrasing, that have so characterized his novels and essays . . . He is a pleasing and powerful speaker, his reasoning being flawless and his presentation of fact lucid and unmistakable. He held the undivided attention of his audience throughout, sustaining interest rather by the charm of a magnetic personality and a virile argument than by rhetorical artifice or forensic sensationalism.”

James Cardinal Gibbons (1834-1921)

Bishop of Richmond from 1872 to 1877, and Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 until his death in 1921. Gibbons was elevated to the cardinalate in 1886, the second American to receive that distinction. His vicariate in 1868, the entire state of North Carolina, had fewer than seven hundred Catholics. In his first four weeks there, Gibbons traveled almost a thousand miles, visiting towns and mission stations and administering the sacraments. He also befriended many Protestants, and preached at their churches. Gibbons made a number of converts, but finding the apologetical works available inadequate for their needs, he determined to write his own; Faith of Our Fathers (first edition, 1876) would prove the most popular apologetical work written by an American Catholic. He was an acquaintance of every president from Andrew Johnson to Warren G. Harding and an adviser to several of them. From 1869 to 1870, Gibbons attended the First Vatican Council and voted in favor of papal infallibility. He played a key role in the granting of papal permission for Catholics to join labor unions. His other writings included Our Christian Heritage (1889), The Ambassador of Christ (1896), Discourses and Sermons (1908), and A Retrospect of Fifty Years (1916). Gibbons’ style was simple but compelling. In 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt hailed Gibbons as the most venerated, respected, and useful citizen in America. In his later years he was seen as the public face of Catholicism in the United States, and on his death was widely mourned. H. L. Mencken, who reserved his harshest criticism for Christian ministers, wrote, in 1921 after Gibbons' death, “He was a man of the highest sagacity, a politician in the best sense, and there is no record that he ever led the Church into a bog or up a blind alley.”

Ferdinand Prat, S. J. (1857-1938)

Professor of Scripture, philologist, exegete, consultant to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and editor of the Etudes Bibliques. Many of the Commission’s decisions regarding modernism, leading up to its condemnation in 1907, were prepared in part by Fr. Prat. He served all through World War I as a chaplain, and his heroism and bravery under fire won him the coveted Cross of the Legion of Honor. His work, Jesus Christ, His Life, His Doctrine and His Work (1933; English translation, 1950), is regarded by many biblical scholars as the best life of Christ in existence. What might be called the culmination of his life’s work is The Theology of St. Paul, a studious, thorough, and enlightening work, published between 1908 and 1923. It has been translated into many languages. Even today, the formulas given by Fr. Prat can help non-specialists to grasp the originality of the Pauline texts, and he provided in its pages a very helpful definition of biblical theology: “Its duty is to collect the results of exegesis, . . . Exegesis studies particular texts, but does not trouble itself overmuch about their mutual relations. Its method is that of analysis. Biblical theology adds to analysis synthesis, for it must verify the results of the exegesis which has preceded it, before employing them to reconstruct a system, or, rather, a line of thought. . . . We may say, therefore, that biblical theology ends where scholastic theology begins, and begins where exegesis finishes.” Other volumes of his include The Bible and History, The Ten Commandments (both 1904), Origen, Theologian and Exegete (1907), and The Theology of St. John (1938). He also wrote over a hundred articles in biblical, scientific, and theological journals.

Karl Adam (1876-1966)

German priest (originally from Bavaria) and professor of theology: including moral and dogmatic theology. His books include: Tertullian's Concept of the Church (1907), Eucharistic Teaching of St. Augustine (1908), Christ Our Brother, The Son of God, Roots of the Reformation, and One And Holy. He is best known for his 1924 work, The Spirit of Catholicism. It has been translated into French, Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, Hungarian, Latin, Chinese and Japanese, and is still in print today. It was written to provide a calm, dispassionate, clearly written consideration of the fundamental concepts of the Catholic faith which would explain to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, exactly what the Catholic Church is, and is widely regarded as one of the finest introductions to the Catholic faith written in the 20th century. His writings have all revolved around the necessity for an understanding of our relationship with Christ Himself with particular stress on the doctrine of the Mystical Body. In 1934 he delivered a denunciation of the so-called German religion in an address on "The Eternal Christ". This led to serious threats from the Nazis, but he held firm. Fr. Adam particularly specialized in St. Augustine’s theology, and had a great love for tradition and the Church fathers. His style captivated both readers and audiences, and he had great influence on Protestants, since he was concerned with ecumenism as well as apologetics. For years he worked tirelessly for a union of Christian faiths in one faith. This theme runs through all of his books. Fr. Adam loved young people and had an appealing personality, with a keen sense of humor. His house was open to all and his charity was well known.


Lesser-Known Biblical Passage on the Papacy (Luke 12:41-44) [from St. Francis de Sales; Facebook]

St. Francis de Sales' Argument Against Total Depravity and for the Indefectibility of the Church, from the Psalms

St. Francis de Sales' Argument for the Indefectibility of the Church (Acts 20:28) [Facebook]

Argument for the Papacy from the Analogy of Abraham [from St. Francis de Sales; Facebook]

Erasmus vs. Luther and Calvin (Free Will / Meritorious Works / Total Depravity) [Facebook]

Erasmus on the Perspicuity of Scripture and Circular Protestant Reasoning [Facebook]

Bishop Bossuet: Great Comment on the Visible Church, With Sinners in It [Facebook]

Bishop Bossuet on Luther's Contradictions Regarding Assurance of Salvation vs. Non-Assurance of Repentance [Facebook]

Zwinglians and Calvinists Correctly Argued Over Against Luther, that if "This is My Body" is Taken Literally, Catholic Transubstantiation is Far More Reasonable than Lutheran Consubstantiation [from Bishop Bossuet; Facebook]

Cardinal Wiseman on Quick Mass Baptisms in the Book of Acts as a Proof of the Profound Authority of the Catholic Church and Binding of New Converts to Even its Future Decrees  [Facebook]

Cardinal Gibbons: Analogy of the Papacy to the High Priest of the Old Testament [Facebook]

Cardinal Gibbons on the False, Unbiblical Dichotomy Between Interior Pious Disposition and External Formal Ceremony, Liturgy, and Ritual [Facebook]

Sacrifice of the Mass in the Synoptic and Pauline Consecration Formulas From the Last Supper [from Ferdinand Prat, S. J.; Facebook]

The "Obedience of Faith" in Paul and its Soteriological Implications (Justification and Denial of "Faith Alone") [from Ferdinand Prat, S. J.; Facebook]

The Nature of Papal Leadership: "Servant of Servants" [from Karl Adam; Facebook]    

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Updated on 18 July 2015.

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