By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong
Elliot Bougis runs the FideCogitActio web page, where virtually every waking hour is devoted to bashing Pope Francis [some sarcastic exaggeration there, but not all that much]. Today I ran across comments made at my expense in my occasional Google Search, which locates such things (since virtually never am I informed of such public criticisms, so that I may give my side, or defend meself a bit). This one is an absolute classic and keeper: one for the archives, for sure. "Murray's" words will be in blue; Elliot Bougis' in red.
One "Murray (mgl) made the following comment [I cite all of it] on 18 July 2014:
While we’re sharing random links, I came across this Facebook post by Dave Armstrong (via the RadTrad on Twitter): "Radical Catholic Reactionaryism is a more serious and harmful error than even Modernism/Liberalism/Heterodoxy."
[the link he made to my post didn't work for me, but it may for others. Here is a working link to it]
It struck me because a young priest of my acquaintance posted last week on Facebook that Michael Voris should be condemned for heresy. When I (and others) asked in what sense Voris had obstinately denied some truth defined by the Church, the reply was that a) Voris “loves (what he believes to be Church teaching) more than Jesus,” and b) that he had denied the Church’s indefectibility. Under closer examination, both claims fall apart, but it seems very close to what Armstrong is arguing here. (The same priest later posted a more general criticism of Catholics who want greater “orthodoxy” that was even more similar to Armstrong’s article linked above.)
Long story short, “reactionaryist” Catholics are embittered, think they know better than everyone else, and should be quarantined lest they spread a “quasi-schismatic poison and cancer.” They try to “change the Church into [their] image, which is a far greater sin than what the liberal does.”
I think these things are genuine spiritual risks for traditional Catholics, but this really seems like straining gnats. The Church is populated from top to bottom with modernists (actual or de facto), most lay Catholics disagree with fundamental Church teaching on pelvic issues and the Real presence, baptisms are down sharply from 2001 (let alone 1960) Confessionals are empty, confusion is rampant, nuns are spreading heresy … but those guys who actually try to live their Catholic faith to the best of their abilities, they’re the real problem!
Elliot then chimed in:
Armstrong blocked me a while back on Facebook, so I can’t see the linked page. (Quick, somebody tell Pope Francis that I’m being marginalized! I’ll even send him an honorary jersey for the high altar!) Without putting too fine a point on it, Armstrong is an idiot–provided he genuinely believes that his confabulated Catholic category is more dangerous than what has been denounced by a string of popes for centuries.[later he added: [19 July 2014 -- I've updated this comment to emphasize the crucial qualifier.] ]
But unlike him where my papers are concerned, I am quite capable of reading and comprehending, and I was completely aware of the qualifier. If anyone is an "idiot" here (and I say this only rhetorically, mind you), it would be Elliot Bougis, because he applies the epithet based on his mistaken comprehension of what I argued in the first place. I pity the man and the utter waste of brain matter involved in much of his writing.
Murray wrote again:
Yeah, I’ve never read Armstrong before to my knowledge–though I’d heard of him as a well-regarded apologist–but I was shocked at how sloppy and poorly argued his post was, and even more so that this young priest was offering an even more muddled version of Armstrong’s argument to his flock on Facebook. Yes guys, orthodox Catholics are the biggest problem we face. Sheesh.
And Elliot (note the usual "bash Bush"-like obsession with the Holy Father as the source of all that is evil and irritating):
Everybody is rattled, and it shows in sloppy rebuttals. Thank you, Pope Francis.
I then replied:
Well, it is "shock[ingly] sloppy and poorly argued" if it isn't properly understood in the first place or presented in a gross caricature, as you have done here. Rather than actually dealing with my argument (I know, that is more and more a novelty these days: dialogue rather than caricature, ire, and the quick, derisive dismissal), you quote a priest who says that Michael Voris is a heretic and believes in defectibility and then say "it seems very close to what Armstrong is arguing here" -- thus clearly proving that you did not grasp my post (to put it mildly), since I neither asserted nor argued either thing in it, nor anywhere else, and in fact deny both assertions.
Nor was I arguing against "orthodoxy": which would be ridiculous since I fancy myself rather solidly orthodox. I stated again and again that radical Catholic reactionaries were orthodox. That is not the problem I was addressing, but rather, the danger they pose because they are orthodox and should know better, and can cause more harm in the sense that they move among the orthodox in a way that the modernists / dissidents do not. I wrote: "I am arguing based on the premise of 'to whom much is given, much is required.'"
This is most of the misunderstanding. I explained my reasoning in the combox:
Much of my comparison of the RadCathR and the modernist, I should note, hinges on the subjective / objective distinction. Objectively, the modernists are much worse, due to incomparably greater numbers and influence. Subjectively, the RadCathR is (as argued). This was the perspective of my piece. Since it is two different things being discussed, from two different angles, they don't contradict each other, and both are true.
I utterly detest both errors, and have written and condemned both many times (though more so the errors of the "right" for the reasons explained in the post). Anyone who thinks it is odd that orthodox folks could be roundly criticized for hypocrisy and other "rigorist"-type errors more so than liberals being raked over the coals (in terms of relative time spent) ought to examine Jesus' differential treatment of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The former were orthodox (so much so that Paul called himself one, and Jesus even told His followers to abide by their teaching, but not to do what they do). He criticized them for legalistic excess, misplaced priorities, and hypocrisy, which is almost exactly how I approach RadCathRs. But with the Sadducees (sort of the liberals of that time) He merely engaged in a few minor squabbles about the resurrection of the dead (which they denied).
Also, I changed the title a bit upon reflection and some good criticisms in the combox, to make it less harsh, and more qualified. It is now (and has been for over five days): "Radical Catholic Reactionaryism is at Least As Serious an Error as Modernism / Liberalism / Heterodoxy (from one particular perspective, anyway)"
I still wanted to leave an impression that it is very serious error. Since the RadCathR detests the errors of modernism, it is meant to give them a jolt and to realize that from where we sit their errors are quite serious, too.
Armstrong blocked me a while back on Facebook
Well, I was basically kicked off this [i.e., Elliot's] page (or, rudely asked to leave, if there is a difference) a while back after I proved that Elliot was lying about the pope, by citing what turned out to be imaginary words (after which he begrudgingly retracted his argument). This post may not even be allowed as a result. Gotta love that selective presentation: mention one thing and not the other. I have a policy of not allowing RadCathRs on my Facebook page, but they are free as ever to comment on my blog.
Thus, Elliot is quite "free" to comment there. If not, in any event, this whole exchange will be posted on my blog (and linked to Facebook), so both sides can be fully aired and readers can be allowed to determine where the truth lies, and either of you can reply if you wish.
Without putting too fine a point on it, Armstrong is an idiot . . . [then he repeats more of the straw man accusations, upon which he came to his conclusion: if they are true]
May God bless you with all good things!
Here is the link to my blog article regarding all this: [linked to this paper]
I'll update any further comments made on the other site.
A sensible blogger (TonyJokin) commented:
In your facebook post, you describe the “reactionary rad-trad” as someone trying to shape the Church in their image. So they like the rigorist heretics (Donatists & Montanists) of old, are a plague in the Church that should be isolated and removed before they do damage.
But this is where we run in to a problem.
The Donatists and Montanists were not appealing to some traditional praxis from before. They did not have the backing of a decision made by the Church on the matter to appeal to. They were simply saying “this is what we believe on the matter and we disagree with what the Church has decided on this particular issue”.
Contrary to that, the “rad-trad” is merely someone who is obstinately holding on to decisions and practices by the Church that were held for 2000 years. These decisions and practices of the Church were always looked with negativity from the outside world and there were those inside the Church who questioned the Church on such positions numerous times using arguments like the ones used today. The Church had clarified why she defended those decisions and practices and valued them. The faithful Catholic grew up learning to think like the Church and the defense of her decisions and practices came to them naturally. Many suffered persecutions and ridicule from their liberal family members as they defended the Church.
But now the Church has not only gotten rid of some of those decisions and practices but also adopted the very things that were warned against. The Catholic faithful who had learned to defend the Church of old, remember the reasons why these things were there before. They can see that the reasons still apply today and notice that the Church is acting like they were arbitrary decisions. To make matters worse, they see young generations being lost by the droves to indifferentism. It is hard to find a young Catholic today who realizes what a grave heresy Protestantism actually is. In very recent times, it is becoming harder to find a young Catholic who understands that sodomy is a grave sin. All of these are clearly fruits that were warned would transpire if the Church changed her positions.
So rad-trads aren’t looking to shape the Church in their image. Neither do they think they know better. They simply want to see the Church go back to the image she was shaped in to by the saints (who did know better) for 2000 years. They want to see the wisdom of the saints that they defended so passionately be respected and adhered to rather than described as “men of their times (but we know better)”.
Instead they see many like you who consider themselves orthodox and treat traditionalists as some rigorist heretics in the Church. Today, there is reason to think that even the Pope may suspect traditionalists as you do. All of this persecution comes for adhering to the tried and tested Catholic wisdom from countless saints (who did know better) which had been accumulated over 2000 years.
Surely, even you must at least see that the situation is not as simple as you make it to be.
Here is my reply:
Just to clarify; I don't use the term "radtrad" any longer. I coined "radical Catholic reactionary" myself because many legitimate "traditionalists" resented being lumped in with them (and they had a certain point that I granted, though I continue to think that a gradual spectrum exists). Secondly, as stated, I don't call them heretics. I made it a point to include "Catholic" in my coined term. This is sin that goes towards schism (traditionally called rigorism).
I could quibble with many characterizations or assumed premises or conclusions of your post, but all in all, I'd say that what you describe is mostly within the purview of legitimate "traditionalism," which I am in agreement with most of the time.
I don't think the situation is "simple" at all, as an observer of these movements for now 17 years and author of two books on this issue and many scores of papers. The post in question was a "jeremiad": which is screaming from the rooftops that something is wrong and unbalanced. That genre is not known for being subtle and nuanced, but rather, as shocking and graphic, with sweeping language understood to be such. I even quoted Jeremiah's prophecies to illustrate my point in the thread.
Then Bougis got in more shots (my replies are intertwined with his shots below):
It’s okay for anti-radtrads to shape a Church to their liking (i.e. devoid of annoying “radtrads”),
As noted, I don't use the term radtrad any longer, and have removed it from all my papers and books. Nor do I advocate kicking out RadCathRs. I want them to see the error of their ways and cease and desist.
but it’s wrong for committed Catholics to heed long-standing papal guidance by opposing creeping Modernism wherever it is.
I completely agree, which is why I both detest modernism (as I stated) and oppose it (the distortions and stupefying noncomprehensions continue unabated). But I do lots of things, and there are only so many hours in a day. The biggest way I oppose modernism is by presenting and defending orthodoxy. You defeat darkness not by merely yelling against it or cursing it, but rather, by bringing more light into it, to wipe it out. Thus, every day I am opposing modernism by doing my apologetics which reveal orthodoxy to be true.
Once you internalize that precept, everything will make sense.
Maybe so, but it's not my concept, and so has nothing to do with me. Yet another straw man (see the photo at the top).
As for Mr. Armstrong’s claim that I was “lying,” well that’s a typically sensationalistic claim coming from him.
He has made it a fine and continually practiced art on his website, where the Holy Father is concerned. But (as I have noted many times), if one looks in the dictionary, "lie" doesn't always have to mean "deliberate falsehood." It can also be a synonym of falsehood. And Bougis clearly did that, since he retracted it. Hence, Dictionary.com for "lie" offers this second meaning for the word used as both a noun ("an inaccurate or false statement; a falsehood.") and as a verb ("to express what is false; convey a false impression.").
When I became convinced of the inaccuracy of the translations I had cited, I retracted my post.
No kidding. I already noted that in my reply above ("he begrudgingly retracted his argument"). At first it looked like he would retract with class, but soon an edgy acrimony prevailed and I was hounded off the site.
But that didn’t generate enough shaming and bloodlust for his monthly chest-pounding circuit, so I require the additional smear of being called a liar.
Yet he claims I am characterized by sensationalism? LOL
(Meanwhile, Armstrong never could explain why he at first defended the statements under dispute, but then jettisoned them as erroneous once a bad translation could be cited. I shall have more to say about the “Pope Icarus” saga, believe it or not, God willing, once I find the time.)
All was dealt with at length at the time. In charity, I offered to not mention his name in my resulting blog paper where I defended the pope. That made no difference. He still decided to act like an ass and hound me off of his page when I disagreed too much. So I did a Facebook post where his name was mentioned. The comments of Bougis and others recorded there make for quite fascinating (but sad) reading. At first, in his original paper, he had mocked:
Just wait for it–”It’s the translation.” It’s the standard defense. Of everything. Unless Pope Francis is reported saying something unambiguously Catholic. In which case reporters and translators are suddenly returned their faculties.
Six days later he retracted his claim after I proved that it was a translation problem. He sounded "nice" in the retraction, but how he acted towards me after that was quite a different story. That's when the fangs came out:
Dave, run along now. I’ve complied with your ultimatum (though I was never clear if the threat was that you’d take me over your right or over your left knee to learn me whatfer). Your services are needed elsewhere. Pope Francis has just jumped the shark–AGAIN:
I wrote at the time:
What he calls my "ultimatum" was an offer in charity that if he would retract the false charge against Pope Francis, I wouldn't mention his name or site in the paper I did about it. I kept to my promise (even though he still charges the pope with heresy in the paper; just without the discredited words that he never said).
And so we see the old biblical adage fulfilled (in full or in part) again:
Proverbs 9:7-8 He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, . . .  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
He then kicked me out, while others continued to insult me in the combox. Meanwhile he is free to comment here on my blog. Here's what he wrote:
Do not comment on this thread again, nor on some other thread just to continue the conversation. At some other juncture we may resume this thread, and there are other topics that can be discussed, but for now, you’ve earned yourself a break from me. Thank you, and congratulations.
Oh good grief, Dave, you really are a prima donna. If you didn’t notice, you blew the O-ring on this thread with your usual water cannon of jabs and special pleading, so if anyone needed moderating, it’s you. The reason I asked you to say no more is because you were getting repetitive all over again. I didn’t say “shut up” and I haven’t “banned” you (you have a real knack for loaded rhetorical framing). I have simply asked you to be the bigger man and respect silence as a guest at my blog. The only reason I have not deleted your comment here is because I agree, you have a right to respond to direct comments, though I would ask other readers not to summon you anymore on this thread. You have your own blog. Enjoy it.
Pretty entertaining (albeit ridiculous) stuff.
Readers get both sides here, and the full, non-censored debate.
Murray (mgl) has made another comment:
Having set off this to-do, I believe I owe Dave Armstrong a reply, though I’ll have to find the time. I will say that I may be guilty of reading Dave Armstrong through Father D., to coin a phrase. Father D. is the young priest of my acquaintance who asserted that Michael Voris should be excommunicated for heresy–based on exactly zero evidence–and it does seem like he was springboarding off Armstrong’s RadCathR argument, or something very close to it. But if he muddled Armstrong’s argument (and Father D. was very muddled indeed), that’s not Armstrong’s fault, so I need to re-read Armstrong without that lens.
And can I just say that I am utterly, completely unmoved by the hackneyed rhetorical device of Spot The Pharisee? As an online Catholic argument grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the Pharisees approaches one. Pretty much everyone who has ever taken part in an argument among Catholics has been accused of Pharasaism at some point, which is a pretty good indication that its coinage has been completely devalued.
For the moment, though, Tony Jokin’s comment above says it all. If the traditional practice of the Faith is Pharasaical now, it was Pharasaical for over 1,900 years; likewise, if it was fruitful then, it is fruitful now.
I appreciate the clarification / retraction of sorts in the first paragraph very much.
The rest doesn't constitute any sort of rational counter-reply. It is merely a cynical sociological observation. Nowhere to go there. I reply to rational counter-arguments that are made in relation to my rational arguments (and I've made a good number of them in this whole exchange, and especially in the original paper that precipitated it). I'm weird that way.
* * *
Six days after the initial controversy, Elliot Bougis did a second post, explaining how my comments had been caught in his spam filter. So I changed some of the wording above accordingly (it had seemed like he was blocking me) and posted on his site what didn't go through before, and added the comment below:
I claim no conspiracy and accept the explanation. But last time we had a controversy I was basically asked to get lost and to cease posting in the thread since my comments were supposedly so dumb and repetitious. Then the post under consideration was password-protected so I couldn’t access it anyway (I don’t know if that has been lifted since; haven’t bothered to check).
So I fail to see how in spirit that mentality is any different from simply blocking someone altogether. Now I’ve been classified as an “idiot” by the Big Cheese in this venue (conditional on other factors — as he needlessly reiterated –, which are not true, in any event, but still claimed to be true here). Like that doesn’t poison any conceivable discussion, even if I wanted to hang around? LOL
Only Tony has shown himself completely civil (i.e., “normal”) in demeanor and able to engage in rational discussion about the issues I dealt with (and Murray was fair-minded about admitting that he had unfairly read me through the lens of another). But I told Tony (in a PM discussion) that what he is talking about, I mostly agree with, because I classify it as “traditionalist”; NOT as radical Catholic reactionary.
* * * * *