Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
A friend sent me a link to this video of the question being posed to Cardinal Arinze. This is a refreshingly unambiguous response. Can't get any more clear than that.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I have heard a Protestant apologist say that widespread dissent in the Catholic Church is no different than the divisions in Protestantism and this proves that having an infallible Church to interpret the Bible is no better in practice than just reading the Bible by itself. How should I respond?
There is a fundamental difference between the divisions that take place within Protestantism and the “dissent” that takes place in the Catholic Church. The divisions between Protestants take place because they cannot agree on what the Bible teaches on a host of issues. They continually claim that the Bible is clear and easy to understand, but their quarrels about the meaning of the Bible on all these issues undermine that claim. Their differences center fundamentally on how to understand their own central authority.
But the disagreements between orthodox Catholics and “dissenting” Catholics of various kinds are quite different. Dissenters agree with faithful Catholics that the Church does officially teach just what faithful Catholics insist it does—they just want that teaching to change. The question is never whether the Catholic Church officially teaches that contraception is wrong, or that homosexual acts are sinful, or that divorce and remarriage are not permitted, or that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. Even between Catholics and Protestants the debate never centers on whether the Catholic Church really teaches transubstantiation, or veneration of the saints, or the Eucharist as a sacrifice, or the infallibility of the pope. All parties understand full well what the Church teaches on these and a multitude of other issues. They prove this by insisting not that the Church actually teaches something different, but rather that the Church is wrong and should change her teaching to conform to their own ideas. Groups such as “We Are Church” prove this by calling for the convocation of Vatican III in order to implement their agenda, thus admitting that their beliefs have never been part of the teaching of the Church, including Vatican II.
Thus, the Catholic Church has spoken with clarity throughout the centuries; even her enemies, whether within or from outside the Church, unwittingly admit this. And this clarity is indeed in stark contrast to the inability of Protestants to agree on even central doctrines.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
All in the Family: Christians, Jews, and God
The reader should also note a very welcome clarification issued by the USCCB concerning the controversial Reflections on Covenant and Mission statement that was issued by a sub-committee of the USCCB in 2002:
A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflection on Covenant and Mission
Monday, May 11, 2009
posting something like this, given that it would decimate the arsenal of the most popular Roman Catholic apologists on the web and on radio today, can't make Mr. Douglass and his associates the most popular Roman Catholics around, but you have to give them a lot of credit for honestly recognizing these issues (issues I have been raising for many years). So kudos to Mr. Douglass and his associates! And a word of advice to Mr. Douglass: put on your asbestos booties and gloves before opening the resultant e-mails from the likes of Dave Armstrong and all the others who are so dependent upon these very arguments.And:
I know there are very sincere folks manning the fort over on the far side of the Tiber. I noted Ben Douglass' article on bad arguments that are heard with the drumbeat of regularity coming from Steve Ray, Tim Staples, John Martignoni, Patrick Madrid, Art Sippo and the rest of the pop Roman Catholic crowd. I appreciate that a small minority of those defenders actually listen to what we are saying and can set aside enough of their bias to actually hear a sound argument when it is presented.
White overstates his case here. It is true that certain Catholic apologists, even "mainstream" ones, have used one or more of the arguments in the list. It has even happened that some of these arguments have been used to "lead" in a discussion, perhaps giving the impression that they were really the best that could be offered, and that is unfortunate. But I personally consider many (most) of these arguments to be thoroughly peripheral. And certainly none of these arguments need serve as the foundation of anybody's "arsenal". Catholics can and do regularly deploy much better; as Ben notes, "There are so many good arguments for Catholicism that the religion will do just fine without the arguments on this list." Of course, one can only shake one's head at White's gratuitous accusation that only "a small minority" of Catholic apologists are capable of setting aside their bias enough to "actually listen." Pot, kettle, and all that.
Much more disappointing than the swagger from James White was the unfortunate blast from Catholic apologist Dr. Art Sippo, who took such affront at the list that he decided to excommunicate the lot of us:
You know, I wish that alleged "Catholics" would stop doing the work of the enemies of the Church and telling us what we should not do. I find the list puerile and franklyHoo boy, speaking of a lack of charity (see point #3).......Sancte Hieronyme, ora pro eis.
Much better was the contribution from Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong who, despite White's expectations to the contrary, agrees in the main with the list. Dave expresses significant reservation on only two of the points, #2 and #8. On #2, whether it's a good idea to use the term "anti-Catholic", I don't think there's much actual disagreement; the point states that the term should be avoided, not necessarily eschewed altogether. And it makes a distinction that I think Dave agrees with, namely, that the label should only be applied to individuals who have demonstrated a personal bigotry and should not be willy-nilly deployed against Protestants and others who merely have a theological opposition to Catholicism.
On point #8 Dave had a particularly good rebuttal, I thought. He presented a number of Catholic exegetes and two Popes who uphold the interpretation that the piece suggests ought to be avoided. I would counter, however (and Dave comes close to expressing this himself) that the interpretation of 2 Pet 1:20-21 which the point warns against is a secondary implication from the text and not its primary meaning. Dave rightly points out that there is a better text close at hand: 2 Pet 3:15-16.
Perhaps not so good was Dave's retitling of the article as "Dumb Catholic Apologetic Arguments". We never said the arguments were "dumb" and it gives an unhelpful, contentious, and pejorative twist to whole thing. I'd respectfully point out the obvious: that when one puts quotation marks around something it usually conveys that the words were used verbatim. So here's my unsound argument (or at least unsound practice) #19:
19. Don't deploy a paraphrase of your opponent's argument with quotation marks around it, suggesting that those are his exact words. If you quote him verbatim, use quotation marks. If you paraphrase, don't use quotation marks. And when you paraphrase, do so accurately; if your opponent would not agree with your paraphrase then you have not accurately represented his argument.
Shawn McElhinney also addressed the list. I have no comment on his criticisms of the apologetics community in general, not having enough knowledge of the specifics of the incidents to which he alludes to have a valid opinion. I would note that Shawn, like Dave, agrees in the main with the points we presented. Even on a few with which he ostensibly disagrees, I think he hasn't quite understood the exact thrust of the point and so I'm not convinced that he actually disagrees as much as he thinks.
Moving back over to the Protestant camp, I confess that I had to laugh at the contribution posted at the blog of Protestant apologist "TurretinFan" (and, again disappointingly, at James White's blog). Instead of presenting a list of unsound arguments, he presented a list of arguments that he considers to be sound but should nonetheless be avoided: So yes, the Pope really may be the Antichrist, but it's too hard for people to swallow nowadays, especially when the last two have been "relatively decent human beings." And yes, sexual molestation of children really may be "the necessary and natural outworking" of celibacy, but it's not a central issue, so probably best to skip it. Sheesh.
TurretinFan did advance one excellent point, on the matter of humility:
Avoid arrogance. If you make a mistake, don't be afraid to admit that you erred and to correct your mistake. This will, of course, damage the patina of perfection that you had going for you, but it is the better course of action.Absolutely right. We all on occasion deploy bad arguments, even if in support of good cases. And I think it is safe to say that those who feel called to the field of apologetics are particularly vulnerable to temptations to intellectual pride. But again, it's really not about us, it's about the truth.
I'm not saying you have to grovel, but simply admit your mistakes and move on. Learn from the experience, and remember that you are merely a human being who can and does err. Maybe your honesty will win over your opponent, maybe it will lead him to mock you. You cannot control that, but you can maintain your own integrity by correcting your mistakes.
To that end and to his credit, Protestant blogger Steve Hays actually provides a short list of arguments from the other side that he considers unsound. Rather humorous that one he explicitly lists as a bad argument (as opposed to simply imprudent) is: "Don’t equate the pope with the Antichrist." I appreciate his desire to show good will with some reciprocation.
Rather troubling are the comments by Kevin Davis, another Protestant commentator:
Actually, I couldn’t think of much for an evangelical list. If we exclude the fringe (e.g. Chick tracts), the mainstream evangelical apologists dealing with Catholics are pretty decent. The problem with Catholic apologetics is not the fringe, it’s the mainstream apologists.And:
I don’t have a lot of confidence in the moral acumen of most current Catholic apologists, but maybe the next generation will start caring more about truth and basic facts, instead of just winning as many converts as possible and keeping financially afloat.
As for fodder for the "evangelical list", a couple come to mind immediately. How about admitting that pretty much every attempt to support the denial that St. Peter is the "rock" of Matt 16:18 involves the abandonment of fundamental rules of grammatico-historical exegesis (see e.g. here)? Note that I am not wed to modern grammatico-historical exegesis as the only valid approach to the biblical text; but many of our opponents are and it is not too much to expect consistency, especially when we're being charged with intractable bias.
Or how about the Mother of all Bad Arguments (which became the central thesis in a putative doctoral dissertation, no less), the claim that there was a semantic shift in the meaning of the Greek phrase heos hou that excludes seeing the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin in Matt 1:25? (See my contributions toward debunking that whopper here, here, and here.) Certainly the list could be extended and I would welcome the endeavor from the Protestant side; believe me, not all bad arguments against the Catholic faith are found in Jack Chick comics.
I do want to emphasize that I did not participate in formulating our list in order to cast aspersions on the moral integrity (or intelligence) of any Catholic apologist, much less the Catholic apologetics "enterprise" in general. Mr. Davis' spin struck a particularly sour note, I think, given the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish. Shall I now unpack many of the disagreeable and sometimes downright disgusting exchanges I have had with certain "mainstream" Protestant apologists? No, I shall not because that is not what this is about.
The bottom line here is that we are all prone to deploy and sometimes cling tenaciously to bad arguments in support of our beliefs. But a bad argument is a bad argument, no matter who uses it; and a bad argument deployed in support of a true position is a real travesty. If we love the truth, if we have humility, we need to let them go.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
My family was in Chicago over the Christmas holiday last and spent an afternoon in the Art Institute there. I was searching for my wife, to tell her that we probably needed to be going, when I rounded the corner and was brought up short by The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton (the best, I think, of all of his works, although I have only seen a few of the originals.) I just stood there, transfixed. Not very poetic of me, but my exact word was, "Wow!" I'm not even close to a great art aficionado, but this painting is so evocative that I got choked up the other day just describing it to somebody.
Obviously no digital specimen can come even close to capturing the wonder of the original. If you are in Chicago, go see it.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
We are told, for example, that using a vernacular language in the liturgy is a Good Idea because Jesus used the vernacular Aramaic at the Last Supper. On the other hand, it is countered, it is good to use a special liturgical language in the liturgy because Jesus used the liturgical Hebrew at the Last Supper.
We are told that the priest should face the people at Mass because Jesus faced His disciples at the Last Supper. Nonsense, comes the counter-argument, it is certainly appropriate for the priest to face East because at the Last Supper Jesus and His disciples all faced East together.
We are told that Communion should be given in the hand, because that's how Jesus distributed the first Holy Communion at the Last Supper. On the other hand, we are told that it's unlikely that our Lord placed the sacred Species into the disciples' hands but rather, according to ancient Semitic practice, directly into their mouths.
I've even seen, very recently, that it is a Good Idea to come to Mass plainly dressed, because of course Jesus was plainly dressed at the Last Supper. On the other hand, the counter-argument goes, the Passover was a very special feast for the Jews and it is impossible to think that the participants, much less the one presiding, would not have dressed in their finest.
Well, to state the obvious, none of us were there. We don't know what language our Lord spoke at the Last Supper, nor what He wore, nor which way He faced, nor how He distributed Holy Communion. At best, we have more or less probable guesses based on historical research.
That being said, I think it fairly likely that He celebrated the Last Supper in the non-vernacular Hebrew, facing East with His disciples, "vested" in appropriately non-ordinary clothing, and may very well have placed at least the Consecrated Bread directly into the mouths of the disciples (indeed, I can easily imagine Him distributing both sacred species by intinction as well, following ancient custom). So at the very least traditional Catholic practice is in no way undermined and indeed is probably supported by recourse to the likely actions at the Last Supper. But that is the most that anybody could say, that certain things are more or less likely based on historical research. Because none of the eyewitnesses give us any of these details.
In the end, a lot of these appeals to the Last Supper are rendered invalid on other grounds. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that the precise details of the Last Supper, even if we had them, should be used to dictate how the Mass is celebrated today. There are many things that have quite rightly changed in their details from the way they were done in the earliest Church versus the way they are done today. As Pope Pius XII states in Mediator Dei §63:
Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
The St. Benedict Center, a religious order dedicated to promoting the teachings of the late Fr. Leonard Feeney, posted a blurb on their Web site last week proclaiming:
With regards to those who hold strictly the absolute necessity of water baptism, it would be quite wrong to charge them with heretical constructs. As they merely assert that which was the near-universal consensus of the Patristic era, such a charge would be proximate to condemning all but a few of the Fathers as heterodox. (Der Glaube das Pimmelkopfgelauben, Communio April 1997 p 13. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)
The quote has made its rounds. It appears at Fish Eaters, A Fearful Master, and miscellaneous other venues. That's how things make the rounds in the Internet. The quote was also picked up in a discussion thread over on the Catholic Answers Forum, where at least one individual who is well acquainted with the Holy Father's writings in Communio seemed to establish pretty conclusively that it never appeared in that journal. In addition, another poster on Catholic Answers had a German friend translate the "article" title; it turns out to be a rather crude swipe at the Cardinal.
So I did a little Google searching myself and found out—wow, what a surprise!—that this "article" is a hoax. A certain "Deacon Augustine" posting at the Angel Queen forum admitted that he had made it all up (and should indeed be well and truly ashamed of himself not only for the hoax but for his gross disrespect):
Johannus, pascendi and everyone else, I really must apologise to you all for the above "quote" I cited - please do not rely on it or cite it elsewhere.But notice: the lid on this hoax was lifted back in 2006. The St. Benedict Center is crowing about it in early 2009. Obviously, the writer there did not bother to try and validate the quote, since the same five minutes of effort on his part would have netted him the same information I found. Indeed, even worse, I alerted them to this hoax last week and, as of today, it's still up on their site. Pitiful.
It is entirely a spoof and my own invention, and was meant to be a satirical comment on what he might have said based on the "Razing the Bastions" type theology.
I was hoping the spoof source would have given it away, but I guess it looked too realistic and I should have put something like: (sarcasm).
Once again, my sincere apologies to anybody who took this seriously.
And such are the dangers of the Google scholar. Lesson: always, always, always check your sources for accuracy, but especially if you got the information from the Internet.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
James White vs. Jesus, Peter & the Keys
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Does it work? Yup, in spades (pun intended.) I planted a frame full just about exactly on August 15 and followed the procedure all the way up through the start of very cold weather here. I started digging the carrots in late November and finally dug everything in the frame on December 15, just before the ground would have frozen solidly enough to prevent any more digging.
Wow! These carrots are about finger-sized, ridiculously crisp (each bite gives a resounding snap!), and deliciously sweet. In fact, a few days after I dug the main crop my daughter Michaela was asking for a snack. "How about some carrots?", I suggested. "Okay!", she replied enthusiastically and munched away happily on our own crop of candy carrots. Try this—you will love it.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
You've gotta love his take on this:
A traditional Catholic is not a person who "prefers" the old Latin Mass. Neither are they people who simply passed Catechism class.
They are people who adhere to a type of spirituality that is largely lost in the 21st Century Catholic Church.
Truthfully, it's easier to describe their outward signs than their character: the old Latin Mass is the biggest identifier... though there are certainly traditional Catholics who are marooned in Novus Ordoland; there are likewise non-traditional Catholics who go to the TLM.
Trads are people who listen to Catholic Radio... skeptically. They might have a blog. They can list their "top-five" favorite Ecumenical Councils... none of which will rhyme with "Attican Shoe". Their friends think they're fuddy-duddys. They've got Holy Water fonts in all the bedrooms and by the front door. They quote the Douay Rheims bible. They have an opinion on offering Mass in baroque vestments while in a gothic chapel. They're tired of tinfoil hat jokes. They may not like Bishop Williamson, but concede that sometimes he's right, and when he's right, he's really right. They can tell you about Assisi. When they're at a Novus Ordo Mass, they've got their hands folded like a Catholic during the Our Father. The women have an extra mantilla in the van-- just in case. The men have an opinion on the best type of pipe tobacco for any occasion. The boys have their own cassock and surplice hanging in the closet. The girls know how to play Dies Irae on the organ. They wear a t-shirt while they go swimming so their brown scapular doesen't float away. They're willing to drive an hour to go to Mass... every Sunday. They know the confession times of at least 4 churches. They invite priests over to play cards and smoke cigars. They pray to saints that you think may not really exist. They ask you to finish the sentence when you say "John Paul the Great"... the great what? They might own a live chicken. When they're at a Novus Ordo Mass, everyone watches them to figure out why they're hitting themselves during the "Lamb of God". They're kneel after Mass to pray... and miss out on the fun gladhanding with Father by the parish gift shop. They scoff when they pass the Masonic Lodge. They cross themselves when they pass a Catholic church. They mutter something about the "poor souls" when they pass a cemetary. They mutter something about St. Michael when an ambulance passes them. Their girls' first names are Mary. Their boys' middle names are Mary. Cappa Magna doesn't sound like a drink at Starbucks to them. They'll tell you at length why being "charitable" isn't always being nice and friendly.
It's complicated. Trads are not easily defined. You just kind of know them when you see them.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
(Pope Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore §9)