Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Message to the "Occupy Wall Street" Movement

A simple note to the Occupy Wall Street folks:  You need a message.  99% of this country has no idea what you stand for and without a message, your movement is going to shrivel up and die.

Now, here's a simple message for you, a message that 99% of the citizens of this country can understand and can support.  Here it is:

We're going to occupy Wall Street until the first CEO of a major financial institution goes to jail.

That's it.  It's tangible.  It's concrete.  And more than that, it cuts right across political lines and goes right to the heart of what has gone seriously wrong with this country.

Obviously there needs to be more than one who goes to jail.  But you need a pithy message.  And you need a tangible goal.

So here it is again:  We're going to Occupy Wall Street until the first CEO of  a major financial institution goes to jail.

For more info on just how badly we've been had and how badly we need criminal prosecution of those who got us where we are:

"In the Savings and Loan crisis which was one seventieth the size of this crisis, our agency made over 10,000 criminal referrals and that resulted in the conviction on felony grounds of over 1000 elites in what were designated as major cases. . . . In this crisis the same agency that I worked with that made 10,000 criminal referrals in a tinier crisis made zero criminal referrals.  They got rid of the entire function.  And so there are zero convictions of anybody in the elite ranks of Wall Street.  And if they can defraud us with impunity then they will produce crisis after crisis and they will produce maximum inequality."

Occupy LA Teach In, William K Black

See also:  Where are the Handcuffs?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Putting Meat on the Table

I have the privilege to live in a beautiful part of Wisconsin, a state where—as one of my friends quips—opening day of deer season is virtually a holy day of obligation. This year I got permission to hunt on some land very near my house, so I set my tree stand out several weeks ahead and waited anxiously for that first day (a shoulder injury kept me out of the woods for bow season.)

People who don't hunt don't know just how great it is to be out before dawn, watching quietly as the forest wakes up. That morning I got into my tree stand about 5:45 am and let things quiet down again. About 15 minutes later, I heard the "crunch crunch crunch" of footsteps coming up the hill toward me.  My heart started to beat faster. "Oh great, here's my deer," I thought, "and it's too dark to shoot." But as I strained to see what was coming, a hen turkey sped up the hill on some sort of important mission and passed directly under my stand. About ten minutes later came "crunch crunch crunch" behind me and she shot back down the hill from whence she had come.

Some time later the squirrels came out in force. They're fun to watch, but maddening in that every playful squirrel running through the leaves has you thinking that he's a deer cruising your way. Keeps me on edge.

As I watched the squirrels play there was a sudden flurry of action to my right. Not thirty feet from me a hawk came pouncing down from above, latched onto one of the young tree rodents, gave a few quick pecks and took off with breakfast secured in its talons. I happened to be looking that way, so I got to see the whole thing. It was a regular National Geographic moment.

I sat there thinking that even if I didn't see any deer I would feel very satisfied by what I had seen. But about half an hour later a buck came running across my part of the forest and I was able to line up a shot as he cleared a small clump of trees. My preference is to take a doe, since they are better eating. But this was the deer that presented itself and so that's the deer I took.

I radioed to the house and my two younger daughters came down with warm water and a welcome bit of breakfast, by which time I had the buck field dressed and ready to bring up to the house. An hour or so later he was skinned out and left to cool in the big barn. Now we are processing the deer into sausage and stew meat, a welcome addition to our freezer since we did not butcher a steer this year.

I enjoy the work of butchering quite a bit. The actual killing of the animals I do not enjoy, but I take it in stride as necessary. If you're going to eat meat then there's no use pretending that it can be any other way—an animal has to die—and if it happens at my own hands, then so be it. You can see from the photo above that the harvesting of animals does not trouble my children. They have grown up with butchering and hunting, so it is a normal part of life for them. They know what it takes to put meat on the table.

Some of the meat went into a venison stew for Thanksgiving Day. Everything in the stew—venison, leeks, garlic, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, and fennel—was grown or harvested by us. When you eat that kind of food, from the sweat of your own brow and the bounty of the land, it is easy to be truly thankful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The New Geocentrists Come Unravelled

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

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

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sungenis and "johnmartin" Studiously Miss the Point

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

The core points that they missed are:

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

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

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

The problem is that he can't.

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

What does Bob say to this demonstration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Credibility, Conspiracies, and Caution

As I had begun to write this piece, word went out from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity about evidence they have found regarding significant wrong-doing by their member, Fr. John Corapi.  I had been told about this breaking scandal a few weeks ago by a friend, who was absolutely convinced that Fr. Corapi had done nothing wrong and that the whole thing is a set-up.  Indeed, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Catholics who, at least right now, believe that "They" are out to get Fr. Corapi.

It's a theme that plays out again and again on the Internet.  "They" are all lying to you.  "They" are all trying to lead you astray.  "They" are all corrupt.  Now, let me tell you the "Real Truth" that "They" don't want you to know.  (And oh, by the way, won't you buy my book and send me a generous donation so that I can continue my important work of exposing "Them"?)

Watch out.

Fr. Corapi had a reputation for "telling it like it is", for being blunt and bold in his teaching.  People like that, they gravitate toward it.  And now, with allegations breaking out about his personal conduct, some refuse to look at any evidence that might call Father's credibility into question.  It is all about him.  "They" are out to get him.

And yet, the evidence is coming in and with it serious questions about his credibility.  Phil Lawler has an excellent piece on this—"Corapi: Why were warning signs ignored?"—which can serve as a paradigm for other such situations.

An Emerging Pattern

What other such situations?  Well let's say someone claims to be a "prophet" and insists that "They" is an entire ethnic group.  Maybe "They" are the Jews, who are alleged to be the "slave masters" and somehow responsible for more or less anything bad that happens.  Let's say that someone claims that "They" represents pretty much every scientist for the past three hundred years, including eminent Catholic and other Christian scientists, who, with respect to the true nature of the universe "Know It, But They're Hiding It" from ordinary people.  Or let's say that someone claims that "They" are all the popes of the last three hundred years and all the bishops in communion with them, who should have been teaching against what is claimed to be a "formal heresy" but who have been inept or cowardly, duped by conspiracy and subterfuge or purposely subversive.

With claims like those, wouldn't you say that this "prophet's" personal character and credibility might just be an important factor in evaluating how seriously to take such claims?

I've been bemused in the ongoing debate over neo-geocentrism that whenever the general credibility of its main proponent, Bob Sungenis, is called into question the hue and cry goes up from his supporters that it's a fallacious ad hominem attack.  Here's just the latest example:

It never fails to amaze me how when the subject of geocentrism is discussed on the Internet on forums such as this you will almost invariably find people engaging in immediate ad hominem attacks against those individuals who have expressed a belief in geocentrism.  This is especially true in the case of Robert Sungenis (posted by James B. Philips).

What makes this complaint particularly amusing is that it's deployed in defense of a person who has an entire appendix in his book Galileo Was Wrong entitled, "The Personal Lives of: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein".  And not just there, but throughout the pages of both volumes of GWW, Bob accuses those men and others of a whole panoply of moral failings including lying, subterfuge, homosexuality/pederasty, adultery, occult practices, plagiarism (oh, what irony!—see below), theft, and murder.  He seems to have no problem with weaving these observations into his public talks.  Bob clearly believes that these alleged moral failings are germane to the discussion of whether their scientific views are correct. But his own behavior is somehow off-limits when it comes to these discussions.  This is just one more example of "one standard for me and another for thee" when it comes to Bob Sungenis.

Wikipedia notes on the argumentum ad hominem that:

The ad hominem is normally described as a logical fallacy, but it is not always fallacious; in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue. (my emphasis)

Now, a genuinely fallacious ad hominem attack would be something like, "Fr. Corapi must be guilty because you know how those Italians are," or "You can't believe a word Bob says because he's Italian." (Which is in practice what Bob does with Jews, by the way—if you're a Jew or he even suspects that you might be a Jew, you're suspect.)

But there is no logical fallacy in saying that the views of someone who regularly proves himself to be sloppy, inaccurate, and at times downright malicious ought to be taken cum grano salis, with a hefty grain of salt.

What About Bob?

So what about Bob?  It seems clear that Bob loves to stir up dissension, animosity and controversy because he's been doing it for the better part of 35 years. In Surprised by Truth, he fittingly entitled his autobiographical account, "From Controversy to Consolation." According to Sungenis himself, he left the Catholic faith in early adulthood and spent the next 18 years embroiling himself in one controversy after another. In his conversion story, Bob reveals something significant about his temperament and his manner of searching for truth. For example, here's his account of a conversation with a friend named Gerry Hoffman who disagreed with him in regard to religion:

"My conversation with Gerry [Hoffman] was different. Even though I gave him a few of the standard objections to Catholic doctrines, for some reason, his answers did not make me feel combative. In fact, his explanations made me feel like listening instead of attacking. As those who knew me at that time would have attested, this was not my normal response to a conversation about politics or religion -- especially religion."
There are numerous other examples in his autobiographical conversion story that illustrate his penchant for creating dissension, animosity and controversy (see e.g. here).

The time of "consolation" to which he refers occurred immediately after his reversion to the Catholic faith. At that time, he had a season of grace and relative peace that allowed him to produce his fine “Not by” series. Sadly, that season passed and he's returned to his old ways.

For the past decade, he's returned to extreme controversialism – attacking and slandering Jews, his own bishop, and many others.  We have recently taken the opportunity to yet again defend Bishop Kevin Rhoades against Bob's unjust attacks.  In this vein I wrote:

Given the seriousness of the charge and the office of the one against whom it is leveled, I think it’s very fair to ask, is this the sort of man to bring a charge against a successor of the Apostles?  Has he been fair and just in his dealings with others?  Has he comported himself well with those who are outside our Faith?  Has he been responsible and accurate in his handling of his sources?  Does he have the marks of a “prophet”, as he self-styles himself?

Does Bob have the credibility to support such serious accusations?  The record indicates not.  Although this incident with Bishop Rhoades is the most egregious example, unfortunately there is a long-standing pattern of this sort of behavior from Bob.

Long-standing indeed.  A partial list of additional individuals to whom Bob has attributed inaccurate or fraudulent quotes include: Pope John Paul II, Gen. Tommy Franks, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Congressman John Rarick, mathematician Clifford Truesdell, Benjamin Ginsberg, Gen. Ariel Sharon, Carl Sagan, David Brooks, Jerry Falwell, Bill Cork, Leon Suprenant and Mike Sullivan of CUF, Roy Schoeman, Michael Forrest, Mark Shea, Christopher Blosser, Michael Lopez, and David Palm.

These are fully documented here:  Sungenis and the Jews--Fraudulent Quotes

But the most egregious example by far is Bob's continued accusations against Bishop Rhoades, which the bishop himself has called "slanderous and erroneous".  Bob has accused His Excellency of promoting a pro-Jewish heresy to “unsuspecting Catholics” because he has greater “allegiances” to Jewish causes than to the Catholic faith.  The charges themselves are absolutely false, but to make matters worse Bob has attempted to prop up those accusations with a narrative that is shot through with demonstrable falsehoods and self-contradictions.  This has been documented here:

Bishop Rhoades and the Dual Covenant Theory

A Defense of Bishop Rhoades from More False Accusations by Robert Sungenis
Sungenis' Own Standards of Heresy: Why Don't They Apply to Bishop Rhoades?

He's back to attacking popes (see here). When he's confronted about his behavior, he typically lashes out and blames everyone else. He even accuses his critics of secretly being Jews (for but the latest case of this click here - go down to the last comment posted by Jared Olar).  See also
An Open Invitation to Bob Sungenis

I alluded above to the rich irony of Bob Sungenis, of all people, accusing Albert Einstein of plagiarism.  It cannot be put more delicately than to say that Bob is a habitual plagiarist.  According to the definition given by Bob's own alma mater, plagiarism is, "intentionally representing the words, ideas, or sequence of ideas of another as one's own in any academic exercise; failure to attribute any of the following: quotations, paraphrases, or borrowed information."  A large body of evidence for his literary theft has been marshaled here, but I would urge the reader at the very least to read two pieces that document the most egregious examples: Dr. Bill Cork's "Antisemitism and the Catholic Right" (section 3) and my own "Sungenis Comes Full Circle".  There Bob's words are placed side-by-side with the sources from which he plagiarized them.  He has recently reproduced the essay critiqued in "Sungenis Comes Full Circle" in his most recent "book" The Catholic/Jewish Dialogue and put it on sale—particularly ironic considering the fact that Bob previously sought to redefine "plagiarism" by restricting it solely to those materials which one steals and then sells for personal gain.  Even by Bob's own self-servingly restricted (and false) definition he's certainly committed plagiarism now.

Bob now owns a phony "Ph.D." from a New Age diploma mill.  He self-styles himself as a "prophet" in the tradition of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  He claims that, for centuries, the popes have submerged and obscured what is really the official teaching of the Catholic Church on geocentrism.  And on the scientific front he sets his personal views of cosmology against the studied consensus of the entire scientific community for the past three hundred years.

Bob regularly peddles a whole panoply of conspiracy theories including, but not nearly limited to: NASA faked the lunar landings, the attacks of 9/11 were an "inside job" and the Jewish owner of WTC Building 7 purposely leveled that building with pre-set explosives, NASA creates crop circles to "get our minds off the Bible and Christ", the Jews sent Monica Lewinski in to take Bill Clinton down because they didn't like his foreign policy toward Israel, and so on....

And this kind of thinking even muddles his biblical commentary, which he and most people consider his greatest strength. For example, he has insisted in multiple places that the “context” for Romans 11 and St. Paul’s teaching on the Jews is the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, which took place at least twelve years after Romans was written and 3 years after St. Paul was dead! On this and other related issues see “The Theology of Prejudice”, “The Pope’s ‘Blunder’ or Sungenis’ Prejudice?”, and “Sungenis on Romans 11: Theological Bias in Biblical Exegesis”. Notice too that Bob hasn't been able to get an imprimatur on any of his works for many years now, having been turned down multiple times (see here.)

Returning to the topic of neo-geocentrism, it seems to me that Galileo Was Wrong is just more controversialism and sensationalism brought forth by someone trying to make a name for himself. He’s repeatedly misused the name “Catholic” to give him an appearance of authority that he doesn’t rightly possess – harming the Church in the process – and that’s exactly why he was told by his bishop to stop calling his organization “Catholic.”

Why Don't They See It?

One thing that has long puzzled me is how certain individuals continue to cling to Bob as credible long after they should have known better.  In part this can be explained by a phenomenon that we noted long ago, namely, that the more Bob's apostolate comes to be defined by fringe conspiracy theories the more he will draw his supporters from like-minded crackpots and cranks.  Crackpots and cranks are, by definition, seriously lacking in common sense.

But this is not to suggest that Sungenis' small group of followers is comprised exclusively of dimwits and social misfits.  For example, the Media Director at Robert Sungenis' website, Laurence Gonzaga, has a master's degree in child psychology and will soon be working to earn his doctorate in psychology.  He has a nice conversion story, is a catechist at several parishes in the Diocese of San Bernardino, and seems like a bright young man.  But, especially in light of his training in psychology, it's particularly odd that Gonzaga doesn't seem to see the problems with Bob, his behavior and the content of his teachings.

I know this is a lot of information. But in light of the sad, unfolding Fr. Corapi debacle, I thought it important to bring forth. Everybody likes a straight shooter. But when there are warning signs that something is seriously amiss, prudence says you'd better watch out. The warning signs are all over this. Don't let your loyalties be blind.

The upshot of all of this is that matters of character and credibility are highly important, especially if someone is claiming to be a "prophet" while peddling sweeping conspiracy theories.  As we continue to explore the various aspects of neo-geocentrism and its supporters' claims to be in possession of the "true" teaching of the Catholic Church and the "real" scientific truth, it makes a lot of sense to consider the source.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The New Geocentrism: Excessive Interest in Usury Comes to Naught

The modern geocentrist fixation on their pet cause is like a monkey who reaches into a precious Ming vase to grasp a pebble. Intent only on holding onto that bit of rock and unable to extract his clenched fist, the monkey will happily smash the vase to get his "prize", heedless of the priceless nature of the treasure he has wrecked.

It looks to me as if at least some of these individuals will do anything to hang onto their private judgment that geocentrism is taught as an article of faith, even if it means (were it possible) smashing the Catholic Faith itself. On Dave Armstrong's blog, one "johnmartin" (a pseudonym) was perfectly content to assert that, “I’ve presented a list of doctrines that have been de facto denied by the modern church” and “I believe the church silence on the matter of geo[centrism] in the last 300 years is easily accounted for through either inept leadership or fear of the science establishment”. Three hundred years of doctrinally inept and cowardly Popes—gee, what faithful Catholic could fail to be content with such a simple explanation?

He offered as "proof" for this supposed ineptitude a whole panoply of issues which the Catholic Church had "stopped teaching": the sinfulness of contraception, the indissolubility of marriage, the nature of and need for the sacrament of matrimony, the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin birth, and the establishment of the sacrament of Holy Orders by Christ himself. It was painful to have to point out to this fellow Catholic the obvious, namely, that the Magisterium has explicitly taught each and every one of those things, right up to the present day.

To his credit, geocentrist Rick Delano didn't join "johnmartin" in this brazen Church bashing. But he deployed his own example which he contends is the only other one that matches geocentrism: usury. According to Rick these two constitute the "unique" examples in all of Church history in which the Catholic Church has simply stopped teaching a doctrine of the Faith:

Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 6:31 PM By Rick DeLano

I have, as I said, personally been the beneficiary of several hours of direct instruction from Father Sweeney. I can assure my fellow bloggers on this thread, that any question of his fidelity to, familiarity with, or ability to expound (to at least seventy five levels of historical development), the teachings of the catechism, is, for me, beyond the slightest question. The man is simply a treasure, and I am going to do my utmost to try and get one of my sons up there to enroll in his course of study and, as a bonus, to make Father Sweeney's life miserable with questions concerning, especially, the surrender of the dogmas against usury and geocentrism (hello Father Sweeney!)

Rick DeLano said...

I hope that all defenders of geocentrism will be sensitive to the ambiguity inherent in this (and only this- plus one other to my knowledge) instance of the magisterium proposing a binding doctrine under the ordinary magisterium, and then abandoning- not reversing!- it.

The unique nature of these two instances- the other being the condemnation of usury- require the utmost care in extending the same latitude the Church Herself extends. . . .

Fri Nov 19, 11:50:00 PM EST
(My emphasis.)

So is Rick right? Has the Catholic Church "surrendered" the dogma of usury? Does geocentrism have at least one lonely companion in doctrines supposedly "abandoned" by the Church?

Nope. Since Galileo's time the doctrine of usury has been reaffirmed by the Magisterium numerous times, right up to our present day. The only way this view gets any traction at all is if people embrace the mistaken view that usury is identical with interest-taking, or with excessive interest. Neither view is correct (the tongue-in-cheek title of this article aside).  My own contribution to this question in This Rock magazine, which I now consider to be somewhat simplistic but still essentially correct, may be found here.

Misunderstandings aside, the magisterial view of usury has been reiterated numerous times. The most solemn instance is, of course, Pope Benedict XIV's 1745 encyclical Vix Pervenit, On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit. And Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum §3 in 1891:

The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.

From the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X (1908):

9 Q: Is it only by theft and robbery that another can be injured in his property?

A: He can also be injured by fraud, usury, and any other act of injustice directed against his goods.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2269 (1993):

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.

From Pope John Paul II, Address to the Members of the National Council of Anti-Usury Foundations (1999):

I know well, dear friends, the difficulties that you face. But I know that you are determined and united in fighting this serious social evil. Continue to combat usury, giving hope to individuals and families who are its victims. The Pope encourages you to pursue your generous work to build a more just society, one of solidarity, and more attentive to the demands of the needy.

From Pope John Paul II, General Audience (4 February 2004):

Finally, three final precepts are listed for our examination of conscience: to be faithful to our word and to our oaths, even in those cases where the consequences will be detrimental to us; not to practice usury — a plague that is a disgraceful reality even in our days that can place a stronghold on the lives of many people; and finally to avoid all corruption in public life, another commitment that we could also rigorously practice in our time . . .

From Pope John Paul II, General Audience, (10 Nov 2004):

The first false god [is] the violence which humanity unfortunately continues to resort to even in these bloody days,. . . Accompanying this idol is an immense procession of wars, oppression, perversions, torture and killing, inflicted without any trace of remorse. . . . the second false god is robbery which is expressed in extortion, social injustice, usury, political and economic corruption.

From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church §323 and 341 (2004):
The prophetic tradition condemns fraud, usury, exploitation and gross injustice, especially when directed against the poor . . .
Although the quest for equitable profit is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned: “Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them”.[714] This condemnation extends also to international economic relations, especially with regard to the situation in less advanced countries, which must never be made to suffer “abusive if not usurious financial systems”.[715] More recently, the Magisterium used strong and clear words against this practice, which is still tragically widespread, describing usury as “a scourge that is also a reality in our time and that has a stranglehold on many peoples' lives”.[716]

From the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church §508 (2005):

508. What is forbidden by the seventh commandment?

Above all, the seventh commandment forbids theft, which is the taking or using of another's property against the reasonable will of the owner. This can be done also by paying unjust wages; by speculation on the value of goods in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; or by the forgery of checks or invoices. Also forbidden is tax evasion or business fraud; willfully damaging private or public property; usury; corruption; the private abuse of common goods; work deliberately done poorly; and waste.

From Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience (2005):

The heart of this fidelity to the divine word consists in a fundamental choice of charity towards the poor and needy: ‘The good man takes pity and lends ... Open-handed, he gives to the poor” (vv. 5, 9). The person of faith, then, is generous; respecting the biblical norms, he offers help to his brother in need, asking nothing in return (Deuteronomy 15: 7-11), and without falling into the shame of usury, which destroys the lives of the poor.’

I would be the first to agree that additional catechesis would help the faithful to better understand the necessary distinction between usury and the taking of interest. But it is patently false to claim that there has been a "surrender" or an "abandonment" of the doctrine of usury. It is explicitly taught by the Magisterium to this day and this alleged parallel with geocentrism fails completely.

Of course the parallel fails in another way too. The Holy Office, with the Pope's approval, gave positive permission in 1820 for non-geocentric views to be disseminated in the Church. The Church has given her imprimatur and nihil obstat to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of works that present a non-geocentric cosmology as fact. Pope Benedict XV stated openly in a papal encyclical that it's not at all problematic to hold that the earth isn't the center of the universe. Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII made official in papal encyclicals the Tradition expressed best by Sts. Augustine and Thomas that the sacred Scriptures do not contain details of the physical universe, but rather speak in ordinary language according to what appears to men. Popes Pius XII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have praised Galileo and John Paul II has stated publicly that the handling of the Galileo case rested on "errors". The Magisterium has given the faithful every indication that they need not have any scruple to hold to non-geocentric views of the universe. There is no possible parallel here to usury, which has been consistently and repeatedly condemned.

Which only goes to show you that you can't get away from the fundamental axiom that if you start with a bad premise you will inevitably reach a bad conclusion. Geocentrism was never taught as a doctrine of the faith by either the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. That is the simple reason why there is no reiteration of it. No need for exaggerations, conspiracy theories, ineptitude, or cowardice.

I know this is incredibly shocking and controversial, but ordinary, faithful Catholics can feel perfectly comfortableand orthodoxwhile holding to a non-geocentric view of the universe. Not that that will stop the new geocentrists from making a wreck of their own faith as they cling to this pebble of a scientific theory, of course.

NB: I will be posting a continuing series of essays on various aspects of the new geocentrism.  Until the series is complete comments will be disabled.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Geocentric Exaggerations: The Catechism of Trent

In my last piece on the new geocentrism I pointed out how modern geocentrists consistently exaggerate the nature and authority of the various ecclesiastical documents that touch on the topic.

Another example of this may be found in how they treat some passages in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Here's what a leading geocentrist has to say about it:

One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism comes from the catechism issued under a decree of Pope Pius V, known as The Catechism of the Council of Trent or more simply, The Roman Catechism. (Bob Sungenis, GWW2, 163).

"One of the clearest official and authoritative statements"....keep that phrase in mind as we look into this a little further. Bob deploys several passages from the Roman Catechism to try and make this case. Here's one of them:

He also gave to the sun its brilliancy, and to the moon and stars their beauty; and that they might be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety.
Now a lot of non-geocentrists are going to look at that and say, Okay, but I agree with that. How exactly does that clearly teach geocentrism? Bob deploys another passage from the Catechism of Trent to try and answer that:

Rather, to expel any doubt about what objects are revolving the catechism adds that the sun, moon and stars have a “continual revolution.” Although the unspecified reference to “revolution” might cause a heliocentrist to infer that the sun’s revolution does not necessarily mean it is revolving around the Earth, a few pages later the catechism disallows that inference by stating the following:

The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them.…

The problem for Bob is the context that he left off after the ellipses makes his application of this passage to the earth's place in the universe untenable. Let's have the whole passage, including what he omitted:

The earth [terram] also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world [mundi], rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.
While mundus can mean "universe", it can also just mean "world", e.g. Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, "The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived." But from the whole context it appears that the Catechism is using the word "earth" (terra) in terms of the "land", as distinct from the "air" and "water" and the word "world" (mundus) to mean the whole globe. (This echoes the wording of Gen 1:10, "And God called the dry land, Earth [terram]".) Thus in this context "rooted in its own foundation" means that the land is fixed in place with relation to the water, not in relation to the cosmos. If "earth" here means the entire globe then the passage ceases to make sense, since in the last sentence the "earth" is specifically contrasted with the "air" and "water" and God certainly didn't cover the entire globe, including the air and water, "with trees and every variety of plant and flower".

This passage, then, doesn't represent a description of the globe's place in the universe and it has no application to geocentrism. I should note that the English version of this Catechism by J. A. McHugh and C. J. Callanon which appears in many places on the Internet (e.g. here) has the heading "Formation of the Universe" over this section. This is a mistranslation of the Latin, De terrae creatione, which is correctly translated "Creation of the earth" (as in, e.g. the translation by J. Donovan (link). It is perhaps this mistranslation—along with an insufficient attention to context—that has misled certain geocentrists to read this as if it addressed the earth's place in the universe.

There are a couple of other passages Bob cites to try and bolster this notion that the Catechism of Trent teaches geocentrism, but they get weaker and weaker.

But though God is present in all places and in all things, without being bound by any limits, as has been already said, yet in Sacred Scripture it is frequently said that He has His dwelling in heaven. And the reason is because the heavens which we see above our heads are the noblest part of the world, remain ever Incorruptible, surpass all other bodies in power, grandeur and beauty, and are endowed with fixed and regular motion.

...all goods both natural and supernatural, must be recognised as gifts given by Him from whom, as the Church proclaims, proceed all blessings. If the sun by its light, if the stars by their motion and revolutions, are of any advantage to man; if the air with which we are surrounded serves to sustain us...nay, those very causes which philosophers call secondary, we should regard as so many hands of God, wonderfully fashioned and fitted for our use, by means of which He distributes His blessings and diffuses them everywhere in profusion.
Obviously, non-geocentrists can affirm all that this Catechism says. There is no explicit affirmation of geocentrism here whatsoever; these are generic statements that fit modern cosmologies equally well. Yet despite the weakness of this evidence in favor of his pet cosmology, Bob speaks of the "Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism" (GWW2, pp. 164f.). This is a manifest exaggeration.

We have seen that, far from containing a "dogmatic assertion of geocentrism", the Catechism of the Council of Trent says nothing at all on the subject. The evidence strongly suggests that this is a modern, private interpretation of the Catechism based on a mistranslation and a misunderstanding. The following fact should pretty much clinch that case. Bob claims that this is, "One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism. . . " But surely, if that were true, this would have been the very centerpiece in the original Galileo controversy. And yet this source was was never, as far as I have seen, brought up either by the Congregation of the Index or the Congregation of the Holy Office during the Galileo affair. The silence is deafening.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent does not teach geocentrism as an article of faith. And of course, the Church's next universal Catechism, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, also says not a word about geocentrism either. And yet the Holy Father stated in Fidei Depositum IV:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.
"[A] statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine..." But not a peep about geocentrism. That silence too is deafening.