Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ancient Fallacies: Begging the Question and Anti-Francis Attacks

So looking for a bit of entertainment, I watched a couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens. The basic premise (for people with enough common sense to stay away) is that aliens could have visited Earth, provided technology to build monuments, fought battles, influenced events described in the Bible and so on. The main problem with the show is that the featured individuals arguing their points assume their premises are true, when they actually have to be proven. The things they assume as following from the claim of aliens can only be considered as a link if the original premise is true in the first place. It’s the begging the question fallacy.

Aliens(Most people recognize this is bad reasoning)

Aristotle, over two thousand years ago, described what was wrong with this way of thinking:

16 To beg and assume the original question is a species of failure to demonstrate the problem proposed; but this [30] happens in many ways. A man may not reason syllogistically at all, or he may argue from premisses which are less known or equally unknown, or he may establish the antecedent by means of its consequents; for demonstration proceeds from what is more certain and is prior. Now begging the question is none of these: but since we get to know some things naturally through themselves, and other things [35] by means of something else (the first principles through themselves, what is subordinate to them through something else), whenever a man tries to prove what is not self-evident by means of itself, then he begs the original question. This may be done by assuming what is in question at once; it is also possible to make a transition to [40] other things which would naturally be proved through the [65a] thesis proposed, and demonstrate it through them, e.g. if A should be proved through B, and B through C, though it was natural that C should be proved through A: for it turns out that those who reason thus are proving A by means of itself. This is what those persons do who suppose [5] that they are constructing parallel straight lines: for they fail to see that they are assuming facts which it is impossible to demonstrate unless the parallels exist. So it turns out that those who reason thus merely say a particular thing is, if it is: in this way everything will be self-evident. But that is impossible.


 Aristotle, “ANALYTICA PRIORA,” in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, trans. A. J. Jenkinson, vol. 1 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928).

Basically, this fallacy happens when one assumes something is true without proving it to be true and then cites things as examples of this assumption—but they are only valid examples if the original claim is true. If the original claim is not established as true, then the “examples” cannot be established as supporting the allegation,

Unfortunately, since 2013, many Catholics have been plagued by this fallacy in their approach to Pope Francis. The begging the question comes around by alleging that the Pope is a liberal, or a heretic, or both. For this allegation to have any merit, it has to be proven. Otherwise it is merely an unproven assertion. Once we recognize this, all of the “scandalous behavior” vanishes away. 

For example, the Pope speaks out on the ecology, the plight of refugees and the death penalty. People acting on the assumption that the Pope is speaking on these issues in this way because he is a liberal—which is the point to be proven in the first place. But if the Pope has any other reason for speaking out on these issues besides a partisan political concern, then the citation of these stands are not a confirmation of his political slant. The ultimate result of the begging the question fallacy in this case is that certain Catholics are assuming the Pope is the enemy of the faith for irrational reasons. If one reads the works of Pope Francis’ predecessors in office, once can see they were not liberal and yet they spoke against the same things that Pope Francis spoke against.

Because people beg the question in assuming the Pope is a liberal/heretic, they assume his words and actions in his US visit and the ongoing synod on the family have a liberal/heretical meaning. So, he didn’t mention abortion directly to the President or Congress—he must be a liberal! He spoke about the death penalty and immigration—he must be a liberal! He wants to find ways to reach out to the divorced/remarried and the people with same sex attraction—he must want to change Church teaching! The Vatican issued a statement indicating that the Pope’s visit with Kim Davis was not as significant as reported—he must be a liberal!

Liberal pope(Many Catholics don’t realize this is bad reasoning even though it is the same as above)

ALL of these arguments have been made and all of them require the accuser that he did these things because he was liberal and not assume that he is liberal and therefore all of his actions have that intention. But, if there is any basis for it other than assume that only a liberal would support those positions, then one must stop making the allegation—the claim is unsupported.

Thus people complaining about the Pope’s visit to America and complaining about the synod need to stop their accusations. They have no basis for their claim. Everything they are working themselves into a rage over comes from assuming there are parallels when there are none and assuming that certain positions can only be explained by a politically leftist Pope. Since the claims cannot be supported, the people who repeat them are using a fallacy, not reason when they attack the Pope.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If You Believe This, Then Why BE a Christian in the First Place?

(See: Does Pope Francis fear God? On the Synod of the Family and the fracturing of the Catholic Church.)

So, a Catholic writer, in a conservative magazine, wrote the following:

In the next three weeks, I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family that begins today in Rome. This is the outcome Pope Francis has shaped over the entirety of his pontificate, and particularly with his recent appointments. An event like this —heresy promulgated by the Pope and his bishops — is believed by most Catholics to be impossible. But they should be prepared for it anyway. This is not an ordinary religious conference, but one to be dreaded.

The question that comes to my mind when I read this is, why in the hell would anyone be a part of a Church that can fall into apostasy? If the Church at the level of binding and loosing can fall into apostasy, then it cannot be—and never was—a Church established by God. 

I don’t use this as rhetoric or as a click-bait opener. Rather, I see it as a problem with people who have so confused their political preferences and media misinterpretations of the Church teaching, that they no longer believe that God is with His Church, but instead believe that they themselves cannot err.


Such a Catholic has to consider the ramifications of their anti-Francis mindset. If one recognizes that Jesus Christ is God and that the Catholic Church was the Church that Our Lord willed to establish in Matthew 16:18, then it follows that the promises He made about the Church will be kept. If a person denies one or both of these tenets of the faith, their faith is deficient.

Let’s think about it. If Jesus is God and the Church He established is the Catholic Church then he promised that the Church, built on the rock of Peter, would not see the gates of Hell prevail against it, and He promised that He would be with His Church always (Matthew 28:20). If the authority of the Church, which has the authority to bind and loose, should fall into error then we have to recognize one of two possibilities:

  1. That Jesus could not keep His promises.
  2. That Jesus did not mean it in the sense that the Church has taught.

If Jesus could not keep His promises, then He is not God and our Catholic faith is in vain. We might as well go and seek admittance to Judaism if we wanted to still believe in the God of the Bible, but being a Christian would be nothing more than being a Platonist—a philosophy of doing good which is right some of the time. If Jesus did keep His promises, but the Catholic Church misinterpreted these promises, then she is a blind guide leading the blind into a ditch. We could never know when she got it right about being a Christian and when she did not. Was she wrong in Vatican II? Vatican I? Trent? Nicea? We could not know whether it was the Trinitarians or the Arians got it right, the Catholics or the Protestants and so on. We could only have opinions on who got it right—solely based on our own hunches and preferences.

In either case, the results of the synod would be irrelevant. Whether the Church upheld the traditional teachings on marriage, or called for polygamous homosexual divorce would be irrelevant, because the Church would have no authority whatsoever.

It only makes sense to be a Catholic if we believe that Our Lord protects the Church from teaching error when she teaches. We are bound to give assent not only in her ex cathedra pronunciations, but in her teachings of the ordinary magisterium as well. As the Catechism says:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

If we are bound to give assent even to the ordinary magisterium, then again we have two possibilities:

  1. God will bind error and loose truth if the Church so decrees.
  2. God will prevent the Church from binding error and loosing truth.

The first choice is asinine. The God who came to save us from our sins would certainly not say that sin is OK if the Church gives its sanction. But given that Our Lord equates rejection of His Church with rejection of Him (see Matthew 18:17 and Luke 10:16), obedience to those He has put in charge is not an option. But since human beings are weak and sinful, God must have a way which ensures that they do not lead people into sin.

Even if we should see the synod become another “robber council,” (which I do not expect), we can have faith that the Pope would block such things from becoming teaching. Think about it. St. Paul said that to receive the Eucharist unworthily would be eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). If the Church should sanction people in mortal sin receiving the Eucharist, that would be a case of binding error and loosing truth. 

It is because I have faith in Our Lord that I do not fear that the magisterium of the Church will teach error. The leaders of the Church can indeed be sinful and weak. They can enact rules that are ineffective and falter in the face of opposition. Thus we need to pray for them. But even if some individual bishops or even regions should fall into error (it has happened in our History), the Church will not call evil good.

The person who believes that the Church will embrace error and change her teachings on good and evil needs to ask himself or herself this: If the Church is not protected from teaching error, then why even be a Catholic at all?

Catholic Bloggers Behaving Badly

In these times, the most problematic issues involve the open advocating of disobedience to the magisterium. That needs to be opposed of course because it can lead Catholics into denying the authority of the Church and lose faith in the promises of Our Lord. So it is natural for Catholic bloggers to focus on this, standing up to say “This behavior is not ‘good’ Catholicism. It is schismatic."

But that being said, it is possible for a Catholic to do harm in other ways, even if they practice the faith without dissenting. In other words, how one presents the message can actually alienate people away from seeking the truth. For example, the Church makes clear that we have moral obligations to aid the poor and the refugees. A Catholic who chooses to reject the teaching does wrong. However, when Catholics disagree on the ways and means of carrying out Church teaching, it is certainly wrong to accuse them of being bad Catholics for thinking another strategy is better than the popular one.

In other words, two faithful Catholics can have different ideas on how to implement social justice but, provided that they accept the authority of the Church and strive to obey her teachings, can have different ideas on how to carry out that teaching. So when a blogger should happen to label people as being indifferent to suffering or racist because they have a different idea on how to deal with illegal immigration, that accusation is unjust if the other person agrees with the Church teaching and is trying to follow it. Likewise, when it comes to an issue like gun violence, there can be legitimate differences of opinions on how to solve it. But to label the person who disagrees with banning all guns as lying or being indifferent to suffering, that does not help spread the Catholic faith—it merely causes scandal by leading someone who agrees with the Church position to think he or she has no place in the Church.

So we have to discern. If two people support the Church teaching on X, but disagree on how to best follow teaching X, neither person is a heretic. But on the other hand, if one person supports the Church teaching on X while a second rejects that teaching on X, the second person cannot pretend to be a good Catholic so long as they reject the Church teaching.

This problem is compounded when abusive language is added to the mix. When we defend Pope Francis and his method of teaching, we certainly would be wise in emulating his example. When people are running afoul of Church teaching, the Pope reaches out with mercy and compassion. We should go and do likewise. That doesn’t mean tolerate bad actions as if they were good. That means we show the sinner how to change their ways without acting like a jerk over it. But if the person agrees with the Church teaching but has a different take on what approach to use, to be abusive is to behave shamefully. There can be many different ministries with the same end.

So in addition to defending the faith, we must defend it rightly and charitably. If blogger A presents the Church teaching rightly, but acts like a jerk about how he does so, then he causes harm, alienating our fellow believers and driving them away from their own mission. That’s damaging and more likely to drive the believers from the Church than to serve Our Lord’s will.

But on the other hand, we cannot confuse our political beliefs with our faith. Do our politics reflect our faith? Or do our politics shape our belief? If we choose option #2, we are choosing wrong, making an idol out of our politics.

But let’s be reasonable. Seeking a just and merciful solution to illegal immigration does not mean supporting a blanket amnesty. Opposing gun violence does not mean that only supporting a ban on all firearms is compatible with the Catholic faith. Standing up for the Church teaching on the death penalty or just war does not mean there will be perfect agreement on whether a particular instance of the death penalty is just or a particular war is just.

So let’s stop with the sarcastic remarks about “the thing that used to be conservatism” or accusing people who question the value of welfare as it is currently being implemented as being “not truly pro-life.” There is a difference between The Church Teaching and what I think needs to be done to carry it out. The former is not up for debate. The latter sometimes is.

If we make this mistake, we will have to answer for corrupting the message of the Church and for those we alienate for no good reason. Let us remember the words of the Church on Rash Judgment:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.


 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 594.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Out of Control and Missing the Point

The Pope’s visit to America confirms what I long knew—the media and the politicians don’t understand the meaning of religion, treating it as one more political viewpoint. It also confirmed what I long suspected but hoped was actually false—that a large portion of American Catholics view religion in the same sense as the media and politicians. The result of this mindset is that the average person praises or laments what the Pope says or does in light of his or her political convictions and not on the basis of the Christian faith.

St. Paul wrote about this way of thinking in his letter to the Philippians:

17 Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. 18 For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

Our calling as Christians supersedes our preferences in politics. Politics necessarily involves earthly things. Our faith involves approaching this world according to the bigger picture of what God calls us to do with the fact of our life after death always kept firmly in mind. So, to judge the Pope’s words and actions by political preference is to pervert the Christian message, committing sacrilege according to the sense of treating holy things as profane.

Unfortunately, America is very dualistic. We think things are either liberal or conservative and create a logical error called denying the antecedent. That error works as follows:

  • The Pope is conservative or liberal.
  • Not conservative.
  • Therefore liberal.
The argument overlooks the possibility of “none of the above” being an answer.
Hes with Me
Unfortunately, the American view of politics has determined that concern for the environment or the treatment of immigrants to be “liberal” and the defense of life and marriage to be “conservative.” That’s how it plays with our political parties. But actually, the Catholic Church has a body of teaching that can point to both liberals and conservatives and say “you’re wrong about that.” In addition, she can say to both, “You’re right on this, but for the wrong reason."

When the Pope meets with the President, meets with Congress, meets with the Little Sisters of the Poor, meets with a former student (who happens to be actively homosexual), meets with Kim Davis—these things are all given a political meaning, even though the Pope intended no such thing by them. Then they take offense by the fact that the Pope did not use his addresses to condemn the President or Congress.

But, since the Pope did not intend a political message, the people who wanted one with him endorsing their position got angry when he took a stand against their position. People who hate Kim Davis were angry that he did not denounce her. People who support her were angry that he didn’t tell supporters of “same sex marriage” to literally go to hell.

Essentially they wanted him to be something he had no intention of being, and got disappointed because he didn’t satisfy their desire to see their foes "put in their place.” The thing is, Jesus didn’t set out to put people in their place. He came to call them to repentance. It was only with the self-righteous, the ones who behaved in a hypocritical manner, that he ended up "putting them in their place."

The Pope isn’t Jesus, of course. (With the anti-Catholics out there who think we do believe that, it unfortunately has to be said). But he is following the example Our Lord gave for us to follow. He’s essentially offering Our Lord’s mercy to the sinners. When we want the Pope to praise us and denounce the sinners we despise, we behave as hypocrites—and it was the hypocrites that Our Lord openly denounced.

I think that in trying to play “Capture the Flag” with the Pope, people assumed that if he would only “say more” about topic X, other people would go along. Really? Why should it be any different under Pope Francis than it was under his predecessors. Blessed Paul VI on contraception, St. John Paul II on a whole raft of issues. likewise Benedict XVI. They’ve been speaking out since 1963 on sexual issues, economic issues, life issues and so on. There’s been no variation in message. Sollicitudo rei Socialis and Caritas in Veritate say the same thing as Evangelic Gaudium—they all draw on Paul VI and Populorum Progressio (and Sollicitudo rei Socialis #34 mirrors Laudato Si).Despite this fact, people haven’t changed. The pro-abortion politicians have been this way throughout the past four pontificates. The people who think social justice is a code word for “socialism” still think so. If the Pope has so much influence over sinners that he can change them with a word, then why haven’t they been changed already?

No, America is out of control and missing the point. They think the Papal message is political policy and if the Pope says something similar, it is assumed that the Pope validated their entire platform. If the Pope said something in opposition, he’s a foreigner who should stick to religion and “stay out of politics.” (It’s hypocritical—basically a case of “It’s OK if he agrees with me, bad if he doesn’t.”) Catholics missing the point and out of control are making things worse. We’re called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If we’re acting as worldly and partisan as everyone else, we are failing to share the Gospel with the world. 

American Catholics who think of themselves as orthodox need to get back in control and get the point. Otherwise, they are causing great harm in their dissent and disobedience while patting themselves on the back for being “faithful."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quick Quips: Pope Francis in the USA Edition


So I enjoyed the Pope’s visit and was impressed with what he had to say. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have been unhappy with the visit, thinking he should have said more on topic A and less on topic B. So here’s another episode of Quick Quips where I put onto the internet the eye-rolling, teeth gritting thoughts I’ve had as I read the news, the blogs and the comments made essentially bashing the Pope. So here we go.

What Radical Nut Came Up With…?—Oh Wait...

So, did you hear the radical words uttered at the Papal Mass this morning in Philadelphia?

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."

What is this radical Marxist agenda being spouted?

Oh wait—the Pope didn't say that. That was from the Second Reading from today’s Mass, the Epistle of James 5:1-6. Maybe, just maybe, the Pope is not spouting Marxist views, but is actually teaching the parts of Christianity that we have forgotten.

So Who’s To Blame For Misinterpretation Now?

So some Catholics have trotted out the old “if he would only speak more clearly, people would not misinterpret him” lament. But after seeing the comments in the (secular) conservative sites where every old bit of anti-Catholic slander going back to the 16th century has been hurled at the Pope (things like “we deny the resurrection because we have a corpus on a crucifix while Protestants have an empty cross” and the old “works alone”), I have to ask—do you really think these people would even want to find out the truth about what a Catholic had to say (as opposed being comfortable in their bigotry)?

If Only The Pope Had...

I've encountered something coming up in blogs and on Facebook, saying that if only the Pope had mentioned abortion directly in his address to Congress, they could have defunded Planned Parenthood successfully in the vote that came up the same day. Personally, I don't believe it. That would require there to be enough Catholics in congress that could have swung the vote that were:

  • Not already determined to vote their position regardless of what the Pope taught.
  • So ignorant of the Church teaching up to now that if the Pope mentioning it directly, they would have said "Oh, wow, what the hell were we thinking? It’s bad for Catholics to support abortion?” after the Pope spoke.

Dissenting Catholics who think abortion to be "a right" haven't changed their views when faced with the Pope's predecessors and I doubt they'd change now either...

The Pope Was So Silent on Abortion That Even Planned Parenthood Spoke Against Him—Wait a Minute...

Also of note is the fact that while conservative Catholics denounced the Pope for not speaking out on abortion, Planned Parenthood denounced him for his pro-life stance, saying the Church needed to change her teaching. When the enemies of the Church know that the Pope is pro-life, maybe—just maybe—the concerned Catholics need to realize that his message is getting through.

Guess the Pope Who Said This...

Here’s a Papal document which speaks on the environment this way:

34. Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world, which the ancient Greeks—alluding precisely to the order which distinguishes it—called the “cosmos.” Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.

The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate—animals, plants, the natural elements—simply as one wishes, according to one s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos.”

The second consideration is based on the realization—which is perhaps more urgent—that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come.

The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.

Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to “use and misuse,” or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to “eat of the fruit of the tree” (cf. Gen 2:16–17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.

A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources and the consequences of haphazard industrialization—three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.

Pope Francis and Laudato Si? No. Sollicitudo rei Socialis by St. John Paul II, written in 1987. That’s right, almost 30 years ago.

That Guy From Nazareth Would Be A Lot Better Speaker if He Talked About the Unjust Romans...

Continuing the theme of “The Pope didn’t speak on X,” I was struck by how the Israelites and the Apostles constantly wanted to know when Jesus was going to speak out on the corrupt tax collectors, the Roman occupation, the Samaritans and so on. Jesus rebuked them for their attitudes. But wanting justice was not a bad thing in itself. However, when considering His mission, an approach which did not to condemn the sinners but to sought to bring them to salvation, what people wanted to hear and what they needed to hear were often two different things.  

The Pope seems determined to follow Our Lord’s example in how He approaches things. He didn’t come as a firebrand preacher—you know, the type most people cross the street to avoid. He spoke with gentleness and encouragement, addressing the issues that maybe we need to hear, and not putting the other guy in his place. A lot of people don’t like that—but then again neither did the Pharisees.

In Closing

Ultimately I think that people who approached the Pope’s visit with an open mind and heart, seeking to learn, came away satisfied. But those who approached the visit with the assumption that “that idiot is going to screw it up again…” came away disgruntled. I believe the Pope presented the faith in a gentle manner, speaking to a nation that has forgotten how one is to be good, hoping to get them to listen. But Catholics who wanted blood sports where the Pope denounced Pelosi, Obama, Biden and so on, I think they missed the gifts of the visit.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Overlooking the Essentials: Reflections on the Negative Catholic Reaction to Pope Francis


With the Pope’s visit to the US, people—including Catholics—are scrutinizing his words to use them in order to justify their political positions. If the individual agrees with his words, he is a great Pope, while if they don’t, he is not. Unfortunately this mindset seeks to take the Pope’s words and cram them into a dualistic political mindset: “Either the Pope is conservative or liberal.”

On one hand, we get Nancy Pelosi’s reprehensible statement of “I actually agree with the pope on more issues than many Catholics who agree with him on one issue” where that “one issue" is abortion and St. John Paul II spoke of "Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death." [John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae #18]—a pretty big disconnect. On the other hand, we get the accusation that the Pope is a liberal-leftist-marxist-who-should-stick-to-religion-and-not-get-into-politics (whew!) whenever he speaks on a topic they dislike.

Both views miss the point. Catholicism isn’t a faith of “Well I may have got an F when it comes to abortion but I get an A+ when it comes to holding political positions I can sort of equate with the Catholic teaching, therefore I get a grade of C as a Catholic!” (conservatives would reverse this and come to the same conclusion). Catholicism is about seeking to be faithful to God in all things, repenting and turning back to Him when and where we fall short.

The politician who ignores the Church teaching on abortion does evil. That’s undeniable. But the politician who ignores the Church teaching on social justice also does evil. Does that mean that abortion and social justice issues are moral equivalents? Definitely not. But to say that Issue #1 is worse than Issue #2 therefore Issue #2 is not important is simply false. The unrepented mortal sin will damn a soul whether it is abortion or whether it is adultery.

Labelling the Pope Based on Personal Ideas of What We Think Should Have Been Said

Unfortunately there is a strong anti-Francis mindset (it’s beginning to be called Papal derangement syndrome elsewhere) where the Pope’s orthodoxy is judged based on how often he mentions a topic and how forcefully he does so. It’s so predictable, it's almost like a simple computer program:


This kind of mindset assumes that there is no merit to other topics the Pope might discuss and that if he doesn’t make Issue X the centerpiece of his visit to America, then there was no merit to his visit. In such a case, the individual has made himself or herself into a judge who determines the importance of what issues to discuss in the Catholic teaching and has actually deafened himself or herself to hearing what the Pope actually has to say.

Unfortunately the Pope, like his predecessors, have been slandered. Both the supporters and detractors of Francis, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have bought into the myth that their positions are political. The only difference is that Francis is maligned as being a liberal while St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were maligned as being conservative. But neither accusation is true. If you read Sollicitudo rei socialis by St. John Paul II and Caritas in veritate by Benedict XVI said similar things on social justice and responsibility to creation: Indeed, all three recognized the importance of, and drew from, Blessed Paul VI and Populorum progressio. But while his predecessor’s teachings have been forgotten already, Pope Francis is maligned as being a liberal-leftist-marxist-modernist-heretic (whew!) when all three of them said the same thing.

What We Think Should Have Been Said May Not Be the Best Thing to Be Said

We need to realize that we are not the Pope and do not have his insights into what he thinks this country needs to hear when it comes to being evangelized. Think of it this way. The Jews, in expecting the Messiah, legitimately were concerned about justice against the Romans and wanted Him to declare Himself (see John 10:24 for example and Matthew 11:3ff). But Jesus’ mission was not what the people expected it to be. Those Jews waiting for Jesus to speak about those issues only were going to wind up disappointed. But those who came to listen and learn from what Jesus said would be satisfied.

I’m not suggesting that the Pope = Jesus here. But the Pope is imitating Jesus in his words and actions in America. When he speaks to the President, Congress, the UN, the Bishops and us what he believes we need to hear—not in condemnation but in gentle encouragement. If we dismiss this message, labeling it as not important, we will end up frustrated and dissatisfied by what he said when his visit to our nation ends. But if we approach his addresses with the mindset of “What is he saying to me and how should I apply it to my life?” we will end up enriched by this visit.

Now, yes, I would like it if the Pope chose to speak more overtly on the moral issues like abortion, “same sex marriage,” and the like. But I do believe he is reaching out gently to people who are not ready for the solid food of the Gospel (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3), speaking to them gently, not harshly. We should certainly recognize the possibility of the people estranged from or ignorant of the Church being driven away from listening if the Pope spoke as we might wish he would.

Ultimately we should come to learn from what the Pope is teaching and not judge him on what we want him to say.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I've Been Doing This for EIGHT Years?

So, September 22nd is the anniversary of the day I first published an Arnobius of Sicca article on Xanga in 2007. I have to admit I never thought I’d still be doing this today. Nor did I expect the changes in the world that brought on so many attacks and misrepresentations to defend the Church from. You see, when I created Arnobius of Sicca, it wasn’t created as an apologetics blog. It was created as something to do while I was on work related disability.

My friend Brian was concerned I was becoming lethargic and depressed and suggested it as something to do in order to keep myself occupied. So I did. The first couple of posts were kind of a riffing commentary on whatever happened to cross my desk. It wasn’t anything serious. Then I published an article on the nature of the Church and got a reply from a member of the Quakers who was converting to Catholicism, who told me that my post was very helpful in helping him understand things he was struggling with.

To be honest, I had never thought of the blog actually being useful before and it caused me to think that maybe it could be more than just quips on different topics. That comment was probably responsible for the direction the blog took.

The next big shift came with the visit of Benedict XVI to America. Prior to that time, my blog was strongly disrespectful of the American bishops. But when he came, and I saw how enthusiastically the bishops responded, I began to realize that I was wrong in assuming bad will and incompetence in their actions. From that time on it became clear that there were a lot of bishops who had wanted to do their mission well but were not sure how to do it. Oh sure a few still frustrated me (and a few still do), but this was a reminder that the bishops were the successors to the Apostles and not an enemy political faction.

The third big shift came about by discovering how illogical attacks on the Church could be, and realizing how I needed to study logic to aid in refutation of these attacks. (In the earliest years, I tended to often commit the fallacy of the undistributed middle (A is B and A is C, therefore B is C. Something that still embarrasses me today to remember).

Over the years, my blog had to cover many different topics in defense of the faith. Some fell off the radar because they did not cross my path after the first year or so (such as Protestant anti-Catholicism and the New Atheism brought on by the spate of books on the subject).

Others seemed to be minor issues but became extremely serious (I never expected that religious freedom would become so endangered here as it has without America becoming a dictatorship). I never expected to see the Supreme Court legitimize “same sex marriage” in such a high-handed manner.

Unfortunately, one topic which has not changed is the attack of radical traditionalism on the authority of the Church. Believe it or not, the same attacks they level against Pope Francis today, they leveled against St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI—accusing both of being modernists destroying the Church. Even back then, people were asking me why I wrote against this when the attacks against the Church by modernists and liberals were so much more serious. (My answer today is pretty close to what I would have said then: liberal dissent is not likely to deceive Catholics trying to be faithful, but radical traditionalist dissent can).

I guess over the years, my rhetoric has toned down some and I’ve gained a little more tact (and coherency).

While I never thought my blog would have lasted so long, I have to say I am glad I stuck with it


As a special bonus, in case you are interested, here is the text of my first blog entry from 9/22/2007 (which is no longer available elsewhere). It’s a bit embarrassing—because it is rambling and badly written—but you can see that my outlook on life that I approach in my blog with was present here in a less refined form.

[One word of explanation, to put things in context. The link (which I think is now a dead link) in the article below referenced a resolution by the City of San Francisco condemning the Catholic Church for her stand on homosexuality and the refusal to place children for adoption with same sex couples. That struck me as a violation of the establishment clause—though the Supreme Court would later tell us it was OK. That would be a warning that it was open season on the Catholic Church]

My First Post

I don't have anything to say yet, but Xanga I guess abhors a vacuum as much as nature does, as it won't leave me alone until I write this first post.  So here you go.  Hopefully a second post will actually sound intelligent

 <Sounds of laughter from the people who know me>

 I guess you can call me a cynic.  There are very few things that are worth all the effort people put into it.  Belief in God, Moral Values, Truth and raising a family... that matters, and I am not a cynic there.  Obsessing about a pop star and how long she stays in prison, who cares?  Unfortunately the media does, which is why I tend to be skeptical about their being the so-called "defenders of freedom."

 Truth does matter however, as I said, and I find it rather appalling that so many people out there will agree or disagree on a position based on how they feel about it rather than it is true.  We see politicians posturing on various issues and nobody has the sense to ask questions of the truth of an issue... "Yes... yes fine Mrs Clinton, we know you are committed to Choice, but do you think it is a child?  If No, what proof do you have, if I Don't Know, aren't you behaving as recklessly as a hunter who fires at movement into a bush without checking to see if it is a deer?"

 If I held my breath waiting for the mainstream media to ask that one, I'd die of asphyxia.  They're too busy reporting about Brittany Spears and her drug tests and the battle between Kae-West and 50 Cent.

 In spite of this, people have the gall to tell me I left my brain at the door when I became a practicing Catholic , and the Church is anti-freedom.  Not so.  My brain is clearly functional as I find the tripe that passes for news to in fact be tripe.  In fact, the Church taught me to use my brain and trusted me to find that what they taught was true. 

 As for freedom, I think St Thomas Aquinas put it best with explanations of just laws: the just person is free and the unjust are constrained.  While with an unjust law, it is the just who are constrained and the unjust are free.  Considering that the Freedom of Speech elitists who run the Newsrooms and the Campuses and pass the laws in fact shout down those who wish to stand up their moral beliefs and forbid them from doing what they believe, which kind of laws do we seem to have at the moment?

 I guess they forgot the First Amendment also protects the Freedom of Religion

 Amendment I

 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  When the Church is told to toe the line on adoptions to homosexual couples, give them Health Benefits and to distribute contraceptives (Catholic Hospitals) and a current candidate's former husband once tried to make it mandatory for Catholic Hospitals to administer abortions without a conscience clause, it's clear that the words of Abraham Lincoln were prophetic:

 Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.

 When we see actions like this:

 it seems that the idea of the Constitution can be interpreted to be as described by Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

 Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them - particularly verbs: they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs - however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

 'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

  So, it isn't a "denial of religious freedom" because we don't choose to call it that, it seems.  And then they wonder why people consider America to be an anti-Christian country.  Could it be because of Supreme Court decisions, a crucifix dipped in Urine is free speech but one on public land is unconstitutional?  Under the logic of the Supreme Court, the only way one can legally put a cross on public land is if you plan to burn it.

  So, anyway this has gone on long enough... 

<applause from the reader>

...but you understand why I am cynical about things perhaps.

2007-09-22 15:05:14 2007-09-22 19:05:14 open Publish post 617469354 firstpost