Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is It Religion That Makes Us Worse People?

Another individual recommended a blog to me asking whether religion does harm to people.  (In fairness, the blog author seemed to be asking "Is this true since I became a Christian?"  Not asserting it was true).  He gave this quote as a lead-in to the article:

"I have watched a good many atheists who were harmless, inoffensive people.  They committed a few adulteries or a little quiet pederasty and they were not to be trusted with unattended typewriters or valuable books, but, by and large, they were inoffensive.  Then they would start going to church and listening to the clink of thuribles and inhaling incense and suddenly they would acquire all those wonderful Christian virtues—bigotry, pride, intolerance, chronic anger, sexual dishonesty."

— Kenneth Rexroth, An Autobiographical Novel

The problem of course is the associating of these "Christian virtues" with Christianity, and not in the failing of the individual practicing it.

These are not Christian vices.  They are vices found in all men, whether Christian, Jew, Buddhist or even Atheist.

The thing is we notice them only when a person changes a world view.  When person X practices the same vices we do, but practices them with the same outlook as we have, we write it off as "That's how people are."

However, when a person changes his worldview, the vices he possesses has not gone anywhere, but are practiced in light of his new perspective those vices are no longer tolerable.  We hypocritically denounce them as being "caused" by this change.

Certainly the atheist can possess all of these "wonderful Christian virtues" as well.  They can be prideful that they "know better" than the believer.  They can be intolerant of the Christian who practices openly what he preaches.  They can be continually angry at the Christian who challenges them, and they can be sexually dishonest (the atheist may deny there are any binding sexual mores, but I think he would be quite upset if he found his wife in bed with another man).

It would of course be hypocrisy to look down on Christians for these vices when they are present in all.

I believe the common stereotype of Christians being judgmental comes not from their actual change for the worse, but because they are seeking to devote themselves to God, and that necessarily means a turning away from the old man who lived contrary to the way God willed.

This turning however does not mean we automatically lose our former behaviors.  I try to gentle myself because being a Christian means loving others, but that doesn't mean I automatically lost my exasperation with bad logic and unchallenged assumptions.  Rather, the target has changed.

[People who think I am arrogant or condescending now as a Christian would have probably liked me much less twenty years ago, when my focus was on politics.  It was the Christian faith which taught me that truth is not constrained in a party platform.]

I do believe the teachings of the Catholic faith have tempered me from the man I was before, teaching me not to confuse the error with the person who held them [that is: An idea may be idiotic, but that does not mean the person holding it is an idiot].

So I would say, no, religion does NOT make us worse people.  It is our refusing (or our inability) to die to ourselves that makes these vices noticeable in Christians.  However they are not "Christian" vices, but human vices.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fundamental Assumptions: Putting Second Things First

Parvus error in initio magnus erit in fine (Small Error in Beginning, Large [Error] will be in the end)

—St. Thomas Aquinas

Another blogger sent around a link to an individual who posted a book promoting an idea of a pure and unblemished Christianity free of "religion."  I responded to what I thought was wrong with the assumptions of the suggested book.

However after doing so, I began to ponder the nature of the fundamental assumptions people make about their claims.  Many of them go unquestioned, and the result is we put Second Things first.

The problem is our claims do need to be evaluated to be sure they are not the result of an unquestioned error.

Atheism vs. Theism

The atheist, for example, speaks out about religion being false, and goes through all these motions to debunk Christianity.  The problem is, the atheist is putting second things first.  The prime issue is what is the nature of man.  The atheist presumes Christianity cannot be true, and his explanations of what the nature of man is comes as an afterthought.

The issue is whether man is created or the result of a string of undirected results.  Whether he is to be a son of God by adoption or merely the direct descendant of pond scum.  The idea of what binds human rights or dignity or all the rest does hinge on this.  If man is nothing more than the end accident of undirected evolution, then there is no obligation to follow conscience, or to do anything which hinders oneself.

The atheist may argue "Well, we have these things as a survival instinct for the good of the herd."  However, if we think of it, this is not instinct.  It is not an innate urge like the desire for food or safety or sex.  Sometimes the pull of conscience compels us to do things which do not benefit the survival of the species. 

Standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square does not benefit the survival of the species.  The unwillingness of the tank column to drive over the individual does not ensure the survival of the species.  From a strict sense of "instinct," the man is behaving in a way detrimental to the "restoration of order" in a society.  We have had non-democratic societies longer than we have had democratic societies for example.  So if we are to view the idea of democracy and freedom as something desirable, the fundamental question is "why are some ideas worth dying for?"

This then is a fundamental question for the atheist: what is the nature of the human being and why is it required we champion the "Tank Man" or Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. and not Hitler or Stalin or the British colonial system or the society of segregation?

Ant colonies take slaves.  If man is merely following instinct, then why is it wrong for humans to do so?  Why do we assume that the idea of human rights is not some sort of aberration against the norm if man is acting on instinct and not something outside and above him?

It is not enough for the atheist to say "I don't believe in God."  He needs to say what he believes IN, so we can assess his claims and see what basis he makes it on.

The Assumptions within "Bible Only"

Whatever did the first Christians do?  They had the Jewish Scriptures which promised a Messiah, and they had these twelve men going about preaching that a man who claimed to be a messiah and was executed was in fact raised from the dead.  The first Gospels were not written until about 30 years after the death of Jesus… with the Gospel of John believed to be written some 60 years after the crucifixion.  Letters were written of course, admonishing the communities to heed the teachings they passed on.

So how did we get from this to an idea that the Bible alone is sufficient?  Does anyone see the strong paradox in insisting the only thing which is binding is a canon that which came into existence at the end of the fourth century, when the Church declared that only certain writings would be permitted to be read in Church?

The claims of "Bible Only" have to address a more fundamental question: On what authority does one claim that the Bible alone is binding?  Is it because of God's decree that it is so?  If so, where is this decree?  Is it because of people reading the Bible and thinking it contradicted the teaching of the Church?  Arians (who claimed Christ was the first creature made by God) and Modalists (who claimed that "Father, Son and Spirit" were merely roles played by God) thought Scripture contradicted the Church teaching.  Yet even "Bible Alone" Christians believe in the Trinity and exclude those groups who do not accept the Trinity from being considered Christian.

A look at Christianity from the beginning does not show a group of separated communities who all believe in God and the Bible.  They show one Church in many locations, adhering to the faith passed on by the Apostles. 

So, "The Bible Alone" argument is putting a second thing first.

So the Fundamental Question to be asked is: If the "Bible alone" was the original belief of Christians, where is this belief in the "Bible alone" without religion taught among the earliest Christians?

Because if the "Bible Alone" wasn't a belief of the early Christians, it is a later innovation, and we do need to follow the belief of those first Christians if we would be faithful to Christ.

The Issue of Abortion

The promoters of abortion speak a great deal about "choice."  However, it is a great deal similar to the cry of "State's Rights" during the Civil War.  The State's right to do what?  (Keep slaves if they chose).  The right to choose what?  (To abort a child).

The issue of choice and a woman's right to control her fertility are putting second things first.

The fundamental issue is, what is the nature of the fetus they wish to abort.  Either it is a human person or it is not.  Christians who recognize the evil of abortion have answered the fundamental question.  Those who rally for "choice" do not… indeed they either evade the issue ("I don't want to force my views on others.") or they argue their conclusion ("it's a blob of tissue") without providing any proofs for their claim.

Before a nation can sanction abortion, it must ask the fundamental question.

The Response of the Christian

In all of these examples, and in many more the important thing is not to permit the individual to put second things first.  We must continue to ask the fundamental questions, and so long as they remain unanswered we ought not to permit it to go forward.  (It may go forward despite of us, but it never should go forward with our consent).

The world may ask us "Why are you opposed to X?" putting a second thing first.  The answer is we are not opposed to X.  We are opposed to their unspoken but fundamental assumption which leads them to their slogans.

Now the proponent of these things may not answer of course.  However, once we recognize the fact they cannot or will not answer, the questions they do ask become devoid of power.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Myth of "Imposing Beliefs"

I had a run-in with an atheist the other day.  This one tried to defend her anti-Christianism with the claim that Christians try to impose their beliefs on others.  Using the issue of abortion, she argued that the Christian seeking to oppose abortion is trying to impose their beliefs on others and should not be doing so.

The irony was her own argument was in fact an imposition of her own beliefs on others.

The Example of Abortion

I don't intend this to be an article on abortion per se, but the issue was the one raised in challenge to me and it does indeed help bring home the issue of "imposing beliefs."

Abortion being acceptable or evil is not a matter of opinion.  it is a matter of studying the reality of the matter and making a decision on those facts.

The Christian who believes abortion is wrong does not do so because "God says so," but because they believe that the unborn child is a human person, and to arbitrarily end an innocent human life (the unborn child is not an aggressor, as some would argue) at the whim of an individual is to be condemned.  Under this view, to tolerate abortion is to tolerate the right of one person to kill another arbitrarily for reasons of expedience or hardship.

The person who argues abortion should be allowed has to recognize this fact and also to define where their own view is coming from.  The Euphemism of "reproductive freedom" and the slogan of "every child a wanted child" ignores the fact that whether abortion should be allowed or not is not based on "the rights of the mother" but on the issue whether the unborn child is alive.

The pro-life movement has set forth many proofs for the supporting the view the unborn child is alive.  Now, if the Pro-abortion individual wishes to challenge it, a mere denial is not enough, they have to show where the error is and issue their own justifications for their own rule.

Peter Kreeft's "Quadrilemma"

Philosopher Peter Kreeft has discussed what he terms a "quadrilemma" over the abortion issue.  There are four possible choices when it comes to the action of abortion:

  1. The unborn is not a human life and we know this to be true
  2. The unborn is a human life and we know this to be true
  3. The unborn is a human life and we do not know this to be true
  4. The unborn is not a human life and we do not know this to be true

This is an issue where there are two considerations: Whether the unborn is alive or not and whether we know it or not.  The first consideration is objective: Either the unborn child is alive or it is not.  The second consideration is whether or not we are able to know this truth.

In Situation 1, if the unborn is not a human life and we can demonstrate this to be true then of course there would be no problems with abortion.  Of course this would have to be established to be true.

In Situation 2, if the unborn is a human life and we can demonstrate it to be true (which seems to be done quite effectively) then there can be no question that abortion must be opposed and those who would support abortion would be guilty of advocating Infanticide.

In Situations 3 and 4, we must err on the side of caution until such a time we can determine what is true.  Otherwise our actions are like a hunter firing blindly into motion in a bust without knowing what it is.  It might be a deer… or it might be a child playing in the bushes.

If the hunter shoots, and the unidentified noise in the bushes is a child, the hunter is guilty of homicide through gross negligence.  If it is a deer, it does not excuse his action.  He was lucky in his gross negligence, but that does not excuse the fact that he did not know what his target was.

In these four choices, applied to abortion, only Situation #1 makes abortion tolerable whether legally or morally.  Situation #2 makes it morally obligatory to oppose abortion as a crime of enormous magnitude.  People who claim we cannot know whether the Child is a human life or not (Situations #3 and 4) must either oppose abortion out of caution or be guilty of grossly reckless behavior.

So ultimately this means that the advocate of abortion needs to prove their point that the unborn child is not a human person.

The abortion advocate may protest here that they are being asked to prove a negative.  However, this is their own argument they make and therefore it is up to them to prove the argument they make. Their poor choice of a claim to defend does not take from them the obligation to establish it to be true.

How This Applies to "Imposing Beliefs"

The individual who invokes the claim of "imposing beliefs" themselves impose their own beliefs.  They disagree with Christian teaching, which is their right under the concept of free will.  However, their disagreement does not mean the Christian teachings are not true.

Ultimately, what is true is what is to be imposed because it is reality.  Claiming it is imposing beliefs is like saying a sign saying "Danger" in front of a cliff is imposing a belief that it is in fact dangerous to step off of the edge.

Christianity has been demonstrating why certain actions must be opposed for two thousand years.  Doubtlessly some will disagree with these teachings.  However, it is not enough to say "I disagree!"  If society is to follow their claims over those of Christianity, then let them demonstrate their claims to be true.  Let us examine them to make sure there are no holes in the argument, no errors which could lead society to its own destruction.

It is only when we arbitrarily insist on a way without justification that we are imposing the will on others.

Yet this is what secularism does now.  It says "We can't know Christianity is true, so we don't have to listen to it."

Yet Kreeft's quadrilemma is present here too.  It is either true or false and we can either know or not know that fact.  The Christian claims "this is true" and gives basis for their claims.  The secularist, the relativist, the atheist all say "I don't agree this is true," but give no real basis to justify their claims (one of my dislikes in reading atheistic apologetics is seeing how bad their reason and logic actually are).

Now, if one side says "This is true" and offers a reasoned argument for their beliefs while the other side says "I disagree" but provides no such argument for their own side, which one is guilty of "imposing beliefs?"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kmiec Fundamentally Misses the Point

Source: - Catholic, pro-life, pro-Obama

(Previous writings on Kmiec can be found HERE)

Doug Kmiec may indeed believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.  He may even believe himself to be pro-life.  However, in this interview with the Times of Malta, Doug Kmiec shows he is profoundly missing the point about what it means to faithfully carry out the teachings of the Church.

The article tells us of Kmiec's experience:

Prof. Kmiec was invited to a meeting in Chicago of faith leaders, where many people were opposed to Mr Obama on several matters "including myself on the question of how the life issue should be handled".

He says Obama opened this meeting in a remarkable way, saying: "Alright, give me as good as you've got. Give me your best arguments. I know there is disagreement but I want to see whether there is source for common ground."

By the end of the meeting, Prof. Kmiec says, everyone realised that this was a man of humility, great intelligence and capable of listening.

"These were qualities I believed were much need in America in the Oval Office. I believe I saw some of those same qualities in Ronald Reagan in a different time, with a different emphasis," he says.

Even though there were areas of disagreement, Mr Obama pointed out the responsibility of government to provide a family wage, to care for the environment and to provide healthcare for the uninsured.

"When I thought about all these things, I thought 'this is my catechism come to life' because we are called to each of these things in the social teachings of the Church."

I would like to point out Kmiec's fatal flaw here.  The fact that Obama may have some ideas on health care and family wages which are similar to the Catholic teaching (we can validly dispute that his ways are the right ways of course) does not mean Obama the candidate holds the Catholic position.

The Catholic Church has consistently taught that it is the right to life which is fundamental here… that if the right to life is neglected, these other rights are meaningless and can be easily taken away.  Obama may use rhetoric which sounds nice, but his deeds are something else altogether.

Another area he fundamentally misses the role of government comes here:

He recalls how he told Mr Obama during the campaign: "How can you allow someone to terminate another person's life? What moral authority do you have for that?"

Mr Obama replied: "Well, professor, not everyone sees life beginning in the same way. The Methodists see it differently, the Jewish faith in part sees it differently." And he went through the list, Presbyterians and so forth.

"If I am elected President," he told Prof. Kmiec, "I am President of all these people."

It's a nice platitude, but when one thinks of it, it is not only worthless but dangerous.  Let us envision a nation which consists of a large Nazi minority and a large Stalinist minority.  Under the platitude Obama offered Kmiec, a president of such a country would have to tolerate their views as well, even if those views brought harm to another.

The fact is some beliefs are not only wrong but evil, and the fact that people support them does not give the political leader the right to tolerate that evil.  If Obama does believe that abortion is evil, then he has a moral obligation to oppose that evil.

Truth is not decided by vox populi vox dei ("The voice of the people is the voice of God").  If one man imposes a just law, it is to be followed even if 99% of the population dissent.  If 99% of the population support an evil law, it remains no law and must be opposed.

Obama's failure to recognize this is his failure as a leader.  Kmiec's failure to recognize the falsity of the statement is a failure in understanding Catholic teaching.

A third fundamental failure on the part of Kmiec comes from this telling bit:

Prof. Kmiec says Mr Obama told him that he views abortion as "a moral tragedy" and that there were two ways of addressing it. There is the law in which people who involved themselves in this procedure would be subject to a penalty. The Supreme Court has put that off limits.

The other way is to do something about it and look at what causes people to have an abortion.

Mr Obama asked Prof. Kmiec: "What would cause a mother to contemplate taking the life of a child? It has to be something awful. It has to be a woman without shelter, without insurance, without the next meal on the table."

Prof. Kmiec admits that this approach to abortion is not the ideal solution, saying that poverty or not being married is no excuse to take the life of a child. However, he believes one should be realistic about the problem and if the abortion rate could be reduced - and some studies point out that tackling poverty could lead to fewer abortions - "this seems to me a good interim step".

This is the false dilemma which Kmiec employed during the campaign.  In arguing that neither candidate was "really" pro-life, he portrayed pro-lifers as solely working to end Roe v. Wade and tried to contrast that as a futile gesture compared to the Obama way.

The problem is that pro-lifers aware of Church teaching recognized that we must do both: oppose the legal sanction of abortion and support those in crisis pregnancies.  Obama's policies are like supporting a campaign to reduce teenage drunk driving… and then lowering the drinking age to sixteen.

His policies of economic support have yet to work, but the work for life is continually being weakened by the Obama administration.  Conscience protection is gone, under the promise to be "replaced with a better one."  Catholic Hospitals have felt the beginning of coercion to permit contraceptive and abortifacient procedures.

This then is Kmiec's problem.  He believes Obama will do more for life, but his assumptions are based on a fundamentally flawed view of what the Church requires.

Reflections on the Feast of St. Matthew

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.  He said to him, “Follow me.”  And he got up and followed him.  While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.  The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:9-13

I think among Christians there are two tendencies which go against the teaching of Christ and need to be opposed.  One is the tendency to say "This person is a sinner and therefore his conversion is a sham and we should shun him."  The other is to say "I have accepted Jesus as my personal savior — so it doesn't matter what I do otherwise."

"This Person is a sinner"

Of course we need to recognize that all persons are sinners, and so are we.  All of us have sins we are struggling with, and all of us need to look at our brethren with that in mind: The Lord has been merciful to us, and so we must do this as well in our consideration of others.  The sinner who realizes he is a sinner seeks out God to repent.  The self righteous one focuses on the sins of others and does not consider how his own actions appear before God.

Matthew, as a Tax Collector, would have had a reputation among the Jews as a quisling or collaborator.  He was enriching himself working for the conqueror in exploiting the conquered.  Jesus called him, and he left what he had… probably a lucrative position… and followed Jesus.

Yet because of what he was, some held it against him all the same.  He had collaborated and therefore he was an outcast forever and always.  Jesus recognized that the sick need the physician, but some would argue that anyone who has ever been ill were not welcome.  Such a view ignores the fact that the one judging is behaving in a way contrary to the words of God.  If we do not have mercy towards our fellow man, our acts of sacrifice are meaningless.  As St. John has said (1 John 4:20-21):

20 If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

"I have accepted Jesus as my personal savior — so it doesn't matter what I do otherwise."

This is often stereotyped as the "Once Saved Always Saved" (OSAS) position, but it is more than that.  One of the most common errors in America is to claim that Public Figure X has done great things, so certain "little things" called sin doesn't matter.

When Jesus calls us, He does indeed call us from where we are.  However, we are not to remain where we are.  If we are great sinners, we are to turn away from the lifestyle that alienated us from God to begin with.  The college student dabbling in drugs and premarital sex, the businessman making use of unethical business practices, the prostitute selling her body on the streets, the politician advocating laws which were contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Church… we cannot seek to justify our sins by pointing to something "Good" we have done as balancing out the evil done.

Jesus told us (in Luke 17):

7 “Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

In doing good, we do not "buy Heaven."  In accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are not "owed salvation."  We are obligated to do these things, and in doing them, we are "unworthy servants."

What good we do does not "balance out" the evil done and permit us to do evil so long as we have done good… or accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord.  The Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia) means "change of mind or heart, repentance, regret."

The Proper Mindset

Moreover these two mentalities can often run together.  We forget our own sins, and assume that our conversion or our charitable actions give us a large bank balance with God against these things.  However we refuse to consider that others might be in the same boat as us and judge them unworthy.

In the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, the three elements necessary for forgiveness are:

  1. Sorrow for our sins
  2. Admission of our guilt
  3. A firm resolve to avoid further evil and turning to good

If we are not sorry for our sins ("I slept with my girlfriend last night and don't regret it"), if we will not admit our guilt ("This isn't a sin!  the Church is just wrong on this issue!"), if we will not resolve to change our lives to live for Christ, rejecting evil in our lives ("So I voted for an abortion law… so what? I work for the poor") we are not followers of Christ but self-righteous men who will not accept the call of Jesus "Come follow me."

The Pharisaical mentality tends to ignore #2 and possibly #1 as well.  It focuses on the sins of others.   The view of the "What I did is enough" mentality ignores #3 and sometimes #2.

If we are not sorry for what we have done, if we will not admit we are sinners in need of the mercy of God how can the Love of God reach us, the God who calls us to be sorry for what we have done, to confess our guilt and do our best to avoid sin in the future becomes a God we can choose to ignore when it is inconvenient.

We then stroke our own egos and congratulate ourselves as the Pharisee did in Luke 18:

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We congratulate ourselves for our pious deeds or our accepting Jesus as our personal savior, but we forget the crucial part.  The Pharisee was not wrong for fasting and giving tithes or for believing in God.  However he was wrong in assuming there was nothing wrong with his own life while standing in judgment of the Tax Collector who at least knew he was a sinner and wanted to change.

This does not mean we should accept evil of course.  When our brother errs, we do need to offer correction.  But it does mean we ought not to judge ourselves righteous in comparison to the world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Absence of Reason and Logic: Reflections on an Article Advocating Legalizing Prostitution

On the control panel of the Xanga site, I get little notifications of so and so recommended article X by blogger Y.  One of these recommendations was on an article written advocating women having the right to be prostitutes.  I have no idea why this article was recommended, because the argument put forth is a poor one.

Reading through this I am reminded of the maxim of St. Thomas Aquinas: Parvus error in initio magnus erit in fine (Small error in the beginning; large (error) will be in the end).

This article starts out by saying: I've never met a prostitute, spoke to one, nor can I really say have I ever seen one.  This is an indication that whatever she is basing her beliefs on, it is not founded on the actual experience of the prostitute, neither the type taking part in the illegal type or the legal type.

This is a warning right off the bat that there is no reason in this sort of statement.  If I think that prison guards should "be trained differently so as not be so harsh" but have no concept of the experience of the prison guard (whether from hearing from them personally or studying about them) then on what basis does the opinion have any credibility?

The article claims:

Why it's illegal sometimes baffles me. The men up in higher places who make the laws do business with these girls sometimes. I think the reason why it's illegal is mainly based on moral code. Christians seem to forget a lady named Mary Magdalene and what her occupation was. Some of these girls that are prostitutes are at the lowest point of their lives just trying to keep some kind of shelter and food over their heads. Some are addicts and some just don't know any better way to get by due to a lack of education and bad childhood.

There are several errors here, both logical and factual.

The factual error first, to avoid being distracted on a red herring, Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, though some Christians made the connection from two incidents which have similarities.  The term "Magdelines" comes from this misunderstanding.

Now on to the logical errors:

Why it's illegal sometimes baffles me.

This is a form of an Argument from Silence.  If "I" can't think of a reason, there must not be one.  GK Chesterton however pointed out the problem with this form of thinking:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good idea for somebody. And until we know what that reason was, we cannot judge whether that reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

I think the bolded parts of this quote are especially relevant.  To argue that because one can't see the use of it therefore we must end it is the height of reckless folly.  Let those who would seek to allow the legalization of prostitution show they understand why it was declared illegal before we allow them to dismantle what was before.

"The men up in higher places who make the laws do business with these girls sometimes."

This is a tu quoque fallacy.  Whether or not some men who make laws make use of prostitutes is of no relevance on whether or not prostitution is illegal.  Some lawmakers who make laws on bribery accept bribes.  Should bribery then be legalized?  Or does it mean some lawmakers are hypocrites?  Hypocrisy on the part of some lawmakers is not a valid reason to negate a law.

"I think the reason why it's illegal is mainly based on moral code. Christians seem to forget a lady named Mary Magdalene and what her occupation was."

This is a false comparison.  The woman did not remain a prostitute.  Christ forgave sinners, but also admonished them to "go and sin no more."  Indeed the work of the Church with "Magdelines" was to help them escape from this lifestyle, and find a more decent lifestyle.

"Some of these girls that are prostitutes are at the lowest point of their lives just trying to keep some kind of shelter and food over their heads. Some are addicts and some just don't know any better way to get by due to a lack of education and bad childhood"

So what we have then are women exploited due to their desperate circumstances, whether poverty, addiction, lack of education or whatever.  Under the author's proposal, the women may now be legally exploited.

Legalizing prostitution will not help these women.  Helping them overcome their lack of education, addictions and poverty so they are not forced into this sort of lifestyle out of desperation will.

The author goes on to say:

I think the state of Nevada does a pretty decent job with the legalization of prostitutes. The kind of person who wants to purchase and the type of person selling is going to be far different from the normal person like me or you. If we provide safety and regulation it makes the "profession" cleaner and maybe not so "wrong".

The first sentence is an opinion and needs to be measured against the reality to see if it is reasoned or uninformed.  The women who are prostitutes there are generally the same type as those who practice illegally.  What the state has done is merely say "pass health tests and don't walk the streets."  However, this has not eliminated illegal prostitution.  Rather it has given sanction to certain pimps to operate legally for paying a fee.  Women receive no benefits, pay half of their take to the brothel (more, as a cab driver's bonus comes out of the woman's cut as well).  In the meantime, illegal "escort services" and child prostitution abound.  Legalization then only benefits some pimps and the women they hire.  It has no bearing on other woman unable or unwilling to enter into the brothel system.

Another item of concern, is whether legalization does improve the plight of these women or whether it makes exploitation easier.  Las Vegas has been identified as one of the top 17 places where sexual trafficking takes place.  This speaks against the "safer and cleaner" argument.  Safer for the "John" perhaps.  Not safer for the women.  Making it "not so 'wrong'" has done nothing to help these women.

The author continues:

Sure, we strive for our little girls to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, mothers, and ladies in the church choir. There will always be one girl that rebels, and we have to defend her right to make ends meet.

Or, to apply an Absurdum ad reductio, we could make the same argument that we have to defend their right to be a drug pusher.  A girl who rebels to do something illegal does not justify making that thing legal. 

The author finishes by saying:

Maybe we should focus our attention on making it a right to be a prostitute, but educate girls about the harms (mentally, socially, etc) and get these girls on a better track to greener pastures. If we are in a country where right now women have the right to abort their unborn, shouldn't women have the right to sell their bodies if they want?

Such is certainly the self-destructive legacy of Roe v. Wade.  Because society argues that a woman has the right to kill an unborn child, there is little reason for them to oppose other actions.  However, the fact something is legal does not make it right.  Once upon a time, slavery was legal and logical questions could be asked  based on the assumption that a slave was not a person.  However, if that premise was false, the conclusions would be too.

Likewise, if abortion was wrongly legalized, conclusions based on that legalization are necessarily false.

As to the statement itself, it does not support a point for legalizing prostitution.  Educating prostitutes to change their lifestyle does not need to be done in the context of legalization (her argument here is a non sequitur).  Legalization seems more likely to keep women in the lifestyle, not move on to "greener pastures."

This article shows the truth of the maxim  Parvus error in initio magnus erit in fine (Small error in the beginning; large (error) will be in the end).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Partisanship

Partisan is defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as "a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person."  However, in terms of the modern usage, "partisanship" is used to accuse the other side of not being objective.

The implication is that the person who is a strong supporter of the wrong cause can't be objective or he or she would be agreeing with us.  The irony is the the person who uses the accusation of partisanship is often guilty of this in themselves.

So how does one avoid partisanship?  Ultimately the way we do this is to recognize that our loyalty to a party, to a cause or to a person can only be carried out to the extent that it or he promotes the truth. 

Ask yourself this.  Would you rather vote for a candidate who holds views directly condemned by your religious beliefs than to vote for a candidate of the other party?

If the answer is yes, then this is an example of partisanship.

Would you condemn something which was done by the other party, but tolerate the same thing when done by your own party, because it is "theirs" or "yours"?

This too is partisanship in the wrong sense of the world.

Now we have to clarify things here.  I am not talking about indifferentism.  I am not saying we need to consider all views equally valid.  There is a strong streak of relativism out there denying that there is any objective truth.  We do need to challenge what is wrong.  But the question is does one wish to deny others the right to protest while their own cause makes use of protests?  Does one think the police should lock up "them" but thinks they should be lenient with "us"… for the same action?

Truth should be everyone's goal.  We ought not to assume that an action is good or bad based on the party or cause which promotes it.  We should remember that what matters is if the action is based on truth or not.

Truth is objective: To say of what is that it is, and of that which is not, say it is not (to paraphrase Aristotle).  Yet all too often we hide simple truths in weasel words and evasions.  We don't say "killing the unborn."  They don't even like to say "abortion."  So they say "a woman's right to control her fertility."

This is not saying of what is.  It is trying to avoid saying what is.  Partisanship often comes into play here.  if the party or cause of our choice is at odds with what is true, we try to reframe it in a way favorable to us… but at the expense of truth.

Conversely, accusing a person of partisanship is wrong when it says that which is not, is or if it says that which is, is not.

There are many cases of Catholic bishops speaking out on moral issues today.  Yet they are often attacked as doing so in support of a political cause.  Are their accusers saying what is or are they saying that which is not, is?

The Catholic Church has always opposed abortion, has always been concerned with the innocent person in the world victimized.  In doing so, she must at times stand up against a world leader or a nation and say "This is wrong."

Yet when she does so, she is often accused of siding with the opponents of this leader or nation.

This is the fallacy of bifurcation.  To say something is either one thing or another ignores the possibility of a third position.  To argue that either Bishops support Obama or they are Partisan ignores the view that they oppose Obama due to their obligations to teach the moral obligations of the faith.

The world may want the Church to speak in rigid categories of either A or B.  However if neither A nor B is compatible with the Church view, the Church must say of what is that it is,  or of that which is not that it is not, without concern over whether the Party in power agrees or disagrees.

Another issue is that of confusing real issues with ways and means.  There is no political party in America which holds the view of "let the poor die hungry and without medical care."  However, our political parties do indeed argue of the ways and means of helping the poor.  One is not obligated to support one party platform to "help the poor."  It may be both parties can be wrong on an issue, in which case the believer needs to challenge the parties to change their way of thinking.

During the election season, some bishops were accused of partisanship for daring to associate one party with abortion.  After all, the other party "wasn't really pro life."  However, when one looks at the issue, one party had some members who supported abortion and some who wanted the issue to go away and a large portion saying it should be limited or illegal.  The other party publicly proclaimed abortion as a right to be defended.

To say what is, one would have to say one party has a divided view of life issues, but at this time generally opposes abortion.  The other openly sanctions abortion.

To say that the opposing of a party which openly sanctions abortion is "partisan," is to say of what is not that it is.

With Obama in the White House, there are many arguing over whether he is good or bad.  The answer is not to be defined by party lines and votes, but by the Law of God.  Where Obama does which is compatible with the Law of God, it is legitimate rule.  However, where his actions are incompatible with the rule of God, it is no law (as Thomas Aquinas said) and must be opposed.

We've now come to our ultimate consideration.  When Obama or Bush or Clinton does something, our first consideration should be over whether or not it is a good action.

If it is a good action (compatible with God's law), then there is no issue, and we ought not to oppose it, whether it comes from our own party or the other.

If it is not a good action, then we need to consider whether it is an indifferent action or a bad action.

If it is an indifferent action (one where specific behavior is not obligated under moral theology to act or not act), we are free to oppose or leave it be as we see fit.

However, if it is a bad action, we are not free to support it or leave it be, but must oppose it.

Moreover, we must oppose it regardless of whether this action comes from our own party or the other party.

If we only act based on our own political affiliation and set aside our own beliefs, we are not followers of the truth, but merely partisans.

More Reflections on Logic: "It's Just an Opinion"?

As for the fallacy, this is simply an opinion, not a debate; Forensic Rules are not in place and throwing out logical fallacies becomes tiring very quickly. I am just as entitled to an opinion as the protesters.

—Comment from an objection to a statement I made on a logical fallacy


Comments like this show the problems with reasoning in modern society.  Because something is said to be an opinion we can ignore the rules of logic.  The problem is, we cannot.  If I should say, for example, I was of the opinion that Obama was promoting certain programs because he would want to promote socialism in America, and because he is a Socialist he promotes these programs this would indeed an opinion.

It would also be the fallacy of Begging the Question.  My reasoning would be muddled using two opinions as proof of each other when both need to be proven.  Any person reading what I advocated would be able to say "This guy is pretty irrational, and his opinions lack any reasonable basis."

Unfortunately, people no longer consider whether what is said has basis of truth for it.  We see slogans like "Bush Lied, Kids Died" or "Guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people" or "It's the economy, stupid" and accept it as true without considering "IS it true?"

Opinions are always opinions about something.  This means that their accuracy is based on how well they conform to the facts.  If I am of the opinion that the Sky is green, it is an opinion of the color of the sky.  However, if the sky is not green, my opinion is based on an error of fact.

Likewise, if I were to argue that "Hitler restored National pride to Germany, made the economy stronger and restored security after the chaos of the 1920s, therefore he was a good leader." I would be making an opinion about the nature of Hitler's regime.  However, that opinion would have to be measured up against the facts of the regime.  A person objecting to my opinion could (justly) point to the Holocaust and the Aggressions of Germany leading to war to argue (very justly) Hitler was NOT a good leader for the country.

To argue something is "good" or "bad" is not merely an opinion (though today we tend to use it when we mean we approve or disapprove of something).  It is, from a theological perspective, a statement of fact.

Today we view "good" to mean "to be desired or approved of; pleasing."  However, properly used, good should be understood to mean "that which is morally right; righteousness."

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote on good leadership, saying:

I answer that, as stated above (Q[90], A[1], ad 2; [1992]AA[3],4), a law is nothing else than a dictate of reason in the ruler by whom his subjects are governed. Now the virtue of any subordinate thing consists in its being well subordinated to that by which it is regulated: thus we see that the virtue of the irascible and concupiscible faculties consists in their being obedient to reason; and accordingly "the virtue of every subject consists in his being well subjected to his ruler," as the Philosopher says (Polit. i). But every law aims at being obeyed by those who are subject to it. Consequently it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is "that which makes its subject good," it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in some particular respect. For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good simply. If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply, but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end.

(Summa Theologica I-II Q 92. A1)

If we keep something like this in mind, we can realize that when offering opinions on whether something is Good or not Good, it has to have some basis in fact if it is to be a reasonable opinion.

Therefore we can see the problem with the claim of "Well, that's just your opinion."  The question remains however: On what basis does one hold an opinion?

  1. If I hold an opinion which is logically sound and supported by the facts, it is an opinion which is justified.
  2. if I hold an opinion which has no basis other than my own preference, it is an uninformed opinion.
  3. If I hold an opinion which is illogical and runs against the facts, the opinion is wrongly formed.

However, we tend to throw around the phrase "Well that's just your opinion" as a negation, a denial of absolute truth.  If I make an argument as to why something is wrong, and the rebuttal is "That's just your opinion," the rebuttal fails to rebut.  It just says "I disagree but have no basis for it other than what I like."

The problem is, if everything is just "an opinion," then my opposition to slavery, to racism and to genocide is "just my opinion," and who am I to push it on others who think it is a good thing?

We can see the problem of ignoring logic and seeking to use "opinion" as a word to either protect one's own view from scrutiny or to deny another's statement without proving it to be false.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Muddled Thinking and The Need For Reason

Writing a blog and scanning the news of the world for things to write on, one often comes across examples of muddled thinking.  A problematic assumption is grasped and the individual then reaches a conclusion which does not work but because the assumption is not investigated, the flaws in the conclusion are not considered.

Then we have the gall to claim the Law of Unintended Consequences when the plan goes awry: that any purposeful action will produce some unanticipated or unintended consequences.  Now of course some things cannot be anticipated based on a lack of knowledge which cannot be corrected through study (invincible ignorance).  However, other things can indeed be learned of through study, common sense and observation of the Natural Law.  In those cases, "unintended consequences" are due to negligence and could be avoided with the proper consideration.

The state of the West today is certainly one resulting from negligence.  We started by questioning whether man could know absolute truths.  Now, there is nothing to appeal to to tell people not to do things we find repugnant.  This is because the problematic assumption "we cannot know absolute truths" was accepted by a large portion of the population without considering whether or not it is true.

(The fault in the assumption shown in the example, by the way, is it is self-contradictory: An absolute statement that one cannot know absolutes).

In the political arena today, we see this muddled thinking.

  1. The person I disagree with opposes this view because he is partisan
  2. Therefore we can negate what they say

The problem is, we have muddled thinking in premise one.  The first statement holds an enthymeme (an unspoken assumption) which is: "My view is correct and any opposition must be done as partisanship, not as real truth."

When the enthymeme is recognized, the argument becomes:

  1. My view is correct and any opposition must be done as partisanship instead of from any true concern.
  2. Person X disagrees with me
  3. Therefore person X is partisan.

The muddled thinking here is the assumption one has the correct view of what their opponent is thinking.  However, if the person does not have the motive ascribed, the argument becomes false.

Take for example the Catholic bishops in America who have taken a public stand on Obama and his approval of abortion rights.  The assumption is they are opposing Obama because of political issues (the enthymeme is that abortion is a political issue), and therefore their motivation is partisan and can be discounted.

The problem is the Catholic Church has taught abortion was evil as far back as the first century, long before the presidency of Obama, or of Roe v. Wade, or the existence of the Democratic Party, or the existence of the United States of America.  The Church believes that human life is human life from the time of conception.

From this the argument can be made:

  1. The human life of a person begins at the moment of conception
  2. Abortion ends the existence of a person after conception
  3. Therefore abortion ends a human life

Because the Church does hold this, it means it must oppose any politician or political party which acts contrary to this understanding of life.  It does not matter what the affiliation of the party.  if the party or government promotes the ability of another to end a human life freely, the party or government must be opposed.  It would be muddled thinking then to assume that the opposition to a government is based on partisan reasons.

Because of this, when analyzing claims made, we need to start with the question of what is true.  If a claim is made, we need to look at it from the perspective of exploring whether or not it is true, and whether the conclusions made from that assumption logically follow.  If the assumption is false, or the conclusion does not logically follow from the assumption, the end result is error.

I believe that for the Christian, we need to consider that if we believe the teaching of Christ and the teaching about Christ is true, we need to see the logical conclusions of that belief.

CS Lewis once created the famous dilemma: Aut Deus aut homo malus.  (Either God or a bad man).

The assumption is a person claiming to be God cannot be a merely good man.  Either Christ was speaking the truth or he was not.  If he was not speaking the truth, the consequences are either He was deluded or He was lying (famously summed up as "Liar, Lunatic or Lord.")

If He was lying or deranged, then his words lack the authority to bind anyone.  However if he is God, then what He says has complete relevance over our lives.

Yet many people choose the most illogical option: That he was a wise man who taught a philosophy about being nice to each other.  To do this, they must choose certain words they agree with and ignore the ones which require changes to behavior.  This makes the teaching about Christ and the teaching by Christ superfluous.  If it agrees with what one already believes it is unnecessary.  If it contradicts, it is wrong (or "added later.")

This is muddled thinking again.  It moves the focus away from God and towards the self.  What God teaches is reduced in comparison to "This is what I would do if I were God…"

To return to the main point, the belief there is an absolute truth and the denial of there being an absolute truth are the two roads to take.  Either one requires proof for their claims.  Christianity has provided 2,000 years of explanations as to why there is an absolute truth.  One is free to reject this of course, but then they need to provide justification for their own assumption.

Unfortunately this is not done.  This assumption is made from the faulty reasoning that: "I disagree with there being an absolute truth.  Therefore there is none.  Prove me wrong."  The fact that one disagrees with arguments from the Christian perspective neither proves them wrong nor the opposite right.

Yet this assumption goes unchallenged in the West nowadays.

To see the end results of this faulty assumption, we need only to pick up a newspaper.

Nobody should just blindly accept a statement is fact unless it is established to be true or that the one making the statement is reliable as being knowledgeable on the subject.  If one wishes to challenge the view of another, let it not be made on an unquestioned assumption, but on a well reasoned exploration of what we know to be true.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reflections on the Readings for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Source: USCCB - (NAB) - September 13, 2009

The readings this week seem to speak strongly about what it means when we go through hardships. In modern times, we tend to support a gospel of prosperity. When things are good, it means God is with us. When things are hard, we think God has “abandoned” us.

However the readings this week tell us otherwise. In the first reading we read of Isaiah speaking of the hardships he is undergoing. He does not speak of God as having left him in hard times. Rather he accepts the sufferings he is going through because he knows God is with him, and he will not be put to shame ultimately because he is doing God’s will and God will uphold him.

The second reading speaks of the consequences of knowing this. It is not enough to say “I believe in God.” What are we doing to show we believe in God. If we believe in God and believe He is who He says He is, then we need to put that faith in the center of our life, and to produce works that shows Christ is the center of our lives. Not just say “Sure I believe in God” but only behave this way for an hour on Sundays yet live the rest of the week as if our faith had no right to intrude.

The Gospel reading shows us of how easy it is to fall into the “If God is with me all will go well” form of thinking. The Apostles see truthfully that Jesus is the Christ. However, they have the mindset of “If God is with us, all will go well with us.” So when Jesus speaks of the suffering Messiah, Peter objects. It is not how he thinks it should be. So Jesus reprimands him, saying “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

In the world today, the move is away from God and towards the self. We think that God is supposed to provide for our physical needs and forget that the ultimate state of our soul is what matters. The world may hate us for speaking out and acting according to our beliefs. However, when a man of the world does us wrong because we live according to our faith we should say as Isaiah did: “Let that man confront me. See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Conspiracy Theories from CWN

I wrote last week about CWN and their conspiracy theories about Bishop Martino's resignation.  Today I receive from my email updates this bit of commentary from CWN:

Robert Moynihan, the editor of Inside the Vatican, admits that he was "perplexed" by Pope Benedict's talk at his regular weekly audience on Wednesday. The Pope spoke about the influence of St. Peter Damian, the great 11th-century theologian and reformer. He mentioned that St. Peter Damian "was not afraid to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy." However, Moynihan points out, the Holy Father did not mention the particular sort of corruption that the saint had renounced.

That's a very significant omission, because St. Peter Damian was implacable in his condemnation of homosexuality among the clergy-- a problem that has made a dramatic reappearance today, almost 1000 years after the saint wrote his fiery Book of Gomorrah.

Moynihan wonders: was the Pope deliberately skirting that issue? Or was he dropping a hint, confident that others would make the obvious connection? We can't say what Pope Benedict intended, but we can draw our own conclusions about what St. Peter Damian might have to say to the Church of today.

So the dilemma offered from CWN is:

  1. Either the Pope is willfully ignoring the issue of homosexuality
  2. The Pope hopes we will make the connection ourselves

I'm inclined to go with option #3: None of the Above.

What the Pope wrote on St. Peter Damien was, according to the Vatican Press Release:


VATICAN CITY, 9 SEP 2009 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated the catechesis of his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, to St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), "a monk, lover of solitude and, overall, an intrepid man of the Church who played a leading role in the reforms undertaken by the Popes of his time".

Peter Damian, who lost both his parents while still very young and was raised by his siblings, received a superlative education in jurisprudence and Greek and Latin culture. As a young man he dedicated himself to teaching and authored a number of literary works, but he soon felt the call to become a monk and entered the monastery of Fonte Avellana.

The monastery "was dedicated to the Holy Cross, and of all the Christian mysteries the Cross would be the one that most fascinated Peter Damian", explained Pope Benedict, expressing the hope that the saint's example "may encourage us too always to look to the Cross as God's supreme act of love towards man".

As an aid to monastic life Peter Damian "wrote a Rule in which he placed great emphasis upon the 'rigour of the hermitage'. ... For him hermitic life is the apex of Christian life. It is 'the highest state of life' because the monk, free from the ties of the world and of his own self, receives 'the pledge of the Holy Spirit and his soul felicitously unites with the heavenly Bridegroom'. Today too, even if we are not monks, it is important to know how to create silence within ourselves in order to listen to the voice of God. ... Learning the Word of God in prayer and meditation is the path of life".

For this saint, who was also an accomplished theologian, "communion with Christ creates a unity of love among Christians. ... Peter Damian developed a profound theology of the Church as communion. ... Thus, service to the individual becomes an 'expression of universality'.

"Yet nonetheless", the Holy Father added, "this ideal image of the 'holy Church' as illustrated by Peter Damian did not, as he knew, correspond to the reality of his own time. And he was not afraid to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, the result, above all, of the practice of the civil authorities conferring investiture to ecclesiastical office".

In order to combat this situation, in 1057 he left the monastery to accept appointment as a cardinal. "Thus he came to collaborate fully with Popes in the difficult task of reforming the Church", in which context "he courageously undertook many journeys and missions". Ten years later he returned to monastic life, but continued to serve the papacy. He died in 1072 on his return from a mission to re-establish peace with the archbishop of Ravenna.

Peter Damian, the Holy Father concluded, "was a monk par excellence, practising forms of austerity which today we might even find excessive. Yet in this way he made monastic life an eloquent witness of God's primacy and a call to everyone to progress towards sanctity, free from any kind of worldly compromise. He expended himself with great coherence and severity for the reform of the Church of his time, and dedicated all his spiritual and physical energy to Christ and to the Church".


It seems to me that the Pope is celebrating the life of the Medieval saints, much as he celebrated the lives of the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers in previous weekly addresses.  In these past addresses, the Pope spoke on these individuals and their significance for us today.  St. Peter Damien was a faithful monk who behaved rightly and did not sanction wrong.  That homosexuality was one of the issues he denounced (he wrote in Letter 31 about it).  However, unless the Pope intended to teach directly about homosexual issues, there is no reason why he should have brought this up.

For CWN to make this dilemma, it seems they are less interested in the reporting of what was said than they are with scandal-mongering.

It saddens me to see CWN come to this.  Now the Vatican is not trusted.  People are looking for secret signs as to what it means by things said or unsaid, instead of giving the Pope credit for speaking with good will on a subject encouraging the faithful to be saints.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anti-Catholicism, Eisegesis and the Post Hoc Fallacy

Being a member of the Catholic Church who openly states that I believe it to be the Church intended by Christ, I often run into flak from anti-Catholics [Let me clarify of course that anti-Catholics and non Catholics are not synonymous] who assume I must be deceived or willfully in error.  Usually they start by assuming I am deceived and set out to "save" me from my "blindness."  Once I begin to respond to their errors, showing why I reject their reasoning, the reaction goes from pity to hostility.  I have had members of the Orthodox Church call on God to curse me.  I have had some Fundamentalists call me one of the reprobate (those predestined to be damned).  I've been called a Modernist by Fundamentalists and called a Fundamentalist by Modernists because I hold to the Church as having the authority as successor to the Apostles.

In the process of these discussions I tend to run into a specific set of themes by which these individuals attack the Church.  These themes run through two errors which, when rejected, shows the emptiness of their position.  However these themes also are themes that a person can easily be blind to, and when I reject their position, they conclude I am rejecting Scripture (or in the case of the Orthodox, rejecting Tradition).

Eisegesis and "The Whore of Babylon."

Eisegesis is the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one's own ideas.  So if I have a preconceived notion that the Bible teaches a specific position and read the Bible with that position being assumed, it will lead me to errors because this preconceived position is the lens through which I look at Scripture.

One common example of this is the claim that the Catholic Church is "The Whore of Babylon."  Now in Revelation we do see the term used.  However the text of Revelation does not give us any statement that any specific place or group is intended as the meaning.

Now Revelation 17 describes to us this imagery:

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; 5 and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

When I saw her I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to perdition. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; 14 they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

15 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

Now, from this imagery we do see the description of a city which has power and authority and corrupts the nations around it.  Now, at the time of the writing, the city which committed fornication (this term is often used for idolatry), was known for killing the saints and making blasphemous declarations would have been the pagan city of Rome, who at this time would have been martyring the Christians under the emperor Domitian — Titus Flavius Domitianus (reigned from 14 September 81 – 18 September 96).  Imagery from Scripture such as "arrayed in purple and scarlet" do indeed represent the colors worn by the elites of the city, the Patricians (who wore a purple hem on their toga) and the Equites (who wore a red hem).

Chapter 18 of Revelation goes on to describe the fall of Babylon:

9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! alas! thou great city,

thou mighty city, Babylon!

In one hour has thy judgment come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. 14 “The fruit for which thy soul longed has gone from thee, and all thy dainties and thy splendor are lost to thee, never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 In one hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

What we are seeing here is a description of a city which is a mercantile center for all sorts of luxury which has fallen.  It seems to point to pagan Rome at the time of the writing of this book.  Other Biblical Scholars think it refers to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70.  However, there are differing interpretations as to what St. John meant.  Studying these Scriptures seeking to understand it from the perspective of the First Century Christian who would have read it is known as exegesis — the taking of meaning from Scripture, seeking to interpret it.

However, in contrast to the exegete, the one who practices eisegesis with the notion that the Catholic Church is evil takes a line of reasoning like this:

  1. The Catholic Church corrupts people and is in Rome
  2. Revelation speaks of a city which corrupts people which seems to be Rome
  3. Therefore Revelation is speaking of the Catholic Church

See the problem with the reasoning however.  First of all, premise #1 has to be proven.  The basis of the claim is that certain individuals (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin etc.) disagreed with the Catholic Church and broke with her.  However, the infallibility of these individuals has not been established, so their claim can be in error and must be proven to be true… not assumed that it is true.

So the irony is that this "doctrine" of anti-Catholics is based on a meaning put into Scripture, and not taken from Scripture.  It has to be demonstrated their assertions (that the Catholic Church is contrary to Scripture) is true before one can go on to argue that certain Scripture verses refer to it and are proof of it.

The Post Hoc and Cum Hoc Fallacies

The Post Hoc fallacy (the full name is Post hoc ergo propter hoc which means "after this therefore because of this") is an error which assumes that because one thing happened and then another thing happened the first event must have caused the second.  The Cum Hoc fallacy (from cum hoc, ergo propter hoc meaning "With this, therefore because of this") is an error which assumes that because of two events happening close together, they must have a common cause.

One example of the post hoc fallacy can be seen in the movie "The Emerald Forest."  In it a dam is considered a threat to the way of life to some Amazonian natives, and to destroy it a flood needs to happen.  One character, one of the natives, says that the louder the frogs croak the greater the rains that come.  So they will perform rituals to persuade the frogs to croak loudly.

The error of course is that the frogs do not cause the rains, but through nature sense when a storm is coming.

There are certain post hoc fallacies which are made by anti-Catholics.  For example, certain phrases were used in Babylon (the famous one is "Queen of Heaven" applied to a deity).  Similar phrases were used by the Catholic Church.  Therefore it is alleged that Catholics took their beliefs from Babylon.  Take for example this Jack Chick tract, The Deceived)

(some panels not directly pertinent [the tract was aimed at Muslims] removed for considerations of bandwidth)

The problem with this reasoning is that based on a claim that Babylonians worshipped a goddess called the Queen of Heaven (in the Babylonian tongue) and that because some title Mary "Queen of Heaven," this means that the Catholic title must have come from Babylonian belief.

The problem with this reasoning is one can attack any belief of Christianity based on similarity.  The Trinity?  Some allege we steal this from any Triad of deities.  Some claim we stole the Trinity from the Egyptian deities, Isis, Horus and Horus, but the error are of the same line: Three deities does not mean a belief in the Trinity.   Similarity does not mean common descent.

Likewise the claim that Babylon had a "Queen of Heaven" (it should be noted that a Google search for Babylon and Queen of Heaven only turns up anti-Catholic sites, not scholarly sites) does not prove that the Catholic title was derived from Babylon. 

One can also point to the title "King of Kings" applied to Christ.  This title was also applied to Nebuchadnezzar, king of… Babylon?

You can see that under the faulty logic that similarity shows common descent, we have to assume that our belief in Jesus Christ was taken from Babylon.

Of course we know that is not true and that because one religion used a certain element (water for example is used in many religions) or title does not mean that our faith comes from that other religion.

Going back to the example of Revelation, the Post Hoc and Cum Hoc fallacies are often used with Eisegesis where something is assumed and a meaning is put into Scripture, and then any link is therefore assumed to be a direct proof of their claim.

For example, I have encountered people seeking to tell me that in Revelation, 17:9 it says:  "9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated". The argument is that Rome has seven hills (an alternate rendering of mountains).  The Vatican is in Rome.  Therefore, the Catholic Church is referred to.

The problem again is that seven hills does not prove what is intended.  Jerusalem is sometimes said to be built on seven hills.  For that matter, San Francisco was also said to be built on seven hills — and is certainly today a good symbol for vice and wretchedness.

So what we see is the combination of eisegesis (putting a meaning into Scripture) and a post hoc fallacy claiming that similar phrases means the same thing to reach a conclusion which is not justified but is used to fuel anti-Catholicism.

Avoiding Errors of Interpretation

Scripture is of course not contrary to logic.  So we need to make sure that in our interpretation, our reasoning is logical.  If one wants to make a claim against the Catholic Church using Scripture, one has to show that Scripture was intended to be understood this way.  The witness of ancient Christians in the writing of the Patristics for example speak as to how the Christian faith was understood.  Do we see a tendency towards small independent churches?  Do we see ancient Christians opposed to Marian devotions?  Do we see the rejection of a hierarchy?

In all these cases, the evidence of the commentaries of the ancient Christians attests to the opposite: We see one unified body of Christ, we see a reverence (not a worship) of Mary and an insistence that proper following of the faith cannot be done apart from those in authority.

Indeed, those who were rejected as spreading a false gospel were those who denied these things: The Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians (who especially denied Mary's role) and so on.  They used Scripture, but their interpretation was seen as false and contrary to the consistent teaching of the Truth.

There is no case of "real Christians" who were supplanted by the Church.  There are no written objections that "Rome" added to the teachings originally held.  Look at the Patristic writings: Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus.  Look at Augustine, John Chrysostom, Jerome… they all share the same faith.  The Council of Nicaea, the Council of Constantinople (from these Councils we get our Nicene Creed)… it comes from this faith.

The Anti-Catholic who wishes to argue that Catholicism drove Christianity under ground needs to explain why every "real" Christian went.  It needs to show where the Catholic Church "replaced" truth with error.

It is not enough to argue from Scripture… Satan argued from Scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11) after all.  When one argues from Scripture, the dispute is not over the inerrancy of Scripture, but of the accuracy of the interpretation.  So for the anti-Catholic to argue that verse X means that Catholic belief A is in error requires this question to be answered:

On what Basis do you justify your interpretation to be correct?

Catholics do indeed have Scriptural justification for their beliefs (an excellent book to read is Dave Armstrong's The Catholic Verses).  We can point to a consistent teaching of this justification through Scripture.

Because of this, when an Anti-Catholic tells me of his interpretation of verses to show I must "come out" from the Catholic Church, I ask them to show me that this interpretation was how the first Christians viewed Scripture as opposed to this being their own reading.

I don't deny the authority of Scripture of course… just the Anti-Catholic's authority to tell me what it means.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Further Reflections on the CWN Article. Fr. Euteneuer Shows Us the Source of the Rumor

Sources: LifeSite Special Report - Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer statement on David Gibson's anti-Catholic article:;

I spoke a few days ago about what I believe to be Rash Judgment in a CWN article concerning the resignation of Bishop Martino.  Today I found a statement by Fr. Euteneuer the president of Human Life International (HLI) who I think sheds some light on the subject as to where this CWN rumor came from.

Fr. Euteneuer wrote:

The following quote from David Gibson's ugly article says it all: “Whatever the ins and outs of the internal church maneuvering, the upshot is that a leading voice in the anti-Obama wing of the church hierarchy has been silenced while both Obama and Biden continue to take center stage.”

The Catholic Left in America is allowing this administration to divide the Catholic Church in America. Anti-Catholics like Gibson, because of their ill-will and disdain for the Church, see the departure of one of America's great shepherds as a victory. That the wonderful Bishop Martino was “silenced” is the musing of sick media minds like Gibson’s that look for scandal everywhere. Scandal indeed is the media’s business while the care of souls is the business of the Church. Bishop Martino was one of those courageous shepherds who simply got attacked for doing everything a bishop is supposed to do, and for that reason he received HLI’s Cardinal Von Galen Award last year for his uncompromising witness.

In other words, Fr. Euteneuer is saying that the claim that Bishop Martino was forced out because he was "anti-Obama" has no basis in fact and people who seek to make this connection are the work of people who are scandal-mongers.  Fr. Euteneuer is saying that Bishop Martino was simply doing what he was supposed to do (of which I fully agree).

Fr. Euteneuer goes on to point out what this stepping down in fact means for the Church:

If his stepping down symbolizes anything it indicates the warfare that a good bishop must go through, even from within the Church, to set things aright. The battle for orthodoxy is literally ferocious in today’s Church, and it will be the dividing point between the sheep and the goats. When did “go along to get along” become the dominant view of so many American bishops and Catholics? Where exactly in the Gospel is this written? How can we justify shrinking from the defense of human life and other unpopular Catholic teaching under the most anti-Catholic administration in modern history?

We cannot let such Catholics claim the mantle of Catholicism. We implore our shepherds to defend their brother Bishop Martino, and again unequivocally restate the importance of defending Church teaching even when it is most politically inconvenient. We must not give dishonest hacks like David Gibson even the appearance of endorsement for the view that all normal and faithful Catholics are those who endorse everything this anti-life administration does.

What Fr. Euteneuer has pointed out is indeed correct, and is repeating the teachings of the Church and the Bishops who stand for the teachings of the Church in America.  American Catholics indeed have to choose between being orthodox Catholic faith and partisan belief which forces a sacrifice of these beliefs.

In contrast, the CWN article seems to have taken its inspiration from the article Fr. Euteneuer has denounced.  David Gibson wrote:

Many in Scranton, and beyond, would agree. In fact there are strong indications that Martino was pushed before he jumped.
From the start of his six-year tenure in Scranton, Martino alienated many with his abrasive style. He clashed frequently with the local Catholic universities -- including the Jesuit-run University of Scranton -- and was dismissive of their ruling bodies, arguing that as bishop he would not heed their advice.

Last February, Martino blasted another local college, Misericordia University, for inviting Keith Boykin, an openly-gay author, Clinton administration staffer and Harvard Law classmate of Obama, to speak on campus. The university, run by the Sisters of Mercy, was "seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity," Martino charged.
Also in February, Martino warned Irish-American groups that he would close the city's cathedral on St. Patrick's Day if any of them honored a politician who Martino said would be considered "pro-abortion." That was seen as a shot across the bow against inviting Joe Biden; in past years, the Scranton Irish-Americans had honored both Obama and then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

What we are seeing then is CWN taking Gibson's partisan slant and assuming without justification that it was true.  Because CWN is conservative, they interpreted it as a sign of liberals "taking over" the Church and forcing Martino out.

The problem is they took an a priori assumption that Liberalism is controlling the Church and thus assuming the speculation of a liberal is correct.  They thus spent time speculating on why it was done instead of investigating whether it was done.

This is rash judgment of course, and CWN news certainly did the Church no favor with its writing.  The assumption that Martino was forced out and writing as if it was true did do harm to the reputation of Bishop Martino, Cardinal Rigali, the USCCB and the Vatican by implying they lied about the issue.

Friday, September 4, 2009

On The Logical Errors and Rash Judgment In an CWN Article on Bishop Martino

Sources: Catholic Culture : Catholic World News Feature Stories : Bishop Martino's departure: did he jump or was he pushed?;;

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 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;279

- 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.280

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)


I found myself disappointed with the tone of this article by CWN discussing the resignation of health issues.  While they may ultimately have stumbled on some truth, I find the article guilty of hasty judgment and a priori assumption which ought to be eliminated before printing their conclusions.

The article in question makes two assertions which it claims to explore:

  1. Whether Bishop Martino was forced out
  2. Why he was forced out

It reminds me of an old Foxtrot comic by Bill Amend —

Student: OK, if the United States is here, then Iraq must be here

Teacher: Um, let's go back to that first "If"…

The issue in question is whether Bishop Martino was forced out.  If he was not, then the second assertion (why he was forced out) is without merit. Unfortunately, I find the case for the first assertion to be guilty of Hasty Assumption, and perhaps is guilty of a bifurcation as well.

The article states:

Did he jump or was he pushed?

That's the easy question. Bishop Joseph Martino was pushed into resignation at the age of 63. No intelligent observer can credit the official explanation: that Bishop Martino retired because of health problems. The outgoing bishop openly acknowledged to reporters that he "clearly" was not suffering from any grave illness.

Lets put this into a syllogism:

  1. The official reason was because of health problems
  2. The outgoing bishop openly acknowledged to reporters that he "clearly" was not suffering from any grave illness
  3. Therefore Bishop Martino was forced out.

In terms of logic this is a non sequitur.  Whether or not the health of the Bishop was the real reason, the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

The bishop himself said regarding his retirement:

As I became more informed about the needs of the Diocese of Scranton throughout 2004, it became clear to me that, at the very least, something had to be done to halt the rapid financial deterioration of our Diocese. This situation had been caused by very high institutional expenses due to an excessive number of schools and parishes competing with one another and diluting Diocesan and parish resources. Even greater than the financial challenge of the Diocese was the fact that with so many schools and parishes, the clergy of the Diocese was not assigned in a strategic manner, with a view to leading a vigorous and successful New Evangelization of the Diocese, so dear to us all.

For some time now, there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.

The Diocese of Scranton needs to continue to respond to the call of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, to engage in the New Evangelization. To do so, however, the Diocese of Scranton requires a Bishop who is at least physically vigorous. I am not that Bishop.

With this in mind, the syllogism of CWN also becomes a Straw Man argument.  Yes the Bishop did not say he was suffering from grave illness, but it does not follow from this that he was forced out.

CWN goes on to say:

Clearly Bishop Martino was under a great deal of pressure, and therefore it is not difficult to believe that he suffered from insomnia and fatigue: the only medical complaints that were mentioned in the press conference announcing his departure. But while those are serious problems, they are not ordinarily serious enough to compel a motivated leader to resign. And even if insomnia had risen to the level of a serious medical problem, the question remains: Why was the bishop under so much pressure-- the sort of pressure that could give rise to such serious problems?

This is a speculation here, which requires the ignoring of what the Bishop said: "For some time now, there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue."  CWN does not know whether Bishop Martino was fatigued from the opposition he received in his diocese or not.  Lets face it.  Not all men can handle all situations sent there way.

In other words, whether or not CWN accepts their explanation, the Bishop stated that he was not able to carry out the job.  So if CWN wishes to make a case, they have to demonstrate more evidence for their case.  This link is not supported, and so their argument is not proven true.

CWN moves now into the territory of Begging the Question, in assuming as proven what needs to be proved.  They say:

If anyone had lingering doubts about the question of Bishop Martino's health, he had only to look carefully at yesterday's announcement from Scranton. Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty's retirement was announced on the same day. The Dougherty departure, taken by itself, would have been completely unremarkable; at the age of 77, he was well beyond the ordinary canonical retirement age. But the fact that the two retirements were announced simultaneously leaves no doubt about what happened. It was a house-cleaning.

Again, let us place this into the form of a syllogism:

  1. Bishop Martino resigned
  2. Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty retired the same day
  3. Therefore this is a Housecleaning

There can be other reasons for such an incident, such as this scenario (this is my own looking at the facts for other reasons and should not be seen as my personal view of what did happen):

Bishop Dougherty was 77 and overdue for retirement.  Bishop Martino decides he can no longer continue as Bishop due to stress and fatigue.  The decision is made that since they will need to replace Martino, it is time to accept Dougherty's resignation as well.

You can see that if it happened this way, there is no sinister reason for such an action.  Now, CWN has not proven Bishop Martino was "pushed."  It is their speculation, just as the scenario I wrote above is speculation.

However, Canon Law has this to say on bishops resigning:

Can. 401 §1 A diocesan Bishop who has completed his seventy-fifth year of age is requested to offer his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who, taking all the circumstances into account, will make provision accordingly.

§2 A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.

In other words, both bishops resigning are legitimate from Canon Law.  Note that it requires the resignation to be offered to the Pope, and from this the Pope is the one who accepts or rejects the resignation request.

However, CWN does go on, guilty of Begging the Question, saying as to why he was "pushed" (note CWN has not proven he was pushed):

Two different explanations have been put forward by informed observers. One school of thought says that Bishop Martino was too rough in his administrative style. He was a bull in a china shop, constantly making new enemies, needlessly causing division, refusing to act in a collegial manner and respect the advice of his brother bishops. The other school of thought says that he was simply too conservative for the tastes of his brethren in the US bishops' conference-- and especially for his metropolitan, Cardinal Justin Rigali, who has emerged as the most influential prelate in America today.

The first explanation could in fact how Bishop Martino found himself in a situation where he could not cope with opposition from underlings which contributed to stress and crippling fatigue.

The second example, Cardinal Rigali, who was quite outspoken on life issues in Congress (which I pointed out twice in my blog) in a position of having to defend his orthodoxy (which many confuse with conservatism) when CWN is required to bring forward evidence he is not.  A Google search of Cardinal Rigali and abortion gives 122,000 hits — all of them showing his supporting the right to life.  Yahoo News speculates that Bishop Martino may have been let go because he was too Pro-Life.  The CWN article indirectly implies that Martino was pressured due to his orthodoxy being too much for other bishops.

Now let us consider this:

  1. The Pope is the one who accepts or rejects the resignation of the Bishop
  2. Bishops Martino and Dougherty had their resignations accepted.
  3. Therefore the Pope accepted their resignations.

Now, with this in mind, the CWN article creates a dilemma.  They claim Bishop Martino was "pushed."  The Pope accepts the resignation.  Therefore he was either complicit or he was deluded.  If the Pope was complicit, then logically he was guilty of condemning an innocent man.  If he was deluded, this means the Pope is rubber stamping everything… both are serious charges which require substantiation, as they are in effect an attack on the authority of the Pope.

This is especially serious as Canon 1390 §2 reads:

A person who calumniously denounces an offence to an ecclesiastical Superior, or otherwise injures the good name of another, can be punished with a just penalty, not excluding a censure.

If CWN does not have a cause to accuse Cardinal Rigali, a case could be made that this article could be applied to CWN.

I especially think this case could be made when one looks at this statement by the CWN article:

(We might even ask, in passing, why Church leaders persist in offering such implausible excuses for the resignations of bishops. If no one really believes that Bishop Martino is too sick to carry on, why is that flimsy explanation offered to the public? Corporate leaders routinely offer vague, unsatisfactory reasons for a change at the top: it is a matter of "different styles of leadership," they might say, or a question of "conflicting visions." But those explanations, lame as they are, are not transparently false. Don't Church leaders attach any importance at all to the principle of that honesty is the best policy? Don't they worry about undermining their own credibility?) [Italics in original]

What have they asserted in this paragraph?

  1. That Bishop Martino lied about his health
  2. That the Church has another reason for releasing Bishop Martino
  3. That Church leaders are lying about the reason for his resignation.

Combining this with the accusation that Bishop Martino was too conservative for Cardinal Rigali. we have four charges which need to be substantiated.  A fifth charge by logical conclusion was that the Pope was either a willing or unwitting participant in a unjust action.

There is a sixth charge one can make too: That Bishop Marino had some unspoken action which merited being forced out.

All of these conclusions can be drawn from CWN's article.  However they all presuppose that CWN is right that Bishop Martino was forced out.  This was the point they failed to prove however.

This does not mean that CWN is proven wrong.  They may have made a lucky guess (things can be true even if not proven true after all).  However, their argument is fallacious and therefore the conclusion CWN makes is not proven true from their argument.  To thus publish an article which directly states three accusations and can lead to three others logically, truth must be proven, and not accusations given wildly.

With these things considered, I think this CWN article is guilty of Rash Judgment.