Thursday, July 28, 2011

TFTD: What If The Antichrist Isn't What We Expect?

Antichrist 1. Person who will appear in the last days in fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies to destroy the church and slaughter the saints of God. 2. Spirit of opposition to Christ as expressed in persecution of Christians or restrictions on the free expression of Christian faith.

Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson's new Christian dictionary : The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs.

Thought For the Day

I'd been reading some apocalyptic Christian fiction (the wretched Left Behind and the mediocre Father Elijah).  The general presentation of the Antichrist is a sort of charismatic liberal type who makes some modest proposals which leads the world to a Black Helicopter UN dominated world where Christians are targeted if they hold to their faith.  Many nominal Christians, in this view, are deceived and led to apostatize.

Now there's nothing necessarily wrong with this view.  It merely reflects the concern over deep moral errors the world is falling into in this time.  It also reflects the interpretation of 1 John where the antichrist is said to deny Christ.  Liberals seem to negate Christ as anything more than a good teacher for example.

Yet, would such an Antichrist really be anything more than a physical threat?  The Christian trying to be faithful would most likely immediately spurn the message.  Some might compromise out of fear and then be sorrowful.  But would such an antichrist be a threat to the salvation of Christians?

But in reading these works, I was struck with this thought.  What if the Antichrist isn't a Obama-like liberal but is instead a conservative?  What if his message isn't some sort of terrifying Fascist/Communist monolith, but is instead a conservative who merely wants us to "burn a pinch of incense" at the altar of expedience, to compromise our faith slightly.  To perhaps encourage the faithful to side with a view that appeals to our conservative beliefs but goes against Church teaching.  What if those who refused to go along with this sort of a view were the ones singled out and attacked as standing with the liberals?

Wouldn't that be a danger to many men and women trying to be faithful?  That they might be tempted to compromise slightly – especially if they were convinced the Church was filled with corruption?

Now this Thought for the Day may be completely without merit.  But I do think it is a danger to assume that the only threats to the faith come from the political Left.  Any view, whether Conservative or Liberal, which runs contrary to our faith is to be rejected.  None of us should think that "Because I am not [X], I will not be deceived."

Let us remember the warning of St. Paul:

12 Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. (1 Cor. 10:12)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thought For The Day (TFTD): Confusing Doctrine and Preference

One of the more irritating things I come across in the Catholic blogosphere is the amount of confusion there is over Doctrine vs. Preference.  We see many people throw around the accusation of heresy about things which are not in fact heretical.  There is no obstinate post-baptismal denial about some truth the Catholic faith.  There is no defiance against Church teaching.  Rather the person who throws around the accusation is elevating his or her preferences to the level of doctrine, saying in effect, "I'm right in my practice of the faith.  You do something I disagree with.  Therefore you're heretical (or blasphemous or any other invective)."

Thus people who like Marty Hagen hymns, people who receive the Eucharist in the hand, people who don't have problems with the Ordinary form of the Mass tend to be labeled as anything from heretical to being deceived about the "true" faith.

If one prefers the Gregorian Chant, reception of the Eucharist on the tongue or the Latin Mass of the 1962 missal, fine.  These are elements of Catholicism and so long as they are done from a perspective of what helps them enter a peace of mind to focus on God, that is good.

However, once it becomes an attitude of "I am superior to you!" or "anyone who disagrees is not an authentic Catholic" it is no longer good, but rather it becomes an attitude of pride.

Remember, we're not talking about people who dissent from Catholic moral teaching here.  We're not talking about the Cafeteria Catholic who claims that they are allowed to disobey the Church when she teaches about what we must and must not do.  We are talking about people who fly into a rage because the music director plays Shine Jesus Shine at Mass.

It might not be more than annoyance, but some people go so far as to accuse the magisterium of "heresy."  Such a view is dangerous indeed.  Once we make ourselves the judge of what the Church can and cannot teach, we separate ourselves from the Church when our views part ways from the Catholic teaching.

So let's remember something here…

We aren't the Pope

So just because we dislike a thing aesthetically does not make such a thing "wrong."  We have no authority to bind what the Church looses, nor the authority to loose what the Church binds.  If a person feels more comfortable to receive the Eucharist in the hand, and the bishop has permitted it in his diocese, you have no right to look down on that person.  Likewise, if we prefer something which the magisterial authority of the Church decides may no longer be done, the proper attitude is obedience, not defiance.

Otherwise we become guilty of true dissent… having a beam in our eye while focusing on the splinter in the eye of another.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Works Alone: The Protestant Claim that Slanders and Libels Catholicism


[Arnobius of Sicca note: Ugh… I meant "Libel" but typed "slander."  Edited to fix]


1 Law the publication of a false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation. Compare with slander.

† such a statement; a written defamation.

1 Law defame by publishing a libel.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


I've been forcing myself to read the novel Left Behind (I figure I should be aware of famous works, even if I think they are in error), which is a story about the so-called Rapture.  As I do so, I am reminded of a theme among certain Protestants (often repeated) which is an act of libel against the Catholic Church.  That is the claim that Catholics believe we earn our salvation by doing "good works," and we are "owed" salvation if we do enough regardless of whether or not we believe in Christ.

Such a statement is so much repeated, especially among certain Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, that many would be surprised to learn we do not believe this at all.

That's right… one of the major arguments used to denounce the Catholic Church is a complete falsehood.

Some Evidence

Let's not get into an argument about whether I am "deceived" about what the Catholic Church really teaches.  We'll do this by pointing not to my own writings, but to what the Church herself says about justification, grace and works.

In terms of Justification:

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.41 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

We believe when it comes to Grace:

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

When it comes to merit, we profess:

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due.... Our merits are God's gifts."62

Nor is this merely a late change as some might accuse.  The Catechism of the Council of Trent  of the 16th century says:

For the grace of Christ is seen to abound more, inasmuch as it communicates to us not only what He merited and paid of Himself alone, but also what, as Head, He merited and paid in His members, that is, in holy and just men. Hence it can be seen how such great weight and dignity belong to the good actions of the pious. For Christ our Lord continually infuses His grace into the devout soul united to Him by charity, as the head to the members, or as the vine through the branches. This grace always precedes, accompanies and follows our good works, and without it we can have no merit, nor can we at all satisfy God.  (emphasis added)

I believe this evidence should be enough to demonstrate that we believe our justification, grace and merits come from God and (if one follows the links) even the good we do is made possible by God.

I think it should be clear that the person who claims the Catholic believes God "owes" us anything on the grounds we "earn" our salvation by doing works slanders or libels us (depending on whether the accuser speaks or writes).  We have no belief whatsoever about doing [X] amount of works or saying [Y] number of prayers will guarantee us Heaven.  We believe God calls us to be faithful to Him and carry out His commands out of love for Him.  Christ has said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).  In a relationship of love, a person doesn't ask "How much do I have to do?"  The person who loves does what he or she does as an expression of love.

The Implication

Now the person who repeats such a claim may not be acting with malice.  He or she may sincerely believe what is said against us.

That does not let the individual off the hook however.  To repeat a claim without finding out if it is true is unjust indeed.  If I should repeat that Jones is a murderer simply on the grounds I have been told this, I am to blame for repeating a slander if Jones is innocent.

There's also another serious implication here: Protestantism has at least one false premise in its rejection of Catholicism.

Think of it.  One of the reasons of the rejection of the Catholic Church was the belief that the Church put a person on an endless and futile quest to do "enough" to earn salvation.  Yet we don't believe what we are accused of.  Thus one justification for breaking away is… unjustified.  In placing Sola Fide in opposition to "Works Alone" a straw man fallacy is committed.

  1. The Catholic Church Holds [X]
  2. The Anti-Catholic presents the Church as holding [Y] (a distortion of [X])
  3. Position [Y] is attacked.
  4. The illusion is The Catholic Church has been refuted on [X]

The truth is, the attack on [Y] is irrelevant.  The Church teaching is [X] and it is [X] which needs to be examined.

To continue to accuse the Church of [Y] is to slander or libel the Church, whether through malice or negligence.


n. failure to take proper care over something.

† Law breach of a duty of care which results in damage.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sooner We Realize America Is No Longer Free, The Sooner We Can Take Action

So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause

Revenge of the Sith


This is what Happens When You Try To Link This Article to Facebook

(This is what happens when you try to post the linked article to Facebook)

An article was written on a Catholic blog concerning a Catholic couple being sued for refusing to allow their business to host a reception for a Homosexual "marriage."  It's an excerpt from a longer article found here.

The couple stated:

“We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians,” they wrote. “Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity. We do not however, feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”

So it's come to this.  A Catholic who tries to keep to his faith and stand against what he believes to be immoral can now be sued for standing up against the state.  I'm sorry but this sort of a thing is against everything I ever was proud about to be an American.  Nazis can march on Skokie, Illinois.  Klansmen can burn a cross on public land.  Artists can show desecrated religious icons and all is well.  But let a Christian seek to make a stand for what we believe and this is what happens.

We should pray for our nation, that the courts and the lawmakers see this and recognize that if this is allowed to go forward, we can no longer consider ourselves to be a free nation, but rather we can be said to be at best partially authoritarian.

It is also alarming that this sort of acceptance of losing our freedoms spreads further.  Facebook censors this article from being posted.  It is acceptable for people to post anti-Catholic material from pro-homosexual links, but this – which is simply a news article – is blocked because it is now determined we are not free to speak out on what is right or wrong.  Think of it.  This is not a Fred Phelps kind of article using slurs against homosexuals.  It merely reports that Catholics are being sued for standing up for their faith.  So it seems that speaking out against immoral acts is no longer permissible in society and perhaps it will soon be forbidden by law as well.

It is a sad thing.  Our Bill of Rights once gave us the freedoms to do what our consciences obligated us to do.  Now, we have favored classes which may never be questioned and certain beliefs that may never be questioned.

Yes, I know that Jesus did tell us:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

23 Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:22-23)

However, that does not mean those who do this to us do right to persecute us.

Very well.  I will follow the example of St. Thomas More and be faithful to my nation insofar as my nation does not ask me to disobey my God, for I must obey God instead of man if the laws of the nation are in conflict with Him, and I pray I will not falter if God calls on me to suffer for my faith and that He give me the grace to press on.  Perhaps I worry for nothing.  I am nobody important.  But then, neither was this couple.

Just know that the injustice is not being done by the Catholic couple with a Vermont inn.  It is being done by those who would deny us the right to follow our conscience and obey God.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Dissent: Fundamental Issues in Understanding Church Teaching


25 You say, “The LORD’S way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?

26 When a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.

27 But if a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life;

28 since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

29 And yet the house of Israel says, “The LORD’S way is not fair!” Is it my way that is not fair, house of Israel, or rather, is it not that your ways are not fair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel, each one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you.

31 Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord GOD. Return and live! (Ezekiel 18:25-32)

For one outside the Church, or for one inside the Church who does not understand a certain teaching, it is easy to be led astray by the concept of "If the Church would change its teaching on [X], things would be better."  Other times, the Church stands accused of hating people who live in opposition to their teachings.

Such views demonstrate a fundamental error.  Before we can ask "Why doesn't the Church change the teaching on [X]," we must first act whether the Church believes she even can change the teachings.

With this in mind, we need to address some fundamentals which show the problem with the objections to Church teaching and demands that she change.  Understanding these will help us to see why the Church believes she cannot change and also to see why dissent is unacceptable for one who professes to believe what the Church teaches.

Principle #1: We Believe Christ is the Head of the Catholic Church

While certain anti-Catholics deny we are even Christian, and many non-Catholics believe we mix human error in with Christ's teaching, Catholics do believe Christ is the head of the Church.  Therefore what the Church can make decisions on depends on what Christ has commanded.  If the Church believes Christ has commanded a thing, we cannot forbid it.  If the Church believes Christ has forbidden a thing, we cannot permit it.

This is an important point because regardless of whether a person accepts or rejects the claims of the Catholic Church, we believe that we cannot do otherwise and still remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why the Catholic Church will never permit "Gay Marriage" or Remarriage if a person who is divorced still has a valid marriage.  We believe to sanction things which God has forbidden is to be doing evil.

Principle #2: We Believe Christ Entrusted His Church to the Apostles and their Successors

We reject the notion that any person can determine what is good and evil on their own authority.  We believe that Jesus Christ entrusted His Church to His Apostles and gave them the authority and the responsibility to carry out His Great Commission.  We believe that it was to them who were given the authority to determine what is and is not in keeping with the teachings of Christ – and that He protects His Church from teaching error on what we must do to be saved.

When one recognizes this as a Catholic belief, one can see that the Catholic individual who says "I disagree" has no authority whatsoever impose their vision on the Church in defiance of the Magisterium.  Yes individuals within the Church (including bishops) can fall into error when they deviate from the teaching of the Church.  It does not follow that the Church as a whole errs when one bishop does.

Moreover, one cannot place the vox populi in opposition to the magisterium and say, "The people all agree on [X] and the Bishops disagree.  Therefore the bishops are wrong!"  That's an argumentum ad populum fallacy (Just because 50%+1, 75% or 99% of a people believe [X] does not make [X] true).  Since we believe the authority within the Church comes from Christ, we must realize that the responsibility to determine whether a view is compatible with Christ's teaching falls on the magisterium, not on us.

Principle #3: A Person Running Afoul of Church Teaching is NOT the Fault of the Church

Many people who find themselves at odds with Church teaching often use the argument of, "God wouldn't want me to suffer so the Church is wrong in insisting on [X]."

The woman who wants to be ordained a priest, a person divorced where the marriage was valid, the couple wanting contraception, the woman who thinks she "needs" an abortion, the person with homosexual tendencies who wants "Gay Marriage" often accuse the Church of being bureaucratic, of being heartless, of being "homophobic," of being "anti-woman."  These are actually ad hominem attacks.  They assume that the individual is in the right, and the Church is "horrible" for not giving them what they want.

The fact of the matter is, the person who finds himself or herself in opposition to the Catholic teaching is not there because the Church put that person there.  The individual has chosen a thing in opposition to what the Church believes she is obligated to do to be faithful to Christ.

Msgr. Ronald Knox makes this point impressively clear, when he wrote:

Here is another suggestion, which may not be without its value – if you find yourself thus apparently deserted by the light of faith, do not fluster and baffle your imagination by presenting to it all the most difficult doctrines of the Christian religion, those which unbelievers find it easiest to attack; do not be asking yourself, "Can I really believe marriage is indissoluble?  Can I really believe that it is possible to go to hell as the punishment for one mortal sin?"  Keep your attention fixed to the main point, which is a single point – Can I trust the Catholic Church as the final repository of revealed truth?  If you can, all the rest follows; if you cannot, it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve.

(In Soft Garments, pages 113-114).

If the Church is the final repository of revealed truth intended by Christ, then to fight against the Church is to fight against Christ (See Acts 9:4-5).  If she is not this final repository, it is irrelevant what she says to begin with.  However, since Catholics do believe that the authority of the Church is given to her by Christ, the person who is at odds with the Church teaching truly needs to consider on what basis they are so certain they are in the right and the teaching authority of the Church is in the wrong.

Principle #4: Either the Church of Christ or A False Church

Thus the dissenting Catholic has to come to terms with this.  If the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, then she must be heeded.  If she is not what she claims to be she is either incredibly deluded or a monstrous fraud.  Thus the dissenter stands judged either way:

  1. If the dissenter believes The Catholic Church is Christ's Church, then at the Final Judgment they can be asked, "Why did you not heed her?"
  2. BUT, if they believe the Catholic Church is not Christ's Church, then at the Final Judgment they can be asked, "Why did you remain within her?" 

The anti-Catholic is in error, but at least is acting in according to what he or she believes in rejecting the Church.  Remember, the Catholic Church believes her magisterium is protected from error in teaching on faith and morals – in other words, we believe she will not lead people to damnation by teaching falsely on issues of salvation because God protects her from teaching error.  Now since these issues of morality which some dissent from do pertain to salvation, we must conclude that either this is true and the dissenter is in error or else the Church teaches falsely about her very nature.

Principle #5: The Dissenter Has No Justification For Rebellion.  Their Dissent is Merely A Refusal to Accept They Are Doing Wrong

One day as he was teaching the people in the temple area and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and scribes, together with the elders, approached him and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Or who is the one who gave you this authority?”

He said to them in reply, “I shall ask you a question. Tell me, was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin?”

They discussed this among themselves, and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ then all the people will stone us, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”

So they answered that they did not know from where it came.

Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:1-8)

The contradiction for the dissenter is that they deny that the Church has the authority to teach as they do on an issue they disagree with while giving themselves the authority to go against anything they dislike.   We have the right to question the authority they cite in rejecting the authority of the Church, and not merely accept their conclusion ("The Church is bad!").

A dissenter may say, "God doesn't want me to suffer.  The Church teaching makes me suffer.  Therefore the Church is acting against God"  I say that is a misstating of the issue.  God doesn't desire the destruction of the sinner, but that he or she will repent (See Ezekiel 18:25-32).  If we accept that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ willed and gave authority to (and if one does not accept that, the question immediately comes up, "Then why remain within her?"), then we certainly need to consider the possibility that we are in the wrong, not the Church.

The principle of dissent essentially claims that when a person is at odds with the Church, it is the fault of the Church, that the Magisterium is wrong and the dissenter is right.  But to make such a statement requires something more than mere feelings.  It requires a demonstration why we should accept their claims.

Yet, the dissenter does not offer any justification why we should hold their view to be true.  Rather, we see the appeal to pity fallacy.  An example is shown about how some person is doomed to a life of loneliness if the Church forbids "Gay marriage" or refuses to grant an annulment when the previous marriage is valid.  We can see it when a person claims some poor mother is doomed to have to care for too many children because the Church condemns contraception.  Or that the Church dooms a woman to give birth to a deformed child or a rapist's child because she condemns abortion.

All of these cases are used to appeal to a person's sense of pity, but not one of them answers the question of how it follows that the Church teaching is wrong.  One can make an appeal to pity to act against any obligation ("Your putting my son in prison means he won't be there to support me.  If only murder wasn't outlawed, you wouldn't put him in prison!"), but it doesn't make the prohibition wrong just because someone puts himself at odds with the law and has to suffer the consequences.

Principle #6: Just Because The Dissenter Does Not See the Reason for a Church Teaching Does Not Mean There Is No Reason

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.

— G.K. Chesterton “The Drift from Domesticity”. Brave New Family. Ignatius Press. 1990. Page 53

The Argument from Ignorance Fallacy essentially argues that because one is not aware of anything to disprove a position it means the position must be true.  The problem with such a position is that it presumes that because one is not aware of an objection to a view it must mean there is no valid objection to the view.  GK Chesterton points out that the existence of a thing which we do not understand the reason for does not mean there is no reason.  We cannot assume that our ignorance about why a thing is as it is justifies making a change.

We can presumably look into the reasons for a thing and see why a thing is done.  From the knowledge of the reasons, we can judge whether a law is justified or arbitrary for example.  Moreover we can also take the reasons for a thing existing to judge our own reasons for wanting it removed.  Once we know why the Church teaches [X], we can look at our motives for dissenting from [X] and perhaps discover that our motive is not some high minded "principle of the thing," but rather a desire not to be inconvenienced or a fear of the consequences for our actions.

Principle #7: Vincible Ignorance Means We Are Responsible For What We Do Not Know

The Church teaches there are two types of ignorance, Invincible Ignorance or Vincible Ignorance.  Invincible Ignorance means it is impossible to learn something no matter how much we study.  For example, it is impossible right now to learn whether life exists in outer space.  We have found no evidence, but that lack of evidence covers only a small portion of the universe.   The result is, no person can learn the definite truth about life in outer space, no matter how much they study because it is impossible to discover this information at this time.  As a result the person who does not believe in extraterrestrial life is not to be blamed for his belief if he turns out to be wrong.  You can't be held responsible for what is impossible for you to learn.

Vincible Ignorance however is a matter where we could learn the truth if we had bothered to look.  If I am a hunter and I see movement in the bush, I could take the time to determine whether the target is a deer or another hunter.  If I fire on the movement without checking and kill another hunter, I acted out of ignorance, but my ignorance could have been corrected if I had bothered to take the time to learn.

Because Catholics believe that Christ is the head of the Church and that He protects the Magisterium from error when they teach on issues of salvation (again, if one denies this, we can ask "Why remain within the Church?"), and because they do not keep such teachings secret, we cannot claim it is impossible to know what God wills in terms of what we are to do to behave in accordance with God's will.  The internet allows us to access the official teachings of the Church.  The catechism is online.  The Code of canon law is online.  Papal Encyclicals are online (also here).  This isn't the 12th century where many could not read and books were expensive.  Regardless of how well the Vatican may adapt to the Internet, we can't say that the true teachings of the Church can't be found.  We can't say that because we don't know the reason for the Church teaching, we don't have to follow it.  We can learn!

If we refuse to learn, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Conclusion: What Every Catholic Must Recognize To Be Faithfully Catholic

14 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

15 If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Ultimately anyone who finds themselves struggling with a decision of morality needs to recognize that with Original Sin, with our fears and our emotions, we can be led astray if we rely on ourselves.  We need to realize that as Catholics, we have been given the grace to be a part of the Church Christ willed, and that He gave the authority to carry out His mission.  The Church is not merely a human institution inventing all sorts of laws in a mad quest for power.

Always we need to remember what Msgr. Ronald Knox wrote: 

Can I trust the Catholic Church as the final repository of revealed truth? If you can, all the rest follows; if you cannot, it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve.

If we believe the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, it follows we can accept what she teaches.  If one rejects this principle, it makes no sense to even remain in the Church as she would have no authority.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cuomo Supports Bull Connor Over MLK? Thoughts on Law and God

But Peter and the apostles said in reply, "We must obey God rather than men."

—Acts 5:29

The Duke of Norfolk: Oh confound all this. I'm not a scholar, I don't know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can't you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!

Sir Thomas More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

A Man For All Seasons


There is some buzz in the media about Laura Fotusky, the woman who resigned rather than take part in issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples in New York. Some support her. Others speak contemptuously about her.  Those who dismiss her generally take the point that the law is the law and people who will not follow said law have no business being in government.

The problem is, such a position seems to presuppose a view that whatever the government says, goes.  But is this really a valid position?

The Statement of Cuomo

"The law is the law. When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get pick and choose which laws. You don’t get to say, ‘I like this law, I’ll enforce this law. I don’t like this law, I won’t enforce this law.’ You can’t do that. So if you can’t enforce the law, then you shouldn’t be in that position."

—Governor Andrew Cuomo

Reductio ad Absurdum

reductio ad absurdum

n. Philosophy a method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that its logical consequence is absurd or contradictory.

– origin Latin, lit. ‘reduction to the absurd’.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The problem is, we can make a reductio ad absurdum to show the flaw in his position.  "Bull" Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety in Alabama was enforcing the law when he targeted blacks demonstrating for human rights and was infamous for the use of fire hoses and dogs against demonstrators.  If Cuomo is right, then Connor is unjustly condemned by history.  After all, Segregation was the law, and as Cuomo said, "So if you can’t enforce the law, then you shouldn’t be in that position."

We can put this into a Syllogism by taking the statement, "if you can’t [enforce the law], then you shouldn’t [be in that position]."  We can then restate this as a positive:

  1. If you do [Enforce the Law], you should [be in that position] (If [A] then [B])
  2. Bull Connor did [Enforce the Law] ([A])
  3. Therefore Bull Connor should [be in that position] (Therefore [B])




If you find that syllogism repellant (and you should), you can then see that Andrew Cuomo's statement must therefore also be repellant because it actually can be used to justify anything the state wants to do. 

That's how the reductio works.  If [A] then [B].  [B] is offensive or absurd.  Therefore we should reject [A].

The reason Cuomo's statement is dangerous and offensive is the authority of the state is not the judge of what is right and wrong.  Right and wrong is outside the ability of the state to decree.  History is full of regimes who have made it legal to do horrific things, and we do not consider those who carry out such laws to be justified. 

The Nuremberg Defense

Indeed, we know that the "Superior Orders" defense (also known as the Nuremberg Defense) of "I was just following orders," is rejected.  Indeed, Nuremberg Principle #4 states:

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

So in this case just because a law is made, it does not excuse the person from making a moral choice in opposition to a law, if it is unjust.

Therefore, before we can accept Cuomo's argument, it requires the establishment of the fact that "Gay Marriage" is in fact a just law which should be obeyed.  Thus the supporters for "Gay Marriage" can't simply say they don't want to force religious views on others.  They are in fact forcing secular sectarian views on others by forcing them to accept "Gay Marriage."

Legal Positivism and Just Laws

An unjust law is no law at all.

—St. Augustine.  On Free Choice Of The Will, Book 1, § 5

The concept of what makes a law binding on us comes down to two possibilities:

  1. Whatever the State decrees is to be obeyed because the state decreed it.
  2. The obedience to a law supposes that the law is just and an unjust law lacks authority.

This is the difference between Legal Positivism and the Christian view of law.  Legal Positivism holds that "The existence of law is one thing; its merit and demerit another. Whether it be or be not is one enquiry; whether it be or be not conformable to an assumed standard, is a different enquiry." (John Austin).  In other words, whether or not the law be good or bad is irrelevant to the issue of whether it ought to be obeyed. 

One begins to see the dangerous view of Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Law is to be obeyed because government has authority to govern, regardless of whether a law is good or bad.  American History is full of examples of unjust laws which people of conscience felt they had to oppose: the Fugitive Slave Act, Jim Crow laws and the like were to be obeyed and the person who defied such laws on grounds of conscience was a plain and simple lawbreaker – his beliefs that the law was unjust is irrelevant.

Under Legal Positivism, Martin Luther King Jr. (hereafter identified as MLK) was a felon and his civil disobedience could not be justified.

On the other hand, the Christian view of law recognizes human authority as being rooted in the authority of God.  The state exists for the protection of the people, which presupposes justice.  Our rights come from outside the state.  If they come from within the state, then the state can take the rights away.

Under the Christian view of law, MLK was justified in opposing an unjust set of laws, when he pointed out:

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This gives the lawmaker like Cuomo a dilemma.  If one must obey any law because it is a law, then MLK is in the wrong.  However, if MLK was right, then Cuomo is wrong.

Thomas Aquinas and Law

In the Summa Theologica (cited by MLK), St. Thomas Aquinas writes:

On the other hand laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good, through being opposed to the things mentioned above - either in respect of the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory - or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him - or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says (De Libero Arbitrio i,5), "a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all." Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience, except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance, for which cause a man should even yield his right, according to Matthew 5:40,41: "If a man. . . take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him; and whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two."

Secondly, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, "we ought to obey God rather than man."

Summa Theologica I-IIa Q. 96 Article 4.

So Is the New York Law Just?

For the Christian, the "Gay Marriage" law is unjust on the following grounds:

  1. It goes beyond the authority of any government to declare that marriage can be between two persons of the same gender.
  2. This law is in opposition to the Divine good.

Because we ought to obey God rather than men, we must call this unjust and cannot support the government in this action.

This is not "Imposing Beliefs"

As citizens of this nation, Christians have the same rights as others to make our voices heard and shape the laws according to what is right (Hat tip to blogger Anthony Layne for making this point so well).  Because we do believe we must obey God rather then men, we cannot "go along" when the state mandates something which God condemns.  Because we believe there is real and knowable truth and good, we must call our nation to be aware of this.

Conclusion: God Gives Us Freedom.  Cuomo's View Makes the State All Powerful

We must oppose all politicians who seek to impose their will on the state, even if they wrongly think it just, if what they seek to impose goes against the natural and divine law.  We may suffer persecution for this.  However, let us be clear that the state does not have the authority to enact such a law and they are unjust if they do persecute us.

Yes, we must obey God rather then men.  However, the state does evil when they force us to make that choice to begin with.  This is why we must rise up and condemn Cuomo's statement as being a dangerous infringement on our right to do as we ought to do.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Master, Don't You Care if We Drown?

Rembrandt's Storm on the-Sea of Galilee

35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him.
37 A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.
38 Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
39 He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.
40 Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
(Mark 4:35-40)

One thing which seems to be growing again in the anti-Bishop hysteria in certain segments of the Church is the belief that the Church is falling away into corruption because the Pope, the Curia, the Bishop or the Pastor is doing something the individual dislikes or is failing to do something the individual would prefer to be done.

We see the dissenting priest or nun or politician speaking or acting in a way which is clearly contrary to the teaching of the Church and we panic.  We accuse our leaders of corruption and ask God why He does not do anything to save His Church.  Some have, throughout history, jumped ship believing she is being steered into shipwreck.  Others behave as if God has forgotten us.

Christ's question to His disciples is the same question for us.  "Do we not yet have faith?"

Do we not yet realize that Christ promised to remain with His Church?  Do we not yet realize that Christ promised the gates of Hell would not prevail against it?  Are we so without faith that we think that the ship as she exists is sinking and will be destroyed?

Yes, some clergy, some religious and some laity will fail to do as they ought, doing harm and causing scandal.  Yes we are called to preach the word and correct those in error (lovingly of course) and to pray for those who have fallen astray.  However, the Church is in the hands of Christ who has promised to protect us.  At the moment of his choosing, he will rebuke the wind and the sea, he will rebuke the disobedient and the heretical and the persecutor.

We must never act as if we have nothing to do but lounge around and wait on Christ.  He has given us our task to carry out (Matt 24:46) and we need to keep at it for when he returns.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thoughts on Freedom, Rights and Responsibilities


The modern view of freedom tends to look at it as if any attempts to restrict what we want to do as a sin against our "rights."  Thus pornography and violent video games become "artistic" and any attempt to restrict access to these things become a "violation" of our rights.

The view that we have a "right" to do whatever we want is insanely self-destructive.  If freedom is to be understood as the "right" to do whatever we want without restrictions, it means we have no right to object to whatever we might view as harmful or repugnant because it "forces our views on another person."

Yet most people would recognize things like child pornography to be offensive and most people would see this as something which nobody has a "right" to.  (Those who say otherwise are not considered to have a reasonable opinion), which indicates that not all rights are "acceptable," and some restrictions are reasonable.

"Consenting Adults" is a phrase which Shows Restrictions

The term "consenting adults" for example is a term which shows there are restrictions on "freedoms."

  1. The people involved must have reached the age of majority where they are considered competent to make responsible decisions and consider the consequences.
  2. The people involved must freely consent.

Neither a willing minor nor an unwilling adult can take part in such an act.  The minor is not considered competent to be able to give informed consent and a person cannot be coerced to do something which they find offensive.

This means we have an absolute restriction: A person's freedom to do a thing is limited if the subject of the act is unable or unwilling to give consent.  Pedophilia then would be condemned because even if the child should consent, we do not consider the child to be able to give consent as required.

However, once we recognize this, we can challenge the principle of abortion.  If the unborn is a human person, he is unable to give consent to being aborted.  Thus, "Consenting Adults" is a clause which indicts abortion.

Defining Persons Selectively

Some say in response to this, "Well the fetus is not a person."  This leads us then to ask, "Who defines what is and is not a person?"

We have, in history, some examples of the government defining some as being less than human.  Pre-Civil War America considered African Americans as less than fully human and less capable than whites to reason and think clearly and thus could be enslaved.  Nazi Germany treated certain groups (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and others) as subhuman who could be enslaved or exterminated and practiced the extermination of those who were considered mentally or physically unfit.

We can now look back on these times with disgust and with horror, recognizing that a government does not have a right to decree certain Homo sapiens as being less than human, and such a law cannot change what a person is.  A law which denies the personhood of the Homo sapiens goes against reality, against nature.

Human Rights and Gender

Of course there are some differences which are unavoidable.  All human persons are male or female regardless of race, age, belief or sexual preference.  Both are fully human and both have the rights of a human being, but the two are not the same.  Because both are fully human, one may not be treated as superior or inferior to the other on account of gender.

Gender is not inconsequential however.  Human biology impacts how each interacts.  The woman can give birth.  The man cannot.  This leaves us with two principles:

  1. Differences in gender does not mean that this is all they can do.  (A woman is not limited to ONLY being a mother for example)
  2. BUT since these functions are a part of nature, they cannot be ignored or suppressed.

Race and sexual preferences are not the same as gender.  Race does not change the fact that one is a Homo Sapiens.  Sexual preference does not change the fact of the actual gender.

Marriage, Gender, Race and Sexual Preference

Biologically, the sexual act involves the reproductive organs of two persons, one of each gender.  Acts which do not involve both the male and female reproductive organs is nothing more than sodomy.

Marriage, until the latest usurpations by government, has always been recognized as a family unit joined together by a man and a woman in a permanent sexual relationship which has at least the potential for future offspring and is formed together for that intent (If the man or woman is infertile is irrelevant.  Offspring is accepted as a natural part of the married life.  Infertility caused by age or infirmity cannot be helped but does not make the man any less a man or the woman any less a woman).

Restrictions on marriage due to race (or ethnicity) is an unnatural restriction.  A Homo sapiens male of one ethnicity and a Homo sapiens female of another ethnicity are able to form this permanent sexual union with the potential of having children.

However, sexual preference is NOT an unnatural restriction.  Between people of the same gender, there cannot be a sexual act, only sodomy.  There cannot be the potential for future offspring and such a union cannot be formed with acceptance of this motive.

Thus we can see it is a false analogy to compare the restriction of "gay marriage" with the unnatural laws forbidding people of different ethnicities to marry. The fact is, governments have no right to declare an ethnicity "less than human" and have no right to deny the difference between gender.  Marriage predates government as a basis for society and a government which attempts to change what marriage is through law goes outside of their authority.

Truth and Law

Aristotle defined Truth and Falsehood saying:

To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.

This is a principle which demonstrates that since a thing is what it is and cannot be what it is not, truth cannot be relative.  If a living being is a male, it is true to say this being is a male and false to say it is not a male.  If it is wrong to murder, we speak falsely if we say it is not wrong to murder.  We cannot abolish the laws of nature, such as the law of gravity.  Nor can we abolish biology.

That which IS cannot be declared IS NOT by a government.  That which IS NOT cannot be declared IS.  This is not a case of "forcing beliefs on another."  It is recognizing reality.  A government which attempts to pass laws contrary to what is true is in fact the one which is trying to impose their beliefs on another.

Legal Positivism

Legal Positivism is the concept that the only legitimate sources of law are those written rules, regulations, and principles that have been expressly enacted, adopted, or recognized by a governmental entity or political institution, including administrative, executive, legislative, and judicial bodies.  In other words, what man defines as law is the only source of law and truth, morality, natural law and other sources are irrelevant.  The problem is of course that whatever laws man invents on his own authority man can undo.  So if man creates the freedom of speech, he can undo that freedom.

This is why the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The rights which all men possess do not come from the government but from the Creator – which means they are rights which come from outside of us and cannot be taken away from us.  Quite frankly, legal positivism is inimical to the concept of rights and freedoms which our nation was founded on.

Ipse Dixit and Law

Yet legal positivism seems to be the philosophy of the American Government today. There is no longer a sense of understanding what IS true with government seeking to reflect that truth. Rather we have a government fiat declaring what we must do… with the only source of authority being the government saying so. Truth is no longer relevant. Rather we have coercion. Effectively the government says "We have decreed it so it is right. If you refuse to comply, we will take actions against you."

Ipse dixit is a claim which only has the fact that a person said it as its authority.  In America, we often rely on ipse dixit as the source of authority for a "right."  The Supreme Court said abortion is a "right."  Therefore it is.  However, when one realizes that the Supreme Court once ruled "Separate but Equal" was legally acceptable and accepted Internment camps for the Japanese, we can see that the Supreme Court is not a credible source of authority to justify a legally binding position as just or true.

The problem is, of course, that since governments can and do make unjust laws we can and must judge such laws based on a proper understanding of justice.  In speaking out against unjust laws which some favor, we are not attempting to "force views on others."  We are saying the government does wrong and goes beyond its authority when its laws go against the rights (with corresponding responsibilities) given us by our Creator.  If members of the public, if lawmakers believe that the Christian view of good and evil is wrong, that does not make it wrong simply by their declaration that they disagree with Christian belief.  Rather it falls to them to prove their point and not merely say "I disagree.  Therefore what I say goes."


Since we have recognized that certain restrictions do exist in terms of rights and on the other hand that the state does not have the authority to declare certain things as right we can see that the issue of right and wrong is not an issue of the government saying so, but rather we judge the acts of an individual or a government as right or wrong depending on how it matches up to the truth which we can know but cannot change.

As Christians, we believe that God is good and what is right is a reflection of His goodness and also is what is good for us by our very nature.  The government may decree something which goes against what God calls us to do, but we must repudiate what the government says which forces us to disobey God.  We believe that the government has no right to impose laws on us which force us to choose between God and our lives or livelihood.  The government which does so may appeal to force to accept compliance but we are obligated to obey God rather than men and continue to preach God's commands and message of salvation to the whole world.

We must preach in season and out of season, even if men hate us for speaking the truth of good and evil.  They may malign us, using slanders against us.  But we must recognize that God wants the salvation, not the destruction of sinners.  So we must continue to preach the truth to the world.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Have to Say I am Inclined to Believe SOLT's Account

SOLT issued this statement.  Fr. Corapi responded with this statement.

With all due respect, I have to say I find SOLT's account more credible, while Fr. Corapi's statements on the issue have been frequently contradictory and self serving, saying some very uncharitable things as an ad hominem attack against those who investigate him.

He's just another dissenting priest at this point.  Really it would be best to stop giving him publicity – and to practice what I preach, this will be my last statement about him barring something serious being brought to the public.

Please pray for Fr. Corapi and all priests.

Comments Are Disabled.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

If We Do Not, Why Should They? Thoughts on Accusations Against the New York Bishops

Preliminary Note

I quote one blogger in this article.  I do not write this article as a blasting of the author.  Rather, I found his statement to be a concise and articulate stating of what is troubling many frustrated Catholics seeking to be faithful to the Church and are feeling like they're being left out on a limb.  A person who sees this article as an act of judgment of any specific person misunderstands what I am trying to say.

Nor is this article a defense of Cuomo and the New York Legislature.  What they did was reprehensible and must be opposed.

Also, this article in no way advocates a "seamless garment" seeking to say that this issue isn't important or that we need to put equal emphasis on Social Issue [X].

We in the Church need to defend the moral teachings of the Church and, if necessary, admonish the sinner.  However, in speaking out on this topic we are obligated to be charitable and recognize the bishops are on our side, not the other side, even if we would prefer a more direct action.

Please keep the above in mind when tempted to send in an angry response.


With the aftermath of the legalization of "gay marriage" in New York, the scapegoating seems to be in full swing.  During the months leading up to this travesty, I was fully aware that the bishops of New York were opposed to the legalization of "gay marriage."  Yet now that the bill became "law," there are many who place the blame on the bishops that this did happen to begin with.

Yes, the bishops of New York are being blamed for failing to stop the bill from becoming law, and as this goes it becomes less charitable as the idea passes from blogger to commentator. 

The Internet being what it is, a blogger can say [X] which may actually be quite reasonable.  However, some comments become more radical and less charitable in repeating what is said, going from the blogger's "I'm disappointed with how the thing turned out," to the commentator's "The bishops are a bunch of incompetent cowards."  The former can be considered charitable.  The latter certainly cannot.

The point is, the charity towards the shepherds of the Church is greatly diminishing, and all of us are called to consider what we are saying and whether it is just to do so.  Are we engaging in a respectful making known of our concerns to a successor to the Apostles?  Or are we behaving in an unjust fashion?

Considering One Argument Against the Bishops

One blogger (whom I follow and mostly like what he has to say) writes, "The Bishops could not be that serious about stopping gay marriage or else they would do something serious about it."  It's a comment I find symptomatic of the problem.  Such a statement strikes me as typical of the dissatisfaction and frustration.   What he calls for is the bishops to bring sanctions against the politicians who cause this scandal

Now I understand and can sympathize with this frustration.  There are many politicians out there who publically act in contradiction to what their Church teaches.  At least JFK said that if he felt there was a conflict between his faith and his duty as president, he would resign.  Catholic politicians today seem to have no problem ignoring their faith if there is such a conflict, and it is a real problem which needs to be addressed.

Unfortunately the quote above indicates a problem we have within the Church, and that is an indication that the bishops are to be deemed acceptable only to the extent that they act as we would like.  The general sense of the argument (I've heard it often over the years) above can be restated as:

  1. If the Bishops were [serious about stopping Gay Marriage], they would [inflict sanctions] (If [A] then [B])
  2. The Bishops did not [inflict sanctions] (Not [B])
  3. Therefore the bishops are not [serious about stopping gay marriage]. (Therefore Not [A])

This is a logically valid form called modus tollens.   Since the form is correct, we need to look at the premises to see if they are true or false.  Valid is not the same as true.  If the form is valid, but the premises are false, the conclusion is not proven to be true.  So how can the premises be false in this case?  The answer is, if there are more valid options than considered, then it can be said that [B] is not a condition of [A].

If [B] is not the only valid option, or if the bishops were serious but ineffective about stopping "gay marriage" then the above claim is not proven to be true.

How This Argument Can Be Used In Error

So let's see how this form can be used in other contexts (please note, I am not saying the examples below are the equivalent to the issue of the New York bishops.  Rather I am pointing out examples where [A] is wrongly linked to [B]):

  1. If Pope Pius XII was [serious about helping the Jews], he would have [excommunicated Hitler].
  2. Pope Pius XII did not [excommunicate Hitler].
  3. Therefore Pope Pius XII was not [serious about helping the Jews].

This argument is rejected by those who know what Pope Pius XII actually did.  Indeed he was concerned that acts which would not only not save the Jews [Hitler was openly contemptuous of the Church] but would incite Hitler to target even more Jews.  One can see in this case that [A] is not dependent on [B].


  1. If the Catholics actually [accepted the Bible], they would [accept Sola Scriptura].
  2. Catholics do not [accept Sola Scriptura]
  3. Therefore Catholics do not actually [accept the Bible].

The fact that we reject the idea of Sola Scriptura does not mean we reject the Bible.  Rather, we think Sola Scriptura is a man made doctrine of the 16th century never held by the early Christians.  This argument assumes as true something which needs to be proven.


  1. If God [exists] there would be [no evil] (If [A] then [B])
  2. There is not [No Evil] (Not [B])
  3. Therefore God does not [Exist] (Therefore Not [A])

No Christian would accept this.  The belief of free will means man can refuse to follow God, and if he refuses to be obedient to God, he can bring harm to others.

The point is, these examples say "No" to the question: Does [B] follow from [A]?  Thus the conclusion is not proven.  Therefore, before we can accept this argument (that the bishops are not serious), it must be demonstrated that [causing sanctions] is necessary to [be serious about protecting marriage] and not assumed to be true.

The Unspoken Assumption

What troubles me is this sort of a statement is an act of judgment, treating the bishop not as a successor of the Apostles but as a coin in a vending machine.  We put in a coin and get the desired result: "If the bishop had only done [X] we wouldn't be in this mess!"

So here's my problem.  If we who profess to be faithful Catholics cannot be respectful to the office of the bishop, how can we even begin to expect those who are public dissenters to be respectful to the office of the bishop when he seeks to teach on faith and morals?

Now I do believe that enforcing Canon 915 is something we should do.  I believe that encouraging the bishop to enforce canon 915 is a good thing to do.  Doing so is not being disrespectful to the bishops.  Canon 212 does recognize the laity making their needs known in a respectful (the key word) manner.

However, there is a difference between letting the bishop know, "We will be fully behind you if you carry out your mission and enforce the doctrine of the Church" and being uncharitable in making one's needs known

That difference is the difference of respect for the office of the bishop and the person who holds it vs. the disrespectful attitude towards the office and person of the bishop which seems to show up every time the State acts in defiance of the Church. 

The Challenge

So let me ask my fellow Catholics, who do their best to be faithful to the Magisterium, to consider some questions.  Please note, I am not asking these questions from a position of superiority ("I am better than you because I do these things and you do not") but rather as questions which convict me when I read the Scriptures and Patristics in comparison to what I feel in my heart when I read the news.  I know the answer I should give, but, mea culpa, sometimes that comes after the first act of anger.

  1. Do we love your bishop as a fellow brother as well as the shepherd over us?  Or do you judge him?
  2. Do we pray for him?  Or do we condemn him?
  3. Do we support him?  Or is our support conditional on whether he follows our agenda?
  4. Do we want those people acting against Church teaching  (Obama, Cuomo etc.) to be saved?  Or condemned?
  5. Do we judge other Catholics for falling away from Church on sexual issues while rejecting the Church on other issues (Social Justice)?

I am not arguing for some "Seamless Garment" saying these issues are not important unless we first commit to [X], [Y] and [Z].  I am saying that if we want others to follow the authority of the Church, we need to practice what we preach and follow such authority ourselves.  Otherwise we make a poor example to whom the dissenter can say, "Why should I listen to you?  You don't  respect the authority of the bishop either?

Nor do I say if we treat the bishop with respect, the dissenters will too (free will means a person can choose to disobey Christ's Church).  Rather I say, if we think obedience to the bishop is so important for the dissenters to comply with, then let us practice what we preach.