Showing posts with label false witness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label false witness. Show all posts

Saturday, February 19, 2022

It’s Iimi! Knee-Jerk

Society has grown so fractured that it is impossible to have a civil discussion on anything. The assumption that anyone who disagrees must be supporting evil. No attempt is made to understand the other side. This does not mean that we let evil have its way. But it does mean that we have an obligation to ask whether our assumptions are true before accusing the other of bad will.

 

Iimi’s older sister gets dragged into a debate on the recent Maüs controversy. But the position she stakes out is, if we don’t try to understand, our reactions are merely Knee Jerk















Saturday, September 4, 2021

It’s Iimi! A Hand-Made Tale

After the recent Supreme Court decision involving the Texas law on abortion, Myrna tells Della about how students and teachers are equating the opposition to abortion to the Margaret Atwood novel (and Hulu TV series) The Handmaids Tale and the Taliban treatment of women. Della demonstrates how this is false. She also outlines the issues to consider that make her unsure about the “lawsuit” aspect of the law, and the hypocrisy of those who call it wrong while supporting other lawsuit legislation.












Saturday, July 3, 2021

It’s Iimi! RTFM!

Saul invites Iimi out for ice cream and then tries to trap her with a question about a (wildly inaccurate) portrayal of medieval Catholicism. She points out the need to investigate a claim before accepting it at face value.

But, is she too much of a romantic to do this when Saul floats the idea of having dinner with his family?
















Thursday, October 29, 2020

It’s Iimi! Standing Alone Against the Hordes

With each challenger having their own concerns and agenda, Iimi faces a four on one battle about the myth that Pope Francis “changed Church teaching.” 

[ADDENDUM 11/2/20] Iimi (and this blog) was vindicated.
The follow up comic can be found HERE









Thursday, October 8, 2020

Once Again, The Blind Try to Lead the Blind: Reflection on the Rejection of Fratelli Tutti

St. Augustine, in his prologue to the work Christian Instruction describes a situation that very much sounds like what Pope Francis is going through… being criticized by people who do not understand either the teaching or the basis behind it:

Some will censure my work because they have failed to comprehend those principles of which I shall treat. Others, when they have desired to employ the principles which they have learned and have endeavored to explain the Sacred Scriptures according to these principles, but have failed to disclose and elucidate what they want, will think that I have labored uselessly; and, because they themselves have not been aided by this work, will think that no one could profit from it. The third category of critics comprises those who either actually interpret Scripture well, or seem to in their own estimation. These observe, or think they observe, that they have gained the ability to explain sacred writings, although they have studied none of the regulations of the sort that I have now determined to recommend. Accordingly, they will protest that those principles are essential to no one, but that whatever is convincingly revealed about the obscurities of those writings could be achieved more effectively by divine assistance alone.

—St. Augustine (Christian Instruction)

 Another Papal document, another round of dissent from certain Catholics alleging it is rank heresy. If ever there was an example of the adage, a little knowledge is dangerous, this is it.

The Holy Father’s encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, is a document that reminds us of our obligations under the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment. While written as an appeal to all people of good will, it is just as binding on us Catholics as any other Papal teaching. But those Catholics who want to reject the Pope (schism) or do not like his teaching (dissent) have twisted certain points in it to allege he is openly promoting heresy. In doing so, they are not only behaving dishonestly (whether deliberately or through vincible ignorance), but they show that they do not even understand the Catholic teachings they accuse the Pope of violating.

I plan to discuss the two most widely repeated claims that these anti-Francis Catholics make against the Pope and his encyclical. First, that he has denied the right to private property. Second, that he has rejected the Church teaching on just war. Both claims are false.

Fratelli Tutti and Private Property

The first claim—widely repeated in the secular media—is that the Pope has denied the right to private property. The problem is, this is not even an close as a paraphrase of what he said.

Pope Francis discusses this in three paragraphs (118-120):

118. The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of colour, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.

119. In the first Christian centuries, a number of thinkers developed a universal vision in their reflections on the common destination of created goods. This led them to realize that if one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it. Saint John Chrysostom summarizes it in this way: “Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well”.[92] In the words of Saint Gregory the Great, “When we provide the needy with their basic needs, we are giving them what belongs to them, not to us”.

120. Once more, I would like to echo a statement of Saint John Paul II whose forcefulness has perhaps been insufficiently recognized: “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone”. For my part, I would observe that “the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”. The principle of the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order”; it is a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others.[97] All other rights having to do with the goods necessary for the integral fulfilment of persons, including that of private property or any other type of property, should – in the words of Saint Paul VI – “in no way hinder [this right], but should actively facilitate its implementation”. The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. This has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society. Yet it often happens that secondary rights displace primary and overriding rights, in practice making them irrelevant.

Critics seized on one line “The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural rightderived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods” and interpreted it as denying the right to private property. But they failed to recognize that this line is not a Marxist principle, but a Catholic teaching. We do have a right to private property. But we must make use of it for our brothers and sisters in the sense that the Good Samaritan made use of his property for the good of others in need. St. John Paul II made this point in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (#42):

It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all. The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a “social mortgage,” which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods. Likewise, in this concern for the poor, one must not overlook that special form of poverty which consists in being deprived of fundamental human rights, in particular the right to religious freedom and also the right to freedom of economic initiative.

Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us the same thing:

2404 “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. (307)

2405 Goods of production—material or immaterial—such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good. (1903)

As we can see, this was not a new teaching by Pope Francis. Catholics who think this is an endorsement of “Marxism” urgently need to revisit the teachings about our obligations to others.

Has Fratelli Tutti Cancelled the Just War Doctrine?

The next issue to consider is the issue of Just War. Critics seem to rely on their own interpretation—or more likely a favored media source—of #258, where it reads:

258. War can easily be chosen by invoking all sorts of allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses, and even resorting to the manipulation of information. In recent decades, every single war has been ostensibly “justified”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the possibility of legitimate defence by means of military force, which involves demonstrating that certain “rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy”[239] have been met. Yet it is easy to fall into an overly broad interpretation of this potential right. In this way, some would also wrongly justify even “preventive” attacks or acts of war that can hardly avoid entailing “evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”.[240] At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians. The truth is that “never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely”.[241] We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war![242]

Following the same playbook they used when criticizing Amoris Lætia, they take a footnote (242) and turn it into a doctrine while ignoring the section the footnote references. The footnote reads, “Saint Augustine, who forged a concept of “just war” that we no longer uphold in our own day, also said that ‘it is a higher glory still to stay war itself with a word, than to slay men with the sword, and to procure or maintain peace by peace, not by war’ (Epistola 229, 2: PL 33, 1020).” Critics take the first phrase in that sentence and act as if was rejecting the past teaching on War. But what the critics do not consider is how both warfare and the justification of it has changed. Modern warfare is indiscriminately destructive of the innocent and leaves them in bad conditions after victory is declared. Consider the case of Christians in Iraq for example. So, do we no longer follow St. Augustine? That should be obvious. The teaching has been further developed since then. So, we cannot appeal to his version against that further development.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists conditions of Just War:

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: (2243; 1897)

— the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

— all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

— there must be serious prospects of success;

— the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Critics tend to emphasize the first and third conditions while neglecting the second and fourth. In modern times, the decision is made to go to war, and we strike at the most advantageous moment, while the disorders produced are treated as unavoidable and therefore irrelevant. But unless we meet all of these conditions, what we have is not a just war.

Let us be aware: we no longer see governments leaving war until a last resort. Now we do preemptive strikes and launch cruise missiles at our enemies to strike them by surprise, which some Catholics defend. And, of course, on the anniversaries of the use of nuclear weapons in Japan, we will invariably see some Catholic defend their usage even though the Church itself has always opposed it.

What the critics do not understand is, The Pope hasn’t abandoned past teaching on Just War. He is deploring the fact that we no longer follow it, even though we label every war we favor “just.”

Conclusion

This is just a brief overview of the problems with the objections. It is more in depth than the manga version I created earlier, but critiquing the critics can be done in greater depth still and cover more issues. 

But the ultimate thing to remember when faced with the attacks on Fratelli Tutti is this: Not only are the critics of the Pope wrong about what he said, they’re wrong about what they think the teaching is supposed to be. 

We have a Pope and bishops—successors to the Apostles—to whom Jesus Christ given the authority to teach in a binding manner, even if it is not done ex cathedra. When they do teach the entire Church (and an encyclical is such a teaching), we are bound to obey§ such teachings. Those critics who say that the Pope and bishops in communion with him teach error do not have such authority to teach in opposition, even if they are bishops or cardinals themselves*

As a result, we need to be aware that these critics who claim to be more Catholic than the Pope are nothing more than blind guides. Following them will lead to ruin. We have an obligation to learn what the Pope intends to teach, not insert (eisegesis) our own preconceived notions over that actual teaching.

______________________

(†) Critics have done this for years over the Church teaching on social justice, appealing to an earlier version that does not mention a later abuse against a later version that does. Like critics today, they think that a development is a contradiction.

(‡) If you do not have the internet, you would not be able to read this anyway.

(§) Canon 752-753:

CAN. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

CAN. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

(*) In such a case a bishop or cardinal would only be giving his own opinion, not a binding Church teaching.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It’s Iimi! A Semi-Socratic Dialogue on Authority and Missionary Dating

As a preliminary note, I want to make clear that not all Protestants are anti-Catholic, and not all anti-Catholics are a Protestant. But the attitudes described in this comic are real. They’ve just been adapted to fit the personalities of the characters I’ve designed.





































Thursday, April 16, 2020

Truth, Not Rumors: A Reflection on Our Willingness to Believe the Worst

One of the trends I notice, whether in religion, politics, or other topics, is the tendency to stick with the story one has first heard. From that initial report, we see people form their opinions. When another report comes across that show the original reports were false and we staked out an opinion based that is wrong, our tendency is to defend that opinion. 

For example, in the infamous case of the Covington students accused of racism, I believed the initial accounts that the students were involved in racist chants. Later, when the facts came out, my temptation was to deny any fault, and question the objectivity of the sources. Admitting on my blog Facebook page that I was wrong was one of the harder things I’ve had to do.

I relate that story because we need to seek out what is true, and not contribute to spreading falsehoods† that mislead others. That means we don’t run away with conclusions drawn from the initial reports we hear. We have an obligation to determine if the source is accurate, and that we have properly understood it.

As Catholics, we should especially remember the harm that sincerely believed falsehoods cause. Anti-Catholics believe the falsehoods that Luther and Calvin spread about the Catholic Church, repeating them as if they were indisputable facts. In fact, they will look at you with surprise if you suggest that Catholics don’t believe these things and think you’re lying or ignorant. They believe that the Catholic Church is capable of these things and therefore believe the stories are true.

When it comes to a politician we dislike, a member of the Church, news stories, etc., we should remember that we don’t get a free pass to repeat things that we think those we dislike are capable of. we all know this and get angry when something we have sympathy towards is attacked. But we tend to forget that anger when the attack is directed towards something we oppose. 

In other words, we don’t always practice the Golden RuleDo to others whatever you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12a). If we want others to speak justly about things, we must also speak justly. That rule is not negated when the “other side” doesn’t follow it.

We should be aware of this: Calumny and rash judgment are sins that are easy to commit. Calumny is spreading falsehood. Rash judgment is assuming that the faults we hear about are true, without basis to do so. It’s easy to go by what we see, hear or read, and assume that the conclusions we draw are the only ones to be drawn. But that isn’t the reasonable basis we’re required to have.

Because the issue is not over defending the indefensible. The issue is over whether the accusation is true. As the cases of Luther and Calvin show, as the people who invented the Pachamama crisis show, the accusations can be false. If they are false, we will need to answer for the wrong we cause by spreading them around, based on what we could have known if we bothered to check. Remember that It’s not my fault that X is unclear is an excuse, not a justification.

So, before we repeat the scandalous claims that we think our foes are capable of doing, let’s make sure that we do the required fact checking. Because the obligations to do good and avoid evil are not limited to those we agree with.

 

__________________

(†) A falsehood is not necessarily a lie. A person who honestly believes something that is untrue is spreading a falsehood by telling it to others.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Thoughts on the Misuse of the “Ultramontanist” Label

One tactic used by Catholics who oppose Pope Francis is to label any attempts at defending him as ultramontanism, defining it as attempting to claim everything a Pope says or does is infallible, and then claiming that ultramontanism is a heresy. Therefore, they argue, the defenders of the Pope are guilty of heresy. 

The problem with these claims give us a plethora of misrepresentation. They use the label with a false definition of what it means, and portray those who defend the Pope as guilty of supporting the behavior found in that false definition. As a result, they portray the defenders of Pope Francis as heretical while those who oppose him as faithful—both portrayals would be considered risible by faithful Catholics during the pontificates of his predecessors.



The abuse of term ultramontanism goes so far as to misrepresent the etymology of the word. Properly understood, it is derived from “beyond the mountains,” referring to the fact that the Pope was on the other side of the Alps from the rulers of those nations that tried to deny or reduce his authority over their Catholic subjects. Ultramontanism is not in opposition to orthodox Catholicism. It is in opposition to heresies like Gallicanism or movements like Febronianism, or the kulturkampf that demanded the submission of the Church to the state. Properly understood, Ultramontanism is recognizing that the final decision in the interpretation, teaching,  and governing of the Church lies with the Pope. Where there is a dispute, we obey the Pope over those who reject him. That’s Catholic teaching, defined in Vatican I and reaffirmed in Vatican II.

Unfortunately, the misuse of the term wrongly tries to tie it into the heresy of Montanism, claiming that those they accuse of Ultramontanism elevate the Pope’s teaching and governance to new “revelation.” Thus, we see certain Catholics accuse the defenders of Pope Francis of thinking Church teaching can be “changed,” which is something no informed defender of the Pope is claiming*.

So, to accuse the defenders of Pope Francis of “the heresy of Ultramontanism” certain anti-Francis Catholics commit a hat trick of errors: they falsely misdefine the term, wrongly apply that concept to his defenders, and wrongly claim that his defenders are “heretics” because of their false definition. 

The term Ultramontanism is effectively a combination of the strawman and the ad hominem fallacies. A strawman because it misrepresents the actual defense# of the Pope, and an ad hominem because the label tries to attack the defender, not refute the defense made. When someone uses the term to attack defenders of the Pope, look carefully at what they claim. Under close scrutiny, the Ultramontanism label is rotten to the core.


___________________

(*) I don’t doubt you could find grossly misinformed Catholics somewhere who might think that way—just as you might find grossly misinformed Catholics who literally worship Mary—but in both cases, the Catholics thinking that way are in error.

(#) For example, my principal defense of the Pope starts with the fact that the accusations against the Pope are false, not that I agree with the false accusations.

Friday, September 20, 2019

On the Need For Dialogue

Therefore, let us not be provoked with these men, let us not use anger as an excuse, but let us talk with them gently and with kindness. Nothing is more forceful and effective than treatment which is gentle and kind. This is why Paul told us to hold fast to such conduct with all the earnestness of our hearts when he said: “The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but must be kindly toward all.” He did not say “only to your brothers,” but “toward all.” And again, when he said: “Let your gentleness be known,” he did not say “to your brothers,” but “to all men.” What good does it do you, he means, if you love those who love you? 

(St. John Chrysostom, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God. Homily 1.40)

While doing the somewhat irritating task of studying non-Catholic Christian theologies, I came across this “interesting” claim from an Eastern Orthodox professor about what Catholics supposedly believe:

A natural consequence of this is the attempt of Roman Catholics to dematerialize as much as possible the offered gifts of the Eucharist, since they represent symbolically the completed transubstantiation. The bread of the Eucharist is not the everyday bread of people; they have replaced it with “hosts”, an unleavened, almost transparent preparation. And they deprive the laity of sharing in the cup, because the taste of the wine is dangerously opposed to the idea of transubstantiation. (Yannaris, Christos. Elements of Faith: An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith)

To which, the informed Catholic is tempted to respond in this manner:

The reason we are tempted respond this way (and the reason I call studying non-Catholic theology “irritating”) is because the author of the book is either grossly ignorant or deliberately deceptive about what Catholics believe to the point of being insulting.

In doing so, he invented a ridiculous reason to explain why we “believe” something so foolish. But Catholic belief on Transubstantiation does not have anything to do with what Professor Yannaris falsely claims we believe.

[Excursus: Before going forward, I want to make something clear. When I say these writings—described or quotedin this article—speak falsely or falsehoods about us, it doesn’t mean that I automatically accuse them of deliberately lying. I leave it to God to judge whether they who speak falsely lied or simply erred. Rather, based on Aristotle’s definition of truth, the person who says of what is, that it is not, or says of what is not, that it is, speaks falsely. All lies are falsehoods, but not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is when a person knowingly says what is false. But a person who believes a falsehood is true or repeats it without investigating whether or not it is true does not lie, but still speaks falsely. Whatever their culpability, because Catholics do not believe what they accuse us of, these claims should be rejected as false by all people of good will.]

We have the same problems when modern anti-Catholics repeat the falsehoods of Luther, Calvin, and others. They speak falsely about what we believe, take Scripture and Patristics out of context [¥], and invent a false motive for why we “believe” them. It seems like a huge poisoning the well fallacy used to turn the reader against considering the Catholic perspective before they ever encounter it. 

For example, Calvin’s misrepresentation of Catholic concepts of repentance as external works (for example, Insitutes of the Christian Religion Book III Chapter 4) and his claims of what we believe about Confession are plain and simple falsehoods, misquoting people like St. Thomas Aquinas to make it seem as if the Catholic Church invented doctrines, either ignoring or being ignorant of the fact that the Saint anticipated and answered his objections 300 years previously.

Ironically, Luther was quite angry at those who dared to misrepresent him. In his introduction to the Smalcald Articles [€] he writes (The Annotated Luther, volume 2, p. 425):

I must tell a story. A doctor sent from France was here in Wittenberg. He stated publicly in our presence that his king was persuaded beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was no church, no government, and no marriage among us, but rather that everyone carried on with each other like cattle, and all did what they wanted. Now imagine, how will those people, who in their writings have represented as pure truth such gross lies to the king and to other countries, face us on that day before the judgment seat of Christ? Christ, the Lord and Judge of us all, surely knows that they lie and have lied. They will have to hear his judgment again; that I know for sure.

Yet, he and Calvin did exactly that with Catholic teachings. Luther was correct in saying that those speaking falsely would be judged. But he apparently didn’t ask questions about whether what he said was true. As Our Lord said in Matthew 7:2, For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

Unfortunately, some Catholics are guilty of doing what anti-Catholics do to us. Some are perfectly willing to yank quotes out of context and repeat things as truth without investigating whether they were actually said or what they meant. Then there’s the Catholics who commit the same calumny against Muslims that 19th and 20th century Americans used against us [*]. If it’s wrong for non-Catholics to misrepresent us, then logically we must not misrepresent them either. As the Catechism points out:

2464 The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant.

I think this is where the oft maligned concept of dialogue comes into play. Dialogue is not a stealth attempt to make the Catholic Church “Protestant” (a popular charge from the anti-Vatican II crowd). Dialogue [#] is “discussion directed towards exploration of a subject or resolution of a problem” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). The Catholic Church enters discussion with other groups to eliminate misunderstandings and resolve needless religious conflicts with the aim of working to restore communion. The Code of Canon Law makes this obligation clear:

can. 755 §1.† It is above all for the entire college of bishops and the Apostolic See to foster and direct among Catholics the ecumenical movement whose purpose is the restoration among all Christians of the unity which the Church is bound to promote by the will of Christ.

That doesn’t mean all problems will vanish once everyone understands what we believe and why. There will cases where the accurately understood beliefs of those involved in dialogue will conflict with each other. For example, the Catholic Church professes: “We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men” (Dignitatis Humanae #1) and “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium #14). So, Catholics cannot say that we have “part of” the truth and the “whole” will only be found in coming together.

This is obviously going to be a stumbling block. Faithful Catholics cannot deny these teachings or try to undermine them [^], while those who believe that the Catholic Church is in error and think that dialogue means we want them to embrace error will be scandalized. Many Christian denominations and non-Christian religions think we’re arrogant to make the claim that the fullness of truth is found in the Catholic Church. At the same time, those Catholics who either don’t know or don’t believe that Vatican II reaffirms the past teachings about her nature fear we're going to “give away the store.” If we’re going to avoid needless conflict and perhaps close gaps between us, we need to make sure that all parties involved understand what the others believe and why, even if we disagree afterwards. As St. John Paul II put it during his June 26, 1985 audience: “On our part we shall make our entire commitment of prayer and of work for unity, by seeking the ways of truth in charity.”

But that unity can only happen if we [§] talk to each other instead of at each other; if we strive to understand what the other parties believe and why, instead of merely inserting our own meaning into something we don’t understand. That’s why the Church takes part in dialogue. And that’s why we must not treat it as some sort of “capitulation to error” when we take part. Because if the Church doesn’t take part, how will those who accuse us learn that their charges against us are false? And if they never learn that their charges are false, how can we hope to restore communion?

_____________

[¥] Reading Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity, I am struck by how brazenly he makes ipse dixit, argument from silence, and begging the question fallacies in claiming that the Scriptures that contradict him don’t count (e.g. “In the first place the sixth chapter of John must be entirely excluded from this discussion, since it does not refer to the sacrament in a single syllable” The Annotated Luther vol 3, p. 21) when it is precisely his assertions that need to be proven in the first place.

[€] The accusations in the Smalcald Articles are so bizarre that I find myself wondering just how bad Luther’s priestly formation was in his monastery that he could possibly believe the Church taught these things. If he wasn’t knowingly distorting things to justify his schism, it certainly explains why the Council of Trent insisted on a reform of priestly formation.

[*] No, they didn’t worry about a Catholic al-qaida. But they did worry about Al Capone.

[#] Technically, dialogue between different groups of Christians is “ecumenism.” Dialogue with non-Christians is “religious dialogue.”

[^] To make it clear to those who might misunderstand me, I fully believe and profess these things that the Church teaches.

[§] When I say “we,” I don’t mean individual Catholics should decide for themselves what the “real truth” is, ignoring what the Church teaches. The Church wisely warns against casual and uncritical reading of works hostile to the Church to prevent people from making a shipwreck of their faith. Too many think that if they don’t know an answer to a challenge, that means there is no answer. I suspect that many ex-Catholics are in this category.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

False Meaning From a Failure to Understand

One of the annoyances in daily Catholic life is encountering people who have no comprehension of what Catholics believe and instead insert their own meaning into what they see Catholics do. The result is a wild claim that the Catholic Church teaches something that actually no informed Catholic believes.

Let’s start with something obvious. The manga panel to the left is a ridiculous version of that behavior [#]. Catholics don’t believe that rosaries are a “protective charm” which holds a reservoir of prayers. A Rosary is a sacramental. A sacramental is something which prepares us to “receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” (CCC #1670). 

A Catholic who has forgotten his Rosary can certainly use his fingers instead. A simple set of Rosary beads made out  of knotted cord is no less efficacious than a set of Rosary beads made out of gold beads and silver chain [§]. The person who would be foolish enough to think that Catholics view Rosaries as having some sort of “magical” power based on the meaning a person gives it is grossly mistaken and guilty of superstition. If anyone were to to spread that view, they would be guilty of spreading a falsehood.

As I said above, the manga panel is just being cited as a ridiculous example. I strongly doubt Yosuke Kaneda intended anything other than using a convenient mysterious Western spiritual image [@]. But let’s look at something real—the anti-Catholic attacks which are just as ridiculous as Kaneda’s version of the Rosary but done with the intent of discrediting the Catholic Church in order to make their own theology look better. 

When I read writings of Calvin, Luther, or certain Eastern Orthodox theologians [*], the significant thing I notice is not the explanation of what they profess. It’s how they portray the beliefs of the Catholic Church to justify their divergence. The portrayals of the Catholic Church take local abuses (for example, the misuse of indulgences) and accuse us of inventing a “doctrine” that the Church not only never taught, but actually condemned. Those anti-Catholics who proselytize, often target uneducated Catholics by contrasting these false claims about the Church with their own beliefs to make them seem reasonable in comparison [£]

Catholics don’t believe that we’re saved by our own merits or that we earn our salvation through works. We don’t worship Mary or the saints. We don’t believe that the Pope is impeccable. Indeed, our view of Papal infallibility is much more limited than the authority given by some non-Catholics to “personal interpretation” of the Bible. We don’t rely on forged writings to justify the authority of the Church. But those hostile to the Catholic Church turn their lack of understanding about what we believe and the personal error by some in the Church into a “theology” that the Church never taught in the first place.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you are probably expecting a “bait and switch” at this point. And you’re right. I’m not interested in writing polemics against non-Catholics. But I am interested in writing about attitudes that Catholics deplore when used against them but risk falling into when they dislike something that the Pope or bishops say.

The fact is, some Catholics who are offended by the misrepresentation that some non-Catholics make against us, do use those tactics in dissenting from what the Pope and bishops teach. Whether they don’t understand what the Church teaches or whether they do understand, but want to justify their rejection of the Catholic Church, they misrepresent what the Church teaches, or what the Pope said, and claim that the (misrepresented) view of the Pope contradicts Catholic teaching. Because of this redefinition by the dissenters, they claim that they are justified in refusing religious submission of intellect and will. And, just like those anti-Catholic proselytizers, these dissenting proselytizers also use misrepresentation to target uneducated Catholics by making false claims about the Pope or the Church to make their own claims seem reasonable in comparison.

If we deplore the misrepresentations made against the Catholic Church from those outside of it, we should make sure we do not focus on the misrepresentations that come from the mote of ignorance in the anti-Catholic’s eye while ignoring the beam of culpable ignorance or knowing misrepresentation in our own. Because if we profess that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ—something other groups do not believe—we have more culpability if we misinterpret or misrepresent the teachings and act in defiance on that basis.


________________

[#] Boarding School Juliet is a pretty awful story, even setting aside the issues of cheap fanservice. I gave up after two chapters and don’t recommend it. Other notorious examples include One Pound Gospel where nuns hear confessions, or the “anime Catholicism” of Negima.

[@] Japan has many misconceptions and negative understanding of Catholicism dating back to the Tokugawa era. As a result their portrayal of Catholics (TV Tropes calls it “Anime Catholicism”) is heavy on the trappings but devoid of actual understanding, portraying it as mysterious and slightly sinister. It’s similar to how early to mid 20th century pulp fiction portrayed Eastern culture and religion.

[§] If you’re curious about my own Rosary, for years I used one with knotted cords and plastic beads. My current one is made out of knotted cords and wooden beads that came from Jerusalem. I don’t think that one is holier by nature than my plastic one or that it “works better.”

[*] I would like to make clear that the described behaviors do not mean that I accuse Protestants or Eastern Orthodox in general of being guilty of what is described here and this article should not be interpreted in this way. Also, what I describe is based on the actual works of Calvin, Luther, and Eastern Orthodox theologians (post AD 1054), not what some Catholics claim that they say.

[£] For example, in Luther’s Large Catechism, he writes:

There is, moreover, another false worship. This is the greatest idolatry that we have practiced up until now, and it is still rampant in the world. All the religious orders are founded upon it. This kind of worship involves only the kind of conscience that seeks help, comfort, and salvation in its own works and presumes to wrest heaven from God. (The Annotated Luther, vol. 2, page 303)

This statement is manifestly false. If Luther was unaware of that fact, it means he grossly missed the point of his religious life as a monk and could be no reliable authority against the Catholic Church. If he was aware of that fact, it makes him a liar. Either way, he would not be an “expert witness” to cite against what Catholics believe.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Myths and Lies

The term “myth” in the dictionary (Oxford) has two definitions. 
  1. a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
  2. a widely held but false belief.
I’m inclined to think that when it comes to anti-Catholicism, we can combine the two and describe it as “a widely held but false belief explaining a natural or social phenomenon.” By this, I mean that in defending a movement opposed to the Church, proponents of the movement must retroactively justify the opposition. Because actual history does not provide such a justification, these proponents must invent one that explains it. Thus we wind up with a bizarre claim that the original form of Christianity was “corrupted” or “driven underground” by the Catholic Church early on through “error” and “innovation.”

Under this tactic, the teachings of the Church are turned into a huge straw man that Catholics have never believed while the actual corruption is transformed into something that was openly supported and blessed by the Church instead of the abberation it was actually seen as. The absence of technology before a certain point is transformed into a conspiracy. Cause and effect is assumed when it needs to be proven (post hoc fallacy).

Thus abuse in the matter of indulgences (for example Tetzel or how the use of charitable donations could be misunderstood as buying and selling) was transformed into an invention of the Church interfering with the relation between God and man. The fact of widespread illiteracy (those who were literate in that time did know Latin) and no printing press before the 15th century became the Church “withholding” the Bible from the laity.

Under this myth, aberration is portrayed as “normal.” There’s the case of how monks and priests were supposed to be stupid and uneducated. Yet the former clergy who began Protestantism were highly educated as monks and priests and they were not self-taught. Who taught the Reformers about Scripture in the first place? Luther didn’t find the Bible hidden in a storeroom. He was assigned to teach it by his superior in the Augustinian order!

I could go on and on, and the anti-Catholics undoubtedly will. But the point is that the Church corrected her corruption, while holding firm to her teachings. The Church made them clearer against misunderstanding, yes. Reduced opportunity for abuse, yes. Made uniform standards, yes. But the teachings were never repudiated. In fact, men like Luther, Zwingli, Knox, etc., misrepresented what the Church taught, whether knowingly or out of their own misunderstanding. (I leave it for God to judge).

As I’ve said in similar articles, this is not a “Protestant bashing” article. Rather I take this historical issue of misunderstanding or misrepresentating the Church (which continues among anti-Catholics), and apply it to the “widely held but false belief explaining a natural or social phenomenon” that Catholics use to attack changes in discipline which they dislike. 

Take the case of First Things, issue 249 (January, 2015). In an article arguing that the Church was compromising with the sexual revolution, the author wrote:

By renouncing the discipline of the Friday fast after Vatican II, the Church abandoned the stomach—after which collapsed an entire social system of Friday-focused marketplace and restaurant businesses that was organized around the Church’s claim upon the body. The same goes for the Church’s provision of Saturday-evening Masses. This decision relaxed Christianity’s claim to “own” our bodies on Sunday. 

I find his comments to be the Catholic equivalent of the anti-Catholic propaganda. St. Paul VI did not renounce the Friday fast. Rather, he recognized that penance needed to be... penitential. In the Apostolic Constitution, Paenitimini, he wrote:

The Church, however, invites all Christians without distinction to respond to the divine precept of penitence by some voluntary act, apart from the renunciation imposed by the burdens of everyday life.

To recall and urge all the faithful to the observance of the divine precept of penitence, the Apostolic See intends to reorganize penitential discipline with practices more suited to our times. It is up to the bishops—gathered in their episcopal conferences—to establish the norms which, in their pastoral solicitude and prudence, and with the direct knowledge they have of local conditions, they consider the most opportune and efficacious.

It’s the person having lobster on Friday, not the Church, abandoning the stomach. The diabetic who can’t abstain from meat isn’t abandoning the stomach by replacing it with another penance. Likewise, with the vigil Mass, Ven. Pius XII established the Vigil to benefit the person who has to work or travel on Sunday. One can abuse the intent, but the Church “relaxed” nothing.

We can point to other myths. Consider the claim that the Ordinary Form of the Mass was designed by Protestants (explicitly denied by those involved)... a myth aimed at justifying disobedience to the Church and rejecting the legitimate exercise of the magisterium. Consider the “Pope Francis allowing divorced/remarried to receive the Eucharist” when his point was determining whether all elements of a mortal sin was present instead of assuming they were. For that matter, consider all the (continuing) claims that the Pope is changing Church teaching on homosexuality, even though he consistently teaches against it. Or that he intends to force through female deacons even though he has said, “I can’t do a decree of a sacramental nature without having the theological, historical foundation for it.”

I can go on, and like the anti-Catholics, these people will.

When it comes to the anti-Catholic, the anti-Vatican II, or the anti-Francis myths, we have to ask ourselves this: Do those who spread them know they are false? If they do, they commit calumny. If they don’t, they commit rash judgment. Both are sins. The former is deliberate. In that case, the person spreading the myth knowingly participates in a lie. The latter is a failure to investigate the justness of a claim before assuming guilt and spreading unjust gossip. Their culpability, I leave for God to judge. But He has forbade false witness.

Whether the reader is hostile to the Catholic Church or a member, we have an obligation to speak honestly and make sure what we hear is true before spreading it. If we refuse to meet that obligation, we will have to answer for it.

Monday, April 1, 2019

To Speak the Truth

The Problem

The recent secular and religious news demonstrates one of the flaws in our society: people prefer our version of reality to what the truth turns out to be. So, when the truth comes out, people invent reasons to argue that the truth isn’t true but their opinions still are true. What this means is sobering. It means that we are no longer a people who seek out and follow what is true. Instead, we are ignoring what is true when it threatens us.

The Symptoms

This behavior is easy to spot in others. We shake our heads when the people we disagree with start making excuses. But we behave the same way. The person who supports something automatically discounts anything that could undercut the assumption it is good. Those who oppose it automatically discount anything that could undercut the assumption it is evil. If we were honest, we would recognize that our opinion is either true or false. Recognizing this, we would do our best to investigate the facts and determine whether they fit or contradict our opinions. Then we would abandon those opinions that went against the facts and determine what conclusions did fit the facts.

The Examples 

But instead of doing that, people invented falsehoods and obscure facts to deny what challenges them. For example, to deny the fact that abortion is an act aimed at ending a human life, abortion supporters try to reframe the issue as women making “a choice,” but not saying what choice a woman is making. They say that the unborn child is “just a blob of tissue,” ignoring the fact that we could define an adult human being as “a blob of tissue” as well. There is no attempt to ask whether whether the opposition is right in saying that the unborn child is alive. They simply say “we can’t know,” without asking... because if they did ask, they would be forced to realize that the “choice” is to decide to kill another human being.

Another example would be anti-Catholic attacks. The basic issue is whether the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ or not. If the Catholic Church is that Church, then all refusal to obey her and remain in communion with her is to act in opposition to Christ (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). That is what all who are outside of the Church must investigate. Anti-Catholics refuse to investigate this issue and justify their refusal by making claims against the Church: The claim that we worship statues or think Mary is a goddess, the claim that we think we can earn our way to heaven, the claim that we tried to hide the Bible, etc. 

The people who claim these things have an obligation to investigate if these things are true before using them as a reason to reject the Church. The fact is, Catholics do not believe any of these things. Therefore, using Aristotle’s definition of truth, these anti-Catholics are saying of what is not that it is and do not speak the truth. In fact, they are bearing false witness against the Church and these claims are not valid reasons to reject the Church.

I could also mention the attacks against Pope Francis, where he has been constantly accused of promoting heresy during his pontificate. Every so-called scandal has turned out to either be a sentence wrenched out of context or an absolute falsehood.

The Obligation 

Bearing false witness is a sin. Since what we hear and say is either true or false, and since we either know it or we don’t, we have the obligation to investigate whether these things are true. If they are true, we must follow them. If they are not, we must reject them. But what if we aren’t sure?

In that case, we have the obligation to see if there is any merit to them before repeating them. If we discover they are false, or we cannot find evidence that they are true, we must not repeat them as if they were true. Some things we will never know for certain. We must not spread something that is unproven, even if it benefits our ideologies or people we support. Nor can we use ignorance as an excuse to do whatever we prefer. We have the obligation to seek and carry out the truth.

One thing to be aware of here there is the “gotcha” question where someone tries to set a trap based on a claim we don’t know the truth about. The “gotcha” tries to force you into thinking that if A is true, Church teaching B must be rejected. That’s an attempt to abuse the obligation to follow the truth by presenting something unproven as true.

In such a situation, you need to discover what Church teaching B is before determining if it is related to A. That doesn’t mean, “I can’t find any refutation, so it must be true.” It means, “Given the Church teaches with the authority given her by Christ, I must understand what teaching B is before accepting the word of someone who tells me it is wrong.” In this case, we need to remember that just because we don’t know the answer, doesn’t mean the Church doesn’t have one. In the meantime we are not obligated to abandon Church teaching on the say so of someone who attacks it.

One example of this kind of challenge: it was popular to argue that the Church teaching on contraception could be changed because the Church had changed her teaching on usury. I was extremely doubtful of the challenge, but for years, I could not find an answer. The matter was solved when I discovered the Papal document Vix Pervenit by Pope Benedict XIV. In it, he continued to condemn usury in lending money at interest to people in need, but called for a study distinguishing how investing differed from usury. The challenge used to argue that Church teaching had been changed before was false.

The Conclusion

Ultimately, our obligation is to search for and live according to the truth. We cannot knowingly speak what is false, and we cannot simply spread assertions if we don’t know if they’re true... something popular on the internet today. As Christians, we recognize that Christianity is true. As Catholics, we recognize that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ. So we have an aid in discerning truth from falsehood. Because of this, we have even less excuse than the average unbeliever. 

Let’s remember that the next time we’re tempted to use what benefits us—but is false—over what is true.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Back to Basics: Reflections on Anti-Catholic Attacks

There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church —which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics “adore statues”; because they “put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God”; because they say “indulgence is a permission to commit sin”; because the Pope “is a Fascist”; because the “Church is the defender of Capitalism.” If the Church taught or believed any one of these things it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth.

—Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (Introduction to Radio Replies)

Preliminary Note: Not all non-Catholics are anti-Catholic. This article does NOT intend to accuse all non-Catholics. Rather this article is focused on those who not only disagree with us, but also accuse us of spreading error through ignorance, corruption, and/or malice. For the non-Catholics reading this who may disagree with us but are not anti-Catholic, I do not intend to lump you in with them.

Also, this article involves anti-Catholicism within Christianity. It will not deal with any non-Christian versions of anti-Catholicism.

Introduction

I find anti-Catholic attitudes are similar to anti-Francis attitudes. Both rely on a misunderstanding of what we believe and, instead of determining what we really do believe, presume ignorance, corruption, or malice as the reason for “believing” what we never believed in the first place or “rejecting” what we hold was never part of the faith to begin with.

Under this way of thinking, something the Church has long rejected is accepted by a certain group as “true.” Then our rejection is considered “proof” of our “falling into error.” So long as we refuse to accept how they see things, we are accused of error. But this is the begging the question fallacy. What they assume to be proof of our “apostasy” actually has to be proven.

Separating Anti-Catholicism from Mere Disagreement

Non-Catholics who are not anti-Catholic disagree with us on issues of authority. We hold in common with Protestants a belief in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but we disagree that authority stops there. We hold in common with the Orthodox a belief in Sacraments, Apostolic Succession, Councils, and Sacred Tradition. But we disagree that authority stops there. We believe that there can be a legitimate development of Church teaching that does not contradict Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

The Catholic and the non-Catholic (assuming them equally educated about their beliefs) will disagree about what Scripture means in some places. They will disagree about the weight and meaning of Sacred Tradition. They will disagree about who has the authority to make binding interpretation. Of course these differences are contrary to each other and they cannot all be true. At least some of them must be false. But the existence of this disagreement does not mean that the person who disagrees must be anti-Catholic.

The anti-Catholic hates what they (wrongly) think the Catholic Church is. Because they think we embrace error, the anti-Catholic believes that the Catholic Church is a force of evil that must be opposed. Those people who are members of the Church are assumed to be “ignorant” about what the Bible says—deceived by “heresy.” Those people who are not ignorant are assumed to be willful heretics doomed to be damned for spreading error. I’ve encountered some anti-Catholic Protestants who accused me of being a “reprobate” (those predestined to damnation). I’ve encountered anti-Catholic Orthodox who called on God to curse me.

If an anti-Catholic member of one of the Orthodox churches accuses us of inventing Papal primacy, or if an anti-Catholic member of a Protestant church who accuses us of inventing teaching contrary to Scripture, the Catholic must respond, “No, we cannot accept that. We believe what you say is at odds with what the first Christians believed and the legitimate development of doctrine.” We cannot hold that the Pope is merely “the first among equals” as the Orthodox claim. We cannot hold “Sola Scriptura” like the Protestants claim. These claims strike me as a reason created to reject the authority that the Church has always held.

Sincere or not, Anti-Catholicism is Bearing False Witness

Aristotle once defined truth as saying of what is that it is and of saying what is not that it is not. In this context, this means that the person who disagrees with what the Catholic Church teaches has an obligation to know what we believe before condemning us. For example, we do not reject the Bible. We do not believe “earning salvation.” We do not “worship” Mary or the Pope. The person who accuses us of doing these things bears false witness against us. They might not do so deliberately—they might sincerely believe we hold these things—but the fact of false witness remains.

We have an obligation to learn what is true instead of assume that what has been told to us is true. Unfortunately, some people who do not know what Catholicism teaches are willing to believe any number of accusations against us. They assume we are ignorant. They assume our Church is willing to do evil if it serves our purpose. So, when someone tells them something false about us, they believe it to be true... sometimes to the extent of assuming the Catholic trying to correct their false understanding is either deceived or lying.

A variant of this is the “horrifying past history” tactic. Let’s face it, by 21st century standards, crime and punishment of past eras was barbaric. Much of it came from the Germanic barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire (trials by ordeal, burning at the stake etc. are Germanic, not Christian in origin), but even the Romans did some pretty barbaric things. The thing to remember is this: The Catholic Church did not invent and impose these barbarisms. It was not a case that some bishop said “Hey, why don’t we set people we dislike on fire?” Rather, it was a case of governments changing but the means of punishment remaining constant. My point here is, when we hear about horrifying things in history, we need to understand why things were done that way without making excuses for it.

This means when someone says a thing about the Church that sounds horrible, people have an obligation to get to the truth of it before spreading it around. Do you hear someone say that we believe that we can earn salvation? Before you spread it around, you have an obligation to find out if it is true—and the truth is we do not believe that.

Does it Cut Both Ways? A Warning to Catholics

Our Lord, teaching the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31) tells us we must do to others what we would have them do to us. If we would have others stop speaking falsely about us, we must be sure we speak truth about others rather than assume the worst is true. For example, I have encountered incredibly vicious members of the Orthodox Church online. But I learned that these individuals generally came from a small faction within the Church. It would be wrong if I portrayed the wrongdoing of this faction as if it was practiced by all members of the Orthodox churches. Likewise, not all Protestants believe in things like the “prosperity Gospel” or “Once Saved, Always Saved.” It would be wrong if I accused all Protestants of believing it. 

It is not intolerance to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Our Lord. It is not intolerance to believe that where non-Catholic churches disagree with the Catholic Church, they are wrong. But it is wrong if we are willing to believe the worst about them without discerning if those accusations are true. It is wrong to act with a lack of charity towards non-Catholics.

Whatever level of culpability those who broke away from or opposed the Catholic Church at the time of a schism may have had (something I will NOT discuss), the modern non-Catholic was not party to those actions and should not be treated as if they shared that guilt. We should avoid debating “body counts” and whether actions done in the brutality of the 16th century were “justified” or proof of the other side’s barbarism today.

In short, we should not use the tactics that offend us when they are used against us. Regardless of how anti-Catholics may act, we have an obligation to respond in charity.

Conclusion

My point on writing this is not to shame non-Catholics or to claim that the Catholic Church is impeccable. Rather I hope people reading this might reflect on their assumptions and ask whether what they think about us is really true. Obviously we can’t hold to a form of relativism that says “what we believe doesn’t matter. But I do hope we can respond to each other in charity while learning what is true.