Showing posts with label post hoc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post hoc. Show all posts

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Truth vs. Perception

While I’m in the hospital doing rehabilitation from a recent amputation, I have the opportunity to do a lot of theological study. One of the things I’ve been doing is reading the post-Vatican II writings of St. Paul VI where he implemented the Council teachings into the practice of the Catholic Faith. I find his writings demonstrate a solid theology that reflects The Lord’s parable of the head of a household (Matthew 13:52) who “brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” He understood and respected the timeless teachings of the Church and the need to make them intelligible to the modern generation that thought the Church archaic and irrelevant.

I contrast that with all the horror stories critics bring forward about the rebellion within the Church with all the banality and dissent. In comparing the two, we discover that the Church never condoned these things. Rather there was a second movement within the Church—one predating Vatican II—that balked against certain disciplines and obligations. When the rebellion of the 1960s happened, this second movement identified with it and its call for radical change.

Unfortunately, some of the Catholics (rightly troubled by this rebellion) committed the non causa pro causa (“non-cause for a cause”) and post hoc fallacies in response. They assumed that since these rebellions came after Vatican II, Vatican II caused the rebellion and since these rebellions did not immediately vanish, it meant that St. Paul VI and his successors approved of the rebellion. Combine this with an ignorance about what the Council actually taught and you have a false perception that people believe simply because they can see problems exist in the Church and can see things they dislike in the Church.

This result was understandable but false. Since the Church was perceived as stable before the Council, but was now facing chaos, it was easy to link the problem to the dislike. Groups like the SSPX grew by claiming that the Council taught “errors” and the only way back from the “error” was to go back to the way things were before the Council. The problem is, there were no errors.

It’s remarkably similar to the anti-Catholics who see things they think of as error. They assume that the Church needs to “go back” to a time before the “errors” (a fictional time when the Church was allegedly guided by the Bible alone). Like the anti-Vatican II crowd, they assumed that the Church went wrong where it taught what they dislike. But there were no errors in teaching. There was corruption when members of the Church failed to live according to that teaching.

And, of course, we have the same problem today with anti-Francis Catholics who assume that the Pope is teaching “error” and insist that we must undo what he did to “save” the Church. These critics overlook the fact that the problems we have now were problems we had under his predecessors. 

In all these cases, reform had to happen or will have to happen where wrongdoing happened. But the reform that was needed was not the reform the critics demanded. The reform was not needed because of the teaching. It was needed because of people acting in opposition to the teaching. The truth and the perception were different.

Ultimately we need to beware of the “obvious solution” that matches the preferences of the person making it. If we want to correct problems, we need to look at the problem and not assume cause and effect intersect at the point of our dislike.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thoughts on Fallacies in "Magic Solutions"

Both in the secular world and in the Church, some people argue that “all we need to do is . . .” [favored solution here] "and we’ll stop the problem.” For a secular example, when there is a mass shooting, some people argue that if we just outlaw private ownership of guns, the mass killings will stop. Or, as a religious example, I’ve seen some argue that if we return to receiving the Eucharist on the tongue or celebrate Mass ad orientem, we’ll solve the problem of irreverence at Mass. People like to use this argument to promote a preferred policy in order to make things the way they think should be. There’s nothing wrong with preferring certain policies, and wanting changes when we think things have gone terribly wrong.

The problem is, too often we think our preferred policy is the “magic solution” where if only we get rid of something we dislike, we solve the problem as if the thing we disliked was some sort of “evil eye” we need defense from. But if the first does not cause the second, we won’t stop the second by stopping the first. The problem will still exist. 

Logically, we can put these “magic solution” claims into a syllogism:

  • If X happens then Y happens
  • Y Happened
  • Therefore X happened

In logic, that’s the affirming the consequent fallacy. It assumes a link between X and Y and X is always the cause of Y. We can show why it is false by replacing X and Y:

  • If I am in Los Angeles I am in California. [True]
  • I am in California. [True]
  • Therefore I am in Los Angeles. [Maybe not, and being in California isn’t proof of being in Los Angeles]

While most of the country tends to equate Los Angeles with California, the syllogism is false because I can be in California without being in Los Angeles.

In a similar way, when we want to stop an evil, we must be certain that we’ve identified the real problem. Just because we don’t like X does not mean X causes Y. That’s why I get annoyed when some Catholics argue that to stop irreverence at Mass, we must replace Communion in the hand with Communion on the tongue, Mass ad populum with Mass ad orientem, the vernacular with Latin, or the Ordinary Form of the Mass with the Extraordinary Form. Sure, if one can prove that these things cause irreverence, then yes, let’s eliminate them. But first you have to show that these things caused the irreverence, and not something else. Just because X happened and then Y happened does not mean that X caused Y. Again, that’s what we have to prove.

So it seems to me that the Catholics who say we need to “go back” to older practices and the Catholics who say we need to “move forward” with new ideas to make the Mass “relevant" are making the same mistake. As I see it, the first step is to educate the modern Catholic about the meaning of the Mass and the Eucharist, and what we believe about it. Once we do that, they might understand a call to recover the meaning of an earlier practice or to seek a better way to express the truth in a newer practice. But if we lose sense of the meaning of the Mass and the Eucharist, then the practices and stances in Mass will also lose meaning. In that case, going back to an older practice or going forward with a newer one will just seem like an arbitrary decision.

It is for the Pope and, in some cases, the bishops to determine what practices are fitting for the Mass. The rest of us can’t override them. As we were taught in Vatican II:

22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops   legitimately established.

3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.


 Catholic Church, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011).

But we can work in our parishes—with, and never opposed to, the Pope, bishops and priests—to promote a proper understanding of the Mass so the faithful might adopt a more reverent attitude in the celebration of the Mass and reception of the Eucharist. That can be done in catechesis, in bulletins, and in many other forms of parish programs.

I’m not saying this will be easy, or that one solution will fit all. We all have our preferences, and not all of them are compatible with what the Church says must be done. Certainly the infamous abuses must be curbed. The Mass is not something we can take a relativistic attitude towards. But I am saying we put the cart before the horse if we think that a “magical solution” (whether “going back to” or “moving forward with”) will solve the problem of a lack of reverence.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Deadliest (Logical) Error

If I had to choose the greatest error of reasoning that leads people to false conclusions and accompanying troubles, it would be the set of fallacies that make the assumption that certain things were true when they actually need to be proven. Sometimes, this is deliberately done, when someone engages in sophistry to justify a position and make opponents look bad. But many times, this is done simply because an individual assumes that there is a link between two things that does not actually exist. In fact, an assumption is something that is accepted as true, but without proof.

I think it’s a shame that the West has forgotten the Christian and Classical writings she was once based on, because—despite the propaganda which is determined to make the ancient and medieval times seem primitive and ignorant—they knew many things about reality that we have forgotten. Take Aristotle. He wrote over 2366 years ago about how people make this error.

Now begging the question […] may be done by assuming what is in question at once; it is also possible to make a transition to [40] other things which would naturally be proved through the [65a] thesis proposed, and demonstrate it through them, e.g. if A should be proved through B, and B through C, though it was natural that C should be proved through A: for it turns out that those who reason thus are proving A by means of itself. This is what those persons do who suppose [5] that they are constructing parallel straight lines: for they fail to see that they are assuming facts which it is impossible to demonstrate unless the parallels exist. So it turns out that those who reason thus merely say a particular thing is, if it is: in this way everything will be self-evident. But that is impossible.


[Aristotle, “Analytica Priora,”  64.2.30–65.1.9 in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, trans. A. J. Jenkinson, vol. 1 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928).]

In other words, people make an assumption that the existence of certain incidents prove the point they want to make, but those incidents are all interpreted by the assumption that belief is true. when the accuracy of the claim is being questioned in the first place. One common example of this error is the canard that the only reason that can explain opposition to “same sex marriage” is “homophobia” and the only reason for opposition to contraceptives is a “misogynistic” attitude from bishops—and if they weren’t celibate, then teaching would be different. If one were to actually seek out what the Church taught, they would see that her motives are not the motives people claim she holds them for.

But this argument fails to examine the basis of Church teaching, that the existence of every Catholic teaching that says that the sexual act is only validly practiced in the marriage between one man and one woman where the openness to life is not violated and the spouse is not reduced to an object of pleasure. The Catholic teaching on the substance of the marital act rejects contraception, fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, rape, etc., because she teaches “This is what sex is for, and practices which reject this view cannot be done.” One can choose to accept or reject the Catholic teaching, of course, but to reject such teaching on the grounds of “homophobia” or “misogyny” are false grounds—because we deny that we hold our teachings for these motives.

Another common attack against the Church is based on the belief that the Church holds a teaching because of the political leaning of the men who are bishops and the Pope. Thus political liberals attack the bishops of being the “Republican Party at prayer,” on the grounds that opposition to abortion and “same sex marriage” are “conservative” positions. At the same time, political conservatives attack the Pope and bishops for speaking out on social justice issues like immigration, economic justice and ecology. The Pope is called a liberal, a Marxist, a Modernist, or a naïf who is “falling for” liberal propaganda.

But the premise is what needs to be proven—that opposition to sexual immorality or abortion is “conservative” and social justice is “liberal.” If the Pope or bishops have a motive which has nothing to do with American political categories, then the accusation has no basis. Again, every case cited which “proves” the Church is politically motivated is actually assuming the claim which has to be proven.

What is overlooked is the fact that the Church operates from the motive that she believes herself called to preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing and teaching people to keep God’s commandments. She has been teaching these things long before Republicans, Democrats or Marxists ever existed. Try reading St. John Chrysostom on the obligation to the poor, for example. He lived over 1500 years ago and taught about the Church teaching in such a way which would be unpopular to some Americans today. Likewise, the Church Fathers who spoke about sexual immorality and abortion that was as widespread as the practices today. The motive was not to persuade members of the Roman Empire to “vote Republican.” It was to persuade individuals to repent and believe in the Gospel.

Ultimately, the attacks against the teaching of the Church tend towards making assumptions about the motives and intentions about the people who implement them. The individual who opposes these teachings alleges bad will, but never considers the possibility that there could be another option. Sure, we can get a member of the Church who does dissent and claims to teach “truth” in opposition to the magisterium, but it is wrong to assume that unfamiliar behavior is willful disobedience. We need to consider other options—of misunderstanding on our part, of a lack of information, of a mistake in judgment etc. 

If we refuse to consider whether the assumptions we make are true, we run the risk of going very far astray from our faith, making a shipwreck while considering ourselves to be sailing smoothly.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let's Look at Things Differently...


If I had a dollar for every time a Catholic with a blog wrote that the Pope is to blame for speaking unclearly when he is misinterpreted or if a Catholic with a blog accused him of handling things badly, I probably wouldn’t need to worry about how my retirement accounts are faring. It’s a popular meme, and it seems to give people an escape route where they might otherwise have to outright accuse the Pope of error (and I’d rake in even more money if I included those blogs who do accuse the Pope of error). It’s kind of annoying actually. If it was that easy for any Pope to explain Church teaching in such a way that no person from any time or culture could misunderstand it, then there’d quite frankly be no need for us Catholics who work with apologetics.

What people seem to forget is all the differing experiences that make us look at things in different ways: Nationality, language, ethnicity, gender, education, social class, religion, political views, etc. Each one of these is a case where people can look at things differently than the speaker, and if we forget that these differences exist, then we will misunderstand the people we listen to.

In addition to these, we have the problems when people don’t want to hear the teaching of the Church. Some political liberals don’t want to hear the Church teaching on sexual morality. Some political conservatives don’t want to hear the Church teaching on social justice. The result is to bend the words of the Church to either make it appear the person is obeying when he or she is not OR to bend the words of the Church in such a way that the person can justify disobedience.

CH Own WordsCalvin’s misinterpretation is deliberate, and is not the teacher’s fault

Finally, we have the case where even people of good will do not have a proper knowledge of the topic being discussed and give the wrong meaning to terms that can have more than one meaning (we call these equivocal words—open to more than one interpretation).

So when you consider the differences of each individual, their knowledge of the topic and whether the individual has good will in interpreting the words of the Pope, you suddenly get any number of ways where the problem can be with the listener, and not the speaker.

Let’s look further now. Let’s look at the post hoc fallacy now. That’s the fallacy which asserts that because A happened and then B happened, A must have caused B. Thus we see the Pope getting blamed every time a Catholic wrongly cites the Pope’s “who am I to judge?” comment. If the Pope didn’t say that, then people wouldn’t be thinking the teaching needed to be changed. But that’s nonsense. It overlooks the possibility of such people already favoring a heterodox view on homosexuality. The same thing happened with the extraordinary synod on the family. When certain Catholics came out calling for a change in Church teaching on divorce and remarriage, the Pope and the synod was blamed, but nobody considered the possibility that the Catholics holding these positions were doing so before the synod even occurred.

Or how about the Affirming the Consequent fallacy. That works as follows:

  • If the Pope speaks unclearly, then people will misunderstand him. (If A then B)
  • People misunderstand him (B)
  • Therefore the Pope speaks unclearly (Therefore A).
The problem is, just because “If A then B” is true (and it isn’t always so), the existence of condition B does not mean that condition A exists. People could misunderstand him if he spoke clearly in Latin while the audience did not understand that language.

So, in addition to the cases of each individual, their knowledge of the topic and whether or not they are interpreting things with good will, we now have to consider the possibility of being misled by a logical error.

So the next time the Pope says something and the media decides to play with it, then let’s look at things differently. Let’s not assume any miscommunication must be the fault of the Pope or there wouldn’t be any misunderstandings. There are any number of reasons this could be a false assertion.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Question Concerning Fears About Pastoral Practice After the Synod

A friend of mine had a question about the concerns of the synod that doesn’t deal with the doubting of Christ protecting the Church. That’s fair enough. I have a tendency to deal mostly with the doctrine, but there is always the concern about how the Church teaching gets applied in the parish.

He says:

There are thoseand I sometimes feel this way—who know that the Synod will not change doctrine but worry that there will be pastoral changes which involve watering down the way that the faith is taught and approving pastoral approaches which are harmful . . . . So it's not the doctrinal changes which concern people like me, it is how we go about conducting the day to day pastoral life of the Church.

We do need to remember that it is too early to assess what the pastoral changes may be. Why? Because this extraordinary synod is actually to prepare a relatio [the basis of what is actually going to be discussed] for the ordinary synod in 2015.  But I do understand the concern. After all, we have had problems in the past, and I am sure the people my friend refers to want to avoid a return to the period of rebellion and confusion.

Why This is a Concern

For those too young to remember, the Church had a demoralizing situation with the rebellion of some clergy and laity after Humanae Vitae was published in 1968. The rejection of authority, civil and religious, had effects on an entire generation. Popes Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have had to fight this, and it seems like we are only now recovering (though some believe we are still going through it). I’m old enough to remember liturgical abuses like songs from Barry Manilow and Jesus Christ Superstar used as “hymns” in the 1970s, and I remember the “Spirit of Vatican II” school of thought from the sisters who ran the college I attended from 1989-1992, which held that the only people who didn’t get Vatican II were the members of the Magisterium who happened to be there at the Council. It felt like the spiritual anarchists were running rampant. We don’t want to have to deal with that again.

Of course we need to distinguish what is caused by the practice as established by the Church and what is caused by disobedience. The two are not the same. We had a generation of people from the “Spirit of Vatican II” (AKA: the Make up whatever the hell you want school of thought) who claimed to know what Vatican II “intended” even though it had nothing to do with (and usually contradicted) the actual words of Vatican II and the interpretation given by Popes who actually attended.

So What is Pastoral Practice?

So we have a distinction to make. What do we mean by pastoral practice? The term is not a formal Church term, but when used in Church documents, the general sense is the way Church teaching is carried out, whether it is the way the Church intends it to be carried out or whether it is an abuse practiced in a region. The term is equivocal (open to more than one interpretation) and we need to recognize that fact.

Do we mean what the Church says we must do? Do we mean guidelines open to personal interpretation? Or do we mean spiritual anarchy caused by the “make up whatever the hell you want” school of thought? These are different things, and the role of the Church is different in each case. Before we can say the pastoral practices of the 2015 Ordinary Synod (this extraordinary synod is preparation, remember) might be harmful, we need to consider what the teaching authority of the Church can do vs. what  a member of the Church may decide to do.

Remember, all of us are sinners and all of us have free will. None of us are impeccable. We can choose to what is wrong in spite of what the Church says we must do. Or, in other words, the Church can tell us what we need to do to be faithful to Christ, but she can’t force anyone to choose it. All she can do is try to correct, and seek better ways to communicate. 

But First, A Fallacy Warning

An important fallacy to avoid here is the post hoc fallacy. This fallacy looks at two events that happen in sequence and presume the first event was the cause of the second. Sometimes it turns out to be the case, but not always. One has to look at the events to see if there are links between them. Sometimes, there isn’t. For example, take this bit from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn:

A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, 'Why, he stumped his TOE.' Would ther' be any sense in that? NO. (Chapter 28).

That’s an exaggerated example, but people make this mistake a lot. One example in the Church is the association of Vatican II with the rejection of Church authority. Many people opposed to this council note that the Second Vatican Council ran from 1962-1965 and called for changes in some things that were seen as distracting. They also note that in the late 1960s we had many acts of rebellion against the Church.

The problem with the assertion is we know that this rebellion did not only affect Catholic countries. It also affected Protestant and even non-Christian nations, and was not solely a rejection of religion. It also rejected civil authority. So to say that Vatican II caused the Catholic dissent is an example of the post hoc fallacy—there are too many reasons outside of the reach of the authority of the Council that can better explain this rejection of authority. You might as well say that the Lateran V Council (1512-1517) caused the revolt of Martin Luther and others beginning October 31st 1517.

So the point to remember is, a sequence of events do not show relation. It may be a coincidence or there may be a connection . . . you have to research the link before you can say there is cause and effect.

Now that we are aware of this, let’s keep in mind when considering the different meanings of “pastoral practice."

Pastoral Practice In the Sense of What the Church Mandates

I have found that when the writings of the Church are actually read, they are pretty level headed. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent do not come across as draconian, and the decrees of Vatican II do not come across as Hippy-Dip. They recognize the importance of following Christ and recognize the fallen nature of humanity and the tendency to sin. The difference of language between the documents of the Council of Trent and Vatican II is that they were addressing Catholics of different eras where the political and social conditions were very different. Both attempted to explain the faith to people where they were at.

I expect this extraordinary synod and the 2015 ordinary synod will attempt to do the same thing. After the sexual revolution in the world and a period of widespread dissent in the Church, there are a lot of people who never learned to distinguish doing what is right from “you have to follow the rules or else.” The Church has to reach out to them in their ignorance or defiance (whatever the case may be) to show the truth.

There can be some legitimate differences of opinion on the best way to carry out the teachings of the Church. That’s not sinful—provided that people recognize that it is the Magisterium that has the responsibility and authority to judge what is legitimate and what is not. There were members of the Church who would have preferred that the changes to the Order of the Mass in 1970 would have been handled differently. So long as they recognize that it is the Magisterium that has the responsibility for making that decision and respect the decision made, that is fine. If the Church decided to reverse herself and go back to the missal of 1962, I’d be in the same boat they are in now, and I hope I would practice what I preach and follow.

I think that pastoral practices in this sense will reflect doctrinal norms. For example, with the fear/hope over admitting the divorced and (invalidly) remarried to the Eucharist, the result must reflect the doctrinal norms because we know Christ called this adultery (see Matt 19:4-9) and we know we cannot present ourselves to the Eucharist in a state of grave sin (see 1 Cor 11:27). So we can be sure that whatever pastoral practices the Church adopts will reflect doctrinal teachings. Any person who presents a claim that pastoral practice permits something that goes against doctrinal teaching—as taught by the Magisterium, not as the radical traditionalist claims—is exposed as a fraud.

Pastoral Practice in the Sense of Guidelines We Have to Interpret

There are times where we have to apply the Church teaching to our lives in a way where the Church decrees a pastoral practice and the person has to assess how to apply it to their life. The Church does not plop down a 3000 page compendium where you look up your specific case and see what you can do. No, she exhorts the faithful to behave in line with the teachings of the Church and permits us to assess how to apply the Church teaching to our lives. The effectiveness of these teachings do depend on how well the teaching is expressed of course, but another part of it is how honestly the member of the faithful applies the teaching. If the Church teaching is not easily understood, then people may accidentally run afoul of it. If it isn’t precise, people may not know where to turn in difficult cases. Try looking up Probabilism in the 1913 Catholic Dictionary for examples of different schools of thought (some accepted by the Church, and others rejected). We don’t want to make situations where the faithful feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

But we do have to remember that when the Church exhorts us to live in a certain way, we do have to use our judgment and form our conscience in line with the teaching of the Church. In other words, we also have the responsibility to seek out and do what is right. So let’s look at one of the cases where people seem to be most concerned with what was cited from the synod. The case of a couple from Australia who alarmed people when they spoke about welcoming the partner of a son with same sex attraction home for Christmas.

Now, the mainstream media seems to understand it that everything mentioned is enshrined as doctrine, but that isn’t the case. what it boils down to is that this couple spoke about issues concerning them . . . how do we deal with such situations? The point of the extraordinary synod is to take their shared experiences and break them down into the relatio saying “we need to address these issues.” Cardinal Burke gave an insightful breakdown of how the Church needs to consider what they said.

In light of the concerns about the pastoral practices emerging from the synod, I imagine the synod will be looking into how one can balance the loving your family members who choose to sin while not being forced to choose between alienating the family member or appearing to tolerate that which is evil. I think that is a good thing to explore. I personally have to ask myself, “Am I coming across like a jerk?” "Am I giving the impression of indifference if I don’t speak?"

But i imagine some people will be (and some on both sides already are) misinterpreting the synod discussions as giving sanction to relationships the Church must call a sin. If the Church expresses herself clearly, she cannot be blamed for the people who misinterpret it because they never bothered to learn what the Church required.

That’s our job, by the way, to pray that the synod fathers will be guided to express the Church teaching in a clear manner to help the person of good conscience.

But “good conscience” is the key. Conscience has to be informed. It can err, if it is not informed. And if the person cares little about informing the conscience, the chances are they will habitually choose what is pleasant over what is right.

As the Vatican II Document Gaudium et Spes (#16) puts it:

Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

The Church does tend to be very clear. But this type of Pastoral Practice relies on the member of the faithful seeking out God’s will, not being the hair splitter by playing the rules to maximum advantage or minimum disadvantage. If one acts in bad faith, the Pastoral Practice will not be effective . . . if you police yourself, it’s easy to become a corrupt cop when your obligation tells you that you must do something other than what you want to do.

Pastoral Practice Twisted Into Spiritual Anarchy

That leads us to the third case to consider—the case of someone choosing to interpret the Church teaching in such a way to justify their behavior even though the behavior cannot be justified in the eyes of the Church. While it is fading as the rebels of the 1960s get older, for quite awhile we had all sorts of distortions of Church teaching through the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” that claimed to know what the Council intended to say despite the fact that the documents themselves and the members of the Magisterium who actually participated in the Council opposed.

I have seen the Church teaching on “double effect” twisted by people to try to justify abortion—even though abortion is considered a direct evil that one cannot deliberately choose (Double Effect says the bad effect cannot be deliberately chosen and cannot outweigh the desired good effect). I have seen the Church teaching on Natural Family Planning distorted into claiming it was not a sin to use contraceptives—entirely contrary to Church teaching.

A dishonest person can justify anything they want to simply by ignoring the facts that stand in opposition to their position. You can try to contrast the Church as being in opposition to Christ. You can say that if the Church really understood the issue, she wouldn’t have taught what she did. I’ve seen these arguments constantly used. They lack only one thing . . . authority that permits them to do it. The Church has never recognized the view that one may choose, without sin, to do what the Church forbids. In fact, not only has the Church never taught it, Christ Himself does not recognize it:

John 20:23 tells us, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Matthew 16:19 tells us that Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 18:17-18 has Jesus confirming this authority to the Church, saying, "If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Eventually, people will get to the Final Judgment and be asked by Our Lord, “Why did you think I did not mean what I said?"

The point is, the Church is not to blame for people disobeying the teachings she lays down. As St. Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim 4:3-4):

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.

Our Lord Himself, in Matthew 24:11-13, tells us that:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

All she can do is teach, and offer correction when people go astray.


When it comes to the pastoral care that comes about by the teaching of the Church after the synods, we cannot just assume that any bad behavior is the fault of the Church. It is only the fault of the Church when she formally teaches something that can be reasonably misinterpreted by someone who makes their best effort to live according to what the Church teaches we must do.

But if the person never bothers to find out what they are called to do, or chooses to make excuses for what he or she knows is disobedience, the fault is not the fault of the Church. It is the fault of the person who willfully disobeys or refuses to seek out the truth, preferring to remain in ignorance rather than risk having to alter their behavior.

I don’t believe we’ll see bad pastoral practices caused by the synod teaching (remember the earlier warning about the post hoc fallacy here!) because even aside from the fact that Jesus Christ protects His Church from error, I believe we have a Pope and bishops who are concerned with doing what is right and concerned for the welfare of the faithful. They will do their best, cooperating with God’s grace, to teach as effectively as they are able to do.

Will we?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TFTD: Spirit of the Age

There is a certain faction of Catholics that believe the Second Vatican Council was a mistake. They point to the Catholics who live in opposition to Church teachings and blame the Council for causing the problem.

The facts don't line up with the accusations however. The 1960s were a rebellion against all sorts of authority, affecting not only Catholics but non-Catholics and even non-Christians.

Likewise, the most infamous of the dissenters predated the Council. They weren't formed by the Council. They took advantage of the confusion to form people in the image they wanted, invoking the meaningless term "the spirit of the Council." In fact they were following the spirit of the age.

The accusations of Vatican II causing the turmoil is a post hoc fallacy. It presumes A is followed by B. Therefore A caused B.

If this is charge against Vatican II is true, then the Lateran V Council (1512-1517) could be said to have caused the Protestant revolt beginning in 1517.

Both charges are ridiculous. Both Councils happened at times when the undercurrent of rebellion was growing and both times the rebellion exploded after the Councils. But neither Council caused the rebellion.

But with both the "spirit of Vatican II" and the opponents of Vatican II, logic and reason -- as well as obedience to the Church -- seems to be lacking.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Enemy is a Friend Who Wants to Kill You? Reflections on Noonan's Defense of the Media

Sources: Peggy Noonan: The Catholic Church's Catastrophe -

Anti-Benedict Media Sharks: Best Friends *and* Enemies? | Blogs |

Peggy Noonan is a Catholic, former Reagan speech writer and an author (she wrote a book on John Paul II) who generally seems to be loyal to the Church.  So when it comes to her criticisms, it is clearly a different case than the New York Times or the attacks of "Cafeteria Catholics."

Reading her article, The Catholic Church's Catastrophe I am inclined to think that she fundamentally misses the point regarding Catholic's anger over the recent attacks.

Her thesis seems to be essentially:

In both the U.S. and Europe, the scandal was dug up and made famous by the press. This has aroused resentment among church leaders, who this week accused journalists of spreading "gossip," of going into "attack mode" and showing "bias."

But this is not true, or to the degree it is true, it is irrelevant. All sorts of people have all sorts of motives, but the fact is that the press—the journalistic establishment in the U.S. and Europe—has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on this issue. Let me repeat that: The press has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on the scandals because it exposed the story and made the church face it. The press forced the church to admit, confront and attempt to redress what had happened. The press forced them to confess. The press forced the church to change the old regime and begin to come to terms with the abusers. The church shouldn't be saying j'accuse but thank you.

This is the fallacy known as Non causa pro causa. The reason I think she is wrong is that she makes an error over what the case is about.  It is not about denying any sort of abuse took place.  It is not about the fact that some bishops did horrible wrong in kicking it under the carpet instead of following the Church rules on the subject at the time the abuse was known.  It is not even about whether some cases were handled in a way slower than should have been.

The reason there is anger from Catholics over the media bias is that in the recent news stories of Milwaukee, Munich and Arizona, there was a concerted effort to attack the person of Pope Benedict XVI with no evidence in favor of, and in fact much evidence against, their claim.

Noonan, in attributing anger over the false attacks against the Pope as anger over reporting abuse at all is attributing a non-cause as a cause.

An Enemy Is A Friend Who Wants To Kill You

I also think Noonan errs over the claim that the media forced "the Church" to deal with the issues.  She says:

Without this pressure—without the famous 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight series with its monumental detailing of the sex abuse scandals in just one state, Massachusetts—the church would most likely have continued to do what it has done for half a century, which is look away, hush up, pay off and transfer.

However, the facts are against her.  In Milwaukee, the case was moving forward until the time of the death of the defendant.  In Arizona, the priests accused were suspended and barred from priestly ministry and had appealed the verdict, taking several years to resolve. In Munich, the vicar general made a decision on his own behalf without consulting then Archbishop Ratzinger.

Indeed, Noonan seems to be making a fallacy of equivocation here.  "The Church" was indeed working on this before the 2002 scandal of Cardinal Law.  She could perhaps say that the Church in America was forced to confront the issue, but this is a far different issue than the accusing of Pope Benedict.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

The thing is, the Church operates under the principle of Subsidiarity, which is described in the Catechism as:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

In the idea of subsidiarity, the higher gets involved in the affairs of the lower when there is a failure in the lower to police itself.  This is what the Church did, once reports of the abuse began crossing its desk.  It reformed its former rules on the subject.

One could make a case that certain media reports helped alert the Magisterium to a breakdown in subsidiarity in the lower levels in America, however, I suspect that the media did not have as big a role as Noonan thinks.

The media may have publicized it.  However, it does not follow that they caused the investigations to begin.  The issue of course is the objectivity of the media.  There were 3,000 cases dating back to 1950 which had to be investigated.  Much of the media had made it sound as if there were many more cases annually.

If The Media Is Alarmed Over Abuse, Why Does It Ignore the Largest Offender?

I think it is a valid charge that the public schools has a exponentially larger number of cases of sexual abuse of minors, and doesn't pick up a fraction of the coverage, even though the Church has put in place of protections the public schools still lack.  Such behavior speaks against concern for victims of sexual abuse and speaks more for bias in the media in an attempt to attack the whole Church.

This is not a tu quoque of course.  The evils in the Public schools do not make for a defense of abusers in the Church.  However, if the media is concerned about the children, why does it continue to report on old cases within the Church instead of reporting on the ongoing problems within the public schools and the utter lack of reform and the ongoing practices which the Church is in the process of eliminating.

The fact that the media continues to report on cases from the 1950-2000 era even though the Church has reformed itself and is clearing the backlog of cases, and ignores the schools utter lack of reform seems to indicate an agenda.

If the Church Makes a Policy Change and Nobody Reports it, is it still the fault of the Church?

That kind of coverage was not helpful, and in fact obscured the real issues to be dealt with.  The Church made a careful investigation at the time the media was making accusations of stonewalling, and policies were enacted.  People with homosexual tendencies were restricted based on the investigation into those most likely to be victimized.  Rules were made concerning the policies to be carried out in parishes and dioceses.

Much of the time, the media made much of the charges, but said almost nothing of the Church actions in response to the abuse.  Were it not for the Catholic media reporting, nobody would have been aware that the Church had acted.

The Media is Hardly a "Friend"

Mark Shea writes an article about the view that the media is the friend of the Church which brings home all the flaws of the defense of the media in the latest frenzy.  In it, he writes:

Look.  I can grant that *God*, who orders all things for the good of those in Christ Jesus, can use bitter enemies of the Church to bring about redemption and healing.  But please: let’s make up our mind.  Are journalists who do slipshod hatchet jobs on Benedict “the Church’s best friend” or are they “enemies of His people”?  I think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, whatever God may have in mind, the authors of this war on Benedict do not regard themselves as “best friends of the Church” and that the self-congratulation of journalists for their shoddy reportage is as repulsive as the self-congratulation of abusers who lectured their victims to sit there, shut up and take it due to the abusers’ sanctity as priests and as mediators of Truth.  Spare me.

It is an excellent point.  The Holy Week attacks on the Pope were not done with the good of the Church in mind.  The attacks attempted to link the culpability of those who had in fact done evil (the abusers) with Pope Benedict XVI — without a shred of proof.

Shea goes on to write:

But please. This group of frenzied MSM sharks bent on destroying Benedict and engaging in their annual Holy Week Church Bash on the flimsiest charges are not the Church’s"friends”, nor do they give a tinker’s damn about the good of the Church or abused children who are not usefully Catholic.  You might as well tell me that Mehmet Ali Acga (whom these sharks did not fail to consult for his expert opinion) was just trying to help John Paul II grow closer to Christ Crucified when he shot him.  Jimmy Akin has methodically taken apart the NY Times crapalicious reporting.  Real “friends” at the Times (London and New York) would acknowledge they did a lousy job and apologize (as for instance, NBC did when they libeled the Pope as a child molester).  Enemies, however, admit nothing.  And enemies of the Church is just what these people act like.  God will, of course, bring life out of the sins of pervert priests, bad bishops *and* bad reporters.  But with the exception of a few journalists with actual integrity and knowledge of the facts like John Allen, the spectacle leading up to the annual MSM Bash Christianity for Holy Week Fest has been a depressingly ignorant and ideology-driven affair.  To be sure, what the MSM meant for evil, God means to turn to good.  But they do indeed, largely mean to do evil in this recent spate of hatchet jobs on Benedict.

This is the difference between enemies and friends.  If the attacks were made in good faith, those who made these reports would have acknowledged their errors and corrected them.  The media in these cases did not do this.

Conclusion: Why Noonan Erred

This is why Noonan has erred in her claims that the media is the friend of the Church, even though she seems to seriously believe it.  By falsely linking the justified investigations of actual abusers with the attempts to insinuate Pope Benedict XVI was guilty, she makes a false accusation that those of us who are angered at the attacks on the Pope are actually angry that abuse was reported at all.

The truth is, we would not be angered at objective reporting, and the admission of errors made in this reporting.  We do object to the smearing of our Pope and the attempts to push an ideology onto the Church using the abuse cases as an excuse [The inevitable calls for women priests and the end of celibacy among other things].

Shea is correct: God may use these attacks for good (it certainly woke up American Catholics to the problems within the American Church).  However, let's knock off the claim that the media did good because change happened.  That's a post hoc fallacy.  Change happened because the Church cared about what happened, and change was happening even before the 2003-2004 reporting of the abuse scandals.

[Edited to correct a typo which changed the meaning of one sentence from what I intended]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anti-Catholicism, Eisegesis and the Post Hoc Fallacy

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

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

Eisegesis and "The Whore of Babylon."

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

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

Now Revelation 17 describes to us this imagery:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alas! alas! thou great city,

thou mighty city, Babylon!

In one hour has thy judgment come.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Post Hoc and Cum Hoc Fallacies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding Errors of Interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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