Showing posts with label tu quoque. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tu quoque. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

It’s Iimi! The Ladaria Letter and Other Things

The “Ladaria Letter” seems to be a Rorschach test for Catholics… hold it up to the anti-Francis Catholic or the so-called “Pope Francis Catholic” and they see a rebuke of the US bishops. Regardless of whether they see that as positive or negative depends on misunderstandings of Pope Francis’ preaching on Mercy.

Iimi takes a different approach, seeing the CDF letter from Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Gomez as a reminder to the Bishops about what is necessary to address the issue of pro-abortion politicians in a divided American episcopate.

Relevant documents:
The 2002 CDF Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Aparecida Document of 2007 (which explains “Eucharistic Coherence.”)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

It’s Iimi! The Corpse in the Lab

In this episode, Iimi debates another Catholic about the tu quoque and special pleading that some use to condemn the other side for ignoring some pro-life issues... while doing the exact same things themselves. She points out that both sides are guilty and we need to fight to change our side, regardless of what others do or fail to do.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Both Factions Are Wrong: Let’s Talk About Abortion as an Issue

Every fourth year, abortion becomes a very contentious issue in America. The remaining three years usually involves Catholics pointing fingers at each other for how they voted, saying things would be better/worse if the other guy got elected. Catholics from both of our major political parties tell us that their party is the only real pro-life choice and are swift to point out the evils of the other side.

And let’s face it. Both sides have caused major harm to the defense of life. The Democrats and Republicans alike are correct on pointing out the problems in the other side. But they are wrong to be silent about their own.

The first thing to remember is the Church absolutely calls for the end of abortion. We cannot draw a line where we will say “We’ll tolerate it this far, but no further.” We might have to settle for a lesser gain for now while fighting for a greater gain later. But a Catholic cannot say they will sacrifice the fight to end abortion while focusing on other means to end it. St. John Paul II was quite clear on this:

38. In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

—John Paul II, Christifideles Laici (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988).

Note that some of the issues some Catholics cite as being “more important” to defend life are listed and called “false and illusory” when the right to defend life is not defended. That is not because St. John Paul II doesn’t care about those issues. On the contrary, he wrote some very firm encyclicals on those topics. But he is removing the fig leaf from the argument some Catholics make. We can’t escape the obligation to fight to end legalized abortion (that is, you can’t claim that reducing the conditions where people consider it is enough). So, the criticism against those Catholics is quite valid because their argument is pharisaical at best.

That being said, the criticism against other Catholics is also a valid concern. Working to help pregnant women so they won’t think abortion is the only option is important as well. Yes, we can legitimately have different ideas on how best to do this so long as we don’t use these different ideas as an excuse to do nothing. The problem is, sometimes these different ideas amount to “let somebody else do it.” That doesn’t work as a Catholic solution. The Church does indeed favor subsidiarity for solutions over huge government bureaucracies because the bigger the body working on it, the more likely somebody will slip through the cracks. But, sometimes people’s “let somebody else do it” approach to subsidiarity results in overwhelmed charity groups working to help too many people with not enough resources.

So, we have on one side Catholics on one side is silent over their party championing an intrinsic evil to achieve an end. Catholics on the other side are silent when their party tolerates evil consequences to achieve theirs. So, this is why I say both sides mentioned are wrong, and reject “but what about...” arguments. On one side, turning one’s back on the issue of abolishing abortion is to effectively say that it doesn’t matter if some get aborted as long as it flies under the radar. No, abortion is not just going to vanish when conditions improve enough. Call it negligence, call it cowardice, call it indifference. Just don’t call it principled. It’s still complicity with evil. On the other side, by refusing to consider policies that go against one’s political philosophy on government size, they are leaving women without resources that might give them the courage to choose life. Oh, I’m sure that Catholics in this camp would want these women to get help. But we should keep in mind what the Epistle of James said: If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? (James 2:15–16). God will judge them just as surely as he will those who make excuses for pro-abortion politicians.

The danger is, Catholics have grown to think that Evil X is so bad that they can ignore Evil Y because of it. That’s not how Catholic moral obligation works. In our dualistic political system, we are all too often forced to choose between a party that calls abortion “good,” while trying to expand it, and a party that seems to say “tsk, too bad” when it comes to conditions that make the evil of abortion seem like it is an option.

So, while both factions of Catholics are correct in pointing out the hypocrisies of the other side, they are in dangerous—quite possibly damnable—error over their blindness about their own hypocrisies. So, here’s the thing. If you identify with the party that promotes abortion, you have an obligation to fight abortion tooth and nail in a pro-abortion party you plan to vote for. If you identify with the party that opposes abortion, you have an obligation to fight callous indifference over what those women considering abortion need.

If you don’t do that within your own party, you’re no better than those on the other side that you denounce. It really is that simple.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Dangerous Double Standards and Tu Quoque Fallacies

While it’s easy to lose sight of it in the midst of the coronavirus and BLM protest news, we do have an election coming up. This brings up the usual problems with American Catholics acting goofy. Following the news—frequently little more than editorials—I notice a bipartisan problem. That problem is the rush to condemn something only when it shows up in an administration run by the opposing political party, but staying silent on the issue when it’s prevalent in an administration one supports.

That doesn’t mean we need to be silent on both of course. Quite the opposite in fact. If something is an injustice, it needs to be solved regardless of who is in power. But if we only speak out on it when our enemies are in power, and make excuses for when our favored faction ruled, we are hypocrites who are looking for a stick to bash our opponents over, not effect lasting reform.

One of the problems seems to be that we treat politics as a zero-sum game and don’t want to endanger our party’s prospects when an election is on the line by criticism. I say zero-sum because everybody tends to think that if someone does anything to challenge their preferred party, that person is accused of acting to benefit the other side… and all the evils that the other side is associated with. 

So, we tend to kick our own scandals under the table and blame the problem on the other party. But, in pointing out the failures of the other side, we show we are aware that the problem is an evil, and that we were silent when our own party was in power. For example, I’ve seen Catholic Democrats take pleasure in pointing out the fact that—under Republican administrations—abortion hasn’t gone away, while Catholic Republicans point to the fact that we had incompetent handling of epidemics and unjust handling of illegal immigration under the Democrat administrations. Both are right in saying that the other side has a history of injustice and failure.

The problem is, because they overlook their own party’s fault, the hypocrisy is staggering. As Catholics, we have an obligation to do what is right in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Downplaying the evils or making it seem less important than the evils of the other side is an evasion at best. If we know X is morally wrong when our political opponents do it, we have an obligation not to tolerate it in our own party. Reform isn’t simply a matter of voting for the party you see as less of a disaster. It also means reforming your own party when it goes wrong… regardless of whether the other side does the same.

If we will not do that, we are hypocrites and will have to answer for the scandal we cause. I say scandal because, if we give a witness of setting aside those Church teachings that our own party is guilty of, we set an example of letting others do the same for their own party. Whether a Catholic is a Democrat, an independent, a Republican, or a supporter of a Third Party, we cannot turn our backs on evil or injustice while pointing out the problems of the other side. We cannot argue that another Catholic must violate his conscience in order to vote the way we like, just because we fear the consequences of our party losing.

We have to ask ourselves about how we will answer for our evasions and brush-offs at the final judgment. It will do no good to say, “I chose to violate teaching A to promote teaching B.” It will do no good to say “they did it too.” When we knowingly ignore what the Church teaches, we will have to give an account. When we choose not to learn the truth about why the Church speaks against the policy of a politician we support when we easily could have done the research, our ignorance will not be a defense. Invincible ignorance exists when we have no way of knowing we are in the wrong. But when we have a Church speaking against that wrong, we do not have that excuse.



(†) As always, I choose to contrast Democrat-Republican, Left-Right, Conservative-Liberal in alphabetical order to avoid appearance of bias.

(‡) I am using “independent” in the sense of “not affiliated with a party,” not in the sense of the American Independent Party (a third party).

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tactics of Diversion

It’s long been a tactic of atheists and anti-Catholics to respond to an argument they can’t answer by pointing to some unrelated issue in which members of the Church have either caused harm by ignoring Church teaching through sins of commission or omission, or by actions that do not involve the teaching of the Church. If you’ve seen someone suddenly bring up Galileo, the Spanish Inquisition, or the abuse scandals when they have nothing to do with the topic discussed, you’ve seen the tactic. The unspoken assumption in this tactic is that as long as the Church has a case of some evil or bureaucratic insensitivity in her past, she is morally flawed and has no right to insist on anyone obeying her. Unfortunately, we are now seeing Catholics use this tactic in order to discredit the Church when she speaks out against something they support.

The problem is, if any group must be morally impeccable to be able to say “X is wrong,” than nobody can oppose anything because nobody [§] is morally impeccable. That means the critics of the Church can’t insist on a moral course of action either. For example, if this tactic was valid, Americans could not oppose ethnic violence in the world on grounds that we also have a history of it. Can you imagine a neo-Nazi smugly saying that Americans have no right to speak against the concentration camps because of our history of putting Native Americans into reservations? Under this tactic, we’d have to.

The tactic is not a valid argument. It merely tries to hide the truth the person or group makes in a moral objection by bringing up things—usually out of context—that makes the one objecting seem hypocritical. But the fact that a person or group may be acting hypocritically if they have no intention to correct a moral fault [#] while demanding others correct theirs, does not change the truth of the moral objection raised against wrongdoing.

This most recently arose when the US bishops responded to the spate of mass shootings that flared up over a 24 hour period. The bishops called on the nation to pass sensible laws and asked Trump to consider his past rhetoric. The social media responses (some of which are pictured in the top left of this post) are examples of this tactic. Because they did not like what the bishops had to say, they responded with tu quoque, ad hominem, guilt by association, straw men, and red herring fallacies to try to undermine the entirely valid response by the bishops. But those responses (largely falsehoods) do not disprove the truth of the bishops’ concerns.

Of course, it’s not just the political right and Trump. The political left on abortion, same sex “marriage,” and transgenderism use the same tactics, bringing up the sexual abuse cases and other shameful acts/omissions in the Church to discredit the current statements.

But whoever uses it, know that they don’t have a point. They are merely using a tactic of diversion. The people who use it are trying to get the attention off of an issue they might stand indicted under and shift it to an issue they feel safe about. While those who shepherd the Church should work to ensure the dioceses are free of evil, bringing up charges like this don’t actually disprove the truth of the bishops’ warnings.


[§] This statement does not deny the sinlessness of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, of course.

[#] A rash judgment. Yes, some in the Church have failed to guide the Church properly, or even fallen into corruption. But we can’t conclude from “some have not” that “all have deliberately refused to act.”

Friday, March 8, 2019


Lately, in discussion of politics and Church teaching, we’re seeing a notable increase in what I call “deflection.” By this I mean:

1) A proposal is made to deal with issue X.
2) In response, someone points out issue Y is also an issue and demands it get equal billing.
3) People begin focusing on issue Y.
4) Attention is deflected from issue X while the proposal is hijacked to focus on Y.

In logic, two fallacies are in play: tu quoque and red herring. The tu quoque fallacy is an attempt at deflection of guilt by pointing out the wrongdoing of another. The red herring attempts to deflect discussion of the issue by bringing up a separate issue that may have merit in a different discussion but is a distraction from the current one.

An example of deflection comes up in the US every time the Church deals with a moral issue. There are three moral issues with political baggage attached: abortion, immigration, and the death penalty. When the Church speaks on one of these things, somebody (usually someone wanting to deflect from their political party which is guilty of supporting it) will invoke one of the other two issues (which the other party is seen as guilty of) and say that the Church should speak about that other issue. In fact the Church does, frequently. But by insisting that this specific condemnation be shifted or expanded, attention is deflected from the original purpose in order to bury that original issue which denounces their party and instead make those who oppose the deflection look like hypocrites or as defending the indefensible.

This is a dishonest tactic which we should reject. If we are talking about abortion, invoking the other issues are either tu quoque (If you try to make the original issue sound hypocritical) or red herring (If we’re trying to distract). In such cases, we need to make clear that at this time, we are talking about X, and discussion about Y should be brought up in its own time.

Otherwise, we risk losing focus as politically minded Catholics deflect the issue, hiding it or discrediting it. This hinders the obligation we have to make known how people are to live.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reflections on Truth, Christian Morality and Challenges by Relativism

Relativism: the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

Absolute: a value or principle regarded as universally valid or able to be viewed without relation to other things.

Absolute Relativism?

Among some who reject Christian teaching, whether as a whole or in part, there is an argument offered that there is no absolute truth.  Therefore there is nothing to require us to behave in a certain way, as everything depends on perspective.  The problem is, people who argue this way create a self-contradicting argument.  The claim that there is no absolute truth, by the nature of its claim, assumes this claim is absolutely true – which cannot exist according to the claim.  The claim that everything depends on perspective assumes something which is true beyond all perspective.

The argument is faced by this dilemma:

  • If [There is no absolute truth] is true in all times, places and circumstances then there is an absolute truth.
  • If [There is no absolute truth] is not true in all times, places and circumstances, it means the claim is not absolute and there can be absolute truths.

The point is, everybody believes in some absolute truth (even if it is the claim that "there are no absolutes"). If they truly did not, they could not dispute anything.  The fact that we recognize that something is wrong indicates we believe there is something which is always true.  Once we recognize that, we can question this kind of skeptic, "Why must we accept your claim to the absolute truth?  What is the basis for it?"  Once we have a recognition that absolute truth does exist (in some form), we can inquire what is the truth when there are different claims as to what the truth is.

Now this is a crude form of relativism which subconsciously assumes what it tries to refute.  Mostly it is claimed in such a bold statement by people who have more enthusiasm for their position than reasoned consideration (in other words, don't assume all relativists think this way).  However, even more restricted forms of Relativism hold to assumptions that cause problems for those who assert them.

Moral Relativism

Let's look at a popular claim made by some who reject Christian moral teaching: That there are no moral absolutes.  Some supporters of this claim think it gives them an escape route because the claim is a claim to truth outside of morality – it gives them an opportunity to make an absolute statement that is not a self contradiction.

We can however show that such a view is not actually believed in an absolute way by the proponents by the behavior of these proponents.

  1. If there are [No Moral Absolutes] then [everything is permitted] (If A then B).
  2. Not [everything is permitted] (Not B)
  3. Therefore there are not [No Moral Absolutes].  (Therefore not A)

The major premise points out that if there are no moral absolutes, then everything can be legitimately done in at least some circumstances.  That would mean in some circumstances it is permissible to rape or commit genocide or to own slaves.  If these things are never permissible, then we have shown that there are at least some moral absolutes.

Once we have shown this, it becomes clear that the dispute with Christian moral values is not a denial of moral absolutes, but rather a claim that some Christian moral values (usually concerning sexual morality) should not be binding.  That claim, however, must not be accepted at face value (that's a logical fallacy called ipse dixit [literally ‘he himself said it’]).  Just as Christianity offers justifications on why its moral teachings are true, those who reject Christian morality must also offer justifications on why their claims on morality are true.

Common Logical Fallacies Used in the Attack on Christian Morality

However, that is exactly what is not done.  We either see the ipse dixit claim, giving us no rational cause to accept, or else we see them offering tu quoque or ad hominem fallacies.

For example, when Catholics speak against the current restrictions on religious freedom in America, some reply by bringing up medieval history when some believed that a minority religion could be restricted.  That would be a tu quoque (literally 'You also!') attack, because a person behaving inconsistently does not mean what is said is false or that the past behavior of some justifies the current behavior of others).  If you think it was unjustified then, it is certainly something that cannot be argued to be justified now.

An example of the ad hominem (literally, 'against the person') would be the people who use terms like "homophobic" or "war on women" or "extreme right (left) wing" and the like.  It attacks the person making an argument and tries to indicate that the person has a repugnant quality, therefore what he says can be rejected.  For example, if I attempted to argue that "People who support moral relativism are a bunch of stupid liberals," this would be an example of the ad hominem attack, because that label does not disprove the argument.

What it comes down to is that the current attacks on Christian morality are not based on a rational, logical argument but rather a set of assumptions which, when examined cannot stand.  Thus these arguments cannot be said to refute Christian morality because the premises are not true and you cannot have a proven conclusion if the premises of the argument are not true.


Of course, it does not mean that because an argument is fallacious that a conclusion is automatically false (for example.  "All 2s are blue.  All 3s are brown.  Therefore 2+3 is 5" has false premises , but 2+3 is 5).  However, showing these attacks against Christian morality do not prove what they claim allows us to say that the justification for Christian morality still stands, and perhaps people should consider what those justifications are instead of claiming ipse dixit that Christian morality is false.