Friday, September 4, 2009

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

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

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article states:

Did he jump or was he pushed?

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

Lets put this into a syllogism:

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

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

The bishop himself said regarding his retirement:

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

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

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

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

CWN goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let us consider this:

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

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

This is especially serious as Canon 1390 §2 reads:

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

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

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

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

What have they asserted in this paragraph?

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

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

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

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

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment