Friday, August 30, 2013

On Catholics Defending the Indefensible

A friend of mine showed me a statement made by a priest claiming the use of atomic weapons against Japan was justified. I can understand how some people can believe it to be true... 20 years ago, I believed it (much to my regret).

But that was before I knew the what and why of the Church teaching against it.

But when the Church teaching says...

80. The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. For acts of war involving these weapons can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction, thus going far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense. Indeed, if the kind of instruments which can now be found in the armories of the great nations were to be employed to their fullest, an almost total and altogether reciprocal slaughter of each side by the other would follow, not to mention the widespread devastation that would take place in the world and the deadly after effects that would be spawned by the use of weapons of this kind.

All these considerations compel us to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude.(1) The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a somber reckoning of their deeds of war for the course of the future will depend greatly on the decisions they make today.

With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. (Gaudium et spes #80 emphasis added)

...then it follows no defense of these atomic attacks can ever be justified by Catholic teaching.

Not Double Effect

Sure, some may try to justify it by double effect, pointing out that countless more may have died without it, but that is misapplied. Double effect requires that the death of innocents be unintended -- something definitely not the case with an indiscriminate weapon that destroyed an entire city.

Hypothesis Contrary to Fact Fallacy

Also, it argues using the fallacy of hypothesis contrary to fact. There were indeed claims (based on the Japanese government wanting to mobilize the entire population for a suicidal defense) that the invasion of the home islands would cause over a million casualties -- but that's assuming that all the civilians would agree.

As my friend pointed out...

"This idea really creates an unrealistic stereotype of the Japanese which serves the purposes of the person making the argument. The arguer turns the Japanese people into a group of mostly hardcore fanatics who are ready and willing to throw themselves vainly at the Allied troops without much thought for personal safety. In essence, they are dehumanized - turned into caricatures of people, without any thought of things like life, family, or future. The Japanese people become almost incapable of individual thought in this scenario. It is both insulting and unrealistic. There is no doubt that some Japanese would have resisted in this fashion, but by no means would it be the situation conjured up by proponents of the bombings."

Shifting the Burden of Proof

Also, I've seen arguments demanding, "tell us what should have been done differently!"  But that's shifting the burden of proof. If one alleges the use of these weapons was moral, that person has the burden of proof to show it to be moral.


Because the Catholic Church teaches that these weapons are "a crime against God and man himself," to defend the use of atomic weapons is to deny the authority of the Church to teach on the subject. Perhaps even denying that anything not using extraordinary infallibility is binding.

But before they do, they should consider the words of Pope Pius XII in Humani generis #20...

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

When the Pope or an ecumenical council uses the ordinary magisterium to teach, it is not a matter where we can go against the Church.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fallen America

It is such a quiet thing to fall... but far more terrible is to admit it.

--Kreia, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords


I hear people debating from time on if America will lose its freedom. My take is to say, "What do you mean If?"

I don't say that to be facetious. I say it because it is true. Certain groups of Americans have lost their freedoms of expression if it goes against the behaviors which the government and media elites have decided to support.

Now loss of freedom does not automatically mean 'totalitarian dictatorship.' There are certainly degrees of infringement. A military junta will behave in a different manner than a nation which imagines itself to be a democracy under the rule of law.

So, in writing on this loss of freedom, I'm not equating what goes on here with what goes on in North Korea or the Middle East. Rather, I am pointing out that, compared to what our Constitution professes, our nation is now interfering with religious freedom.

Also,  I'm not dealing with non government attacks. Individuals favoring unconstitutional laws are foolish, but not doing something illegal -- it's when they become law, or executive order or a Court ruling that they become relevant to this article.

Understanding Freedom

One of the problems is understanding what freedom means. In modern thought, it is taken to mean I may do what I wish without any restriction. But the problem with this concept is it means too much. It means a law which interferes with my whims restricts freedom... regardless of what my whim may be.

That's not freedom. That's called anarchy.

Freedom is the ability to do what we ought to do without being hindered. If I believe I am obligated to live according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the government does not have the right to hinder this.

It's stupid to say "I'm not free" if I can't have public access to large quantities of drugs and women of loose women." Nobody is entitled to that.

But it's not stupid to say "I'm not free" if the government can tell me that I or my business must go against that which God commands I must do or must not do.

The first example says "The law must sanction my wants." The second says "the law cannot interfere with my obligations before God."

That's an important distinction. Nobody's conscience tells them "I must abort my child" or "I must engage in homosexual activity." It does tell them "I must not murder," or "I must obey God."

So if the law tells a person "you must support that which your conscience forbids," the law is unjust. And really, the first amendment seems built around the right of the individual not to be forced to do what is evil and to speak out in defending that right.

What the Constitution Says

When the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We see that the Government cannot mandate a State Religion that others must follow. Nor can it interfere with the free exercise of a religion. If the government interferes with how a person carries out their religious faith,  they are violating the certain unalienable Rights (Declaration of Independence) which no government can bestow or take away.

A religion holds members to following a certain moral code, where refusing obedience is sinning against God. So it follows that laws which prevent the following of that moral code do prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Laws and Court Decisions Violate the Constitution

But it is this free exercise of religion which Federal and State governments do violate. The HHS contraceptive mandate decrees that schools and hospitals attached to a church do not have the right to refuse providing contraception to employees who demand it -- even though that interferes with the free exercise of religion of the religion that established them.

Religion is not merely worship or ritual. It involves doctrine and moral teaching. It involves obligation for those who confess it to be true. The government cannot interfere with the individual who believes their religious beliefs says they cannot do a thing...

...But the government does interfere. They say that the man who refuses to participate in providing services recognizing "gay marriage" by making a cake or providing photographs can face legal action. The business that refuses to pay for abortion services out of religious conviction can face ruinous fines. The religious pharmacists who refuse to distribute abortifacients can be fired.

Schools run by churches, which have a right to be concerned about the moral example set for students by teachers, get sued if they fire a teachers who creates a scandal by public immorality.

Let's not forget that in San Antonio, a proposed city ordinance seeks to bar people from city government those who "demonstrated bias" against people with a same sex attraction... something so vague that it can exclude who say they think so-called "gay marriage" is wrong.

This not only violates the 1st amendment by interfering with the free exercise of religion, but it violates Article VI of the Constitution by imposing a religion test:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Article VI).

Because the government (via Justice Kennedy) has decreed all opposition to homosexual behavior is based on intolerance, the City Council of San Antonio can decide that religious beliefs disqualifies one from city service.

It is quite clear that the US Government in its laws, executive orders and court decisions is violating the Constitution.


America is not in danger of losing freedom. No, our government has taken away freedom already -- with the support of many who short sightedly hate us for speaking against evil, and the tolerance of those who are either ignorant or apathetic about what is being done.

The fall was quiet. But admitting it is the terrible thing... and I think many would rather deny it than face the reality and have to do something about it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

TFTD: Two Minute Hate

In George Orwell's 1984, we see a propaganda tool called Two Minute Hate. The tactic is to portray a vilified person on TV spewing their hostility to the regime accompanied by sounds and images designed to irritate the audience. The result was it was impossible not to be affected in hating the identified enemy and corresponding favor of the regime.

Now while we don't directly have a counterpart today (yet?), I was struck by a thought when reading this part of the novel -- isn't it curious how we see a disproportionate number of stories in the news about the Westboro Baptists and pedophile priests whenever the Catholic Church makes a stand for what God teaches, such as the teachings on homosexuality and contraception?

It's as if people in the media want to discredit the Church to induce hate in a "this is what they stand for" message.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Burden of Proof


I came across a book purporting to teach logic to youth in a fantasy story. Skimming through the pages, I came across the following assertion: You can't prove a negative. The person making the positive statement has the burden of proof.

The sound you hear is me pounding my head against the wall. This kind of claim could,  if allowed, let a person say anything he wants in a negative form and the person who finds it ridiculous is suddenly the one who has to disprove it.

Why the Claim is False

So if a Klansman says "Blacks are not intelligent," we're supposed to believe that the burden of proof is on the member of the NAACP who believes they are?

No, the burden of proof doesn't fall to the person who makes the positive assertion. Nor does it fall on the one who makes "the more extraordinary claim" (a popular tactic by atheists who claim God doesn't exist and then demands to be disproved).

Shifting the Burden of Proof

In logic we call this shifting the burden of proof, making a claim and instead of proving it, demanding the argument be disproved.

The problem is, the burden of proof must be met by the person making the claim. If I say, life on other planets exists, I have the obligation to prove my claim. If I say, life doesn't exist on other planets, I also have the obligation to prove my claim.

What this means is the person who wants to make an assertion needs to realize that if they want it to be seen as anything more than a personal opinion, they need to be able to establish reasoning that justifies their view.

The Danger of Negativity

So, if you make a negative claim, you do have to prove it. That can be a real problem with the larger claims.This is because if you say "no X is part of Y" you have to know everything about Y to know that there is no X that is a part of it. On the other hand, if you claim X is part of Y, all you have to do is  know the part of Y that X is part of.

So if I said, there is a dog in the living room, the only part of the living room I would have to know is the part the dog was occupying (Dammit Annabelle, stop walking around in circles and go to sleep).

But, if I should say there is no dog in the living room, I would need to know about every part of the living room to know she wasn't hiding behind the couch or under the table or standing in the corner whimpering because she thinks she's trapped (she's going senile, sadly).

And that's just a dog in a living room. Now consider the assertion "God does not exist." That assertion says that there is no God in all of existence. This means to know God does not exist, I have to know about every part of existence.

Good luck proving that.


The thing to remember is we do not have to let people get away with making negative attacks and then demand we disprove them. The one who asserts a thing has the burden of proof.

Once both sides recognize that, we can actually have meaningful discussions about what is true and false.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TFTD: The Memorial of St. Pius X

Today is the Memorial of St. Pius X.

It might be a good day to pray for the SSPX who claims his name but ignores the required obedience to the Church he served.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Evil Catholic History?


One of the common attacks against Christianity and Catholicism in particular is to point to the savagery of history. The question asked is, "If Catholicism is God's Church, Why did they do [X]?"

[X] being supporting slavery or torture or some other kind of behavior which leaves us appalled in the 21st century.

The problem with these accusations is they tend to presume that Catholicism itself was the cause of the barbarism and to move towards an enlightened society is to move against Catholicism.

But the fact that these were societal practices that Catholics of a region happened to follow, it does not mean that Catholicism taught it as a doctrine to be practiced. Nor does it mean it was exclusive to Catholicism.

When Catholics object to attacks on past history, it is not because we deny they happened or want to whitewash them. Rather we object to the attempts to tie them exclusively to Catholicism and to distort the facts inventing motives we deny and increasing what happened by orders of magnitude.

The Whig Theory of History

Part of the problem is there is a certain view of history that holds that history is a story of progress. Things are constantly improving over time. People become more free over time. They become more civilized over time. Movements may arise to move people backwards, and they must be opposed.

Under such a view, Protestantism is an improvement over Catholicism. The Enlightenment is an improvement over Protestantism and so on.  Moreover, the Renaissance was superior to the Middle Ages and the Modern Era superior to the Renaissance (and vastly superior to the Middle Ages).

It's a flawed view of history which assumes that if social conditions a hundred years ago were worse than today, a thousand years ago, they must have been even worse still.

The view also presumes that because a society advances in technology, it must be advanced socially and morally. But just because government is becoming more centralized and law enforcement is getting better technology, crime is easier contain, that doesn't mean the society is better or safer.

A Catholic View of History

A more Catholic approach to history would recognize that every society is made up of human beings -- each one of them a child of God and each one of them a sinner. Each such society is flawed and practices certain vicious customs that go against the will of God -- even if the society has Christian roots.

What follows from this observation is that with two societies, a hundred years apart, it does not follow that the newer society must be superior to the older.

Instead each society has its own vices and injustices. Medieval society might have been wrong to view heresy as a capital crime, but remember, it was 20th century society that featured governments willing and able to commit mass genocide. It recognizes that at times barbarism replaces civilized society and that barbarism can have effects that far outlast the government that implements them (such as trials by ordeal existing in Europe long after pagan Germanic tribes fell out of power).

Also, this view can recognize that societies can embrace new evils which the older societies rejected. Ultimately this view rejects the notion of Progress as always moving forward... it recognizes societies can slip backwards and become worse, even as technology improves.

An Example of the Difference

For example, let's consider the 13th and 19th centuries. Under the Whig view of history, we would assume the 19th century was superior to the 13th, having overcome certain behaviour we find offensive today.

But, there was a major difference between the West of the 19th century and the West of the 13th century -- in the 13th century, slavery was almost unknown,  while it was a major factor in the 19th century (it was largely accepted in 1800 as normal). If slavery is an evil, it follows that a society that embraces it is worse than one which does not.

Surprised? But it's true. Slavery faded out of existence as Europe moved from a pagan society to a Christian one. When it existed, it was as penal labor as punishment for a crime.

Indeed, when slavery began to appear again when the Portuguese began taking captives in the Canary Islands for slaves. In 1435, Pope Eugene IV, in the document Sicum Dudut, condemned slavery and the slave trade, ordering the excommunication of those who did not free the slaves they took.

Church Teaching and Society's Practice is not Always the Same

The reader might object at this point, "But slavery didn't end!" Yes, you are right, sadly. People did ignore Church teaching on the subject...

...just as they ignore the Church today on subjects like abortion. It would be just as ridiculous to say that Christianity was the cause of the practice of abortion because of the number of Christians who practice it as  as it would be to say Christianity was the cause of slavery in the West because of thr numbers of Christians who practiced it.

That is: we can find Papal documents condemning slavery and abortion,  but we can't find the documents permitting them. So it isn't reasonable to accuse the Church of being pro-slavery, is it?

Sinful Catholics vs. Catholic Teaching

What's important to remember is that while the Church can insist people follow Church Teaching, they can't actually make them live by it. Some may be overt in their disobedience. Others may live hypocritically. Some may struggle to do right and fall short. Others may contemptuously ignore what they disagree with.

These sinners can be the average member of the laity or may be someone in authority. What's more, they are everyone in the Church except Jesus Christ (who is God) and His mother (preserved by a special grace).

So when it comes to condemning the Church herself, it is only reasonable if evil is done because the Church commanded it on matters of faith as a whole.  NOT because a member of the Church (even a Pope) behaved wrongly.

Now I know (I've encountered it personally) some object that this a No True Scotsman fallacy, claiming we deny that any inconvenient facts of history are "truly Catholic." But the point is, there is a difference between the teachings of faith and morals taught by the Church and the law enforcement of the Middle Ages. The former is protected from error. The latter is not. So a short sighted Pope, a corrupt Pope or a Pope who was not a good administrator could then govern the Papal States in a way that causes us to cringe today. Or even a good Pope of a different time could make an error of judgment in governing the Papal States that did not involve the teaching authority of the Church.

And if  this can happen with a Pope, how much less can we indict the whole Church on account of a bishop or priest (they lack universal authority) who does wrong.

Torture and Burning and High Body Counts

An anti-Catholic once made a rhetorical appeal to me, asking if I could think of anything worse than being burnt at the stake. My reply was, "Yes, being hung, drawn and quartered. " An English punishment often applied to Catholic priests and not actually abolished until 1870 (though they lessened some of the barbarism beginning in the 18th century).

Anti-Catholics like to bring up torture and burning at the stake. For them, it's the ultimate example of how evil we are. Basically, if we somehow got back in power, we'd be bringing back forced conversions (even though the Church does condemn those). Many assume we introduced these things to Europe.

Now I don't plan on doing a tu quoque argument or try to argue that it was acceptable in the past. While it is true that past society did practice these things and were accustomed to think of them as normal, that belief didn't make them right.

But we do need to realize that these things were not caused by Christianity. They came from Germanic tribes when they conquered areas of the decaying Roman empire. They stayed around far longer than the societies that introduced them did.

I'm not trying to pass the blame on to the pagans either. Rather I am pointing out again that every society acquires vicious customs which the locals come to think of as normal but is in fact wrong.  Abortion today is widely accepted, but still evil and barbaric.

That's why the internet wars on body counts are useless. The arguments assume one society or ideology has a monopoly on barbarism and cause the cruelty. But actually, what we're seeing is they have the common denominator of being human societies which embraced evil and expedience. Not because they were Catholic or Protestant societies.

Did men of religion accept them as normal when they should not have? Yes, even men with authority did. But that was a corruption of their religious obligations and not an example of religion corrupting men.


The important thing to remember in all of this is to distinguish between what Christ commands and what sinful people do. We need to distinguish between what the Church teaches us to do and how some individuals failed to follow.

At every Mass, the Church (and every individual at Mass) prays:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault

As Catholics, we recognize that we are all sinners in need of salvation. But let's be sure we distinguish between the Church as the bride of Christ carrying out the Great Commission and the sinners within the Church causing scandal.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

TFTD: Infant Baptism

In Judges 13, we see the story of Samson. His mother is told,

An angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her: Though you are barren and have had no children, you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to drink no wine or beer and to eat nothing unclean, for you will conceive and bear a son. No razor shall touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite for God from the womb. (Judges 13:3-4)

What strikes me about this passage is that God chose Samson before birth to be consecrated to God.

Pondering this, I thought of the challenges made against infant baptism. Basically, we are told that baptism is an act of faith which an infant cannot make. As I understand it, those who believe Catholics err think that only someone old enough to know what they are doing can seek to be a Christian.

But God did not tell Samson's mother to wait until he was old enough to make a decision. She was to begin preparation before Samson was born and continue to raise him in this way from birth.

So I find myself thinking, what if baptism isn't merely an act professing faith in God, but is an act dedicating the child to God from the beginning? In such a case, parents baptizing their child are bringing their child and promising to raise the child as a Christian as God calls them to do.

In that case, delaying baptism would be delaying obedience to God who said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."  (Luke 18:16)

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: The Whole Picture


Suppose you saw the series of numbers:

1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5

and were asked what you thought the next three numbers might be.  You might reply "6, 6, 7"

But Do You Have All the Information?

That answer rests on assuming that you have correctly saw the full pattern. But, what if instead the pattern continued as:

10, 10, 20, 20, 30, 30, 40, 40, 50, 50.

You can see that the pattern does logically follow,  though not in a way that was expected from seeing only the first part of the pattern.

It Might be More Complicated Than You Think

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that just because we think we see a pattern it doesn't mean we can just assume we have the whole picture.  After all, it might turn out that the next set in the sequence is not

100, 100, 200, 200 etc...

It might turn out to be

010, 010, 020, 020 etc...

That is, not based on math at all, but on building symmetrical symbols one character at a time. (I could go on and on finding unexpected but consistent patterns,  but I'll quit here).

Do Critics of Catholicism See All The Details?

By now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with Catholicism or Christianity in general. The answer is, many times the faith is attacked as being "nothing but," based on what the critic sees as a pattern. But, if one's view of the pattern is too limited, the odds are that the critic will miss the big picture.

As St. Thomas Aquinas put it, small error in the beginning,  large [error] in the end (Parvus error in initio magnus erit in fine). If you make an error at the beginning, the calculations based on that error will also be false.

Think about this. If you assume a Catholic teaching on abortion is based on "controlling women" as an initial premise, you'll miss the entire teaching on the value of human life which also leads to the Church teaching on immigration, poverty, euthanasia, trafficking and many other issues. You'll miss the entire concept of respecting human life from conception to natural death. It's a pattern far richer than assumed by the proponents of the "controlling women" theory.

A Historical Case of Missed Facts

Here's another example. In 1937, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical, 
Mit Brenender Sorge (With burning sorrow or with deep anxiety) in response to the Nazi regime. I have met people deluded by the "Catholic Church was pro-Hitler" slander to argue that the encyclical did not mention Germany by name. Therefore, they claim, it was not anti-Nazi.

Such people overlook some crucial facts when it comes to solving the pattern. For example:

1) instead of the usual Italian, this encyclical was written in German.
2) the Vatican smuggled the encyclical into Germany to get it past Nazi censors.
3) Pope Pius XI ordered to be read from the pulpit in every Church in Germany on 3/14/1937 (Passion [Palm] Sunday -- a very heavily attended Mass). This order was not made for any other country.
4) After it was read, the Nazis confiscated all the copies they could find and priests were harassed and even arrested.

These facts show that the Catholic Church did want Germans (especially German Catholics who were obligated to follow this teaching, and that the Nazis knew who was being condemned.


Without knowledge of the pattern, we can't avoid reaching the wrong conclusion. Likewise, without knowing the pertinent facts, the judgments we make will end in error. When people make accusations against the Church, we can only consider them credible if they have the pertinent facts and see the correct patterns.

Tablet Thoughts: Hypocrisy and Hooters

"We believe women should be treated with respect."

--Statement made by San Diego restaurant,  Hooters

There's no denying the mayor of San Diego is a major sleaze in his treatment of women. Nothing can justify harassment

But I found it bizarre that the local franchise of Hooters issued the statement it did in barring him from their establishment.

Hooters, is a restaurant which uses scantily clad women as a selling point. Essentially turning women into sexual objects..

...which is how the San Diego mayor views women.

Again, nothing justifies the mayor's behavior. The existence of businesses who use sleaze does not exempt people from acting like decent human beings.

But businesses like Hooters have to recognize their role in pandering to Lust which reduces women to the level of sexual objects for men to fantasize over... and sometimes harass... or worse.

Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II once said, “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

The mayor of San Diego eliminates the human dimension of women. But so does Hooters.

Perhaps each person should consider this well when considering what businesses to support...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Thoughts on anti-Catholic attacks

Introduction: The Form of the Attack

One of the attacks against the Catholic Church, whether from non-Catholic believers or from unbelievers is the citation of certain texts to prove their claims. Whether it is a case of citing Scripture to argue Church teaching contradicts it or whether it is the citation of a Church document from a previous century to portray the Church in a bad light, we have cases where the anti-Catholic tries to use texts as proof of their claims.

Begging the Question

There's a problem however. That the cited text actually means what the anti-Catholic claims it means. Or that the Church teaching being attacked is actually what it is accused of being. To be a valid challenge, we need two conditions met:

1) The text cited must be taken in context, and
2) The belief challenged must actually be what the Church teaches.

Unless you have both, you don't have a case.

So the problem with these attacks is that they assume they are showing proof when they actually need to prove they met these conditions.

These attacks are an example of the begging the question fallacy.

The Personal Interpretation Assumption

One of the red flags is when someone assumes that they have the ability to know the meaning of a text written centuries before in a different language in an entirely different culture just because of the "plain sense" they claim they see.

It's actually a bad mistake to assume that people of a previous century always think in the same way as 21st century Americans. We have an entirely different political structure, technology, cultural influence etc. Things seen as serious attacks on society then seem harmless now (and vice versa).

The result is things can be expressed in one era in a way which is harder to understand in another because we don't share their experiences. It is then foolish to presume that just by reading the text without seeking to understand context can give us a proper understanding of what is meant.
Context please?

This is why I tend to roll my eyes when an anti-Catholic slings quotes, whether from the Bible or from Church documents. The problem is not that things were said. Rather the problem is whether the citation actually is properly understood as intended and properly cited against Catholic beliefs.

For example, it makes no sense to try to cite the Biblical texts forbidding the worship of images against the Church because Catholics don't worship images. A person who worships a statue of Mary or a crucifix sins in the eyes of Catholic teaching.

Understanding What One Opposes

The attempts to attack what one opposes cannot do any good unless one understands what one opposes. This means that the person who would denounce the "evils of Romanism" needs to understand the Catholic teaching, not merely denounce what he or she thinks it means.

We can also ask the challenger to prove what level of authority the Church authority intends to teach. Not everything the leaders of the Church say is made as an infallible statement (free of error). So one can't claim that two Church teachings contradict and disprove infallibility unless they can demonstrate both statements were intended to be infallible -- and it is the Church (not an indivifual) which has that authority to declare what they intended to teach.


The important things to remember in all this are:

1) the anti-Catholic person is not an authority when it comes to what the Church intends to teach in one of her documents.

2) the anti-Catholic person has an obligation to prove his or her accusations are true and not just expect us to accept it as proven.

3) accurate knowledge of what the Catholic Church teaches is required before any attack on that teaching can be accepted as true. Not hearsay and rumor.

I write this article because it is so common to see attacks on the Catholic Church where Scripture is taken out of context, Church documents are taken out of context, Church teachings are grossly misrepresented -- and the resulting mess is presumed by the attacker to be proved... when the mess needs to be proven in the first place.

We wouldn't tolerate uninformed people to make uninformed statements on law or medicine. Why should we tolerate these uninformed statements when made about our faith?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Ugly Past History

What are we to make of ugly history? When we see the claimed barbarism of medieval Europe or the like, there are events in religious history which seems appalling by the standard of the 21st century.

It's mainly a problem because certain people try to attack the belief in God or the Catholic Church on the grounds that in the past, they didn't act like civilized 21st century human beings.

Such attackers assume that if God truly had revelations for His people or if He had established the Catholic Church,  then they should act like civilized 21st century human beings.

The problem with that argument is to make it is to answer it. They weren't civilized 21st century cultures. However, they were the cultures from which we gained our moral knowledge.

What is forgotten is that God doesn't just infuse knowledge into people which they instinctively follow. Instead, He gives His revelations to people who exist in time and in a certain culture. This time and culture has its own vicious customs that are contrary to God's will.

Now we believe that revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, but that does not mean that how Christ's teaching was to be applied was fully recognized in AD 100. Understandings of how to be Christian in a time of persecution would have different emphasis than in a time when it was legalized for example.

God, in His love and patience, works with each generation. What is true remains true, and where vicious customs run in conflict with God's will, He makes use of His prophets (before Christ) or His Church (after His ascension) to direct that generation back to Him.

Of course in each generation, the men and women sin. Sometimes it is in disobedience. Sometimes it is mistaking customs for God's teaching (see Matthew 12 for example). Humanity remains sinful. Popes were not protected from error when it comes to the civil administration of the Papal States.

This distinction is not special pleading. There are actions committed by members of the Church in past ages that strike us as troubling when we look at them from hundreds of years later.

But what we forget is that the development of our understanding of morality comes from the teaching which Christ gave His Church applied to new discoveries.

For example, the teaching of treatment of  peoples developed from the encounters with people in the New World and how colonizers treated them.

Unfortunately,  many assume that the mistreatment comes from the direct command of the Church in a fallacy of the undistributed middle: assuming that because some colonizers mistreated nations mistreated natives and because those colonizers were Catholic it means Catholicism caused the mistreatment. (The fact that colonizers mistreated and colonizers were Catholic does not show Catholicism was the cause -- A is part of B and A is part of C does not mean C must be part of B).

This is why we can say that even though there are sinful Catholics (even among those in authority), that does not justify claiming the Church does evil in her binding teaching. When they do evil, they act against what the Church teaches in regards to faith and morals.

The point of this reflection is to remind both Catholics and non-Catholics that the behavior of sinners in the Church and the old customs  or law enforcement of a more violent time do not mean the doctrine and moral teaching was a part of that behavior.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Incredulity, Speculation and Open-minded Thinking

GK Chesterton once said that an open mind was like an open mouth... it was intended to be closed over something solid. What he meant was the purpose of an open mouth was to close it around food and the purpose of an open mind was to close it around truth.

You don't want to your mouth to admit disease or poison into your body and you don't want your mind to permit error into your mind. So the concept of the "open mind" is not accepting any idea as valid as any other, but assessing each idea to see if it is true or not.

Modern society seems to make two errors when it comes to an open mind.  One is incredulity. The other is speculation.

To be incredulous is to be "unwilling or unable to believe something."  To be speculative is to be "engaged in, expressing, or based on conjecture rather than knowledge."

Neither behavior indicates an open mind. The incredulous person refuses to consider whether a thing is true.  The one who speculates does not give enough consideration before accepting a thing as true.  They aren't opposites however. One can be incredulous because of a speculation they have previously formed.

The open minded person,  in contrast to the incredulous or speculative types, seeks to learn what they can about what is true. He or she recognizes when his or her knowledge is lacking and does not think this lack of knowledge means that the idea can just be accepted or rejected. "I don't know" means "I must learn more" to the open minded person.

Open minded thinking doesn't mean never reaching truth.  Rather, it means that once we recognize something is true, we're no longer free to accept error on that subject.  Once we realize [X] is true, all other considerations which revolve around [X] must recognize that truth.

Unfortunately, the incredulous person begins with the assumption that [X] is impossible and therefore can never happen -- he or she thus refuses to consider any theory that argues [X].

The problem is, many people simply hold "X is false" based on conjecture and assumption.  While one can reject something based on reason (for example, identical twins having drastically different levels of happiness show a fatal flaw with astrology), many simply hold their assumptions without questioning if they are true.

Let's consider the concept of life in places other than Earth. Personally,  I'm agnostic on the subject. An argument based on the huge number of star systems claiming such life must exist is speculation. But on the other hand, it's foolish to claim such life can't exist because we haven't found it yet. That's incredulity.   We can't know it does exist unless we find it, but we can't know it doesn't exist unless we explore every planet in the universe. The only open minded approach is to say, "I don't know, but I will consider credible evidence if it appears."

Some might wonder if the above example would justify agnosticism in considering the existence of God. I would say "not really." If aliens exist,  that is a matter of physical existence and physical proof. But the concept of God is supernatural. Literally "above nature." You can't use science (by nature aimed at the physical universe) to prove the existence of the supernatural -- that's like expecting a microscope to prove astronomy.

Aha! you might say.  "Without physical proof, it means you can't prove the existence of God, but can only speculate!"

To which I reply, "Prove you love your spouse or child."  See, things exist that do not have a material existence we can scientifically study. You can say you love someone,  that you are thinking a thought, but if the only proof that exists is physical proof, then only things with physical existence can be proven. If only things which can be physically be studied exist,  then none of our thinking, reasoning,  etc. exist.

The thing is, despite the claims of 'freethinkers,' the denial of Christianity is not an open-minded act of rationality.  It is incredulity formed by speculation,  a refusal based on a too hasty assumption made without proof.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: The Need for Truth in Assessment

Doing a search in Catholic for kindle books, I noticed there were a few titles written with the intent of "saving" us from the Catholic Church. One of these books claimed to be able to teach us how only Jesus saves, not the Church.

The problem is, any educated Catholic already knows this. While the Church was established by Christ and carries out His mission on Earth, we don't think that the actions of the Church which are for the salvation of mankind come from the ipse dixit declaration of the Church.

Instead we believe that the Church can perform these actions only because Christ has given her the task and the authority to carry out that task (see Matt 28:19 for example).  Faith in Christ is a prerequisite to being a Catholic.

Now I appreciate the fact that these individuals are doing what they do because they believe that we Catholics are in spiritual danger (though I disagree with their identified source of this danger).

But, if these people want to save us from dangers, you'd think they'd know what the actual dangers were.  This is like warning us to get off the roof before we fall, when in fact we're standing on the ground floor... their warnings are completely misdirected.

If their opposition to Catholicism was valid, they should at least know what we actually teach... otherwise,  how do they actually know we are teaching error?

To use another analogy, can you imagine someone trying to practice medicine with no knowledge of the condition of the patient? How could he or she hope to make a correct diagnosis or prescribe the right treatment?

That's what it's like for a Catholic to be told about the so-called errors we "believe."

Catholics don't worship Mary.  We don't believe we can earn salvation. We don't think the Pope is sinless. We don't deny the authority of Scripture. We don't worship statues.

We believe the Church has her authority from Christ, and we recognize that without Him, there could be no salvation.

However, we reject sola scriptura as man made tradition which cannot be found in the Bible -- making them self contradictory.  Because we believe that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ,  we must reject whatever is contrary to the consistent teaching of the Church.  We have faith that Christ keeps His promise to protect His Church and remain with her always.

Those who would dialogue with us need to throw out whatever was learned from Lorraine Bottner or Dave Hunt or Jack Chick or Harvest House.  Instead, they need to learn what we believe and why. Whether they speak from ignorance or from malice, they do speak falsely about us.

If they would "save" us, let them learn what we need to be saved from...

...they might learn that we're not in error to begin with.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: Seminary Dissent Preceded Vatican II

It's a common theme among radical traditionalists that Vatican II led to problematic theories being taught in seminaries. Problem with that theory is that Ven. Pius XII mentioned this problem in 1950 in the encyclical,  Humani generis #13.

So, if this kind of mindset was going on to the extent that a Pope felt important to mention almost 20 years before the rebellion that exploded in 1968, it seems to be a post hoc fallacy to say Vatican II caused that rebellion.

Something to keep in mind when coming across someone denouncing a valid ecumenical council.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tablet Thoughts: False Prophets

Reason I reject "visionaries" like this is it makes Christ a liar when He said the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church and that He would be with it always.

If the Church is supposed to begin teaching fundamental error as required, Christ cannot be with His Church always and protecting it from the gates of hell.

One cannot rationally accept these so-called messages and the teachings of Christ.

Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia

Tablet Thoughts: Conservative Dissent

(Tablet Thoughts are brief comments done on the tablet on the go.  By nature,  they have to be short and lacking the details of a full post. Spelling and formatting errors are more likely.)

I'm seeing a certain set of Catholic bloggers, for the most part seeking to be faithful, who take a rather anti-magisterial tone when their opinions or actions run afoul of the Church.

Now it is one thing to say "I disagree" when it comes to non-authoritive statements -- provided it is done with respect.

But if it is disrespectful or if it falls under a category where the magisterium has and uses the authority, disagreement becomes dissent.

In a matter of discipline (as opposed to faith and morals), one may respectfully ask for a change. However, if the magisterium decides otherwise, we must acknowledge their authority.

Otherwise, while the matter is probably lesser, we're not to different from the liberal dissent we decry.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar's The Office Of Peter is a good read at this time about the dissenting mindset.