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?

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