Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sermon on Envy (Rev. Adrian Dieleman)

Rev. Dieleman is the pastor of Trinity Christian Reformed Church, in Visalia, California. This sermon was preached on 12 August 2001. I've abridged it slightly. Particularly, I cut out the story of Mozart and Salieri, because it is pure fiction (purporting to be historical fact).


I Envy Defined

A What is envy? It is a desire to have what another person has. It is not simply a longing to also have what the other person has; rather, the envious person wants to have something instead of the other person having it. Furthermore, the envious person has feelings of hatred and ill will toward the person who possesses what they want.

B It is possible to be envious of almost anything. You can be envious of another's musical talents. You can also envy someone's ability to hit a baseball, score a basket, or water-ski on one ski. You can envy someone's intelligence, wisdom, knowledge. You can envy someone's ability to talk or pray in public. You can envy another's possessions and money and want them to be yours alone. You can envy another's spouse or children or family. You can envy another's position, job, or career.

C Scripture tells us that envy is our natural, sinful desire (Gal 5:19). It is our natural, sinful desire to have and to keep for ourselves alone what others have. It is our natural, sinful desire to hate and despise the person or persons who have what we want. Because of this, envy is found everywhere. It is found in the church. It is found in the world. None of us, I'm afraid, are immune to it. It can strike any of us at any time.

D If we are honest, we have to admit that at times we also want to be envied, that we encourage envy. This is especially apparent among children. Every youngster knows it is more fun to be the one envied than to be the envier. I remember the first day of grade school after the summer vacation. One by one we were asked to come to the front of the class to tell our classmates what we had done during the summer. One of my fellow students envied the great vacations and exciting trips all his classmates seemed to have so he invented all sort of tales about his summer in order to make the rest of us envious of him.

It isn't only the children who seek psychological fulfillment from being envied. Many adults want to be objects of envy too. We know that God was speaking to Joseph in the dreams mentioned in Genesis 37. Yet, I have often wondered what could possibly have possessed Joseph to tell his brothers about those dreams? Did he, perhaps, want to generate their envy? And, knowing their insane jealousy about the richly ornamented robe given him by father Jacob, what could possibly have possessed him to wear it when he went in search of his brothers at Shechem and Dothan? Did he, perhaps, want to generate their envy?

Advertisers today have discovered that one way to sell a product is to create envy among those who don't have it. That's why Rolls Royce can sell a Corniche for $353,590 and Lamborghini can sell a Diablo for $274,900+. The buyers know that possession of these cars displays to others how rich the owners are. This same principle of creating envy extends to clothing, houses, and furniture. I have even seen this principle used in choosing a marriage partner. Some people choose their mates to be the envy of their peers; they don't marry someone out of love but because he or she will elicit the envy of others.

I remember, when I was a teenager, hearing sermons on the evils of keeping up with the Jones' – a mythical family living next door – on striving to have the same things as my neighbor. Today, it is no longer good enough to keep up with the Jones'. Today's creed is to keep ahead of the Jones'. Today's creed is to be the envy of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Today's creed is conspicuous consumption in order to generate the envy of those who can't afford what you have. But this too is nothing new. The preacher spoke of this almost 1000 years before the birth of Christ.

(Eccl 4:4) And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

E Let me make it perfectly clear: to envy is sin and makes one worthy of God's judgment; and, to purposely create or generate envy is as great a sin as the envy itself. To buy or do things, to practice conspicuous consumption, merely to generate the envy of those around you, also makes one worthy of God's judgment.

Do you envy? Does someone else have or possess something you want for yourself alone? You are living a life of sin. Do you purposely generate the envy of those around you? You also are living a life of sin.

II Envy is Destructive

A In more than one place the Bible warns us against the sin of envy. It tells us about the consequences of envy and generating envy:

(Job 5:2) Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.

(Prov 14:30) A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

(James 3:16) For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

To put it simply, envy is destructive. The church fathers of the Middle Ages tell us that envy is one of the seven deadly sins that can lead to the everlasting destruction of hell fire. Unchecked envy can alienate a person from God as well as his fellow man. And, Paul tells us those who envy "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:21).

B We see unchecked envy in the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph's brothers envied his coat, they envied his dreams of position and grandeur, they envied the love their father gave him. Joseph's brothers envied him. So what did they do? Scripture tells us "they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him." And, when given the opportunity, they sold him as a slave to Ishmaelite traders. Their envy resulted in years of unresolved grief, pain, and anguish for their father and almost brought him to a premature grave.

C The Bible abounds with other examples of envy and its dire consequences. I think of the story of Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because he envied the favor which Abel gained in the eyes of God (Gen 4:5). The plans of Saul to kill David resulted from Saul's envy of David's popularity (1 Sam 18:6-9). And, it is out of envy that the scribes and Pharisees had Jesus crucified (Mt 27:18).

III Envy Overcome

A Envy is evil. Envy is destructive. As Paul makes clear in Galatians 5, envy is one of the acts of our old sinful nature. But as people who have been born-again by the Spirit of God, we are not to live according to our earthly nature; rather, we are to live and walk according to the Spirit. We have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ. Therefore, we are to consider ourselves as having died to sin and been raised to righteousness (Rom 6:1-14; Gal 5:16-26; Eph 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-17). This means, congregation, that envy has no place in our lives and ought not to be found in the church.

B We are to overcome envy. How are we to do that? When all around us people have or possess what we want for ourselves, how can we keep ourselves from envy? The first thing we can mention is the tools the Spirit uses to make us more and more like Christ. For it is only by becoming like Christ that we can leave behind us the sins which are so deadly to our souls. You want to overcome envy? You want to overcome any of the sins of the old nature? It always has to start off with the Spirit's tools and the Spirit's help: prayer, Bible reading, worship, Bible study, the fellowship of other believers.

C We are to overcome envy. How are we to do that? The second thing we can mention is that we should stop looking at our neighbor and should look instead at ourselves. There is a little song that we sing that speaks to this. You know the words: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done." That's what we have to do. Instead of looking at the goods and talents God has given to our neighbor, we ought to look at what God has given to us. We have to recognize the many blessings and opportunities God has given to us.

A good contemporary example here is Joni Eareckson Tada. She became a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. A life of sports, travel, and fun seemed to be over. The promise of a professional career and a happy marriage appeared to be gone. She was confined to a wheelchair for life instead of being free to live the happy life she had anticipated for herself.

How easy it would have been for Joni to envy others who were able-bodied. How easy it would have been for Joni's envy to make her into an angry, bitter person.

Instead of looking at and envying those around her, Joni looked at herself and counted the many blessings and opportunities God had given her. She discovered that because of the horrible thing which had happened to her, she was equipped to minister to other handicapped persons in a way that is impossible for those who are not disabled. Furthermore, she has been a source of inspiration and perseverance for countless believers facing trials and afflictions.

D We are to overcome envy. How are we to do that? The third thing we can mention is contentment. We are to be content with the goods, talents, and opportunities God has given to us. We are to realize that each of us is called to joyfully serve God in the place that He has put us.

E We are to overcome envy. How are we to do that? The fourth thing we can mention is goals and priorities. If you find yourself filled with envy, if you find yourself purposely generating envy, perhaps the problem is wrong goals and priorities. Don't forget, the goal of our lives is not treasure on earth, but treasure in heaven. Our purpose is not to accumulate goods and honors but to live a life of service.


Joseph's brothers were filled with envy. Therefore "they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him."

Beware, congregation, of the evil of envy. Beware, because envy is destructive. Beware, because envy can lead to the everlasting destruction of hell fire. Beware, because unchecked envy can alienate a person from God as well as his fellow man.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Eric Svendsen Sez Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, and Dr. James Dobson Betray the Gospel and R Lousy Evangelicals, in Distinct Danger of Damnation

[for background, see my blog post: Dr. James Dobson and "Anti-Catholicism"]

Ironically, anti-Catholic apologist Eric Svendsen is far tougher on Dr. Dobson than I was. I made it clear that I greatly respect the man, and don't question his basic Christian integrity as a Protestant evangelical. But Svendsen does not take such a favorable view:

. . . evangelicals like James Dobson are more committed to politics than they are to the truth of the gospel. They think it's more important to get social laws passed to increase their own comfort in this life than to make sure that people are not deceived by a false gospel and perhaps increase the comfort of many in the next life. Dobson thinks he represents evangelicalism when he is interviewed by the national press; he thinks he represents the “evangelical agenda.” He doesn’t. Far worse, the national press thinks he represents evangelicalism. Dobson and his ilk are far, far removed from representing the concerns of true evangelicalism; namely, contending for the "once-for-all-time-delivered-to-the-saints faith." He buckles—and embarrassingly so—when asked to defend that kind of thing. He’d just rather not talk about it. He’d rather allow others to believe that the pope is just another Christian leader, that Roman Catholicism is just another Christian denomination, and that we are all just Christians fighting together for the same political causes. If Dobson, Graham et al can’t get it right and can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ--when asked about it no less!--they should just stop making appearances on national media.

(Are the “Focused” Chickens Coming Home to Roost?; italics his; bolding mine)

Now, it's bad enough that Svendsen goes after Dr. Dobson in such a fashion, but when he says that Billy Graham (of all people!) "can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ," it makes me really furious. Billy Graham has done more to promote the gospel than Eric could ever do in a hundred lifetimes.

Billy Graham (he being an evangelist by vocation) preaches the gospel; Eric and his anti-Catholic cronies preach misinformation and disinformation, and unnecessarily, sinfully fuel divisions and suspicions. Billy Graham can be credited more than any other evangelical for providing a stellar example of an evangelical Protestant Christian to the world. But Svendsen has the unmitigated gall to suggest that both Dr. Dobson and Billy Graham "should just stop making appearances on national media," because they supposedly don't defend the "gospel" and do not represent "evangelicalism."

Where is the outrage from evangelicals themselves when someone like Svendsen writes such outrageous, outlandish things? Maybe it's out there somewhere and I have to work harder to find it, but I haven't seen it yet, and I've done my fair share of research on anti-Catholicism.

One expects Svendsen et al to get it wrong about Catholicism, but when he can't even refrain from lying about and slandering fellow Protestants (and some of the most noble and great ones at that, who have done so much good work for the Kingdom, and positively influenced so many lives), then he has clearly crossed into territory far more absurd and ludicrous than he has already been inhabiting, lo these many years. Now he is virtually anti-Protestant, too, with his criterion that any Protestant who dares classify Catholicism as a Christian entity must be a bad Protestant and no evangelical; ergo, compromises "the gospel" and so forth.

How sad . . . . . But I am happy to have a chance to defend my esteemed Protestant brethren (in this case, two men for whom I have very great admiration and respect) against public attacks from their extreme Protestant brethren.

Clarification as of 4-30-05:
It turns out that I made an error in assuming that Svendsen's reference to "Graham," was to Billy Graham. It was, rather to Billy's eminent son, Franklin Graham. Svendsen also clarified that he does not deny that Dobson is an evangelical , in a post which he now has removed, because it was too insulting to me personally (but more on that below). Thus, I have removed a complete citation of that post from this paper because Svendsen removed it and apologized (which apology I appreciate and glady accept):

Waddling in the muck of Internet apologetics eventually takes its toll. I'm moving on to higher ground. While I'll continue to point out the errors of errant theological systems (such as Roman Catholicism), as well as the mis-steps of certain evangelical leaders who seem to walk a bit too close to the edge of the heretical cliff, I am going to pass on the mud-wrestling challenges from Internet e-pologists. To that end, I have deleted a previous entry written in rash response to Dave Armstrong, to whom I apologize along with any others I may have mud-wrestled in the past. While I may continue to check in on their various blogs from time to time, any response to them will be a tempered and measured one.

(Toward Higher Ground, 4-30-05)

Okay, so I "got the wrong Graham" (sounds like an inadvertant oversight at a bakery specializing in sweet crackers). But it really makes no difference in my overall argument, because Svendsen also included Billy Graham in his larger complaints, as is clear when consulting a related post of his. But in deference to his clarification (stated in most gentlemanly fashion), I have modified the title of this post. The original title was, "Eric Svendsen Sez Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson Betray the Gospel and R Not Evangelicals."

So Mr. Svendsen thinks Dobson is an "evangelical." Fine. And he protested because I mistook "Graham" for Billy Graham. That's okay, too. I have no problem admitting that I made a mistake. I don't think it is this super-serious thing that he thinks it is, but it was a mistake, and I 'fess up to it and offer Mr. Svendsen my apology (he has more than once denied that my apologies are insincere, but nevertheless, I offer him my sincere apology. How he receives it is his business: and God sees everything).

[note: the above apology of mine was offered before Svendsen's apology. As of this writing, he has not yet publicly acknowledged and accepted it]

Now, back to the issue at hand: has Svendsen included Billy Graham in his critique along these lines of (lousy) evangelicals who appear on television, agree with Catholics to some extent, and therefore (as he thinks) compromise the gospel? The answer is yes, certainly. I shall now cite a post of his from a few days ago:

On Evangelical Comments Concerning the Death of the Pope: An Apology [link]

[bolding is mine; italics are Svendsen's]

So far I have not commented on this blog about the evangelical response to the pope's death, but the responses have become so conspicuous by their predictability that I think it's time to comment. By now, I have heard/seen all the responses by James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson et al. But it didn't really come home with me until I saw Franklin Graham on Hannity and Colmes a few nights ago. Graham, as always, attempted to get the gospel in at every turn (for which I commend him). But when directly asked by Sean Hannity what still divides Roman Catholics and Protestants, Graham danced around it ("well there are still some doctrinal issues we don't fully agree on") and then quickly added (paraphrasing from memory), "BUT, Catholics and Protestants agree on what's important. We agree on the cross, we agree that Jesus died and rose again."That's what's important?

[Yes. I think most Christians would agree that Jesus' death and Resurrection are highly important components of the Christian faith. But Eric apparently would disagree with that.]

That's what unites us?

[Yes, among many other things]

That's the gospel upon which we agree?

[Yes, according to the Bible: see my paper, What is the Gospel?]

. . . Let me be very clear here. The official teachings of Roman Catholicism stand in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ--no less than the teachings of the Judaizers in Paul's own day stood opposed to the gospel. Indeed, Roman Catholicism has added so many obstacles to salvation that have to be hurdled as a prerequisite to salvation, that the Judaizer heresy anathematized by Paul in Gal 1:8-10 looks like a Christian denomination by comparison!

[Quite clear indeed! Quite tragically misinformed and mistaken too . . . ]

. . . What gospel? What good? How can we speak of the "good" a man does if his life is dedicated to another gospel, one we have not received, and one that is in fact based on those "good" things he did? What "good" is there in standing up for moral causes if in the end the people you've won over by those moral causes end up believing a "gospel" that cannot save?

. . . I would indeed like to offer an apology. But the apology I would like to offer is in behalf of the misguided Protestants--both those who have appeared on the media as well as those who have appeared on the Internet and presumed to apologize on my behalf (thank you very much, but please restrain yourselves in the future)--who have misled people into believing Roman Catholicism is just another option for those wanting to be Christians, who have abandoned fidelity to the gospel, and who have become the cause of stumbling to those who have looked to them for validation of following a false gospel. My apology is to the truth, to the gospel, and to the Lord Jesus Christ who has entrusted each of us with fidelity to his word, and has charged each of us to uphold it without fear, without wavering, and without giving in to the spirit of this age--the spirit that screams at us to be "broadminded" about the narrow way that saves. I want to apologize on their behalf for their shameful abdication of truth. I want to apologize on their behalf that they were too ashamed of the offense of the gospel to uphold it faithfully. I want to apologize on their behalf that they gave in to the pressures of political correctness and did not remain faithful to his word. And mostly, I want to apologize on their behalf that they, as a result of their "embarrassment" over the proclamation of the truth, have numbered themselves with those of whom Jesus himself will be ashamed at his coming. I pray they would be spared from that which in the end will be truly shameful.

Now, who is Eric talking about in the above rant? Well, obviously in context, those "evangelicals" who have appeared on television speaking (reverentially) about the death of Pope John Paul II. Do we know any specific persons to whom he refers? Yes: James Dobson, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham "et al." Those are the four he named. So it is a clear implication that one or more of these men (if not all) are being referred to (i.e., as sad examples of Protestants who said nice stuff about the pope, which is a naughty no-no in Eric's eyes and cause for the gravest concern for their very souls). It's quite reasonable, therefore, to assume that he had Billy and Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson in mind when he listed the outrageous errors they committed:

1. "abandoned fidelity to the gospel."
2. "misled people into believing Roman Catholicism is just another option for those wanting to be Christians."
3. "giving in to the spirit of this age--the spirit that screams at us to be "broadminded" about the narrow way that saves."
4. "shameful abdication of truth."
5. "too ashamed of the offense of the gospel to uphold it faithfully."
6. "gave in to the pressures of political correctness."
7. "did not remain faithful to his word."
8. " '"embarrassment' over the proclamation of the truth."

As a result, Svendsen (sad to say, predictably) categorizes them as close to eternal damnation as he can without sounding utterly ridiculous and laughable (even by low anti-Catholic standards):

9. "they . . . have numbered themselves with those of whom Jesus himself will be ashamed at his coming. I pray they would be spared from that which in the end will be truly shameful."

Yes, what a spectacle: Eric Svendsen praying fervently that Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson avoid a quite-possible and plausible damnation at the Second Coming, due to their almost unforgivable sins of acknowledging that Catholics are Christians too. I truly believe that I have seen everything in anti-Catholicism now, and that this can't be topped. I don't believe I will see this sheer folly bested in my lifetime. But I've been surprised before . . . .

All this being the case, I need not take back anything I said about Svendsen's opinion of Billy Graham or Dr. Dobson above (except -- technically -- for one phrase: "can’t be faithful in defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ," that Eric applied to Dobson and Franklin Graham, not Billy Graham -- but that is only the merest trifle in light of all this additional information, which expresses virtually the same thing in only slightly different words).

It's even worse than I thought. All I had wrong was the particular article where Billy Graham was skewered; it was this earlier one. Ah, yes, but Billy Graham and Dr. James Dobson are still evangelicals! They're just a hair's breadth away from damnation, for committing the unforgivable anti-Catholic fundamentalist "sin" of extending the right hand of fellowship to Catholics!

[Since it is almost inevitable that as soon as Svendsen sees this he will mindlessly accuse me of being a "breaker of solemn oaths" again, I will anticipate his foolhardy objection and provide the link for my paper, Resolutions and "Solemn Oaths": Are They Identical?: Anti-Catholic Apologist Eric Svendsen's Incomprehension of the Meaning of English Words and His Ludicrous Charges That I am a Liar and Deceiver (With James White's Blessing) --- he did indeed make this charge, in his post which he later removed]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Radical Catholic Reactionary Errors of the Seattle Catholic Documented

The following excerpts document serious errors that the Seattle Catholic saw fit to print and espouse.

* * * * *

Never Lose Focus on the Complete Picture 

Thomas A. Droleskey (23 August 2004)

Even if Rome granted an Apostolic Administration for the Traditional Latin Mass, obeisance would still have to be paid to the disaster that is the Second Vatican Council and the horror that is the Novus Ordo Missae

Rome itself must reject the regime of novelty of the past forty years, which is itself an ecclesial embrace of the very errors of modernity that coalesced into Modernism, critiqued so thoroughly by Pope Saint Pius X in Pascendi Domenici Gregis in 1907.

This, then, is my final contribution to the Seattle Catholic site, which is such a vital source of news and information on the Internet. . . . I will still try to produce articles twice a month for The Remnant. [another radical Catholic reactionary periodical]

The Vatican II Renewal: Myth or Reality

 Kenneth C. Jones (8 December 2003)

(The following article is reprinted with permission from The Latin Mass magazine.)

. . . it is beyond question that our Holy Mother Church is again falling into ruins . . . understand and respond to the emergency before it is too late. 

The myth that the Council did not cause the crisis in the Church — the post hoc ergo propter hoc objection.

These hard facts show a growing, vibrant, militant Church at the time the Second Vatican Council opened. Attempts to portray it otherwise are revisionist history by those who want to justify or explain away the revolution in the Church since the Council. 

The final myth I want to discuss is the idea that the crisis we now face was not caused by the Council or the changes imposed in its name. 

I think the burden is on those who make the post hoc argument to offer a better reason. If the changes made after Vatican II did not cause the crisis, what did? They offer no other reason.

. . . it's time we discard New Catholicism, as we discarded New Coke. It's time to bring back Catholicism Classic, the real thing.

No Wonder Our Ranks Keep Growing

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (3 November 2003)

. . . the ongoing post-conciliar revolution. 

Isn't one interpretation of the catastrophe that has resulted from revolutionizing the Church that the pre-conciliar Church may have been on to something after all?

Revolutionary Parallels 

Peter W. Miller (2 August 2004)

Responding to the ever-growing disenchantment many Catholics are starting to realize regarding what we are still being told is a "New Springtime" for the Church, a number of "Why Vatican II was Necessary," "How the Council Saved the Church," "Vatican II - We Love You," type of articles have been appearing with a greater frequency in a number of publications. With an underwhelming amount of direct evidence for positive results from Vatican II, the line of argumentation quickly turns to perhaps the last vestige of a revolutionary apologist - undocumented and largely anecdotal attacks on aspects of the pre-Conciliar Church.

Similarly, the post-Conciliar revolutionaries in the Church are having an increasingly hard time demonstrating the success of what they worked so hard to create. Faced with discouraging numbers and a universal impression of chaos to those within and without, they stubbornly stick to their guns. More and more people are starting to recognize the folly of this program, but when speaking out, are faced with the problem of authority since, by and large, those holding positions of authority in the Church are still those who wholeheartedly support the current revolution in which we find ourselves.

Catholic prelates are increasingly finding themselves in the position of Martin Luther, wondering why the revolution they helped facilitate is failing to draw new adherents, or why they are needing to fight a growing counter-effort seeking to undo what they have established. 

Revisiting Some Old Questions 

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (25 July 2003)

The new rite itself, of course, by breaking dramatically with liturgical tradition, de-emphasizing important Catholic doctrines, and imposing bland, manufactured prayers, has severed one of the Catholic's most tangible links to the communion of saints. No longer does he worship in a manner that those who came before him would have recognized . . . Roman Rite Catholics have been rendered spiritual orphans, rootless and rudderless in a hostile world. 

Common Ground on the Catholic Crisis 

Peter W. Miller (4 April 2003)

Most orthodox Catholics are by now able to readily acknowledge the severe crisis the Church is facing in a number of areas: liturgically, doctrinally, pastorally, morally, and so on. Although conservative and traditional Catholics may agree on many things (and most importantly the Doctrines of the Faith), their disagreement as to the specific causes and contributors (particularly the role played by recent Popes, the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical modifications) have been the source of an ever-increasing amount of friction and vitriol.

More so than any other, the point of contention revolves around the Second Vatican Council and the role it played in "causing" the current crisis. Those who take up certain criticisms of the Council are accused of committing the logical fallacy, post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after the fact, therefore because of the fact); that is, they falsely assert something that happened after the Council was caused by the Council merely because of the temporal sequence. Such would be a legitimate criticism if that were the crux of traditionalist arguments, but once the issue turns to citing specific examples which support one's case, the defense must turn to a more direct refutation rather than a reiteration of a supposed logical fallacy that could no longer apply, if indeed it ever did at all. 

When speaking of the relationship between the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar crisis, "cause" is perhaps too strong a word. Rather than an originating cause of these problems, Vatican II was more of a catalyst or mechanism by which certain problems already affecting the Church were amplified and given an apparently authoritative basis. As mentioned before, liberalism can generally be regarded as the true cause; the argument then becomes whether Vatican II aided the advancement of liberalism which was already making strides in previous decades or effectively confronted and curtailed it. 

Although such figures show the difficulty of those who maintain or suggest that the Second Vatican Council was the sole cause or absolute starting point of all current problems in the Church (which I'm not certain anyone actually does, unfortunate choices of phrasing notwithstanding), arguing that the Council was not a "disaster" does not necessarily keep it from being characterized as a "failure".

It doesn't take much imagination to surmise that had Vatican II never have come about, the Church would not be experiencing any glorious age in 2003. We would most likely be facing many of the same problems, but would they be as bad? Would Catholics accept all the claims of renegades if there were no Council to which they could appeal for authority? If the Mass itself were not drastically altered, would other changes have been possible? Without a Council to mark a shift the Church's orientation, would subsequent Popes have tolerated any of this?

If the post-conciliar Church were strong with faithful Catholics and effective governance, the Second Vatican Council would most likely not have had any significant negative impact and we would be living in better times. Vatican II was not inherently bad or evil, but due to the influence of liberals and the freedom they were given, certain deficiencies and ambiguities ended up in the resulting documents and were seized upon by most of those same individuals in order to drive through their agenda.

. . . To maintain that the Second Vatican Council was a destructive force which descended upon a glorious Church to usher in the present crisis is to overlook plain and basic facts; but to absolve it from any and all culpability due to the previous existence of problems or a tentative understanding on the nature and outcome of Ecumenical Councils demonstrates an even greater obstinacy. . [relatively helpful, qualified observations]

Conservative and Traditional Catholicism Compared

Edward Faber (21 March 2003)

There is perhaps no contemporary theological discussion that alienates the traditionalists from everyone else in the Church than ecumenism. The tremendous force of John Paul II in the ecumenical direction has been welcomed by the conservatives, who justly point out that they often have more in common with their evangelical friends than with their fellow Catholics. The traditionalist is very uncomfortable with the whole ecumenical thing as it seems to compromise the unicity of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. While many traditionalists often accuse Vatican II of saying what it does not say about ecumenism, they rightly remain perplexed when the Church seems to whisper apologies for being the fullness of truth while then performing actions, be it on the papal or the diocesan or the parochial level which blatantly compromise that fact.

There is a great attempt on the part of conservatives to distinguish between a true and a false ecumenism while trying to uphold the unicity of Christ and Catholicism and reconcile ecumenism and evangelization. Much ink has been spilled on the matter without there being any convincing theological resolution. The traditionalist ignores all of this, . . .

A Brief Defense of Traditionalism: Responding to certain attacks and misconceptions

Peter W. Miller (21 December 2001)

As the heretics of yesterday have become the liberals of today, the liberals of yesterday now lay claim to the title "conservative". Consequentially the conservatives came to be known as "traditionalists". Unfortunately, these terms are no longer completely accurate descriptions. So for the purposes of this essay, I will use the following general definitions to delineate the differences between traditionalists and "conservatives":

TRADITIONALIST: One who challenges the novel practices and teachings of Catholics (including bishops and priests) which appear to contradict the prior teaching of the Church. A traditionalist questions the prudence of new pastoral approaches and holds the belief that those things generally deemed objectively good or evil several decades ago remain so today.

"CONSERVATIVE": One who upholds and defends the current policies and positions of the Church hierarchy regardless of their novelty. . . . "Conservative" will be used it in quotation marks to avoid the misleading connotation of being diametrically opposed to liberalism or on the far right of the spectrum. [i.e., "conservatives" are really "liberals"]

Again, some "conservatives" claim all current Papal actions to be completely consistent with his predecessors and Vatican II completely in line with the history of the Church, while the Pope and Cardinals claim and celebrate the opposite.

And why are "conservatives" the only ones defending these documents? Why don't the actual authors in the hierarchy provide clarifications? While many "conservatives" are quick to defend some of the novel language Ut Unum Sint or Dominus Iesus as perfectly orthodox, such defenses have not been regular or forthcoming from the Vatican. And (as with the Novus Ordo) since when does something "perfectly orthodox" even need a defense?

Traditionalists tend to place the "blame" for many modern issues on the Vatican Council and the New Mass (also Church governance which could be seen as an extension of conciliar-style "ecumenism" and "collegiality").

Traditionalists make a compelling case for the role the "renewal" of Vatican II has played in the modern crisis. . . . Traditionalists believe the Second Vatican Council to be harmful to the Church.

Which brings us to the much heralded "Spirit of Vatican II" which is used to justify any and every aberration or heresy. Regardless of whether you see this as an abuse of the Council or the result of the logical progression it unleashed (I tend to favor the latter), such novelties would have no excuse were it not for the Council, and the laity would be less likely to accept them. Novelties on a far smaller scale went on before the Council but received limited support and were clearly seen for what they were.

"Conservatives" are faced with another problem when they start blaming the current crisis on certain dissenting bishops and priests who spread heresy, dissent and scandal. If they are to blame, so is their leader. Who is the one in charge of governing the bishops and priests? Who is responsible for keeping them in line? If local policemen start a riot, you can bet the police chief and mayor will be held accountable. When Palestinian suicide bombers attack Israel, Arafat will certainly be held to blame. When a company is facing bankruptcy and losses, the CEO needs to answer for it. Pick any organizational analogy you like — teachers, parents, sports teams, schools, businesses, organizations, societies — the result is the same. The state of a household in ruin has something to do with its head — whether through misguided actions or the lack of appropriate response. So any attack against a liberal Cardinal or dissident bishop is an implication of Our Holy Father.

As a final clarification, most traditionalists do not see the Second Vatican Council and Novus Ordo as formal "causes" of the modern crisis but catalysts which allowed a number of Modernists to come to the forefront and foist their ideas and heresies on the Church under the guise of a "renewal". Both marked a sort of "triumph" of liberal, masonic and Modernist ideals within the structure of the Church. It is not wholly inaccurate to claim that:

"What the French Revolution was to France, the Second Vatican Council was to the Catholic Church."

While the validity of the sacrament may not be up for debate, the prudence of the decisions supporting the revision (revolution) of the Roman Missal is not beyond questioning, especially given one of its chief objectives. If one objects to the current ecumenical direction and practices which humiliate the Catholic Faith and cost countless souls, why should the Novus Ordo Mass receive immunity? 

The dissidents on the left who were rightfully shunned a half century ago have seen their ideals (religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism) gain great measures of support in the Vatican.

"Conservatives" would dread having to get down on their knees every night worrying what the Pope is going to do or say next; or how many potential converts are being lost due to the ecumenical shenanigans; or how an orthodox priest will ever be able to make it through a seminary without getting expelled for being too Catholic; or what type of man a College of Cardinals which includes Mahony and Kasper will elect to succeed John Paul II.

[yeah!!!! What kind of man would be elected by all those "conservative/liberal" John Paul II appointees? Well: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: without a doubt the RadCathRs' very favorite and most-cited Cardinal (particularly with regard to lituregical abuses). What a "revolution" and conspiracy in the Church against "traditionalism" and orthodoxy, and a blow against reform of liturgical abuses, huh? What, did all these "conservative/liberal" Cardinals wake up overnight and discover the wondrous truths of RadCathRism, which caused them to elect the right man? Hmm????]

It is ludicrous to share in the Vatican illusion of a "Springtime of Vatican II" when all eye can see is a devastated vineyard. (3)

[in an older online version of this article (as late as February 2004; removed by April 2004), there was an additional section, entitled "POST SCRIPT: 'Wandering' aimlessly? ," where the author gives his thoughts about a controversy between The Wanderer and [RadCathR periodical] The Remnant. It's not clear whether the removal of this piece suggests a move away from more radical RadCathRism on the part of Miller or not. His article, "Common Ground . . . ", above, contains some relatively balanced statements on Vatican II, so it could be indicative of a positive trend in his thought; yet the "Postcript" remained for about a year after this article appeared]:

The Remnant (an American traditional Catholic periodical whose editor was among the targets of the attack) published a series of responses which defended the individuals singled out, as well as Catholic traditionalism as a whole (FULL TEXT). The responses demonstrated the obvious inconsistencies of the attack and summarily refuted what anti-traditionalist arguments were made. To the objective observer, the original work was destroyed and the author embarrassed. As much was obvious even to a non-objective "conservative" observer. I know because I was one.

Like any good "conservative", I would react strongly against those who claimed that Vatican II or the Novus Ordo Mass had any deficiencies — they were both doctrinally sound but unexplainably hijacked and abused by evil men.

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger were my role models and the shining examples of wonderful "conservative" Catholicism in an increasingly liberal world — the generals fighting the "culture of death".

I knew all the "conservative" mantras: . . . "Pope John Paul II brought about the 'fall' of Communism";

While the problems were already becoming quite apparent before even reading the responses, I (like several other "conservatives" I knew) acquired copies of The Remnant to read them for myself. What I knew would be a relatively easy defense became a complete and irrefutable annihilation of The Wanderer and the work they mistakenly chose to print.

Since that event, The Wanderer has been on a very questionable "trajectory". . . . The criticisms of Cardinals and bishops have become less frequent as the actions of their superiors in the Vatican have become more similar. 

The name is becoming more and more fitting as the direction in which this periodical is "wandering" becomes more and more unclear.


Is Lutheranism Officially Anti-Catholic (The Book of Concord and the Catholic Mass)?

The following dialogue with Lutheran "BWL" occurred in comments below. Since I did a little work in my reply, I thought it would be appropriate to make it a new paper of its own. His words will be in blue. Citations from the Book of Concord will be in green.

* * *

Not to be nit-picky, but my understanding is that Luther and Calvin saw the RCC not as a false church, but as an impure one, which is an important distinction. They both recognized the validity of Catholic baptisms, and Luther thought the RC also had a true communion. Although Luther was critical of certain elements of RC communion practice (communion in one kind, the mass as a sacrifice) he did famously say that he'd rather drink blood with the pope than wine with the Reformed. Just a suggestion, but if you want to take on anti-Catholics, bringing up Calvin and Luther's view of Rome actually helps your case. 

As I've mentioned before, this should work against Reformed Baptist types by showing how Luther and Calvin would see their sacramentology (or anti-sacramentology, however you want to put this) as conflicting with Reformational soteriology. In other words, on the whole it helps you to point out how while Reform Baptist like to claim the mantel of defending the Reformation they actually conflict with the Reformers on numerous and important points.

I believe that it is a mixed-bag, when it comes to Luther and Calvin's view of the Catholic Church. I think they contradict themselves. I've found it impossible to interpret their views in this vein in a consistent, coherent fashion. For my documentation, see my papers:

John Calvin's View of the Catholic Church

Dialogue With Dr. Paul Owen on John Calvin's Anti-Catholicism

Did Martin Luther Regard the (Roman) Catholic Church as a Non-Christian, Apostate Institution?: Featuring dozens of citations from Luther's own writings; particularly On the Councils and the Churches (1539) and Against Hans Wurst (1541)

Luther's (and Calvin's) View of the Catholic Church

On the other hand, I've written about Luther's more "Catholic" beliefs:
The Pro-Catholic Side of Martin Luther
I'd be delighted to conclude that they regarded Catholics as more or less equal brothers-in-Christ, but there is too much that suggests otherwise, which has never been adequately explained to me by those like yourself who believe that they were not anti-Catholics (you're welcome to be the first; be my guest). I always say regarding Calvin, that if he thinks I participate in the grossest blasphemy, sacrilege, and idolatry every week at Mass, then that can hardly be squared with thinking that all this is Christian.

First, as you know Luther was prone to uh, exaggerations and harsh, polemical language. This certainly was a big flaw of his, though it's worth pointing out his Catholic opponents were at times prone to nasty polemics at first. My point is, however, that Luther should be taken with a grain of salt.

Are you maintaining, then, that every time Luther wrote something which could reasonably be construed as denying that the Catholic Church is truly Christian, it should be taken in this way, as merely his excess in language? There is not a single instance of these utterances that he meant literally? It seems to me that this would be an extraordinary claim, and almost impossible to prove.

To my knowledge, however, Luther and the Lutheran church has always regarded Rome as a christian church, though an impure one with many doctrinal flaws. That includes the sacrifice of the mass. I don't see, however, why you think serious disagreements in this regard makes Luther and the Lutherans, for example, "anti-Catholic."

I think it has to be judged on an individual case basis (as regards individual opinions). Lutherans, like Anglicans and Reformed, contain both views, and many members seem confused about even their own positions.

The RCC doesn't recognize Lutheran orders, nor from what I understand does it think that Lutherans receive Christ's true body and blood when they take communion.

That's correct.

So, if the Lutheran disagreement over the sacrifice of the mass makes Lutherans "anti-Catholic", why isn't the Catholic church "anti-Lutheran" since the RC doesn't recognize Lutheran communion?

The difference would be if the mass is considered blasphemy and sacrilege and idolatry (whereas we would never say that about a Lutheran service, or any standard Protestant worship service; we would say they convey grace of some sort, even if not technically "sacramental").

The above view (where it occurs) would make the mass, by definition, a non-Christian thing. Then you would be in the incoherent, odd position of agreeing that Catholicism is Christian, despite the fact that its central rite is utterly non-Christian (and, far beyond that, anti-Christian, as it is idolatry, blasphemy, etc.). Quite a bizarre state of affairs, there . . .

In fact, the Book of Concord confirms my suspicion that Lutheranism is officially anti-Catholic. Lutherans are bound to this as their confession, so it can't be cavalierly dismissed as some old irrelevant document.

Smalcald Articles [1537], Part II, Article II: The Mass:

The Mass in the papacy must be regarded as the greatest and most horrible abomination because it runs into direct and violent conflict with this fundamental article. Yet, above and beyond all others, it has been the supreme and most precious of the papal idolatries . . .

If there were reasonable papists, one would speak to them in the following friendly fashion:

"Why do you cling so tenaciously to your Masses?

1. "After all, they are a purely human invention. They are not commanded by God . . . Christ says, 'In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matt. 15:9)."

. . . 3. . . . "one can be saved in a better way without the Mass. Will the Mass not then collapse of itself -- not only for the rude rabble, but also for all godly, Christian, sensible, God-fearing people -- especially if they hear that it is a dangerous thing which was fabricated and invented without God's Word and will?"

. . . 5. "The Mass is and can be nothing else that a human work, even a work of evil scoundrels . . ."

Accordingly we are and remain eternally divided and opposed the one to the other. The papists are well aware that if the Mass falls, the papacy will fall with it.Before they would permit this to happen, they would put us all to death.

Besides, this dragon's tail -- that is, the Mass -- has brought forth a brood of vermin and the poison of manifest idolatries.

(The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore Tappert, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House / Muhlenberg Press, 1959, pp. 293-294)

Apology of the Augsburg Confession [1531], Article XXIV: The Mass

Carnal men cannot stand it when only the sacrifice of Christ is honored as a propitiation. For they do not understand the righteousness of faith but give equal honor to other sacrifices and services. A false idea clung to the wicked priests in Judah, and in Israel the worship of Baal continued; yet the church of God was there, condemning wicked services. So in the papal realm the worship of Baal clings -- namely, the abuse of the Mass . . . And it seems that this worship of Baal will endure together with the papal realm until Christ comes to judge and by the glory of his coming destroys the kingdom of Antichrist. Meanwhile all those who truly believe the Gospel should reject those wicked services invented against God's command to obscure the glory of Christ and the righteousness of faith.

(Tappert, ibid., 268)

I guess at the end of the day I don't see why strong disagreements among Christians makes them "anti".

Not disagreements, but denial of the status of other Christians as Christians. It's the devil's biggest victory: if half of the Body of Christ denies that the other half even belongs in the Body at all, then what could be better for the devil's purposes? We'll always be hopelessly divided. So the world keeps going to hell because (anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, anti-Orthodox) Christians can't even recognize fellow believers.

If we all recognize each others baptisms, why is this "anti" stuff even a real question? It's not like Lutherans are Reformed or fundamentalist Baptists or something.

Because (obviously) if anti-Catholicism is entrenched in both the founding confessional documents and the founders of a religious point of view, then it will continue on, because it was in the roots from the beginning. How Lutherans square the realities of these aspects of the Book of Concord, I don't know, but it creates an internal contradiction if one says that they follow the Lutheran confessions, yet dissent on the nature of the Mass and so forth, and are not themselves anti-Catholic.

How would you square these two things, BWL, if you have become aware of some passages that perhaps you were not aware of before, in the Book of Concord? I'm very curious. There may very well be a way that ecumenical Lutherans reconcile this, through some interpretive means that I am not yet aware of. I'd be more than happy to be educated by those who feel that they have a solution to this apparent dilemma for ecumenical Lutherans. Please (you or friends of yours who might help us better understand) teach me . . . I don't want division; I would love for there to be a way to reconcile these two things. No one would be happier than I would be to learn that there is some coherent explanation of this, so that anti-Catholicism is not necessary to hold as a confessional Lutheran.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Dr. James Dobson and "Anti-Catholicism"

I love James Dobson, and all the tremendous good he has accomplished. Let's get that straight first. I've listened to the man off and on for some 23 years now. But like so many Protestants, even a good (I would also say, great) man like this is quite confused and ambiguous, if not contradictory, when it comes to Catholicism. Hence, we learn, in an article entitled, Dobson can't decide whether anti-Catholic bigotry is OK, on the Media Matters for America website, of this exchange on the Fox News' talk show Hannity & Colmes:

[ALAN] COLMES: You are participating in an event this Sunday, "Justice Sunday." And among those there will be Dr. Alan [sic] Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who said a few years ago, "As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church. It teaches a false gospel. And the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office."

Are you concerned about the anti-Catholicism of some of the people you are participating with to fight the filibuster?

DOBSON: Well, first of all, he [Mohler] did not make a vehement anti-Catholic statement. He's a Southern Baptist, for Pete's sake.
You expect a Southern Baptist to say that he does not honor the pope in the same way the Catholics do. It's a different theology. Is that not right? That's not an attack on the Catholic Church.


Where to begin? No, we don't expect Southern Baptists to be Catholics in their ecclesiology. That's a no-brainer and nothing to argue about. Nor do we dispute that Catholicism teaches a "different theology" (in some respects, but none amounting to a denial of Christianity). But as to whether the statement cited is an "attack on the Catholic Church," it certainly is!!! How could it not be? And how could it not be seen as anti-Catholic? Mohler said that the Catholic Church was a "false church" that teaches a "false gospel." If a group does not teach the gospel it is not a Christian group, period. End of discussion. We don't even need to analyze what is meant by a "false Church" (though if we look at the rhetoric of Luther and Calvin, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce what they mean by it). But somehow Dobson doesn't see this as a manifestation of anti-Catholicism. Amazing . . .

Dobson might clarify and re-state what he was trying to express. Let's hope . . .

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Cool Mathematical Analogy For the Holy Trinity

From Catholic writer and blogmaster Elena (not sure if she wants to give out her last name, so I didn't) -- who has distinguished herself by actually being that one-in-a-thousand person who could make it through my entire 2nd counter-reply to atheist Bob Hypes (a whopping 270K in length) without long since dozing off (as she informed me by e-mail)!!!!!

1+1+1 Does =1: The Trinity in the Mathematics of Motion and Action

I'm no mathematical expert (my last class was Algebra 4 in high school, c. 1975, and I couldn't wait to be done with that!), but this seems legitimate to me. I'd be interested in further comments from Elena and/or those more educated in math and science (perhaps physics would be particularly relevant here, too, as it is a discussion of dimension).

This argument appears to me to be somewhat similar to C.S. Lewis's famous analogy of "flatland," squares, and cubes in his Mere Christianity. He said that the flatlanders couldn't imagine a two dimension plane, and that those in that world without a third dimension could not imagine the third. Yet all three exist, and a cube has a "oneness" just as a plane and a line do. In our world, one being is one person. But why should we think our experience is the whole of reality? What is intrinsically impossible about a Being Who Subsists in Three Persons (Being and Person being two distinct categories, so that this is not an automatic contradiction)? The Holy Trinity is not at all impossible a priori (philosophically-speaking, and in terms of simple logic).

It wouldn't be the first time, after all that science / math has confirmed (or at any rate, was shown to be entirely consistent with) a Christian dogma:

1) Einstein's theories of relativity made it more sensible and "scientifically respectable" to conceive of a Being outside of time as we know it (a friend of mine who is big into Isaac Newton and who frowns upon Einstein, actually thinks that God is in time, which is heretical from a biblical perspective).

2) Likewise, the non-eternal universe that had a (rather inexplicable, in materialistic terms) beginning, is now scientific, cosmological orthodoxy, courtesy of the Big Bang Theory.

3) I would also say that Intelligent Design (within some form of creationist or evolutionist paradigm; it's consistent with either) is a compelling scientific variant of the old philosophical Argument From Design (or Teleological Argument).

We have nothing to fear from science. Quite the contrary; it is the materialistic scientists and the atheists who seem to irrationally fear any hint of suggestion from science that God might be an actuality in this universe, and in fact, right in the center of it, as the Bible taught us 2000 years ago (KJV):

ROMANS 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, {are} all things: to whom {be} glory for ever. Amen.

HEBREWS 2:10 For it became him, for whom {are} all things, and by whom {are} all things, . . .

ACTS 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring.

1 TIMOTHY 6:13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, . . .

NEHEMIAH 9:6 . . . thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all {things} that {are} therein, . . . and thou preservest them all . . .

COLOSSIANS 1:17 . . . by him all things consist.

HEBREWS 1:3 . . . upholding all things by the word of his power, . . .

Great work, Elena! Be sure to pay a visit to her blog, Web Musings.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

James White Gets His Wish!!! So-Called "Marian Stains"

Dave Armstrong: Catholic apologist and defender of papal infallibility and supremacy, would like to state, firmly and unambiguously:

Look, people, this kind of thing is absurd and ridiculous. Pure superstition, . . . and worthy of at the very least church discipline.

[see: "More Mary Stains"]

But remember, you didn't "hear" the above (as White predicted). It was merely an "apparition."

White asked (quite reasonably, in my opinion):
. . . why are all these folks finding pictures of Mary in the grimy stains left by reconstituted water . . . or salt-filled road run off on a freeway underpass?

Why, indeed? I think it is a ridiculous display of what might be called "Rorschach Catholicism." I would only disagree with calling this "idolatrous" because that requires putting something in the place of God, and above God. Since Catholics don't do that with regard to the Blessed Virgin, it is not accurate to call veneration of her (even with the aid of a silly stain thought to be supernatural) an act of idolatry. Mary is simply not raised above God in Catholic teaching, nor adored as only God can be. I think 99% of even these Catholics gullible enough to believe in this nonsense would understand that.

If I were there at this farcical "shrine" I would denounce it in no uncertain terms and tell the enraptured, deluded Catholics who foolishly seek and "thrive" on such things that they would much better profit from reading the Bible or the Catechism or the encyclicals of Pope John Paul the Great, or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Therese or Peter Kreeft.

And I'm not the only one. Just yesterday, in fact, I heard Fr. Mitch Pacwa state on EWTN that he doesn't think much of purported "private revelations" such as these. This is rather common in Catholic apologetics circles, and I have heard similar disclaimers time and again. He's a pretty "major figure in Roman Catholicism," and White himself happens to like Fr. Mitch personally (and has debated him), so I must protest that White's characterization of supposed Catholic non-reaction to such things is exaggerated and distorted:

But no, you won't hear that [the sort of statement I agree with up at the top]. Instead, you'll hear, "Well, looks like a rather common water stain mixed with the salt from the road on an underpass, but hey, if it gives you warm post-modern religious fuzzies, that's great!"

If White thinks that any legitimate representative of Catholic teaching who is a "major figure" states such things, then why doesn't he document it? That would be a nice novelty, for a change, wouldn't it? White does, however, provide some very funny comments on occasion. This case of religious "super-pious" folly provides ample opportunity. For example:

Where is someone's mind if they can look at this stain and go, "Oh gosh, Mary has appeared under a bridge!" What on earth is she doing under a bridge? Western culture is on the slippery slope of post-modernism, sliding at high speed toward self-destruction, and Mary is busily arranging salt stains on a bridge underpass near Chicago? Hello? Anyone out there? . . . the kind of "piety" that leads people to light candles in front of water stains on the walls of freeway underpasses . . .

I roundly condemn these (humorous, tragi-comic) excesses, with him. But it should be noted, too, that there is a major underlying difference here. White thinks that Mary could never appear anywhere, under any manifestation, miraculous or otherwise. I believe (with the Church) that there are legitimate Marian apparitions, and that one must exercise due caution and prudence in discerning which are authentic and supernatural, and which are not, and be willing to submit to Church determinations on such matters.

Obviously, if something can never happen (by prior premise) then any alleged (or actual) instance of it will be immediately ruled out a priori. But if it can possibly happen, then one will have to use their critical faculties with regard to authenticity, just as Protestants who still believe in current-day miracles (White may not: he might be what is called a "cessationist") will require proper documentation and proof for healings, etc.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Radical Catholic Reactionary Pet Term "Neo Catholic": Where Does it Come From? What Does it Mean?

In seeking to answer the questions in the title of this paper, I discovered a superb article, entitled, "Rhetoric, Manipulation, And Ferrawood’s 'Neo-Catholic'", by Omar F.A. Gutiérrez. It was published in The Wanderer: 10 May 2003. I shall cite it at length, in blue. Citations of Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods Jr. [the latter has since renounced this book] will be in red.

* * * * *

"Catholics have nothing to fear from ideas." I was handed The Great Façade [The Remnant Press, Wyoming, Minn., 2002] by self-described traditionalist friends of mine some time ago with these words. They wished that I should attempt to answer the traditionalist argument found within its pages. This book was, for them, one of the finer arguments for the traditionalist position to date. As far as they were concerned, Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods Jr. had finally presented the traditionalist argument in clear and concise terminology.

[Dave: I was presented the book in person by Gerry Matatics (who exhibited similar opinions of it) ]

. . . In light of the overwhelming praise that it is given by the traditionalist gallery, I believe this book can only do more harm than good. The Ferrawood argument, as I have come to call it, is not clear or logical. It is manipulative and rhetorical. Such an argument cannot possibly shed a kind light on the traditionalist movement.

I do not deny that there is a crisis, and I believe traditionalists are too often dismissed without being given much thought. Nor do I wish to quell what I see as very useful and helpful voices coming out of some corners of the traditionalist movement. However, this book is an example of a work that can only do damage to this movement, for this book is filled with a verbal sorcery that is dazzling but equally deceptive. Perhaps the most egregious example of this sorcery is the invention, definition, and constant use of the term "neo-Catholic."

. . . Page 12 in The Great Façade begins by stating that the definition of terms is absolutely necessary for fruitful debate. So far this seems a reasonable approach. However, the terms in chapter one that appear key and pivotal for the Ferrawood argument are not central to the argument, nor do they draw out the "exact nature of the controversy" between conservatives and traditionalists. The terms most important to the authors are "traditionalist" and "neo-Catholic," or more precisely "neo-Catholic" in place of "conservative." Meanwhile, the authors completely ignore terms like "tradition," "novelty," "Magisterium," "authority," "doctrine," "dogma," etc. These are all terms with specific theological meanings, and all terms which have been lost on the authors.

When reading The Great Façade, one finds either a complete lack of definition or a complete misunderstanding of basic theological distinctions. Of course it is also telling that the central terms for the Ferrawood argument are labels not ecclesiastical terms. Labels, even if accurately defined, are imposed on persons, and the authors do not give us any reason to believe that they are qualified to label anyone accurately. The fact that none of the truly central terms in the debate are defined can only lead one to assume, from the very start of the book, that the Ferrawood argument can bear absolutely no fruit for this debate.

On page 5 the authors make clear that those who would refer to themselves as "conservatives" are not worthy — at least in action — of such an honorable title . . .

[Footnote 4: "Since [conservatives] have not in fact conserved anything . . . we believe that the term ‘conservative’ invites confusion among casual readers, for whom it carries a positive connotation, while attaching a venerable designation to people whose actions — or inaction, as the case may be — merit no such honor."]
. . . Let us look at the definition of "neo-Catholic." Remember please that for the authors this is one of the central terms of the debate and the proper understanding of this term is the prerequisite to any fruitful outcome for the debate between traditionalists and conservatives.
We read on page 15:
What, then, do we mean by the term "neo-Catholic"? Before answering, we must first anticipate the banal objection that we are "generalizing" about neo-Catholics and neo-Catholicism. Of course we are. The focus of this book is the idea of neo-Catholicism as a system of novel practices and attitudes that first emerged in the Church during the 1960s. While the neo-Catholic idea can be illustrated with the objective statements and actions of particular individuals who are part of this new constituency of the Church . . . it is not for us to make any judgment about the Catholic fidelity and personal piety of these people — even though . . . the leading lights of neo-Catholicism are all too ready to denounce their traditionalist brethren as "schismatics" and cast them into outer darkness, without benefit of any canonical declaration by competent Church authorities.

On page 19 the authors write, "A neo-Catholic, then, is someone who more or less lives according to the neo-Catholic idea." And what is the "neo-Catholic idea"? The authors tell us that the "focus of this book is the idea of neo-Catholicism." This "neo-Catholic idea can be illustrated with the objective statements and actions of particular individuals who are part of this new constituency of the Church."

This is what we are given thus far: to have a fruitful debate the authors must define "neo-Catholic"; a neo-Catholic is one who adheres to the neo-Catholic idea; the neo-Catholic idea is demonstrated through the actions, attitudes, and statements of neo-Catholics. Therefore, a neo-Catholic is one who adheres to the neo-Catholic idea, which is discernible in the action of a neo-Catholic. Right?

Wrong. This is a tautology, it is a circular argument, or definition in this case. The Ferrawood argument begins by stating that in order to understand A (neo-Catholic) we must know B (the neo-Catholic idea), and in order to know B we look to A. The authors claim they are focusing on the "idea of neo-Catholicism" but their definition of this idea is based on the actions of those they have already determined to be neo-Catholic. They simply point to the actions of those they label as neo-Catholic and say, "Ah ha, a neo-Catholic!" But what is the neo-Catholic idea? How is it to be understood? The authors go to great lengths in the book to tell us what a neo-Catholic does, but they never define what the "idea of neo-Catholicism" is apart from the actions of those they’ve already labeled.

We read on page 16, "So, based on the objective words and deeds of some of the more prominent neo-Catholics, we can safely generalize about the neo-Catholic idea." Oh really! The tautological nature of this sentence and thus the Ferrawood argument shines through clearly. One must ask the authors how they can be sure that the "objective words and deeds" they witness are those of neo-Catholics if they do not already have a means by which they can objectively determine who is a neo-Catholic and who is not? They might answer with the following "definition" of the neo-Catholic idea:

Particular applications aside, it is the idea that with the advent of the Second Vatican Council a new sort of orthodoxy suddenly arose in the Church, an orthodoxy stripped of any link to the ecclesiastical traditions once considered an untouchable sacred trust. It is the idea that by virtue of Vatican II the Church has, in some manner never clearly explained, progressed beyond what she was before the Council to a new mode of existence, and that this progression requires an assent on the part of the faithful that is somehow different from the assent required to the constant teaching of all the previous councils and Popes.

The fact that "orthodoxy," "ecclesiastical traditions," and "assent" are never defined aside, this is the idea of neo-Catholicism, and the authors demonstrate the legitimizing proof for their definition by pointing to the words and deeds of leading neo-Catholics. But it is only natural that the words and deeds of those the authors tell us are neo-Catholics would fit this definition of the idea, because this definition was manufactured from the words and deeds of those the authors had already determined were neo-Catholic. This is a circular definition. This is a term manufactured to guarantee rhetorical victory. On top of this, if one were to actually know some of the neo-Catholics the authors label one cannot really match the above idea to them. I know some of those the authors label as neo-Catholic and they do not cling to or foster the above idea.

On page 17 we read the following explanation about this neo-Catholic idea, "What this means is that the neo-Catholic idea is nothing less than a form of progressive or liberal Catholicism — whether a given neo-Catholic knows it or not, is, subjectively speaking, a liberal by intention." Apparently anyone labeled a neo-Catholic could not even argue about the justice of the term, because, as the authors are so good to tell us, they are liberals whether they know it or not. By the authors’ own standards for fruitful debate, they have already failed. For this definition is no definition, and this tautology is the central term for the entire work!

The authors’ rhetoric does not advance an argument but rather trains the casual reader’s mind to associate disapproval with the label neo-Catholic. And this is precisely what neo-Catholic is: a label meant to habituate the reader’s mind into dismissing those who have the misfortune of falling under it. This is tactical writing reminiscent of political mudslinging and the ravings of modern liberals, but it is not argument. The practice of assigning labels that one side has invented to opposing positions in order to stack the argumentative cards in one’s own favor and thus avoid contending with the opposing argument is a liberal and precisely modern method of argumentation. Assigning these invented labels aids in dismissing the opponent because the authors of the label can create an opponent ready made for defeat.

This is the epitome of a rhetorical abuse. The authors define what a neo-Catholic is in a manner favorable to their own argument, thus assuring their victory in debate.

. . . Furthermore, there is a logical answer to why this defense for their linguistic invention fails. "Schismatic" and "integrist" are two terms that are often laid upon traditionalists. However, both these terms have definitions that originated outside of the imagined war rooms of neo-Catholic think tanks. One can find St. Thomas Aquinas defining schism. One can turn to Henri Daniel-Rops or Pope Benedict XV for an understanding of integrism. The authors can at least argue about the justice of the label being applied to them by appealing to these objective definitions. The same cannot be done by neo-Catholics, for this term came forth from the authors’ traditionalist imagination. To what objective standard can supposed neo-Catholics appeal to? The only standard is the aforementioned imagination. This is no fair standard, and this is no reasonable argument.

Later in chapter one, page 24, the authors, speaking about neo-Catholics and the neo-Catholic Church, write:
The general result has been a de facto detachment of the greater part of Catholics from the Church’s own precisely crafted dogmatic framework, leaving them to drift in a kind of quasi-Catholicism that may not contain any explicit heresy, but that the preconciliar Popes simply would not regard as authentically and integrally Catholic.

Now, the authors do maintain that the piety of the neo-Catholic can rival that of the traditionalist. Also, the authors do not state that neo-Catholics are adrift but that "the greater part of Catholics" are adrift. However, I cannot accept that the authors do not mean to refer to neo-Catholics in any way when they write "the greater part of Catholics." It seems rather clear from this statement that the authors are judging at least the objective fidelity of the neo-Catholic. What else could this term mean but to suggest that the neo-Catholic practices a new faith, a new Catholicism? This new faith is clearly not authentic or integrally Catholic. Yet the authors still mean to say that accusing neo-Catholics of taking part in a "quasi-Catholicism," which at any other time in history would have been seen as inauthentic, is not judging the "Catholic fidelity" of neo-Catholics?

How is it not calling into question the orthodoxy of the neo-Catholic by saying explicitly that previous Popes, if given the chance, would reject their faith as inauthentic? . . .

. . . Perhaps the authors do not mean to call into question the fidelity of the neo-Catholic when they write on page 250 that a "neo-Catholic is nothing more or less than a kind of liberal, even if he conforms to the moral teaching of the Church and espouses no formal heresy as such" . . . 

On the same page and after suggesting that neo-Catholics are guilty of the modernist heresy [Footonote 9: "In many respects, the neo-Catholic fits Pius X’s description in Pascendi of ‘the modernist as reformer’."], the authors attempt to remind the reader that the fidelity of the neo-Catholic is not being called into question. This time, however, they qualify the parameters of their judgment. They write that they are "speaking here only in the objective realm of ideas, without presuming to judge the subjective faith of any individual." They do not judge the subjective fidelity of the individual, but they are judging the object of their faith. Dr. Janet Smith, H.W. Crocker III, Mother Angelica, and so many others labeled as neo-Catholic maintain a faith that is objectively inauthentic and not integral to the Catholic faith. These persons espouse no formal heresy, but certainly some form of material heresy. This is the necessary and logical implication of the authors’ statements.

The authors incessantly use "neo-Catholic" when they introduce a work, organization, or person they wish the reader to be aware of as being untrustworthy. It is difficult to see it as anything but a malignant effort to score rhetorical points. Who can doubt the manipulative nature of this term when the last paragraph of Ferrara’s article to Michael Davies [see citation below] reads, "He who controls the terminology controls the debate. It is long past time for traditionalists to take control of the terminology in this debate. Does the term neo-Catholic anger our adversaries, who have been calling us names for decades? Too bad — the shoe fits. Now let them wear it."

. . . this demonstrates — better than I could — that the term neo-Catholic is tactical writing closer to the heart of liberalism than to the traditions of the Church. Taking control of the terminology of the debate by inventing terms that are designed for one side’s benefit is precisely how the radical liberal intelligentsia have won over the faculties of Western universities . . . the invention of "neo-Catholic" is one of the more egregious examples of dishonest debate. For those traditionalists who wish to shake the liberal label, they ought to abandon the Ferrawood argument altogether.

* * *

Christopher A. Ferrara, Esq., further elaborates upon the meaning of neo-Catholic, in his article, The Justice of the term 'neo-Catholic', which appeared in the notorious "traditionalist" rag The Remnant, and was reprinted on the Daily Catholic web page:

. . . In our use of the term neo-Catholic, Tom and I are making an analogy to American politics. American political thinking did, after all, exert a great deal of influence on the Council, . . . In America, the term “neo-conservative” does not mean a revival of traditional political conservatism, American-style. It denotes, rather, a new and more liberalized version of what is now disparaged as the old “paleoconservativism” of people like Pat Buchanan.
. . . These people, without even realizing it, have developed a deep aversion to certain aspects of their own religion. They have come to detest these elements of the preconciliar teaching of the Church more than any heresy against the faith, and the defenders of these forgotten teachings more than any true enemy of the Church.
. . . And through it all, the neo-Catholic establishment continues to maintain the pretense that it occupies the moral high-ground simply and only because it is willing to indulge in a display of blind loyalty to the person who currently occupies the Chair of Peter. As the human element of the Church collapses everywhere in scandal and liturgical and doctrinal degradation, the neo-Catholics do nothing but complain bitterly about local abuses, while waving a banner containing the slogan that has overcome reason itself in the neo-Catholic mind: John Paul II, we love you. But this isn’t love we are seeing. It is a form of idolization that in fact does the Pope and the Church a terrible disservice.
. . . Tom and I have never claimed that those who could be called neo-Catholic in their misguided approach to the crisis are not “real” Catholics. Unlike our accusers, we do not feel ourselves entitled to write fellow Catholics out of the Church. Rather, as the quotation from Johnston illustrates perfectly, we are dealing with liberalized Catholics who have been induced to accept newly emergent attitudes and practices that undermine the very faith they think they are defending.
. . . As we can see, the term has definitely hit home. The neo-Catholic commentators who delight in deriding us as “ultra-traditionalists,” “extreme traditionalists,” “Pharisees” and so forth now have a label of their own to contend with. The term neo-Catholic incenses them because it captures their position and leaves it “formulated, sprawling on a pin,” to borrow a phrase from T.S. Eliot.

* * * * *

What magisterial Church document provides radical Catholic Reactionaries (RadCathRs) with their definition of "Neo-Catholic"? What is the etymology of this term? Who first used it? Just curious . . ."

I am content to simply call "traditionalists" and also RadCathRs and myself "Catholic." If I must make distinctions due to liberal or far-right rot in the Church, then I use the qualifier "orthodox" as well, to indicate that I accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church.

If one accepts notions that go contrary to orthodox Catholicism, and uses the term, I must object, because "Tradition" is a good Catholic word which must not be trifled with (and those who reject some of it ought not to be allowed to co-opt the term to themselves as if they actually exemplify a particular devotion to "tradition" as they themselves define it). Even if a RadCathR is orthodox, but insists on using the term, then it must be because it is being used to distinguish the RadCathR from the likes of me, who has supposedly somehow become simultaneously "liberal" and "orthodox" (by the application of the silly term "neo-Catholic").

So it is still attempting to create division in the Church and separate Catholic believers into a superior-subordinate relationship, with the RadCathRs being the ones who "get it" and the "neo-Catholics" being dupes and fellow travelers of their liberal overlords in the lower hierarchies of the Church. Either way, it stinks to high heaven.

 "Neo-Catholic" means a new kind of Catholic. But this is an oxymoron, according to the nature of Catholicism. There can be no "new Catholic." One is simply an orthodox Catholic, according to the Tradition of the ages, or not. Catholic (in its deepest sense) means "orthodox", so to say that one is a "new Catholic" is to say that one espouses a "new kind of orthodoxy," which, of course, is a self-contradiction. There is no such thing as a "new orthodoxy." That would be, rather, a novelty or heterodoxy or heresy. So the label basically reduces (but this is actually consistently applying logic) to calling someone heterodox or a heretic. Yet RadCathRs want to call us "orthodox" and "neo-Catholic" at the same time? Ferrara and Woods come right out and say that it means "liberalized Catholic."

But how can I be a liberal and orthodox at the same time? The whole thing is a big game and exercise in futile, circular logic. The term is simply meant to belittle and dismiss non-RadCathR Catholics, precisely as Omar Gutiérrez maintained. It doesn't matter where it came from. The goal is to ridicule and defame orthodox Catholics who try to get beyond the separation of Catholics into categories and the divisiveness that this tends to produce.

"Neo-Catholic" contains an explicit insult and implication of heterodoxy, any way that you look at it.
If "Neo-Catholic" doesn't come from the magisterium, why should I accept it? On what authority? It's an insult, meant to belittle and put in a box those who don't buy the RadCathR line.


Ferrara (lest we miss it) makes his meaning even more clear in his article, Neo-Catholic Quislings (a title speaks a thousand words, doesn't it???):

Dr. Thomas E. Woods and I have written a book, The Great Façade, which analyzes a phenomenon that is rightly called neo-Catholicism. The New Catholics who practice this new strain of Catholicism are distinguished by their seemingly inexhaustible willingness to defend, in the name of "obedience," every destructive innovation of the past 40 years, merely because some level of ecclesiastical authority has approved it.

. . . The term "quisling" is derived from the name of Vidkun Quisling, the head of Norway’s government, who sided with the Nazis during the German occupation of Norway from 1940-1945 in the wrongheaded belief that this would be best for Norway’s common good. Today "quisling" connotes one who serves as the misguided puppet of an occupying force.

. . . And the legacy of the quislings who have collaborated with this occupying army of Church-wreckers will be the same as that of Vidkun Quisling himself: a legacy of shame.

Thank you very much, Chris! There is something to be said for forthright clarity and unambiguous statements of one's position! In an equally edifying, uplifting article, The Blindness of Neo-Catholicism, Ferrara states:

The people I call neo-Catholics refuse to admit that the Catholic Church is suffering the worst crisis in her history because of innovations and capitulations approved by the Vatican apparatus itself. For the neo-Catholic, the Vatican can do no wrong . . .
And in his article, Neo-Catholic Blindness: Another Case in Point (does anyone sense a theme, here?), we are blessed with this tidbit:

There will be no solution to the crisis in the Church until the Vatican bureaucracy is held to the same standard of Catholic decency, decorum and common sense as that adhered to by Archbishop Chaput. Either Sodano and his collaborators cease their hobnobbing with the forces of darkness and go back to preaching the Gospel, or God will have to clean house at the Vatican. Only then will the crisis end.

In his paper, The Blind Guides of EWTN, Ferrara (outdoing even himself) surprises us all by reaching previously untold heights of complimentarity towards his buddies, the . . . (you guessed it!):

EWTN’s mixture of certain aspects of traditional Roman Catholicism with absolutely appalling novelties invented during the past 40 years — novelties that would have reduced the pre-conciliar popes to a state of apoplexy — is the very essence of neo-Catholicism. 

. . . Our experience of the past 40 years shows us that the real problem in the Church today is not overt modernists, who are easy to identify and expose, but the vast neo-Catholic establishment, posing as the "mainstream" of Roman Catholicism, with its multiform corruption of the traditional faith in both practice and belief. The devil’s momentary triumph in the post-conciliar epoch — inevitably to become his final defeat — consists of a shift of the great body of Catholics toward latitudinarianism and indifferentism . . . 

In short, the rise of neo-Catholicism is the post-conciliar crisis in the Church. It is a crisis as great as — if not greater than — the Arian crisis that also overcame the greater part of the Church in the 4th Century. To appreciate this we need only consider that EWTN is now considered an exemplar of Catholic orthodoxy, when, as we can see here, it is providing the very blind guides Our Lord warned us not to follow, lest we end up in a pit. 

Isn't this marvelous? So now we "neo-Catholics" don't simply sincerely misunderstand the nature and causes of the current crisis in the Church, but we are, in fact, the very crisis itself. We exemplify it, and are the forerunners and sustainers of it.

In "The Sands of Celebrity," [no longer online at this URL] Ferrara, undaunted and utterly unrestrained (not that we ever expect him to be restrained), trashes Scott Hahn, and then makes a vicious attack upon Pope John Paul II:

The neo-Catholic establishment is a house built on the shifting sands of celebrity, including the celebrity of a hugely popular Pope who will not rule his Church, but instead basks in the adulation of a profoundly disoriented laity whose plight he does not seem to understand. The Church cannot be sustained in her mission by celebrities who hunger after novelty, whether that novelty be carnal or theological. The Church does not need knights in shining armor from Washington, or books that make Hahn-verts instead of old fashioned converts, or even a Pope who is always celebrated but never feared. None of these celebrities can provide what the Church requires in the present crisis. Only the foundation stones of traditional Roman Catholicism, put firmly back in place by a militant hierarchy from the Pope on down, will be able to support the household of the Faith against the winds and floods that now assail it. How much more damage the Church will sustain in this crisis will be determined by how much more time it takes the hierarchy to restore the foundation.

In the same article (also reprinted on Robert Sungenis' website [no longer online at this URL]), Ferrara even has to intensify his own ridiculous term:

This kind of thinking represents an ultra neo-Catholicism that goes beyond the more conservative neo-Catholic’s comparatively passive defense of the post-conciliar novelties. In the manner of a true revolutionary, the ultra neo-Catholic openly despises the Church’s past and rejoices in its burial . . . this ultra neo-Catholicism is being amalgamated with the policies of the Republican Party, . . . 

Peter Miller, editor of the RadCathR rag,  Seattle Catholic, himself wrote an absolutely glowing tribute to Ferrara's and Woods' book, The Great Façade, in his newspaper (28 August 2002). Miller writes about this atrocious book:

. . . hundreds of sensible and reasoned observations which, in better times, would be laughably obvious. Unfortunately, one of the tragic results of this crisis has been the emergence of an attitude seemingly dedicated to obscuring common sense with elaborate explanations, selective citations and vicious attacks upon faithful Catholics. It is to this current of thought and its dedication to ecclesial novelties that Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods have applied the label "neo-Catholic" — a term perhaps more precise than "moderate liberal" and much more accurate than the constantly-fluctuating "conservative."

. . . yesterday's liberals (ironically enjoying the term "conservative" based solely on the emergence of liberals even more radical) . . .
. . . arguably the most comprehensive and exquisite defense of the uncorrupted Catholic Faith printed in decades — The Great Façade.
. . . While there are many aspects of this book that make it an invaluable addition to any faithful Catholic's library, one chapter stands above the rest and is as impressive as any single chapter or article written in years. Entitled "A Nest of Contradictions," Chapter 11 exposes the complete lack of consistency and credibility of the typical neo-Catholic claims.
. . . In a year where already several important Catholic books have been published, The Great Façade easily stands out as a monumental work. The exemplary prose makes reading the various chapters swift and enjoyable. At the same time, the attention to detail and extensive footnotes make this not only a great read but a valuable reference tool, ranking it among Michael Davies' Pope John's Council and Romano Amerio's Iota Unum as books belonging in every Catholic's library.
For balanced critiques of The Great Façade, see Brian O’Neel's review in This Rock. Also, see James Likoudis' review.

                          Revised, with new terminology incorporated, on 12 August 2013.

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