Friday, July 29, 2011

Is Dinesh D'Souza a "High Profile" Fallen-Away Catholic? (vs. Steve Hays)

Anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant polemicist Steve Hays thought that he scored a big zinger against Catholics. He wrote:

Catholics like to hype high-profile conversions or reversions to Rome. But someone traffic [sic] in the opposite direction doesn't get quite the same press.

(Turning from Rome, 7-29-11)

He then cited an article D'Souza wrote (dated 8-31-10), explaining that he was not a Catholic. The trouble is the definition of "high profile." I agree that D'Souza is a prominent conservative writer and general Christian apologist. But a "high profile conversion or reversion" is generally regarded as a person who was solidly in the Protestant or Catholic camp and then moved to another. If a person was never truly a zealous partisan of his or her former communion, I fail to see how this is a "high profile" deconversion, no matter how prominent the person may otherwise be, because the key factor is not the successes of their career or how great their occupational fame, but rather, the religious and theological factors in particular.

Thus, Hays' point is fundamentally flawed. Here I am writing about a person he thinks represents some hugely significant "victory" for evangelical Protestantism over against Catholicism (whereas he thinks Catholics don't and won't do so). He's wrong about that. Nor is this the first time I have (as an apologist and convert myself, and student of such things) treated deconversion. I wrote about Bill Cork (Adventist-to-Catholic-to Adventist) two times (one / two). I showed there that he hadn't really firmly grounded himself in Catholicism.

Our task as Catholic apologists is to show (in these instances) that inadequate reasoning was brought to bear in forsaking of the Catholic Church, or that there was no firm commitment to begin with. I think I did that in Cork's case, and shall do so in D'Souza's in a moment. I've also critiqued many stories of atheist deconversion out of Christianity in general, showing each time, I believe, that the reasons were inadequate or fallacious.

And I have responded to ridiculous attacks on Catholic converts (such as Francis Beckwith or former Anglican, Fr. Al Kimel), that try to run down the person involved and attack their integrity and/or their previous knowledge. I've been the recipient of many such attacks, myself (uniformly wrongheaded and usually weighed-down by the most ludicrous errors of simple fact, or absurd attempts at mind- and heart-reading).

But back to D'Souza. Why would I deny that he was a "high profile Catholic"? I do so based on his own report in the very article that Hays sent his readers to. He was never firmly in the Catholic camp to begin with (thus his departure is of no very large significance at all, in terms of an anti-Catholic or contra-Catholic apologetic or confirmation). No one need take my word for it. He says it plainly himself, after protesting that the very inquiries about his religious status constituted a "bizarre question" and a "strange business." Near the end of the article, he describes it as "largely a non-issue."

Well, I think devoted partisans of either side think it is a very important question and business and issue (as Francis Beckwith himself noted in a critique article of D'Souza). The fact that D'Souza does not, plausibly gives some indication, I think, of his less than total commitment to theological maters of great importance. Otherwise, why speak in those denigratory terms? He wasn't even "fully committed" to his newfound evangelicalism until after seven years attending church with his wife (suggesting that his prior Catholic commitment was not all that profound, either). Here are his words (my bolding):

. . . he quoted from a profile on me that Rosey Grier did in his book All-American Heroes: Multicultural Success Stories. Greer [sic] quoted me as saying that I was a Catholic but not a very good one. What the Chronicle writer failed to notice is that the Greer quotation was from the late 1980s—long before I became a born-again Christian.. . .

I was raised Catholic in India. That’s because I come from Goa, where the Portuguese missionaries arrived starting in the sixteenth century. My ancestors converted to Catholicism. My family was conventionally Catholic, but not very devout. Later in his life, my father became a charismatic Catholic. I also attended Jesuit school in Mumbai and was exposed to the Catholic intellectual tradition. While I was lukewarm in my Catholic practice, I continued to draw on this tradition in my early career as a writer. The vast majority of my work, however, has been secular.

Why, then, would Hays, in his infinite wisdom, think that this case has any bearing on relative truth claims one way or the other? It is simply another example, out of millions, of a Catholic who neither fully practiced nor understood his faith, going somewhere else (from the looks of it, mainly due to his wife). D'Souza said it himself.

Moreover, on his own More About Dinesh D'Souza page (from Rosey Grier's book of 1992), he stated that he was a "believing Catholic but a poorly practicing one." That was three years before he started regularly attending evangelical churches. This is no exemplar of Catholic orthodoxy or practice.  Yet I am to believe that he is a "high profile" Catholic? He was not at all. I can't find any indication whatever (by his own report) that he was.

In a 2009 interview by Stan Guthrie (BreakPoint, November 12 and 19, 2009), D'Souza verifies yet again what is seen above (my bolding again):

I was raised Catholic in Bombay, India. The Portuguese missionaries came to India starting in the 16th century. Somewhere along the line, they seem to have located one of my ancestors and brought him to Christianity, possibly by whopping him over the head. It was the age of the Portuguese Inquisition. Hey, I'm glad it happened, although I'm not sure my hapless ancestor would agree. Even so I sometimes say I was raised with "crayon Christianity."

This is a simplified Christianity, and too many of us learn this from our parents and never outgrow it. We never develop a mature Christianity that can withstand the assaults of secular culture. I married an evangelical Christian in 1992, and after our daughter was born in 1995, we started attending a nondenominational church in the Washington D.C. area. But my faith remained lukewarm, wounded, you might say, by the influences of secular culture. Only when we moved to California did we start attending a Calvary Chapel church, and I found people who took their Christianity very seriously and whose faith shaped their whole life. This also began to happen with me. Basically I went from being a crayon Christian and a lukewarm Christian to being a mature and passionate Christian.

I rest my case. Now we can all be entertained by Hay's inevitable sophistical spin. Somehow under his magical abilities of obscurantism D'Souza shall be transformed into (formerly) a devout, fully observant Catholic, and one who should trouble us, as if his departure casts doubt on Catholic truth claims in any way, shape, or form.


We can be fairly sure that Hays will put up some sort of mocking nonsense sometime soon, as "revenge". Here is the sort of "argument" he has been making these days against me. What a waste of a mind . . . For my part, I will stick to rational Catholic, biblical argument, thank you. He did eventually (very typically) come up with some sophistry and obfuscation to try to wiggle his way out. He didn't succeed, and entirely missed the very essence of my argument. Same old same old there . . .

Here's one representative example (among many) of Hay's spinning sophistry and deliberate dishonesty of presentation (if the two things are any different). I plainly contended that D'Souza was not a "high profile" Catholic, echoing Hays' own language in his post that I critiqued. If he isn't high profile, then his leaving the Catholic Church has very little implication for our truth claims, since he was nominal at best: by his own repeated admission. It's a non sequitur, in other words.

That was my point: and one Hays has made many times in the opposite direction. He will argue, for example, that I am a "hybrid" Catholic, still half evangelical (which is nonsense). Now, watch how he distorts my argument and turns it into something very different (my bolding and italics):

The issue is how Armstrong set the bar to be a real Catholic. By his criteria, a number of popes (e.g. some of the Renaissance popes) weren’t even Catholic. That’s the dilemma he backed himself into. If, on the one hand, you raise the bar so high that you exclude D’Souza, then you also exclude a number of impious popes.

(comment of 8-1-11

See what he did there? The discussion suddenly cleverly shifted at his instigation from the definition of a "high profile" Catholic or conversion / deconversion, to the definition of a card-carrying Catholic, period. The second category is exponentially larger than the first. I wasn't talking about that at all. D'Souza was a Catholic in the nominal sense; so were the whoring, corrupt popes back whenever (though anyone in mortal sin is out of God's grace and gravely endangering their souls).

Hence, Hays fundamentally distorts my argument beyond all recognition. But this is what sophists and special-pleading obscurantist polemicists do. And Hays is all of those things . . . His readers don't even see it because they blindly follow whatever he writes, especially if it is attacking me: the wicked "arch-enemy": as these sad specimens of fundamentalist, anti-Catholic Christianity view me.

To top off the irony and double standard hypocrisy, one of Hays' co-bloggers, Patrick Chan, made the exact same "ignorance / nominalism" argument that I made about D'Souza, but the other way around:

I take it the main point is your admitted poor grounding in theology would seem to be correlated with why you left evangelicalism and embraced Catholicism. Yet your story isn't a total surprise or anything. In fact, many evangelicals who embrace Catholicism do so out of weaker theological backgrounds too. (7-31-11)

The strong insinuation is that such conversions have no import or significance, due to ignorance. If we switch the direction of the move, the same thing would apply quite nicely to D'Souza. His conversion was insignificant in precisely the same sense, and is anything but a scenario of being a "high-profile" Catholic. He was not. He's only a high-profile politically conservative commentator. Yet Hays manages to overlook all of these obvious considerations and to play games, engaging in his usual juvenile spin and sophistry. No Catholic can ever be correct if they disagree with him, and he will spin more than all the planets in the universe to vainly "prove" that any Catholic with whom he spars is wrong, and is Attila the Hun, etc. As usual, it is a pathetically failed attempt. He ought to give it up.


The Latest Hays tactic / ruse, is to cynically try to turn my words back upon me. He entitles his new post, "Split-personality narcissist" (that's me, of course, folks!), and keeps the childish insults flowing, as usual, with "bipolar solipsist" added for good measure (in the past he has called me "evil" and "schizophrenic" in complete seriousness). He cites his friend TAO (The Anonymous One), who in turn noted an article of mine dated 8 July 2008; where I described Dinesh D'Souza as a "well-known political conservative and devout Catholic." Because I stated that, then, it is proof positive in Hays' eyes that I am a split personality, etc., and viciously self-contradictory.

This is not rocket science, folks.  At that time, I had not looked into D'Souza's Catholicism in any depth. I understood that he was a Catholic (and that was all that was relevant to my particular argument in that paper). I didn't know that he was not actually a "devout" one, and so that constituted my momentous, earth-shaking mistake (an unverified description). I'm not perfect. I can admit when I am wrong; I have no problem with that. This is not Chicken Little: my description of someone as a "devout Catholic" when in fact he was not (as he himself makes clear in more recent clarifications). But Hays seems to have the greatest difficulty admitting any error on his part (as in the present case and his view of D'Souza).

His point fails, in any event, because this was not some momentous contradiction, in the sense that he is conveying, but simply a matter of lack of knowledge, followed by looking into the matter further and discovering D'Souza's self-report of his nominal Catholicism; requiring a change of opinion based on the latest relevant information. I didn't know that about him in 2008; now I do, as a result of Hays claiming that D'Souza was a high-profile Catholic, and my looking into the matter further. We learn things as we go through life: the more we learn, the more we are responsible for accuracy, given our new or increased knowledge. I didn't call him a "high-profile Catholic" even in 2008 (which was actually the matter in dispute presently). I highlighted the political conservative aspect, because that is how he is best known.

Therefore, with the knowledge we now have of D'Souza's Catholicism, solely from his own words, we know he was nominal at best. A person who never fully observed a religious faith in the first place and then left it, is no disproof of its truth claims. This is how Hays and his cronies argue when people leave Protestantism for Catholicism. They invariably question the genuineness of the person's former allegiance to Protestantism. Thus, Hays' buddy James White, in his first exchange with me (his letter dated 6 April 1995), stated, "you were not truly a Protestant to begin with."

He was wrong about me; I certainly was a Protestant: and a very devoted one indeed: an apologist and full-time campus missionary and cult researcher and pro-life activist. But I was not a Calvinist; so in his eyes, I was not ever a "true" Protestant, since he thinks only Calvinists are that; otherwise he couldn't have stated such a ridiculous thing: as if there is no such animal as a non-Calvinist Protestant. The problem wasn't my lack of true Protestantism, but rather, his ignorance, lack of charity, and hopeless confusion of category (as with all anti-Catholics, when closely scrutinized).D'Souza, on the other hand, was not a serious Catholic, because he has told us himself that this was the case, and we have no reason to doubt a man who is discussing his own life and former opinions.

The difference between Hays and myself is attention to facts, and squarely admitting them or refusing to do same. He wants to play games and pretend that D'Souza was something he was not: a "high-profile Catholic" or a consistently practicing one. He knows the relevant facts of the matter (because I pointed them out to him) but he couldn't care less about them, because it is all about bashing Catholicism and defenders of the Catholic Church, like myself. He used spin to try to dismiss the facts and distort what I had argued, as I showed above, in Addendum #1. That is his goal: facts be damned if they get in the way of it!

My outlook is very different. I obtained new knowledge of  D'Souza and incorporated it into my understanding. I was wrong about him being "devout" before. I learned of my mistake and now admit it, but Hays is now being a sophist and making a mountain out of a molehill.

No biggie. My point in this paper stands, just as it always has: sophistry, obscurantism, name-calling, and obfuscation have not diminished it in the least. It has only been demonstrated once again that Hays is a deliberately dishonest sophist (by his own straightforward demonstration) and that anything goes when he attacks Catholicism and Catholics.

* * *

Hays, undaunted in his sophistical confusion and frantic spinning, keeps up his silly antics in yet another "reply"-post. It's already been amply answered in every particular above, so we need not waste further valuable time on it. An "argument" doesn't become stronger by mere repetition (sorry to be the one to break that news to Hays). But that and mockery is all Hays has in his arsenal, so he utilizes them. In his fertile, logically troubled mind, somehow the D'Souza saga makes irrelevant all Catholic convert stories.  What a joke . . .

No one who understands logic at all is swayed by it. But at least he avoids the childish name-calling (confining himself to his semi-regular standby "poor [sometimes, "dear"] ol' Dave"), so by his low standards of discourse, that is a vast improvement, for which we can be thankful (for his sake).

* * *

Oops; almost missed yet another installment of the ongoing Hays absurdities, complete with even more ludicrous nonsense in the two comments below, as of writing. Nothing relevant here, either. Carry on, folks.


Pilgrimsarbour said...

For my own part, I have read D'Souza's book What's So Great About Christianity.


To be honest, it's not a very good book, in my view. His views are typically what I would call fundamentalist evangelical which have their origins more in American revivalism than the Scriptures themselves. He is not someone I would look to for exegetical guidance.

On the other matter, I don't think Hays is opposed in general to having Catholics post on his site. It seems to me to be more personal than that.

Jordanes551 said...

Sorry to hear about this -- but then his Catholicism being mainly cultural probably explains a few weaknesses in his What's So Great About Christianity. I don't have time to catalogue them, though, but I concur with Pilgrimsarbour's assessment of it.

Dave Armstrong said...

I added a further section to the end, demonstrating how Hays tried to sophistically spin his way out of my argument and his dumb original claim, as of 12:15 PM EST, 8-1-11.

Mike Roesch said...

Don't know if you caught it, but Fr. Kimel recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Dave Armstrong said...

Really? I didn't know that. Interesting . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

I added another observation of Hays' hypocrisy to the end of the post, as of 11:43 AM EST, 8-3-11.

Mike Roesch said...

On Fr. Kimel:

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks, Mike. I have posted on the matter on Facebook, and made links to two pages here:

Dave Armstrong said...

I have added a second Addendum, responding to further Hays personal attacks and continuing mindless errors, as of 12:45 PM EST, 8-6-11.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

There's nothing at all wrong with you calling D'Souza a "devout Catholic" back in 2008. I myself remember him releasing a book of his on Raymond Arroyo's program and bragging about his Catholicism and being a distance relative of an Indian archbishop or something like it...

And of course, it's no secret that in the "Catholic Celebrity" subculture self-styled "devout" Catholics can fall away from the faith (and all of us can, from a certain point of view). Just see the whole Anne Rice affair. A lot o people called her a "devout Catholic".

Just some 2 cents of mine...

Dave Armstrong said...

Mine was an innocent, perfectly understandable mistake, whereas Hays' continuing contentions are deliberately avoiding the known facts and obstinately persisting in a refuted point of view. That's a huge difference.

I thank him for bringing up D'Souza in the first place, though. I was unaware that he had left the catholic faith, or that he was such a nominal Catholic when he was in the fold. Now I am aware of that, and so are my readers (whoever read this). And it is another chance to reveal the unethical and illogical nature of most anti-Catholic "argumentation." So several things were accomplished at once here . . .

Steve "Whopper" Hays amply lived up to his affectionate nickname yet again! :-)