Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dumb and Dumber: The Professional Anti-Catholic and his Sycophants

One of the joys of being a Catholic is the depth and breadth of the Catholic faith. Catholicism is a feast for the eyes (e.g., Chatres Cathedral, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Raffaele, and Titian), ears (e.g., Gregorian Chant, Palestrina, Polyphony, Mozart, and Beethoven) and even the nose (e.g., incense for the hoi polloi and Benedictine Liquor for the aficionado) and the tongue (e.g., Dom Perignon, and anything from French or Italian Cuisine). By comparison, the Protestant English are still trying to hawk kidney pie as if it were edible, and the only prot painter worth his salt is Rembrandt who IMHO is highly over-rated.

But our Protestant confreres do corner the market in one absolutely remarkable commodity: They have the most entertaining anti-Catholic bigots in the world. Now there are lots of anti-Catholic atheists, a mean-spirited group who are generally drunk and disorderly or so full of themselves that even their friends are embarrassed by them. But when it comes to the prot anti-Catholic, you not only have vehemence and verve, but such a gross streak of dishonesty and demagoguery that they are just too comedic for words. The best part is that they take themselves so seriously!

Your average prot Anti-Catholic starts out mouthing biblical platitudes, then moves on to misinterpreting and misrepresenting Catholic teaching and Catholics themselves. They never do so with a 'holier-than-thou' attitude since that would require charity and humility. Nope! They do so riding on their high horse and looking down their noses on anyone who still kowtows to "ROME" that great city of the Anti-Christ. It is from here that they weave utterly fantastic conspiracy theories so convoluted and dastardly that paranoid schizophrenics can only look on in envy (and suspicion).

But the best part is when they come up against anyone with the smallest smattering of knowledge in the area of theology, Church History, or Scripture study. Here I must admit that it doesn't really matter whether said knowledgeable person is a Catholic or not. Real Protestant Scholars -- especially when they question the correctness of the biblical exegesis, Patristic citation, or historical musings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer, or any of their successors -- are denounced as 'liberals' or as 'abandoning the legacy of the Reformation.' Imagine these revisionist curs! Throwing aside the opinions of the 'Reformers' for the sake of the truth! What are they thinking!

But in any case, as the professional Anti-Catholic plies his wares in the marketplace of ideas, it becomes glaringly apparent that many of his views are not supported by the facts and in other cases, it is possible for a rational person to disagree with him. (It is usually a him. Anti-Catholic women are more passive aggressive and prefer to write nasty books.) At this point, the prot pundit has no choice but to play the ad hominem card and try to discredit his opponent as mean or unecumenical.

There is no limit to the absurd lengths that the Anti-Catholic will go. I have had these guys tell me that I am 'under the wrath of God' for being a 'Romanist', or that I am a fool for not accepting the opinions of their favorite Catholic historian even though he was a card carrying member of the Nazi party before, during and at the end of World War II.

Then there was the pundit who claimed on the Internet that the term Mother of God for the Blessed Virgin Mary was inconsistent with Patristic theology (he dismissed the Council of Ephesus as an anti-Council and claimed that St. Augustine did not accept it despite several quotations that showed he in fact did).  This fellow further claimed that the dogma of the Perpetual Virginity was a 6th Century invention (despite the Protoevangelium of James from the 150s, the excommunication of Bishop Bonosus in the 3rd Century for his denial of this doctrine, and St. Jerome's treatise in defense of it from the 4th Century) . I openly challenged him to produce any quotations from an orthodox Church Father to support his views. Instead he whined at how mean I was to him and threatened to denounce me to AOL as a spammer.

Then there was the well know 'scholar' who had a been a teacher of our own Dr. Scott Hahn. This man claimed in a popular magazine article (Tabletalks, May 1994) that St. Thomas Aquinas was a Protestant . In fact that was the title of the article. When I read it, I expected to see some comparison between St. Thomas' views and those of Luther, Calvin, and others. In 1969, Fr. Henry McSorley had written a book Luther: Right or Wrong comparing the views of Luther and Aquinas on justification and I expected that he would refer to it. To my surprise, the article was a rambling hodge-podge of criticism aimed at Catholic doctrine, the views of Alister McGrath, and modern theology. McSorley was not referenced at all. In fact there was only one quotation from St. Thomas which was on another topic altogether unrelated to the central thesis of the paper.

I wrote this man 3 letters and spoke with him on the phone twice. I pointed out to him that he had not proven anything in his article and I referred him to several parts of the Summa Theologiae in which St. Thomas clearly sided with Trent (and with McGrath's assessment of Trent) against Luther's views. He asked me what I thought justification was and I answered him by quoting VERBATIM from the Summa:

Justification implies a transmutation from the state of injustice to the aforesaid state of justice.
{Summa Theologica > First Part of the Second Part > Question 113> Article 1}

He sputtered at me in disgust that I did not understand Aquinas at all. When I indicated that I had just QUOTED St. Thomas VERBATIM, he said I had taken it out of context. At that point, I told him quite honestly that I thought that he must have reasons for claiming that Aquinas was a Protestant but that I found nothing in the article to convince me. I asked him to provide me with quotations from St. Thomas to substantiate his allegation. He refused and told me that he was under no obligation to provide me with anything. He whined about how obtuse I was and so childish in "following Rome'" Furthermore told me I had insulted him by not just "taking my word for it." I had impugned his integrity and he would not answer anymore insulting questions. He then told me that he was a real 'catholic' and that I was not. At this point I realized he was being deliberately provocative and evasive. He knew that he had been caught out and he was making excuses for his refusal to defend what he knew was indefensible. The conversation was over.

Dealing with these people is like being caught in the middle of a Monty Python episode. The absurdities continue to mount and then as one sane voice points this out to the raving loonies there is a rude outburst of personal invective.

But the real cherry on top are the fawning sycophants who hang on every word these "experts" burble forth. These lay people feel that they have been thoroughly armed to slay the Catholic Beast by quoting the inanities of their favorite Anti-Catholic pundits. They get a rude awakening when they find that Catholic Apologists are smart, good debaters, and thoroughly informed on the topics under discussion. After making fools of themselves quoting nonsense from the Anti-Catholic stable of lies, they promise to return with a response and then slowly fade into the sunset looking for easier prey: some other Catholic who is less well informed on whom to try their lies and other attacks. When pressed to respond, they come back with the usual excuse that they have not been treated 'nicely.' This is a code word for "I lost the debate and I am running away."

So my advice to the Catholic people is to stay away from these Anti-Catholic ne'er do wells. They have nothing of value to tell you and you have no need of them. Let the Catholic Apologist handle them. if they cause trouble, refer them to us. We will take it from there. That way, they will not be back to bother you.



TJW said...

Interesting article Art. I know a few anti-Catholic bigots that infuriate me, and I'm not even a Catholic!

Arthur C. Sippo MD, MPH said...

Exactly. I don't mind that someone says they disagree witht eh Catholic Church's teaching. Grown up understand that people will have diverse opinions. What really is infuriating is when people distort the facts or tell whopping lies and when you call them on it they attack your integrity.

In the Protestant systems, people are entitled to their opinions on matters of faith. Therefore, Protestants should respect the right of us Catholics to our own interpretations.

It has been the attacks by anti-Catholics that have led many of us Catholics to take up apologetics. We do so to defend the truth of our faith from unjust and unchariable attacks and not to disturb he faith of other people.


Christine said...

I couldn't agree more. I've been engaged in a protracted debate with Jason Engwer on the intercession of the saints, and he is quick to accuse me of dishonesty, misrepresentation, ignorance, and all manner of nonsense. It seems the modus operandi of the anti-Catholic to insult, rather than engage in substantive debate.