Thursday, April 14, 2005

Leave it to the experts!

<< I have responded quite strongly to a string of personal attacks which deny that I am a Christian and even a (true) Catholic; which caricature and seek to cynically re-define my very Church; by a person who is in the dark on a number of fronts having to do with his knowledge of Catholicism, yet one who thinks he knows more about a topic than a person like myself (or even folks like Scott Hahn and Karl Keating) who has devoted his life to living, defending, and understanding it… >>

This accusation merits a few comments:


I make no claims for myself, and my case does not depend on making claims for myself. Whether I'm competent or incompetent is up to the individual reader to judge. If I've made a cogent case against Catholicism, then I don't have to make claims for myself--and if my case is fallacious, then making claims for myself would not render it any less fallacious.


I have never said or insinuated that I know more about Catholicism than Armstrong or Hahn or Keating. And that is, again, beside the point. Let us suppose I know less about Catholicism than does Armstrong. So what? The question is whether what I know, as far as it goes, is accurate, and whether it is adequate to falsify the claims of Rome on her own terms. All I ever hear back from Armstrong are empty, angry denials.


Again, why is Armstrong referring me to the likes of Scott Hahn and Karl Keating? The fact is that if you want to learn about Catholicism, you should not begin with a popular lay apologist. Rather, you should begin with magisterial statements or statements by those in some sense authorized by the magisterium to speak for the magisterium, and not by these homegrown spokesmen.


Finally, and most importantly, to dismiss anyone from forming a value-judgment about Roman Catholicism due to a lack of expertise is a double-bladed sword, and the edge is far keener when it's turned against Catholicism itself.

To begin with, no one is really an expert on Catholicism as a whole because Catholicism is so diverse. There various degrees of expertise and areas of specialization, such as canon law, moral theology, Scotism, Thomism, liturgiology, patristics, church history, and so on and so forth.

But-and this is the most damaging point-Armstrong's elitist standard of judgment effectively disenfranchises hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics around the world. How many poor Catholics in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are “experts” on Catholicism? And if you have to be an expert to be justified in forming a belief about the true or falsity of the RCC, then I daresay that this criterion disqualifies the faith of most of the faithful around the globe.

Put another way, if I have to be an expert to be well-warranted in rendering a negative value-judgment on the claims of Rome, then--by parity of reasoning--I must also be an expert to be well-warranted in rendering a positive value-judgment on the same.

So where does that leave the Catholic masses in Latin America or the Third World? By this preemptive maneuver, Armstrong can only disqualify my disbelief in Catholicism by also disqualifying the belief in Catholicism as held by the great majority of Roman Catholics, past and present. Armstrong's attempt to vindicate his case by pulling rank (even though he holds no rank) is like a suicide bomber who can only kill off his opponent by detonating himself in the process.


  1. Steve --

    It's Dave Armstrong. Before you know it, he'll have you on his "infamous anti-Catholic" page at his website and refuse to talk *to* you but only *about* you.

    Consider this an apologetic badge of honor.

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