Although Armstrong refuses to talk to me, that doesn't stop him from talking about me. This, of itself, raises some nice ethical questions, but I'll let that pass.
It is, however, necessary to set the record straight since Armstrong is doing his best to deflect attention from the real issues.
Take the following two comments by Armstrong:
“What other people believe about Catholicism or anti-Catholicism doesn't change the fact of what I sincerely believe, and it doesn't give people the right to make stupid, unsubstantiated charges because they don't like my point of view on something.”
“If Hays wants some serious interaction and wants to expand his blog readership past its current 50 or so a day, I suggest he start exercising some rudimentary Christian charity and do research on that which he is opposing, so he doesn't make himself look so foolish: going on and on about things that he is clearly in the dark about. That's obviously not due to a lack of intelligence, but from a lack of willingness to learn and lack of charity towards others who believe differently than he does on some things.”
It is instructive to see how specific these accusations are at the ad hominem level while staying so very vague on the evidentiary level. Like any stalling tactic, this one has the advantage of keeping the factual questions at a safe distance
1. Once again, I'm happy to stipulate to anything bad he wants to say about me personally, for I am no doubt a worse person than the worst invective he has at his command-which, for a person who considers judgmentalism to be a sin, is on very intimate terms with the thing he condemns.
2. But, of course, the issue isn't about me. Armstrong is desperately attempting to change the subject by turning me into a decoy so that he can hopefully distract the reader from the real issue of truth-claims and truth-conditions.
3. I'd remind the reader that I have carefully documented my major claims. When he denied that Ray Brown was an authentic voice of modern Catholicism, I documented the fact that Brown was twice appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission by two different Popes.
When he gave as one reason for his adherence to Catholicism the acceptance of higher criticism in certain “Evangelical” circles, I documented the fact that the RCC has accepted higher criticism by citing such figures as Cardinal Koenig (a key player at Vatican II), Cardinal Ratzinger (Prefect for the Faith), and Joseph Fitzmyer, another member of the Biblical Commission.
I also noted that in their publications, Brown and Fitzmyer have both been vetted for doctrinal error by the official review process.
In addition, my series on “Back to Babylon,” which Armstrong dismissed without benefit of argument (what else is new?), contains extensive documentation from Catholic primary sources.
This creates a prima facie presumption that I have done my homework-to which kicking up a dust-cloud of personal abuse to cover his retreat is no answer.
4. Armstrong has a habit of quoting my conclusions while ignoring my supporting arguments. But the argumentation is there to back up the conclusions.
5. And let us be clear on something else. I don't claim to be an expert on Catholicism. I'm an outsider. And, what is more, so is Armstrong. Armstrong didn't grow up in the RCC. He was not educated at any Catholic institution of higher learning. And he holds no institutional position in the RCC. And this is an institution in which institutional standing matters.
6. Since I'm an outsider to Catholicism, the first question I ask is, who speaks for Catholicism? And since the RCC is a hierarchical institution, I look for answers in the hierarchy-in the magisterium and its delegates.
7. Now, it all due respect, is Armstrong really so conceited as to suppose that I should take his word over the word Brown or Rahner or Ratzinger or Fitzmyer or the others I cite?
Yes, given a choice, I take my cue from those whom the magisterium has chosen to speak for the church in various capacities.
8. And let us be equally clear on just what-all that amounts to. In this exercise, I am not judging the RCC by my own theological criteria. Rather, I'm judging her by her own chosen standard-bearers.
Who is Armstrong to tell me or anyone else that a guy like Ray Brown doesn't speak for Catholicism? Where is Armstrong in the pecking order?
Does Armstrong seriously think that I should be looking to him rather than these other men-men who have been promoted to strategic positions in the church? If Armstrong really believes this, then he is in quite a pickle.
9. That's the dilemma for a number of “Evangelical” converts to Catholicism, viz., Hahn, Armstrong. Some of them joined the RCC for conservative reasons. But they are more conservative than the church they joined. That is why Armstrong gets so testy and defensive when I start to quote from genuine insiders and heavyweight players. It exposes the schizophrenic insecurity of his position. He isn't quite an insider, and he isn't quite an outsider. Rather, he's like an expatriate who resigns his American citizenship, immigrates to France, and then disparages his homeland from abroad while, at the same time, correcting the accent of the natives.
Armstrong's trouble is that he was born a century too late. He has converted, not to a church, but to a museum-of which he is the self-anointed Curator. His quarrel is not so much with me, but with his own adopted communion, having arrived at the museum just after closing hours.