Armstrong has weighed in once again:
Before I delve into the details, in his current response he has posted a picture of Pee Wee Herman, while in his prior response he posted a picture of Alfred Kinsey.
The innuendo is that anyone who opposes the Catholic stance on masturbation or contraception is in the same camp as these two poster boys of sexual iniquity.
Let’s remember that Dave belongs to a denomination which is the world leader in clerical pederasty.
If he chooses to paint with a broad brush, then he will be indelibly stained from head to toe in the process—especially when he’s surfing the web for portraits of Pee Wee Herman and Alfred Kinsey. Clearly someone needs to install a v-chip on his computer.
“We see it all over the place: in liberalized divorce laws, in easy acceptance of abortion in the wake of the sexual revolution (while the Catholic Church never wavered on the issue), in acceptance of contraception (previously regarded as grave evil: Luther and Calvin absolutely despised the sin), starting with the Anglicans in 1930, and now almost universally; now homosexuality is increasingly accepted, etc. Masturbation is just one sexual issue in a tidal wave of compromise in Protestantism considered as a whole.”
i) He disregards the liberal/conservative fault-line which runs through Protestantism.
ii) He disregards the fact that his own church is a leonine on paper, but sheepish in practice.
iii) Not to mention the deeply entrenched subculture of sodomy within the Catholic priesthood.
“First of all, it's not my responsibility to also answer your replies to Alan; it's his. Why should I get involved in inter-Protestant squabbles?”
Now he’s backpedaling. Dave posed an accusatorial question which I had already answered. So I pointed him to the preexisting answer.
As soon as I do that, he does an about-face.
“Secondly, you disregard huge portions of my reply, so I am not bound to deal with every jot and tittle of yours.”
No, you’re not bound to deal with everything or anything I say. If, however, you pose a specific question which I specifically answered, then you are being unresponsive to the way in which you yourself framed the issue.
“Even Frank Turk doesn't dare pursue the argument with you. At least he has the sense to know when he is in over his head. But I'm delighted to see that at least he gets it right on this issue. Good for him.”
Yes…well…my informant at the Vatican tells me that CafePress is just a front organization for the Knights of Malta, of which Frank is card-carrying member. I realize that you’re way too far down the food chain to be in the loop, but when Stigmata II comes out this summer, you’ll have a better grasp of Frank’s pivotal role in the advent of the Antichrist.
Don’t be taken in by that family photo album mock-up of his. His “wife” is really a Carmelite nun, while their “children” are rent-a-kids from the off-season cast of Rugrats. I’d love to tell you more, but Cardinal Kasper was speaking off the record.
“Every lawyer learns these tricks, because every lawyer will occasionally have to argue a lost cause and will have to come up with nonsense that is ‘believable’ enough to hoodwink and fool twelve human beings on a jury with illogical and fallacious gibberish.”
I’m glad to see you share the same opinion of Karl Keating and Jonathan Prejean that Svendsen, White, Engwer, and I do.
“No Christian can fully live by the entire code of Christian conduct (or even very well at all).”
This begs the question of what constitutes the Christian code of conduct. The reason that the Catholic church has a history of clerical concubinage, clerical pederasty, and other widespread sexual scandals is that it has an unnatural and extrascriptural code of conduct.
By setting such a surreal, inhumane standard, it inevitably falls into gross iniquity, for the ironical consequence of legalism isn’t greater morality, but greater immorality.
“As I noted: who of us isn't guilty of massive shortcoming with regard to lust or greed or gluttony? But I don't see you constructing fanciful, wishful, desperate apologetics for any of those sins.”
Comparing masturbation to greed begs the question of what is sinful and what is not.
“The Bible I read says stuff like ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ and ‘with men it's not possible, but with God, all things are possible.’ Do you have so little faith in God's power and guidance that you are prepared to assert that certain sins are literally unable to be overcome, or so rarely that we can't even apply such passages and grand encouragements to them?”
This is the same Pentecostal pietism as Juan’s. In my reply to him, I distinguished between natural impulses and sinful impulses. I also distinguished between different ways of dealing with them. 1 Cor 7 is a case in point.
“By your reasoning, the growing chastity movement shouldn't even exist. The liberals tell us it is impossible for young people to restrain their sex drives. But there they are: all these heroic teens who haven't bought into the lie of ‘animalism’. Now here you come along in all your supposedly ‘conservative’ and ‘biblical’ glory and try to lie to us that it is virtually impossible to not masturbate, as if God isn't powerful enough to give the grace by which to overcome that sin.”
i) You beg the question by assuming that masturbation is sin. But that’s the very question at issue.
ii) You also beg the question by equating masturbation with fornication. But I’ve distinguished the two.
iii) I’m all for sexual restraint, including premarital abstinence. But sexual restraint needs to be defined in Biblical terms, with Biblical remedies, and not tendentious classifications or Pentecostal pieties.
iv) I also think that many young people should marry at an earlier age. We have a culture that, for economic reasons, postpones marriage—with predictable results.
“If anyone disagrees, you mock them and pillory straw men with reckless abandon.”
Dave, you’re such a fund of unwitting comedy that it would be a crime to let so much raw material go to waste. I'm just attempting to be a responsible citizen in the stewardship of natural comedic resources.
“Since a person isn't conscious at the time; therefore not culpable, it is irrelevant to the discussion.”
It’s a sexual outlet outside of procreation—which is directly relevant to the issue at hand.
“Granted, there is usually an erotic dream that could be said to have derived from cultivated lust, but the thing itself is not a sin. Or do you habitually accuse sleeping people of committing crimes?”
Notice how he completely misses the point of the analogy between masturbation and wet-dreams—as if I’m arguing that masturbation is sinful because wet-dreams are sinful.
“In both cases the man is by himself.”
A man who performs coitus interruptus is “by himself.”
You see the difficulty in debating with a guy who has such an elastic definition of terms, where antonyms become synonyms.
“In pornography or masturbation with internal fantasizing, "women" are used in the abstract as tools. They are still dehumanized and cheapened and lowered to means to an end. Just because a woman isn't really there makes no difference, according to Jesus' principle of lust already occurring in the heart and hate already being the root of murder.”
i) I’ve discussed the problem of pornography elsewhere.
ii) But while we’re on that subject, what does Dave think about all that risqué art you find in Italian churches—much of which was commissioned by the papacy? R-rated Catholic piety.
A Catholic worshiper would have to bring a very dark pair of shades to Mass to keep his mind on the homily.
It’s really rather funny to compare Armstrong’s high-minded talk about “internal fantasizing, ‘women’ are used in the abstract as tools. They are still dehumanized and cheapened and lowered to means to an end. Just because a woman isn't really there makes no difference, according to Jesus' principle of lust already occurring in the heart and hate already being the root of murder. When such a person is later with a real flesh-and-blood woman in a moral situation of married sex, these sins (sadly) often continue to have an effect, because if you have habitually abused the gift and have approached women as objects, useful only for selfish lust and pleasure” with the kind of artwork you find when you take a tour through the historic churches of Rome—not to mention the homoerotic angle to some of the art.
iii) Dave is citing Mt 5 rather than exegeting Mt 5.
“Obviously, you have only the dimmest comprehension of the Catholic sexual teaching that you so delight in mocking and lying about (presumably if you knew how ignorant you were on this score, you wouldn't mock).”
I pose these rhetorical questions to smoke out the duplicity of Catholic teaching on contraception.
“The sin lies in the deliberate separation of the procreative and pleasure functions of sexuality.”
Which is exactly what happens whenever a married couple has sex under conditions, whether natural or artificial, where conception is not in the cards.
“Hear this, and hear it well (for the next time you attempt to seriously analyze serious sexual teaching from the Catholic Church): our teaching is not: ‘every time you have sex it must literally be possible for the women to have a child’.”
“Literally” possible to conceive. As opposed to what? Figuratively possible to conceive?
This is where Catholic moralism instantly crumbles in a heap of pixie dust.
“I don't know, Steve; why don't you tell me why you answered me, then, if you care so little? Why did you write a virtual book in response to Dr. Blosser, who is also a layman like myself?”
Because you paid a visit to my combox, and because some people get their Catholic theology from laymen like you.
“Secondly, it is irrelevant what belief-system I belong to if my argument is true and carries weight.”
There’s a reason why serious Catholic writers submit their writings to an official approval process to receive the imprimatur.
“That's simply a subtle form of the ad hominem argument.”
Read Peter Geach on ad hominem arguments.
“Thirdly, you engage in your customary ignorant, cynical strategy of trying to create an artificial clergy-laity dichotomy which is not taught by the Church.”
To the contrary, it’s the Magisterium which engages in a cynical strategy of letting the laity stick its neck out instead of the Magisterium. That way, if the laity gets its head chopped off, the Magisterium can plead plausible deniability.
The laymen are cannon fodder for the Magisterium. Laymen are the foot soldiers. They assume the intellectual risk of failure. If they successfully storm a city, then the Magisterium will ride in after the fact and take possession. If they are mowed down, the Magisterium escapes without a nick, because it was sitting on a hill, waiting to see how the battle would go.
That strategy avoids the public debacle of Humanae Vitae, when a Pope is imprudent enough to lead the charge, and be shot to pieces in the process.
“Right. You freely admit that the Onan passage deals with contraception, yet you want to claim that contraception isn't frowned upon in the passage?”
i) Yes, because you’re making an illicit move from the specific to the general in the teeth of contextual markers to the contrary.
ii) I’d add that if Gen 38 is the primary prooftext for the sin of contraception and masturbation, then why is it not cited in that connection in Humanae Vitae or the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
Like many converts to Rome, Dave is more Catholic than the Pope.
“Yet your position within your paradigm is far more troublesome and self-contradictory: you stand there as an individualist (that which your Tradition inconsistently glorifies) and expect me to take your word as Gospel Truth and authoritative and immediately profound, when in fact, on this very issue, you differ wildly from Luther and Calvin: the very founders of your overall Protestant system (who agree with me).”
Calvin is not the rule of faith in Calvinism. Scripture is.
“Okay, what am I supposed to do: pretend instead that Christians through the centuries did not condemn masturbation and that suddenly in the 1960s, Christians woke up and figured out that what was previously almost universally despised as sin now is simply biological, morally-neutral, practical activity (just as Protestants did in the 1930s and 1940s with contraception)?”
This is the stereotypically Catholic historical fallacy about a mythical Christian consensus.
The vast majority of Christians never wrote on this or any other subject of Christian morality or theology.
This patently fallacious appeal is really an appeal to a statistical fraction of a fraction of a fraction of Christians over the past 2000 years who were literate and had an institutional platform within the church from which to speak.
Moreover, the historical appeal is self-refuting. A primary reason why the mythical consensus of opinion on this or that issue has unraveled is in direct proportion to increasing rates of literacy and mass education.
As ever more of the laity were in a position to read for themselves, the official gatekeepers could no longer able to say: “We know better—take our word for it.”
As a result, some tradition teaching has survived scrutiny, while other pieces of tradition have been unable to withstand scrutiny.
Speaking of which, let’s take a closer look at ecclesiastical tradition:
“Roman Catholic thinking on this issue [birth control] goes back at least to St. Augustine…Marital intercourse could be justified (using categories of a later period) as an example of the principle of double effect. Intercourse involves the satisfaction of sexual desire, which Augustine did not treat as a good, but it also served the purpose of procreation which was a good. When done with the purpose of procreation marital intercourse was morally justifiable, despite the ‘negative’ result of satisfying sexual desire,” J. S. Feinberg & P. D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (CB 1993), 168.
“The next major development came from Thomas Aquinas. While Aquinas rejected Augustine’s suspicion of the physical, his basic position on birth control amounted to the same thing. Coupling the Aristotelian notion of causes with natural law ethics…Aquinas concluded that contraception was outlawed, for it thwarted the natural purpose of the sex act, which is procreation. Engaging in sexual intercourse without the intent of procreation was, therefore, considered sinful. This meant, of course, that intercourse with one’s pregnant wife or with a sterile woman was sinful, because intent to procreate was impossible. In the Middle Ages there was even debate about whether intercourse with one’s wife was lawful of the sole purpose was to satisfy sexual desire so that one would not be tempted to commit adultery. Many thought such a motive made it unlawful,” ibid. 168-69.
Little further change in the Catholic position occurred until the twentieth century. In 1930 Pope Pius XI published the encyclical Casti Conubii…Using Augustinian and Thomistic reasoning and interpretation of Scripture, he condemned contraception. However, he claimed that it does not follow that sexual intercourse is sinful in marriages where, through natural causes, procreation is impossible. Moreover, he stated that though procreation is the primary purpose of marriage, sexual intercourse in marriage also serves such secondary ends as fostering of mutual love and the abatement of lust,” ibid. 169.
Notice two things about this summary:
i) Catholic tradition is not as monolithic as Armstrong presents it when opposing Catholicism to Evangelicalism.
ii) The most traditional parts of tradition are opposed to theological innovations and moderations of the traditional position which Armstrong now takes for granted.
“Right. So all Christians prior to 1930 were utterly mistaken when they opposed contraception, then the lights went on in the profoundly Christian culture of 1930 England and Christians finally got it right.”
I assume he’s alluding to St. Gallup of Aquitaine. And I’m waiting for Armstrong to hyperlink us to the Medieval polling data which supports his conclusion. Is this contained in the Vatican archives or St. Catherine’s monastery?
“And sexually-repressed Catholics who don't even allow priests to marry (so they can get divorced in record numbers and have notoriously-disproportionate dysfunctional families like Protestant pastors do).”
Oh, so the reason for the ban on married clergy is that, if given the chance, Catholic clergy would divorce at the same rate as their Protestant counterparts.
Therefore, the church refuses to countenance married clergy for fear of scandal—because the Catholic priesthood would prove untrustworthy if given the opportunity to fulfill the cultural mandate (Gen 1:28).
With such a vote of confidence from a Catholic epologist, who am I to oppose the priesthood?
“First of all, Fr. Harrison's article was primarily about contraception, not masturbation, with secondary application to the latter.”
Which limits its relevance to the immediate issue at hand.
“Thirdly, neither he nor I nor the Catholic Church invented the scenario whereby the same word in both Hebrew (zerah) and Greek (sperma) could be used both for plant seed and human sperm.”
Which is not the point at issue. At issue his the absurdly free-associative allegorization, as if the same word has the same referent.
Christ is a lion, the devil is a lion; ergo: Christ is the devil. God is a rock, Peter is a rock; ergo, Peter is God.
“To simply dismiss this present interpretation out of hand does insufficient justice to those aspects of the Bible. Protestants are often guilty of this, in their over-emphasis on biblical literalism and ignorance of historical fourfold exegetical methods.”
If you want to treat the parable of the sower as an allegory for the sin of birth control or the sin of masturbation, and use this exercise as a showcase for your brand of hermeneutics, that’s fine with me.
You make my job quite effortless with examples like these. I only have to stand back and point. The laugh-track does the rest.
“I expect to find tons more hidden treasures in the Bible before I die, and I would hope that anyone who loved the Bible would feel the same way.”
You’re mistaking buried treasure for fool’s gold and rhinestones.
“I regarded it as purely a historical question, abstracted from the question of how these Jewish sources came to their conclusions.”
Fine. We have dueling experts. Stalemate.
“Because I'm not required to. Most of you could care less what any Catholic thinks about anything anyway, so why would I waste my time (speaking pragmatically)?”
i) It’s significant that Armstrong is out of touch with standard Catholic scholarship.
ii) I don’t care what a Catholic qua Catholic has to say. But I’m always game for a good argument.
“If he wasn't killed due to contraception, then you have to explain why he was killed.”
Been there, done that.
“Since the penalty for failure of fulfilling the levirate law wasn't death, it makes little sense to assume that he was killed by God because of that.”
Been there, done that. As well as Tom R. As well as Gene Bridges.
“Nice try. If God decided in His providence that someone was to be infertile, then who are we to mess with that by technology and again separate procreation from the sexual act just as we separate sexual pleasure from procreation?”
And if man were meant to fly, God would give him wings. Who are we to mess with our terrestrial mode of locomotion?
The Wright brothers were the Margaret Sangers of aviation.
For 2000 years, Mother Church rode around in a horse-and-buggy. If it’s good enough for Mom, it’s good enough for me!
“This mentality involves the opposite sin of contraception: in one case couples reject God's possible will that they have children, or more than one or two children (the fashionable number today: below zero population growth), in the other, they reject the fact that the man is infertile and try to circumvent the normal course of sexual relations.”
I see. Does Mother Church feel the same way about canes, pacemakers, wheelchairs, prescription glasses, hearing aids, and prosthetics—or do these enjoy a papal dispensation from the damnable taint of mortal sin?
“So (everyone) note what has been done: you assume that I meant an age that my words do not prove (I often, e.g., refer to my ten-year-old son as a ‘little boy’ - it's a relative term).”
Even a ten-year-old is prepubescent. So Armstrong’s usage, both before and after damage control, is subject to the same Freudian premise.
“It stinks any way you look at it and you should be ashamed of sinking to such a level.”
This from a man who associates anyone dissenting from Catholic morality with Pee Wee Herman and Alfred Kinsey.