I used to think that Dave Armstrong was just a jerk. Not deeply evil. Just a jerk.
In that respect he was easy to make light of. However, reading his post on James White and Patty Bonds has forced me to revise my opinion of him–downward.
He isn’t just a narcissistic little jerk. He’s actually evil. It’s not something we can spoof or satirize anymore. He’s crossed a line of no return.
I’m going to make two brief observations in this post.
1.The conduct of the Catholic epologists like Armstrong illustrates a fundamental problem with Catholic apologetics. It’s unregulated. And because it’s unregulated, Catholic epologists represent a cross-section of Catholics generally. As a result, we’re treated to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Now, I have no objection to lay apologists. But that’s because I’m a benighted Protestant who doesn’t know any better.
By contrast, it’s strange that an institution which claims to be the one true church on earth, with a divine teaching office at its disposal, has, by default, contracted out the defense of the Catholic faith to anyone with a Blogger account. You’d think the one true church might wish to exercise a bit more quality control over its public image.
Catholic epologists like Armstrong are exploiting Patty Bonds as a stalking horse to attack the theology of James White. Since they can’t beat him in a formal, moderated debate, they are using Patty Bonds as a weapon.
Not only does that say something about some (not all) Catholic epologists, but it also reflects on their spiritual superiors. Where are the shepherds?
2.Patty Bonds claims to be the victim of incest. She has a blog in which she has gone public with her accusations.
In so doing, she is calling on readers, strangers, to evaluate her charges. Normally, this is none of my business. And, in a way, it remains none of my business.
However, she wants us to form an opinion regarding her allegations. So, in that event, how should someone like me react to her accusations?
i) To begin with, we need to avoid a double standard. The media still uses a double standard. You can see this in the way mothers who murder their children are treated.
Suddenly the feminists remind us of how emotional woman are, how they suffer from postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis. It’s all the husband’s fault. He was such a cad.
But we should avoid treating women as if they were special. That’s sexist and paternalistic.
In terms of possible motives, a woman has as much incentive to be honest, dishonest, or self-deluded as a man. There’s no presumption that women are more or less likely to tell the truth than men are.
ii) If a perfect stranger tells me that he or she was sexually molested, and I have no evidence beyond his or her say-so, then the most responsible course of action is to reserve judgment.
To say I don’t believe you doesn’t mean I disbelieve you. It doesn’t mean I think you’re a liar or self-deluded. Rather, it means that I’m in no position to render an informed opinion.
iii) In contrast, there are some highly publicized cases which have been investigated by the news media, and/or adjudicated in the courts, and or resolved in out-of-court settlements, with a tacit admission of guilt (e.g. nolo contendere).
In cases like that, it’s responsible for an outsider like me to form a provisional judgment. Otherwise, the morally and intellectually responsible course of action is generally to suspend judgment.
Of course, there can be complications. Sometimes there’s a financial incentive which may cast doubt on the motives of the accuser. On the other hand, victims can sometimes have a legitimate financial incentive.
iv) At the risk of stating the obvious, the innocent profess their innocence, but the guilty also profess their innocence. Both the innocent and the guilty have an incentive to profess their innocence–although the innocent have a different incentive than the guilty.
Hence, the mere profession of innocence carries no presumption one way or the other. And the same holds true for accusations. Victims have an incentive to proclaim their victimization, but those who were never victimized also have an incentive to proclaim their victimization.
v) Charges of incest have been popularized by celebrities. And in our copycat culture, this moves down the food chain. It can even reach epidemic proportions. Take the “Wenatchee sex ring.”
From what I’ve read, charges of child molestation can be the weapon of choice in custody battles.
On the one hand, some men are rapists. On the other hand, some men are falsely accused of rape. The Duke Lacrosse case is an infamous example.
The rape charge is also a weapon of radical feminism.
Dorothy Rabinowitz has written on cases like this in No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times. Cf. Elizabeth Loftus & Katherine Ketcham, The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse; Richard Ofshe & Ethan Watters, Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria.
It’s a great pity since this makes it all the harder to sift genuine cases of sexual abuse from false accusations. In most cases, an outsider ought to withhold judgment.
vi) In considering the probability of incest, I’d like to know the statistical breakdown on biological fathers, stepfathers, and live-in boyfriends. Is there a higher frequency in one group than another?
vii) Finally, I notice that the name of “Diane” crops up quite often in Patty Bonds’ account. In evaluating her claims I’d like to know more about the degree of influence which Diane is exerting in this relationship. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, “counselors” can have a highly suggestive impact on what the patient “remembers.”