Friday, October 23, 2009

Irrefutable or irrefruitable? Survival of the fruitiest

Here, direct from the horse’s mouth, are the criteria by which the church of Rome judges her own claims:

Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the "Church herself, with her marvelous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission."258

By way of comment:

1.This doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves to Catholic criteria. But if the church of Rome falls short of her own criteria, then that’s as far as we need to proceed.

2.Criteria cut both ways. If they carry the potential to verify the claims of the claimant, then they carry the corollary potential to falsify the claims of the claimant.

3.The passage I’ve quoted can be broken down into two distinct criteria:

i) A subjective, faith criterion

ii) An objective, historical criterion

If we apply Catholic criteria to Catholicism, how does the church of Rome stack up?

4.Let’s begin with the subjective criterion. The problem with this criterion is that contemporary Catholicism acknowledges the existence of true believers outside the Roman fold.

So we have many believers who, when they apply the faith-criterion to Rome, are unconvinced by the claims of Rome. Observing the church of Rome doesn’t trigger in the a recognition of Mother Church.

So Catholicism already fails the faith-criterion. And that’s sufficient, all by itself, to falsify her claims.

5.What about the objective criterion?

I) ”Successful” propagation is no index of truth since many cults and false religions successfully propagate themselves.

ii) Same thing with “stability.”

Perhaps, though, the Catechism defines “invincible stability” as survival of the fruitiest. If so, see below.

iii) If “marvelous” is shorthand for Catholic miracles, then that raises its own set of questions:

a) We need to evaluate Catholic miracles on a case-by-case basis.

b) Reported miracles are hardly limited to Catholicism. So even if we could verify Catholic miracles, that wouldn’t single out Catholicism–in case we could verify other miracles outside of Catholicism.

c) Attestation is not the only function of miracles. Some miracles are simply acts of God’s miraculous mercy or judgment.

iv) Is Catholicism distinguished by “eminent holiness”? What does that mean, exactly?

a) Does this have reference to Catholic saints? But even if we stipulate to the eminent holiness of Catholic saints, that cuts both ways since that appeal is diluted by all the Catholic scoundrels. What about the amount of eminent iniquity we can also find in Catholic church history?

b) If, on the one hand, “eminent holiness” is defined in terms of what is distinctive to Catholic piety, then the evidence is viciously circular.

c) If, on the other hand, “eminent holiness” is defined in more generic terms, then Christian sanctity is scarcely limited to Catholics.

v) If unity is defined in Catholic terms (“catholic unity”), then the definition is tautologically true. But in that event, the definition begs the question in favor of Catholicism.

vi) If nutritious fruit is evidence of truth, then rotten fruit or poison fruit is evidence of falsehood. What’s truer is fruitier depending on the quality of the produce. The Catholic orchard or garden has its share of wormy lemons, rotten apples, and poison mushrooms.

vii) The Catholic church has fruity priests by the barrel. But unless you equate fruit-flavored piety with eminent sanctity, that kind of produce is hardly a confirmation of Roman Catholicism. Such signs are more irrefruitable than irrefutable.


  1. "But even if we stipulate to the eminent holiness of Catholic saints, that cuts both ways since that appeal is diluted by all the Catholic scoundrels."

    Steve, have you read this page 1 story about this particular Catholic scoundrel titled "A Mother, a Sick Son, and His Father, the Priest?

    It's rather disturbing and unsettling to the soul.

  2. Steve -- This post, and the one prior to it (Lucan Ecclesiology) are both absolutely priceless in terms of dealing with Catholicism.