Sunday, November 21, 2010

Called to Hypocrisy

Recently, Called to Confusion leveled some allegations against unnamed Reformed blogs, as well as Triablogue in particular. Let’s run through the allegations.

[Troutman] Several main-stream media outlets are running a story with headlines like “Pope says condoms acceptable ‘in certain cases’.” One does not even need to read the quotation in context to know that this is false. The reason one can know this is because the pope does not have the authority to do such a thing. The Catholic Church does not have the authority to overturn natural law. That is why she can never condone artificial contraception.

Two problems:

i) At best, we’d only know the report is false under the assumption that a pope can’t contradict natural law. But, at best, that’s only persuasive to fellow Catholics. For non-Catholics don’t assume that a pope will be, or must be, consistent with natural law. Put another way, non-Catholics don’t assume that popes are consistent. So if even a reported statement of the pope contradicted natural law, non-Catholics don’t presuppose that’s a reason to discount the report as false.

ii) Furthermore, Troutman contradicts himself. For in a later comment he says,

As Jimmy Akin explained above, even if the pope had actually said what the media is misrepresenting him as having said, it wouldn’t change a thing. A casual interview is by no means an official teaching of the Church and cannot act as one. Furthermore, the private opinion of the pope is not infallible or officially binding.

But in that event, why insist the report must be false? If the statement doesn’t represent the pope’s official, infallible utterance, but is just a “causal,” offhand remark, then why insist that he was immune to contradicting natural law?

Unsurprisingly, many Protestant blogs (including some well known Reformed blogs), dissenting Catholic blogs, liberal blogs (and some conservative ones) are all running this story without the slightest attempt to read what was actually said – much less to understand it within the context of Catholic moral teaching.

Several problems:

i) Notice the McCarthyite smear, in which he makes sweeping allegations without naming the culprits or documenting the accusation.

ii) He is also attributing motives to the offending blogs, even though the CTC guidelines forbid the imputation of motives.

Perhaps, though, the CTC guidelines merely forbid commenters from imputing motives to CTC contributors like Troutman and Sean Patrick, while it allows CTC contributors to impute motives to their theological opponents. Is that it?

iii) To my knowledge, this all got started when l’Osservatore Romano printed excerpts of the pope’s forthcoming interview. But perhaps l’Osservatore Romano is one of those “dissenting Catholic” media outlets.

How quick the world is, including separated Christians, to jump on any opportunity to disgrace the bride of Christ!

Of course, that’s predicted on his tendentious equation between the Roman church with the bride of Christ. You know, for a blog with such ecumenical pretensions, Troutman is making no effort to see the issue from a non-Catholic perspective.

Well, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me [Christ] before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

So Troutman has now classified Reformed bloggers and Protestant bloggers as Christ-haters. Once again, it’s nice to know that CTC prides itself on ecumenicity.

If you want to find the Church that Christ founded, you don’t need to read through all of the articles on Called to Communion. You don’t even need to read the early fathers. Just find the Church that the world hates the most.

Well, if being hated is a mark of the one true church, then Reformed churches score high since it’s easy to Google reams of hatred directed at Reformed theology.

Peter – you saying that the libelous article to which you linked doesn’t need commentary implies that what was already said in the article speaks for itself and adequately represents the truth. What you are doing is deliberately spreading (and implicitly endorsing) false propaganda against the pope. I can understand that you disagree with the Church teaching on sexuality. But at least have the decency not to join in with the secular world in deliberate misrepresentation of the Church. No one at Called to Communion would ever do that to one of your leaders. Please return us the common courtesy.

Several problems:

i) This assumes that Peter Pike, or Triablogue, regards Troutman’s denomination as “the Church.” I, for one, do not.

ii) Peter posted a link to the Fox News website, which carries an AP article. Does Troutman think that Fox News has an anti-Catholic agenda? What about Bill O’Reilly? Isn’t he the big kahuna at Fox News? And isn’t he an Irish-American Catholic? Or is he just a front-man for deliberate propaganda campaign against the pope?

iii) In what sense is the offending story “libelous?” To be libelous,” the story would have to meet three criteria:

a) The story is false.

b) The story is willfully false.

c) The story is defamatory.

It isn’t clear to me that the story even meets the first criterion.

iv) One issue is the translation. We’re working with English translations of a German interview. Let’s compare the lead sentence of the AP report with some statements attributed to the pope:

AP/Fox News:

“Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that the use of condoms can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.”

Benedict XVI (attributed):

“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection…There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom…”

On the face of it, the wording of the AP report is a nearly verbatim paraphrase of a direct quote. So it’s far from clear that the AP report is even false, much less “deliberately” false.

v) But even if, arguendo, the position which Fox News/AP attributed to the pope were both false and deliberately so, how would that be defamatory?

If you think that using a condom is “morally disordered,” then it might be “libelous” to willfully misattribute that position to the pope. But why assume the AP reporter regards condom use as “morally disordered”?

Indeed, assuming that AP reporters are generally to the left of the Vatican on social issues, wouldn’t the AP reporter regard the pope’s concession as a significant improvement over the status quo ante? Don’t “mainstream media outlets” and/or the “secular world” want the Vatican to lift its ban on artificial birth control? How is it “libelous” to ascribe to the pope a position which the liberal media would regard as a commendable change?

vi) Finally, Troutman furnishes no evidence that he himself understands what the pope meant.

Troutman lacks any capacity for critical detachment. If anyone is guilty of “libel,” that would be Troutman, as well as Sean Patrick, for libeling Peter Pike.

Let’s see if the other editors at CTC have the integrity to actually enforce their posting guidelines on their own rogue contributors.


  1. Called to Duplicity
    Called to Hypocrisy

    I'm feeling a third post entitled:

    Called to Corruption

    Can I get an "Amen"?

    In Him,

  2. "He is also attributing motives to the offending blogs, even though the CTC guidelines forbid the imputation of motives.

    Perhaps, though, the CTC guidelines merely forbid commenters from imputing motives to CTC contributors like Troutman and Sean Patrick, while it allows CTC contributors to impute motives to their theological opponents. Is that it?

    This part is hypocritical.

  3. Good post. This is indeed a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy of people who adopt Nice Policy X and then are conspicuously UnNice, with the attitude that the opposition are worms to be crushed. I've usually seen that from liberals; it's interesting that conservative Roman Catholics would use it too. I would have thought they wouldn't want to boast of a Nice Policy in the first place, and would be proudly condemnatory.