Monday, April 13, 2009

Into darkness

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.”


  1. “[Dave Armstrong] I'm untouchable and unredeemable now because I spoke out against the winking at relentless incest and detested the treatment of the victim who dared to say she was subjected to it. That can't be allowed. We must pretend that it didn't happen, just as the perpetrator and the enabler and those who later found out about it and denied it, have done.”

    Of course, that begs the key question of who is telling the truth. Armstrong is in no position to know who is telling the truth in this affair. From what I can tell, only a handful of people would be in a position to know that–and he’s not one of them.

    Have the alleged witnesses come forward? Have they given depositions? Have they been cross-examined under oath? Have any of the parties to this affair taken a polygraph?

    Who is Diane? What is her background?

    If Armstrong is mistaken, then he is guilty of an especially vile form of defamation. It is culpable of him to level these charges when he can’t begin to know whether they are true or false.

    “But I am the Evil one. Imagine Hays writing such a thing about victims of pedophile priests . . . the double standards involved are almost beyond comprehension.”

    I wouldn’t believe an alleged victim just because he claimed to be molested by a priest. In the case of the priestly abuse scandal, this was investigated by the news media. This was adjudicated in the courts.

    People can be motivated to truly accuse a priest of sexual misconduct, and people can be motivated to falsely accuse a priest of sexual misconduct.

    You need more than a bare accusation to form a responsible judgment. You need some corroborative evidence.

  2. I don't know who is telling the truth in all of this. But James White has hardly been acting like a gentleman. In the last week he has put out 2 youtube videos villifying his sister. His constant referring to her as "Mrs. Bonds" is distancing and cruel. My sisters may have done things I don't like, but they will always be my sisters.

    Yes, Dave may have gone overboard in defending Patty Bonds, but in doing so, he was being more of a brother than James White.

  3. "In the last week he has put out 2 youtube videos villifying his sister."

    You mean the sister that is slandering him?


    Since White was attacked in public, he was forced to respond in public.

  5. “We can't take her word at face value, like we do all the victims of these ghastly priests.”

    Dave is dissembling. The priestly abuse scandal was extensively investigated by the news media. Priests were convicted in a court of law. Or the church paid the victims hush-money in out-of-court settlements with confidentiality agreements. Even champions of the Catholic church like Bill Donohue admit the existence of sexually abusive priests.

    To my knowledge, none of that vetting process has taken place regarding the allegations of Patty Bonds.

    “We have to pursue witnesses to the nth degree, etc.”

    If you’re going to accuse a man of incest, then, yes, the alleged witnesses should be deposed and cross-examined under oath. Why not start with a polygraph?

    “If James White thinks the eyewitnesses to the confrontation… We accept eyewitness and firsthand testimony all the time, routinely in life.”

    Eyewitnesses to what? To incest? To the alleged crime?

    “As I have argued above, Patty Bonds would have no motivation whatever that I can see, to make up all this and talk about it publicly. She gains nothing from that.”

    Maybe yes, maybe no.

    I was living in WA state when the Wenatchee sex ring story broke. That turned out to be a huge miscarriage of justice, destroying the lives of many innocent defendants.

    “But if we take the outrageous step of believing the testimony of a person who has been cruelly, unspeakably abused, we are ‘evil’.”

    Which simply begs the question. Notice that Armstrong does that over and over again. He justifies his defamation by retreating into this tendentious claim when the veracity of the claim is the very question at issue. He doesn’t know enough to be taking sides one way or the other.

    “Everything has to be about James White. The universe revolves around him.”

    He was singled out in this attack.

    “He will trash his own sister.”

    “Trashing” is a two-way street.

    “It's classic enabling behavior.”

    For all he knows, Diane is the enabler. Is so, then Armstrong is another enabler.

    “His attacks on me and outright falsehoods and misrepresentations at my expense could fill up a volume larger than the New York phone book.”

    “I'm sure in private that it is much worse (having been subjected to James' methods and intimidations myself for thirteen years).”

    “But with White's history of systematic slander against his theological opponents…”

    Armstrong is tipping his hand. This is personal. This is his way of getting even with White. Settling old scores. Payback.

    That’s what it’s really about. Not about Patty Bonds. She’s just a pretext. A human shield. She gives Armstrong cover to attack White. A pawn on Armstrong’s chessboard. And, like any competent chessplayer, Armstrong will sacrifice a pawn to checkmate the king.

  6. “[Armstrong] Steve Hays is saying today that the very accusation ruins someone's life. Not in Christianity. We are forgivers because that is God's nature. I could just as well argue that King David's reputation was forever ruined because he committed adultery and murder.”

    Did Cardinal Law ever rehabilitate his image? Or John Geoghan? Or Paul Shanley? Or Jimmy Swaggart? What church is Ted Haggard pastoring these days?

    What about the innocent defendants in the Wenatchee sex trials?

    “Elsewhere he does no such thing, when the stakes aren't nearly as high. For example, he'll gladly take the word of an atheist and enemy of Christianity, Richard Dawkins, when HE claims to be a victim. After citing his sordid account of his encounter with an Anglican pedophile priest…Hays believes the atheist Dawkins based on a simple one- or -two-sentence statement that it happened, with no other evidence brought to bear.”

    Wrong again! I didn’t credit his account. I simply responded to him on his own terms. By his own admission, this was the original of Dawkins’ skepticism. That doesn’t require me to credit his account. I’m merely using his own words against him.

    “Including corroborating witnesses from her former Protestant church.”

    That’s fatally ambiguous:

    1.What did they corroborate? Incest? A pattern of sexual malpractice involving other church members?

    2.Have these witnesses come forward? Have they spoken? Or is Patty speaking on their behalf?

    What is the claim, exactly? That there are eyewitnesses who have spoken out in her defense? Where do we find their statements? Have they filed affidavits?

    Or that she says there are eyewitnesses who corroborate her claims?

  7. "[Armstrong] I am gullible and 'evil' enough to believe Patty Bonds based on a 25-part series that goes into extreme depth and is filled with factual data..."

    In other words, Armstrong's allegations of incest, as well as his attack on James White, are based on hearsay information.

    And why does he put stock in hearsay information if it comes from Patty Bonds, but not from James White–or other members of her family?

  8. “[Armstrong] The problem with saying that Patty Bonds is a victim of false memory syndrome is that, as far as I can discern from her blog, she never claimed that she suddenly recalled the events in her childhood. She was aware of them all along.”

    Notice his reliance on hearsay information.

    Now, if all the parties concerned gave basically the same version of events, then we’d be justified in crediting their accounts (all other things being equal).

    But when the interested parties give contradictory accounts, there’s no inherent reason to treat one report as any more credible than other–unless you have some personal information of your own.

    “Now, Hays is making the predictable attribution of the lowest possible motives to me.”

    Which is exactly what Armstrong does in relation to White.

    Moreover, Armstrong betrayed his bias in the very statements I quoted.

    “[Armstrong] According to Hays, White should be able to freely trash his sister all he wants.”

    No, he has the right to defend himself. She’s leveled many harsh accusations against him as well.

    “While her friends have no such right to defend her…”

    Which friends? Do these friends have independent knowledge of what really happened?

    “If White can say what he has been saying publicly, I can take her side.”

    That’s hardly comparable. White has a lot of inside information about his own family. Armstrong does not.

    “James wasn't there when these things happened, either.”

    He knows his sister and his parents far better than Armstrong does.

    And, of course, Armstrong’s objection is self-refuting since Armstrong wasn’t there when these things happened.

    Armstrong has to rely in hearsay information. But he’s very selective about what hearsay information he credits.

    “His sister's word against his parents' word.”

    Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? How is an outsider like Armstrong in any position to evaluate conflicting insider accounts of what really happened? Why does he assume that Patty is telling the truth while her father and mother are lying?

    Why does Armstrong think it’s okay to trash Patty’s mother?

    “They didn't have a trial and collect evidence pro or con.”

    Which is why it’s reckless and unethical of Armstrong to take sides. The issue was never properly investigated or adjudicated.

    “Sadly, a choice has to be made.”

    Which choice would that be? Taking sides when you don’t know which side is telling the truth? Or suspending judgment?

    No one is forcing Armstrong to publicly accuse a perfect stranger (White’s father) of incest–based on disputed, secondhand information.

    And, as I pointed out before, there’s a difference between forming a private opinion about something and lodging a public accusation.

    Suppose I’m a reporter. Based on suspicious activity, I think the house next door may be a crack-house. Mind you, I don’t have any hard evidence. Just my cursory impressions.

    Would I be justified in publishing a front-page story in which I accuse the owner of the home of running a crack-house? Obviously not.

    At most, I’d be justified in reporting the suspicious activity to the police. Leave it to the authorities to investigate the situation.

    “His reaction to me already proves that, and how he received Dawkins' account without question (without courts etc. being involved) shows it too.”

    I already debunked that example. I didn’t take Dawkins’ word for it. Rather, I used his words against him. Doesn’t Armstrong know the difference?

  9. “Now, Hays is making the predictable attribution of the lowest possible motives to me.”

    Which is exactly what Armstrong does in relation to White.
    Then how about both of you knock it off.


    "Then how about both of you knock it off."

    I didn't concede his allegation. I merely responded to him on his own terms. He's morally inconsistent.

  11. However, Ben, you're more than welcome to tell Armstrong to knock it off with respect to James White and his parents.

  12. “[Armstrong] Steve Hays is saying today that the very accusation ruins someone's life. Not in Christianity. We are forgivers because that is God's nature. I could just as well argue that King David's reputation was forever ruined because he committed adultery and murder.”

    Of course that's hardly the point. Indeed, that's the polar opposite of the point I was making. If a man is guilty as charged (of incest or child molestation), then the charge ought to ruin his reputation. It would be disappointing if a crime like that didn't ruin his reputation.

    But that's the point–the real point. It's because the charge is so damaging that you should never accuse someone of incest of child molestation unless you know what you're talking about. Especially in the very public medium of the blogosphere.

  13. “Now, Hays is making the predictable attribution of the lowest possible motives to me.”

    It's predictable because it's [ahem] obvious.

    I mean, it's like Armstrong had said, "Now he's making the predictable attribution that I don't know what I'm talking about" or "I try to pimp worthless spa products" or "I can't stop fixating on all the anti-Catholics I swore I'd never look at again because my life is completely and utterly pointless without the ability to slander someone better than me to make myself look good in my own eyes while the rest of the world laughs and I pretend it's with me because God knows I couldn't face reality with my fragile ego the way it is." (Hey, that sentence almost reads like a DA sentence even. Except for the fact that it's true, I mean.)

  14. Saint and sinner, and Steve:

    Patty Bonds has not slandered her brother. She merely told her story. His response is meant solely to attack his (percieved) enemies and to embaress her. It is the equivalent of someone saying something you don't like in a small town newspaper and so you respond by villifying them on CNN.

    I won't comment on her allegations because that is not my place. However, his video attack on his sister was uncalled for. Especially his childish insistance at referring to her as "Mrs. Bonds". James White came off as an arrogant egotistical jerk. Is that how you want people to see us as christians?


    "Patty Bonds has not slandered her brother. She merely told her story."

    And the way she "merely told her story" involved many person and pointed attacks on her brother.

    "His response is meant solely to attack his (percieved) enemies and to embaress her."

    White has real enemies. Catholic bloggers who are exploiting a family affair.

    And don't you think her statements about her father and mother and brother are embarrassing to them? Why are you so one-sided?

    "It is the equivalent of someone saying something you don't like in a small town newspaper and so you respond by villifying them on CNN."

    White is a blogger. Patty Bonds is a blogger. The Catholics epologists who exploit her story are bloggers. They all have similar resources at their disposal.

    "James White came off as an arrogant egotistical jerk. Is that how you want people to see us as christians?"

    And you come off as a blind partisan. A flack for Patty Bonds. Is that how you want people to see us as Christians?

  16. An analogy.

    Suppose I posted a blog that said that Kmerian had sexually assaulted me, and Kmerian responded to meby saying I'm lying and that I have a personal agenda in doing so, and then Steve Hays responded to Kmerian's response by saying, "You can't trust the theology of folks like Kmerian. Look how vicious the response is to a poor, innocent victim who was ASSAULTED. Please buy my spa products." Further suppose that Dave Armstrong writes a response saying that Steve's post is uncalled for because we don't have any proof of Peter's original allegation." Then suppose KmeriansTwin says, "How dare Dave Armstrong write that! Peter was just telling his story."

    If you suppose all that, you'd pretty much get what we've got here.

    So let me put it bluntly. What Patty Bonds claims happened is a felony. It is illegal. It is therefore PROSECUTABLE.

    It has not been prosecuted. Apparently, there is no *EVIDENCE* that what she says happened is true, for if there were *EVIDENCE* charges would have been filed.

    Now while that doesn't mean she's lying ipso facto, it DOES mean that we're obligated to refrain from saying that what she's said is true too. We have a reason why our legal standard is innocent until proven guilty, because it's typically better to believe a guilty person is innocent than to believe an innocent person is guilty.

    So we have a claim made by one party, denied by several other people who are in the position to know whether the first party's claim is true or not. It's all hearsay, none of it is actionable. Yet what we have is Dave Armstrong running rampant with it. It is, as Steve said, gossipmongering on Dave's part to do what Dave has done. Not even the media did that when they covered the Catholic sex abuses. They always couched it in terms of alleged attacks, etc. Then, once convictions were handed out, they refered to the convicted pedophiles as convicted sex offenders.

    Why do we couch it in terms of allegations? Because anyone can make any allegation without evidence. And any allegation may, or may not, be true. One needs more than just the allegation in order to pass judgment.

    So to be clear, Patty Bond's allegation may be true. But in the absense of any evidence to demonstrate the validity of the claim, it is unreasonable for me to say that it actually *IS* true.

  17. "Patty Bonds has not slandered her brother." Unless what she says is true, she's guilty of slandering (or more technically "libelling") her father. A word of caution is perhaps called for. God does not take mockery of one's father lightly, and so - if that is what is going on - Mrs. Bonds is in a very dangerous position from the standpoint of God's judgment, though her society (the place where she lives) would only impose civil penalties for this if requested by the victim of the slander/libel (if that's what it is).


  18. We should keep in mind that James White's responses to his sister have primarily been about issues surrounding her conversion to Roman Catholicism. His comments on the issue of sexual abuse have been fewer in number and more vague. He's demonstrated multiple examples of his sister's unreliability on matters pertaining to her conversion to Roman Catholicism. He's suggested that he has reason to doubt her claims about sexual abuse, though he hasn't gone into as much detail on that issue. It's important to distinguish between these two matters. Some people are making vague comments about how James White is criticizing his sister, without distinguishing between different types of criticism and criticism on different topics.

    His sister hasn't "merely told her story", as kmerian claims. Rather, she's repeatedly made comments such as:

    "He's fighting to protect his self image as a near genius. (His second grade teacher called us one evening and told my parents that his IQ score had been just shy of genius. Unfortunately for his soul, he was on the other line and heard it. I believe it might actually be the thing that costs him his soul if he's not careful.)" (source)

    How could she know that he has such a motive? Why is she posting about her brother's allegedly being in danger of going to Hell? Why do some people show so much concern about less critical comments James White makes about his sister, but ignore comments like the above made by Patty Bonds?

    Regarding his references to her as "Mrs. Bonds" and such, I don't know what his reasons are. But judging from his recent taped comments on these issues related to his sister, he may be emphasizing her married name due to his disapproval of her annulment of that marriage. The annulment is a Roman Catholic issue. It's related to her recent status as a Roman Catholic.

    Concerning the allegation of sexual abuse, I would recommend that people pay close attention to the details of Patty Bonds' posts about what happened. I haven't read everything she's written on the subject. But I've noticed multiple problems with what I have read, including some apparent inconsistencies. Maybe the accounts are reconcilable. But they don't seem consistent to me at this point.

  19. Hi Steve,

    As per the stats you requested in vi- I have found Jim Hopper to be a reliable source (so is Loftus)-

    His research would point you to-

    The exact information you are looking for is at-

    These are consistent with a mass of stats I compiled, when my ex made a mass of false allegations against me over a decade ago. Yes,lost the kids (still lost) etc.


  20. James White had referred to his sister as "Mrs. Bonds" long before her divorce, which I think is awful. The fact that he uses that term is evident that he wants nothig to do with her. I have a sister who has made some terrible decisions in life and never would I ever refer to her as "Mrs. Lane," it would be unthinkable. With respecto the Patty Bonds accusations of molestation. Why go public? Why are Catholic apologists getting involved in this. I suspect though that if the shoe was on the other foot Protestants including James White would do the same thing. Finally the person who says that Dave Armstong is evil? Give me a break, what a thing to say. Your comment reflects your own anger and rage.

  21. After reveiwing this whole thing, I think that Patty Bonds initial conversion story was fine and not a big thing. She should have left it at that. But to air her dirty laundry in public is not good. Catholic Apologists getting involved in this is ridiculous. This only gives ammo to a nut like James White. We don't need to learn of Patty's divorce her past and the rest of it. Was she molested? Probably, was as this is pretty common. My younger sister was molested by a relative for a long time and much of her behavior is very similar to Patty Bonds. I know that my sister was molested because as a child myself I walked in on the molestation at the time and finally told my mother what was going on.