Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to defend your cult


But on to your claims: to accuse the Roman Catholic hierarchy in general of facilitating the abuse of children is overblown, and thus does nothing to help your argument or to correct the problems that actually did occur.

That the Roman Catholic hierarchy in general has facilitated the abuse of children can be backed up with reams of documentation. For instance:

Certainly, there were many priests and some bishops who sinned grievously, and in doing so, failed to live up to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But it is a big stretch to then accuse the hierarchy in general of the devious motive of teaching a high view of human sexuality for the express purpose of protecting or legitimizing their own deviant behaviors.

i) I didn’t say “teaching a high view of human sexuality for the express purpose of protecting or legitimizing their own deviant behaviors.” Historically, the church of Rome has taught a low view of human sexuality.

ii) However, to play along with your argument, it’s not unusual for hypocrites to say all the right things. That provides cover for what they do in private. That deflects suspicion away from them.

Let's not forget that while the media went into a frenzy over the sins of bishops and priests, planting these sins deeply in our minds (while doing nothing to point out the documented false accusations being made by liars and thieves), the fact is, the general frequency of abuse was very low, and not much higher--if higher at all--than the rates of abuse found in other non-Catholic communities.

i) I don’t know how you’d be in a position to judge that. As one expert noted:

Authors such as Philip Jenkins feel that the incident rate is definitely not higher among priests than among clergy in other denominations. I respectfully disagree, especially when we consider that so many of the abuse allegations led to secret settlements. So it's hard for us to know how many credible allegations have been brought against priests, especially when the church until recently has been unwilling to make the numbers known. If the bishops wanted to, they could easily find out if the incident rates are lower, the same, or higher compared with other clergy or helping professionals.

As another expert noted:

...based on the available data, there has been around six times as much child sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church as there is by ministers of religion in all the other churches in Australia combined - and I would regard that as a conservative figure. Admittedly, the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Australia, and it is also one in which priests and religious have been involved in schools and orphanages, unlike ministers of other churches. Even still, the reality is that the levels of abuse in the Catholic Church are strikingly out of proportion with any other church - and, from what I have seen, this is an international pattern.

ii) You’re also overlooking the correlation between priestly abuse and homosexuality. The source of the abuse scandal is the fact that homosexuals are overrepresented in the priesthood.

Your own denomination classifies homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered.” By contrast, heterosexual activity is not intrinsically disordered.

Therefore, wouldn’t we expect homosexuals to behave immorally? And if homosexuals are overrepresented in the priesthood, wouldn’t we expect Catholic clergy to have higher rates of sexual predation?

To turn the tables a bit, I feel much safer spiritually in a church who has not compromised its moral teachings (even if some of her members fail to live up to them) than in a church that no longer teaches that some sinful behaviors (contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc.) are in fact sinful.

Of course, that’s the classic circular reasoning of a cult-member. You appeal to your sectarian standards to validate your sect. But that begs the question. Unless you already know that your denomination is legit, you can’t take your sectarian standards for granted.

I have no idea what you believe or practice in regard to these issues, but I think in general it is far better to find sin in one church than a denial (and normalization) of sin in another.

Which assumes what you need to prove.

And for the record, you'll be happy to know that the Catholic Church has addressed the problems of abuse and is now very likely the safest institution (religious or secular) you could leave your kids.

From news reports I’ve read about Austria, Australia, Poland, Ireland, &c., I have no reason to think the Catholic church has put that problem behind it. Let’s just take one significant counterexample:

Regarding your second claim, that Catholics think that only the Church can interpret the Bible, could I kindly ask you to cite an official document of the Catholic Church where that claim is asserted?

For starters:

Perhaps what you take issue with is the authority that the Catholic Church claims for herself, but surely you realize that the Church doesn't wield authority in such a way that it would demand that Catholics shut down the natural function of their brains when reading a text, which is to interpret it.

Sure it does. Take the utterly fanciful way in which Pius XII tries to prooftext the Assumption of Mary:

Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,(20) have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified"(21); and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.(22) Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles "that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense" to be crowned.(23) These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

Or the equally fanciful way in which Pius IX tries to prooftext the Immaculate Conception:

This sublime and singular privilege of the Blessed Virgin, together with her most excellent innocence, purity, holiness and freedom from every stain of sin, as well as the unspeakable abundance and greatness of all heavenly graces, virtues and privileges -- these the Fathers beheld in that ark of Noah, which was built by divine command and escaped entirely safe and sound from the common shipwreck of the whole world;[15] in the ladder which Jacob saw reaching from the earth to heaven, by whose rungs the angels of God ascended and descended, and on whose top the Lord himself leaned'[16] in that bush which Moses saw in the holy place burning on all sides, which was not consumed or injured in any way but grew green and blossomed beautifully;[17] in that impregnable tower before the enemy, from which hung a thousand bucklers and all the armor of the strong;[18] in that garden enclosed on all sides, which cannot be violated or corrupted by any deceitful plots;[19] as in that resplendent city of God, which has its foundations on the holy mountains;[20] in that most august temple of God, which, radiant with divine splendors, is full of the glory of God;[21] and in very many other biblical types of this kind. In such allusions the Fathers taught that the exalted dignity of the Mother of God, her spotless innocence and her sanctity unstained by any fault, had been prophesied in a wonderful manner.

It is quite possible that you haven't ever experienced the interpretive freedom to which I refer…

Oh, I see lots of interpretive freedom among Catholic Bible scholars like Ray Brown, John Meier, Joseph Fitzmyer, Luke Timothy Johnson, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, &c. The freedom to deny the historicity of Biblical events.

Regarding the factual test, you know very well that Rome doesn't claim to be an infallible teacher on geocentrism or evolution, and thus, it doesn't make a dent if she learns a thing or two from science every once in a while.

Of course, that belated realization conveniently comes centuries after the fact.

Might I suggest strengthening your argument by pointing to a change in her teachings in an area that she does claim to speak infallibly?

Once again, that’s the classic circular reasoning of a cult-member. By definition, your sect can never be wrong when it counts. If it’s found to be wrong, then, by definition, it wasn’t speaking infallibly. So you render your sect unfalsifiable even in principle. Thanks for proving my point.

That would be of interest to me, and perhaps your other readers as well. Also, you suggest that the Popes' teachings contradict the Bible, but doesn't that assertion contain a presumption that you hold the very type of authority that you think makes the Pope into a cult leader? Are you trying to rob the Pope of the freedom to interpret the Bible as he wills? Would you rather he follow your own interpretation, yielding in obedience to your presumed hermeneutical authority? And if so, how have you avoided styling yourself as a cult leader in the same stroke that you paint the Pope as one?

It doesn’t require authority to interpret a document. It only requires authority to misinterpret a document. Since Rome can’t justify its dogmas through sound exegesis, it must resort to an argument from authority to leverage the illicit interpretation.


  1. Just one thing. Baptist sex abuse and coverup has been just as bad as the Catholic:

  2. Even if (ex hypothesi), that were true, since you don't think Baptists have a real church or real sacramental grace (i.e. the Mass), how does the argument from moral equivalence vindicate Rome?

  3. I'm a Lutheran, Steve. I was just pointing out a fact about sex abuse.

  4. "surely you realize that the Church doesn't wield authority in such a way that it would demand that Catholics shut down the natural function of their brains when reading a text, which is to interpret it."

    But of course, this is what they do in fact demand and have done so through Vatican I, the Council of Trent, and even Vatican II:

    Vatican I Council

    "Likewise I [the Bishop of Rome] accept sacred scripture according to that sense which holy mother church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers." (Session II, 3)

    "Everybody knows that those heresies, condemned by the fathers of Trent, which rejected the divine magisterium of the church and allowed religious questions to be a matter for the judgment of each individual, have gradually collapsed into a multiplicity of sects, either at variance or in agreement with one another; and by this means a good many people have had all faith in Christ destroyed." (Session III, 5)

    The Council of Trent

    "Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall, - in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, - wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, - whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, - has held and does hold, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established." (Session IV, "Decree Concerning the Edition. And the Use, of the Sacred Books")

    Vatican II Council

    "But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church...It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls." ("Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation" [Dei Verbum] II, 10)

    "For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the Word of God." (Dei Verbum III, 2)