Sunday, April 17, 2016

Short Updates 4/17/2016

* While I'm silent on this blog, I keep close tabs on a lot of things, including everything on my sidebar. So imagine my surprise to see John Loftus himself drunkenly stumbling into the crosshairs of the one and only Ed Feser! Loftus, as everyone knows, is to atheism what Lindsey Graham was to the 2016 GOP election - a mediocrity and an also-ran whose main contribution was being unintentionally comedic. Naturally Ed dismantled him the way he deserves to be dismantled: brutally, quickly, and in front of a crowd. Internet philosophers and apologists, take note: this is how you deal with Loftus. Not 'co-author a book with him' or go for some smarmy dialogue-debate in the hopes of drumming up views which he doesn't even have any of to spare.

* I'm also keeping tabs on the election. As ever I'm a Trump guy, and I think I've been vindicated over and over again. Talk of how Cruz is 'anti-establishment' becomes harder and harder to swallow as he continues to collaborate with party bosses to vote-rig, Hillary Clinton style, and rack up endorsements from every GOPe shitheel that his supporters would normally, rightly, despise. I actually don't have much hostility towards Cruz supporters in the main, save for the ones who Officially Support him - and by that I mean major-enough or wannabe-major-enough bloggers - largely because they have the stench of toady on them. It's important to remember that the GOPe is not 'two dozen guys in a room' or even 'a bunch of billionaires and millionaires' - it's also every small-time pissant with a connection or two looking to open doors for themselves to bigger and better things. It's bloggers who feel like one of the 'big guys' when no less than an actual congressman's secretary sends them a bi-annual email asking them to push one issue or another. I pray for a Trump nomination victory, just so I can watch how quickly they pivot, because believe me - most of them will have to if that comes to pass.

* I keep an eye on Malcolm's blog for a number of reasons, one of which is I'm thrilled to see someone of his political and religious convictions getting into fiction-writing - we need more of that. But I also stumbled upon his criticizing the one and only Lydia McGrew's defense of refusing to ever treat women who procure abortions as in need of legal punishment for the act. I got into the act and explained my problems with her view, which I see as pretty foul capitulation (and thus cultural erosion) borne out of imaginary, ineffective pragmatism. I don't go easy on Lydia, partly because she conducts herself terribly with even friendly critics, and partly because I find the sort of reasoning she's engaging in odious. I'm familiar with it, because I used to think in a similar way - this idea that what we (social conservatives) need to do is divest ourselves of politically unpalatable ideas (and thus - unavoidably - the people who hold public views that aren't sufficiently mainstream enough) in order to pass whatever milquetoast watered-down legislation we can. People think that this is crafty and wise political positioning, but in reality it's suicide for the organizations which embrace it, which in turn means surrender in the culture war.

* Oh, and I see the Pope released his thoughts on marriage. I'm of the view that the document is surprisingly good (thanks, Holy Spirit), with the problems traditionalists have over it being imaginary, yet at the same time understandable. Look, I understand that 'vagueness' at parts gets abused by liberals. I do. But you know what liberals do when you get exacting and specific in your wording? They treat it as vague anyway. Or they ignore it. Vagueness is exploited by liberals, but they also have no problem just plain ignoring rules or making things up if need be (see the SCOTUS on same-sex marriage.) So it's a fool's errand to try and liberal-proof a document to the extreme some traditionalists want. If being blunt would suffice to gut them, various parts of that document would have done the trick, re: abortion, gay marriage, etc. You think that's going to shut down pro-abortion Catholics? Me neither. Because they don't care, and they never will care. So don't strategize on the assumption that they do care.

33 comments:

malcolmthecynic said...

Crude,

Thanks for the plug. But I really do not agree that the document is good. I think it's awful. "Vague" is being kind. It's less "vague" then "obviously intentionally confusing" (see: Footnote 351). Then he points out Cardinal Schonborn's address as the place to look and he spends much time spilling ink to say very, very little and clarify next to nothing.

Fr. Z is a very level-headed writer who has a lot of good stuff on this. It's pretty bad.

Thre's a point where we really need to stop making excuses. Francis is a very, very unclear writer, and I think at this point it's pretty clearly intentional as well. The theory seems to me that by being vague he ends up as an impartial moderator between the liberal and conservative divide in the Church. But in reality this just means more and more confusion.

Fr. Gerald Murray, a theologian, bluntly said that Francis approved the Kasper proposal and that his teaching is not in accord with previous Church teaching. See minute 26 on in this video: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2016/04/ewtn-robert-royal-and-fr-gerald-murray-on-amorislaetitia/

I don't know if he's definitely right, but there's no denying that this was a bad document.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

No problem on disagreement. I mean, I am on record as at this point thinking Francis is a pretty bad pope. Part of the issue is that I disagree with the view that a vague, confusing document matters all that much.

I mean, you say 'more and more confusion'. To quote a shyster: let us dispense with this notion the liberals do not know what they are doing. They know exactly what they're doing. They're as confused as you are about the teaching of the church, which is to say, not at all.

They just don't give a rat's ass.

I think traditionalists are making a mistake here of focusing on the wrong target. You'd think the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage would have made it crystal clear: you are not dealing with people who care about reasonable interpretations. Nor are you dealing with people who will be defanged if you give a clear teaching.

Beyond that, the document is clear on various points re: abortion and gay marriage. It's weird that that clarity is ignored by traditionalists, for the most part, and I think we know why: because clarity won't stop anyone. Be as clear as you like about gay marriage, about sodomy. What liberal's mind will be changed? And if the answer is 'none', why the clarify fight now?

malcolmthecynic said...

Crude,

Because, bluntly, clarity doesn't matter; confusion does. To say that a clear document isn't a big deal, liberals will distort things anyway, is missing the point.

What is the job of the Pope, then? On a controversial issue he had a chance to make a clear statement. Instead he made a statement so vague that even some theologians take it to mean that you can now give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

It's like saying "So what's the big deal with humanae vitae anyway?" The big deal is that, even if liberals will twist things, now we can point to a document that clearly outlines proper teaching and say "Yes, you are twisting things".

If Pope Francis said nothing, it wouldn't have mattered. But he chose to speak. He is the Pope. He has an obligation to speak clearly - and it's one he simply has not met, either in person or in writing. "The media is twisting things" is a cop-out. They never twisted this much with Benedict or even JPII. This is Francis.

Mr. Green said...

take note: this is how you deal with Loftus.

Technically, he’s more like left-over cracker crumbs, but your image wouldn’t have been so aptly entertaining that way. My picture of him (such as it was, from old comments at Reppert's) was more or less Skeppy with a hat, so I assume these “books” are self-published. But I freely admit I underestimated his ambition for shameless self-promotion.


Talk of how Cruz is 'anti-establishment' becomes harder and harder to swallow

Some random thoughts based on avoiding politics as much as possible because …ugh, it’s politics.

1) “HardER” to swallow? I know, a big part of Trump’s popularity is about being an “outsider” so of course that’s what they’re going to say, that’s how politics works. Your guy is just like the other guy when he’s ahead, only more so, unless the other guy’s behind, in which case your guy is the exact opposite and always was.

2) But this sort of thing can’t honestly surprise anyone? Are all the people who suddenly discovered that modern politics is an ugly business really just posturing? Of course Trump is a vulgar creepy boor, but the only difference from regular politicians is that he doesn’t hide his rudeness for when he thinks the microphones are off. Democracy may or may not have its good points, but selecting morally upright virtuous leaders ain’t one of them. Never was.

3) Not that the whole business isn’t depressing enough on that level — it’s just not surprising. Likewise with the folks flipping out because Trump might decide unilaterally to nuke China or whatever. I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure the U.S. President can’t just do that by himself. In fact, I don’t expect a President Trump would get much of anything done (again, just like every other politician. (Maybe he could get the wall built. And make Mexico pay for it. Big-businessmen are good at bullying you and making you pay for the privilege, it’s what they do.))

4) In particular, I don’t think Trump will have any lasting effect on battling political correctness. I can’t even say he’s blazed a trail for other billionaire TV-celebrities to go against the media orthodoxy, because anyone who's rich and famous enough already had that power. People are still too influenced by what they see on TV, and that isn’t changing.

5) Interesting to see more and more people disowning democracy, with an eye maybe to monarchy (particularly in a Christian context)… though I wonder whether there really are more people, or whether they’re just more visible (owing partly to current events, but mainly to the Internet, which makes it possible for us lunatics on the fringe to talk to each other).



I'm of the view that the document is surprisingly good (thanks, Holy Spirit), with the problems traditionalists have over it being imaginary, yet at the same time understandable. […] They treat it as vague anyway. Or they ignore it. Vagueness is exploited by liberals, but they also have no problem just plain ignoring rules or making things up if need be

But Crude! If Pope Francis weren’t trying to bring down the Church from the inside, why doesn’t he talk the way Benedict did, during that glorious phase when nobody anywhere was confused about Catholic teaching and churches were filling to the bursting point, and the Second Coming had begun, and modernists reported Church doctrine faithfully and accurately?!? …

Crude said...

Because, bluntly, clarity doesn't matter; confusion does.

Okay, but who is confused? I mean -really- confused?

You're not confused. You know the Pope can't say 'Okay, divorce doesn't matter anymore - go ahead and get communion.' I'm not confused. Some random Catholic who barely knows anything and is as thoroughly catechized as an 8 year old is confused, but they were confused already. The liberals aren't confused. At most they'll plea confusion, and if you point at the tradition, the past church teaching, etc - things which can't be changed, won't be changed - then they'll just feign confusion. Because clarity doesn't matter to them.

What is the job of the Pope, then? On a controversial issue he had a chance to make a clear statement.

Since when is it controversial? It would be one thing if this matter were up in the air and we were looking to the Pope to settle it. It wasn't. It's settled - to divorce and remarry is to live in a state of mortal sin, and the mortally sinning cannot receive the Eucharist. I'm convinced of that, and I think anyone fairly investigating the matter will be too. People who are only concerned with a sociopolitical agenda who weren't convinced now, wouldn't be convinced by clarity from this Pope.

The big deal is that, even if liberals will twist things, now we can point to a document that clearly outlines proper teaching and say "Yes, you are twisting things".

See, this is the part that baffles me. When has this ever worked, with a determined liberal? I recall, well before Francis, that Pelosi was out in public insisting that the Church's teaching on abortion was still rather open, and you could dissent and support abortion and still be in good standing as a Catholic. Did she recant? Last I checked, no. She doesn't care.

More than that, what about those things the Pope did speak clearly about? He aimed a shotgun at gay marriage and abortion. He's even, from what I recall, talked about the indissoluble nature of marriage. You say that 'even some theologians' take it to mean you can now give communion to divorced Catholics? You say 'even some' as if this was a group of people, notably stalwart, who have fallen prey to confusion. Last I checked, most modern theologians were jackasses, members of a liberal academia whom I don't trust.

Let me put this to you another way.

I say these teachings can't be changed. I say that the Pope's 'vagueness' doesn't matter, because the Pope didn't need to hand down teaching on these matters - these matters are settled. Traditionalists are acting like it's not, and that the whole thing is wide open because this inept Pope wasn't clear on a footnote to their satisfaction, and that maybe the Pope ineptly greenlighted heresy - as if that were possible.

My worry is that -they- are spreading confusion. Not intentionally, but ultimately all the same.

I am no fan of this pope. I think he's inept. I no longer give him the benefit of the doubt. But I just don't think this document was that bad. What I do think is bad is traditionalists acting like we needed utter clarity here because this teaching wasn't already handled and set in stone. I sympathize with the desire for clarity - I do. I sympathize with worries about confusion. But I question the conclusions being drawn, and the fears being promoted. I remain unconvinced that this reaction is wise.

malcolmthecynic said...

But, again, the Pope COULD make a change that isn't technically a change in doctrine, and some theologians even think he did.

I DO know people who are confused - who are going to trumpet loudly and proudly that now the Church has changed it's stance on communion for the divorced and remarried - and with some justification!

And if the Pope hadn't gone out and *specifically spoke about this in really vague ways*, they would at least know they were disagreeing with the Church.

I'm just not buying the idea that being vague in a document about a hot button theological issue is, eh, no big deal.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

But, again, the Pope COULD make a change that isn't technically a change in doctrine, and some theologians even think he did.

What change? That divorce and remarriage isn't a sin? That receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is acceptable? Remove the possibility of a 'change in doctrine' and what's left to have been changed on this topic is, as far as I can see, paltry.

Nor am I too concerned with what theologians have to say. I don't respect them, and they're just people with opinions (usually corrupt and dishonest ones, nowadays) - not dispensers of truth. What will concern me is evidence and arguments, which presumably theologicans can provide. Do they have any good ones? Or are they BSing people by opportunistically spinning confusion of their own? I suspect the latter. Do you think I am wrong?

I DO know people who are confused - who are going to trumpet loudly and proudly that now the Church has changed it's stance on communion for the divorced and remarried - and with some justification!

What justification? Are you telling me that this was -not- a settled issue? That all it took was a singular moment of vagueness, after literally centuries of clarity and dogmatic teaching? Maybe what you mean is that they can, if you assume they're uninformed idiots, be justified in making a mistake. Great - there's plenty of stupid people making those. Correct them.

Will you then tell me that correcting them will do no good, because they'll cling to their 'confusion'? Then clarity, once again, is not the issue.

It's not that I think this is no big deal. Confusion is a big deal. But it's not a new deal.

Here, let me get to the heart of the matter. I say the Church's teaching on this was settled. Francis cannot declare that the divorced and remarried can receive communion. Francis cannot declare that those in a state of mortal sin can take the Eucharist.

Do you disagree? If you do, why? If you don't, then what IS your fear? I ask this sincerely. Educate me - you may know something I do not.

Crude said...

Green,

1) “HardER” to swallow? I know, a big part of Trump’s popularity is about being an “outsider” so of course that’s what they’re going to say, that’s how politics works.

Yes, harder to swallow. I think initially it was easier to regard Cruz as someone set apart from the usual gang of nonsense in the GOPe, and I accepted it myself. He's a man who called Mitch McConnell a liar. He tried what amounted to a one-man government shutdown. But once he's getting backed up by everyone from Jeb! to Lindsey Graham to Rubio to otherwise, bankrolled by all the same people, and getting the politically connected to circumvent votes altogether to throw delegates his way, it's a claim that loses some of its justification.

It's not a matter of what's being said - it's a matter of evidence.

Of course Trump is a vulgar creepy boor, but the only difference from regular politicians is that he doesn’t hide his rudeness for when he thinks the microphones are off.

I find it a poor distinction to say what amounts to 'The only difference between him and anyone else is that he openly says what he thinks, whereas others only do so when secrecy is guaranteed.' That's not a minor distinction - it's a commodity of character which is sorely lacking.

Nor do I think he's creepy. Vulgar? Boorish? Sure. Sometimes both of those things are appropriate.

I can’t even say he’s blazed a trail for other billionaire TV-celebrities to go against the media orthodoxy, because anyone who's rich and famous enough already had that power.

No. No, this one is just plainly false. I've seen billionaires cowed and humiliated receiving far less than Trump received. I've seen CEOs resign under withering pressure. I've seen -Popes- desperately 'clarify' their remarks with PR-approved language. It runs against all evidence to say that Trump is *yawn* doing nothing new, ho-hum, because we live in a world where people, particularly politicians, are more than happy to violate PC and media orthodoxies. There's a reason that, time and time again during his campaign, the conventional wisdom across the board was that he was absolutely sunk and moments away from publicly apologizing and quitting his campaign for violating 'decency' norms.

Interesting to see more and more people disowning democracy, with an eye maybe to monarchy (particularly in a Christian context)…

I have no idea what this refers to.

malcolmthecynic said...

Crude,

Do you see any purpose to Humanae Vitae?

Because if the answer is yes, what Francis said mattered.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

Yes, I saw purpose. It's not like I'm arguing that this was purposeless, or no big deal. It's an important document. But it's this specific problem with the document that I question. (BTW, I read Father Z's blog. Are you sure he disagrees with me, at least about some of the document being great?)

By the way - Humanae Vitae was clear. How'd that work out? Do people consider that issue settled? No wiggle room? No creative reinterpretations?

I'm not trying to shut down your criticisms, by the way. I'm arguing my position here, because it is in fact my view and the way I see things. I may well be wrong. I certainly am not a 'golly gee ain't Francis so great, he never makes mistakes, only rad-trads think so, hyuk' type. But I think some traditionalists are erring here.

malcolmthecynic said...

Crude,

First off - the Pope absolutely can make a change in this area. Before the document - and possibly after (Francis himself said a change was supposed to be made, so once again I have no clue what he's actually trying to say here, which is, of course, precisely the problem) - Communion was meant to be explicitly denied to divorced and re-married Catholics.

A person can be in a state of mortal sin and not be denied Communion: In fact, in most cases this is how things work. A person SHOULDN'T receive the Eucharist, but the Priest can't stop them. The key, right now, is scandal. What the Pope can do, and may have done, is say that being divorced and remarried is not the sort of sin where a Priest necessarily has to deny Communion to the divorced and remarried, and may or may not have hinted that the Eucharist could be beneficial in certain circumstances. The Pope can absolutely do this - and it is very troublesome, at least in my view.

Good things were said. I just don't think the good things nearly outweigh the bad. As you said, no change being made is pretty much the norm.

By the way - Humanae Vitae was clear. How'd that work out? Do people consider that issue settled? No wiggle room? No creative reinterpretations?

Actually, from what I've seen...pretty much, yeah. People are just really unhappy about it and like to ignore it, but we can point directly to the document and say "You are gravely sinning right now".

Humanae Vitae is a good analogous case. Looking back on it it's easy to say "Well the Pope had no authority to change that teaching anyway" - which is true. But at the time he had actually formed a theological committee to investigate the issue. You know what conclusion they came to?

Yeah. That contraception should be allowed under certain circumstances. That the Pope went against the prevailing opinion was very dramatic.

We should have seen something similar with Francis. But instead we got at best vague non-answers to what has been the most pressing issue of his papacy and at worst capitulation to the Kasper proposal. And in typical Francis fashion, it's entirely unclear which and he still hasn't clarified.

I'm sympathetic to what I think His Holiness is trying to do - not commit to either side and be an impartial arbiter between the liberals and conservatives. But I think it's doing more harm than good (and you, I think, at least agree with me on that).

malcolmthecynic said...

BTW - I have zero problem with you arguing your case. You've read me enough now to realize that I tend to get very animated whenever I discuss...literally anything, actually. But when I'm really angry with somebody, I get far more visibly caustic.

I think people get annoyed with me because I start basically all my discussions on a level of intensity that most people need to work up to - and John and I clash so much partially because he's ALSO always on that level of intensity. It's a clash of personalities.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

The Pope was rather clear this time. On his plane flight back from Mexico he said""Integrating into the life of the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion." He adds that to do so "would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn't allow them to proceed on this path of integration." When I brought that up it was quickly dismissed by the usual suspects as "Well he changed his mind".

Seems rather straight forward to me.

malcolmthecynic said...

Son,

I believe I quoted that earlier, and it was said before the document came out.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

>I believe I quoted that earlier, and it was said before the document came out.

I have been watching Radtrads/Radcons(not that I am accusing you mind you) quote a bunch of things said, months, or a year ago by either the Pope or one of the Cardinals & way before this document came out in order to "interpret" the Pope as reversing doctrine.

The statement I cited above he said recently

He is pretty clear here if you ask me but as Crude points out that hardly makes a difference. St John Paul II previous Apostolic Letter on this same subject is suppose to be the golden standard of "clear" yet the Germans still did what they wanted.....

Crude said...

Malcolm,

BTW - I have zero problem with you arguing your case. You've read me enough now to realize that I tend to get very animated whenever I discuss...literally anything, actually. But when I'm really angry with somebody, I get far more visibly caustic.

Hahaha. Like I'm Master Civil over here. I do the same thing, but I take care with people who I think are reasonable, like yourself. It's fine.

We should have seen something similar with Francis.

Except this has already been settled. In Humanae Vitae's case there was an open question. But then again, maybe you are talking about a purely pastoral thing here. Which is a major concern (see V2), but in that case, vagueness from this Pope is almost a blessing.

Let me concede this much: I have erred on the side of of caution and optimism with Francis too many times. I don't think this was really the most pressing issue of his papacy. Do I think Francis did what needs to be done? No. But neither did Benedict XVI or John Paul II.

I will say, the biggest problem I may be having here is that I am failing to truly grasp the worries traditionalists have. Insofar as it is doctrinal, I think the matter is settled, and acting like it wasn't settled is a mistake. Insofar as it is pastoral, I am honestly in the dark about the actual material affect of this. We have idiot priests putting rainbow flags up and other bullshit. Were they denying communion to the divorced too? It strikes me as misplaced - but I am open to being persuaded. I need evidence, I need arguments, I need examples. Lacking those, I can only work with what I have.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

Just thought you'd like to know... I saw my first IMPEACH TRUMP bumper sticker this morning. I think this is a new record. Not only before he's (possibly) elected, but before he's even nominated!

B. Prokop said...

RE: My last Comment.

I do recall seeing an IMPEACH OBAMA bumper sticker almost immediately (within maybe a week) after his first inauguration. But even that doesn't beat the speed of this one.

I have two stickers on my car - one promoting amateur astronomy, and the other with the words Jezu ufam tobie, which is Polish for "Jesus, I trust in you." I love the fact that it's not in English, because it forces anyone curious enough to wonder what it says to look it up, and just maybe he'd be led to some very profitable websites in the process. If it were only in English, it might not even register - or, if it did, I might be written off as "just another religious nut".

Mr. Green said...

Crude: I think initially it was easier to regard Cruz as someone set apart from the usual gang of nonsense in the GOPe

OK, that's a fair point.

I find it a poor distinction to say what amounts to 'The only difference between him and anyone else is that he openly says what he thinks, whereas others only do so when secrecy is guaranteed.' That's not a minor distinction - it's a commodity of character which is sorely lacking.

Well, I meant that in terms of how "crude" Trump is, I'm not convinced that your average politician is any better (just better at hiding it); so I don't buy the notion that until last year politics was more gentlemanly and now Trump has ruined that. As to whether that demonstrates character? I figured it's just more that he doesn't care than that he's so devoted to honesty.

Sometimes both of those things are appropriate.

I don't think boorishness is appropriate, but I'm not sure the real disagreement lies there. Bluntness is certainly sometimes appropriate, in fact, sometimes absolutely necessary... but being blunt isn't the same thing as being rude. It frequently is portrayed that way, to the point that daring to disagree with someone or simply state that he's wrong about something is labelled "rude", but of course that is utter garbage. (Saying to someone, "You're a %@$! moron" is rude, even if it's true. If it is true, and if it needs to be said, you can find a politer way to phrase it. "Politeness" doesn't mean "lying", it just means... being polite.) So yes, politics ought to be decent, but by that, I'm referring to actual decency, not politically-correct liberal-media "decency".

because we live in a world where people, particularly politicians, are more than happy to violate PC and media orthodoxies.

Oh, I wasn't saying that. I'm saying that people weren't happy to do that, and they still aren't. For a while, I thought maybe this would crack things open and when folks saw that Trump was getting away with it, they'd start to be less afraid of the media elite, and I think it did happen a little bit... but not much. In the long run, I doubt it will have much lasting effect. It's not as though Trump has paved the way for ordinary poor folk, or politicians who depend on establishment support and media co-operation, to get away with saying the things he does. He can pull it off precisely because he's not those things, he's already rich and famous. Anyone else rich and famous could do it too — so why aren't they, you say? Because they don't want to. Maybe there are some who are kind of on the fence who will be emboldened a bit by his success, but, eh... I'm not holding my breath for a sudden return to sanity in the social or political sphere.


I have no idea what this refers to.

As for the democracy thing, I meant that Westerners are generally raised to believe that democracy is the best form of government (especially Americans, but also Brits and other Europeans even if they technically live in monarchies, at least in name). But I'm finding it interesting how many people are disenchanted with democracy and who advocate monarchy, or would consider it, at least in a Christian context. It's still a small number of course, and my sample is doubtless biased by my interests in what sites I read and come across, but my impression is that this is part of a growing awareness of more traditional views. Then again, there have always been some people who fit into that group, so this may just be pointless rambling on my part.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: Okay, but who is confused? I mean -really- confused?

You took the words out of my mouth. Finding out what Church's position is on any issue is not rocket science. The official Catechism is available, cheap, in paperback. Or free on the Internet. Or in public libraries. Or just go to the nearest church and ask the priest. (And before anyone complains about how many bad priests there are, they didn't suddenly appear out of nowhere three years ago when Francis was elected.) Yes, there are some people who are legitimately confused because they were misled by bad priests and bishops and teachers. So blame the bad teachers (there have always been bad teachers).

My worry is that -they- [traditionalists] are spreading confusion. Not intentionally, but ultimately all the same.

Not all traditionalists, I don't even think most (but then every group has its empty vessels, and they get the attention because they make the most noise), but many "traditionalists" are really just modernists. They're the flip side of liberal modernists, to be sure, but it's all the same coin. Liberal-modernists interpret the Pope like a modern politician; if he uses some words that someone like Obama might use, then they assume he means whatever Obama means, and they like it. Traditionalist-modernists interpret the Pope like a modern politician, and they hate it. But all the same, they cling to modern interpretations instead of treating the Pope like a representative and spokesman of two millennia of Catholic teaching. And yes, I think that does raise confusion, because these are people who ought to know better.

I will say, the biggest problem I may be having here is that I am failing to truly grasp the worries traditionalists have.

Frankly, I think some people just aren't happy unless they have something to worry about. But in general, human beings are prone to view the world in terms of "us" vs. "them", and the division depends a lot on impressions, rather than dispassionate rational argumentation. Some of those people are traditionalists, and Pope Francis "feels" as though he'd rather hang out with Obama than Aquinas. And who knows, maybe he would. That is not a problem in itself, popes are allowed to have personalities. If God didn't want different popes with different personalities, He would have arranged things differently. That doesn't mean every Pope will share your personality, though. But if a given Pope isn't on your wavelength, so what, we have two thousand years' worth of popes, scholars, and saints to choose from. There are plenty you will find more to your taste, and there are plenty of other people out there who will find Francis's style more appealing and who can benefit from it.

Great - there's plenty of stupid people making those. Correct them.

This is worth emphasising: we all have an opportunity, and a duty, to make the Church's true teaching known to our children, our friends, our family. If they are "confused", we should set them straight. (If they insist on staying "confused", then it isn't really confusion, is it?)

Mr. Green said...

Crude: but in that case, vagueness from this Pope is almost a blessing.

Ha. I don't think this is an accident. It's impossible to dictate black and white instructions that cover every pastoral situation, so Pope Francis doesn't try. The actual rule has been clear since St. Paul wrote Corinthians, so anyone who hasn't got it by now is not going to get it no matter what Francis says. But maybe some of those confused people who think that being remarried means they are excommunicated and not allowed inside a church any more will discover that they can and should keep going to church; and even that they can possibly receive communion... provided they stop by confession along the way. (Just as mentioned in Amoris Laetitia. In the infamous Footnote of Doom™, no less.) That's not to say that I am especially optimistic about Francis's chances of success, but neither do I think things are as bad as some people make them out to be.

Do I think Francis did what needs to be done? No. But neither did Benedict XVI or John Paul II.

Do you have something specific in mind that needs to be done? Or just general "fix the Church and save the world" stuff?


Like I'm Master Civil over here. I do the same thing, but I take care with people who I think are reasonable, like yourself.

Maybe I've just missed the fireworks, but I don't think I've ever seen you or Malcolm being particularly impolite. But as I said, being blunt, impassioned, or even sarcastic and smart-alecky (depending on the context) is not the same as being rude outright.



Malcolm: What is the job of the Pope, then? On a controversial issue he had a chance to make a clear statement.

The Pope's job is to lead the diocese of Rome. That's who he is, Bishop of Rome. His particular responsibility is teaching the Catholics of Rome, as each bishop is responsible for his own territory. The Pope also has a certain universal authority, as first among equals — when there is a problem, the buck stops with the Pope. But Crude is right: there is no disputed question here that needs solving, we already know what the answer is. However, the Pope has become a "celebrity", and there are good and bad sides to that. I am sympathetic to Fr. Z's promise to disappear into the papal palace upon become pope and never being seen again.

The big deal is that, even if liberals will twist things, now we can point to a document that clearly outlines proper teaching

Great, and we have documents we can point to about marriage, receiving the Eucharist, etc.

Malcolm: The key, right now, is scandal. What the Pope can do, and may have done, is say that being divorced and remarried is not the sort of sin where a Priest necessarily has to deny Communion to the divorced and remarried, and may or may not have hinted that the Eucharist could be beneficial in certain circumstances.

Since those are both true, I hope the Pope would say so. Scandal is an important issue, but a tricky one. After all, with so many people so "confused", they can be scandalised by the very opposite of what they should be. I have no easy answers for that, but of course, neither does the Pope. If this is the sort of thing people are expecting a clear and easy clarity about, they are doomed to be disappointed.

I just don't think the good things nearly outweigh the bad.

I must admit, I haven't read Amoris Laetitia yet. Do you have any specific examples of the bad stuff to hand? (I've read some stuff at Fr. Z's, and he had some positive things to say about it; coming from him, that sounds pretty optimistic.)

Crude said...

Green,

As to whether that demonstrates character? I figured it's just more that he doesn't care than that he's so devoted to honesty.

That's still an improvement. I'd go so far as to say 'not caring about media sacred cows' is a virtue itself, and one that should be emulated. I recall early in the campaign there was whining at Trump, with people demanding he explain why he wouldn't apologize for his immigration comments, and insisting his refusal to apologize was a character defect. He replies that he'll apologize when he's said something wrong - but, he didn't say anything wrong.

Yes, I believe that is rare. Even Popes rush to apologize in reply to 'public' outrage. I do not just mean Francis.

Anyone else rich and famous could do it too — so why aren't they, you say? Because they don't want to.

I don't think that's true. I do not believe that people suddenly become brave in the face of public criticism just because they have wealth. It may well work in the opposite direction, where a fear of becoming a pariah in one's new community leashes them thoroughly. I do not think Brendan Eich stepped down 'because he wanted to'. I think even he thought he had no other choice.

I also don't think this reaction is limited to Trump. Yes, he has set a good example. Things like the chalkening seem minor and silly, but they were near unheard of until relatively recently, certainly as coordinated responses as opposed to one lone person making a defiant move for five seconds (and then, of course - apologizing). Keep in mind that just plain -supporting- Trump was a move people attempted to cast as an expression of full-on neo-nazi sympathies.

Sure, there's no tremendous change yet. But this is a step towards it, and you need that step to accomplish anything. That is precisely why the fear and hatred of Trump, win or lose, is so intense.

To put it in Scott Adams' terms: a year ago, building a wall on the border was unthinkable. You couldn't even suggest, much less demand it, until someone did. Now, the argument has pretty well moved on to 'who would pay for it if you did make it'. That is progress, come what may.

Maybe I've just missed the fireworks, but I don't think I've ever seen you or Malcolm being particularly impolite.

We both argue in intense fashions, and don't bother staying entirely civil once someone decides to go all pants-on-head. (See: Skeppy.)

As for the democracy talk, I see less of that. I'm more emboldened by the open defiance of 'conservative' organizations and a party, both of which are turning out to be little more than false fronts. I think the GOPe hates most of their constituency, but seem themselves as an important bulwark or sinkhole that keeps said constituency from getting out of hand, ie, actually passing laws or (God forbid) changing the culture.

That Alt Right thing is spreading. Good - it should.

B. Prokop said...

I'VE TAKEN THE PLUNGE

I've decided to start my own blog. Its humble beginnings can be seen HERE.

Jezu ufam tobie!

malcolmthecynic said...

Except this has already been settled. In Humanae Vitae's case there was an open question.

Since when? The truth is, in "Humanae Vitae"'s case things were, if anything, CLEARER. The Church's teaching was rooted firmly and clearly in natural law. Pope Paul VI (who himself was something of a Francis type, actually) would have been changing teaching as dramatically as Francis (theoretically) would have.

But then again, maybe you are talking about a purely pastoral thing here. Which is a major concern (see V2), but in that case, vagueness from this Pope is almost a blessing.

But the problem is that this vagueness is following, as you said, literally over a thousand years of clear teaching. And yes, I mean a "pastoral" thing, as in, I mean that instead of deciding that a married man and woman receiving communion is the sin of scandal (which, for my money, is pretty obvious), a Priest doesn't have to deny them communion. Couple this with the fact that all of the rhetoric is changing to what a hard time the poor dears are supposed to be having (as opposed to just shutting up about it) and we have a problem.

Your big thing seems to be that you don't think this is going to change what people are already doing anyway. I think that view is, if I'm using the word correctly, too reductionist. Certainly there were unhappy Priests who disagreed with the teaching but who were loyal to it because they were loyal to the Church. Surely there were divorced and re-married Catholics who were not receiving communion but now decide that, hey, Pope Francis doesn't seem to see a problem!

Vagueness and "pastoral exceptions" was the exact problem with, if not Vatican II the "spirit of Vatican II". This is right in that vein.

Mr. Green,

Since those are both true, I hope the Pope would say so.

No, it's not true. Unless the "married" couple is living as brother and sister. Even after Confession if their intention to keep having sex does not change they cannot receive communion. To hint that they can is dead wrong.

The Pope's job is to lead the diocese of Rome. That's who he is, Bishop of Rome. His particular responsibility is teaching the Catholics of Rome, as each bishop is responsible for his own territory. The Pope also has a certain universal authority, as first among equals — when there is a problem, the buck stops with the Pope.

If we're taking a view that reductionist - and to be clear, I'm not - then, bluntly, the Pope needs to shut up. But it's pretty obvious to me that the Pope's role has essentially never been this limited.

Look, I get what all of you are saying. I do. But I feel as if I've made excuses for His Holiness for longer than I should have, and this fits right into his pattern of vague statements that don't *technically* change anything while throwing far more shade than light. To deny that seems to me like going against what has basically been the hallmark of his papacy.

malcolmthecynic said...

And yeah - I tend to start out at the same intensity in conversations about the best comic book movies and discussion about abortion, is what I mean. Hence you'll find a thread on John C. Wright's blog where I spend dozens of posts on whether or not MArvel should have a female hero.

In my head, it's just a discussion and no big deal, but for a lot of people it might look like I'm getting overly heated over what is after all an unimportant topic. But it's just how I engage with everything.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

The Church's teaching was rooted firmly and clearly in natural law.

I think the history with Henry VIII and other church teachings, right down to Christ's words in the bible, are far more clear than contraception was at that point, even if tradition nevertheless existed.

Your big thing seems to be that you don't think this is going to change what people are already doing anyway. I think that view is, if I'm using the word correctly, too reductionist.

Reductionist seems wrong. Perhaps 'short-sighted'.

Certainly there were unhappy Priests who disagreed with the teaching but who were loyal to it because they were loyal to the Church. Surely there were divorced and re-married Catholics who were not receiving communion but now decide that, hey, Pope Francis doesn't seem to see a problem!

I think your point can be made sharper this way: The temptation to give in, turn a blind eye, and just let abuses pass becomes stronger when the Pope allows for a wishy-washy position like this. Nothing has 'technically' changed; it is all pastoral. But this wishy-washiness and lack of clarity will at least in theory make it easier for already put-upon priests to turn a blind eye, and thus corrode things even further.

On that front? I agree with you.

Maybe I have not been clear. I am not saying that the wishy-washy parts of the document are nothing to complain about. It is a specific claimed effect of them - that they directly undermine established dogma - that I am skeptical of. I think the teaching is not just clear, but irrevocable. I will add: I think acting as if this document changes teaching, corrodes things in a similar way as the actual negative effect of the wishy-washiness.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: I'd go so far as to say 'not caring about media sacred cows' is a virtue itself, and one that should be emulated.

Sure, if that's what it really was. Apparently he also doesn't care about men using the ladies' room. To be a virtue, you shouldn't care about criticism when it's wrong (basically whenever it comes from the media), but you should care if the criticism is valid. Now, in practical terms — democracy is about choosing the lesser evil, so if he happens to be right about more things that his opponents, then you take what you can get.

I don't think that's true. I do not believe that people suddenly become brave in the face of public criticism just because they have wealth.

That's what I'm saying: they don't (necessarily) want to brave criticism. Some of them actually believe in liberal ideas, some of them just want to be loved... but how many people are suddenly saying, "Gee, actually sticking to my principles and getting attacked for it anyway is an option? Why didn't someone tell me this before?!" What was Eich going to do differently if he had seen Trump behaving this way? (Also, Eich probably doesn't count as famous — I'm thinking more "hit TV show" famous than "small subset of geeks might recognise his name".)

Yes, he has set a good example. Things like the chalkening seem minor and silly, but they were near unheard of until relatively recently, [...] But this is a step towards it, and you need that step to accomplish anything.

Yes, I agree that it's necessary though not sufficient. So far, we have reactions to Trump. (Is there anything independent of Trump personally, such as chalkeners writing, say, "men≠women" on campus steps?) The border-wall is interesting, but Trump isn't elected yet, let alone the wall being effective, or even being built. Hypothetically could all these things start adding up in the long run? I can't disprove it; but the next generation is still growing up on TV and public education, so like I said, I'm not holding my breath.

As for the democracy talk, I see less of that.

Full-blown monarchists are still very rare, not enough to be relevant on a practical level. I just find it interesting to see it at all.

I think the GOPe hates most of their constituency,

I think like any political party they don't care about the constituency; they're seen as just a tool to be used. They hate Trump because he's not playing the game of "you scratch my back..." — he's using his own fame and money to get publicity and support, so he doesn't owe the party-machine the favours they expect, and their political capital is suffering drastic inflation as a result. All they care about is that constituents keep the party system working as-is, and that won't happen if they keep voting for Trump.

Mr. Green said...

Malcolm:But he chose to speak. He is the Pope. He has an obligation to speak clearly - and it's one he simply has not met, either in person or in writing. "The media is twisting things" is a cop-out. They never twisted this much with Benedict or even JPII.

When a Pope tells a reporter that condoms "can" be a sign of love, do you think the media cares which pope it is? If some other pope said that, would the media suddenly be putting it in full context and explaining the detailed and limited sense in which it can possibly be said to be true?

I will note, though, that pointing out the Pope's obligation to speak clearly is the closest thing to an actual argument that I've seen amid the frequent Francis-bashing. It needs fleshing out, but there is in fact a good argument that anything important that we do should be done well, and the authority of the Pope comes with a serious responsibility to wield it carefully by making clear and measured statements when he speaks officially. And one of the things that follows from this is Crude's point about wearing down morale. Nevertheless, the criticisms that I see of Francis never formulate the problem properly in this way. They are posed in terms of results, and local priests, bishops, and teachers are far more relevant to what their congregations understand or misunderstand. So I won't say it's that there are no legitimate criticisms of Pope Francis to be made; just that in practice the complaints range from disproportionate to flat-out wrong.


No, it's not true. Unless the "married" couple is living as brother and sister.

Oh, Malcolm the Confusing! It's not true except when it is? Why can't you be more clear?! Of course, I myself was quite clear insofar as there was nothing ambiguous about my flat-out "those are both true". What I didn't do was provide full details about the exact situations wherein it "necessarily has to" or "could" be the case; but no sentence can provide all the details on everything.
That's why context is vital; and Francis make his context clear by alluding to (or quoting) Benedict, JP2, the Doctors and Fathers of the Church, and of course Scripture itself. To read Francis as though he were a modern politician or an Internet commenter instead of the Pope of the Catholic Church is simply not fair. I don't mean it's not a charitable reading — it's not even an honest reading.

By the way, given your incorrect reply that "it's not true", if I point out that in the very next sentence you do acknowledge the circumstances under which it can apply, is that "making excuses" for you? And to help calibrate the spectrum of confusion, where would you rank Francis's statements between Scripture on the one hand, and statements by the SSPX about being loyal to the Pope… when they feel like it?

Crude said...

Sure, if that's what it really was. Apparently he also doesn't care about men using the ladies' room.

I am under no delusions that Trump is some kind of pure social conservative. But I'm also no longer under the delusion that that matters, unless coupled with other things anyway. George W Bush was rather social conservative - and he didn't want to make waves. The result was a modicum of pro-life policies (overseas military abortions re: executive order, etc) and completely having a hands-off attitude towards Planned Parenthood. He was a uniter, after all, not a divider.

I think it will be to the pro-life movement's shame if Trump, of all people, enacts some federal-level abortion restrictions. The good kind of shame. The kind of shame I'd get a kick out of.

To be a virtue, you shouldn't care about criticism when it's wrong (basically whenever it comes from the media), but you should care if the criticism is valid.

Media criticism is not the criticism of someone reasoning with you. It's the criticism of someone who has declared that you have done or said or think a Bad Thing that Decent People Don't Say/Do/Think and must repent. In fact, the terms of their criticism tends to be, 'You must apologize, because people were offended by what you said.' They loathe the idea that one needs an argument to prove wrongness; people being upset is sufficient.

It is not virtuous to even entertain that bowing to this is reasonable.

What was Eich going to do differently if he had seen Trump behaving this way?

Maybe he would have stayed and fought. Eich was admirable in that he didn't cower and recant, if I recall right - he just resigned, mimicking the noble attitude everyone (including on the right) talks about. Maybe nobility and 'maturity' wasn't in order there. Maybe what was in order was saying 'Fuck off. You want to get rid of me? Come get me. I'm staying, and I'll apologize if I've done something wrong. I haven't yet.'

I do not believe every celebrity who has quivered and cowered really believed they were wrong. I think some of this is set by social expectation and example. They apologize and cower because, well, that's just what one does in these situations. Trump blew people's minds because he did not, and he should that you can, in fact, do something different. Milo Yiannapolous has done the same.

(Is there anything independent of Trump personally, such as chalkeners writing, say, "men≠women" on campus steps?)

We have a situation where there are university students openly defying academics - in the service of conservative causes and messages. We see anti-socialist conservatives popping up on liberal hives like Reddit. Trump's been on the scene in this way for what... a year? What has Cruz accomplished?

Cruz couldn't even stand by his New York Values line five seconds after Trump responded to it. And I thought it was a valid line.

The border-wall is interesting, but Trump isn't elected yet, let alone the wall being effective, or even being built.

This time last year, the idea of a border wall wasn't even out there. It wasn't even rejected, because it wasn't seriously considered to begin with. Bringing it up would have meant a firestorm of criticism and condemnation, if the media caught wind. 'Get a load of THIS racist. He wants to build a wall to scare away all the dark-skinned people! Geez, I wonder what the RNC thinks of white supremacists like this.'

Now, it's discussed openly and it is a popular idea. We've moved on to bickering about how much it will cost.

THAT is progress. It's tangible progress.

Full-blown monarchists are still very rare, not enough to be relevant on a practical level.

But people are talking about it now, you say. You've seen this as a productive development, eh? Fancy that.

malcolmthecynic said...

Oh, Malcolm the Confusing! It's not true except when it is? Why can't you be more clear?!

1) You know exactly what I meant, and yes, I believe I was indeed more clear than Francis was in his document, if that's the trap you're trying to get me to fall into. Sorry, I'm not buying this argument. Nice try, though.

2) Yes, Pope Francis is obviously being no more vague and confusing than every other Pope ever and it's all the media's fault for misrepresenting him all the time, or traditionalists, or something. Always. Every time. It's all in our heads.

I don't buy it. This is a clear pattern and one would need to be blind not to see it. In the very next post you will see me express my disagreement with a theologian - a Priest - who claims this changes teaching. I don't think it does.

3) Why you are bringing up the SSPX I have no idea at all, seeing as I never mentioned them and hardly know enough about them to have n opinion - and in the past the opinions I have expressed have been almost entirely negative.

malcolmthecynic said...

(BTW - if you want to talk about my overly intense writing style, there's exhibit A. It's only re-reading it now that I see how harsh it comes across as. When I wrote it I just thought of it as a reply to a post, but I can see why people would take it more personally than that.)

Mr. Green said...

Crude: I am under no delusions that Trump is some kind of pure social conservative. But I'm also no longer under the delusion that that matters, unless coupled with other things anyway.

As a practical matter, yes; and I'd probably accept that our current forms of democracy force us to vote based on pragmatism over character. (I suppose that's part of the problem with it…. Is it possible to run a democracy that's geared to virtue instead of expediency?)

Maybe [Eich] would have stayed and fought. [...] Maybe nobility and 'maturity' wasn't in order there.

Maybe he would have. I can understand opting for maturity, especially if he figured he would end up getting kicked out anyway — anything else would just play in the press as "see how nasty his type is!", so why go through all that struggle for no benefit? But it doesn't take much imagination to come up with the idea of fighting back, so it's not like he needed to see Trump to consider it. Would he have been prompted by seeing Trump's popularity? But Mozilla isn't a democracy. Well, maybe it would have acted as encouragement... actually, this is related to your point in the papal thread about morale. I haven't really been considering that, and it is relevant. Obviously, there are a lot of people who are sympathetic to preserving traditional principles, but are leery of saying so publicly; having people who are willing to take a public stand is important, even if that stand doesn't succeed in itself.

On the other hand, public education and television are driving people's views further left. It's great to buck up the morale of people who already believe that way (or maybe some who are on the fence), but that's not sufficient. Now like you said, it's a step; nobody's claiming everything is suddenly back on track. But especially in politics, it's one step forward, two steps back. That's better than zero steps forward, but in the end, how can that be enough?


But people are talking about it [monarchy] now, you say. You've seen this as a productive development, eh?

On a personal level, it's good that people are thinking about it, but I don't think there's anything there that's widespread enough or practical enough to matter on a societal level.

Mr. Green said...

Malcolm: yes, I believe I was indeed more clear than Francis was in his document, if that's the trap you're trying to get me to fall into.

It wasn't a trap; just pointing out that one can always claim confusion, and yet of course I knew what you meant. It's also usually quite clear what Pope Francis means, despite the endless complaints I've seen about things he didn't even say, or things pulled out of context, or even for paraphrasing Scripture. Most of the time it seems to amount to "I don't like his style", which is not actually a legitimate problem per se. And there is a distinct lack of serious argumentation about how and why any particular statement is supposedly troublesome, mostly just lots of hand-wringing.

Obviously I'm not referring to you specifically — hence my bringing up the SSPX, for example, just to get a sense of how much confusion you yourself actually think there is. (Presumably not as much as the (stereo?)typical SSPXer!) After so many complainers crying wolf, maybe I'm missing genuine instances where there's a problem; but there are not as many worrisome passages from Francis as we're led to believe, not all cases of "vagueness" are in fact bad, and where there is confusion, its effect is limited unless people are already being poorly taught. It's not a matter of "Francis is trying to bring down the Church" vs. "It's all in our heads" — it's more a matter of, "I wish he'd phrased a few things differently, but there are bigger problems to worry about."

To be fair, I also see plenty of complaints about bad priests and bishops, but I think there are some unrealistic expectations out there about how much a pope can do. A Pope who isn't "reduced" to hiding the in Vatican certainly can get publicity, but his opportunities for teaching are limited (especially if the local clergy is weak or heretical). He can in effect advertise, but the details have to be handled at a local level. [Oh, well, perhaps Papal soundbites should be followed by a voice-over: Disclaimer: Eucharistic communion may not be available in all situations. Do not take in conjunction with the irregular marital circumstances. Improperly administered sacraments may cause sickness, emotional distress, spiritual death, and/or eternal damnation. Should sin-ptoms persist, consult your priest or spiritual advisor.]

In the very next post you will see me express my disagreement with a theologian - a Priest - who claims this changes teaching.

Yes, that adds perspective to your position, and on that count I agree with you completely. It's certainly possible to interpret the entire document in a traditional light — yes, there are some passages that "could" be interpreted as modernist or heretical if you try, but that's true of the Bible too. The only legitimate way to interpret Catholic teaching, from the Bible on down, is in the light of two thousand years of Church doctrine. Insisting that it represents a change makes things worse, because orthodox sources calling it a change cannot be written off as wishful thinking or attempting to spin it their way. That erodes morale even more, and exacerbates divisions. I find this sort of thing more disturbing because it comes from people who ought to know better. That said, the effect is also limited in these cases: let's face it, how many ordinary Catholics read any of this stuff, or are even aware of it?


but I can see why people would take it more personally than that.)

Not to worry; the same thing applies to my own comment, so I'm hardly in a position to complain. It's easy to take things too negatively (there's the problem of interpretation again!), but even though I said we have an obligation to be (generally) polite, we also have an obligation not to overreact to things, or assume they are more hostile than logic dictates (which in this case would have to be, "not at all").