Credibility and Traditionalist ad hominem arguments
Two new articles have been posted to the Recent Articles page (free content section), one on scholasticism and the other on invincible ignorance. The one on scholasticism is the subject of this blog post, but readers also have asked me to comment concerning another post on a Traditionalist website questioning my credibility.
The Jesuit Rev. Henry Semple, in his “Heaven Open to Souls” (on Perfect Contrition) addresses the subject of credibility far better than I could ever address it. And coming from one trained for a good eight years or longer in the Jesuit discipline, it carries far more weight than anything I could ever hope to print.
He writes on pg. 90 of his work: “If some one of our readers can spare the time to read only one chapter of our book, we beg that he select this one on the teachings of theologians. Whether we are trained or untrained in theology, we have misgivings about our ability to interpret the texts of the Scriptures, Fathers, or Councils, and to draw conclusions…Yet we have no such misgivings about the works of approved theologians, and their teachings are the easiest practical means of satisfying our minds on this question.”
As those who have read the bulk of material on this site are well aware, we go one step further and trust primarily the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and ecumenical councils, not the theologians. For some of these, we have found, were disobedient and continued to question teachings of the Holy See even after a matter had been settled. This is especially true of those writing in the late 1800s and up to the death of Pope Pius XII. When one relies on papal authority, personal credibility is helpful but not really relevant.
In the realm of Scholasticism, which none today care to try and emulate, those using this method (and all Catholics defending the faith are obliged to use it) are warned to avoid fallacies of argument. Michael Mahony, S. J., in his “Essentials of Formal Logic” (1918) defines this term as follows: “A FALLACY or sophism is an argument in which a falsehood is hidden under the appearance of truth.” One of these fallacies is the well-know argument ad hominem, including personal attack, abusive language, ridicule of an adversary, and/or charges of inconsistency. This type of attack is very popular and frequently used among Traditionalists. As Rev. Joseph Walsh S. J. points out in his work “Logic,” certain “debaters and attorneys with a weak case” often resort to such arguments.
This particular ad hominem attack, besides questioning credibility, further reveals its true character by misogynist comments, which the author of the post in question has made before. At one point he ordered this author to return to the kitchen and bake cookies, (this email is available on request). It is an order that I do not need to observe, since I happily and willingly bake cookies and many other things in my kitchen on a regular basis.
If one wanted to truly stir up a hornet’s nest, many valid questions also could be asked about the credibility of this forum manager’s sources as well. Proofs from both a civil and canonical standpoint could even be posted to support such claims. But that is not necessary, because scholastic method regarding sacred theology does not rely on such irrelevant arguments. If Traditionalists wish to question the credibility of papal and conciliar teaching, that is entirely upon their own heads. These teachings and only these teachings are what they are going to find on this site.
Many writing blogs, forums and website pieces cannot claim training in journalism, which is a discipline of its own requiring the practitioner to adhere to certain ethical and professional standards. As a paid writer working in the community newspaper field for the past 20 years, I feel that at least I can say that I have endured that discipline and the necessary scrutiny that goes with it. This is aside from the work I do in the religious field, where far greater knowledge and diligence is required in writing about theological subjects.
While I have no formal theological training, for the past 30 years I have studied at length from some of the best texts available to theology students pre-1959, consulting around 3,000 works I purchased over the years from seminary libraries. Check the sources for yourselves, either by requesting copies or online at the free reference downloads posted to the site. There is no “discussion” here, although certainly explanation is admitted. When the popes teach something on a matter of faith or morals, even if it is not infallible, there is nothing to discuss.
As I told an inquirer in an email recently, those who want to fault me for following an antipope should also fault equally the SSPX and Novus Ordo crowd “converting” to Sedevacantism, and should look askance at saints such as Vincent Ferrar and Bridget of Sweden, who supported antipope Benedict XIII during the Western Schism. But of course this will never happen. As I wrote to the inquirer, I find every bit as abhorrent their attendance at Traditionalist “masses” and the sacrilegious reception of the “sacraments” they insist upon as they find my former adherence (I left seven years ago) to an antipope. Despite this error in judgment, all of those following this false pope said their mass prayers at home the entire time they followed him; I personally have not frequented a Traditionalist chapel or priest since 1985, save on one occasion. So while credibility can be bandied about here, it all depends on the definition.
In the end it is as I have stated elsewhere: all Traditionalists are basically Modernists who secretly loathe papal authority, and that extends to scholasticism as prescribed by the popes and to Canon Law. They have devised an elaborate, disconnected system of truths to explain Catholic theology in these times which is far from the integral truths, all related one to the other, as taught by the Continual Magisterium. This is what I have worked toward over the years — connecting these truths to each other and demonstrating their cascading effects on us today, to the best of my ability. As Pope St. Pius X wrote in Pascendi Domenici Gregis, “The Modernists…present their doctrines without order or systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjoined one from the other, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, when they are in reality firm and steadfast.”
Thus we see all the varieties of Traditionalism represented here, yet in reality they are one in their simulation of mass and sacraments and rejection of papal teaching. Truth is one and error, many. Christ’s Church consists of one unbroken line of St. Peter’s successors, from which issue a continuous and infallible set of teachings, and under that unbroken line alone can we be guaranteed truth. In the meantime, Traditionalists ignore these teachings to promote falsehoods hidden under the appearance of truth. For they long ago rejected the necessity of the papacy mandated by Christ, choosing instead to play the contemptible role of hirelings.