The Debate We Don’t Want You to Hear

May 27, 2013 | 0 comments

About a month ago I received an email from Catholic Answers apologist Matt Fradd that contained an unusual attachment: a spooky-looking banner ad from the Alpha and Omega Ministries (AOM) web site that read, “The Debate that Catholic Answers Doesn’t Want You to Hear.”  

The banner linked to a shop page where you could purchase an MP3 of a 2010 debate between Tim Staples and AOM president James White on the subject of purgatory, recorded during a broadcast of White’s radio program.

Back then I was working in the production department here at Catholic Answers. Tim Staples came to us with a recording of the debate and asked us if we wanted to make it available to Catholic Answers customers. It was a good debate, but only ninety minutes—shorter than our minimum standard for CD products. And at that time we still had not ironed out software glitches  that prevented us from offering downloadable MP3s on our shop site. Besides, we have enough work to do at Catholic Answers without having to advertise James White’s radio program, too. So we turned it down—a marketing decision.

Since we now are able to offer MP3s, when I saw that banner ad I contact AOM to confirm that we had permission to sell a recording of the debate. I acquired a copy of the CD, converted it to MP3, and added it to our shop site. 

A couple of weeks later I received an email with a link to AOM promoting the debate, along with the claim, “This is the 2010 debate Catholic Answers has no interest making available.” So I wrote back that it was available, and received a response assuring me that the post had been updated. Here is what the update said:

After a few years of wondering why Catholic Answers has not released the debate between Dr. White and Tim Staples on purgatory, they've finally decided to offer it in their store. It appears to be the result of my comment above, as the director of marketing for Catholic Answers sent an e-mail over.

The first thing I noticed about this update is that it admits AOM had no idea why we didn’t carry the debate on our site in the first place. Yet the impression we get from their advertising is that we were afraid of its contents.  I hate to be a bother, I wrote back, but

This is a misrepresentation of my email. I said it is available on our shop. It's been there for about two weeks now, and that post is only three days old. I requested a copy from your organization about three weeks ago and made it available as soon as it arrived in the mail. We advertised it on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, May 8.

For the record, the decision not to carry it on our shop previously was mine. The reason is because in 2010 our online shop did not support MP3s (we didn't upgrade until just last year), and at the time, we were not producing single disk products. It was a business decision and not meant as a slight toward Dr. White, nor was it because we don't want people to hear it.

Thank you for sending us a copy to make available on our shop.

God bless you, sir. †

Shortly thereafter came the reply:

OK, I was not aware the mp3 was posted previous to my comments. i will update, or not update as you think I should. 

My apologies if anything I've posted has caused any trouble. Let me know.

I responded one more time:

No trouble at all. I just want it to be clear between your organization and mine that the decision to not carry the debate prior to a few weeks ago was due to our inability to support MP3s. It's a good debate and we are ok with people hearing it.

God bless you. Please send my regards to Dr. White. †

This was the last interaction I had with AOM, but not long afterward I was made aware that James White talked up the incident on his radio show. You can listen to the excerpt by clicking here.

In those ten minutes or so White makes several false claims. According to him, we “barely made a peep” about the debate, and told someone at AOM that “we just forgot about it.” And, continuing the theme of that first banner ad, he implies that Tim was beaten so badly in the debate that we had to keep it quiet. None of which is true, of course, and nothing in my correspondence with AOM could have given such false impressions.

Either someone is giving White bad information, or he is just making things up.

And he must be listening to a different debate than the one I heard. It’s a good showing for both sides, but it’s not the decisive win he seems to think it is. Since AOM admitted they had no idea why we didn't initially offer the debate for sale, I have to assume that White's just manufacturing drama to sell product.

Anyway, as a show of good faith (and to kill the idea that we don’t want anyone to hear this debate) we are offering it on our shop for ninety-nine cents. Click here and download your copy now.


Jon Sorensen is the director of marketing for Catholic Answers.

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