When the bishops of Vatican I were voting on papal infallibility, only two bishops put their names on record as being against the definition. One was the bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, who voted "Non placet mihi" ("It does not please me"). After the vote he made his way to Pius IX, knelt, and said, "Nunc placet mihi" ("Now it pleases me"). This is known as the case of the Little Rock versus the Big Rock.
To satisfy a tax judgment, the IRS has seized the inventory of Tony Alamo's Nashville-based clothing store, which was famous for supplying rhinestoned fashions to country music stars. The list of items to be sold at auction is an inch thick and includes 946 lots from the store and another 183 lots from Alamo's house. It took three semi-trailers to haul the stuff away.
Alamo claims the shirts, skirts, boots, hats, and denim jackets--which are sequined, braided, iridescent, jeweled, fringed, embroidered, and lame--are worth $50 million, but the IRS will be satisfied to get the $7.9 million Alamo owes in back taxes. In a telephone interview from an undisclosed location (he is on the lam), Alamo said, "We've done clothing for all the elite people in the world--anything that the general public could wear, right up to the King of England or the Prince of Wales."
We were unaware he had made clothing for George VI, the last British king, who died in 1952.
The February issue of This Rock contained a letter from Stephen Wood, a Presbyterian minister moving rapidly toward the Catholic faith. We're pleased to announce that Wood, his wife, and their five children were received into the Church on July 1.
Well, if Protestant missionaries can go there, why not Catholic missionaries--even lay ones? Catholic Answers has been invited by Archbishop Marcos McGrath of Panama City to give a series of apologetics talks in late September. Representing our organization will be Patrick Madrid. He will be accompanied by Louis Velasquez, director of Hispanic ministries for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They'll spend several days countering the activities of American-funded Protestant missionaries in Panama. Please pray for their success.
How Not to Conduct a Discussion Department: If you're a "middle-of-the-road Catholic," the name Michael Davies probably means nothing to you. But if you count yourself a Traditionalist (with a capital T), someone dedicated to bringing back the Tridentine Mass, you know Davies immediately as the most widely published English-language author espousing the Traditionalist position.
As might be expected, Davies has his enemies. Most of them are to the left of him; some are to the right. One of the latter is John S. Daly, who wrote and published a 464-page book "evaluating" Davies. The issues addressed in that book are not the focus of this notice. The focus is the manner of the discussion. One presumes Daly would like to convert Davies and the readers to his own position, but he has gone about it in a most unhelpful way.
In his introduction he pulls no punches: "Mr. Davies is not only a schismatic, but a multiple heretic; intensely ignorant even on many elementary points of theology as well as on matters of historical fact and general Catholic knowledge; an outright liar, guilty of incredible dishonesty, suppression of truth and inconsistency; an extremely shoddy scholar; a model of how Catholics ought not to write; a blind leader of the blind; arrogant and foolish; a source of huge scandal; and, in fine, an utter disgrace to the name of 'Catholic' to which he falsely lays claim. Naturally these conclusions are far from savoury."
Indeed. You begin to get the impression Daly doesn't like Davies. You also begin to get the impression that this gigantic screed, printed on oversized paper and the offspring of countless hours at the typewriter, will convince no one of good will. Davies could be the foulest man of the century, yet he would come out looking good precisely because of the outrageousness of Daly's invective.
So why does Daly use such hyperbolic language? He blames it on Davies: "In defense of such strong language as may occur in this [book] . . . we might also use the 'ad hominem' defence of observing that we are giving Mr. Davies no worse treatment than he has been prepared to give to those who take a contrary view to his. Anyone who is prepared to accuse his opponents of, for instance, 'writing the most utter drivel one can possibly imagine'--language which borders on the hysterical--can have no objection to the harsh but accurate terms used in this [book]--provided that the truth is not sullied."
Not much of an excuse, is it? Davies, in an eminently British way, calls certain writing "the most utter drivel." What ho, old chap! Jolly good dig, eh wot?
We have no idea what he was referring to, not knowing where he said this, but his words are fairly mild and hardly seem warrant for a counterblast which uses phrases such as "multiple heretic," "outright liar," and "extremely shoddy scholar."
"But that's just what Davies is," Daly might say. Here we come to the point: If that's really what he is, don't throw the labels around--just quote him.
If Davies subscribes to multiple heresies, define the heresies, then quote him. If he lies, print his words plus the facts. If he's a shoddy scholar, quote him again, then quote a reputable scholar.
The operative principle is this: If you want to show someone is wrong (or evil or nuts), just quote him. He'll bury himself. Don't throw nasty labels at him. Labels are boomerangs. They have an odd way of coming back at you.
As we say, we know little about the points at issue between Daly and Davies. (We couldn't plow through much of Daly's book--strength we have, but not heroic strength.) The high decibels used to condemn Davies can only make an open-minded reader suspect Davies might be the opposite of everything Daly says he is.
The lesson for apologetics: Avoid wild labels and the relentless piling up of accusations. If you want to prove something, no matter what that something might be, try to confine yourself to quotations. Let the other guy dig his own grave. If you don't, you'll just dig yours.
We have unconfirmed reports that Mikhail Gorbachev, who let it be known that his mother had him baptized as an infant, has written in the forthcoming issue of the Soviet literary magazine Borscht and Bolshevism that, like Alberto Rivera, he was secretly ordained a Jesuit priest in 1962. Jesuit authorities disavow any knowledge of the claim. Details at eleven.
The cover of the July issue of New Dimensions magazine screams, "CATHOLICS UNDER ATTACK ." The accompanying stories are about the new censorship. This time it comes from the left, not from the right--from the homosexual lobby, the feminist lobby, the abortion lobby. The new censors don't want the Catholic Church to promote its beliefs or its morality.
Under the subhead "AT WAR WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ," we read, "The pro-abortion activists despise the Catholic Church basically because of its steadfast opposition to abortion. The homosexual lobby, through some twisted thought process, considers the Catholic Church a major force in the growth of the deadly AIDS epidemic, mainly because the Catholic Church does not condone homosexuality or artificial methods of birth control--including condoms.
"Ironically, as virtually all AIDS experts agree, the sexual mores [propounded] by the church, if adhered to, would almost completely eliminate the spread of the disease."
None of this is news to the alert Catholic, who knows, at least viscerally, what forces are arrayed against the Church--and against him.
How should average Catholics respond to these folks? In the toughest way imaginable: Just smile back at them, stick with the Pope, pray for them, and, if possible (and if it can be done without rancor), engage in one of the spiritual works of mercy: instructing the ignorant.
Truth is an amazingly powerful cleanser. It cuts through all sorts of mental and moral grime. All we have to do is apply it. But we must have the courage to adhere to the truth even when it's unfashionable and even when it's inconvenient.
Which reminds us:The Banner of Truth is a Fundamentalist publication. Not long ago it printed a review of Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism. Peter Barnes wrote, "The most encouraging feature of this book is the fact that its author considered that it needed to be written."
Other than that, Barnes didn't much like the book, even though he acknowledged it made a few valuable points, mentioning the expose of the fake anti-infallibility speech attributed to Bishop Josip Strossmayer and the warning against using inflated atrocity statistics when speaking about the Inquisition.
Are the editors at The Banner of Truth worried that Catholicism is waking up? Let's hope so. Our side has been asleep a long time, perhaps because we subscribed to the notion that all we have to do to eliminate unpleasantness is to wish it away. That's a wonderful scheme. The only thing wrong with it is that it doesn't work. There are all sorts of unpleasantness in the world, and attacks on the Church come from all quarters--and often the extremists at one end sound like the extremists at the other.
We must maintain what the writer E. I. Watkin called, in the title of one of his books, The Catholic Center. This is not to say "the Catholic averaging." It's not a matter of splitting the difference between the extremes. That would result only in a truncated extremity.
No, the Catholic center refers to the centrality of Catholic truth. Deviate from it in either direction, and you fall off the highwire of life. You might scream with delight on the way down, calling on others still on the highwire to join you, but sooner or later you'll splatter on the pavement. It won't be a pretty sight.
After John Paul II's visit to Mexico, Christianity Today quoted the director of promotion for the United Bible Societies as stating that "the Pope's frequent calls for Latin Americans to return to the 'true religion' and his heavy emphasis on devotion to the Virgin Mary have also hurt Catholic-Protestant relations."
See, it's all right if they proselytize, if they tell Catholics to leave the faith of their upbringing. That doesn't injure ecumenical relations. But when we tell Catholics to stay where they are and to become better Catholics, when we promote the faith and its associated devotions, then we're injuring Catholic-Protestant relations. Relativity, anyone?
"Behold Protestantism's growing Roman-Catholic-like priesthood," writes one of the high priests of dispensational pre- millennialism, Dave Hunt, in the newsletter of the Christian Information Bureau. The Protestant "priesthood" "mediates for the people of God and helps build the bridge back to Rome."
Who are these nefarious people? Some are "Christian psychologists" (Hunt's quotation marks). Other are Protestant charismatics, whose "movement provides another lane on the highway to Rome." They and others are abandoning the "early Protestant creeds [which] called the Pope Antichrist."
You find a "new priesthood" not only among Protestants. Some Catholics are making their own. The June 29 issue of The National Catholic Reporter published an anonymous article by a fellow who belongs to "a Midwest intentional Catholic community." That means a bunch of Catholics without a priest who have decided to strike out on their own."
We are an intentional rather than a parish-based community. People had joined us who were attracted to our intimate, inclusive liturgies and our progressive stand on social-justice issues." They had a regular priest-chaplain for a while, but he left, and they didn't disband. They rather liked what they had, and they liked it more than they liked the parish church.
When, on occasion, a priest is available to celebrate Mass, they all "[speak] together the words of consecration." They do this because "it expresses our belief that it is all of us, the entire community acting together, that participates in and witnesses the consecration."
Often these folks don't have a priest, but many of them insist it doesn't really matter because "the bread is consecrated by the act of the community gathering and praying over it, with or without a priest." Needless to say, this isn't Catholic thinking, and it essentially does away with the ministerial priesthood.
Prognostication: Look for lots of these people to leave the Church. After all, once you decide you're your own priest, who needs the Church?