Archive for the ‘James Carroll’ Category

Bellisario vs. Strawman – A Response of Sorts to Bellisario

April 8, 2010

Over at his blog, the Catholic Champion, Matthew Bellisario has decided to characterize his latest assault on a straw man as a response to one of my recent posts (link to Bellisario)(link to my recent post).

Bellisario’s headline reads: “Vatican II and the Papacy- No Redefinition.” Well, no kidding. Formally speaking, Vatican II didn’t define anything much less re-define anything.

As then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Bishops of Chile, 1988.

So, when Bellisario begins his post, “There are some who think that the Second Vatican Council sought to take away the role and authority of the pope,” we can only wonder what Bellisario was thinking. The central thrust of his post is not against what I wrote, but rather against what he apparently wishes I had written.

The use of the straw man fallacy, however, is not enough for Bellisario. Bellisario insists on using the ad hominem fallacy as well. He attacks James Carroll for being an “ex-priest.” What irony in this attack! While Bellisario means to play this up as somehow an attack on Carroll’s character (he tries to compare him to Luther saying: “Martin Luther, who also left the priesthood to engage in unsavory affairs”), Bellisario actually undermines his own credibility. After all, James Carroll attended St. Paul’s College, where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees. He served as a columnist for several years at the National Catholic Reporter and received an award for “Best Columnist” by the Catholic Press Association. Bellisario’s credentials can’t compare to this. If Bellisario wishes to take the discussion ad hominem (to the man), then Bellisario will lose.

Bellisario continues his fallacious attacks with this gem:

It is not surprising to see that Turretin Fan is just as ignorant of the Vatican II documents as Carroll is. I find it amusing how Turretin Fan uses the term ultramontanism to note the last two papacies. I have to wonder if he even knows what the term really means.

Bellisario’s lies here are amusing in view of his previous ad hominem. Carroll was ordained as a priest in 1969, shortly after the close of the Vatican II council. So, naturally, he’s not “ignorant” of the Vatican II documents any more than I am. And, of course, a simple search of my blog demonstrates that I’ve repeatedly discussed a variety of the documents of Vatican II. Also amusing is the fact that my post provided explanation about the meaning of “ultramontanism,” which should help to demonstrate to folks that I was familiar with the term’s meaning.

Bellisario amusingly continues thus:

We have only to look at the document of Lumen Gentium to see that this supposed lessening of the papacy never happened, and none of the Vatican Documents ever proposed such thing.

Rather than then turning to Lumen Gentium itself, though, Bellisario turns to an note added to it by (shocking surprise ahead) a pope, affirming (get ready to be really shocked) a high view of the papacy. The reason for the note is to counterbalance the text of Lumen Gentium, the text that supports Carroll’s point that Bellisario wishes weren’t true.

Don’t take my word for it. Consider this comment on the note by Christopher A. Ferrara (let’s see if Bellisario calls him a liberal dissenter):

The most famous example is Pope Paul’s intervention forcing the Council to include the Nota Praevia to Lumen Gentium, which corrects [Lumen Gentium]’s erroneous suggestion that when the Pope exercised his supreme authority he does so only as head of the apostolic college, wherein the supreme authority resides. Paul was alerted to this problem by a group of conservative Council Fathers, who finally persuaded him of LG’s destructive potential: “Pope Paul, realizing finally that he had been deceived, broke down and wept.” Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, p. 232.”

(Ferrara et al., The Great Façade, p. 88 n.114)

Of course, Bellisario does not interact with Carroll’s presentation itself. Carroll wrote:

Surprisingly, no one saw this distortion more clearly than a pope — John XXIII, who called, yes, a council to correct it. His Vatican II (1962-65) aimed to restore the “collegiality’’ of bishops (the pope only as “first among equals’’); to reinvigorate local expressions of belief (hence worship in the vernacular); and to retrieve the “priesthood of all believers’’ as a check on clericalism. Vatican II was a step toward the democratizing of the Catholic Church, which is why Catholic fundamentalists have been seeking to undo it ever since. Fundamentalist-in-chief has been Joseph Ratzinger.

This claim relates to what Carroll believes was an attempted emphasis of restoring balance and removing distortion. The lessening of the papacy, as I had put it, had to do primarily with a matter of balance and emphasis. The goal was not to eliminate the papacy or to re-defined dogma, though apparently the article itself or my blog post about it provided the starting material for Bellisario’s fertile imagination.

Bellisario’s boorish post continues:

I find it quite amusing that a Protestant E-Apologist like Turretin Fan wants to be known for citing the most liberal dissenting historians and theologians to substantiate his attacks on the Catholic Church.

I didn’t endorse everything that Carroll said, and whether or not Carroll is a liberal dissenter (I’ll let him answer that charge himself) does not affect the truth of his claims. I’ve cited to a range of writers both Roman Catholic and not, ranging from William Whitaker to Joseph Ratzinger, as can be quickly established by perusing my blog. Bellisario seems eager to dismiss, but he can’t seem to find a way to pull off a counter-argument that’s logical and supported by evidence.

Notice how he continues:

I guess it is easy to see why Turretin Fan always gets his facts wrong concerning Catholicism. When you choose to keep company with dissenters, then you will have a dissenters disposition. When you are used to having heroes like Martin Luther, who also left the priesthood to engage in unsavory affairs, then it is no surprise that he looks for similar company like ex-priests today who constantly attack the Catholic Church like James Carroll.

Could there be a comment more full of obvious rhetorical garbage and ad hominem than that? Rather than point out any specific error, Bellisario attempts to refer to some established pattern of error. The problem, of course, is that Bellisario hasn’t established such a pattern – and even if he did, he still ought to try to show that a particular statement itself is in error, rather than relying such an alleged pattern.

Ah well, the discerning reader can judge for themselves.


Rescuing Roman Catholicism from Papalism?

April 5, 2010

James Carroll has an interesting article in the Boston Globe, in which he argues that Roman Catholicism needs to be rescued from what he perceives as Roman Catholic fundamentalism (link to article). Carroll views Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, as a sort of ringleaders of excessive emphasis on the papacy.

Carroll makes some often-overlooked observations. For example, he correctly relates the historical relation between the definition of papal infallibility and the loss of Rome’s political power in the 19th century:

The pope was a supreme ruler only over the papal territories in Italy, and when he lost those in the humiliations of 1870, Catholic bishops rallied to him at the simultaneous Vatican Council I. His political collapse led to his spiritual elevation, with the bishops only then promulgating papal infallibility. Paradoxically, the pope’s claim to supreme Catholic authority, even over a council, rests on the council’s declaration.

Of course, Carroll’s comments will be (probably already have been) quickly dismissed without serious discussion by the most zealous of Rome’s contemporary apologists. For them, the emphasis on Rome’s distinctive element of the papacy is a positive, not a negative.

Nevertheless, Carroll’s sentiments express the attitudes, more or less, of the conciliarists who opposed ultramontanism (“beyond the mountains” – a reference to the fact that the bishop of Rome is geographically distanced from many of the “Roman Catholic” churches). However, at least for now, the ultramontanists have won out. While Carroll views Vatican II as providing a measure of conciliarist reform, Carroll rightly notes that the current papacy (as well as the previous one, in which Ratzinger had influence) have sought to push ultramontanism to new heights while undoing any lessening of the papacy brought about by Vatican II.

Obviously, I don’t endorse Carroll’s opinions, but his comments raise the kinds of questions that Rome’s apologists are uncomfortable addressing: the problems of the real historical development of the papacy.


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