Archive for the ‘Kelly Wilson’ Category

Bellisario on Contraception (Again!)

April 1, 2009

Contraception seems to be a very hot topic for Mr. Bellisario, as he has yet another post on it on his blog (link).

Let’s examine what he says:

Turretin Fan has posted an audio response to my earlier article on contraception. He claims that since there are not any anathemas attached to the statements by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church on the teaching of contraception, that it is not infallible doctrine. The teaching that I posted earlier is the only “officially” held position that the Catholic Church has on contraception. First off there does not have to be an anathema attached to a teaching in order for it to be infallible. This is a qualifier that Turretin Fan has invented, since the Church has never taught that in order for something to be doctrine or dogma that there must be an anathema attached to it. Where Tf gets this I have no idea. It sounds like he presents an “Ace in the hole” here, but there is nothing that substantiates this undocumented statement of his.

Yes, Mr. Bellisario actually wrote that!

I suppose that Mr. Bellisario thinks I invented this:

The Pope must attach the sanction of anathema to the decree, either explicitly or implicitly. In other words, since obedience to superiors is necessary for salvation, the anathema means that the representative of Christ on earth intends to avail himself of the full height of his God-given authority and command our intellectual assent.


Of course, that applies specifically to papal infallibility, but a similar concept exists with respect to conciliar infallibility.

Perhaps, as well, Mr. Bellisario thinks I invented this:

The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. 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; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.


“Defined no dogma at all” and was a “merely pastoral council.” Inconvenient for Bellisario? Yes. Invented by TurretinFan? No.

Don’t get me wrong: Vatican II is still viewed within Catholicism (leaving aside the sedavacantists and similar groups) as valid and binding. Indeed the same source I quoted immediately above says: “It is a necessary task to defend the Second Vatican Council against Msgr. Lefebvre, as valid, and as binding upon the Church.” And, of course, this source is the same person who is now pope.

I almost stopped my response to Mr. Bellisario’s ignorance at this point, but then thought that perhaps I should make clear the link between defining a doctrine and infallibility, though perhaps poor Mr. Bellisario will think I invented this as well:

It has been sometimes said that it is impossible to know whether or not a theological definition has been issued; but very few words are needed to show that the assertion is without foundation. At times, doubt will remain about the definitive nature of a decree, but as a rule no possibility of doubt is consistent with the terminology of a definitive decree. Thus in the doctrinal teaching of a general council, anathema attached to condemned errors is a certain sign of an infallible definition.


Bellisario continued:

Turretin says I cannot defend my position in regards to the Church’s teaching on contraception. I have demonstrated quite clearly that the Catholic Church has one clear teaching on this subject. (Contraception, more specifically the use of condoms). Let us dive into this empty argument provided by Turretin Fan. He claims that he has proven that there is disunity within the Catholic Church. My point is that there is no division within the “official” teaching of the Church. I do not know whether Turretin understands this or not, but individual bishops do not make up Catholic doctrine. He claims that since there is disagreement among bishops of the Church, that that in itself defeats Rome’s claims of the infallible Catholic Magisterium. This however does not prove that at all.

Or to paraphrase Bellisario, “I don’t care what TurretinFan’s point is, I want to argue over something else!” This is a great example of the use of straw man tactics that we see over and over again from Bellisario. Mr. Bellisario seems to be unable (or unwilling) to address the points I actually raise:

1) That the teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae is not a doctrinal definition and consequently is considered “infallible” teaching within Romanism; and

2) The fact that Humanae Vitae teaches what it teaches doesn’t prevent, in practice, the bishops of his church openly holding to positions that disagree with Mr. Bellisario’s position.

Bellisario continued:

It is my argument that just because there are many bishops who refuse to follow the Magisterium’s clear “official” teaching on this subject, doesn’t negate the authority of the Magisterium, nor its effectiveness in teaching clear unifying doctrine. All it does is demonstrate that there are and always have been those who dissent from “official” Church teaching. So no, Turretin Fan has not demonstrated that there is disunity in the Catholic Church that upsets the authority and clearly held doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Magisterium can promulgate the truth all day long, yet if bishops refuse to follow, Turretin attaches the blame on the Magisterium and claims that it doesn’t solve doctrinal problems. This is clearly nonsense. Yes we have many clear examples of bishops rejecting Church teaching. So what? As I stated before, there have been times in the past where many bishops bought into heresies. The Church Magisterium however always held fast to true doctrine and dogma.

Notice how the straw man comes out again, this time attacked as “clearly nonsense.” Well, you know, I’m sure my position can sound like nonsense when it is misrepresented by Bellisario, but my actual position is something with which Bellisario cannot argue (as usual).

Bellisario continued:

Turretin Fan readily admits in his audio response that he never claimed to prove that “official” Catholic teaching was divided on this issue. It is quite obvious that any Catholic who wants to remain faithful to the Church will follow “official” teachings and not individual bishop’s dissenting views. Turretin Fan’s argument does not upset the Magisterium as he claims it does. What would he have Rome do, go out and hunt everyone down who dissents from “official” Church teaching and off them? That may not be a bad idea….I am joking here… Well Rome has essentially done this doctrinally in her documents. In my next post I will address the teaching of the Church and whether or not the teaching on contraception by the Church is an infallible doctrine.

Ah, at last Mr. Bellisario pays some limited attention to what I was saying. Yes, I never claimed to prove that “official” Catholic teaching was divided on this issue.

Mr. Bellisario jokes about hunting down those who dissent, but these folks are “dissenting” on an issue that has not been defined. That’s something that Mr. Bellisario doesn’t seem to get. There are really two issues here:

1) The issues Bellisario has identified as allegedly wrong positions by bishops of his own church (bishops that still hold their office and openly teach what they teach) are not contrary to any infallible teaching of his church (though they are contrary to things that Benedict XVI has said, and they are arguably contrary to what the CCC and Humanae Vitae said); and

2) Whether or not this matter has been defined, there is doctrinal and moral disunity within Catholicism, despite the organizational unity.

The second point is really the main point of this discussion, whereas the first point is carry-over from the previous debacle where Gene Bridges schooled Mr. Bellisario on the issue of contraception.

Bellisario continued:

I also got a chuckle once again that Turretin creates a “Mr. Bellisario vs the bishop” scenario instead of “official” Church teaching vs the bishop scenario, which would be a much more accurate headline. Be that as it may, Turretin Fan has only demonstrated that there are and always will be dissenters in the Church. He also readily admits that there is clear “official” Catholic Church teaching on this matter, which defeats his argument trying to tear down the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In my next article I will go through the wording of “official” church documents and demonstrate that this moral teaching cannot be changed, and therefore falls into the category of Church doctrine.

Again, we see more straw man arguments. Although he noted above (apparently) that it is not my goal with this argument to “tear down the Magisterium of the Catholic Church” – now Mr. Bellisario claims that he has defeated this argument that I haven’t presented. It seems Mr. Bellisario has struck on the perfect way to win arguments: argue with points that the other side doesn’t either present or defend.


P.S. For more on the infallibility issue and Humanae Vitae, check out my friendly Romanist opponent, Kelly Wilson at Kakistocrat (link).

UPDATE: Bellisario simply couldn’t get enough of this topic and posted YET AGAIN! (link) I’ll address his comments below:

I really got a kick out of Turretin’s last post where he tries, unsuccessfully to substantiate, that for the Catholic church to define something infallibly it must use anathemas to do so. Anyone who knows anything about Catholicism knows this is simply not true. Turretin thought it would clever to post on the specific use of papal proclamations which we haven’t even discussed so far. We are not arguing over one document as TF is suggesting. If you see my original post i used several. Then he quotes something on Vatican II which we also haven’t even addressed specifically, but TF likes to use Red Herrings to hide his idiotic arguments. I guess he didn’t notice that many of the documents I soured were not from VCII. I won’t waste any more time on the foolish Turretin Fan because he is not rational.

Poor Bellisario, his ignorance exposed, lashes out. It’s not the first time he’s made this kind of comment and it won’t be the last. Since he doesn’t actually address the issues in this portion of his rant, there’s no need for further response from me.

Bellisario continued:

It is unfortunate but I do not have the time to keep engaging with bloggers like himself because he will just lead you around in circular arguments, which is another favorite tactic of his. He figures if he writes enough nonsense that he will wear his opponent down and then he can claim victory. Well he has successfully worn me down, and yet once again he has not proven that the Catholic church is divided on the issue of contraception when it comes to “official” Church teaching. He keeps saying that he doens’t intend to do so, yet what is his point? It is to try and prove that the Catholic Church is not unified in its teaching regarding contraception.

As noted above, this is Bellisario’s constant retreat: the straw man. Sometimes, I’m not sure that Bellisario knows it is a straw man, but after it has been pointed out and he still repeats the same false characterizations you have to figure he’s realized he cannot defeat the argument presented, so he’s off to try to argue against something else.

For my actual point, see above.

Bellisario concluded:

He is trying to argue this from an untenable positions, because he refuses to acknowledge “official” Catholic teaching in favor of individual opinions. That is why i had to emphasize that there is a “official” Church teaching that all Catholics are obliged to follow. this would hold even if the teaching was not infallible. Turetin also does not understand this either. He refuses to acknowledge that individual bishops have no bearing on the “official” Church teaching, and so Catholics who follow the “official” Church teaching are not divided. The two unfortunately are synonymous to the pitiful “Reformed” apologist. I will tear myself away from this and now focus on the Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality, and more specifically contraception. I am now working on a response to Kelly, who stopped by my blog and sided with me on part of my post against TF, yet challenged me on whether or not the Church has infallibly defined this teaching on human sexuality. My argument will be that is is infallibly defined. Thanks for reading.

As noted above, this is just a response to Bellisario’s straw man. He complains about a lack of time. One solution would be for him to spend less of his time on straw men.


Response to Kelly Wilson regarding the Mother of Christ

September 20, 2008

Kelly Wilson at Kakistocrat has provided a post entitled, “Mary, Ever-Virgin (I).” (link to post)

Mr. Wilson provides some rebuttal with respect to typical arguments against the theory of Mary’s perpetual virginity (arguments presented by his opponent, Mr. Schroeder), which I will address in turn.

(1) Opponent’s argument “Matthew 1:18’s “before they [Joseph and Mary] came together,” is evidence of Mary and Joseph’s eventual consummation.”

(a) Mr. Wilson’s rebuttal:

In fact, all the tense of this phrase means is that after they were betrothed, but before they were allowed to be sexually active, Mary was found to be pregnant. Recognizing this, the Jerusalem Bible translates the passage in the following way: ”His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came to live together she was found to be with child…” Check a commentary.

(b) I respond:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

The primary issue here is whether the word for “come together” (συνέρχομαι) refers to sexual union. Here we need to be cautious. The word does encompass a range of meanings, some of which are clearly not sexual union but rather the assembling of a mob or the like. The context, however, in this case is determinative, for we are not speaking of a crowd but of an espoused (betrothed) couple.

Parallel usage in Scripture does indicate that this term is a euphemism for the sexual act:

1 Corinthians 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

There is, however, also a secondary issue. Strictly as a matter of grammar and logic, the fact that the verse says “before they came together,” may not imply that they eventually came together. Instead, it could point simply to the expected course. (More on this, below.)

(2) Opponent’s argument “Matthew 1:24’s “Joseph knew her not until” foreshadows a time whe Joseph will “know” Mary.”

(a) Mr. Wilson’s response:

-In fact, any good commentary will tell you that all that what is being said here is that Joseph and Mary did not engage in sexual intercourse during the period which preceded the birth of Jesus. Nothing is said about after, simply during. To quote the Eerdmans Biblical Commentary (not a Catholic source) we read that “it neither affirmed nor denied that she remained a virgin for her life.” Matthew has no interest in Mary’s perpetual virginity, and he is not commenting on it here. You can also consult Bloomberg or Gundry (Protestant commentators) if you like, both of whom agree.

To quote Jerusalem again: “He [Joseph] took his wife home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son…”

(b) I respond:

Matthew 1:24-25
24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

The Jerusalem Bible’s translation is obfuscatory. The above literal translation is much better. That’s not the primary point, however.

The primary point is that our (Reformed and even most other Protestants’) rule of faith is not commentators but Scripture. Thus, Eerdmans’ has spoken and the case is closed, is not our watchword.

A secondary point is that the phrase “knew her not until,” as a matter of strict logic conveys only information about what happened before Jesus’ birth. Thus, some commentators have felt justified in the kind of comments that Mr. Wilson has identified.

On the other hand, the words are not part of a syllogism in a logic textbook. They are part of a sentence in which it is mentioned that Joseph “took unto him his wife,” referring to Mary. In such a sentence, the most natural reading of the text is to view it as explaining the extent of Joseph’s deviation from ordinary marital relations, particularly in view of the larger context, and the comment in verse 18 (already discussed above) regarding the expectation (at a minimum) of future sexual union.

(3) Opponent’s argument “Matthew 1:25’s statement that Mary brought forth her firstborn suggests that later children were to follow.”

(a) Mr. Wilson’s response:

-Not so. Consider the following: Fitzmyer speaks of an ancient funerary, dated 5 B.C. recalling the death of a Jewish woman. It reads: ‘In the pangs of giving birth to a firstborn child, Fate brought me to the end of my life.’

Protestant commentators (Morris, Green, Nolland) all with their knowledge of the Biblical languages (do you envy them Mr. Schroeder?) confirm that the passage makes no statement about later children.

(b) I respond:

I think Mr. Wilson’s comment here is essentially correct. That is to say, “firstborn” (πρωτοτόκος) doesn’t in itself indicate that Mary had other children. Furthermore, the emphasis in the text is on Mary’s virginity prior to Christ’s birth, and consequently “firstborn” serves to emphasize that there were no children of Mary’s before Jesus, rather than to emphasize the existence Jesus’ brethren.

On the other hand, given our knowledge that Jesus had brethren, we may view the use of the term “firstborn” to emphasize that from among the sons of Mary, Jesus was the first (since those living at the time might have recalled the fact that Jesus was not an only child). In other words, while “firstborn” is not compelling evidence against perpetual virginity, it fits slightly better into the non-perpetual-virginity theory than the perpetual-virginity thoery.

(4) Other arguments

Mr. Wilson does not address the other arguments that are normally presented against the assertions of Mary’s perpetual virginity, such as the arguments related to the fact that Jesus had “brethren” and the suspicious point of entry of legends of perpetual virginity into “tradition.”

Ultimately, however, the matter reduces to this: Scripture is more easily reconciled with the non-perpetual theory than with the perpetual theory. The non-perpetual theory is not only harmonious with a natural reading of Matthew 1 and with the accounts of Jesus’ brethren, but also with Paul’s teaching regarding proper marital relations. In contrast, the perpetual virginity hypothesis has no reasonable exegetical Scriptural basis, and very limited and suspicious traditional basis in the early church era.

I’m not sure if Mr. Wilson plans to provide a part II, but if so, I will be looking forward to it.


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