Clueless as usual…
On those “Pitfalls of False Logic”:
A Response to the Blogger Mundabor on the Papacy
On Nov. 5, 2015, the English blogger Mundabor published a post entitled, “Keeping The Faith: The Pitfalls Of False Logic”. As is his usual style, Mundabor offers a mix of verbal assault coupled with ignorance of Catholicism, combining a contemptuous language with plenty of rash claims devoid of any actual Catholic theology. This is confirmed by the fact that he does not even attempt to quote any Catholic authority to back up anything he says. Absent this, what he says is simply his opinion, although even that would be fine if at least it were properly informed and correct. Alas, it isn’t.
Here is the full text of Mundabor’s short blog post:
I read around of people saying they might, or will, lose the faith if Francis releases some heretical document, let alone tries to proclaim some heretical wannabe “dogma”.
The logic is absurd. Let me explain why.
The Truth of God and His Church does not rest on the Pope’s authority (or infallibility). On the contrary, the authority and infallibility of the Pope derive from, and depend upon, the Truth that sustains them. Truth is an unchangeable, unassailable fact. It is nothing to do with human error, or heresy, or whatever other abomination a Pope may sully himself with.
You don’t say that you don’t believe in the exactness of mathematics because your teacher of math is an idiot. Rather, you know your teacher is an idiot exactly because he is at odds with an unchangeable fact, the rules of mathematics.
The Pope is not, nor was he ever supposed to be, the Truth. Christ is. And note the expression, that God does not have the Truth, but He isthe Truth. As a result, Truth is as unassailable, unchangeable and eternal as God is.
Your Pope may be an illiterate in all matters of Catholicism, but then you’ll know you have an astonishingly illiterate Pope. Or he may be in conflict with Truth, and then you’ll know you have to deal with a heretical Pope.
Truth cannot contradict itself. The rules of mathematics cannot change to please your stupid teacher. They must remain identical, unchangeably true to themselves exactly as the God who made them. If the teacher tries to teach you different rules, he has no authority on you even if he has been invested with the role of teacher. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the Pope.
Is your belief in the exactness of the rules of mathematics strong? Quite, I would say. If the stupid teacher tried to persuade you of what you know can only be wrong you would immediately recognise the teacher as an idiot, because you would not doubt for a second the rules in which you believe.
How, then, would you doubt God’s Truth, which belongs to an order infinitely superior to even the rules of mathematics? Why would you doubt God’s Truth, whilst you unquestioningly believe in rules that are merely a derivative product, a pale reflection of God’s immutable Truth?
Let Francis and his minions go to hell in any way God allows them to.
But you, you will keep the faith.
(Mundabor, “Keeping The Faith: The Pitfalls Of False Logic”, Nov. 5, 2015; italics in original.)
There are plenty of half-truths in this text (and those are the most dangerous kind of falsehoods); but has Mundabor correctly presented Catholic teaching on the papacy here? Far from it.
Mundabor is essentially making the papacy into nothing more than (at best) an honorary office, one that is essentially indistinguishable from the office a pastor occupies in the minds of Protestants: a nice guy perhaps, but he’s only authoritative insofar as he teaches the truth, with no real authority being tied to him or his office at all, except perhaps insofar as the faithful are willing to concede him any. Here our English blogger betrays the fact that he has no grasp of the Catholic notion of genuine ecclesiastical authority, in particular with regard to the papacy.
First, let’s respond to Mundabor’s thesis that you don’t have to listen to the “Pope” (for such he believes Francis to be) “if he’s an idiot”. We will do so simply by quoting what the Popes themselves have taught on this issue, because, believe it or not, after 2000 years, there have actually been a few cases of true Popes who were not that bright intellectually or unworthy morally speaking. This, however, did not mean they were not genuine Vicars of Christ, or that their authority was in any way diminished, nor, a fortiori, that their teachings or decisions could be dismissed or were optional for the faithful:
But if one wishes to search out the true source of all the evils which We have already lamented, as well as those which We pass over for the sake of brevity, he will surely find that from the start it has ever been a dogged contempt for the Church’s authority. The Church, as St. Leo the Great teaches, in well-ordered love accepts Peter in the See of Peter, and sees and honors Peter in the person of his successor the Roman pontiff. Peter still maintains the concern of all pastors in guarding their flocks, and his high rank does not fail even in an unworthy heir. In Peter then, as is aptly remarked by the same holy Doctor, the courage of all is strengthened and the help of divine grace is so ordered that the constancy conferred on Peter through Christ is conferred on the apostles through Peter. It is clear that contempt of the Church’s authority is opposed to the command of Christ and consequently opposes the apostles and their successors, the Church’s ministers who speak as their representatives. He who hears you, hears me; and he who despises you, despises me [Lk 10:16]; and the Church is the pillar and firmament of truth, as the apostle Paul teaches [1 Tim 3:15]. In reference to these words St. Augustine says: “Whoever is without the Church will not be reckoned among the sons, and whoever does not want to have the Church as mother will not have God as father.”
Therefore, venerable brothers, keep all these words in mind and often reflect on them. Teach your people great reverence for the Church’s authority which has been directly established by God. Do not lose heart. With St. Augustine We say that “all around us the waters of the flood are roaring, that is, the multiplicity of conflicting teaching. We are not in the flood but it surrounds us. We are hard pressed but not overwhelmed, buffeted but not submerged.”
(Pope Leo XII, Encyclical Ubi Primum, nn. 22-23; underlining added.)
All who defend the faith should aim to implant deeply in your faithful people the virtues of piety, veneration, and respect for this supreme See of Peter. Let the faithful recall the fact that Peter, Prince of Apostles is alive here and rules in his successors, and that his office does not fail even in an unworthy heir. Let them recall that Christ the Lord placed the impregnable foundation of his Church on this See of Peter [Mt 16:18] and gave to Peter himself the keys of the kingdom of Heaven [Mt 16:19]. Christ then prayed that his faith would not fail, and commanded Peter to strengthen his brothers in the faith [Lk 27:32]. Consequently the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, holds a primacy over the whole world and is the true Vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christians.
Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, nn. 16-17; underlining added.)
…the Church has received from on high a promise which guarantees her against every human weakness. What does it matter that the helm of the symbolic barque has been entrusted to feeble hands, when the Divine Pilot stands on the bridge, where, though invisible, He is watching and ruling? Blessed be the strength of his arm and the multitude of his mercies!
(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, March 20, 1900; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 349; underlining added.)
Does this sound like Mundabor to you? Not exactly, huh? Clearly, our English blogger promotes contempt for the Church’s legitimate authority (remember, he insists Francis is the legitimate authority) and ignores — or is entirely ignorant of — Catholic magisterial doctrine on the authority and indefectibility of the Holy See and the sees in communion with it. Mundabor believes that the Church is not at all built on the rock of St. Peter, unshakable and immovable, but is subject to the human weakness of each Petrine successor, in which case the faithful have to figure it out on their own. This, however, is like Protestantism, a “house built on sand” (cf. Mt 7:26-27).
Canon George Smith summed up and explained the Catholic understanding of the Church’s authority very nicely in an article printed in April of 1935. Have a look:
It is important, I think, to distinguish two aspects of teaching authority. It may be regarded as an authority in dicendo or an authority in jubendo, that is, as an authority which commands intellectual assent or as a power which demands obedience; and the two aspects are by no means inseparable. I can imagine an authority which constitutes a sufficient motive to command assent, without however being able to impose belief as a moral obligation. A professor learned in some subject upon which I am ignorant (let me confess – astronomy) – may tell me wonderful things about the stars. He may be to my knowledge the leading authority – virtually infallible – on his own subject; but I am not bound to believe him. I may be foolish, I may be sceptical; but the professor does not possess that authority over me which makes it my bounden duty to accept his word. On the other hand the school-boy who dissents, even internally, from what his teacher tells him, is insufferably conceited, and if he disagrees openly he is insubordinate and deserves to be punished. By virtue of his position as authoritative teacher the schoolmaster has a right to demand the obedient assent of his pupils; not merely because he is likely to know more about the subject than those over whom he is set – he may be incompetent – but because he is deputed by a legitimate authority to teach them.
However, let us not exaggerate. Ad impossibile nemo tenetur. The human mind cannot accept statements which are absurd, nor can it be obliged to do so. A statement can be accepted by the mind only on condition that it is credible: that it involves no evident contradiction, and that the person who vouches for its truth is known to possess the knowledge and veracity which make it worthy of credence; and in the absence of such conditions the obligation of acceptance ceases. On the other hand, where a legitimately constituted teaching authority exists their absence will not lightly be presumed. On the contrary, obedience to authority (considered as authority in jubendo) will predispose to the assumption that they are present.
Turning now to the Church, and with this distinction still in mind, we are confronted by an institution to which Christ, the Word Incarnate, has entrusted the office of teaching all men: “Going therefore teach ye all nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mt 28:19-20]. Herein lies the source of the obligation to believe what the Church teaches. The Church possesses the divine commission to teach, and hence there arises in the faithful a moral obligation to believe, which is founded ultimately, not upon the infallibility of the Church, but upon God’s sovereign right to the submission and intellectual allegiance (rationabile obsequium) of His creatures: “He that believeth…shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned” [Mk 16:16]. It is the God-given right of the Church to teach, and therefore it is the bounden duty of the faithful to believe.
But belief, however obligatory, is possible only on condition that the teaching proposed is guaranteed as credible. And therefore Christ added to His commission to teach the promise of the divine assistance: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” [Mt 28:20]. This divine assistance implies that, at any rate within a certain sphere, the Church teaches infallibly; and consequently, at least within those limits, the credibility of her teaching is beyond question. When the Church teaches infallibly the faithful know that what she teaches belongs, either directly or indirectly, to the depositum fidei committed to her by Christ; and their faith thus becomes grounded, immediately or mediately, upon the divine authority. But the infallibility of the Church does not, precisely as such, render belief obligatory. It renders her teaching divinely credible. What makes belief obligatory is her divine commission to teach.
…Therefore, whether her teaching is guaranteed by infallibility or not, the Church is always the divinely appointed teacher and guardian of revealed truth, and consequently the supreme authority of the Church, even when it does not intervene to make an infallible and definitive decision on matters of faith or morals, has the right, in virtue of the divine commission, to command the obedient assent of the faithful. In the absence of infallibility the assent thus demanded cannot be that of faith, whether Catholic or ecclesiastical; it will be an assent of a lower order proportioned to its ground or motive. But whatever name be given to it – for the present we may call it belief – it is obligatory; obligatory not because the teaching is infallible – it is not – but because it is the teaching of the divinely appointed Church. It is the duty of the Church, as [Cardinal] Franzelin has pointed out, not only to teach revealed doctrine but also to protect it, and therefore the Holy See “may prescribe as to be followed or proscribe as to be avoided theological opinions or opinions connected with theology, not only with the intention of infallibly deciding the truth by a definitive pronouncement, but also – without any such intention – merely for the purpose of safeguarding the security of Catholic doctrine.” If it is the duty of the Church, even though non-infallibly, to “prescribe or proscribe”doctrines to this end, then it is evidently also the duty of the faithful to accept them or reject them accordingly.
(Canon George Smith, “Must I Believe It?”, The Clergy Review, vol. 9 [April, 1935], pp. 296-309; italics in original; underlining added.)
You will want to read Canon Smith’s article in its entirety. It is a real gem clarifying an issue that has perplexed many since the Modernist takeover after the death of Pope Pius XII.
As for Mundabor, he has a history of promoting pseudo-theology based largely on half-truths, emotion, subjective ideas, and desired conclusions (his first premise in every argument is, “Sedevacantism is false”, no matter the evidence and no matter how absurd the ultimate conclusion). Some time ago Mundabor had a virtual skirmish with Louie Verrecchio on whether the “New Mass” was legitimate for “real Catholics” to attend. We chimed in and showed from real Catholic theology that neither Verrecchio nor Mundabor were taking a genuinely Catholic position on the issue, the driver of which was their shared desire to avoid the sedevacantist conclusion. Have a look — it is an eye opener as to the theological “expertise” Mundabor brings to the discussion:
For quite some time, Mundabor has proudly displayed “Heretical Popes” as one of his blog’s menu options. Yet when you contrast such an absurd and self-contradictory idea as a “heretical Pope” with real Catholic teaching and thought, you get a different picture. See for yourself:
- The “Heretical” Popes, Part 1
- Bad Popes vs. “Heretical” Popes
- Vatican I on what would happen if a Pope were to become a Heretic
For someone who has as big of a mouth as Mundabor, he knows precious little about the subject matter he pontificates about. How embarrassing.
If you want to know the Catholic position on the papacy, read real Catholic theology — found in approved pre-Vatican II theological manuals, catechisms, magisterial documents. Quit trying to outsource your theology to some blogger or favorite lawyer. And don’t outsource it to Novus Ordo Watch either — we merely exist to point you to the right sources. Novus Ordo Watch is no substitute for studying Catholic teaching; we intend merely to be the unworthy servant who directs you away from error and to Catholic truth, to the sources where it can be found: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).
Sorry, Mundabor, but you cannot “keep the Faith” if you have no idea what the Catholic Faith is, specifically with regard to the papacy. The real pitfall to watch out for, then, isn’t some false logic, it’s a clueless false Catholic blogger.