Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bellisario on Contraception (Again!)

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.
(source)

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.
(source)

"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.
(source)

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.

-TurretinFan

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.

-TurretinFan

15 comments:

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan, would you agree with the statement that because someone has generally been factually at odds with a body of teaching, that same person can be right every now and then?

Turretinfan said...

Even if someone has generally been factually at odds with a body of teaching, that same person could be right every now and then, under the "broken clock is right twice daily" principle.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Would you agree that due to a person often being factually at odds with a body of teaching, that person's opinion should undergo greater scrutiny than otherwise, or should s/he be given a blank slate each time?

Turretinfan said...

It seems prudent to be cautious when one believes that a source has frequently been in error.

Alexander Greco said...

Regarding authoritative interpretation, would you consider the US Supreme Court to be of greater authority in its interpretation of the Constitution than a group like the ACLU?

Turretinfan said...

That's a very interesting question. The way America works, the Supereme Court's interpretation matters more (has more de facto authority) than the ACLU's.

But, of course, I would assert that what matters (de jure) is what the Constitution actually says: i.e. that the Constitution has an objective, ascertainable meaning (or it has an ambiguity that cannot be resolved).

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Certainly. However, would it be fair to state that you would agree that the Supreme Court carries much more authority in its interpretation than the ACLU, yet the Court might consider the ACLU's interpretation, as well as many others, when viewing their amicus curiae briefs? Yet the mere fact that the Court entertains amicus curiae briefs, this does not compell the Court to accept them, does it not?

Turretinfan said...

As I noted above, the way it works is that what the Court says goes. However, the Constitution was written in (relatively) plain English and one does not have to have a secret "Supreme Court" decoder wring in order to figure out what it means. So, the meaning is an objective reality, not simply the whim of those with power.

If I understand your question about briefs correctly, you are talking about the way that 3rd parties to a lawsuit can be invited to have their say about the legal and even constitutional issues.

The way it works, as far as I know, is that those are just for the information of the Court, where - in theory - the Court learns from the information and arrives at the correct conclusion: i.e. arrives at the objective reality.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Turretinfan, I'm not trying to venture off on a discourse concerning Constitutional Law. The point I am making is that there are more authoritative bodies which should be consulted when deliberating over the meaning of a particular teaching of Catholicism. While individual theologians are useful, I would state that bodies like the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith would certainly carry more authority. How do you view it?

Turretinfan said...

Obviously, Catholicism has something of a hierarchical structure to it. Popes and general councils are at the top of the structure whereas the laity are at the bottom of the structure.

As I laid out in one of the posts in this series, if a layman says "Catholicism teaches 'x'" and a bishop says "Catholicism teaches 'y'" - all things being equal, I'd tend to view the bishop as the more official spokesman for Catholicism, since he is part of the magisterium.

Before we continue with your questions, would you tell me if you agree?

Alexander Greco said...

I'm not sure that I agree with your characterization of the structure of the Church.

In general deference should be given to the bishop, but that being said the bishop is accountable to the teachings of the Church. It can also be the case that the bishop is objectively wrong on issue A, whereas the layman is right on issue A. In other words, while you must consider what the bishop is teaching because of his office, you cannot simply stop there. When provided with teaching from a body more adequately fit to address the particular issue, deference must be paid to them. Would you agree?

Alexander Greco said...

I did not intend to state that the layman is more fit to address the issue as opposed to the bishop. I was making reference to the CDF.

Alexander Greco said...

I'll have to call it a night TF. Time for bed.

Have a peaceful night.

Turretinfan said...

If it were just "bishop so-and-so says 'x'" and "layman so-and-so says 'y'" one would naturally tend to think that 'x' is more likely to be "the real position" than 'y'.

But, since bishops are fallible, laymen (and other bishops too, no doubt) appeal to a higher authority than the bishop's say-so if they want to disagree with the bishop.

Turretinfan said...

P.H. - Got your comments, I think I'll respond in a separate post when I can find some time.

-TurretinFan