More Peace, Less Pugnacity: A Response to Introibo’s Addendum

This is a response to Intoibo’s addendum which was itself a response to my wife’s post “Of Apologetical Lawyers and Theological Laymen.” 

Introibo begins his response by saying the following:

“It’s not often that I put an addendum on my post. The last time I did so was in 2019, if memory serves me correctly. Since last week, I’ve been hit by a barrage of blather by HAs accusing me of “arguing fallaciously and reasoning poorly.” That particular quote comes from Laura Robbins, wife of Robert Robbins, who runs the HA website “Catholic Eclipsed.” Ironically, it is Mrs. Robbins who is guilty of arguing fallaciously and reasoning poorly. Her husband touts his Masters Degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America as proof of his expertise in logic and is offended that I would call his understanding of logic into question (in the comments below). Robert should be well aware of what his wife writes and posts on the website to check for grammatical errors (if any) and to make sure the content is solid. Therefore, unless Robert allows things to be posted without checking for serious errors, it is reasonable to presume he read it and saw nothing wrong.”

I am sorry if I have given anyone the impression that I am on some kind of pedestal because I hold a few degrees in philosophy. Though I do mention the fact on my BIO page, that is only to show that I have a basic competency in reading, researching, writing, and, yes, even logic. I’ve spent too much inside the classrooms and halls of universities to know education hardly happens in them anymore. Whatever knowledge and academic skills I’ve acquired by my education could have been gained within a quarter of the time with a library card and an inquisitive mind. Education doesn’t so much happen at school anymore as much as information downloading. I was lucky enough to be a philosophy major, so classroom dialectic discussion did happen, but this so seldom as to be forgettable. But this brings me to the point. As intellectually shallow as my education was at the university studying philosophy, my brief sojourn in law school was even more so. 

My wife’s post in criticism of lawyers as such and Introibo in particular was not meant to be a slander of the profession or the man. I wanted to be a lawyer myself, and had my kidney disease not played mind tricks on me, playing with my moods and preventing me from enjoying my time in law school, I probably would have become a lawyer—such was and is my respect and esteem for the profession, and I dare say my admiration as well. 

But what Laura Robbins says in her post is absolutely true. The law is not concerned with what is true, but what is expedient, or what will win the decision of the court. An up and coming lawyer who is bent on the defense of the truth at all costs will lose every single case he tries to argue, because judges don’t care about truth—just look at the cases that came out of the 2020 Presidential pseudo-election. I don’t blame the lawyers. I don’t really blame the judges, who are just veteran lawyers. I blame the culture.

Does Introibo not care about the truth because he is a lawyer? Of course not! But the point I believe Laura was making is that Introibo, along with all lawyers who want to be successful at law—and I am assuming Introibo is successful, as I have no doubt he is—must play by the rules of the game in order to win. But by doing so, and this is the point of Laura’s criticism, there is inculcated a habit of mind which is most certainly unavoidable. There are virtues to this habit of mind, to be sure. I am speaking of the pugnacity of spirit in the lawyer, the bulldog mentality, which says that one is as virtuous as he is vicious, and which is the sine quo non of the lawyer profession, but which is, in the ultimate analysis, the very reverse virtue which is required for the discovery of truth.

You see, truth when being sought must be wooed like a woman, not fought with like a gladiator. There’s a reason why it is called philo-sophia and not mákha-sophia. The truth-seeker is in love with the truth, which is why he seeks Him out in the first place. The fighter does not seek but is contented to pick up whatever is handy and bludgeon his combatant over the head until he surrenders. Truth is not discovered in a social vacuum, where the individual in his study, insulated from the world, has eureka after eureka moment all alone. Truth is discovered by discourse, by working out the terms and the logical connections in a dialectic give and take, abiding by rules of reason, to be sure, but discovered through a cooperation and surrender of one’s own petty opinions heretofore unproven or specious. That is how the truths of the Faith must be acquired, but that is not how they are presently, and we—all of us Catholic bloggers—are guilty of too much pugnacity when what should be our animation is a desire for peace. 

This, then, being the resolve of CatholicEclipsed, to seek out truth in the spirit of peace and not pugnacity, I publicly make apology to Introibo Esquire for allowing any slanderous remarks (perceived or in fact) to be published against his profession or his person, and I further resolve to redact any portion of text published here, when pointed out, which may be considered so slanderous. I have already done so on certain passages I believe went too far afield or which misrepresented the truth of what was trying to be communicated.  

CatholicEclipsed was envisioned as a website to disseminate authentic Catholicism and to expose the agents of darkness eclipsing the Faith. Slanders, or ill-considered rhetoric, errors known or suspected which go unquestioned, these only aid the enemy in darkening hearts and minds to the truths of Catholicism we all so earnestly long for. I resolve today neither to allow any moral misconduct or doctrinal error to be allowed on CatholicEclipsed. If I so allow, through my own frailty of mind or will, I ask you, gentle reader, to instruct me, that I may make amends. 

Now, if I may, I would like to address the substance of Introibo’s addendum as it touches upon doctrine. Introibo opines: 

“When a top theologian, like the great Salaverri, tells us the pope was not deciding something infallibly or closing off discussion altogether, you can bet that is the case. Why? Because the Magisterium checks to make sure, guided by the Holy Ghost, that nothing they write in their theology manuals contain any error in Faith and/or morals that will be used to train the priests (and future bishops) of the Church. Salaverri would have been censured and ordered to redact what he wrote under pain of suspension (and possibly excommunication). Laura Robbins believes de facto, in a Church that can’t teach correctly, and thereby defects. That’s not the Roman Catholic Church.” 

First of all, where does Salaverri tell us “the pope was not deciding something infallibly or closing off discussion altogether?” Because Salaverri used the word “preferred”?! The second claim of Introibo’s is rather gratuitous, that the Holy Ghost preserves theological manuals from containing error. Now, apparently, we are to believe that theological manuals are infallible, even where papal encyclicals are not, because a theological manual can be printed which says that mediated jurisdiction is merely an opinion, whereas a papal encyclical teaches it definitively! But, if Salaverri is correct, Pius XII could not have taught that mediated jurisdiction is definitely true—which he did—because it was just an opinion according to Salaverri. If Pius XII is right, Salaverri is wrong. If Salaverri is right, Pius XII is wrong. There is no middle term between right or wrong, false and true. The question is, who do we listen to, a single theologian or the universal teacher of the Catholic Church and, quite literally, the Vox Christi on Earth? I’ll let you decide that one.                   

And the claim that Laura Robbins believes in a Catholic Church that can defect because a theological manual contradicts what a Roman Pontiff teaches in an official organ of his magisterium is preposterous in the utter extreme. Where did all the apostate clerics at the Second Vatican Council attend seminary? What theology manuals did they use in seminary that were so orthodox and infallible as to lead the vast majority of them to defect from the faith? Come on, Introibo, you can do better than that. And to accuse my wife on such absurd grounds does not reflect well on your reasoning abilities. But, I am sure you had a long week of work at the law office which tired your mind, so I forgive the accusation, as I am sure my wife does, too. 

Finally, let us consider Introibo’s actual refutation proper of Laura’s post, which comes almost at the very end. (I skip over the few points which Introibo makes about the importance of theological censures, because it is irrelevant to the actual point Laura was making.) Introibo writes:       

“What does that mean? According to theologian Cartechini, it is “A truth unanimously held by all schools of theologians which is derived from revealed truth, but by more than one step of reasoning.” What censure is attached to [its] denial? Temerarious. What are the effects of such denial? Usually, mortal sin of temerity. Can a Catholic ever dissent and not sin? Proportionately grave reason can sometimes justify an individual who has carefully studied the evidence in dissenting from such a proposition..” Therefore, an approved theologian, like Salaverri, can dissent. He does not in fact do so, but even under the highest classification given, theologians CAN dissent and hold the opposite opinion, and the laity can follow their teaching.”

First, let me note that the above citation does not abide by the basic standards of scholarship. When content is quoted from a source as a direct quote, it is offset by quotation marks, used at the beginning just before the first quoted word and at end just after the last quoted word. Introibo has a stray quote mark within the supposedly quoted comment of Cartechini, so we are left wondering what words are Cartechini’s and what words are Introibo’s. Second, the Cartechini citation ends with a strange double dot punctuation. Perhaps the reader is supposed to take this for an ellipsis, but the standard scholarly practice is to use three dots, not two. So we are left wondering if there was in fact more that Cartechini had to say on the matter, or else Introibo’s fingers were just a little jittery from too much java, and accidentally typed an extra dot. Whatever the reasons for these typographical anomalies, “…[Introibo] should be well aware of what…[he] writes and posts on the website to check for grammatical errors (if any) and to make sure the content is solid.”    

What Introibo is saying here is that Salaverri was allowed to dissent (though he did not in fact do so) from the opinion that jurisdiction is mediated by the Roman Pontiff. But Introibo here is really just talking past what Laura was saying in her post, which was that mediated jurisdiction was not an opinion or open to debate anymore because Pius XII settled the matter in an encyclical letter. The quote that Introibo provides does not speak to dissenting from a papal teaching but dissenting from the opinion of theologians. The point of Laura’s post was to underscore the fact that we are obliged to listen to the Roman Pontiff when he teaches us. We do not have the right to dissent from his teaching—nor why would we, since he is the the pillar and ground of the truth, not a theologian here or there. Introibo has not shown that dissent from a papal teaching is permitted by his citation. The notion itself is offensive to pious ears, and perhaps even subversiva hierachiae, if not suspecta de haeresi.

It is my sincerest desire that this particular controversy be put to the side, that we might address the issues that really matter and which affect us good willed Catholics today. We all have egos, and I probably have the biggest. It is like a Mr. T golden necklace which strangles me something awful, or like Jacob Marley’s invisible iron chains, which I pull behind me wherever I go. But I must let it go, and I encourage others to do the same, that we all may be one in the Faith, submitting to the Catholic Church and to the Holy Father in all filial docility and love. Will there be disagreements amongst us children? Absolutely! Will there be disputes and even heated debates? I hope so. But may the good Lord forbid us to quarrel amongst ourselves about those things which His vicar has taught us, for the bond and unity of the Faith is in the Holy Father, and in no else.