“Irrefutable questions that Roman Catholics and Orthodox can’t answer” answered by the village idiot: yours truly.

Why I bothered doing this

A redditor by the name of /u/JamesParente posted an anti-Catholic polemic website on /r/Catholicism the other day.  I will not link the website because I’d rather not give them more hits, however, by searching the questions, which I have reproduced in their entirety so that you can see what I am answering, you can find the site if you truly wish to.

He asked for some help refuting them, and no one on reddit had time to oblige, which I understand.   Me, fool that I am, thought I would give it a try.  However, it soon became too long for a reddit post, so I am doing it here.   The comments from the website are bolded and indented.  My responses are regular text beneath.


First, before I get into the questions, and especially the first ones which are canonical questions, I want to point out a flaw that all of these questions are working from. Keep this in mind as you read my answers to these “irrefutable” assertions, though I may mention it again in my individual answers. That flaw is this: The Church does not “answer to” Scripture. The Church predates Scripture and, by the power of the Holy Spirit and with respect to established apostolic tradition and teaching, formulated the New Testament canon. The Church was formed, truthfully, when blood and water flowed from Christ’s side on the cross. Just as Eve emerged from Adam’s side, as Genesis tells us, the Bride of the New Adam was formed from His side. The very idea that the Church must somehow “answer to” Scripture doesn’t work. The Church predates Scripture. Some of the earliest New Testament writings we have are 1 Thessalonians, which itself presupposes a Church.

Catholics, then, believe that the order of things, in terms of their “arrival”, is Jesus -> Church -> Scripture. Some protestants, including this website, seem to mistaken on that, and are assuming the order is Jesus -> Scripture -> Church. That is historically and biblically untenable.

The Questions:

1. If the Roman Catholic church gave the world the Bible, being infallible, then why did Rome reject or question the inspiration of James and Hebrews , then later accept it? Conversely, Rome accepted as scripture books that were later rejected. If the Catholic church really is illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that men can trust her as “God’s organization”, why was she so wrong about something so simple? Should not the “Holy See” have known?

As the website later goes on to note, the canon wasn’t settled immediately or overnight. I am not sure of the details of not “rejecting” James and Hebrews. However, it is important to note that ALL local churches had their own “canons” at the time. That was what necessitated a need for a singular one in the first place. The local church in Rome may not have recognized those books, but that doesn’t mean the Church is not infallible. If there is no canon, there is nothing for them to hold to. Infallibilty only applies to the Pope at certain times, not the Church as a whole. The Holy Spirit would guide the Church in compiling the canon at a later date.
As for accepting Scripture that was later rejected, I would have to know more details. However, my best guess is that they are referring to books like Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, the Epistles of Pope St Clement (successor of Popes Peter and Linus), etc. If that is the case, then these books are still widely read by scholars and historians today, and seen as good and accurate reflections of the Early Church… They just aren’t considered to be divinely inspired.

2. If the Orthodox church gave the world the Bible, being infallible, then why did the eastern churches reject or question the inspiration of Revelation, then later accept it? Conversely, the east accepted as scripture books that were later rejected. If the Orthodox church really is illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that men can trust her as “God’s organization”, why was she so wrong about something so simple?

Same answer as above, basically.

3. If the Roman Catholic church gave the world the Bible in 397 AD, then why did many different versions of canons continue to circulate long afterwards?

This is for historical reasons, rather than doctrinal. Reforms this grand take time. It wasn’t a matter of firing off a few emails and altering some text files. New Bibles would have had to have been written again. What is more telling is that the Church was able to say to local churches, “Look, I know you read x, y, and z, but not a, b, and c. Well, you need to drop x and add a and c.” The fact that the canon was closed just shows how centralized the Church actually was.

4. If the Roman Catholic church gave us the Bible, why were the two synods of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage, (397 AD) African councils, and not initiatives of Rome?

Oh, but they were. We were all one Church back then. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed. Pope Damasus I’s Council of Rome in 382 issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above. Part of the purpose of the North African Councils was the ratifying the list of canonical books recommended by the Council of Rome and Pope Damasus. And indeed, as the next assertion states, the findings in North Africa would be submitted to Rome for approval.

5. Since the synod Carthage in 393 AD stated, “But let Church beyond sea (Rome) be consulted about confirming this canon”, does this not prove that Rome had no direct input or initiative in determining the canon.

As I mentioned above, it is telling that this council sent their findings off to Rome. It does indeed prove that Rome had no input in this particular council, however, it also proves that all the way in North Africa, they knew they needed papal approval to move forward. For my money, this isn’t a refutation of the Catholic Church but a proof of Petrine Supremacy.

6. Since the two synods of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage, (397 AD) were under the control of what would later become the “orthodox church”, how can the Roman Catholic church claim they determined the Canon? Would not such a claim be more naturally due the Eastern Orthodox church?

No, we were one Church then. Which is why, as above, the findings of the North African Council were presented to Rome.

7. If the Catholic church, “by her own inherent God given power and authority” gave the world the Bible, why did she not get it right the first time? Why did the Roman Catholic church wait until 1546 AD in the Council of Trent, to officially add the Apocrypha to the Canon?

First of all, we Catholics do not call them “Apocrypha.” As Jimmy Akin writes, “Catholics refer to them as the “deuterocanonical” books (since they were disputed by a few early authors and their canonicity was established later than the rest), while the rest are known as the “protocanonical” books (since their canonicity was established first).” It is important to note that these books are considered a part of the Old Testament Canon, not the new. Their stories and date of writing pre-date Christ. The website is switching gears here.

Jimmy Akin, wise southern Catholic wizard.

We accept the deuterocanonical books because the Septuagint, the Alexandrian Jewish canon of the Old Testament (which was written in Greek) accepts them. The Septuagint was the Jewish canon most commonly used just before, and during, the time of Jesus. As Jimmy Akin says (emphasis mine), “Two thirds of the Old Testament quotations in the New are from the Septuagint. Yet the apostles nowhere told their converts to avoid seven books of it. Like the Jews all over the world who used the Septuagint, the early Christians accepted the books they found in it. They knew that the apostles would not mislead them and endanger their souls by putting false scriptures in their hands—especially without warning them against them.”

However, in 90 AD, Jewish scholars and rabbis met in the city of Javneh or Jamia. There, they had a council not unlike the later Christian councils, to reaffirm their canon. At Javneh, these Jewish authorities rejected the Gospels and the New Testament, and Christianity in general. They pronounced the Gospels as unfit for Scripture. The Javneh canon also excluded seven books (Baruch, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel) that Christians considered part of the Old Testament. These are what Protestants call Apocryphal. The canon of Javneh is what most (all?) Jews hold to today.

So, we have two major Jewish canons: the Septuagint and Javneh. One of which was used by the Apostles, the other that was formulated *after* Christ, and in large part was a rejection and attempt to distance themselves from Christ. Catholics, and every Christian from Jesus until Martin Luther, accept the Septuagint. Protestants agree with Javneh, the canon that was seeking to reject Christ.

It was the Reformation that tried to claim the Deuterocanonicals as “Apocrypha” and remove them from the Bible. Indeed, Martin Luther considered removing Hebrews, because it quotes fairly extensively from Maccabees. Hebrews 11 encourages us to emulate the heroes of the Old Testament and in the Old Testament “Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life” (Heb. 11:35).

However, if you look in the Protestant Old Testament, you will not find one example of someone being “tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.” It just doesn’t occur in the Protestant Old Testament. So what was the writer of Hebrews talking about? 2 Maccabees Chapter 7 is what he is talking about, where a woman and her seven sons are tortured by the invading forces of the Seleucid general Nicanor.

Hannah and her seven sons are tortured for refusing to forsake God and eat pork in 2 Maccabees.

Trent did not say, “We are adding these books to the canon.” Trent said, in essence, in response to Protestants removing them, “Seriously guys, these are still canon. Stahp takin’ em out.” Though Trent did officially “close” the canon.

8. Both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox church leaders make the identical claim that they gave the world the Bible. If both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches make the same claim they gave the world the Bible, why do they have different books in each of their Bibles? Whose “church authority” shall we believe? Whose tradition is the one we should follow?

The differences arise because the Orthodox Old Testament Canon is based off of a Palestinian translation of the Septuagint, whereas the Catholic OT Canon is based off of the Alexandrian (Greek) original. The Orthodox have, in addition to the aforementioned deuterocanonicals, 1st and 2nd Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151 and 3rd Maccabees. Oriental Christians have even more. Obviously, as a Catholic, I think you should go with the Catholic Old Testament.

However, I do not see this as the stumbling block that the website makes it out to be. Again, the author is working from the assumption that you take the Scripture, and from that, you build a church. The protestant model. Working on that assumption, then yes, it’s a major problem that we and our Eastern brethren have differing canons. However, as I have stated above, and as the historical record and Scripture itself proclaim, the model is Church -> Bible. “Canon”, technically, means “approved for reading in the liturgy.” Having different canons from the EO isn’t especially problematic, in my opinion.

9. Provide a single example of a doctrine that originates from an oral Apostolic Tradition that the Bible is silent about? Provide proof that this doctrinal tradition is apostolic in origin.

The Trinity. Not once does the word “Trinity” or “Triune” appear in Scripture. It is a teaching, handed down from Christ and the Apostles. While there are certainly Scriptural passages that strongly, strongly support it, the word “Trinity” is never used.


The authors of the website and their supporters would roll their eyes at me, but that’s the truth. Other Traditions, such as Mary’s Queenship of Heaven through her relationship with Christ, or the efficacy of prayers for the departed, are the same way. You will never find them spelled out and named in the Bible, but they are there, in certain proof-texts.

10. Provide a single example of where inspired apostolic “oral revelation” (tradition) differed from “written” (scripture)?

I cannot. They don’t. The closest example I can think of, however, is in Acts where Peter has the vision to eat “unclean” animals, or when Jesus overrules Moses, banning divorce which Moses had permitted.

11. If you are not permitted to engage in private interpretation of the Bible, how do you know which “apostolic tradition” is correct between the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and the Watchtower churches, for all three teach the organization alone can interpret scripture correctly, to the exclusion of individual?

I am a convert to the Catholic faith, and so, as a non-Catholic, I was permitted to engage in private interpretation of the Bible. What I learned was that you can make the Bible say anything, as the humorous meme below demonstrates, not to mention the division and outright hostility we see in and between a few churches today.

How heartwarming…. Wait, who said that again?

Part of the way you know which one is right is through the historical record. The other is through your conscience. The Church doesn’t permit private interpretation of Scripture, but that doesn’t mean it prevents earnest inquiry and study, or any sort of religious “choice” whatsoever. I would weigh the claims of the respective organizations against history, tradition, and, yes, Scripture.

12. Why did God fail to provide an inspired and infallible list of Old Testament books to Israel? Why would God suddenly provide such a list only after Israel was destroyed in 70 AD?

First of all, God never “fails.” If there was no closed or decided Jewish canon, it is because there did not need to be. The main purpose of Israel was to foreshadow Christ, and to be the lineage from which Christ emerged. Things seem to have worked out pretty well on that front, don’t you think?

13. How could the Jews know that books of Kings or Isaiah were Scripture?

I am not sure what this one is asking, and I don’t presume to speak for the Jews. Admittedly, I know little about how the Jewish canons were formed; I accept them because Christ and the apostles did.

14. If the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches both believes that the scripture: “the church is the pillar and foundation of truth” means the church is protected from error then: a. Why do they teach doctrine so different that they are not even in communion with each other?

I want to be careful with this one, because I do not want to disrespect my Eastern brethren. I will just say that division is a work of man, and not of God. The existence of Orthodoxy and Catholicism doesn’t, in my mind, contradict one another any more than the existence of Mormons and Rastafarians contradicts Christianity as a whole.

b. How do you account for the vast number of documented theological errors made by the pope and the church in general?

This is begging the question. What errors? If they are so vast in number, why did the website not bother to name 1?

15. If the both the Orthodox and Catholic churches follow apostolic oral tradition exactly, how come they teach doctrine so different, that they are not even in communion with each other?

Same as 14.

16. Both Tertullian and Jerome gave a list of oral traditions that were not found in the Bible. (Tertullian, The crown or De Corona, ch 3-4), (Jerome, Dialogue Against the Luciferians, 8) Tertullian said of these practices that “without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone”. These include, baptizing by immersion three times,

St Jerome actually writes, “as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the laver”, which clearly doesn’t refer to total immersion. Tertullian does indeed say, “Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel.” However, the Church has permitted both methods (and sprinkling/pouring), because, surprise surprise, they’re all tradition.

giving the one baptized a “drink of milk and honey” then forbidding the person from taking a bath for a week

These are small-t traditions, like the priest wearing a white collar. They are disciplines, not doctrine. As Hebrews says,”Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” A Christian in those days should have followed this, because the Church told them to. We do not have to today, because she does not.

The Sabbath is another good example. Seventh Day Adventists and a few others aside, nobody keeps the Seventh Day holy, we keep the first, Sunday. Why? Because there is a dual meaning here. The word “Sabbath” can mean “seven” or it can mean “oath.” We keep the oath on the first or “eighth” day, the day when Jesus raised. In the same way, the milk and honey represents entering into the land of milk and honey, into the new Israel, which is the Church. We still spiritually do that, the physical act of imbibing milk and honey is to point to the spiritual act.

kneeling in Sunday mass was forbidden,

This is to encourage a uniformity of worship and liturgy. In Tertullian’s day, some were kneeling and some were not. The Church came down on the side of not kneeling. Today, we kneel uniformly at certain parts of the Mass.

and the sign of the cross was to be made on the forehead.

We still do this in Mass before the Gospel reading, and on other ocassions as well.

Jerome, echoing Tertullian, said that these “observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law”. Why does the Catholic church not immerse thrice and allow kneeling? Why do both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches not keep any of these traditions, with the exception of thrice immersion by the Orthodox? Why do Roman Catholic churches today have knelling rails in front of every pew? If the “apostolic tradition” was to make the sign of the cross on the forehead, why do both Orthodox and Catholic churches change this to the current practice of the sign on the chest and head? If extra-biblical oral tradition is to be followed, then why don’t the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches practice all of these things?

As I demonstrated above, some we do keep, and the author is guilty of either quote-mining (as is the case with immersion baptism, which one of his chosen sources directly refutes) or just plain ignorance (as with the sign of the cross on the forehad.) The ones we do not, we do not because they were discipline, not doctrine.

He goes on to ask, in big red letters:


To which I would only say that it is largely the fault of the Enlightenment and Reformers (who, again, eschewed the OT Canon the Apostles and Christ used for one written after Christ’s Resurrection, which was formed in large part as a rejection of Christianity) that there are any outsiders in the first place.   Furthermore, should one find themselves outside of the Church, they should spend at least as much time rectifying that through study and inquisition as they do building websites on half-truths, deliberate falsehoods, and ignorance….But that's none of my business.

17. Why do Roman Catholics always use 2 Timothy 2:2; 3:14 as Bible proof that extra-biblical oral tradition is to be followed through apostolic succession, when tradition says Timothy became the bishop of Ephesians, which through succession, is now part of the Greek Orthodox church headed out of Constantinople? If 2 Timothy 2:2 proves succession, doesn’t this prove the Roman Catholic church is not part of that succession?

No.  Again, we were one Church, and share the same apostolic succession (IE, Christ didn’t have two or three “teams” of apostles, but rather the 12, Matthias, and Paul.)

18. When you see the word tradition, why do you always assume it to be oral tradition rather than scripture tradition, when the Bible calls scripture tradition in 2 Thess 2:15, and Athanasius call scripture tradition: “the Apostolic tradition teaches in the words of blessed Peter, ‘Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the Flesh” Athanasius then quotes: 1 Peter 4:1; Titus 2:13; Heb 2:1 (Athanasius, To Adelphius, Letter 60, 6)?

This goes back to question 10.  It is your problem that you do not see these as one holistic thing, not mine.  Where you see, “Scripture v. Tradition”, Catholics see “The deposit of the Faith,” or “the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ.”   Tradition helped choose the canon, and canon helped solidify traditions.  This is the equivalent of asking a child, “When you say, ‘I love my parents’, why do you always assume it to be your mom?”  The child’s answer would be, “Um, I don’t… Why do you assume I’m assuming that?”   The Scripture IS Tradition.  It is born of it, and books that didn’t make the canon didn’t make it, in some cases, because, guess what?  THEY DIDN’T FIT WITH TRADITION.

19. The Church Fathers believed what Paul said in Eph 3:3-5, that the scripture could be understood by merely reading it. They indicated that the scriptures themselves were clear, so clear, they even criticized the heretics for getting it wrong. If those outside the church and common pew dwellers are unable to understand the Bible themselves as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches teach, then why did the apostolic fathers expect the heretics to understand the Bible with their own human skills? (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 20), (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, 56), (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 1, 35), (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 7, 16)

The author makes a point here, and then uses four sources to back it up.  Let us go source by source.

Chapter 20 of Tertullian’s “The Flesh of Christ” is dealing with the Virgin Birth.  He uses Scripture’s description of the Virgin birth to chastise those Christians who sought to deny it, but he doesn’t say anything about individual Christians being free to choose their own dogma as they see fit, and form new churches when they cannot come to an accord.  So, again, the author is at best being lazy, and at worse, violating a Commandment by bearing false witness against Catholics and the Church.

Chapter 56 of Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation of the Word” does indeed exhort the reader to turn to the Scripture.  But to find his own doctrines.  St Athanasius writes, “But you, taking occasion by this, if you light upon the text of the Scriptures, by genuinely applying your mind to them, will learn from them more completely and clearly the exact detail of what we have said.”  He is saying that Scripture supports Tradition.  Catholics agree.   Interestingly, St Athanasius goes on to write, of the Crucifixion, “even in death He might still keep His body undivided and in perfect soundness, and no pretext be afforded to those that would divide the Church.”

Chapter 36 of Book One of St Hilary of Poitiers’ “On The Trinity” says  “Ignorance of prophetic diction and unskilfulness in interpreting Scripture has led them into a perversion of the point and meaning of the passage, “The Lord created Me for a beginning of His ways for His works”. They labour to establish from it that Christ is created, rather than born, as God, and hence partakes the nature of created beings, though He excel them in the manner of His creation, and has no glory of Divine birth but only the powers of a transcendent creature.”    St Hilary isn’t saying Scripture “can be understood merely by reading it”, he is saying the exact opposite!  He is explaining how ignorance has lead people attempting to “privately interpret Scripture” into denying the Trinity, and, therefore the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Again, the author of the website is either being dangerously lazy, or deliberately lying.

In Book Seven, chapter 16, St Hilary does indeed say, “And now, although we have found the sense of Scripture, as we understand it, in harmony with the conclusions of ordinary reason…”  Has the author of the website done it?  Has he finally found a source that agrees with his assertion that each and every individual Christian is free to interpret Scripture as he sees fit, and that Scripture can be “understood merely by reading it”?  Is the fourth time a charm?


St Hilary goes on to say, on the divinity of Christ: “The course of our argument, as I had shaped it in my mind, required that each several point of the debate should be handled singly; that, since we had been taught that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God in name, in birth, in nature, in power, in self-revelation, our demonstration of the faith should establish each successive point in that order.”

Did you catch that?  “[S]ince we had been taught that our Lord Jesus Christ… is God in name, in birth… [etc.]” Since we have been taught.  Taught by who?  Tradition!  Scripture! They are one and the same.  Scripture, however, never says, “Jesus is God.”   It says the Word was with God, and was God, and we (rightly) understand this to mean Christ, but as I mentioned above, the Trinity is a tradition!  The fact that we are reading a saint’s book, “On the Trinity”, a word which, again, never appears in the Bible once, attests to that!

Do these four sources indicate that Scripture alone suffices?  No.

20. If each individual possessing a copy of the scriptures is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do illiterate Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the Catholic and Orthodox Catechisms? If illiterate Catholics and Orthodox can have the Catechisms read to them, then why not the scripture?

Huh? First of all, I take issue with “Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers”.  The Orthodox do not use pews, and Catholics got the idea from Protestants, though this website demonstrates how much good favour adopting that practice has gotten us from some of our separated brethren.

Secondly, what does the other mean by “If illiterate Catholics and Orthodox can have the Catechisms read to them, then why not the Scripture?”   WE DO READ THE SCRIPTURE!  Stained glass windows were designed to help the illiterate better understand.  The Catholic Mass involves three (3!) readings of Scripture (2 on weekdays).  The Liturgy itself is chock-full of Scripture from the Gospels, from the Old Testament, and from Revelations!   I am not sure what the author is asking here.

21. If universal distribution of the Bible in every home is an essential pre-condition of sola Scriptura, then how could Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the message of the Pope before the time of modern instant live communication?

I don’t necessarily assert that universal distribution of the Bible is an essential precondition of Sola Scriptura.  Though, again, I don’t particularly believe in Sola Scriptura, so I am not sure why the author is asking a Catholic about it.   Certainly, if Sola Scriptura were true, and every Christian had to “fend for themselves” and make sure they get the right doctrines, join the right church, leave that church if it goes astray, etc., and the fate of their eternal souls depended on this, then, yes, you’d want universal literacy and Bible in every purse and backpack.   But, again, I don’t personally hold to Sola Scriptura.

As for the second point, they knew because their local bishops knew.  While the Church does indeed have a Pope, he doesn’t micromanage every single diocese, neither in the past nor today.   This would be something the bishops and the priests would have handled.  They’d get the papal encyclical and teach it.  The word “encyclical” itself comes from the action of the bishops getting a copy, reading it, copying it if need be, and sending it along to the next bishop.   “Encyclical” means, basically, “to go around.

22. If the ability to read is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do illiterate Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the Catholic and Orthodox Catechisms? Would not the same logic apply to illiterates in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches? If Catholic and Orthodox laity can “know the truth” by hearing the catechism read to them, then why not illiterate Christians when they hear the Bible read?

Because Sola Scriptura will, by its very nature, make fractures in the Church.  It already does in Protestantism.  This is why you see Protestant churches and denominations fracturing every day.   If I am sitting in Pastor Joe Blow’s church on Sunday, I am getting his interpretation of Scripture, his emphases, his readings.  Now, Joe Blow might be a very, very smart and holy man, but he is not preserved free from error, even if Scripture is.   Just as this anti-Catholic website bends Scripture to lead Catholics astray, so too can very smart Muslims or atheists or liberal and/or divinity-of-Christ-denying Christians lead people astray.  I’ve seen it.  You probably have, too.   The Church is preserved from doctrinal errors by the weight of apostolic Tradition and by the office of the Pope itself, who is infallible when promulgating on matters of dogma.

Yes, in essence, what I am saying is, “Don’t trust Pastor Joe Blow, trust the Catholic Church.”  But the weight of time, history, scholarship, Scripture, and general Christian tradition is on the side of the Church.   The author of the website earlier made jabs against the “Catholic and Orthodox canons.”   That is all well and good, now show me the canon you church used in 200.  Oh, that’s right, it didn’t exist.

In essence, the author of the website is basically saying this:

Earlier, in question 12, the author of the website asks, “Why did God fail to provide an inspired and infallible list of Old Testament books to Israel? Why would God suddenly provide such a list only after Israel was destroyed in 70 AD?”  I wish to turn that around… Why would God suddenly provide a church on the exact date and time that your church happened to be founded?

23. If the ability to read is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do the illiterate Catholic and Orthodox commoner know for certain that the priest is faithfully teaching the dogma, canons and edicts of councils if they could not read the documents?

Because we have that evil, wicked thing called hierarchy.   Priests and bishops who spread heresy are punished, which according to some Protestants is a terrible thing, until this question comes up.  Then all of a sudden, they’ve forgotten about that.   Now, I suppose, you could have a diocese where every priest and the bishop was a heretic, but even then, the likelihood of an entire diocese being illiterate is pretty low, and someone would contact Rome.

That said, let’s pretend that everyyyyone in the diocese was a heretic, down to the smallest babe… They teach what they want, or what they believe to be true, and go on about their day. Well, then, what you have is just a form of Protestantism, so I am not sure why the author is worried about that.

24. How do the Catholic and Orthodox commoners who can read, know for certain that the priest is faithfully teaching the dogma, canons and edicts of councils if they did not possess copies of such documents?

That’s a pretty big if.  Most of them are on NewAdvent, which I have been linking to throughout this blogpost.  Others are widely published.  Papal bulls and encyclicals and other documents are available for free on the Vatican’s website in at least a half dozen languages.

Again, though… So what if they don’t?  The priest is just a protestant, then.   Why do you care?

25. If the earliest, universal oral tradition clearly states that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, why does the Roman Catholic church question this tradition to this day?

Some Catholics do question this, based on certain scholarship.  Others do not.  But let’s return to the question.

First of all, which earliest, universal oral tradition says that?  The authorship of Hebrews has always been in question.  The people who put the canon together couldn’t figure out either. That is why Hebrews is put in the back of the Pauline letters. The Pauline letters are arranged (for the most part) base on how extensive the writings were. That is why Romans is first (the most writings) and Philemon (least writings). In addition, the letters written to the communities were put first (Romans, Corinthians, etc.), and the letters written to individual (Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) were put last. If the early Christians knew for a fact Paul wrote Hebrews, it would have been placed after 2 Corinthians.

If Hebrews was written by St Paul, it is the only one he didn’t sign, and the writing style does differ from the rest.  Tertullian attributed the epistle to Barnabas.   Hippolytus believed that Pope St Clement of Rome wrote it.   Clement of Alexandria felt that that it was written by Paul in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, possibly by St. Luke.

26. Name one sure way or method, that a new believer in Christ, can know that the Orthodox church is the one true church. (The challenge: make sure this method cannot apply also to the Roman Catholic church.)
27. Name one sure way or method, that a new believer in Christ, can know that the Roman Catholic church is the one true church. (The challenge: make sure this method cannot apply also to the Orthodox church.)

I will leave 26 to any Orthodox readers.    For 27, I would state the office of the Papacy, its prefiguring in the Prime Minister of the Davidic kingdom, and the historical and apostolic record that shows various dioceses and sees deferring to Rome (some of which I have even covered in this post today) is one thing that points to the Roman Catholic Church over the Orthodox.

Oh, I just thought of one for the Orthodox, for #26.   The Orthodox haven’t innovated by adding pews, or other things like that.  Now, obviously, as a Catholic, I disagree that this is an “evidence” against the faith; I fully believe the Magesterium has the authority to make such changes.  The Orthodox, to my knowledge, do not, and so might find that a compelling argument, as might a new Christian.

Original Sin as a doctrine is found in the Catholic Church, but not the Orthodox, as well.

28. If the personal illumination of the Holy Spirit upon each believer to understand the Bible is not a valid method of determining truth because of the many denominations that use this approach, then does it not follow that apostolic succession and oral church traditions are likewise invalid because the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are two denominations that use this method yet are divided on doctrine?

No.  We have very similar doctrines and dogmas, recognize (for the most part) each other’s sacraments, and we recognize each other’s succession from the Apostles.  The disagreements between the Catholics and Orthodox, while not to be taken lightly by any stretch, are minuscule compared to those between those two and Protestants, or even some Protestant churches toward others.

However, even if this was an issue, would that not invalidate just one of these ancient churches, and not both?   From how to you get to, “The Catholics or Orthodox are wrong,” to, “I am free to privately interpret the Bible, choose my own dogmas, and teach that to people.  Oh, and by the way, I definitely haven’t gotten anything wrong in doing that.”  That is gigantic leap, and I am not following it.

29. Does this not prove both methods are wrong and a third method, one which we and the apostolic church practiced must be the correct method?

Again, I don’t think so. What is the “third method?”  Comparing to Scripture?  Satan used Scripture, the Arians and Nestorians used Scripture.  Anti-theists today love to quote Scripture.   It is not enough to quote Scripture.

30. If sola Scriptura cannot be the correct method of determining truth because of the religious division among churches that claim to use sola Scriptura, then does this not also disqualify the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches method of using tradition, since they are divided against themselves?

No, see #27.


Whew.  That was slightly daunting because of the sheer volume of them, which I think is the authors’ intent.  He should be ashamed of himself.  He fills a page with these scary-sounding half-truths designed to sow discord, fear, and dissent, probably expecting no one to be dumb enough to actually look into his claims.  He inundates you with data, hoping you won’t go to the original sources.

However, the claims themselves, as I hope I have demonstrated, are weak.  There may be good reasons to not be Catholic (as a convert, I never found any), but these are not them.  These questions aren’t exactly irrefutable if an idiot like me can refute them off the cuff within an hour.   I encourage everyone no matter the topic, to not merely bow down when someone promulgates, and instead take a little time to investigate the claims being made.

Totus Tuus,


A Catholic Gentleman’s Manifesto



Originally posted on The Catholic Gentleman:

3753395886_a590c5578c_oHello Everyone! My name is Dominic Cassella (aka The Hound), I am one of the Co-Founders of the Catholic Dormitory, and I would like to thank Sam for inviting me to be an occasional writer for the Catholic Gentleman.

The list below was originally posted on the Dormitory, but I believe it needs to be spread around a little more. As Catholic Gentlemen, we have an understanding that we are all called to be the servants of Christ and not our selves. However, beyond this we recognize that, although this may apply to all men, if a man does not follow the true Master always he is not a boy because he has sinned. He is just a man, who has fallen off his horse; tossed a rock into his mountain pack; or stubbled down the stairs. The manifesto below is just a list of guidelines which can almost apply to…

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Freedom. What it is, and how the modern world gets it wrong.

I recently attended an event where part of the activities was a board.   A group of students and community members had learned about modern day slavery (the sex trade in Southeast Asia, forced labour, etc.) and watched a film.  They were asked to then share their reactions on this board, and what freedom meant to them. 

One woman (I assume, based on the lovely penmanship) wrote that freedom meant to her, “My body.  My choice.”   This phrase is a familiar one to us.  It refers, primarily, to the abortion debate – whether or not a woman should be free to terminate her pregnancy by killing her growing child, if she does not want that child for any reason, the most common of which is the child would infringe on her “freedom.”   Abortion as an issue aside, I do want to highlight why this bothered me. 

We, in the modern world, have misunderstood what “freedom” means.  What it looks like, what its purpose or end is, and how we are to use it.    We have defined freedom as being free from the other, rather than being free for the other.    We understand freedom wrongly, as a sort of “willful” freedom to do whatever we want based on whatever whims, rather than the freedom to do good.    God has given us freedom not so that we can do whatever we feel, but so that we might freely choose to love Him, and love each other as He loves us.     

So, this woman, ostensibly a feminist, has compared the plight of the slave to the plight of a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy.  But she is wrong.  Freedom grows by doing good.   If I use my freedom to help someone else, then their freedom has grown.    

But both abortion-advocating branches of feminism and slavery share their roots in the same misunderstood definition of freedom.    A slaver, by buying or selling a slave, is, by the modern standard of freedom, more free.  If I had a slave doing my laundry and a slave tilling my fields, I am undeniably more “free” in the modern sense, to engage in other pursuits.   Like the monied slaveowners of the Americas hundreds of years ago, I might even, with this new found free time, engage in very noble pursuits.   Science, governance, civic action.   But my freedom as a hypothetical slave owner isn’t truly freedom, and it doesn’t encourage freedom to grow.   My freedom depends on the servitude of other.   It depends on my looking at my fellow man and seeing, not an equal, not another beloved by the Creator, and bearing His Divine Image – but seeing instead a means to an end, a tool to be used, to be exploited.   And I, like other slave owners, might say I have noble means for enslaving others, and I might even mean it.   But the undeniable truth is that my actions misuse and therefore, ultimately decrease freedom.  

Which is the same as abortion.   I do not believe I have ever met or heard of someone who got an abortion for a non-noble reason.   “I don’t feel ready.”  “Every child should be wanted.”  “I want to finish school.”     But a noble end cannot be achieved by an unjust means.   Freedom gained by the slavery or slaughter of others is not true freedom.    Sin is slavery, and Christ is freedom.   I am freest when I do good, and least free when I do evil, even if my evil action gives me more “options” it does not win me, or those I am exploiting, any sort of freedom.

But let it not be said that I have an axe to grind against feminists.   While I disagree with them a lot, I share some beliefs.   There has arisen, in response to feminism, a similar, male-centric movement.   The “Men’s Rights Advocate” or MRA movement.    I agree with MRAs on a few things, but, as with feminism, disagree with them on a lot of fundamentals.

MRAs have, like the slavers and feminists before them, fallen into this modern misunderstanding of “freedom.”    Warren Farrel is a significant figure in the men’s rights movement.  In his book, The Myth of Male Power, he defines freedom as “control over one’s life.” You can see, then, if I have made myself clear, just how much he buys into this modernist understanding of freedom.   Freedom isn’t a state of being, but rather an end in itself.  Freedom isn’t for the “sake” of anything, but itself, to Farrel and all who share the modernist definition of freedom.  He writes “In the past, neither sex had power; both sexes had roles: women’s role was [to] raise children; men’s role was [to] raise money.”   Again, as there is an absence of freedom from the other (IE, children – notice how both MRAs and feminists feel “enslaved” by children, a demographic that Christ had a special love for.)   This absence of freedom from is, to Farrel and other MRAs, proof that feminists are wrong.  That men are just as “maligned” as women.

Farrel, in The Myth of Male Power coins the term “disposable male.”   He talks about how men are powerless, because throughout much of civilization men have had to fight and die to protect women and children.   Men, then, are victims of the patriarchy, because they aren’t “free from“.    

Farrel coins the term, but not the concept.   In ages past, we had a different name for “the disposable male.”  We recognized his duty to die for his woman and children, for his clan, for his kingdom, for his God.   We didn’t call him the “disposable male”.   We gad a different name for him.


And before that…


The mother was not free from her husband and children.   But free for them.  To love and comfort them.  To teach them.   And the father was not free from his bride and their children, but free for them.  To protect and cherish them.  To guide them.   And, yes, if the need was great, to die for them.

Of course, Farrel and his acolytes would scoff at me.   “That’s his point!  Men are fed this bullcrap about heroism and bravery!   They have to be socialized to risk their lives, to not fear death.”   But I disagree.   I will do so first by quoting Gilbert Keith Chesterton who said:

The eighteenth-century theories of the social contract have been exposed to much clumsy criticism in our time; in so far as they meant that there is at the back of all historic government an idea of content and co-operation, they were demonstrably right. But they really were wrong, in so far as they suggested that men had ever aimed at order or ethics directly by a conscious exchange of interests. Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, “I will not hit you if you do not hit me”; there is no trace of such a transaction. There IS a trace of both men having said, “We must not hit each other in the holy place.” They gained their morality by guarding their religion. They did not cultivate courage. They fought for the shrine, and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean.


Man did not “create” courage.   God did.  It is primordial, ancient.   Prehistoric, in the truest sense of the word, in that it is BEFORE history begins.   Man, however, discovers courage when the early men began to lay down their lives for causes greater than themselves.   And the men weren’t the only brave ones.   In a time where childbirth was as deadly as the blade of an enemy, women battled and laboured to bring their children into the world.   And while the lion or the bird only need take care of their children a short time, the man and woman had to for a decade and a half.

It is a shame.   The MRAs and the feminists debate one another hotly.   But their opinions and views come from the same modernist, post-Christian misunderstanding of freedom.  Both feel they are battling oppression, both feel they are oppressed, but they are because they both misunderstand freedom in exactly the same way.  They see freedom as being, “the more choices I have, the more free I am,” which, I hope I have demonstrated, is not true.

What I have discussed here isn’t my own, but comes from Christ – and from the Scripture.   Saint Paul wrote:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”  (Ephesians 5:22)  This verse is often used by anti-Christians to try and portray the Church as anti-woman.   But Saint Paul goes on.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  (Eph. 5:23.)    The is a reciprocity there.   Just as  the Church isn’t free from Christ, nor does Christ leave or abandon the Church so He may be free from us.   And just as the Church has to “submit” to Him, He has to “give himself up for her.” 

Freedom isn’t simply an abundance of choices – and the more “choice” you have, the more free you are (as Margaret Sanger and Warren Farrel would both tell you, before going for each others’ throats.)  Rather, freedom is the truth.  The Truth.  The Way.  The Life.   And the truth is a “choosing” of choices, a casting aside of all others and choosing “one.”  

Veritas liberabit vos

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus Christ, John 8:32


Why I Am a Catholic #1: Christianity as the Middle Path

Many of my close friends are irreligious, and sometimes have a hard time completely comprehending why I decided to become religious, much less Christian, much less a Roman Catholic.   Unfortunately, it is often difficult for me to answer them.   It might be easier to list the reasons that don’t influence me into Christianity than the ones that do.   “Why wouldn’t I be Catholic?” would be perhaps a better question than “Why would I be?”

I hope, though, through this blog and these sorts of posts, at least begin to explain why I have found myself irrevocably drawn to Rome, to that faith derived from a First Century Nazarene who claimed to be the Son of God, and God besides.

G K Chesterton, one of my favourite authors, summarizes, in Orthodoxy a brief summary of modern philosophical and religious thought.   Two figures he refers to are the German atheist, anti-theist philosopher Nietzsche and the Russian philosopher and writer Lev Tolstoy, who was decidedly Christian, though a more liberal and anarchic one.    He might be made akin to say, the Anabaptists or Anglicans of our times.

Chesterton compares these two men to St. Jean D’Arc, Joan of Arc.   He writes that:

“Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them.

I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret.

And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow.

Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost.”

A meaty passage, and much could be said about it.  But for now, I’d like to focus on how Chesterton notes that Joan walks between the philosophies of Tolstoy and those of Nietzsche.   She embodies all of what is useful in both of them, and none of what is not useful.    “She was more gentle than the one [Tolstoy] and more violent than the other [Nietzsche].”


Indeed, it is that “middleness,” noted by Chesterton and embodied by St. Joan, that draws me strongly to Christianity on an intellectual level.  Most of the philosophies of the world view man as either inherently evil or inherently good.   Only Christianity is at once both aware of the Imago Dei, and the Fall; man bears the image of God, so is capable of great goodness, but is also fallen, and so is capable of great evil.    Other philosophies and individuals have most assuredly noted this duality of man, but only Christianity fully explains a rational basis for it.

The Marxist spits venomously that the rich are evil and greedy, while the Randian says that it is the poor who are.   The Christian, however, if he is doing it right, recognizes sloth and envy in both of them, and, even moreso, in himself.

This is just one example of Christianity walking the middle path.   There are fragments of truth on either side; most assuredly there are robber barons just as there are slovenly welfare recipients.   But either side overemphasises one aspect of the truth, and, in doing so, loses the whole thing.

Indeed, that is how much heresy begins.

Also, consider, specifically, Catholicism.   From the Reformation to about the 1920s, the Catholic Church was considered by many to be lax, pagan, and lawless.    However, when the world became more lax, pagan, and lawless, the Church then fell under accusations of being puritanical and tyrannical.    The Puritan world spurned the Church for being Pagan; the Pagan world spurns it for being too Puritan.

Many of the ancient gnostic sects once saw matter as inherently evil, and believed that there were two gods; one who created spirit and the heavens; a Good God.   And one who created flesh and matter, an evil god.

Nowadays, the modern world seems to abhor anything that cannot be empirically proven (IE, anything that isn’t matter), and elevates “matter” to too high of a state.   We eliminate unborn children on the grounds that we can’t “give them what they need”, erroneously forgetting that even the poorest Westerner lives greater than 90% of the human population ever has.  Our material concerns outweigh our spiritual ones.  We think it better to destroy the poor and the sick and the injured than see them suffer any discomfort.   Our society is terrified of material discomfort.

(It’s actually really frightening from a geopolitical perspective.  Consider how quickly Americans gave up many of their freedoms after 3 000 people were killed in a terrorist attack.    I would not discount the tragedy and the loss of life, but the likelihood that 9/11 would happen again was low, and, indeed, the deaths themselves, on a purely mathematical level, were negligible.)

Only Christianity walks the threadbare line between gnosticism and materialism.   It at simultaneously proclaims the sanctity of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and the eternal truth of the immortal soul.  Catholicism acknowledges that Jesus is at the right hand of God, but that He is also present in the Eucharist.

These are just a few examples that I thought of today while working.  I’m sure I will think of more, though.

In the end, you will always kneel.

This article from Salon’s Cary Tennis broke my heart.   A young woman, younger than even I am, actually, writes about her boyfriend’s addiction to pornography, and how it is hurting their relationship, not to mention breaking her heart, understandably so.  Perhaps it’s my ability to relate to the not-negligible male sexual impulse, or my own (albeit not as pronounced) struggles with pornography and lust, but, despite “Porn Widow’s” tone of desperation and betrayal, I felt more for the boyfriend as I read this.   His constant promises to get better, his struggle and shame when he failed.    I don’t discount her pain at the situation, but his must be astronomical, too.

It’s frightening to hear about addictions, whether it be pornography, booze, caffeine, laziness, whatever.  It is frightening to think about being so enslaved by something that, even though your God-given logic and reason cries out against it, and your very natural impulses pull away in horror, you are unable to quit.   I don’t know if I’ve ever gone down that road on anything, yet, but I know those who have.

Simply put, slavery is frightening.

Yet, it seems, that the more freedom we have, the more we are enslaved.   Automobiles liberated us from the doldrums of our neighbours and communities, yet enslaved us to traffic jams and commutes and road rage, never mind isolation and fragmentation and Balkanization.   The sexual revolution was made to free women, and men, but especially women from the old sexual mores of the past.    Yet, peruse the covers of Cosmopolitan or other women’s magazines next time you’re in line at the grocery check-out.   “How to please your man,” “Give him an O he will never forget,” “5 new moves that will let you keep him.”  Sexy sexy sex sex.     For being “liberated,” women sure seem to have a lot of work to do, in and out of the sack, to keep us guys grinning.    Pornography is enshrined as free speech and expression, but it has lead to, as in this case, some very un-free men.

IF the sexual mores and traditionalism of the past were immorally or excessively restrictive (I’m not sure if I am ready to cede that point entirely; it’s something I’m still thinking about), then we have simply jumped out of the pot and into the fire.    There is nothing free about a love or relationship has as many conditions as the ones blazed across the headlines of Cosmopolitan or Maxim.   And, indeed, the men’s mags are just as guilty here.

The citizens of Stuttgart kneel before Loki in “The Avengers”

Indeed, the whole situation, of porn addiction and learning “5 hot new tricks that will blow his mind” every month reminds me of a scene from Marvel’s ‘The Avengers.”    As Loki, the central villain and Norse/Asgardian God of Mischief, forces a crowd of people to kneel, he remarks:

Kneel before me. I said, KNEEL!… Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power.  For identity.  You were made to be ruled.  In the end, you will always kneel.

I think most people, myself included, would at first blush, brush of Loki’s statement as the ramblings of a mad god/alien who lusts for power and, really, adoration.   Yet, if we are honest, we will admit the kernel of truth in Loki’s ramblings.   We love to kneel, whether it is to kings or to our own genitalia – or stomachs –  and pursuit of pleasure and comfort.

We long for celebrities to idolize (and, then, like the neopagans in The Wickerman, we enjoy watching them burn sacrificially when they shave their heads or get divorced.)   We crave to make certain statesmen into idols, and into Saviours, who will sweep away our economic and personal woes, if only the crazies on the other side of the aisle will shut up for a few moments.   Some people kneel to an abusive significant other, and chain themselves to pain.  Some will enslave themselves to some sort of tribe and tribal affiliation, be it an angry Westboro Baptist parishoner or a mild-mannered hipster who derives his identity from his tribe.   It is a hard thing to think about, to admit,  and to acquiesce to, but there is a degree of truth in Loki’s spiel.

We will always kneel.

Interestingly, the minds behind “The Avengers” seem to agree with me – consciously or not.  One elderly German man rises to his feet at the end of Loki’s speech.  “Not to men like you,” he replies to Loki’s assertion.

I think I agree with the old man, who isn’t named in the film and doesn’t appear again throughout it.   He doesn’t, as you might think would occur in a 21st century American movie, say that men won’t kneel.   He doesn’t make some claim of men being free or independent.   He, indeed, agrees with Loki.   He does not say, “We will not always kneel.”  He merely says, “Not to men like you.”

And I think that is the key.  We will always be enslaved to something, or even someone.     I don’t think we can choose that.   All we can choose is the what we will kneel to, and whether we will freely out of love, or out of a desire more sinister – fear, self-preservation, the pursuit of worldly pleasure, etc.

I am going to wax nerdily a bit more.   Even the titular characters in the movie, The Avengers, have knelt down and subjugated themselves to something.   At the end of the movie, when the day is won, the heroes go their separate ways.  One government official named Maria Hill, played by How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders, wonders what will happen if the world has need of the Avengers again.   Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) simply says that they will come.  “How do you know?” asks Hill.   “Because we’ll need them to,” replies Fury.   The Avengers have knelt, have subjugated themselves – to the ideals of self-sacrifice, service, camaraderie, and protection of those who cannot protect themselves.

If we are to kneel, if we are to be enslaved, let us be enslaved to that.