The Person Behind The Error Argument

A commentator doesn’t like the teachings of Vatican II. So he researches which theologians and which Bishops has the most influence at the Council. On the basis, then, of personal attacks against those individuals, the commentator proposes that Vatican II has erred gravely due to those individuals. This is a type of ad hominem (to the person) argument. They say that Vatican II erred because these individuals exercised undue influence and led the Council astray. Supposedly, as a result, the Council taught heresy; supposedly, the Council wrote ambiguous documents, that were designed to be misinterpreted; supposedly, the documents became self-contradictory and confusing. This is the “Person Behind The Error” argument.

This argument is used against Pope Francis. For example, they say that the St. Gallen Mafia — just a small group of Cardinals who met from time to time to discuss future Popes — manipulated the conclave that elected Francis. Then the members of that group and their alleged interior motivations become the basis for nullifying the Pontificate of Francis.

With Traditionis Custodes, this same argument is now developing. Peter Kwasniewski claims that one person, Andrea Grillo, influenced Francis in this decision. Then attacks on Grillo’s past writings and theological opinions become an attack on Traditionis Custodes. The argument is that TC should be considered invalid or illicit because a certain individual was supposedly involved in influencing its ideas. That is false argument.

Saint Thomas Aquinas uses the philosophy of pre-Christian thinkers in his theology. Those philosophers were not Christians, and some may have been outright pagans. If we apply the same argument, we would have to discount the ideas of St. Thomas by the influence of those non-Christian thinkers. But it is a false argument. It doesn’t matter if the ideas of a theologian were influenced by a Protestant author. Recall that Jesus’ teaching on the good Samaritan held up that man’s example to be imitated by every generation, even though the Samaritans held an altered and false version of Judaism. That was actually the point of the teaching story. That man’s love of neighbor triumphed over his own religious errors.

We don’t really know if Andrea Grillo had any influence, or some degree of influence over Traditionis Custodes. The Roman Pontiff decided to teach and rule in those documents, in TC and is accompanying letter. And once a teaching is of the Roman Pontiff, it is without grave error in doctrine and discipline.

It doesn’t matter who was present at the Second Vatican Council. Once the Council teaches and the Pope approves, then the documents are without grave error in whatever is non-infallible, and without any error in what is infallible. It doesn’t matter if the Pope is the great Pope Saint John Paul II or the sinful Alexander VI. A teaching of a Pope or Council is a teaching of Christ. A decision of discipline of a Pope or Council is a decision of Christ.

“Grillo is bad, and he influenced TC, so TC is bad.” That’s the argument. The counter argument is: “Every decision of every Pope or Council on doctrine or discipline is without grave error, as a matter of dogma.” Therefore, TC cannot contain any grave error. It doesn’t matter if Pope Francis never heard of Grillo, or he was influenced by his writings on liturgy, or he heard of him but was not influenced. And it is very clear that the opposition of Pope Francis to traditionalists and conservatives — due to their error and their refusal to accept correction from the Church — is of the Roman Pontiff, not of any of his advisors.

Now one more point is needed. Over at Rorate Caeli (the turning of the heavens), an article uses a picture of a little boy waiting to receive Communion as a vehicle for that website’s open hatred against the Roman Pontiff and clear idolatry of the exterior elements of the traditional Latin Mass. The Roman Pontiff is then portrayed as the enemy of a little child, and the child is portrayed as opposing and triumphing over the Supreme Pontiff. What did the child say? Nothing. The hateful views of Contra Caeli (against Heaven) are attributed to a child, as a way to take their sullied, blemished, leprous ideas and put a pure face on them.

It is always wrong to use children as proxies for the arguments of adults. A prolife group which puts forward a child, to speak against abortion, is wrong to use that child to argue for them. Abortion is an issue for adults to decide, not children. And the same is true if a pro-choice group tried to use a child to speak for them. Adults should not be using children as vehicles for their ideas.

“This little boy is a threat. He is a threat for what he represents: life, family, devotion, all dedicated to the Traditional Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This little boy is a threat to the new kind of Church desired by Francis, by those who elected him, by those who are close to him… ”

No. That boy is not involved in this argument. And did the photographer obtain the permission of the boy’s parents for that photo? Did Rorate Caeli obtain permission to use that photograph of the boy as a representation of a “threat” to the Pope? Where is the photo credit and signed permission agreement?

I doubt that that boy’s parents gave permission to Rorate Caeli to represent him as a threat to the Pope. They used his image sinfully and deceitfully, in any case.

The article goes on to claim: “He is a threat, and that is why Francis, in Traditionis custodes, the bastard intellectual child of ‘liturgist’ Andrea Grillo, says that this Mass, the Mass of Ages, the Mass of All Ages, threatens the “unity” of the Church.”

First, the 1962 form of the Latin Mass is not “the Mass of All Ages”. That is a blatant lie. It is not the Mass said by Christ at the Last Supper. It is not the Mass of the early Church, which was not in Latin, usually, and not in any set form at first. It will not be the Mass of the persecuted Christians in the years before Christ returns (as they will say Mass in secret, in abbreviated and simplest form, out of necessity).

Second, it is absolute nonsense to claim that a random boy photographed at a Latin Mass — who probably has no idea who Grillo is, what the arguments are over Traditionis Custodes, and how to explain transubstantiation — to claim that he is a threat to the Pope or that he is the reason that Francis criticized the persons who attend the TLM for their threat to unity.

The boy has nothing to do with the false arguments that follow a reference to him. Calling a papal document, with a weighty decision on the sacred liturgy “a bastard child” is indirect blasphemy. Blaming Grillo for the decisions of the Roman Pontiff, decisions clearly in line with his past statements of concern about errors on the far right, is a lie. Then the TLM is not the “Mass of all ages”. And the concern of the Pope is not that the form of the Mass threatens anything, but rather that many adherents of that form of the Mass, adult Catholics acting sinfully and in contradiction to the authority of the Church, have threatened unity. They teach heresy. They commit schism. They rail against Pope Francis with great malice. They oppose the authority of the Apostolic See at every turn. They undermine and contradict Vatican I and II. They disdain all the recent Popes, refusing to admit that John, Paul, and John Paul II are Saints.

They are the ones who threaten unity. Not a child. Not a document. Not a theologian with no proven influence over that document. Those human persons are a threat to unity due to their refusal to be taught by Popes and Councils, their refusal to be corrected by anyone outside their own community, and their refusal to accept decisions of the Roman Pontiff.

Blaming others has reached a new height. Francis is not opposing Tradition. Francis is not opposing the TLM. Francis is not opposing a random child in a photo taken at Mass. He is opposing Catholics who grave sins are public and severe and persistent. And they constantly deflect his criticism of their behavior, to falsely claim that the Pope is attacking Tradition, or the Mass of all ages, or a child. What a bunch of liars! They clearly have no solid theological argument on their side, or they would not behave in this manner.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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