Saturday, January 19, 2013

A last word on Basil Loftus (pro tem)

I'm hugely honoured to have received a letter myself now from Mgr Basil Loftus. I've already responded to the main charge: that I'm too concerned about his goatee beard. Actually I'm not concerned about it at all. I just think it's amusing.

Why do I lower the tone of the 'academic' exchange in the Catholic Times by invective and ridicule? Simple. Mgr Basil Loftus does not deserve academic respect because he lacks intellectual integrity. Because he evades questions, obfuscates, throws sand in your eyes, quotes selectively, and changes the subject when in a corner; because he uses his knowledge not to illuminate the truth, but to cast doubt on it. I've given a number of examples of this. Since such a person cannot be pinned down with rational argument, a justifiable and effective resource is ridicule, not as a replacement for argument, of course, but as a supplement.

Invective and ridicule have often been used by Catholic apologists, and you find it in every age. Our Lord used it too: he called Herod the Tetratrach a 'fox', and the Pharisees a 'brood of vipers'; he compared the lakeside towns, unfavourably, to Sodom and Gommorah. It is not a first resort, it is a last resort: He did this when his appeal to them had, explicitly or implicitly, been rejected.

Basil Loftus' idea of an academic argument
What you need to look out for is ridicule being used as a substitute for answering serious questions. This is what traditional Catholics have been subjected to for getting on for half a century: they ask questions, but receive only ridicule. It is quite different to use ridicule when one's opponent has refused to answer the serious questions. At that point the way forward, in rational argument, has hit a road block.

People have been pointing out the holes in Loftus' arguments for decades. The fact that he is still writing them is a scandal. The idea that I, or anyone with intellectual respectability, regard him as part of a serious conversation within the Church, would give him prestige which he in no way deserves. Indeed, that would be to magnify the scandal.

You are a joke, Monsignor. You have done this to yourself, over many years, it's not my fault. If you've had enough of the laughter, then do us all a favour and stop writing your column.

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