I have seen my opponents use many tactics to cover over poor performances in debates. You will find documented on this website at least one imaginative approach taken by Catholic Answers back in 1993 when Patrick Madrid attempted to do damage control after our sola scriptura debate in San Diego by writing “The White Man’s Burden” in This Rock magazine (click here for that story).
But never before have we seen such complete and utter admission of defeat than we are seeing from St. Joseph Communications regarding the July debate with Tim Staples on Papal Infallibility in Fullerton, California (click here for reviews of the debate). Why do I say this? Because of recent events that have absolutely amazed us.
First, and most amazingly, we have learned that Saint Joseph’s is still not selling the audio tapes of the debate, and that more than two months after the encounter. We have been making the tapes available since the week after the debate. We made it available as soon as we possibly could. And while they sold a few sets that night (they were set up to do immediate duplication, and had pre-printed folders waiting after the debate), you cannot, as of today (September 18th, 2000), order the debate from Saint Joseph’s. Why not?
Well, we have had two callers contact us over the past two weeks and tell us the same story. They report that when they have called Saint Joseph’s (their number is 800-526-2151 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-526-2151 end_of_the_skype_highlighting) and inquired about the debate, they were told that “Since James White lied so often in the debate, Tim Staples has to record a rebuttal tape to be added to the debate, since he didn’t have time to correct all the lies during the debate itself.” We have confirmed with Saint Joseph’s directly that Tim Staples will be going into their recording studio and recording an entire tape that will be included as part of the debate tape series itself. So, instead of the three-tape series that they planned on (and sold the night of the debate), we can only assume that, whenever Mr. Staples has the time to get into the studio and record his tape, the “debate” will become a four-tape production.
We hardly need to point out what it means when one side in a debate determines they must “fix” the debate so as to “set the record straight.” When one considers the raucous applause of the Roman Catholic audience in attendance that evening, one wonders why Mr. Staples would feel the need to add an hour or more of added presentation time. Indeed, it is very convenient to add an hour of rebuttal especially when your opponent doesn’t get to interact with you. It was obvious Mr. Staples does not like to have to answer vigorous questions about his position, and I’m sure he will find the quiet of the studio a much more pleasant context than that of the formal debate.
It should also be noted that Mr. Staples clearly broke the rules of debate and granted to himself “extra” time to begin with in the debate itself: hence, truly, if one must take unfair time and then add an entire one-sided tape thereafter, may we suggest that possibly Mr. Staples should reconsider engaging in debates at all. If you cannot defend your position in the debate without having to resort to this kind of tactic, it would be better to leave the debating to others more qualified and capable.
But this is not all. Aside from having to engage in the obligatory ad-hominem accusation of “lying” and adding a “woops” tape to the debate series, Saint Joseph’s has gone back on its agreement with Alpha and Omega Ministries as well. Before the debate we had agreed that there would be no video taping of the event. Yet, when we arrived at Plummer Auditorium, we found a camera set up on the left side of the stage. We immediately asked the folks from Saint Joseph’s about the video camera. “Well, we thought we would tape it for archival purposes” we were told. Rich Pierce, the President of Alpha and Omega Ministries, agreed to allow the taping, but asked that we receive a copy of the video tape. We were told by the representative of Saint Joseph’s Communications that we would receive a copy of the video tape. As of today, September 18th, we have been informed by Terry Barber, the head of Saint Joseph’s, that we will not receive a copy of the video tape of the debate. We have also been informed that they will not be marketing the video tape. Hence, anyone who wishes to see what happened will not be allowed to do so. When Rich Pierce informed Mr. Barber that we would not be silent about this reversal on their part, Mr. Barber replied, “Go for it, Rich,” and hung up on us. And that despite the following text from an e-mail sent by Kadee Della Donna less than a week before the debate:
I emailed the schedule to James and await his response. Yes, you guys will get a copy of the master tapes of the entire evening that very evening and a copy (to be supplied later) of our video recording. Keep in mind the video will not be professional. May we also have a copy of your video recording so that maybe between the two we can come up with a decent looking tape…
We should not be overly surprised by this kind of behavior. There are a number of video tapes of debates I have done with Roman Catholic apologists that are sitting in a dark closet somewhere, never to be seen. Mr. Barber knows this well. It is not the first time this has happened. However, it is the first time we had the word of a representative of Saint Joseph’s Communications that they would do X, and they then dishonorably decided to renege on their promise. Mr. Barber tells us the representative did not have the authority to promise us the video tape: however, that representative arranged the entirety of the debate to begin with. There is simply no excuse for this kind of behavior.
We had originally spoken with Tim Staples about defending purgatory in the Long Island “Great Debate” series in the Spring of 2001. Obviously, since we cannot trust the word of Saint Joseph’s Communications, we cannot pursue having him as the Catholic debater at this event. Though the Protestant side arranges the taping of those debates (and hence Mr. Staples would receive, without question, the video tape of the debate, just as Mr. Matatics, Mitchell Pacwa, and Robert Sungenis have received video tapes of the previous debates done there), we simply cannot engage in planning such an event with those who will go to these lengths to break their word so as to do “damage control” upon losing a public debate.
Addition as of 9/19/00: We have been informed that Mr. Staples will soon release an “Open Letter” (I wrote him an Open Letter to which he never replied after our 1996 debate, which can be read here) to James White listing fourteen alleged “promises” I broke in this debate. But, unlike the 1996 Open Letter to Mr. Staples, there will be one difference. We will gladly respond. Sadly, however, we get the feeling that the tactic that will be used involves allegations of changing the subject of the debate. If this is the case, I provide here a paragraph from my e-mail to Kadee Della Donna, the representative of Saint Joseph’s Communications who set up the entirety of this debate. This e-mail is dated Wednesday, April 26th, 2000. It was written in response to a faxed version of the flyer for the debate that Saint Joseph’s sent me for approval. I wrote:
3) I’m very confused about the line speaking of “evidence for the office of the Pope in the Bible.” My understanding is that the debate is on the infallibility of the Pope, not the existence of the Papacy. I believe they are distinct questions, and when I have debated the Papacy against Gerry Matatics and Mitchell Pacwa, I have clearly differentiated between the issue of the *existence* of the Papacy in the Bible and early Church history, and the dogmatic claim that the Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra on issues of faith and morals. Since I have already done three full debates on the Papacy, including the very recent one with Mitch Pacwa, I am hoping that we will be able to focus upon the alleged infallibility of the bishop of Rome. Besides, I think it would be tremendously difficult for Mr. Staples to attempt to defend BOTH concepts in a single debate. So I guess my concern is simply that we remain focused upon the topic at hand, that being the claim of Papal Infallibility which is so central to the Roman Catholic position.
As a result of this e-mail, the flyer was edited and the topic lines changed in accordance with this paragraph. There was not a word of disagreement or rejection sent to me by anyone regarding this paragraph. For anyone to suggest that the topic of the debate was in the least bit unclear is simply absurd.
We truly wish Mr. Staples and Mr. Barber would allow the “chips to fall where they may,” let the public listen to the debate, watch the debate (i.e., release the video for all to see), and make their own decisions.