James, As a long-time Catholic reader of yours, I am appalled by your recent postings of nastigrams from rude Catholics. How does it help your cause to pillory bad examples? Do you want us to conclude that these straw men characterize Catholics? Now, I know you like consistent standards. That is something I love about you. So I ask, if Catholic Answers began posting similar emails from Protestants, and responded in the same manner as you have, would you not be appalled at the baseness of it? After all, you have criticized them for the prominence of their Chick Tract responses. How are your actions here better? To me they seem worse, since Chick Tracts are common enough to merit a public response. To be clear, I do not say you should not respond to nasty emails or that those who send them do not deserve rebuke. I do say that the public chastisement you have chosen is inappropriate, when a discreet reply is possible. Have you considered your actions in light of Proverbs 26:4-5? These verses teach that we must be careful in how we answer fools, and I think your recent postings are a poor example of obedience to that teaching. You know that genuine apologetics demands interaction with the best possible construction of contrary beliefs. I suggest that posting the unreflective attacks of some does not advance this objective because it amounts to an implicit ad hominem attack on your part. Why ad hominem? Not because you do not make responses to the contents of their remarks, but because the selection of these shameful postings as targets implies in itself an imputation of foolhardiness to all Catholics. If this is what you intend, you should know better, as I am sure most of your readers do. If this is not what you intend, I would like to know what your objective is and why you think a public posting of these messages is proper to that end. By the way, my work schedule does not permit me to call the Dividing Line, but I will respond in writing to any reply.
First, you would have to have some idea of what kind of e-mail is sent through our website to make much of a case that I have “selectively” chosen just the bad examples. In reality, what we post is sadly reflective of the normal “chatter” sent to our website.
Secondly, I do reject, openly, the kinds of materials that are thoughtless and mindless in their attacks upon Roman Catholicism. And I take the heat for it. But this is just where you have missed the importance of exposing this kind of rhetoric and its prevalence on “your” side of the aisle. These people are normative in your apologetics forums. They are not rebuked. They are not refuted. They are the majority. Look at the Envoy Forums, the Catholic Answers forums, the comments sections on Akin’s blog. Are you seriously going to argue that the vast majority of those who post there are not reflected quite accurately in the e-mails I have posted? I simply cannot tell you how often I get the, “Oh, you have no idea what you are talking about! You’ve been refuted over and over again!” And when I ask, “May I have examples?” I get the Miki response (silence) or, if someone actually tries to come up with a response, it is rarely anything more than some old URL listing disagreements, never anything near what would be required to back up the kind of rhetoric these folks throw out all the time.
If I might note in passing, if someone came into my chat channel spewing the kind of venom toward Rome, the same kind of illogical, arrogant, ignorant rhetoric that appears with regularity in e-mail or in apologetics forums in defense of Rome, they would be rebuked immediately and, if they refused correction, would be kicked right out with an admonition not to return until they had cleaned up their attitude! Meanwhile, Art Sippo is free to breed followers who behave in the most atrocious manner right under Patrick Madrid’s nose and with precious few rebukes from others.
So really, since I have often made it clear that there is a vast spectrum represented out there in Catholic apologetics, and I have often pointed to men like Mitch Pacwa as individuals I can respect for their unwillingness to engage in the kind of behavior seen in those forums and in these e-mails, I can hardly be called inconsistent. However, the very fact I can point out the fair minded apologists proves my point. They are in the small minority. The vast majority of the folks my audience is going to be encountering are like these folks who are writing to our website. They have absorbed into the very fabric of their being the kind of behaviors modeled for them by their favorite apologists. And since the use of ad-hominem is seen so regularly by many of the “big names” on EWTN, they go down that road. And since they are often being assured that their simplistic reading of church history is correct, despite the obvious fact they cannot even begin to interact with the realities of those records, they are quick to claim the entire early church for their own, confident that anyone who would disagree is just ignorant.
So while I appreciate your concern, I would like to suggest that your real problem is not with me pointing out the empty nature of so much of the common Roman Catholic boasting at these major websites and in Catholic media (it is incessant); the problem is on your side of the border, shall we say. I’m simply reflecting it and making it known and, in the process, getting some facts and arguments out there to those who are involved in evangelizing Roman Catholics.