Snakes weren’t born yesterday

June 14, 2016 § 41 Comments

I’ve noticed a tendency in cafeteria traditionalist or conservative commentary to treat the opinions and selective saint-citation of dead clergymen or scholars as authoritative simply because those scholars are long dead.

That is just how I expect the cafeteria traditionalists of the future to treat the opinions and selective saint-citation of Charles Curren, Walter Kasper, and John Noonan.

§ 41 Responses to Snakes weren’t born yesterday

  • aureliusmoner says:

    In principle I understand your meaning; in actuality this can often be done with certain authors because their works were printed with full ecclesiastical approbation, specifically noted for having synthesized accurately and faithfully all the cogent points of the prior Magisterium, and were recommended for the instruction of clergy in the major points of theology.

    For example, when St. Robert Bellarmine was proclaimed a doctor of the Church, his teachings on the papacy were deliberately cited as a chief cause of the proclamation; his writings on that topic had formed the basis of much of the discussion at Vatican I and the draft of Pastor Aeternus, and had also been incorporated into the papal magisterium more than once. So, while the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine aint’ infallible, it is very authoritative, especially on that topic.

    Or, for example, one has the theological manuals that attained the most unqualified approbation, widespread acclaim and usage in the exposition of sacred theology (Billot, Tanquerey, Van Noort, etc.). One wouldn’t call such works infallible, but a quotation from such works, which are the result of profound reflection by many great minds (authors, directors, editors, colleagues, censors, ordinaries and pontiffs) on the entirety of the centuries of Tradition and doctrine prior thereto, should indeed carry tremendous weight in the mind of a pious Catholic.

    One-off statements by modern prelates (who have abandoned not only the rigorous standards of the theology of yore, but seemingly every notion of certain, doctrinal truth), are obviously worth less than even the pious fancies of your sainted, dead grandma.

  • Alex says:

    Zippy, our current situation is gloomy enough without this kind of nightmare material, don’t you think?

  • Avraham rosenblum says:

    Sometimes it takes time to recognize greatness. Anselm and Aquinas were first rate thinkers.

  • Zippy says:

    The point though is that just because someone cites (for example) the 17nth century version of Charles Curran or John Noonan selectively citing Aquinas doesn’t mean that their argument is any better supported than it would be by citing Charles Curran or John Noonan citing Aquinas. Especially when it comes to the subject of usury, there is a perverse tendency for cafeteria traditionalists to regurgitate the willfully ignorant arguments of long dead progressives.

  • Zippy says:

    And of course this leads me to deduce the likelihood that, when it comes to sex and marriage, future cafeteria traditionalists will likewise have a tendency to regurgitate the willfully ignorant arguments of the like of Charles Curran, John Noonan, and Walter Kasper.

  • Zippy says:

    To make it more concrete, here is the Renaissance-era equivalent of Georgetown University doing its part to promote heresy and confusion; often cited with approval by today’s “conservatives” or cafeteria traditionalists. The fact that a theology paper comes out of Georgetown or some other progressive institution doesn’t make it wrong in every particular. But it should be a cautionary flag, a sign that heresy is likely and the argument should be subject to very careful scrutiny, presumed to be poisonous and false until demonstrated otherwise.

    But future generations of “conservatives” will treat theology papers out of Georgetown as vindication of the triumph of liberal ideas (under whatever name), despite the banality and obviousness of the fallacies and falsehoods. Just watch and wait; you will see.

    Unless liberalism in particular and modernity in general is utterly, unequivocally, categorically rejected, this is the future.

  • Dear Zippy. Thanks for the link which takes down the Acton Heretics – funded by Midwestern Calvinists.

    Whoever I hear the Thomas Woods’ chorus amening his claims about those clerics I always ask them to cite just one footnote referencing one of those clerics in a single Catholic Social Doctrine Encyclical,

    And, of course, there is no such footnote for those Woods identifies as catholic economic experts were brought forth by Jewish agnostics and proposed to we Catholic as Catholic exemplars.

    As Yogi Berra said when a Jew was elected mayor of Dublin, “Only in America”

  • Mike T says:

    I can’t find the quote, but someone once shared a quote from Jefferson or Madison where they expressed great fear that future generations would so revere them that they’d lose the will to reevaluate the course of American politics out of a belief that they were infallible giants rather than mortal men responding to their times and circumstances.

  • P.B. says:

    bornacatholic: Woods has problems but I don’t think that review is entirely fair. At least the culture war guys haven’t accused him of being a Mossad agent.

  • Mike T says:

    Sorta off topic, but I’m curious what you think since you visit Dalrock’s blog a bit. What do you think of Christians who come down hard on guys like Roosh and Roissy (who are obviously wrong in their sexual views) versus people like the various socons that Dalrock references who teach things like weaponizing sex, using divorce as leverage and stuff like that? It’s not a leading question. My inclination is that the former is less dangerous simply because you know precisely what he is and don’t have to start from a perspective of assuming he holds views compatible with yours.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Both are valuable correctives, assuming I understood the question.

    The problem with the Rollo’s, Roosh’s and Roissy’s isn’t that they are always wrong all the time — no more or less than (e.g.) Dalrock’s “complementarian” targets are always wrong all the time.

    Nobody is always wrong all the time.

    But there is a kind paradox involved: anyone who needs to go to the R’s to learn anything important is by definition too dangerously ignorant to be going to the R’s to find the truth. Like the R’s themselves, it is not so much an exercise in killing pretty lies as it is an exercise in exchanging one set of lies for another.

    If you have the maturity, virtue, and knowledge to discern what is true and false in the philosophy of whores you aren’t the sort of person who needs to be taught anything by pontificating whores.

    Dalrock’s contribution is unique and important, because he shows that snakes come in many guises and he exposes many of the snakes who masquerade as angels.

  • Mike T says:

    I was actually speaking in a more general sense. I’ve seen all over the place (not just W4) Christians attacking the Alt-Right (often with poor examples IMO) while IMO turning a blind eye toward the sort of folks who are like the complementarians that Dalrock frequently targets. From my perspective as someone who leans closer to Dalrock than those people on some of these things, I am inclined to say better Rollo or Roosh whose faults are plain to me than a wolf in sheep’s clothing who I am always having to check to see what scripture or tradition he’ll twist. Even more than that, I find that in earthly matters that non-Christians are often more reliable these days about desiring to fix the common good. For example, I actually find in this election that Christians I know are often more concerned with bathroom politics than immigration, terrorism and the welfare of the working class. Which brings me to the saddest sign I saw this election which was Cruz’s numbers dipping when he said look, I’m running for ***commander in chief***, not ***pastor in chief***. They were angry that the man running for office, well, actually said “look pal, I’m a Christian but I won’t even pretend that I’m going to be a philosopher king or priest-king.”

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Just about everyone has their favorite execrable wickednesses which they prefer to overlook.

  • Mike T says:

    True dat. And I suppose it depends on what we are most sympathetic to or feel best prepared to take head on that determines most of that. It’s just from my perspective, I say WTF is the difference between Roissy and a pastor who denounces pornography because it weakens a wife’s power to weaponize the marital bed to control her husband’s behavior and make him behave himself. Maybe one is worse, but then getting blown up by a nuke is “worse” than getting blown up by a grenade. It’s either way you’re dead and quibbling over which way of arriving there is better.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    >WTF is the difference between Roissy and a pastor who denounces pornography because it weakens a wife’s power to weaponize the marital bed to control her husband’s behavior and make him behave himself.

    The former promotes sin, the latter denounces sin?

    >Maybe one is worse, but then getting blown up by a nuke is “worse” than getting blown up by a grenade.

    You’re comparing a man not getting sex to getting killed. That is something a poster on the Truecels reddit would say.

  • Zippy says:

    On the editorial point, I understood Mike T to be comparing being killed one way vs being killed another. It isn’t that being killed by a grenade is comparable to being led into sexual immorality; it as that the nuke/grenade difference to the dead man doesn’t leave him any less dead.
    I suppose there is a sense in which, to the man who has become entrapped in sexual immorality, the “how’s” aren’t that important.
    But it seems to me that the “how’s” probably are important, as they ever are. It is a wife’s responsibility to satisfy the marriage debt, so if her failure in that respect is a contributing factor to her husband becoming mired in sexual immorality that is certainly pertinent (for values of “pertinent”). It doesn’t excuse his actions; but it does indict hers, and the actions of those who are encouraging her sexual stinginess or manipulative behaviors.

  • Mike T says:

    Beyond explicitly making that point, I don’t know how I could have been clearer.

    The real purpose of the comparison was to point out who is worse: the PUA who teaches men how to fornicate or the “good conservative Christian pastor/theologian” who teaches wives that it is their righteous duty and right to weaponize sex when they feel their husband is not doing right. Either way, you have someone promulgating objectively evil and grave behaviors, teaching how to do it and providing a philosophical cover for the motivations.

    I suppose there is a sense in which, to the man who has become entrapped in sexual immorality, the “how’s” aren’t that important.

    I wasn’t necessarily making that argument, but rather that if two people have routes that lead to Hell and both end up arriving there, having arrived the details of their journey are moot. There is no hierarchy in the lake of fire.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Traditionally there are at least possibly (though not dogmatically, AFAIK) all sorts of different experiences of both Heaven and Hell, depending on the person and what he has done. “My Father’s house has many mansions” points to the former; see Dante for the latter.

  • Mike T says:


    The former promotes sin, the latter denounces sin?

    If someone told you to not snort cocaine because it would diminish your ability to shoot up heroin, would you call that a denunciation of drug use or someone telling you “don’t choose this evil because it’ll make you less likely to commit this evil?”

  • Zippy says:

    Promoting stinginess and manipulative behavior in the marriage bed is unquestionably wicked, just as publishing pornography is unquestionably wicked.

  • Aethelfrith says:


    The only way your argument holds any merit is if denial of sex is always and everywhere evil, like fornication and pornography are. What if she is denying her husband sex because he can’t stop consuming pornography?

  • Zippy says:

    If her husband lights himself on fire, she should throw on gasoline?

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Sorry. I’m not buying that denying sex = gasoline.

  • Zippy says:

    If you (the generic you) are married to someone, it is a primary responsibility of yours to help that person get to Heaven. The number of circumstances in which denying sex helps your spouse get to Heaven is vanishingly small, and even then it isn’t really your call: spouses have pledged their bodies to each other, denying sex without a very compelling reason is a kind of theft or fraud, and denying it when sex is precisely one’s spouse’s weak point is execrably, despicably, unequivocally wicked: deserving of hellfire.

    Whether anyone “buys it” or not.

  • Mike T says:

    Sorry. I’m not buying that denying sex = gasoline.

    Many people in the church support a right of refusal, while also condemning fornication, knowing full well that the spiritual gift of celibacy is rarely given by the Spirit and then act shocked that this assault leads men into sin. It should also be doubly damning to you that many of these men are lead into being taught by “the Rs.”

  • Mike T says:

    If her husband lights himself on fire, she should throw on gasoline?

    If he lights himself on fire, apparently she is not obligated to help put the flames out until he repents of his pornography addiction.

  • CJ says:

    I taught this in an adult Bible study once. What I remember most are two contrasting reactions. A divorced woman stared daggers at me. A couple married 40+ years, the wife nodded her head and said “that’s right!” while her husband sat up straight and folded his arms over his chest. Like a boss.

  • CJ says:

    Also, it should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: the marital debt only applies to the marital act. The wife isn’t obligated to imitate any sodomitic/perverted acts he saw on the screen. Even then, the actual marriage debt still stands.

  • Avraham rosenblum says:

    I did not understand what you said in regards to Aquinas. It is not that I am Catholic. I am Jewish, but I have a great deal of respect for him and other scholastic thinkers. It seems to me anyone quoting him deserves consideration.

  • Zippy says:

    Avraham rosenblum:

    I too hold Aquinas in very high esteem. In fact it is in part my high esteem for him that makes me especially careful when some writer or commentator starts playing the game of “Aquinas says”. “Aquinas says” is frequently a way for a writer to try to spin a subject to make it appear that his own (the writer’s) views are being spoken in Aquinas’ voice.

    Sometimes this is done maliciously, and other times it is simply a kind of wish-fulfillment or prejudice-fulfillment expressed hermeneutically (think of the faction of ‘manosphere’ protestants who are always trying to read permission for ‘Christian polygamy’ and other sexual license into the Christian Scriptures: they are probably sincere enough at a certain level, but their reason is ‘bent’ by conscupiscient arrogance and several layers of metaphysical error).

    What I am suggesting in the OP, consistent with what I have suggested many times before, is that a kind of Hegelian dialectic is often taking place among Catholics (and others too, but my focus in the OP is on Catholics in particular). It goes something like this:

    As a more liberal view of some particular moral question takes hold in society, progressive theologians start showering thinly disguised contempt on Aquinas and explaining how dumb he was about (e.g.) money and finance.

    At first this is resisted by ‘conservatives’. But eventually people get old and die. Ideas, on the other hand, live on and develop in a social context.

    New generations of ‘conservatives’ start to engage in Aquinas revisionism: rather than rejecting the progressive principles which have taken hold (e.g. that the nature of money has changed and therefore charging a ‘reasonable’ amount of usury is acceptable in most circumstances today), they argue that the Novus Ordo Pecunia brought into being by modernity was compatible with Aquinas all along, and anyway at worst Aquinas was not infallible so it really just takes a few tweaks of his views here and there to morally justify (e.g.) contractual profits on mutuum loans.

    This has all already happened with usury: the progressive victory was complete before any of us were born, and the most traditional of traditionalists will argue that the nature of money has changed, so contractual profit from mutuum loans is at least sometimes morally permissible.

    It is right now happening, before our very eyes, with sex and marriage.

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  • Svar says:

    Great post, Zippy. It reminds me of what Sam Francis said about the Founding Fathers: love them all you want, but don’t subvert their message by selectively quoting them. The same idea applies to St. Paul, St. John Crysostom, St Augustine, St Aquinas, Chesterton, Belloc, and Christ Himself.

    These people are worse than unbelievers IMO.

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  • Mike T says:

    What if she is denying her husband sex because he can’t stop consuming pornography?

    To arrive at the notion this is a morally licit possibility, you have to implicitly accept the liberal notions of authority within a marriage. The wife is implicitly declaring herself not subject to her vows or the ordinary requirements of Christian marriage, which includes doing good by wayward or non-Christian spouses.

    It is actually closer to non serviam! than anything else.

    This is a good example of why one should be careful about getting high and mighty about how “non-liberal” you are.

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