The Case Against Protestant Special Pleading

If you’re not familiar, “special pleading” is a type of logical fallacy; Wikipedia explains that it “involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption.

So for example, you might argue for the general rule that “thieves should be punished, because stealing is wrong,” but then say, “it’s okay when I steal, because I can really use the money.” But, of course, everyone can use the money, and stealing is wrong when anyone does it.  To apply a separate standard for yourself is special pleading, and it’s a fallacious argument.  Either stealing is okay if you can use the money, or stealing is wrong and should be punished, or neither: it can’t be both.

With that in mind, I think that there’s a central question on which Protestants often employ special pleading, whether they know it or not.  Namely, if an individual Christian declares that all (or virtually all) Christians on Earth misunderstand core elements of the Gospel, but that he understands it correctly, could he be right?

I. The Problems with “Yes

To say yes to this would suggest that it’s possible that the Gospel is so obtuse that not a single soul correctly understands it.  This contradicts the Protestant notion of the perspicuity of Scripture, which has proclaimed since the Reformation that “anyone who is literate could comprehend the gospel and the Scriptures.

It also would seem to render Jesus’ promises null, when He declared that He’d be with us always (Mt. 28:20),  that His Holy Spirit would lead us into “all Truth” (John 16:13), that this same Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth,” would help us and be with us forever (John 14:16-17), and that Jesus wouldn’t leave us as orphans (John 14:18).

This answer also raises some very troubling notions.  The Gnostics, some of the earliest Christian heretics, claimed that there were secret Gospels, with esoteric teachings known only to themselves.  Orthodox Christianity resoundingly denounced this.  To suggest that some elements of the Gospel are known only to a chosen few, out of all of Christianity, seems to reintroduce those same Gnostic elements.

Finally, it would leave the Gospel forever unsettled.  Tomorrow, some Rob Bell or Harold Camping could come along with some new “insight” into Scripture, and we’d all have to change our religion to stay hip to the Gospel du jour. How can we say we believe in orthodox Christianity, if we declare a belief that tomorrow, we may end up believing something totally different?  That sounds like the house of faith built upon sand, which Jesus condemns, rather than the house of faith built upon Rock (Mt. 7:24-27).

II. The Problems with “No

So it would seem that the answer would have to be no. And as Catholics, of course, we’d agree.  But this answer also raises problems for Protestants: after all, isn’t this exactly what Martin Luther and John Calvin did?  Each of those men declared that certain core elements of the Gospel were misunderstood by everyone on earth.  In an earlier post, I pointed to four major areas in which they declared all of Christianity wrong:

  1. On Baptism, the Protestant history Philip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325writes in the section on “The Doctrine of Baptism” that “This ordinance was regarded in the ancient church as the sacrament of the new birth or regeneration,” and that its “effect consists in the forgiveness of sins and the communication of the Holy Spirit.” Again, this is A.D. 100 – 325.  The situation remains the same for centuries more, until after the Reformation in the 1500s.
  2. On the Eucharist, the Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly concedes that during the early Church period, “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood.” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).  Again, this didn’t change for centuries afterward.
  3. On forensic justification, the Calvinist scholar Alister McGrath concedes that the “Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum.”  Francis Beckwith, in Return to Rome, does a good job of handling the early Church Fathers who are sometimes used to defend forensic justification – he shows quotes from each proving that their views weren’t the Protestant one at all.
  4. On the canon of Scripture, I’ve addressed it here in greater depth. So far, no one’s been able to find a single early Christian who owned or used a 66-book Protestant Bible.

If all the world’s known Christians could at one time: misunderstand what Baptism does, worship the Eucharist as an idol, proclaim a different Gospel on justification (2 Corinthians 11:4), and have a Bible mixed with good and bad Books, what hope do Christians today have?

There are two posts I’ve read which really put this problem into perspective.  The first is from Brantly Millegan, who writes:

Prior to the Reformation, the 73 book Catholic biblical canon had been the undisputed biblical canon for over 1000 years. This new 66 book Protestant canon being defended by John Calvin had never existed before, never having been put forth by any individual or group in the 1500 years prior (even during the first three centuries of the Church during which the canon was a disputed matter). The 16th century self-appointed reformers literally removed books from the universally accepted Bible to create a brand new canon and then justified it by appealing to an “inward illumination of the Holy Spirit”.

Would evangelicals accept someone doing the same thing today?

If an influential non-denominational mega-church decided to remove, let’s say, the book of Esther from the Old Testament and began printing Bibles with a 65 book canon, and started saying that all those who had more than 65 books in their Bible had added them and were therefore heretics, evangelicals would rightly be in an uproar: ‘How dare the the mega-church change the Bible!’

If the mega-church responded that they had made their decision “by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit”, would any evangelical be satisfied by that response?

Yet that, of course, is exactly how John Calvin defends his decision to reject seven Books of what was then called the Bible (and is now called the Catholic Bible).  He comes close to claiming to be individually inspired in this decision, something virtually no Calvinist would feel comfortable claiming today.

The second post is one I find even more troubling, and one I’ve mentioned before.  Chaplain Mike Mercer, a former Baptist minister (now a Lutheran), explains that Luther’s Bible put Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation at the back of the New Testament, placing a warning page before them:

Up to this point we have had to do with the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation.

Luther then proceeds to write rather scathing critiques of the four Books.  While offering some faint praise, Luther levels the following charges:

  • On Hebrews: we cannot put it on the same level with the apostolic epistles.
  • On James: I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle,” and it “is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works.
  • On Jude:no one can deny that it is an extract or copy of St. Peter’s second epistle,” and “it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith.
  • On Revelation: I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic.
And in critiquing the Books, Luther offers this standard:

Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit leads him. My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it. But to teach Christ, this is the thing which an apostle is bound above all else to do; as Christ says in Acts 1, “You shall be my witnesses.” Therefore I stick to the books which present Christ to me clearly and purely.

Is that a standard Protestants today would feel comfortable using?  Just accept the Books of the Bible which feel right to you, or which you find agreeable?
As I said, I find his post troubling: Chaplain Mike seemingly points to Luther as a positive example, that perhaps Evangelicals should stop trusting in the sixty-six Books that they’ve got, since some of them may be more or less Scripture than others.
In his defense, Chaplain Mike is at least being consistent: if the whole world could have the wrong Bible in the Sixteenth Century, it’s quite rational that the whole world could have the wrong Bible today, particularly when the same man who lead the charge against the Catholic Deuterocanon also wanted to tear out those four New Testament Books. On what basis can Protestants trust Luther on the Old Testament while ignoring him on the New?
As both Brantly and Chaplain Mike show, a Protestant today who acts like Luther or Calvin would be soundly rejected and branded a heretic.  Yet on what basis, other than special pleading, can this be said with a straight face, without also calling the Reformers heretics? 


  1. Hi Joe, I’ve just recently discovered how my 66 book canon came about and I am disturbed. You wrote very well about if anyone was to remove or add to God’s word as I know it, they would resoundly be rejected as they should. Read Prov30:5,6.
    But why did the Reformation succeed. Many who left the Catholic church formed God fearing, Spirit filled, good works performing, Gospel preaching, Bible teaching churches that have thrived for 500 years and those that remain true to the Bible are continuing to grow. those that are ordaining women or homosexuals are emptying fast. Do you think the Catholic church has itself to blame for the exodus from itself?

  2. WRA,

    I do think that we Catholics bear a lot of guilt there. The analogy I use is to divorce: we know from Scripture that God says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). And Christ calls those who divorce their spouses and get married to other people adulterers (Mark 10:11-12).

    But even if a woman sins by divorcing her husband and getting remarried, there’s a good chance that the husband did lots of things that lead her to feel like divorce was her only option. He’s probably not guiltless in the sin.

    So it was with the Reformation. God hates schism, and St. Paul says that those who create schisms and factions won’t inherit the Kingdom in Galatians 5:20. So a heavy sin hangs on those who started the Reformation and willingly left the Catholic Church. But a great many Catholics, including Church leaders, share in that sin. If we Catholics always behaved as we’re called to by Christ, (practically) no one would ever want to leave the Catholic Church.

    That doesn’t make the Reformation morally right: it still violates Hebrews 13:17 and Galatians 5:20, in urging disobedience to Church leaders, schism, and factions, and we should pray for the souls of those involved. But it does make it easier to understand how well-meaning Christians were able to justify abandoning the Catholic Church.

    God bless,


  3. Hello WRA,

    I think you bring up a good point in mentioning the many wonderful Protestant communities that exist today, in spite of the many heretical ones that distort the gospel. I come from a Protestant family and I can attest to the sincere and Christ-centered faith of very many Protestants whom I know and love personally.

    I will also say, though, that it is very difficult to judge the results or “fruits” of a monumental historical event such as the Reformation comprehensively. For instance, it is universally accepted that Luther ushered in the modern world. The modern world is not all bad, but part of it is the mass apostasy from the Christian faith and the degradation of Western society and culture (abortion, pornography, the “free love” notion of sexuality, the breakdown of the family, etc.). In removing the authoritative role of the Church while exalting the sovereignty of the individual, nothing short of chaos has swallowed up Western Society. All that remains of the glory of Western society are some aging architecture, a shrinking population of faithful Christians, literature and music that goes largely unread or unheard, institutions like Universities, Hospitals and the like, and some ancient ruins. We need to include these bad fruits along with the good ones that you and I see in Protestant communities in order to judge the Reformation fairly.

    God bless you, WRA.

    In Christ,


  4. Quick question:

    On the matters of baptism and the Eucharist, at least following the limited definitions of Schaff and Kelly, are not Lutherans aligned with Catholics? That is, is not baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the eucharist taught and believed by orthodox Lutherans?

    If I’m thinking straight, they do, and that, more than anything else troubles me about Protestantism. It is no surprise that I disagree with Catholics and Eastern Orthodox who have a different interpretive paradigm than I do about these sacraments. It is a sad surprise that I disagree with good Lutherans about them.



  5. Drew,

    Lutherans and Catholics agree (as far as I can tell, anyway) on the issue of Baptism. But we disagree on the Eucharist. Lutherans believe that Christ is in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine. But the early Church held, as we hold today: that what had been bread and wine is the Body and Blood of Christ after the consecration.

    Lutherans also view Christ’s Presence as limited to the Liturgy, while the early Church didn’t believe this, sending the Eucharist out to the sick, or storing up a week’s worth with hermits. The early Church believed, as we do today, that once the Eucharist becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, It remains that way as long as It exists.

    God bless,


    P.S. I’m not sure I understand the rest of your comment. Can you hash out what you mean in the part about disagreeing with good Lutherans?

  6. Yes, sir.

    And I am familiar with the con vs. transubstantiation issue, and the reservation of consecrated elements is a difference, yes. I think I did read, interestingly, that Lutherans adore the Eucharist during (and only during, as you said) the liturgy as truly Christ. So, Real Presence between Lutherans and Catholics is a closer relationship than the agreement on not keeping the Eucharist in a monstrance for further adoration between Lutherans and Baptists, say.

    What I meant with the end, there, is that, as a sola scriptura Protestant, my disagreement with Catholics and Orthodox, who possess additional sources of equal and infallible authority, is not surprising, since the other sources might well clarify the doctrines in a direction not naturally (in my estimation) suggested by Scripture. That Lutherans, who have the same hermeneutical (sort of) approach and same authority (a 66 book Bible) as I do, come to different conclusions about the interpretation of the sacraments from the Bible is truly troubling. I said “good” Lutherans because they’re faithfully reading the Word by the light of the Holy Spirit like I try to do. “Bad” Lutherans, or members of any other denomination, for that matter, with whom I disagree doctrinally can have their interpretations dismissed as unorthodox because the Christians themselves are, well, unorthodox. That I disagree with emergent church Protestants, for example, doesn’t keep me up at night.

    Had Protestantism been monolithic among faithful Christians, even from its earliest times, it would be a stronger suggestion than it now is. But since Luther and Zwingli fought over the Eucharist and Calvin and the Anabaptists over baptism, and that continues today among faithful Christians of each of those traditions (though seemingly without a Martin Bucer to encourage cooperation), I find myself saddled with the responsibility of being my own pope. And I don’t look very good in hats.



  7. Drew,

    That is, in my opinion, one of the best arguments against Protestantism. The people of good will, seeking earnestly and humbly after God, equipped with the exact same tools, sharing the same theological presuppositions about sola fide and sola Scriptura, arrive at some wildly different conclusions.

    There’s a great quote by (I think) either St. Francis De Sales or Hilarie Belloc. If I can find it, and do a follow-up post this week, building off of your comment. Keep your eyes peeled.

    God bless,


  8. I think Joe gave a good response to WRA, but I’d like to pick apart some of his statements.

    “But why did the Reformation succeed?”

    What counts as “success” here? The rapid, constant fragmentation of the Church? Centuries of continued theological innovation where every conceivable Christian doctrine is disputed by one group or another? I would say that it succeeded in the same way the radioactive material succeeded at Chernobyl.

    “Many who left the Catholic church formed God fearing, Spirit filled, good works performing, Gospel preaching, Bible teaching churches”

    Indeed, and I have been fortunate in my life to be blessed by many of them 🙂

    However, I don’t think this could be said for all. I remember reading some of Luther where he lamented his legacy. He had hoped that Sola Scriptura would bring about a higher moral standard of living in the people, yet he wrote that it was even worse than before when they were “under the Papists”.

    “…that have thrived for 500 years”

    There certainly have been areas of growth, but as well as evangelization, I would imagine that some of this growth has instead been through mitosis.

    “…and those that remain true to the Bible are continuing to grow”

    I think this is a difficult statement to make. All would claim that they are remaining true to the Bible. As usual, the real question is: who’s interpretation of the Bible?

    Plus, I can think of a good handful of *extremely* dodgy groups who also appear to be thriving.

    “Do you think the Catholic church has itself to blame for the exodus from itself?”

    For my money, most certainly. If the Catholic Church fails in its task to be that city on a hill, people will wander off in search of other light.

    Having said that, we must always be patient. The Church is constantly in need of renewal, yet she moves extremely slowly.

    In a rather ironic twist, I was actually introduced to the Saints by a Baptist Minister who had a great love of St. Francis of Assisi. However, whereas most people love him for being a bit of a hippy tree-hugger, I remember being struck by the way in which Francis was a reformer. The Church was in a very shabby condition when Francis first received his calling. How did he manage to bring about a renewal of faith and sanctity at a time when the Church was in dire morale straits? Stamping his feet and shouting at those who were in need of change? No. He did it though his determination for personal holiness and through obedience to Church authority, even to those who were so clearly in need of reform. The result? The Catholic Church was utterly transformed and renewed. If God could do it with Francis, maybe He can do it with us too. This is the calling of every Catholic. The Church needs more Saints, not critics.

  9. I notice your claim that there wasn’t ANYONE before Luther that used the equivalent of the Protestant canon. I challenged a close family member recently with this and he listed canons from Amphilochius of Iconium,
    Rufinus of Aquileia,
    John of Damascus
    and said the Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae from 550 AD was a questionable match.

    I read your post (from 2009) about Protestant claims to matching canon lists and you debunked a few of these (Jerome, and Rufinus specifically, if I remember correctly) but not all of them. Are you aware of any research showing that the rest of these lists do not actually match the Protestant canon, despite the claim that they do?

  10. Nice. It also seems to me that mathison et al employ this ‘no true scotsman’ routine to distinguish between the conciliar edicts they accept and those they don’t. Special pleading is central to protestantism.

  11. @Restless Pilgrim
    Success is God fearing, Spirit filled, good works performing, gospel preaching, Bible teaching, missionary sending, martyr having, Jesus loving, Christianity growing, etc churches.

    My point is that people like Rob Bell and Harold Camping are seen as yahoos but Luther and Calvin were not. People took them seriously inspite of them removing book from the canon. I can’t imagine anyone doing that today and being taken seriously. Why were they then?

  12. WRA,

    It’s worth remembering that both Camping and especially Bell have quite large followings. You and I view them as a bit “out there,” but they seem to be able to draw a heck of a following. Look at how well Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins” has done, for example:

    Now, granted, some of these books are going to people who think he’s nuts, but it’s a testament to his popularity that his book has consistently been in Amazon’s top 100, and even top 10, selling books. So I think there are still people hungry to hear new Gospels, either because they’re not being fed in their current church, or because they’re not happy with the actual Gospel for whatever reason.

    God bless,


  13. @WRA

    Like Joe says, those figures are hardly insignificant, particularly Rob Bell.

    I also can’t help but think of Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormonism religion in the early 19th Century…

    I’m sure that many Mormons would describe his church as “God fearing, Spirit filled, good works performing, gospel preaching, Bible teaching, missionary sending, martyr having, Jesus loving, Christianity growing”…yet he said and did stuff infinitely stranger than anyone we’ve mentioned so far. And people took him very seriously.

  14. It is on the basis of the Gospel that we stand.

    The Bible contains Law, and it contains Gospel…all of it God’s Word.

    But the baseline for the Christian faith ought be the gospel…the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.

    Trying to justify oneself by what we do, is just law and “no one will be justified in the sight of the law.”

    That’s the Lutheran prism which we use to read and understand all of Scripture.

    You may not like it. And that’s ok. We do. We believe it is Biblical and we believe it is the freedom of God to be God and save whom He will. Real sinners…the kind we know we are.


  15. I remember, prior to my conversion, understanding why Protestants questioned the authority of councils of bishops to determine the canon of Scripture but not understanding why Martin Luther’s authority to determine the canon was unquestioned. Of course, in retrospect this shows that I was farther along the path to conversion than I would have believed at the time.

    @michaeladdison — Yes, Jerome doubted the deuterocanonicals, but he realized that he was just a TRANSLATOR of the Bible into Latin and submitted to the judgment of the Church. You might consider that, in the secular world, the government employee who (for example) translates a document about Hamas from Arabic into English is rarely (never) the same person who determines US policy toward Hamas. You do realize that St. Jerome is not considered a saint because of his skills at translation?

  16. @WRA

    “Do you think the Catholic church has itself to blame for the exodus from itself?”

    Contrary to Resless Pilgrim, I have to say NO. Plenty of Catholics were to blame, not least of them Fr. Martin Luther. (No, that’s not a joke.) But I do not place the blame on the Church Herself.

    Since you probably accept the Protestant idea of an “invisible Church”, but one which is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), let me ask a similar question: “Do you think the Church has Herself to blame for the refusal of so many Jews to accept their Messiah? Do you think their refusal to accept Christ is the fault of the Body of Christ?”

    I think any good Protestant would have to say, “Of course not!” It cannot be denied, however, that the sins of many individual Christians have contributed enormously to the scandal of the Cross.

  17. Michael,

    Jerome never picked up a 66-Book Bible in his life, because none existed. When he did translate the Bible, it was the Catholic Vulgate.

    True, Jerome argued for three tiers of Books, but his theory was never accepted by Catholics or Protestants. Augustine and Rufinus attacked his rejection of the Deuterocanon’s canonicity, and Rufinus in general is clear that Jerome is proposing a dangerous novelty unknown to Jerusalem or Roman Christians. Jerome submitted to the pope ultimately, translating the Vulgate. He advanced a novel idea, got shot down, and moved on.

    More can be read on the subject of Jerome and the canon here, here
    and more comprehensively here.

    Of course, if you really care what Jerome said, read the quote I provided in the other post you commented on – here. He put those who broke away from the Catholic Church in the same category as the Antichrist. I don’t think you’ll succeed in making him a Protestant. Like I said, he had the humility to submit to the pope, even when he disagreed.

    And without Jerome, who does that leave you in the early Church, exactly? Or is your belief that every Christian was a heretic?

    God bless,


  18. waterlooregionafrican,

    WRT “those that remain true to the Bible are continuing to grow”, I disagree.

    Read the sermons of Calvin, Luther, Wesley, and even Zwingli and see how much of it would play out in conservative churches today. Read about the stinging attacks on masturbation and contraception (which they call a sin worse than incest). Look at what they have to say about open communion and the Virgin Mary. Look for any trace of rapture theology other than straight condemnation on anything other than the amillenial view.

    The only difference between a conservative Protestant Church and a liberal one is 40 years. Conservatives tend to hold out longer, but eventually they cave. If you compare Protestant church stances on a variety of issues 40 years ago, then 80 years ago, then 120 years ago, you’ll notice a depressing trend that gives strong clues on what will happen 40 years from now.

    I wish it were otherwise, since as Francis Schaeffer as put it, we need all the allies we can get in this increasingly hostile culture of death, but sadly it isn’t.

    WRT “Do you think the Catholic church has itself to blame for the exodus from itself?”

    If you ignore the political factors of Kings ramming Protestantism down the throats of their subjects so that they could take control of Church lands and influence, yes some blame is due. It’s the nature of Catholicism. Every 400 years or so, Catholicism becomes too comfortable and worldly, and like clockwork, a crisis is reached which forces it to get its house in order. We’re about due for another shake-up now as a matter of fact (cough, “Spirit” of Vatican II) and renewal (thank you Pope Benedict). But the key thing to not is that Catholicism is self-renewing and becomes stronger after every crisis precisely because it is Divinely protected. To place oneself outside of that protection not only saddens Jesus (remember his prayer for unity?), it is also as foolish as the Northern Kingdoms separating themselves from the Southern Kingdoms.

  19. @Joe: I was just amused about this big article on the canon and how it’s uncontested. Yet THE translator disagreed. Amazing!
    @Howard: Who, other than The Whore, said he was a saint? To me and all others who abide to sola scriptura, his teachings on grave worship, etc. would put him in a position to “let God judge those outside the church”. I’m not saying he’s in hell, but for the sake of the living’s conscience, the “saint” label MUST be taken away for he did not “hear the word of God and obey it”. (I love using that Scripture since what was said directly before it sounded VERY similar to the Hail Mary and asking the unseen to pray for us is not, I repeat, is not commanded in the Word.)

  20. Michael,

    I never said or suggested that the canon was uncontested. There were easily a dozen different proposed Scriptural canons. But what’s striking is that not a single one of the Fathers ever used the 66-Book Protestant Bible.

    In your rush to attack the Church with Jerome (who you apparently don’t even view as a Christian), you’re missing the forest for the trees.

    Yes, it’s true, not 100% of early Christians took the Catholic position on the canon of Scripture before it was clearly defined. But 0% took the Protestant position.

    Or are you more interested in trying to prove the Catholic Church wrong than determining if your own beliefs are true, or supportable?

  21. If Billy Graham or anyone of his kind would decide to remove any portion of scripture today, the act would be resoundly rejected by, I suspect, any true Christian. I can’t imagine anyone claiming that some of the 66 book canon are not inspired, being taken seriously.

    Why was Martin Luther taken seriously?

  22. WRA,

    Good question. It certainly seems like an unfortunate turn of events in retrospect — there are books just missing from the Protestant Bible, without a very coherent explanation as to why.

    Anyone here want to provide a satisfactory answer to WRA’s question?


  23. But even if a woman sins by divorcing her husband and getting remarried, there’s a good chance that the husband did lots of things that lead her to feel like divorce was her only option.Joe Heschmeyer


    The reality is, it’s a slim chance.

    It’s one of those commonly held but wrong beliefs, such as “Catholics added seven books to the Bible” or “the Big Bang Theory was invented by atheists.”

    I won’t speculate why this calumny against men, coddling of women fiction is so widespread – especially among Catholic ministers and apologists. Anyone who wishes to learn the facts can refer to the open research literature or read a book such as Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths by Sanford Braver and Diane McConnell.

  24. Micha,

    I’m not claiming that men are responsible for divorce. I was saying that generally, neither side is totally blameless. Do you object to this?

    If so, I think you’ll need to provide some better support than you have so far — that link just says that most dads aren’t child molesters and deadbeats, but I know that.

    In any case, you might profit from being a bit less rash in your use of the “calumny” charge.

    God bless,


  25. I’m not claiming that men are responsible for divorce.

    That’s not the impression your words, “there’s a good chance that the husband… (led) her…” leave with me. What does “a good chance” mean to you? I take it to mean better than 50-50.

    Furthermore, there’s a great difference between a husband that doesn’t fulfill the wife’s fantasy ideal of marriage (commonplace for we are all fallen) and a husband who is intolerably cruel (rare, not something that has “a good chance” of happening). This difference of culpability is not captured by your he-led-her remark. (And do you really think women are so easily led?)

    I was saying that generally, neither side is totally blameless. Do you object to this?

    While that may be what you meant, that’s not what you wrote. And I object to your introduction of the word “totally” here, it gives the impression that you’re now wishing for wiggle room that your earlier remarks didn’t include.

    …that link just says that most dads aren’t child molesters and deadbeats…

    Sigh. I did not write “follow this link”, I mentioned a book. I regret that supplying a link to a review of the book confused you.

    I did not use the word “calumny” rashly; I gave careful thought to employing that word. Why? Because there’s really no other explanation for the haste with which so many Catholic apologists reach for that husband-caused-the-divorce trope. Is that the only explanation for divorce they have? Or are they afraid to put the truth in front of the congregation or EWTN listeners (who are mostly women)?

    St. Joseph, earthly father of the Holy Family, pray for us.

  26. Micah,

    The comment you objected to was:

    But even if a woman sins by divorcing her husband and getting remarried, there’s a good chance that the husband did lots of things that lead her to feel like divorce was her only option. He’s probably not guiltless in the sin.

    Somehow, you read that as me saying that there’s a better than 50% chance that the husband was “intolerably cruel.” That interpretation of what I said is (if you’ll pardon a horrible pun) divorced from reality.

    I’ll stand by my actual comment: that the spouse being divorced isn’t sinless, and that there’s a good chance that they did things that made the divorcing spouse feel justified in leaving, just as Catholics weren’t sinless before the Reformation. If you think I’m somehow okaying divorce, you’re completely missing the point of the comment.

    In any case, I’m sure there are enough man-haters on the Internet for you to argue with, without having to pretend I’m one of them, and without having to baselessly throw around charges of calumny.



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