A Response to Dave Armstrong

January 27, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – (LAST UPDATED 2/1/2021): It recently came to my attention that my name appeared in a December 2020 article authored by Dave Armstrong on his website, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (see Skojec & Cronies “Refute” My Analyses of Reactionaries). It is not my ‘policy’ to respond to mentions I might see. But given the nature of the accusations leveled by Mr. Armstrong, I thought I’d make an exception in this instance.

Mr. Armstrong’s article begins citing a twitter thread of which I was a part.  He begins quoting Steve Skojec, then Mr. Armstrong inserts his own narrative before proceeding with quoting the twitter thread, and then finishing up with more of his own comments.  

Steve Skojec (Oct 21): I’m super duper looking forward to watching Catholic theologians and apologists making excuses for this over the next week. It’s going to be yet another strong showing for the Technical Justification Squad.
This was the controversy over same-sex civil unions, which has now been thoroughly covered by several people. Here was my article on it:
 
It goes without saying that none of them were even seriously examined, as far as I can tell, let alone refuted by the reactionary luminaries.
 
Steven O’Reilly (Oct 21): I am sure the folks at “Where Peter Is?” are busy typing up their articles on this. 
Blue Collar Uniate (Oct 21): Can’t forget to include Dave Armstrong. He might beat them to the punch and have published book before noon.
*
Steven O’Reilly (Oct 21): Yes… He’ll write an article about the “rad trads”, “reactionaries”, etc…and whatever crazy labels he has, used to avoid the real arguments. DA is in denial. But…I see him red pilling before the WPI folks, or Walford, etc., who are the Francis bitter enders.
 
Steve Skojec (Oct 21): Super@DaveArmstrong58 is well into “intentionally stupid” territory at this point. I can’t imagine it’s helping to sell his books, but that’s none of my business.
Steven O’Reilly (Oct 21): I have no doubt a day of reckoning for the Francis years will come. A future pope will anathematize him in my humble opinion. When that day comes, “apologists” such as Dave, and WPI will be seen for what they were. Francis toadies.
 
This is our lovely, almost utopian, idyllic postmodernist culture that we live in today. Everything is echo chambers and private bubbles, backslapping rah-rahs and preaching to the choir. If anyone dares dissent or disagree, above all, we must never interact with them. That would never do. Instead, it’s all mockery and “feeding frenzy” insults. Lie about others supposedly refusing to engage in “real arguments” while you yourself hypocritically exemplify that very shortcoming.

Above, it is important to know the context of what the “this” refers to in Skojec’s first tweet. Mr. Armstrong tells the reader “This was the controversy over same-sex civil unions, which has now been thoroughly covered by several people. ”  Well, yes, that is true, but not quite on the mark fully. The “this” that Skojec, et al were referencing was a specific article (see here), written by a magazine friendly to Pope Francis (i.e., the Jesuit magazine America) on October 21, 2020 — very soon after the controversy erupted (the same day?). So, one can see that those commenting in the twitter thread were not joking about the arguments used to defend Francis on the same-sex union story, but rather, joking about how the Francis-apologists would soon come out of the wood work to defend him regardless of what he said or did.  And, in this, the commentators were quite ‘prophetic.’  

That said, since I am named above by Mr. Armstrong, I wish to respond to Mr. Armstrong’s statements about “If anyone dares dissent or disagree, above all, we must never interact with them. That would never do” and  “lie about others supposedly refusing to engage in “real arguments” while you your hypocritically exemplify that very shortcoming.”  Now, clearly, Mr. Armstrong is upset.

So, what to say to Mr. Armstrong?  I had said, “He’ll write an article about the “rad trads”, “reactionaries”, etc…and whatever crazy labels he has, used to avoid the real arguments.” Is that a “lie?” My opinion of him, his labeling of his opponents, and refusing to engage in “real arguments”, etc., might be wrong, but it is hardly a “lie.”  This is my opinion of him.

I have had only one direct interaction with Mr. Armstrong (at least to my recollection). This was on Facebook around March 2020.  I tried to interact with him. My curiosity was this. I am aware of Mr. Armstrong’s association with theologian Dr. Fastiggi. I am also aware that Mr. Armstrong has cited or linked to other Catholic writers/apologists on his site, such as Mr. Stephen Walford, Mr. Alt, and the folks at Where Peter Is.  I had perused these links at least as far back as 2019. However, as I understand their interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, it appeared to me these views, which seem to fall into two camps of thought, cannot be reconciled.  I commented on this in some of my own articles (see Confusion at Vatican Insider?; and The Confusion of the Francis-Apologists).

Take for example, Mike Lewis at Where Peter Is which had informed its readers that Dr. Fastiggi is a “notable defender of the papacy” in the battle over Amoris Laetitia, has stated with regard to Fastiggi’s views on Amoris Laetitia that “His interpretation of the eighth chapter of Amoris seems to leave a little to be desired” (see here). And it seems Where Peter Is has a view of Amoris Laetitia (see here)[1] which is close, possibly identical, to that of Mr. Walford, whose book, The Pope, The Family and Divorce[2] contains a preface written by Pope Francis[3]. Given Mr. Armstrong’s close association/friendship with Dr. Fastiggi, I hoped to clarify with Mr. Armstrong whether he agreed with Dr. Fastiggi’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, or Mr. Walford’s, etc.

This, I thought, is an interesting question as both Dr. Fastiggi and Mr. Walford have been defenders of the orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia. However, the problem is their views appear at least to my fallible mind, irreconcilable.  The question between them is not really is Amoris Laetitia “orthodox” but rather what do they believe the orthodox interpretation is?  

With this in mind, I hoped to get Mr. Armstrong’s opinion on this question.  Failing to find his email address to start what I hoped would be a friendly, private conversation; one evening in March 2020, I found him on Facebook.  There I hoped to “meet” him, and establish a private line of communication. What follows is the substantial part of that conversation on Facebook.  I copied the conversation after it ended, but realized that some of the sub-thread of the conversation didn’t appear in my attempt to copy it.  I went back the next morning to double check the conversation but found I had since been blocked by Mr. Armstrong. Consequently, at least one sub-thread of the whole conversation is missing, which I will comment upon further below. Also, given I was unable to return to Mr. Armstrong’s Facebook site, I was unable to further expand on the “…more” links, to obtain his fuller response in a couple places. My apologies for that. If Mr. Armstrong still has the conversation, and has a fuller record of it than I, and if he provides me what is missing, I’d be more than happy to insert it below.  Also, note, I did not copy any comments from others, only those between Mr. Armstrong and myself.

Therefore, with the above in mind, here was the conversation:

O’Reilly: “Dave…I’d like a clarification of your views of Amoris Laetitia. Feel free to email me at StevenOReilly@aol.com if you are interested in corresponding. I’d be happy then to further explain my question. Regards.”

Armstrong: “I leave those fine-tuned questions mostly to theologians. You can search “amoris” in this collection of articles:”

https://www.patheos.com/…/pope-francis-defended-helpful…

Pope Francis Defended: Resources for Confused or Troubled Folks

O’Reilly: “Dave…that’s part of the problem. If one picks through your selection of writers…they contradict each other. I feel this is a disservice to your reader.”

O’Reilly: “For example…you like Walford. You like Fastiggi. You like Mr. Alt. Their views are not reconciliable.”

O’Reilly: “for examplehttps://romalocutaest.com/…/confusion-at-vatican-insider/

O’Reilly: “You are a professional apologist. Surely…you must have a definitive view.”

O’Reilly: “I am happy to discuss this “offline“.”

Armstrong: “I have only one article by Walford in my collection. I have none by Alt. That’s hardly “confusion.” I have lots by Dr. Fastiggi. I stand by everything he argues. He’s a personal friend of mine, and of unimpeachable orthodoxy.”

[O’Reilly NB as of 1/28/2021:  Mr. Armstrong provides a long list of articles for folks “confused or troubled” by things Francis might say (see here).  This list runs into a couple hundred articles, many dealing with Amoris Laetitia.  I was already familiar with this page back then. My point was not how many articles of one particular author he might have, but that he chose authors whose views — in my opinion — contradict one another on important points (e.g., Dr. Fastiggi, Mr. Walford, Mr Alt). This, I thought would add to the confusion of his reader. 

Now, in preparing this current article (January 2021), I went back and perused his list of articles. As he noted above, there is indeed one from Mr. Walford (here) on that list.  I did not check through Mr. Armstrong’s articles to see if he makes reference to Mr. Walford in his own articles. The interesting thing is, his claimed he had “none” of Mr. Alt’s articles. That puzzled me then and now. So, in writing this article I consulted Way Back Machine site (see here) which archives websites periodically. I checked Mr. Armstrong’s Francis resource page for the “confused and troubled” as it might have appeared at some point before I reached out to him. The last Way Back Archive before our conversation was in December 2019, I believe. If one looks at this archived version (see here) one will find many articles by Mr. Alt that touched upon Amoris Laetitia (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

How to account for Mr. Armstrong’s claim of having ‘none’ of Mr. Alt’s articles?  I am not completely sure. I am aware that Mr. Alt moved his website at some point over the last year or so. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong restructured his page in early 2020 to potentially drop dead links to Mr. Alt’s old site. That seems like a reasonable explanation. Alternatively though, perhaps Mr. Armstrong disassociated himself from Mr. Alt’s defense of Amoris Laetitia. If the latter. I dare say, his readers might want to know that; or if the first explanation is operative, was Mr. Armstrong in full agreement with Mr. Alt’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia? [NB as of February 1, 2021: There are still many articles by Mr. Alt on Mr. Armstrong’s site, despite the older claim he had “none” (See Mr. Alt’s surviving articles here: Amoris Laetitia Has ALREADY Been Clarified Many Times.).  There are at least 13 articles by Mr. Alt on Amoris Laetitia on Mr. Armstrong’s site.  As to some of the problems with Mr. Alt’s views on Amoris Laetitia, see my own article Alt right vs. Alt wrong…which Alt is Alt?].

Regardless, the point remains. I was correct at the time that Mr. Armstrong had linked to articles by authors, including Mr. Alt, which contradict one another on certain key issues related to the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. Thus, again, my interest in a clarification as there appeared to be mixed signals on Mr. Armstrong’s website in my opinion.

I continue with the conversation below…]

O’Reilly: “I am not assailing Dr. Fastiggi’s orthodoxy. I am interested in what you believe Amoris Laetitia is teaching. I think it is great you are in contact with Dr. Fastiggi…I wish he was more vocal in his opinion of AL over the last couple years. His answers to the Dubia differ from Mr. Walford’s whose book was prefaced by Pope Francis. Does he agree with Mr. Walford’s interpretation of AL? Do you agree with Mr. Walford’s interpretation of AL?”

Armstrong: “Looking over your blog, I see that it is filled with the usual reactionary quasi-schismatic nonsense. Dialogue would not be fruitful at all. You believe in too many falsehoods to overcome at the present time (e.g., the usual reactionary line about so-called “Pachamama” at the Vatican: which I myself have refuted at least ten times now).”

Armstrong: “If Bob disagrees with Walford, then I agree with him. It’s as simple as that. Dr. Fastiggi is editor of the revised Denzinger and Ott both. He’s THE man for systematic theology, in my opinion.”

O’Reilly: “I’ve written extensively against Mr. Walford’s interpretation…and that of “Where Peter Is”…which lists you as one of their sources. I am curious as to your position….as you are a professional Catholic apologist.”

Armstrong: “I already stated it above: My view (based on all that I have read) is that Amoris Laetitia is orthodox and that no one has conclusively shown that it is not.

If you want further details, see my articles on it and those of others that ISee More

O’Reilly: “Dave…your labeling is simple ad hominem, and beside the point. I am asking for your view of AL…clearly stated. You have never offered that on your blog. As you are a professional Catholic apologist, and this is one of the key issues of our time, I am surprised you don’t provide a clearly stated opinion.”

O’Reilly: “I am not asking you if it is “orthodox”….I am asking you what it says.”

O’Reilly: “Walford differs from Fastiggi…but Walford consulted with Fastiggi (per Walford’s book) to at least some extent on the book.”

Armstrong: “That’s BS. There are 29 articles about it in my collection of articles defending Pope Francis (8% of the total of 345 articles). What more can a person do? Here are a few that are some of the best defenses:

http://www.ncregister.com/…/cardinal-mller-magisterium… See More

Cardinal Müller: Magisterium on Remarried Divorcees Unchanged by ‘Amoris Laetitia’; http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/…/cardinal-muller…/; Cardinal Müller: Amoris Laetitia is in line with previous teaching on Communion | Catholic Herald; http://www.lastampa.it/…/doesamoris…/pagina.html; Does 303 Really Undermine Catholic Moral Teaching? – La Stampa

O’Reilly: “You are citing articles. That does not enunciate *your* view.”
 
 
 
 
 
O’Reilly: “Cite me an article in which *you* state unequivocally your view of what AL is teaching. Can you do that? It is not a gotcha question. I am seriously interested”
 
Armstrong: “It’s not ad hominem to simply describe a person as he is, and you ARE a radical Catholic reactionary. Nitey nite!
 
O’Reilly: “It is ad hominem. You are not addressing my question on your view of Amoris Laetitia. You are simply deflecting by labeling. It is poor debating trick…one that I would think should be beneath a professional Catholic apologist. It reflects poorly on you.
 
O’Reilly: ” It is evasive…and uncharitable.”
 
Armstrong: “And your obnoxious repetition 50 times, after I have answered, reflects very poorly on you. I don’t play these games.
 
O’Reilly: “What repetition. I am asking: have your written an article which clearly provides your opinion of what AL says? I, from the outset, hoped to engage in this conversation “offline”.”
 
O’Reilly: “and do you agree with Walford’s book?
 
Armstrong: “I answered in my first reply: “I leave those fine-tuned questions mostly to theologians.” I read what they say and I have posted the ones I agree with. Bottom line: it’s orthodox and wholly in line with previous tradition. That’s my goal as an apologist to establish, and I have done so.”
 
Armstrong: “Fine points are for moral theologians, and neither you nor I are that.”
 
Armstrong: “You won’t get me to do anything by acting like an ass. That’s not how it works.”
 
O’Reilly: “Well, if you leave “those fine-tuned questions mostly to theologians”…. what questions do professional Catholic apologists–like you–take up??”
 
Armstrong: “See my nearly 2800 papers on my blog and 50 books: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/; Biblical Evidence for Catholicism
 
O’Reilly: “How am I acting like an ass? You’ve slung the adhominem. I sought a private discussion.”
 
O’Reilly: “Congratulations on your papers and books. Well done.”
 
O’Reilly: “In view of your papers and books…I am asking you for *your* interpretation of AL..and your opinion of Walford’s book and his interpretation.”
 
 
 
 

Then ended the conversation, and he blocked me from his Facebook site.  So much for Mr. Armstrong’s protestations and offended sanctimony over “we must never interact with them…that would never do“. Now, recall, he took offense that it was suggested he used labels like “rad trads”, “reactionaries”, etc, to “avoid real arguments.”  But, in my opinion, our conversation was a proof of what I said later on Twitter. Indeed, consider the conversation at this point:

O’Reilly: “I am not assailing Dr. Fastiggi’s orthodoxy. I am interested in what you believe Amoris Laetitia is teaching. I think it is great you are in contact with Dr. Fastiggi…I wish he was more vocal in his opinion of AL over the last couple years. His answers to the Dubia differ from Mr. Walford’s whose book was prefaced by Pope Francis. Does he agree with Mr. Walford’s interpretation of AL? Do you agree with Mr. Walford’s interpretation of AL?”

Armstrong: “Looking over your blog, I see that it is filled with the usual reactionary quasi-schismatic nonsense. Dialogue would not be fruitful at all. You believe in too many falsehoods to overcome at the present time (e.g., the usual reactionary line about so-called “Pachamama” at the Vatican: which I myself have refuted at least ten times now).”

Remember, I was just writing for a clarification. Instead of conversing in a little more detail, or agreeing to take the conversation offline, he shut it down claiming that in his view my blog (and me) are “reactionary” and “quasi-schismatic”, and that, therefore, “dialogue would not be fruitful.”  This is the essence of an ad hominem, i.e., ignoring the real question or argument (i.e., his view on Amoris Laetitia, etc.) on the basis I am, in his view, a “reactionary”, etc.  He even throws in a mention of “Pachamama,” something I never raised nor asked him about — indeed, neither about Pachamama nor about how many times he wrote(!) about it.  Talk about red herrings. 

Heaven Forfend!  Mr. Armstrong unknowingly cites a “reactionary”

Earlier, I referenced a sub-thread in our Facebook discussion which I was not able to capture, having been blocked by Mr. Armstrong. I generally recall enough of it to give you an accurate sense of it. 

Following Mr. Armstrong’s comment about my blog (me) being “reactionary” and  “quasi-schismatic,” per my recollection (open to correction from Mr. Armstrong), a brief sub-thread conversation began. I asked him, if I were a  “reactionary” and “quasi-schismatic,” why then did Mr. Armstrong favorably cite one of my articles? I reminded Mr. Armstrong that he had cited one of my articles (see Does Amoris Laetitia (297) Deny Hell?) to aid his defense of Pope Francis on the question of Hell (see an earlier copy of his article: Lame Reactionary Anti-Francis “No Hell” Argument). Citing my article in part in developing his line of argumentation.  He wrote:

Steven O’Reilly at the Roma Locuta Est website offers penetrating in-depth commentary on this very question: whether hell is denied (or even addressed at all) in Amoris Laetitia:

The pope’s statement that “no one can be condemned for ever (per sempre), because this is not the logicof the Gospel” refers back to the “logic”- i.e., the one of the two ways of thinking he advocated for the Church in paragraph 296- in which he says this is the Church’s way, which is “always the way of Jesus”.  That is to say: “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever (eternamente nessuno); it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.”    This linkage seems clearer to me, at least, in reading the Italian where the same term-“logica”- is used in both places (i.e., paragraphs 296 and 297). While the pope has changed perspective from the Church (‘the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever’) to that of the individual (“no one can be condemned for ever), his thought appears the same, or is at least arguably so.  The text (cf AL 296, n. 326; 297) supports the case that the “logic” referenced by the pope points to the reinstatement of the repentant sinner into the ecclesial life of the Church-contrasted with the logic that would prohibit a sinner from that ecclesial life (e.g., like the leper imagined in his homily in n. 326). The pope’s intent is not to comment on hell or damnation at all. . . . 

As an aside, in the English translation of Amoris Laetitia, “for ever” is used in both places in the paragraphs we are examining (i.e., “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever” (AL 296); and “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel” (AL 297)However, in the Italian, in the first instance (AL 296) the meaning is ‘the Church does not condemn anyone eternally (eternamente nessuno),” while the Italian “per sempre” (for always) is used in the second instance (i.e., AL 297). While it may seem like a distinction without a difference, it softens to some degree the second instance (i.e., AL 297) as “for ever” could conceivably refer to the temporal order in this world.

Informed he had, heaven forfend, favorably cited a “reactionary” and “quasi schismatic,” Mr. Armstrong said he would scrub my name and references to my article referenced above, and this he proceeded to do (see the current version of his article: Lame Reactionary Anti-Francis “No Hell” Argument) — although my name still appears, favorably cited, in his article on Taylor Marshall (see Taylor Marshall’s Whopper: Pope Francis Denies Hellfire?).[4]  So, perhaps he will scrub that one too!

There is something more I could say specifically about this scrubbing and the articles in question on Amoris Laetitia 297 (here, here, and here) but I will provide those comments only directly and privately to Mr. Armstrong, should he ever wish to hear them. My email is at the bottom of this article.

Final Thoughts

Mr. Armstrong’s article made a few other statements that I could not help but comment on.  First, he says:

“I replied, in my post four days ago, with no less than eleven examples of reactionaries and reactionary sites (that invariably ban me) utterly ignoring my arguments; well, twelve including Kwasniewski, who now refuses to defend his views, too. It’s pure, unmixed hypocrisy. I’m clearly perceived as a big critic of their movement: — the big boogeyman — , or else they wouldn’t drop my name and lob the insults so often. They know it. Hence, they mention the excellent site Where Peter Is (stalwart defenders of the Holy Father) in their insults above, but when they want to note one person who opposes them, it’s my name, for some reason, that so often comes up.”

Well, I have no idea who are his eleven examples of “reactionaries” and “reactionary sites” that have “utterly ignored his arguments;” nor do I know who would bother to “invariably ban” him. What I do know is, I find his claim of “pure, unmixed hypocrisy” to be quite amusing coming from someone who blocked me from his Facebook for attempting to get a clarification on one of today’s most vexing questions for Catholics who want to be faithful.  I find his assertions to be a pile of “pure, unmixed” something…I won’t say what that something is…but I advise you not to step in it.

As for Mr. Armstrong’s belief he is ‘clearly perceived as a big critic of their movement’…well, at least in my view, I’d say there is no “movement” — just Catholics trying to understand what is going on at this moment in their Church.  Oh…and perceiving Mr. Armstrong as the “big boogeyman?”…well, Dave…no.   

Finally, there was this doozy:

“But they want no part of any serious reply to my critiques. It’s not in their interest. It’s not in the plan. Any criticism has to be utterly ignored (Democrat-style and anti-Catholic Protestant-style) as un-“serious”. To address them in effect grants to them an ordinary respectability, and reactionaries will avoid that like the plague, because then they would have the intellectual burden of having to defend their dubious and indefensible views. See how it works?”

No serious replies to Mr. Armstrong’s critiques?  For crying out loud, I couldn’t even get him to correspond with me privately, and or give me his opinion on Amoris Laetitia. Instead, Mr. Armstrong pointed me to Dr. Fastiggi. Why, therefore, should I care about Mr. Armstrong’s opinion? 

I can’t speak for others that Mr. Armstrong labels as “reactionaries.” But as for “intellectual burdens,” I do explain in my About why I started this blog. I am interested in the truth, and that is what I am searching for in all the issues which I write about. I take each issue as it comes.  Perhaps I fail miserably at it. That certainly may be a distinct possibility. But I do try to be intellectually honest and take the evidence as it comes, and try to evaluate it accordingly. For example, I’ve even defended Francis on the narrow question of whether he committed formal heresy in Amoris Laetitia 297 (see here)[4].  Mr. Armstrong even used a significant part of my argument in his article, and considered my article a “penetrating in depth commentary“…that is, until he decided I was “reactionary,” and then tried to scrub all the references to me and my article from his site.  Who is the “reactionary”?

On a final, personal note for Mr. Armstrong…you wonder as to why you are experiencing a dearth of “reactionaries” providing a serious reply to your “critiques.” I can’t speak to that assertion for others. I can say this for my part, as one who has actually tried to read through some of your articles, and the “confused and troubled” resource page — all to possibly write an article. Aside from the aforementioned lack of a definite position on a key issue (see my comments on Amoris Laetitia above) that might motivate or interest me to write something, your labeling is rather off-putting just to read through.  I am confident others must have told you this. I don’t find labels like “reactionaries” personally insulting, but I do, I suppose, find it more intellectually annoying.  It is lazy in my opinion, and its repetitiveness is tedious, and a waste of time. I’ve thought making a drinking game of it might make it more interesting, but I fear I’d be too toasted by the end of an article. I don’t know, maybe if you called us “the deplorables” instead, we might embrace it with greater equanimity.  It certainly is cuter.

I am but an amateur apologist, on a wee, humble blog that few read – ‘one the world will neither note nor long remember what happens here.’ But, as I see it, how one argues is as important as what one argues. I get it that your fellow travelers might like the labeling. But I do wonder why you would think your ‘opponent’, whose welfare I presume you actually (should) care about as well, and want to convince with an effective argument, would react positively to it all (see 1 Peter 3:15). I can’t imagine why you insist in wallowing in it. But, what do I know. You are the professional with “2800 papers and 50 books,” right?  You must be doing something right.

UPDATE as of January 30, 2021:

Mr. Armstrong has since posted a response to the article above in the comment section of this article.  If you’ve read my article/response above, certainly in fairness to Mr. Armstrong, you should read his response, either in the comment section as said, or as an article he posted on his own site: “Reply to Self-Described “Traditionalist” Steven O’Reilly” [5]

Immediately below, I am posting my response to Mr. Armstrong’s within this article. I am not looking to create a series of back-and-forth articles. My interest is not in arguing about the argument, but in discussing the questions of our time. Therefore, I expect this to be my last comment on Mr. Armstrong’s article (see Skojec & Cronies “Refute” My Analyses of Reactionaries) and his response.  I believe my responses sum up all I need to say on the specific matter. 

Here is my response to Mr. Armstrong’s latest comment/article. As said, I expect it to be my last on the subject. 

Mr. Armstrong,

Your conversations or non-conversations (as the case may be) with Mr. Kwasniewski, Mr. Flanders, Dr. Marshall, Mr. Lawler, Mr. Keating, or whomever else, are not my interest. While my takeaway from your portrayal of your past conversation is that you do encounter difficulties from time to time, and at times success – this is all irrelevant. None of it changes the fact you shut down an earnest, good faith request and effort for a conversation on a matter related to one of the most controversial issues of the last 4-5 years; one that troubles and confuses many Catholics. It was primarily this experience of you that informs my opinion of you, which I have detailed in my original article. Your readers, who know you far better than I, can decide their own opinion as to whether your problem here is a chronic one, or whether this was but a momentary lapse. 

Yes, as I noted, you pointed me to Dr. Fastiggi’s articles on your site — of which I was already well aware and had read, but these do not take up the problems of Mr. Walford’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia found in his book, “The Pope, The Family, and Divorce.” Mr. Walford does reference Dr. Fastiggi in his acknowledgements. I can and have documented for you where, in my opinion, Dr. Fastiggi’s and Mr. Walford’s views diverge on significant points (see Confusion at Vatican Insider). Unless Dr. Fastiggi has since withdrawn his former views, they differ from Mr. Walford’s significantly. But Mr. Walford’s book has a preface from Pope Francis, the support of several cardinals, including a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Cardinal Tobin. I had hoped for a private discussion on the implications of this, such as, do you support Dr. Fastiggi specifically with respect to Mr. Walford’s views, even in view of the level of ecclesiastical of support he has received?  Given the Pope’s preface to Walford’s book, do you think the Pope intended an interpretation like Walford’s? If not, how do you counter Mr. Walford’s opinions – assuming you reject them as a professional apologist (especially as one who offers a resource page for the “confused and troubled” with articles on Amoris Laetitia)? Then, as noted before, there are the articles of Mr. Alt (see Alt right vs. Alt wrong…which Alt is Alt?). Your site, at one time, had linked to very many of these, and these conflict with Dr. Fastiggi on certain points with whom you also linked. Thus my interest in clarifying your view, given some of these contradictions. These are but a few of the questions, and they have important implications as to whom Holy Communion can be given, or not.

At the time (March 2020), I thought it a fair, natural assumption that you could provide a more detailed opinion of your views on such questions, other than simply say ‘go read Dr. Fastiggi.’  Now, granted, and in all fairness, you might not have been immediately familiar with the particular questions above, nor in a position at that moment to give a good answer. But that is precisely why I hoped to do it “offline” as the records show I did from the very outset – i.e.,  because I was not looking for a heated debate, or for a gotcha moment, as if trying to catch you unprepared for a cheap debate ‘win’. I was looking to find areas of possible agreement because, actually, as said in my article above, I think at their core, our opinions might be more similar than not.

In conclusion, a reasonable person can see that given the complexities and important implications of these questions, simply ‘pointing to Dr. Fastiggi’ alone doesn’t actually answer the questions I posed or had in mind for you. It is fair to ask you as a professional apologist, for example, that if Dr. Fastiggi is correct, and Dr. Walford wrong, how do you account for the latter’s ecclesiastical support, and the Pope’s preface?  Thus, your ‘go read Dr. Fastiggi’ is not a sufficient answer. Anyone with common sense can see that. After all, if one were to ask you, a professional apologist, about your opinion of the Petrine Office and the views opposed to it, I assume (and hope) your answer would go beyond simply telling one to ‘go read Karl Keating’ or ‘go look at Matthew 16:18, that is all I need to say.’ If that is your approach to honest, good-faith, apologetical questions; my surprise is not that you have written “2,800 papers and 50 books,” it is that you have written any.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com  or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler: @StevenOReilly).

Notes:

  1.  My rebuttal to the Where Peter Is article may be found here: On the Doctrine of Mitigating Circumstances
  2. My rebuttal to Mr. Walford’s book may be found here: The Errors of Mr. Walford’s ‘Pope Francis, The Family and Divorce’
  3. My article on the subject of the Pope’s preface may be found here: Pope Francis, the Open Letter and the Pesky Preface 
  4. I wrote my article (see Does Amoris Laetitia (297) Deny Hell?) in March of 2017.  It specifically addressed a claim that Pope Francis had committed formal heresy by “denying” the existence of Hell in Amoris Laetitia 297.  As I said then, my argument at the time addresses that question only: ‘did Pope Francis deny Hell in Amoris Laetitia 297.’  I stand by my analysis of that specific question. I do not believe Pope Francis committed formal heresy in Amoris Laetitia on the question of the existence of Hell.  On a separate but related note, since then, Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari reported that Pope Francis said the souls of the damned are annihilated, i.e., do not suffer eternal punishment.  Now, granted, Scalfari has some serious issues of his own as a reporter.  Most concerning is, he does not seem to record or take notes of his interviews. Consequently, we cannot necessarily trust his account.  Still, the obvious problem is why does Pope Francis continue to let Scalfari interview him? I don’t believe he ever corrected or clarified what he did or did not say to Scalfari. This is troubling, as the Latin proverb seems to suggest: Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit (“who is silent seems to agree, where he ought to speak and was able to”).
  5. Update January 30, 2021.  My thanks to Mr. Armstrong for posting the cover of Book I of the Pia Fidelis Trilogy entitled PIA FIDELIS: The Two Kingdoms.  This historical-fiction trilogy is set in middle of the Arian crisis within the Church, also a time of great civil turmoil in the Roman Empire.  It was in this period that Julian the Apostate began his rise to power.  I have an article which discusses Julian here: The Historicity of Miracles: The case of Julian the Apostate and a lesson for our time.


9 thoughts on “A Response to Dave Armstrong

  1. Dear Mr. O’Reilly While Mr. Armstrong has done yeoman’s work in apologists, and been successful at it, he does not fare well when it comes to being challenged. I know of not a few intelligent and faithful Catholics who operate Blogs and who have tried to have a dialogue with him and they, invariably, just disengage owing to his personality quirks.

    I won’t list them all here and my only point in writing what I write is that I think you know how the attempt at a dialogue will end – not well

    However, its is getting close to Lent 🙂

    Like

    1. VC, thanks for the comments.

      I am sure Mr. Armstrong is a nice guy, a gentleman, and a scholar. I think I’d enjoy having a few beers with him and discussing Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis—-though he’d have to drink a shot any time he uses the word “reactionary” or other some such term.

      I never met the gentleman so I don’t know about any quirks. I know I have mine…just ask my wife and sons!

      I really wanted to get his thoughts on the items I pointed out. I think Dr. Fastiggi has an interesting position….at least as I understand it….and wanted to understand what Mr. Armstrong thought of Walford’s interpretation of AL. I am disappointed he shut me down because I think we are closer in our understanding than he may realize—that is why I said in the tweet he cited that I thought he is closer to red pilling than some others. The labeling wall he creates shut down an opportunity for honest discussion between two Catholics Interested in the truth (as I am sure he is), some clarity, even agreement on some key points.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Steve

      Like

  2. “Instead, Mr. Armstrong pointed me to Dr. Fastiggi. Why, therefore, should I care about Mr. Armstrong’s opinion?”

    Exactly! I agree with this: you shouldn’t care about my opinion at all, since you think I am in “denial” and am not an apologist, and am merely a Francis toady. I submit that denying a person is what he has professionally been for nineteen years is *at least* as insulting as the description “reactionary”: which I defend at great length in many articles (you or anyone else are welcome to critique those).

    Yet here you are again trying to press me into a discussion about the same ol’ thing that I answered three or four times. I wrote:

    “I answered in my first reply: ‘I leave those fine-tuned questions mostly to theologians.’ I read what they say and I have posted the ones I agree with. Bottom line: it’s orthodox and wholly in line with previous tradition.”

    “Fine points are for moral theologians, and neither you nor I are that.”

    “I stand by everything he [Dr. Fastiggi] argues. He’s a personal friend of mine, and of unimpeachable orthodoxy.”

    “If Bob disagrees with Walford, then I agree with him. It’s as simple as that. Dr. Fastiggi is editor of the revised Denzinger and Ott both. He’s THE man for systematic theology, in my opinion.”

    You were obviously banned because you were trolling: beating this dead horse that I answered over and over. That’s not discussion. And it would pollute my blog if I let it prevail. That violates my discussion policy.

    My opinion today remains exactly the same. So why you are trying to goad me into a discussion is a mystery. If I had more to add to the topic I certainly would, But I don’t. If that is another mark against me in your book, then so be it.

    As to my being able to interact with those of a reactionary opinion: I have engaged in now seven lengthy dialogues over a year-and-a-half with Timothy Flanders, who is a regular columnist at One Peter Five and associate of Taylor Marshall (who instantly banned me on his Twitter page at my first disagreement with him, after recommending my books on his site for years). See:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2019/07/reply-to-timothy-flanders-defense-of-taylor-marshall.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2019/07/dialogue-w-ally-of-taylor-marshall-timothy-flanders.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2020/02/dialogue-w-1p5-writer-timothy-flanders-introduction.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2020/02/dialogue-w-timothy-flanders-2-state-of-emergency.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2020/08/is-vatican-ii-analogous-to-failed-lateran-council-v.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2020/08/dialogue-6-w-1p5-columnist-timothy-flanders.html

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2020/12/dialogue-7-w-1p5-columnist-timothy-flanders.html

    I hear now that Timothy is writing a book about cooperation between traditionalists [actually, what I would call “reactionary”] and “conservative” [what I would call simply “orthodox”] Catholics. I think he will almost certainly draw from our dialogues in that effort. I’m delighted to see it. He’s a class act.

    Peter Kwasniewski recently sought to be a friend at WeMe and I accepted his request. We have dialogued in the past. I informed him of several replies to his writing over the last year or two and he ignored them (while continuing to occasionally reference me in his articles). Perhaps he has had a change of heart now and we can resume our dialogues. I tried to engage in dialogue with Phil Lawler. He had no interest (because I disagreed with his book). Karl Keating (whom I do NOT consider a reactionary blasted me about my use of “reactionary” recently. So I said that we should have a discussion about it. He wasn’t interested. One detects a certain pattern there, doesn’t one?

    So you see that I am indeed open to dialogue with reactionaries, as long as it doesn’t descend to a silly personal level and/or is not obnoxious and drone-like, as this effort of yours continues to be. I don’t get goaded into worthless “dialogues.” But if there is great constructive discussion to be had: such as with Timothy Flanders, I am all for it.

    Thanks for letting me air my opinion and God bless.

    Like

    1. Mr. Armstrong,

      Your conversations or non-conversations (as the case may be) with Mr. Kwasnieski, Mr. Flanders, Dr. Marshall, Mr. Lawler, Mr. Keating, or whomever else, are not my interest. While my takeaway from your portrayal of your past conversation is that you do encounter difficulties from time to time, and at times success – this is all irrelevant. None of it changes the fact you shut down an earnest, good faith request and effort for a conversation on a matter related to one of the most controversial issues of the last 4-5 years; one that troubles and confuses many Catholics. It was primarily this experience of you that informs my opinion of you, which I have detailed in my original article. Your readers, who know you far better than I, can decide their own opinion as to whether your problem here is a chronic one, or whether this was but a momentary lapse. 

      Yes, as I noted, you pointed me to Dr. Fastiggi’s articles on your site — of which I was already well aware and had read, but these do not take up the problems of Mr. Walford’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia found in his book, “The Pope, The Family, and Divorce.” Mr. Walford does reference Dr. Fastiggi in his acknowledgements. I can and have documented for you where, in my opinion, Dr. Fastiggi’s and Mr. Walford’s views diverge on significant points (see Confusion at Vatican Insider). Unless Dr. Fastiggi has since withdrawn his former views, they differ from Mr. Walford’s significantly. But Mr. Walford’s book has a preface from Pope Francis, the support of several cardinals, including a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Cardinal Tobin. I had hoped for a private discussion on the implications of this, such as, do you support Dr. Fastiggi specifically with respect to Mr. Walford’s views, even in view of the level of ecclesiastical of support he has received?  Given the Pope’s preface to Walford’s book, do you think the Pope intended an interpretation like Walford’s? If not, how do you counter Mr. Walford’s opinions – assuming you reject them as a professional apologist (especially as one who offers a resource page for the “confused and troubled” with articles on Amoris Laetitia)? Then, as noted before, there are the articles of Mr. Alt. Your site, at one time, had linked to very many of these, and these conflict with Dr. Fastiggi on certain points with whom you also linked. Thus my interest in clarifying your view, given some of these contradictions. These are but a few of the questions, and they have important implications as to whom Holy Communion can be given, or not.

      At the time (March 2020), I thought it a fair, natural assumption that you could provide a more detailed opinion of your views on such questions, other than simply say ‘go read Dr. Fastiggi.’  Now, granted, and in all fairness, you might not have been immediately familiar with the particular questions above, nor in a position at that moment to give a good answer. But that is precisely why I hoped to do it “offline” as the records show I did from the very outset – i.e.,  because I was not looking for a heated debate, or for a gotcha moment, as if trying to catch you unprepared for a cheap debate ‘win’. I was looking to find areas of possible agreement because, actually, as said in my article above, I think at their core, our opinions might be more similar than not.

      In conclusion, a reasonable person can see that given the complexities and important implications of these questions, simply ‘pointing to Dr. Fastiggi’ alone doesn’t actually answer the questions I posed or had in mind for you. It is fair to ask you as a professional apologist, for example, that if Dr. Fastiggi is correct, and Dr. Walford wrong, how do you account for the latter’s ecclesiastical support, and the Pope’s preface?  Thus, your ‘go read Dr. Fastiggi’ is not a sufficient answer. Anyone with common sense can see that. After all, if one were to ask you, a professional apologist, about your opinion of the Petrine Office and the views opposed to it, I assume (and hope) your answer would go beyond simply telling one to ‘go read Karl Keating’ or ‘go look at Matthew 16:18, that is all I need to say.’ If that is your approach to honest, good-faith, apologetical questions; my surprise is not that you have written “2,800 papers and 50 books,” it is that you have written any.

      Regards,

      Steven O’Reilly

      P.S. I have added the above as an update at the bottom of my article as well, rather than waste another article on this topic.

      Like

    1. Mr. Armstrong….the title of my two part series was a direct question meant for you. “Which is it?”

      Do you accept Cardinal Muller’s interpretation, or Mr. Walford’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. I am curious as to your answer.

      Regards.

      Steve O’Reilly

      Like

  3. Dear Mr. Armstrong. Just answer the question posed by Mr. O’Reilly and stop trying to evade it.

    If you refuse answer the question – and your wall of textual avoidance is not inscrutable – then just write “I will not answer your question and end the matter.

    Like

    1. VC,

      Mr. Armstrong response, as is typical for him, is ad hominem. My question for him boils down to…which is it? Does he support Cardinal Muller’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, or Mr. Walford’s. That is what it comes down to.

      And…if he prefers Mr. Walfords…perhaps he can explain his interpretation of Veritatis Splendor, 52.

      Somehow…I don’t believe he will answer.

      Regards,

      Steve

      Like

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