Friday, July 21, 2023

Lofton’s YouTube straw man (Updated)

There’s a popular mode of online intellectual discourse that I rather dislike, which might be labeled “the extended YouTube hot take.”  It involves a talking head riffing, for an hour or so, on something someone has written on a complex philosophical or theological topic (an article, a book, a lecture, or whatever).  My impatience with this kind of thing is no doubt partly generational, but there is more to it than that.  The written form is more conducive to intellectual discipline.  A good article on a philosophical or theological topic, even when written for a popular rather than academic audience, requires the careful exposition of ideas and lines of argument, both the writer’s own and those of anyone he’s responding to.  It also has to be clearly written and well-organized.  You can’t achieve all this by simply pouring out on the page whatever pops into your stream of consciousness.  It takes time, and as a writer tries to whip a piece into shape, he’s likely to mull over the ideas and come to see flaws in interpretation and reasoning he would otherwise have overlooked.  A video, because it is so much quicker and easier to make, is for that very reason likelier to be of considerably lower intellectual quality. 

Naturally, I’m not saying that such videos are always of low quality or that written pieces are always of good quality.  Obviously, there’s a lot of good material to be found at YouTube and similar platforms, and a lot of garbage in written form.  The point is just that, all things being equal, written pieces are likelier than quickly-made videos to be of intellectual substance. 

There’s also the fact that watching a video requires a much higher time commitment.  A book or article is all laid out in front of the reader, and typically organized into units – chapters, sections and sub-sections, paragraphs, and so on.  You can scan the whole and get a sense of what it covers and where, and thus see relatively quickly whether it is necessary to read the whole thing, which parts are relevant to your interests, whether certain topics that are not covered in one part are addressed in another, and so on.  Videos are not like that.  You pretty much have to watch the whole thing in order to know exactly what’s in it.  And though a video is sometimes broken into segments, the brief descriptions of these are nowhere near as helpful as being able to scan ahead in a text and see exactly what is covered in each section or paragraph.  On top of that, if you want to reply to such a video, you have to carefully transcribe any remarks you want to quote and comment on, which requires playing and replaying the same segments, and this also sucks up time.

Finally, such videos are typically made either by amateurs, or by people who, though they may have some academic training, spend far more time making videos and other online ephemera than doing the much harder work of producing written material that is publishable and has to get through the gauntlet of an editor or a referee.  Hence the videos and other online ephemera are not popularizations of their more substantive work.  The videos and online ephemera pretty much are their work.  Naturally, this work is simply not going to be as substantive as that of someone who has an intellectual day job, as it were.

The bottom line is that engaging with what I am calling “the extended YouTube hot take” requires a high time investment with the promise of a low intellectual return.  And I’m just not interested in that, which is why I don’t watch a lot of this stuff.  That includes material of this type that is directed at things I’ve written.  Over the years, readers have often asked me to reply to this or that video commenting on some book or article of mine.  I rarely do it, because I’ve got too much else going on.  There is, for example, always a ton of written material, much of it of high quality, that I need to get through in the course of working on whatever book project or academic article I’ve got going at the moment.  To be sure, the occasional respite from that is welcome.  But even then, it rarely seems to me worthwhile to (for example) spend two or three hours watching snarky videos some kid has made about an academic book that I spent years writing.

Lofton’s libel

All the same, occasionally I’ll make an exception.  That brings me to Michael Lofton, about whom I know very little other than that he appears to fancy himself an upholder of Catholic orthodoxy and devotes a lot of time to making videos of this kind.  This week he posted a YouTube video responding to my recent Catholic World Report article “Cardinal Newman, Archbishop Fernandez, and the ‘suspended Magisterium’ thesis.”  It’s quite bad, in just the ways that “extended YouTube hot takes” tend to be bad.  But on top of that, it’s bad in a special way that online Catholic content, in particular, tends to be bad these days.  I refer to the kneejerk tendency of a great many Catholic commentators of all stripes to approach any topic having to do with Pope Francis in a Manichean, ideological manner.  Too many of the pope’s critics will accept nothing but the most negative and apocalyptic interpretations of his every word and action.  Too many of the pope’s defenders refuse to consider even the most measured and respectful criticism of him.  Everything one side says is folded by the other side into a simplistic “good guys/bad guys” narrative.  And if you plead for nuance, you will be accused by each side of “really” aiming subtly to do the work of the other.  It’s tiresome, intellectually unserious, and deeply contrary to justice and charity.  And while each side self-righteously thinks of itself as defending the Church, all they are really accomplishing is tearing it further apart.

How does this play out in Lofton’s case?  Over the course of an hour, he works through my article line by line, suggesting early on to his listeners that there is something “weird” or “odd” about it and hinting darkly that it “serves an agenda.”  And what agenda is that?  By the end of the video, it is finally revealed that:

To entertain talk about suspense in the magisterium… I think is to prepare people to reject magisterial teaching… to prepare people to reject papal teaching authority… to use it as an excuse to ignore the papal magisterium.

To be sure, he immediately tries to cover his rear end by acknowledging that he “[doesn’t] know what [Feser’s] intentions are, specifically.”  But he insists that “at least… some people” have this agenda, and is “left scratching [his] head” about exactly what my own intentions could be.  The obvious insinuation – especially given all the heavy going throughout the video about how “weird” my article is – is that this is my agenda too and that I am being cagey about it.  Thus does Lofton fold my article into the hackneyed narrative of a dark army of bogeymen seeking by hook or crook to undermine Pope Francis.

The insinuation is defamatory, and a travesty of what I wrote.  What follows is intended to correct the record.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post.  Unfortunately, Lofton has a gift for packing ten pounds of error into a five pound bag, and it all has to be carefully and tediously unpacked.  I also apologize in advance if I lose my temper here or there – something that has been very hard to avoid given the many hours I’ve now had to waste on this that could have been devoted to something of greater intrinsic value.  I hope not to watch another YouTube hot take again for a long time.

My CWR article essentially has two halves, and Lofton badly distorts what I say in each one.  In the first, I explain what some of Pope Francis’s critics mean when they claim that the Magisterium has been “suspended” during his pontificate up to this point.  Lofton gives the impression that I am at least somewhat sympathetic with this thesis.  But in fact, not only do I not endorse it, I explicitly reject and criticize it.  In the second half of my article, I suggest that the remarks made by Pope Francis and Archbishop Fernandez upon the archbishop’s appointment as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) imply that the DDF, specifically, will to a large extent no longer exercise its traditional magisterial function.  Lofton transforms this into the claim that the magisterium of the Church in general will from here on out be suspended – something I never said and would not say.  He accomplishes this sleight-of-hand by reading portentous meanings I never intended into innocuous remarks, and especially into my use of the phrase “organ of the Magisterium.” 

The “suspended Magisterium” thesis

Let’s consider each half of my article in turn.  Those who posit a “suspended Magisterium” claim to get the idea from St. John Henry Newman, so I began my article by rehearsing some of the remarks Newman made about the behavior of the Church’s hierarchy during the Arian crisis.  Lofton gives the impression that my comments somehow make stronger claims than Newman himself did about the failure of the bishops, and about the temporary lapse of Pope Liberius.  That is false.  I simply report Newman’s own position, and in particular the position he took on the matter after his conversion to Catholicism in an appendix to his famous work on the crisis. 

Lofton claims that my remark about Liberius’s temporary agreement to an ambiguous formula is “in error,” and cites Bellarmine in his favor.  He makes it sound as if I had flatly made a simple historical mistake here and/or gotten Newman’s views about Liberius wrong.  But that is not the case.  Newman himself claims that Liberius “sign[ed] a Eusebian formula at Sirmium,” and approvingly quotes remarks from saints Athanasius and Jerome to the effect that Liberius had under pressure temporarily “subscribed” to the heresy, and a claim by another authority that Liberius temporarily “[gave] up the Nicene formula.”  Moreover, Bellarmine is neither infallible nor the final word among orthodox Catholic historians on the matter.  That is not to deny that Bellarmine, Lofton, and others have the right to defend Liberius against this charge.  That is not the point.  The point is rather that the matter is controversial and Catholics are at liberty to take either position.  Hence Lofton has no business claiming that I flatly made a historical “error” here.  The most he is entitled to say is that reasonable people can disagree about the issue.

Lofton is also right to note that Newman’s remark about there being no “firm, unvarying, consistent testimony” for sixty years after Nicaea needs to be qualified.  But Newman himself does qualify it, and nothing in what I said is affected by the qualification.  In any event, I was not trying in my article to offer a detailed account of what happened during the Arian crisis, to defend Newman’s own account of it, or to draw momentous lessons from it.  I was simply giving a brief summary in order to let readers know where this notion of a “suspended” Magisterium came from.  So, it is misleading for Lofton to go on about it to the extent he does.

In a passing remark about the nature of the Magisterium, Lofton asserts that “there is a protection and assistance of the Holy Spirit to non-infallible teachings as well,” and that this is something I ought to address.  If what Lofton has in mind here is the claim, which some have made, that even non-infallible exercises of the papal magisterium are somehow protected from error, then I have in fact argued elsewhere that that thesis is incoherent and not taught by the Church.  (That is not say that such non-infallible teachings are not normally owed religious assent.  They are owed it.  But that is a different matter.)

Anyway, the main topic of the first half of my article is the claim that the Magisterium has up to now been “suspended” during Pope Francis’s pontificate.  Again, I explicitly rejected this claim.  Indeed, in the past, I have defended the authoritative and binding nature of Pope Francis’s magisterial acts even in cases where my fellow traditional Catholics have resisted it.  For example, I have repeatedly defended the CDF’s document (issued at the pope’s direction) on the moral liceity of Covid-19 vaccines – and, I will add, I took a considerable amount of grief from some fellow traditional Catholics for doing so.  I have defended Pope Francis against the charge that he has departed from just war teaching.  I have defended him against the charge of heresy.  I have repeatedly criticized those who have claimed that his election was not valid.  It is true that, like many others, I have been critical of parts of Amoris Laetitia and of the pope’s revision to the Catechism.  But that is not because I do not regard these as magisterial acts.  Rather, while they are magisterial acts, they exhibit “deficiencies” of the kind that Donum Veritatis acknowledges can exist in non-infallible magisterial statements.  Lofton would presumably disagree with that judgment, but the point is that my own objections do not rest on the claim that the pope has not exercised magisterial authority.

Lofton suggests that it is “weird” or “odd” that, when in my article I gave an example of Pope Francis’s magisterial teaching, I cited documents issued by the CDF under the pope’s authority.  Why, he asks, did I not cite instead a document like Amoris?  He suggests I have an “agenda” and insinuates that there is something suspect about the example.  In particular, he seems to think it a ploy to try to reduce the papal magisterium to the CDF.

But there is nothing suspect about the example, and by no means do I reduce the papal magisterium to the CDF.  For one thing, what I actually wrote is this:

For there clearly are cases where [Pope Francis] has exercised his magisterial authority – such as when, acting under papal authorization, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under its current prefect Cardinal Ladaria has issued various teaching documents.

As the words “such as” show, I was clearly saying that such CDF documents are examples of Pope Francis’s magisterium.  Nowhere do I say or imply that they are the whole of it.  For another thing, there is a reason why I chose that particular sort of example, and it has nothing to do with what Lofton’s fevered imagination supposes it to be.  I wanted to pick examples that are as uncontroversial as possible, especially among the pope’s critics.  Citing Amoris would not do for that purpose, not only because it has been widely criticized, but especially because there are those who (again, wrongly) claim that it is not magisterial.  By contrast, some of the CDF documents issued under Cardinal Ladaria at the pope’s behest could not possibly be objected to by the pope’s critics – one example being the recent responsum affirming that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.  It is clearly intended to be magisterial, and not even the pope’s harshest critics could dispute its orthodoxy.  Hence it is an ideal piece of evidence against the thesis that the Magisterium has in recent years been “suspended” under Francis – a thesis which, again, I was criticizing, not sympathizing with. 

It is true that I also say that “because Pope Francis has persistently refused to answer [the] dubia, he can plausibly be said at least to that extent to have suspended the exercise of his Magisterium” (emphasis in the original).  But Lofton reads into this remark exactly the opposite of what it is saying.  He asks, shocked: ““What?!  Pope Francis is teaching constantly!  He hasn’t suspended the magisterium!”  But I did not say that he has; indeed, I had just got done saying the opposite, and I immediately go on to say: “Again, though, it doesn’t follow that the ‘suspended Magisterium’ thesis is correct as a general description of Pope Francis’s pontificate up to now.”

What I meant by the remark Lofton expresses shock at should be obvious to any fair-minded reader.  I was saying that even if one could maintain that Pope Francis has failed to exercise his magisterium in the specific case of not answering the dubia, it simply would not follow that his magisterium has been suspended beyond that – and, again, I gave specific examples of acts of Pope Francis that are magisterial in nature. 

Lofton also, as it happens, goes on to claim that the pope has in fact answered at least four of the dubia, but that is irrelevant to the present point.  For the present point is that even if he has failed to answer any of them, that is no grounds to think his magisterium has somehow been suspended beyond that particular example.  Lofton’s problem is that he completely gets my intentions wrong in interpreting what I say about this example.  He seems to think that I am citing the dubia controversy to lend plausibility to the “suspended Magisterium” thesis.  No, what I was doing was citing it precisely to deny plausibility to the thesis.  I was not saying: “Consider the dubia controversy – that’s pretty good evidence for the suspended Magisterium thesis.”  Rather, I was saying: “Consider the dubia controversy – that’s very weak evidence for the thesis, because it does nothing to show that the pope has failed to exercise his magisterium beyond that one case.”

Organ of the Magisterium?

But what Lofton tries to make the most hay out of is my reference to the CDF (now the DDF) as an “organ of the Magisterium.”  He treats this as if it were a bizarre claim or even a theological howler.  First, he objects that DDF documents have no teaching authority on their own, but only when issued under papal approval – as if this were something I don’t know.  But in fact I explicitly qualified my claim in just this way when I said that Pope Francis “has exercised his magisterial authority… when, acting under papal authorization, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under its current prefect Cardinal Ladaria has issued various teaching documents.”  (Indeed, Lofton admits this later on in the video.  Here’s a good example of the limitations of the “YouTube hot take” format.  If, instead of his stream-of-consciousness commentary, Lofton had tried to put together a well thought-out written response, he would have caught this and avoided giving his audience the false impression that I had made some rookie mistake.)

Lofton even claims that the CDF/DDF “is not a magisterial organ” at all, and that in fact there are “only two organs of the magisterium, the pope and the college of bishops.”  This makes it sound as if the phrase “organs of the Magisterium” has some precisely delineated technical meaning in Catholic theology, and that I misidentified what these well-defined “organs of the Magisterium” are.  But neither of those things is true, and in fact it is Lofton who is using the term in an unusual way. 

First of all, the phrase has no precise technical meaning or doctrinal significance, but is simply an expression that crops up from time to time in writing about the Church to refer to agencies through which the Church might speak or operate.  And it is in fact often used in these contexts to refer to the CDF and other such bodies (as a little Googling will reveal to anyone ignorant of the fact).  For example, in a Pontifical Biblical Commission statement on the relationship between the Magisterium and biblical exegetes, then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted that “Paul VI completely restructured the Biblical Commission so that it was no longer an organ of the Magisterium” (emphasis added).  Note that this entails that the Biblical Commission once was an “organ of the Magisterium” – which suffices to falsify Lofton’s claim that the term is used to refer only to the pope and college of bishops.  (Of course, the CDF/DDF and other such bodies are magisterial only insofar as they operate at the pope’s or bishops’ behest.  But I never denied that, and in fact implied it when I spoke of the CDF “acting under papal authorization.”)

Now, in my article, I also referred to the CDF/DDF as “the main magisterial organ of the Church,” and Lofton reacts as if this were somehow especially suspect.  Indeed, he calls it a “jaw-dropping error” and reiterates his claim that “it’s not an organ, it’s inappropriate to call it an organ, and… it’s not the primary mode or means by which the pope teaches.”  But my remark is only an “error” (jaw-dropping or otherwise) if one understands “organ” in Lofton’s idiosyncratic way.  Certainly it is perfectly innocent if one reads “organ” in the sense in which I meant it.  The Church is a body with the pope as its visible head.  The “organs” of the Church, as I was using the term, are those agencies through which the pope and the Church act, just as a human being acts by using organs such as the tongue (to speak) and the hand (to manipulate objects).  An office like the Dicastery of Divine Worship is the “organ” or agency through which the pope and the Church he heads handle liturgical matters.  And the DDF is that “organ” or agency through which the pope and the Church he heads handle doctrinal matters, specifically.  As I was using the term, it wouldn’t make sense to call the pope himself an “organ,” because, again, the “organs” I had in mind are the agencies the pope works through.  It also wouldn’t make sense to call other modes by which the pope teaches – encyclicals, for example, or sermons – “organs” of the Church, for they are not agencies in the sense in which the DDF is an agency.  Issuing an encyclical or giving a sermon is an action that the pope carries out, not an “organ.”

When properly understood, then, my remark that the DDF is “the main magisterial organ of the Church” is perfectly innocuous.  If Lofton or anyone else wants to argue for using the expression “organ” in some other way, that’s fine.  But he has no business accusing me of an “error,” jaw-dropping or otherwise.  Again, my use of the expression is in line with common usage, and the term has, in any event, no precise technical or doctrinal meaning that would render objectionable my description of the DDF as an “organ” or “the main organ” of the Magisterium.  Certainly, Lofton has no business drawing from my remarks an absurd inference to the effect that I am trying to reduce the entire Magisterium of the Church to whatever documents the DDF happens to issue.  This is a sheer fantasy on Lofton’s part, and not anything I either said or implied.

Archbishop Fernandez and the DDF

Let’s turn finally to what I said in my article about Archbishop Fernandez’s appointment as Prefect of the DDF.  My claim was quite precise.  I said that the pope’s and the archbishop’s remarks implied that the DDF would largely no longer be exercising its traditional magisterial functions.  Each of the words and phrases italicized here is crucial, and they highlight aspects of my remarks that Lofton ignores in order to make his inflammatory charges.

First, I spoke only of the DDF.  I did not say that the remarks in question implied that the pope or the Church as a whole would cease exercising their magisterial functions.  It’s true that in the second to last sentence in my article, I quoted Newman’s phrase “temporary suspense of the functions of the ‘Ecclesia docens,’” in order to wrap up the discussion by tying it into the reference to Newman with which the article began.  Read in isolation, one might suppose from that one sentence that I was speaking about the Church as a whole.  But the larger context makes it clear that that is not what I meant.  I was clearly referring to the “temporary suspense” of the exercise of the DDF’s traditional function within the Church, specifically.

Second, I did not say that the archbishop’s and pope’s remarks implied that the DDF (much less the pope or Church as a whole) would lose its magisterial function.  I said explicitly that what was in question was the exercise of that function.  Naturally, even if the DDF did stop exercising that function, it could take up its exercise again immediately any time the pope wanted it to.  Hence the point is not nearly as radical as Lofton implies.  Third, even then I explicitly said that the archbishop’s and pope’s remarks implied only that the DDF would largely no longer be exercising its traditional magisterial function – largely, not entirely.  Lofton says that the pope’s and the archbishop’s remarks make it clear that the DDF would still be teaching, as if this were something I denied.  But I did not deny it.  On the contrary, I quoted those remarks myself, and – again – claimed only that the remarks implied a partial refraining from the exercise of the teaching function, not a complete refraining.

Finally, I was not putting forward any bold thesis about the nature of the Magisterium, or furthering an “agenda” to “prepare people to reject magisterial teaching,” or whatever else Lofton fantasizes might be my motivation.  I was simply noting the logical implications of what the pope and the archbishop themselves had said.  And I did so tentatively, explicitly remarking that “it is possible that the remarks will be clarified and qualified after Archbishop Fernandez takes office.” 

It is true that I went on to indicate that I doubted such a qualification would be forthcoming.  I was definitely wrong about that, because as it happens, the archbishop issued some clarifying remarks only a few days later, as I noted in a follow-up article.  And his latest remarks essentially nullify the implications of his earlier remarks.  But as I argue in the follow-up article, that makes the significance of the earlier remarks less clear, not more.  The whole episode amounts to yet another instance of a pattern of action exhibited by the pope and his subordinates throughout his pontificate – a tendency to generate needless confusion and controversy by failing to speak with precision.

Lofton himself halfway admits this.  Speaking of Francis’s magisterium in general, Lofton says: “I would like to see more clarification from Pope Francis in some cases.”  Of the pope’s letter announcing Archbishop Fernandez’s appointment, Lofton admits: “I have some criticisms of the letter.”  Specifically, with respect to the goals of upholding orthodoxy while allowing for different ways of expressing the Faith, Lofton acknowledges that the pope regrettably seems “to kind of pit these things against each other.”  In that case, though, it is intellectually dishonest for Lofton to insinuate that when I and others have criticized the pope’s and the archbishop’s recent remarks, this criticism must reflect some suspect “agenda.”

There is one more concession that Lofton makes that is extremely important, and the significance of which he and other self-appointed defenders of Pope Francis routinely overlook.  Commenting on Archbishop Fernandez’s remarks about the “persecution” some theologians suffered from the CDF around the time of Vatican II, Lofton says:

There were things that the Second Vatican Council taught that ended up vindicating some of the people that… previously… [had] a negative judgment against them [by the Holy Office]…  Over and over and over, the Holy Office did render negative judgments about people who were later on vindicated… That’s a fact, and it’s a fact we see often.

End quote.  For those unfamiliar with the details of this period of Church history, what Lofton is referring to is the situation of thinkers commonly classified as part of the nouvelle théologie (“new theology”) movement – Henri Bouillard, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, and many others.  These writers were highly critical of, and engaged in a sustained controversy with, the Neo-Scholastic Thomists who represented the mainstream of Catholic theology in the decades prior to Vatican II.  Some of them were considered suspect by the CDF at the time, and Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis was in part a correction of nouvelle théologie excesses.  (For example, Pius’s famous criticism of those who “destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order” is widely understood to be a shot across de Lubac’s bow.)  These thinkers had to “fly under the radar,” as it were, until the arrival of a more friendly pontificate.  With Vatican II, they were rehabilitated.  Some of them even became cardinals, and Ratzinger, of course, became pope.

The irony here is many of these thinkers are heroes to Pope Francis’s most ardent defenders – who nevertheless condemn the pope’s critics for doing exactly what the nouvelle théologie writers did!  They can’t have it both ways.  If it was legitimate for nouvelle théologie writers respectfully to criticize the shortcomings they claimed to see in the Magisterium of their day, then it cannot be denied that it can be legitimate respectfully to criticize the shortcomings some see in Pope Francis’s magisterium.  If the nouvelle théologie writers shouldn’t be dismissed en masse as “dissenters,” then it is not fair to dismiss Pope Francis’s critics en masse as “dissenters.” 

More to the present point, if Lofton is willing to acknowledge the good will of the nouvelle théologie writers and the soundness of some of their views, despite their having been at odds with the Magisterium of their day, then justice and charity require him to afford the same courtesy to the sober and respectful critics of Pope Francis.  For example, he should refrain from insinuating that they have an “agenda” of “prepar[ing] people to reject papal teaching authority.”

One final comment.  Apparently worried that his video was insufficiently condescending, Lofton adds a little trash talk in the comments section, remarking: “I think [Feser] needs to stick to his lane which is philosophy.”

Well, as the Scholastics and the pre-Vatican II popes who commended Scholasticism emphasized, training in philosophy is a prerequisite to doing theology well.  The reason is that it disciplines the intellect, teaching one to use words precisely, to make careful conceptual distinctions, to reason with logical exactness, and to evaluate texts and arguments with caution and charity. 

Lofton’s response to my article provides evidence that he is lacking in these capacities.  Hence I’d suggest that he might consider sticking to his own lane, which is making facile YouTube videos – but about topics other than theology, which requires levels of rigor and charity that he appears to lack.

UPDATE 7/25: A follow-up comment on the controversy this article generated on Twitter and YouTube.


  1. I don’t necessarily dislike Lofton, but he has spent a large portion of his efforts over the last year on bending over backwards to reject every challenge to the pope’s orthodoxy. That is commendable to a point, but ceases to be so when he twists claims and arguments too far to find a way to reject even fair and even handed criticisms of the pope. Even in cases where I agreed with his general point (opposing the Benevacantist types, for example), his tendency to diminish the faults with certain off the cuff remarks or questionable choices of Pope Francis often had the opposite of the intended effect and only make it appear that his goal is hiding the ball and suggesting bad faith on the part of critics beyond what was warranted.

  2. Geez, you have a lot of patience.

    "The irony here is many of these thinkers are heroes to Pope Francis’s most ardent defenders – who nevertheless condemn the pope’s critics for doing exactly what the nouvelle théologie writers did! They can’t have it both ways..."

    Well, they certainly try. Stare Decisis for thee, but not for me.

    In any event, as he apparently continually needs fresh fodder, he's now off pursuing and flyspecking poor, crushed, mild mannered, soft spoken Ralph Martin, one of those Catholic evangelists from the 1980s, who can no longer un-see what he has now seen too often.

    Perhaps Lofton, in a moment of reflection might ask himself the simple question of why it is that Bergoglio's pontificate has been accompanied such a shxitstorm of controversy over repeated heterodox seeming pronouncements in the first place. And why are all these apparent crypto-heretics surrounding him? How are they getting the positions and responsibilities they have? Did they just sprout up in the Vatican after a rain that produced a bumper crop of buggers? Is Bergoglio not doing any vetting when it comes to installing these people? Or just as worrisome, but possibly more likely: maybe he is indeed selecting them after a thorough vetting to his standards and preferences and plans. Sounds like it with this Fernandez guy.

    Lofton's answer to this staggering state of affairs, reminds me of the refrain of the true Socialist believers once they found themselves starving and brutalized in a freezing Siberian labor camp, or just before they received a bullet to the back of the neck in the basement of Lubyanka,

    "Oh! If only comrade Stalin knew!"

    1. Russians on the Ukrainian front say the same thing "if only Putin knew!" ... All the while Stalin, Putin and Francis know full well. The ignorance amazes.

    2. I would ask why you see the need for Vulgarity, and why you Don't say Pope Francis

    3. "I would ask why you see the need for Vulgarity, and why you Don't say Pope Francis"

      I suppose you are mainly referring to my mention of the cyclone of faeces which Bergoglio's words and actions have deliberately precipitated.

      Well, I suppose it is because at some point, unvarnished and even impolite language works to emphasize with unmistakeable clarity the moral effect of the perpetrator's actions.

      You may recall that Not-Pope-Gregory, had himself referred to others as "coprophages" in what might seem to be less than a gentle rebuke prompted purely by pastoral solicitude.

      I presume you know what a coprophage is? In the language of my forebears, the commoner terms might have been applied to some particularly honorless scoundrel in a phrase reading something like, "That, doomed by the Deity to perdition, coprophagic, whelp of a female canine, deserves to be dropped head first into a post hole..."

      Of course although they would never have done such a thing, I think you will agree that the euphemistic version lacks some of the rhetorical impact and sense of seriousness of intent which the vulgar rendition would convey.

      As for saying Bergoglio, rather than Pope Francis? Well, I'm not sure he would mind. It is common in Europe, I have read. My use of the title Pope Frankie, might or might not meet with his approval. Probably no, from me; but probably yes, from others.

      Did you have a question regarding any of the other terms?

    4. No, I wouldn't agree, you can express serious intent without resorting to vulgarity. You have shown me that you carefully choose your words by your response, so how about you do that in expressing seriousness? As for what the Europeans may do who cares? It has become an expression of contempt and dismissal of the Pope.

  3. To suggest Michael Lofton lacks nuance implies you are unfamiliar with his work. He strives for nuance in online discourse that is sorely lacking in it, for reasons you have in part alluded to.

    I suggest you partake in a discussion with him, on his channel, or elsewhere (I'm sure he'd oblige) in order to straighten out any disagreements. He is a charitable interviewer/dialogue partner and I'm sure the discussion can be fruitful if both parties are amenable to it from the outset .

    1. "partake in discussion".... sure. There is little charitable and nuanced with him when he's pushed back. Why not: he's the most charitable and nuanced person when he has a person who agrees with him. Watch him in any video where he disagrees with someone. If you really think that is an example of nuance and charity then you should probably unplug from Youtube for a spell.

    2. There is a point at which being "nuanced" can mean nitpicking and misrepresenting other people's statements to prove that I am more nuanced than everyone else.

    3. Just because a person says the words "nuance" and "charity" a lot does not actually mean they apply that nuance and charity evenly. I find Lofton's nuance and charity often lacking in some areas and over applied in others.

    4. Just because Lofton posits his perspective as nuanced, doesn’t mean his positions are nuanced. His channel has ironically been as broad-brush about “traditionalists” as he purports them to be. Feser has demonstrated how much “nuance” Michael misses in his article. He grossly misrepresents Feser’s positions, to his own detriment. Michael brought a knife to gun fight here with Feser, hence his removal of posts claiming “libel,” on his YouTube community page.

      It also doesn’t take much digging to see Michael’s frequent jabs at anyone criticizing his work. He clearly doesn’t take to it with any dignity, and his channel has simply devolved into an echo chamber of agreement and an ardent refusal to actually entertain discourse in the current pontificate.

      “But he does criticize Francis, he talks about it all the time…You clearly don’t watch….”

      Again, the offhanded lip service to this doesn’t amount to any actual validity to this. His focus now has become simply to “straw man” the critical position and point at traditionalists with the denial of charity he accuses them of.

    5. Lofton as nuanced and charitable? Don’t make me laugh. He tells his viewers to not support Catholic content creators he disagrees with personally. He feeds his channel with drama chasing because it was unsuccessful as an academically rigorous channel.

  4. This is a very unfortunate situation, and regrettably it appears to be the fault of Lofton rather than you. Lofton is generally a careful and nuanced thinker, but his video on your article was quite terrible for the reasons you gave.

    He also has a very nasty habit of implying horrible things about people without stating them outright, then claiming that because he only implied, he's being charitable. In particular he did this in response to Taylor Marshall asking why every commercial he watched appeared to have an interracial couple in it - a perfectly legitimate question that is quite reasonable to ask. Lofton in response to this made a post on Youtube where he questioned why Marshall would even ask such a question, the implication clearly being that Marshall was racist in some way, because nobody else would ever ask such a question.

    That this is ridiculous should go without saying.

    1. He does this all the time.

    2. You think so? I've seen him be pretty caustic and unthinking in his attacks on quite a few. I've seen him use the same response of "I tried to invite so and so on my show to debate but they said they didn't like my attitude" multiple times. With no proof of these conversations. And, even if he had proof, why bring it up? Why use this as his attempt to further invalidate those he disagrees with? It's not charitable and it's not nuanced.

    3. This is not an aberration; this is a feature of Lofton.

  5. I second Anonymous's suggestion that you appear on Lofton's show. I think a discussion would be quite fruitful. Of course, time is limited.

  6. Sorry, Ed, that you burned an hour of your life crafting this response, an hour that you will never get back.

  7. Sorry that this is my third note on this topic... I just want to affirm ed's initial comment on how long form gabbing in videos is far inferior to written communication.
    In my own line of work, one on my duties is to respond to appeals of owners' property tax valuations. I am up front with them in telling them that they MUST put it in writing. While no guarantee of course, the very form of grammar imposes at least some guardrails on a person's venting of spleen. It forces them to pause at least for a moment to use (mostly) complete sentences. Imagine if some of the comments on this blog were submitted orally! One shudders.

  8. The 'slight of hand' you refer to is a familiar tactic by tactic. In a notorious debate with Timothy Flanders, he came to the debate and immediately said he preferred to change the predetermined question they were to debate from "Can the Pope abolish the Latin mass?" to "can the Pope discontinue the missal of 1962 and replace it with the missal of 1969."

    In charity Flanders, now totally unprepared allowed Lofton to continue and Lofton then argued a prepared script on the latter, when he knew his opponent would be unprepared.

    A devious tactic by someone who appears to thrive on guile.

    1. Ed, he ain't worth your time
      And he ain't worth space on this blog.

    2. Like Ben Shapiro!

  9. I spent atleast a few seconds trying to make out the significance of the picture until I saw the title and I was like, "Ohhh,it's a strawman!!". Enjoyed that :)

    I think the post covers everything.
    Sad that Prof Feser has to deal with trolls like this. Although I don't think it's really necessary.

    Most of these clowns just carve out a small niche for themselves in the online sphere and are not really relevant until they get some mainstream attention.I'd never heard of Lofton till I read post.

    1. Where does the professor get all those pictures to illustrate his blog?

  10. Michael Lofton ... strives for nuance in online discourse that is sorely lacking in it, ... "

    I'd better look that word up. Must mean striving for precision and exactitude while never reading into something, that which the author has neither put there, nor logically implied. And always avoiding, I would guess, loading up a proposition with more freight than it was intended to carry, or slyly skirting a point made colloquially, through the substitution of bureaucratic niceties or equivocations or alternate ambiguities.

    A casual search, and some screen grabs ...

    Nuanced: characterized by subtle shades of meaning or expression.

    Hmm. That does not seem to exactly catch what he is doing. Doesn't seem he's doing anything on the order of distinguishing beige from tan, or liberty from freedom. Let's try some other words,

    Niggle: to criticize, especially constantly or repeatedly, in a peevish or petty way ...

    Quibbler: a disputant who quibbles; someone who raises annoying petty objections

    Pettifogger: one given to quibbling over trifles

    Not perfect perhaps, but it seems to me that we are making progress.

    I'll try a few more definitions,

    Nonplussed: surprised and confused so much that one is unsure how to react.

    Feign: to give a false appearance of ... to pretend to be affected

    Pharisaical: excessively or hypocritically pious

    Well, I cannot say any of those hits it exactly and comprehensively. We will see ...

    I still need to look up some other words; among them : "unctuous", "punctilio", and "pedantry".

    If I get around to doing it, I'll report the result.

  11. Thanks for this. A well written, thoughtful response. I like a lot of Lofton’s work, but many of his critiques are over the top and based on a strained interpretation of the work he is critiquing. I greatly appreciate all that you do.

  12. One little point there Dr Feser that may be useful. Contrary to common opinion the Catechism isn't a magisterial text per se but a summary of magisterial teaching. Some may recall that in the Schonborn/Ratzinger commentary they actually make the point that any assertion in the Catechism only has as much weight magisterially as that assertion has outside and independently of the Catechism. Such a principle would make no sense if the Catechism in and of itself had that kind of magisterial force - the mere appearance of a statement would give it additional weight not merely whatever it has independently of the Catechism. At the same time such a statement is one of common sense because if something appearing in the Catechism did endow something with additional authority it would be pretty nebulous as to exactly what ranking any given sentence has without some kind of specification. Anyway point is you needn't concede it is magisterial as such.

    1. Umm. Given its source, the CCC certainly does have magisterial weight, especially in light of the Apostolic Constitution JPII wrote endorsing it. Thus Schoenborn and Ratzinger are wrong (apparently). And if they are not wrong, what is their argument, I'd like to know?

    2. It is not merely a matter of the source but the function of the document. For instance a document could be legal/disciplinary rather than a teaching document. This is a teaching document of course but a Catechism is a summation of pre-existing teaching rather than an actual exercise of the magisterium itself. As I noted if it were it would be rather confusing in any case - what weight would be assigned to just any sentence in there. Usually in a specific teaching document that is easier to discern with what force a teaching is being presented (dogmatic or some lesser censure - especially in the old school documents).

      I am sure Ratzinger and Shoenborn are quite aware of the AC introducing it and probably helped draft it. But they also understand the purpose of a Catechism which is present teaching not to settle it with a new ruling hence the weight of anything in it is the same as its weight independently of the Catechism itself. This same principle by the way would apply to the Catechism of the Council of Trent which was also introduced by Pope Pius V though with a lower ranking document. As the AC notes the Catechism is a "firma regula" (in English firma has erroneously been translated as "certain"). It presents teaching but that teaching has to stand on its own two feet elsewhere. I suggest R&S are not wrong but actually understand the purpose of the document and what it does and does not do better than the average punter.

    3. If there's an argument here, it's not a very clear one. 'Magisterial' just means teaching, as you correctly note. So a catechism, as being essentially a teaching document, is clearly magisterial. Q.E.D. That it is meant to present settled teaching, not controversial theses, if anything gives it more 'magisterial weight,' not less. The fact that it doesn't delve into theological notes of particular teachings doesn't negate its magisterial weight; it just specifies it: i.e., as not being concerned to delve into theological notes. But the specification of theological notes is clearly not essential to being 'magisterial.'

      So the remaining argument seems to be: But R&S must know what they're talking about and I think they support what I'm saying, so...

      But what you're saying is actually contradictory: "Contrary to common opinion the Catechism isn't a magisterial text per se but a summary of magisterial teaching."

      Sed contra, a magisterially endorsed summary of magisterial teaching is, as such, necessarily a magisterial text. To deny the analytical implication here strikes me as just thoroughly baffling doublespeak.

    4. I think the point - and I agree with this - is that a teaching presented in the Catechism does not get any more weight for being presented in the Catechism than it would have OUTSIDE the Catechism.

      If the Catechism taught (literally I have never checked this) before JPII issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church had only male Priests, it would have been teaching accurately, but not authoritatively, as the question had not yet been authoritatively settled. The teaching being in the Catechism would not have changed that.

      What changed it was a Papal encyclical explicitly answering the question and ending all discussion on the topic.

    5. That's an interesting example. As I recall/ understand, Ordinatio sacerdotalis indeed gave authoritative weight to the teaching, but specifically grounded the intrinsic authority of the teaching (the theological note attached to it) not in itself (in the papal authority of its author) but in the authority of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church, which OS simply recalled. Which is basically the same as what I think the Catechism does: it doesn't change theological notes attached to various doctrines, but it certainly does, as an undeniable contribution to the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church, have magisterial weight in recalling and summarizing what are supposed to be the settled teachings of the Church.

    6. Bellomy here. Phone won't let me log in.

      Yes, that's right. Its role is recalling and summarizing teachings, but nothing in the Catechism gains morre weight for being in the Catechism as such if it did not already have that weight.

    7. You keep using the word 'weight.' What do you think that word means? As I see it, the weight of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church is cumulative. Every time a teaching is authoritatively (re)affirmed that adds to its weight within the ordinary and universal magisterium, i.e., the Church's teaching tradition, i.e., that which is handed on as the doctrine of the Church. It seems to me that to state otherwise is nonsense based on a failure to understand terms.

      Anyway, what are you trying to say about OS then? Are you withdrawing your earlier claim that OS first authoritatively settled the question? I think it did not, but that it did add magisterial weight to what was already definitively present in the ordinary and universal magisterial teaching of the Church. And that means that it becomes a more grave (a weightier) error to deny the teaching of OS after OS, regardless of the fact that according to OS it was just as objectively wrong before as after OS to deny the teaching of OS. Make sense? The teaching was already definitive and infallible and OS didn't change the theological note attached to the teaching, but it certainly did add weight to that definitive and infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium. Didn't it??

    8. "What do you think that word means?"

      I'm not sure why you're asking me this question as if it has some sort of esoteric meaning. It refers to the level of assent the faithful are required to give the teaching. If something has lower weight, we may only be asked to prayerfully consider it; if it has higher weight, it may be infallibly defined.

      "Every time a teaching is authoritatively (re)affirmed that adds to its weight within the ordinary and universal magisterium, i.e., the Church's teaching tradition, i.e., that which is handed on as the doctrine of the Church."

      Sure, I'd concede that. That means an appearance in the Catechism has the weight of one (1) repetition.

      It is also true that certain documents are weighted higher than others, i.e., ex cathedra declarations of dogma are to be given more weight than a papal homily, to use a very extreme example. The weight of the Catechism is the weight you would give any document that summarizes previously expressed teachings, and *does no more than that*.

      I'm not really sure what you mean about adding weight to an already infallible teaching. You can't do that by definition; the teaching is already infallible. OS did one of two things:

      1) It officially declared a teaching as infallible
      2) It pointed out a teaching that was already infallible.

      Now it has always seemed obvious to me by a plain reading of the text that the former is what it was doing, but I suppose it can be plausibly interpreted as the latter. If so, sure, I guess I retract that example and replace it with Munificentissimus Deus. just to avoid a pointless argument on the topic. Either way the point stands - the Catechism is a summary of teachings and does not itself make a teaching more authoritative.

      I will cop to the caveat "Except insofar as repeating a teaching adds a certain amount of weight", but that "certain amount" is not very much.

    9. "I'm not sure why you're asking me this question as if it has some sort of esoteric meaning. It refers to the level of assent the faithful are required to give the teaching. If something has lower weight, we may only be asked to prayerfully consider it; if it has higher weight, it may be infallibly defined."

      Well 'esoteric' is a relative matter. As it turns out you've given the term a relatively esoteric meaning here. And what you're referring to is what I've been consistently referring to as theological notes of teachings, and distinguishing from magisterial weight, which to my mind is clearly a more general, less theologically specific term. So you can use it as a synonym for the theological note, but as far as I'm aware that would be an ad hoc identification of the two terms (one that you don't make consistently -- see below).

      "1) It officially declared a teaching as infallible
      2) It pointed out a teaching that was already infallible.
      Now it has always seemed obvious to me by a plain reading of the text that the former is what it was doing, but I suppose it can be plausibly interpreted as the latter."

      It seems obvious to me that it is both. And I don't see how it could be plausibly interpreted as anything other than both.

      "I will cop to the caveat "Except insofar as repeating a teaching adds a certain amount of weight", but that "certain amount" is not very much."

      So you agree with me then! See, weight doesn't just refer to theological notes, because you can add 'magisterial weight' (bit by bit) without changing a theological note (though at some point that can change too). And that is the normal, (literally) traditional (handing-down through the ages) way that the development of the 'ordinary and universal magisterium' of the Church works: by accumulation of authoritative weight (heuristically even think literally of the weight of ink or paper) of a teaching from scripture, Fathers, Doctors, theologians -- and yes, even mere catechisms (not Dutch ones, necessarily, but certainly universal ones, commissioned, vetted, and sealed with the stamp of approval of an Apostolic Constitution by the pope). Weight in this sense is fundamental; it's prior to, different from, and the necessary precondition for assigning weight in the sense of theological notes.

    10. "Either way the point stands - the Catechism is a summary of teachings and does not itself make a teaching more authoritative."

      Maybe it would also help to point out a distinction here between authoritative in a legal sense and authoritative in a real sense. When a pope (or any bishop, bishop's conference, etc.) or a respected theologian teaches a theological opinion, that opinion does not become more authoritative in a legal sense. But in a real sense it obviously does gain authority, because authority is essentially derived from the author (it's right there in the word) of a teaching, and if the author of a teaching has authority in virtue of his knowledge and/or office, then that authority necessarily lends itself to whatever he teaches. That is the essential nature of 'author'-ity. And thus it may be a particularly disastrous scandal when bishops (or others in prominent positions) publicly (in persona apostolica, we might say, since that is what their office entails) teach falsehood and fail to correct errors (remember that "follow the science" fiasco?). Such damage is mitigated if they say "this is just my opinion, feel free to disagree with me," but only mitigated, because even by teaching something explicitly as only an opinion, that opinion gains weight. And again, this is real weight, not legal weight -- although again, legal weight has to come from somewhere, and it comes from real weight, including that of theological opinions, so at some point the real weight of a theological opinion can be converted into legal weight.

      And none of this is esoteric, or exclusive to the way authority functions in the Church (vs. law, science, history, medicine, etc.), but I guess it does pass below the level of conscious reflection that most people bring to bear on these things.

    11. Bellomy here.

      I am happy to just say we agree . I don't mean to argue pointlessly. I guess my only point is that a teaching that we didn't owe a particularly large amount of deference to doesn't suddenly become a teaching we owe our full assent and deference to merely by being in the Catechism, but does if, say, it is presented in a document like Munificentissimus. That's all.

  13. The last paragraph of this post, going after Lofton personally, mars an otherwise great article dealing with his arguments.

  14. " [T]he extended ' YouTube hot take.' ... [A] talking head riffing, for an hour or so ..."

    Now there's ... a definition worth carving in stone.
    As a simple description it functions as a kind of critical wedge that can then be used to crack open the shell of a rotten fruit developing out of our current technology.

    Because as glad as we ought to be for all the good an unregulated and to this point unmonopolized information space provides, YouTube especially, has encouraged the growth of a format that blends the toxicity of "The View", the techniques of the lone internet discussion board troll, and the current flood of 'Tubers' reaction videos. [On the plus side it gives underemployed middle-aged men a way to earn extra money doing what they like best ... or maybe second best.]

    In the case of those who ostensibly take on some matter of public interest, rather than just invite you to watch them roll their eyes and snap their fingers in time to old music, the hot take troll spends his time grinding his ax and soliciting financially remunerative clicks through a rambling and presenter centered animadversion on the work of others, while ornamenting his presentation with mugging expressions of profound concern, informed skepticism, amusement, or annoyance.

    Lots of supercilious beard-stroking going on in those "spaces"

    That said, for me, the most irritating aspect of these presentations is the rambling, aside laden, and cloyingly confidential manner in which these presentations are fashioned. Either these people need better editors or better personalities. Probably easiest to get an editor.

  15. What's also quite irritating is that some time recently, Mr Lofton started moderating comments on his videos in such a way that all the comments he allows to be published are either highly laudatory of his position in an obnoxiously obsequious manner or are poorly thought-out critiques that he and his followers can easily dunk on. It also just gives those who start watching his videos the impression that everyone who watches his videos is convinced by him. Not the most conducive to productive intellectual discussion, if indeed that is what he wants.

    1. He does the same thing on Twitter. He just blocks anyone who criticizes him.

    2. Yeh he did that to me. Or more specifically my friend Jim Russell and I took a mild pot shot at Mike Lewis and he blocked me for it?
      I defended him and recommend his videos. As far as I am concerned he can bugger off,

    3. This is the way the internet works now. Subreddits (the main replacement for traditional message boards) ban nonconfirming opinions or at least downvotes them. Substack (the main replacement for traditional blogs) often blocks non-subscribers from commenting under posts. Everything is a hyper-specific echochamber.

  16. Bellomy here - my phone is not letting me sign in.

    I think it is very unfortunate that Lofton posted his response as a YouTube video. He can write articles - he is a Catholic Answers writer - and Dr. Feser explained his issues with responding to videos.

    Unfortunately due to times constraints that means that by responding via video Lofton is probably ending the discussion, which is unfortunate.

  17. "A video, because it is so much quicker and easier to make, is for that very reason likelier to be of considerably lower intellectual quality."

    1) Ya but people like (they prefer) vulnerability. They're literally like, "Thank you for being so vulnerable." Much less of, "But do you really think that's true?"
    2) WWJD? Well he didn't write anything (certainly could have). And originally he got people to write about him, but now (apparently) he also has people making 'videos' about him, and a lot of people prefer movies to books. What to do? The medium is the message? So what are the respective merits of the different media and the messages they each convey? Worth pondering, I guess.

    1. 2) WWJD? Well he didn't write anything (certainly could have).

      Jesus did write something, but it wasn't recorded: he wrote on the ground when he was confronted with by the Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery. That's all that the Gospels report of Jesus writing.

      Interestingly, as far as I can recall, the Gospels don't report even ONCE a specific case of Jesus giving money to poor people for their needs.

  18. Dr. McPike
    You should write another philosophy book

  19. The fuss about the Holy Office appointment, Fernandez, is a storm in a teacup. So another modernist wants to look open-minded? How long did the Avignon captivity last? How long did it take to fix the results of the Council of Constance's meanderings? Welcome to life inside the Catholic Church. The Church has fixed everything in its history without getting rid of the papacy, introducing an autonomous episcopal power (Gallicanism), accountability to a democratic lay Church, or suspension of Magisterium. All these things are heresies.

    Pope Francis will be the last of the Pope's whose world started with Vatican II. Don't make his mistake and think the world started with him.

    Roberto di Mattei has written a good article about this, pointing out that John XXIII opened Vatican II with exactly the same aspirations as Fernandez. He recounts the anecdote about Congar urinating on the doors of the Holy Office in 1946 and 1954, which proved no obstacle to John Paul II making him a cardinal in 1994. This did not start with Pope Francis (those born after about 2010 may hold other opinions).

    1. All true, Miguel. The Church will weather these storms, and God will save it.

      But we can bemoan the loss of all those who would have been saved but end up being damned, if only X, Y, or Z would do something (within their power) that is the right thing to do. We can even be worried about whether our own selves will withstand the storm, given the degeneracy in our own parishes etc. The Church can wait 50 or 100 years to put paid to some nonsense or other. My Uncle Bill cannot.

      Also, the Church will weather the storm on the basis of the hard work and difficult choices of some heroic saints who will stand up to the nonsense: we need to call forth those heroes by our words, actions, and prayers. We can't just wait for them to appear.

    2. That all goes without saying because the Church does not depend on our efforts, virtues or vices. Unlike civil society, which we can fix or annihilate through natural means because it's just a natural human association, the Church has a mind and a soul, God's. Nothing can destroy it.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. WCB

    A Youtube video lecture you can watch for free beats some $139.00 book at
    Amazon. Or even a $30 E-book from Amazon. A lot of supposedly ever so serious philosophy or Theology books are priced out of reach for most people. And of course we have the wallet gouging journals that want $20.00 to $40.00 for some stupid article.


    1. You make a good point about the prices of books and articles. Fortunately, I live near a large university library so that isn't an issue for me. If don't live near a large library, you still might be able to find books and articles through the inter-library loan process. Also, if you wait a while, you can find used books through I bought all of Dr Feder's books that way.

    2. Wow! You and I actually agree on something WCB. Will miracles never cease? :D

      PS keep cool. Texas must be Hell right now.
      NY isn't pleasant either.

  21. Dr. Feser,

    As a tip from a millennial:

    The podcast form is great for background education to lay people who do not have the time to read but do have the time to listen to things while doing other tasks. More difficult tasks (for example modeling at work) can only be done while listening to things of a lower intellectual rigor (like many Catholic shows and conservative commentators). Simpler tasks (like doing dishes) can be done while listening to higher intellectual content such as audiobooks or some of your lectures on the Thomistic Institute, etc.

    I agree that videos are a terrible format for critiquing articles. I think you would be best off ignoring them in the future, but I can understand addressing it if you were getting considerable pushback.

    I would really love to see you get in the podcast world a little more like your interview with John DeRosa. I feel like every time you talk though, it is in relation to a book, article, or lecture.

    I think there could be a real benefit to you giving some podcaster an hour of your time every other week or so to give your perspective on any given topic. It could attract a wider audience. I understand that there is the risk of imprecision when you talk with someone about something that is not super fresh in your mind, but I think that small risk is worth the wider audience.

    Something to consider.

  22. Good gracious, Lofton has posted his reply has “When a Celebrity Author Bullies the Wrong Person”. Who is bullying whom, now? What galling shite.

    1. The "wrong person"? Sounds like a threat.

  23. I have come to dislike the ‘line-by-line criticism and rebuttal’ videos that are trending these days. They hold pitfalls for their authors, two of which are: a) misinterpretation of the intent or content of the examined material, and b) ‘gotcha’ criticizing the absence of points that the critic thought should have been included. The more importance placed on acquiring and maintaining an audience for these videos, the rising temptation to make them hyperbolic. Reminds me of the meme where a man’s wife watches him typing furiously at the keyboard, wherein he reponds, “I’ll be there in a moment; someone on the Internet is wrong and I have to set him straight.” And it’s not uniting the Church, protecting the Faith, or enticing conversions.

  24. Could God have given people the choice to skip the trials and temptations of this world and go straight to The Beatific Vision, and opt out of the greater goods they'd be missing out on then? If so, why did'nt he?

  25. WCB

    JSTOR. JSTOR has free access to many journal articles for free. Not all articles, but many, including theology and philosophy. Many libraries allow one to access JSTOR over your computer, if you have a library account with a library that does this. Houston Public Library here in Houston, Texas does this. JSTOR now allows direct accounts allowing reading of a limited number of article accesses a month. There are afew other similar ways to access journal articles such as MUSE, but they are not as good as JSTOR. I need to go to my library and renew my library card so I can use JSTORE again.


  26. You can read some phil and theo journals free online at wiley

  27. Here are some free philosophy courses online in English from the University of Louvain, founded in 1450 in Belgium.

  28. Deeply thankful that I left Papism for Holy Orthodoxy. Please, come and see. The schizophrenia inculcated by cognitive dissonance in the Roman church has hurt you, it has hurt your family, your peer, your community. It has led to complacency in addressing massive sexual abuse in your community. And it has severed your progress in a walk towards God, which necessarily involves a sacramental life in Holy Orthodoxy.

  29. I want to follow both sides of this debate, but when one side posts videos that are 2+ hours long... Can I get the cliff notes version please? Anything in print?

  30. "And it has severed your progress in a walk towards God, which necessarily involves a sacramental life in Holy Orthodoxy."

    Which Orthodoxy would that be? The one that was controlled by the old KGB? Or, the Greek one?

    Bergoglio's decision to roll over for the Chinese government and its Patriotic Church might lead one to think he is taking cues from the Russian Orthodox Church. On the other hand his infamous footnote in Amoris read by many as Universalist, looks Greek Orthodox ... or at least Greekish, if D.B. Hart is to be trusted as aninterpreter of that tradition..

    So at a glance anyway, it looks as though the Catholic Church is going in that direction already. Whichever that direction might be.

  31. Say, I have an off topic and intrusive question to ask which being the perceptive type I am, figured might receive an answer here. Because I - perhaps uniquely among Ed Feser's readers - have noticed that there are lots of Catholics who read this blog and then comment here.

    So my question is this, to any of you who know liberal or modernist Catholics: Given the premise that statistically only about 25 to 30 % of modern Catholics believe in the Real Presence, what's behind the all consuming obsession of these, ah persons, in gaining access to what used to be called Holy Communion?

    What do they get out of it? Is it those feelings of inclusion so important to weak males and "gurl" types of all 57 genders? Is it a brief moment in the spotlight upfront? Social validation? Oops that's kind of repeating the first one.

    So,what are they doing? What do they think they are doing? Getting a spiritual vitamin tablet while believing that there are no vitamins in it? Do they "think" about what they are doing at all?

    Yeah babe, sashay up there in your little black dress with the skirt split up to there, and taking the trophy wafer in your own hands like Napolean crowning himself in front of the Pope, pop it into your mouth. Just remember to immediately clasp your hands afterward in a simulacrum of piety, rather than pumping your fist in the air.

    So, assuming there are practicing Roman Catholics amongst you, any idea of what the real deal is?

  32. So, the moral of this story is that Ed, [I can call him "Ed", because I am older than he, and have suffered more - or am older at least] while fully anticipating the result, went ahead and touched the tar-baby; and now, faces the problem of shaking the needy little creature loose. But that sometimes, the lesson reveals, honor and truth demand that one go ahead and do it anyway.

  33. Sorry. Yeah, I know it's Napoleon, not Napolean. If I had written Linoleum Bonaparte, at least I could have plausibly passed it off as an intentional joke. Guess I had to look at it in order to realize what I did. Glad I didnt try to spell Bonaparte. I would have tried to insert a "u" in there somewhere.

    1. @DNW do I have permission to use "Linoleum Bonaparte" in a story I'm writing?

    2. @DNW do I have permission to use "Linoleum Bonaparte" in a story I'm writing?"

      Hahaha. Sure.

  34. Dr Feser,

    I'm a long time reader of your blog and listener of your content over on Thomistic Institute. I've found it all very fruitful. Thanks for all the good work you do.

    Regarding this and the "Suspended Magisterium" article it seems that if you assert that the CDF/DDF is an organ of the magisterium in the sense that you intended then it makes your original article kind of pointless. The CDF/DDF rarely issues documents with magesterial authority while the Pope (the main organ in the sense that Lofton uses the word) issues magesterial documents all the time.

    Given that this article was about the future actions of the head of the DDF (which rarely issues Magisterial documents), it's misleading to even bring up talk of a suspended magisterium.

    If the original article was simply a commentary on how this is another example of Pope Francis failing to clarify himeself, failing to refute error/heresy or teach ambiguously you could make a strong case. It could even be asserted this is a weakness in this magisterium. It doesn't really have anything to with a "suspension" though.

    I thought Lofton was too critical in his review but he did have a point.

  35. Dr. Feser's blog posts, his excellent books, and his fine prose make me admire him. His thoughts about Mr. Lofton also remind me of how prudently he interprets the Church's Magisterial documents.

    But I wonder whether he underestimates what Pope Pius XII did in Humani Generis. To see why I tell you that, please read this article where Fr. David Greenstock argues that Pius XII condemned the New Theology.

    Sadly,I suggest that Vatican II adopted that Theology when its Fathers should have studied Fr. Reginald Garigou-Largrange's paper about that Theology.,%20Reginald,%20O.P_.pdf

    Thanks for reading.

    Best wishes,
    Bill McEnaney

  36. The "philosopher" protest too much me thinks.