A few notes on speaking about others, publicly and privately.
1. The book TOFP?
contains hundreds and hundreds of mentions of various men by name, including Fr. Cekada, Patrick Henry Omlor, John Daly, and me. The book aims at discrediting these men, by ascribing opinions and statements to them, then "proving" these to be wrong, foolish, heretical, etc. The method is essentially ad hominem
, rather than objective and dispassionate, aimed only at ideas.
2. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with an ad hominem
approach. Indeed, saints such as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Robert Bellarmine have employed it. However, it carries with it a burden of responsibility that is immeasurably greater than a purely objective method, for the writer has to ensure not only that his doctrine is sound, but he has also to describe strictly accurately what the target holds, what he has written, and render him justice in criticising him and his ideas and actions. This is a fearful responsibility, fraught with moral danger.
3. In approving a book which contains personal attacks, the man who gives approval adopts as his own the moral value of the work. If the work is sinful, the approval is a sin too. Consequently, the man who is asked to approve a work which contains personal attacks is obliged to verify, for himself, the accuracy and justice of the contents. This burden is certainly borne by the publisher, and the censor, if there is one. This is why several priests who were consulted on the book, TOFP?
, advised simply cutting out the personal attacks. The moral bar which must be reached in order to render these attacks innocent is, in practice, too high. One would have to read swathes of texts from the chosen targets, ideally consult with the targets to ensure that their position had been understood, then read and assess the attacks on these men, and form a judgement as to whether each and every attack was justified. That is, whether in each case the attack is truthful, useful, and just. We know that only one priest read the book through prior to publication, and he did not apply this standard. He has very little idea what I have written, for example, yet my name is in the book around 190 times. The men who have praised
the book, usually without reading it through, have to meet a lower moral bar than those who actually approve it for publication, and everybody understands that praise
is not unqualified approval. If we had to judge a work to be perfect
every time we wanted to praise something, there would be no praise at all.
4. In reacting to the publication of this work, I chose not to publish anything, but instead, I wrote some emails to men who were involved in one way or another with the work. My emails were sent therefore to priests who helped produce it, and men who had publicised or praised it. I chose not to publish because the name of the Society of St. Pius X was too much associated with this book. Criticisms of the book would be seen as criticisms of the Society. I chose not to write to the authors because they had not written to me during the preparation of the book, and I had seen how they had reacted to criticisms by other such as Novus Ordo Watch and Fr. Cekada. Entering into a discussion with Siscoe and Salza struck me as like deciding to have a mud wrestle with a pair of rednecks who think that biting, scratching, and eye-gouging are jolly good fun.
5. Obviously those emails, sent in May or June last year, were going to be forwarded immediately to the authors, by the men involved in producing and publicising the book. My thinking was that this was ideal. Siscoe and Salza would get a clear signal that I had no intention of engaging with them, at all. They chose to wallow in mud, why join them there?
6. These emails, which were not "clandestine" but were sent directly to the people involved, and only to people who were involved, have been characterised by Siscoe and Salza, as "a clandestine e-mail campaign, behind our backs." They are also described as "malicious" and my motives have been assessed, "to hide his real motives, Lane created a pretext..." Readers can see this delightful material here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/john-l ... gn-to.html
I do not see how I could have been less transparent (short of attacking them publicly) than I was. Obviously they are in no position to suggest that I should have consulted them directly, for that would be the purest, most spectacular, hypocrisy on their part. No, they would not, for shame
, dare to demand such a thing. So how was this series of emails "clandestine"?
7. In any case, the authors contacted me, we exchanged emails and we could not agree. Siscoe and Salza think, incredibly, that the text published in Catholic Family News is defensible. Nor can I complain legitimately, to the editor, and demand a retraction, for that, apparently, is a vicious attack on them. I have parsed the text here: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1815&start=0
It is beyond my understanding how anybody can read this in any other way than the grammar dictates.
The Catholic Family News text is as follows: "They also usually (but not always) declare that it is forbidden even to assist at an "una cum" Mass - that is, a Mass in which the Pope's name is mentioned. Clearly, the top Sedevacantist apologists fall into this category (Fr. Cekada, Bp. Dolan, Bp. Sanborn, Mario Derksen, John Lane, Gerry Matatics, the Dimond brothers)."
In this text, the adverb "usually" modifies the verb "declare" and that is why the natural reading of it (the unconscious but certain effect on the reader) is to bring him to think that all the named men forbid assistance at "una cum" masses, with the odd-sounding qualification that they "usually but not always" declare this.
In order to defend the text at all, it is necessary to make the adverb "usually" modify the nouns "John Daly" and/or "John Lane." Obviously this is not a valid procedure. The fact that a French priest (for whom English is a second language) did not see this, but instead supported Siscoe and Salza in their view, was diastrous for clarity and good will. All that I asked for was a correction in CFN, and an apology. This was received as if I had calumniated these men. Let's take a closer look at the CFN text. If the author, Robert Siscoe, meant to say that some but not all of the men listed belong to the category defined, he failed. His grammar, in that case, is incorrect, and the unfortunate effect is to mislead the reader. Even if the author meant to say that some, but not all, of the men listed belong to the category he has defined, but employed bad grammar, then his text remains intrinsically unjust, for it creates a situation in which men who are diametrically opposed on something are mixed together in a way that it is impossible for the reader to disentangle. If the reader thinks that Fr. Cekada possibly approves of assistance at “una cum” masses, then that is an injustice to Fr. Cekada, who finds the very thought horrifying. If the reader thinks that I possibly agree with Fr. Cekada on this, then that is an injustice to me, and the same is true if you swap my name for that of John Daly. That CFN text is indefensible, on any grounds, and all that is required to fix the problem is to correct it.
Now, even the priest for whom English is his second language, and who defended the text for Siscoe and Salza, advised them to change it! He wrote:
P.S.: I hereby suggest to Mr Salza and to Mr Siscoe to correct the online text from:
“They also usually (but not always) declare that it is forbidden even to assist at an “una cum” Mass – that is, a Mass in which the Pope’s name is mentioned.”
to the following:
“They also usually (but not always: e.g. John Lane and John Daly) declare that it is forbidden even to assist at an “una cum” Mass – that is, a Mass in which the Pope’s name is mentioned.”
Now, another priest has told me, twice, that my complaint about this text constitutes "calumny." I discussed it with him in person and asked how on earth he could not see, if not the accuracy of my complaint, at least the plausibility of it? If it's plausible, it's hardly calumny! A calumny is a lie, a deliberate falsehood about another. Very obviously my complaint cannot constitute calumny.
The reason I have laid all of this out is to bring the reader to the point where he is asking what I am asking, which is, how can I possibly believe in the good will of a priest who is so blind as not only to think that the CFN text is fine, but also that my reading of it is impossible and can only be explained by judging that I myself know my view is wrong and I am alleging it anyway - i.e. I am calumniating Siscoe. One further fact needs to be added to our data set to bring out just quite how difficult this exercise of thinking well of this priest is. A senior SSPX priest, a man venerated within the Society for his goodness and knowledge, and with a position as a Superior, has told this other priest that my reading of this text is the natural one. As I write this, I find myself thinking, how am I going to make it plausible to the reader that my accuser is of good will? Well, there's only really one way, and it's to point out that this is a serious, diligent, priest, who teaches theology and philosophy. The idea that he is deliberately accusing me of sin, knowing it to be false, is simply implausible. His mistake in this matter is invincible. His anti-sede prejudice, and his love for his friend Robert Siscoe, combine to make my complaint dissolve before his eyes. He simply cannot see it. I sat in his office and discussed it, and he can hardly bring himself to enter into the detail, so convinced is he that I am wanting to debate something that simply cannot have more than one answer - i.e. his. It's wonderful to behold. And as I say, I know he has been told, by a much more senior priest that he respects, that his answer is not the only one, and nor is it even the more obvious one. If this is the fruit of TOFP?
then the book is of the devil.
8. More recently, as readers of these forums can now see, I wrote directly to Siscoe and Salza to let them know they were forgiven and I was leaving the past behind. As all have now seen, the offences are all to be renewed. A new edition of TOFP?
is due out, and it is expanded, not corrected. There are no errors in the original edition: there could not be, according to one priest, because otherwise Bishop Fellay was negligent, the priest-censor was blind, and several other priests are stupid, etc. In this we see very clearly, how the content
is not the determinant of anything, the approval
of it by Society figures is. If you say there's an error, we already know you're wrong, because Fr. [N.] checked it, and that's that. All of this, despite the fact that we now know that only one priest read the whole book prior to publication!
9. The more recent email exchange has also now been the source of a few choice excerpts published by Siscoe and Salza, here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/second ... -john.html
And then, more recently still, another set of edited excerpts: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedeva ... salza.html
Notice how an email exchange directly with the authors themselves, along with a few priests who were directly involved in the book in one way or another - so, in other words, a private
discussion between men with a common interest - has become, in the hyperventilating rhetoric of these writers, a "semi-public" discussion (apparently they think that it's a sin to publish private communications, so they need a fig leaf), and a "defamation campaign." And Siscoe and Salza wonder why people are distancing themselves from them!