Lies About My Position Regarding Torture & Waterboarding

Lies About My Position Regarding Torture & Waterboarding January 26, 2015
+ Removal of My Post Dealing with Matthew 18:34
“Frustration” (photograph by Peter Alfred Hess, 10-21-08) [Flickr / CC by 2.0 license]

I have removed a blog post of mine  (and two related Facebook discussion posts) that deal with Matthew 18:34, as related to the vexed “waterboarding / torture” issue. I have done so because in the present hysterical, fanatical, anti-rational, “us vs. them” climate that prevails online when it comes to discussion of this issue, my reasoning cannot possibly be grasped (i.e., by those people who are acting hysterically and judgmentally).

I love the Bible; love to engage in amateur exegesis and to discuss (like all lovers of the Bible) what various passages mean. This has been ridiculously distorted to mean (in this instance, given the atrocious mentality that prevails) that I am supposedly equating my thoughts with dogma or the magisterium.

My actual position has been incredibly distorted in certain quarters. This is my position:

1. Torture is intrinsically wrong. The church has made this very clear.

2. I am agnostic as to whether the practice of waterboarding is a species of torture.

My true position  has been distorted and caricatured by my critics as the following:

1. I [supposedly] am “pro-torture” and defend torture and am a “torture apologist.”

2. I [supposedly] claim (in this paper) that Jesus was “pro-torture” [in the sense that the Church has condemned].

Woe unto me, that I dared to look at a Scripture passage that mentioned “torment” or “torture” (defined as interrogatory practices). It wasn’t my initial argument or speculation. I first saw it in the context of a very elaborate presentation of the scriptural data concerning corporal punishment by Australian moral theologian Fr. Brian Harrison.

It’s important to note that Fr. Harrison is Australian because it is charged that any doubt whatsoever as to the status of waterboarding as torture is strictly an “American” and “Neo-conservative” position, and inevitably drawn therefrom. Likewise, it is important to note that he is a moral theologian, because I am being accused of setting myself up (as an apologist) as some sort of pseudo-magisterium. Fr. Harrison wrote in his paper:

Jesus clearly builds on this Old Testament foundation of a nascent, minimal recognition of the need for moderation in chastising one’s fellow men made in God’s image. The New Testament data furnishing some kind of basis for a moral evaluation of such penal practices are not abundant, but significant. On the one hand, we find no direct or outright condemnation of the aforesaid Mosaic punishments as being intrinsically unjust or evil. It would be implausible to try reading any ethical censure into Jesus’ mention of temporal torture in the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Mt 18: 34), in view of his immediate comparison of this treatment with that to be meted out in eternity by “my heavenly Father” (cf. B2 above). The same can be said of the floggings referred to in the parable of the wicked servant (Lk 12: 47-48, cf. B3), particularly in the light of our Lord’s own action narrated in Jn 2: 15 (cf. B6). It seems plain from the text that his “whip” was used to strike the money changers themselves, not only the animals – and with considerable force.

Fr. Harrison, since the time of this paper (July 2005) has clarified that he fully accepts the Church definition of torture as intrinsically immoral (on 11 March 2010). He and others have also noted that there must sensibly be more than one meaning of “torture” insofar as historically, the Church (and folks like St. Thomas Aquinas) have without question sanctioned various forms of corporal punishment (such as in the various Inquisitions). Of course, any such fine distinctions are lost upon the fanatics and hysterical polemicists out there discussing this issue on a daily basis. Fr. Harrison, like myself, was never “pro-torture.” In his clarification he stated:

As a matter of fact, I never have expressed any positive personal approval of torture for that last-mentioned purpose (and much less for any other purpose).

Fr. Harrison also reiterated at the same time that he remains agnostic as to whether waterboarding is torture (in the sense that it is condemned by the Church):

Nobody disputes that the CIA-approved waterboarding was a thoroughly nasty and frightening experience. However, I submit that whether or not it reached the point of torture does remain a seriously disputed question among reasonable and well-informed people. 

He also condemned the usual hysterical discussions online (such as the ones now leading to false accusations coming my way):

. . . I certainly intend to devote more study to this and related issues. However this will be my only statement on the matter in this forum. Indeed, I do not normally read this (or any other) blog, mainly because I think disputes in the blogosphere tend to generate more heat than light – especially since they so often involve intemperate, unsubstantiated, anonymous – and therefore cowardly – attacks on persons and reputations. Also, heat is often accompanied by smoke; so I hope that this present clarification of my own position at least clears the air somewhat.

Fr. Harrison is not alone in his assessment concerning waterboarding. Catholic Answers published an article of his on the overall topic (“The Church and Torture”) in December 2006. On 1 May and 3 May 2014, competing articles appeared on the Catholic Answers blog: Todd Aglialoro  arguing that waterboarding may not be torture, and Michelle Arnold arguing that it is. Obviously, then, Catholic Answers (the largest and most influential lay Catholic apologetics organization) has not taken a dogmatic stand that the Church is definitely against waterboarding as torture (as all the hysterical fanatics writing on the topic think is self-evident). Michelle wrote in her article:

Todd emphasized in his blog post that “All my musings are mine alone and do not purport to be the final interpretation of Church teaching or the official opinion of Catholic Answers” (emphasis in original). Please keep in mind that Todd’s disclaimer is also my own. Neither of us purports to define the matter for the Church or to give the official opinion of Catholic Answers. And please note that these are personal blog posts; they are not in the same category of Catholic Answers’ publications as books, tracts, or magazine articles.

Moreover, CA staffer Jimmy Akin has staked out an agnostic position as well, in numerous thoughtful articles, collected with many others in my list of links of  “Calm, Reasoned (Rather Than Hyper-Polemical) Orthodox Catholic Resources”. Likewise, prominent orthodox Catholic philosophers Francis Beckwith and Edward Feser . . . My own position is laid out clearly there, and we have actually had civil discussions on my Facebook page about it (one combox had over 1000 comments).

Now we shall examine the present nonsense being spewed about my alleged opinions and arguments in particular. It seems that I am the target of a witch hunt. Ross Earl Hoffman has been the leading purveyor in recent months of the hysterical, fanatical “torture” polemic.  He is inspired by Mark Shea, who has been writing hyper-polemically on the issue for literally almost ten years now. Lately they have been joined by canon lawyer Pete Vere. The latest “round” in a long string of attacks came on Ross Earl Hoffman’s Facebook page (posted on 1-26-15) and cross-posted on his Roaming Romans page (same date). He cited the recent Facebook words of Pete Vere (who goes by “Torquemada Tequila”):

From the wall of a VERY concerned Catholic Torquemada Tequila:

Note to my Canadian friends, as well as my non-Catholic friends, who may have come across the following [one of my Facebook cross-posting of my blog article, mentioned above] and found yourselves scandalized by it. Especially my friends from the veteran community:

 This is NOT the teaching of the Catholic Church. This is NOT Catholicism.

This is, as they say in professional wrestling when one of the performers fails to follow script, a certain apologist “going into business for himself.”

I find this unfortunate given that he has produced much quality apologetics material in the past. However, I know of no post-conciliar pope or bishop who would sanction such a (mis)interpretation of the Gospel. For that reason, after going back and forth in my mind for the past week, I am making the difficult decision to withdraw any and all past endorsements of Mr Armstrong’s apologetics material.

Please keep us both in prayer. Dave, that he realizes the division and scandal this is causing the Body of Christ universally. Myself, that I can remain focused upon the truth and resist the temptation to reply out of vengeance.

Pete has lost almost all restraint, even of common decency, in his comments over the last month about this (though he did issue a qualified apology for language in his recent post: not, of course, to me personally). He’s literally compared me (or anyone who holds my agnostic position on waterboarding) to Nazis, Holocaust deniers, geocentrist fanatics; he made out that I was a mere shill for the Republican Party and “pro-torture” and am letting supposed “Americanism” prevail over against my Catholicism. Then he started an attack on apologetics itself.

He is guilty of much hypocrisy on all these points. He co-wrote a book with me just a few months ago, about Orthodoxy (his portions have since been removed). In that book he wrote:

Allow me to open by thanking Dave Armstrong for inviting me to be part of this dialogue. I first met Dave online during the rise of the Catholic apologetics movement in the 1990s. Dave’s work was instrumental in drawing me back to full communion with Rome; first as a Pentecostal, and second as an adherent to reactionary and schismatic Latin traditionalism.
To this end, I am forever grateful to Dave for helping me understand the beauty and necessity of full communion with the Roman Catholic Church: especially as a Catholic who, for the past ten years as of this writing, has belonged to what historically was founded as an Eastern Orthodox Church (i.e., prior to restoring full communion with Rome at the Union of Brest).
Pete and I have been friends for over fifteen years. Way back on 12 November 2001, Pete conducted an interview with me, in which he wrote:

The best kept secret of the Catholic Apologetics (defense of the Faith) movement is Dave Armstrong. How do I know? From experience. Some time ago, while struggling with the Catholicity of the Church after the Second Vatican Council, I encountered Dave on an email discussion group and immediately challenged him to a debate. Rather than accept my challenge, Dave invited me to converse with him on the subjects of the Roman Papacy and the role of Tradition in the Church. During our conversation, I found Dave’s honesty and sincerity refreshing. With regards to the authentic expression of Catholicism, he was both gentle and firm. At the time, I did not know these were hallmarks of Dave’s Catholic evangelism, and this is why Dave was instrumental in bringing me back to the Catholic Church. Rather than refute any of the objections I raised against the Catholic Church, Dave held my hand and encouraged me to confront them. Afterwards we parted ways as friends, my confidence in the Church restored.

. . .  you were one of the first individuals to engage in active apologetics against modern day integrism. In fact, you were instrumental in my return to the Catholic Church from the SSPX schism for this very reason.

Pete also (far as I know) remains on friendly terms with Karl Keating, as a frequent visitor to his Facebook page. Yet, as I have shown, Catholic Answers has not made a statement that waterboarding is definitely torture, and in their magazine and blog they have hosted “agnostic” articles by Fr. Harrison and Todd Aglialoro. So why hasn’t Pete dissed Catholic Answers and Karl Keating and engaged in melodramatic denunciations and withdrawal of support? I’m just a small fish in the apologetics world. Karl and Catholic Answers are the “big fish.” Perhaps that is the reason Pete is reluctant. But he’s willing to take me on.

Moreover, he remains friends with Catholic writer and former blogger Shawn McElhinney, as far as I know. Yet Shawn has written (some years ago now) a lengthy three-part treatment on the torture issue with a view similar if not identical to my own (one / two / three). I don’t see Pete ruining their friendship or writing articles condemning him as a Nazi or Holocaust denier, etc. Perhaps Shawn has retracted his position since. If so, these papers still remain online; they have not been removed.

Shawn also has defended the nuclear bombing of Japan in 1945, in a couple dozen posts on his old blog (see some of them; some of which attack yours truly), which Pete thinks is a detestable position. I know; I vigorously debated him on the issue in 2005, and our friendship was wrecked because of it. So Pete thinks it’s fine to maintain a friendship with a person who passionately defends the incineration of 100,000 civilians, while dissing another “friend” who is agnostic on waterboarding: a practice that has been done on (I believe) all of three terrorist prisoners.

Here is the exchange I had with Pete Vere (12-31-14) on my long 1000+ comments thread  on Facebook (his words in green):

Outside of certain segments of American Catholicism, the Church at present is pretty broad and unanimous in rejecting waterboarding as a form of torture. So theologians won’t be debating this for decades to come. In fact,over on my facebook page, friend and fellow canonist Fr Philip Lee Erickson provided a short summary of the Church’s condemnation of this practice.

For me, the big discomfort is with the fact some folks claiming to be Catholic apologists defend this practice. Between this and the geocentrism controversy, I am seriously starting to question whether the Church ought to license Catholic apologists as it does canonists and theologians.

Speaking for myself, as an apologist, I’m not defending the practice. I am thus far agnostic as to waterboarding, and definitely against torture.

I specifically said in the post at the top that I am not qualified to even give a definite opinion on the topic.

I don’t have a “license” but I do have Fr. John A. Hardon’s strong recommendation of my first book. And I have an article right in the middle of our archdiocese newspaper, every two weeks (also an Imprimatur from my own bishop).

I don’t believe G. K. Chesterton had a “license.” He didn’t even have a college degree.

Fr. Brian Harrison is Australian, not American.

Fr Brian Harrison might as well be American.

And I might as well be Canadian, since my dad was born there. It’s neither here nor there.

No, you definitely are not Canadian.

You wrote on your page: “Sorry Dave, but waterboarding is torture. Period. The only Catholics that I have come across who doubt this or who argue otherwise, happen to be both: 1) American, and 2) Republican.”

Since Fr. Harrison is Australian, this statement is now shown to be false. And your comeback is the rather weak: “Fr Brian Harrison might as well be American.”

Well, you did say, the only ones you have come across.

I don’t see the need for this streak of nastiness and the anti-American motif and the low blow against apologists.

I recant nothing. I find it extremely creepy that some Catholics on your side of the border even think this is debatable.

Great. So the next step now is to define me as a lousy, disobedient Catholic (perhaps a “deceiver” too, as one illustrious Catholic puts it), simply because I am agnostic and still working through the issue?

Not really. If it is one of the many issues that I feel St Augustine would deem non-essential, I just ignore it or agree to disagree. But for something like this that I deem essential — put another way, I rank defence of waterboarding by Catholics on par with certain reactionary trads who deny the Holocaust – I usually decide to go my separate way.

As for geocentrism, you know full well that [Robert] Sungenis became a pariah within the apologetics community very quickly upon assuming that position. So it is a stupid analysis to tar the whole community with that error, in light of that.

Dave, I think it might be time to go our separate ways for while…

You do what you have to do, Pete. If you want to let the devil create more division, that’s your free choice. I think it’s disgraceful. We’ve been civil this entire thread, and here my friend, who says I helped him out of the radical reactionary movement, and with whom I co-wrote a book about Orthodoxy, wants to insult me and get away from me, simply because I don’t yet have an absolute opinion on waterboarding.

That’s the trend lately. So go jump on that fashionable bandwagon if you must.

It’s not just you, Dave. I have blocked about a third of the people in this conversation – namely those who are hardcore apologists for waterboarding. Not saying you are, but this issue is one that I find deeply troubling whenever Catholics claiming to be faithful take up its defence. I feel the same way about this as I do Traditionalists who deny the Holocaust. I cannot stand to be near it as it horrifies me and robs my soul of peace.

I find it deeply troubling that Catholics will defend the incineration of 100,000 Japanese civilians with an atomic bomb. You have a good friend [Shawn McElhinney] who did so. Did you want to separate from him, too, as a result, and find that creepy? I defended what I believe is the Church’s position (way back in 2005) and received some of the worst insults I’ve ever gotten from anyone. 


You know who it is. You certainly couldn’t have missed that.

In fact, I have always defended Fr Feeney when it came to the atom bomb. For those unfamiliar with the history of the Feeneyite controversy, Fr Leonard Feeney was actually quite liberal for a Jesuit priest in his day prior to the bomb being dropped on Japan. However, he went into a deep depression after the bomb was dropped, contemplating the 100,000 killed. When he emerged from this depression he became the Fr Feeney who took the hardline stand on the doctrine “Outside the Church no salvation.”Remember I took an extended break from apologetics. Who defends the dropping to the atom bomb?

[I gave his initials]

He certainly knows to keep the issue away from me.

I guess so.

The combox at Ross’s page devoted to lying about my position (posted today) is also as fascinating as it is pathetic (excerpts):

Jacoba Jaques . . . It’s like he did what he accuses Protestants of doing. Manipulating the scriptures to fit his belief. . . .

Ross Earl Hoffman . . . its some of the worst Apologetics I have ever seen. I actually scolded him in private for stuff like this…and all hell broke lose [sic]

Jacoba Jaques . . . I don’t see why anyone would try to justify torture. The magistrate [sic] hasn’t changed the teaching. . . .

Anna Dawson Jesus: “I was tortured to death, and you guys are supposed to follow me, so obviously torture is fine. To the rack, haha!” This shouldn’t be that hard, you know? C’mon, folks. Love thy neighbor.

Ross Earl Hoffman . . . it’s one thing to struggle with trying to figure out exactly what the Church’s stand on torture is but to actually go so far as to try to twist scripture to put Jesus in line with torture is probably some of the poorest apologetics I’ve ever seen in my life! I’m really glad Torquemada Tequila actually stepped in and made a public statement like this and I know the man, he’s not trying to hurt Dave or anybody else it’s pretty obvious from his post that he wrestled with this but something this big does not need to be stinking up Facebook and Catholics like the carcasse [sic] of some dead animal just slowly rotting in our backyard….

Ross Earl Hoffman [citing Pete Vere]  “. . . apologetics for torture is not Catholicism. . . . Apologetics is not an alternative magisterium of the Church.”

Ross Earl Hoffman . . . This is how desperate these people are to justify torture.

William Casidy This is what happens when one loses sight of the distinction between one’s partisan political views and the teaching of the Church, to which those views are to be subjected, and in light of which they are to be modified. The Magisterium isn’t the doctrinal arm of the RNC; and Catholic doctrine doesn’t exist for the purpose of being twisted to provide a veneer of righteousness for one’s side in a debate on politics.

I happen to be aware of extreme hypocrisy on Ross’s part as well, because I know what he wrote to me in private PMs on Facebook (i.e., before he blocked me for the fifth and last time). Since he insists on attacking me and lying about me in public, for the express purpose of harming my reputation and apostolate, I will now reveal some of those (his word in blue; mine in regular black; enlarged-font emphases are my own). I think my readers will find them extremely interesting. Note that Ross paid for my way to go on a wonderful trip to Israel last October (and notice what he and I said about that):

December 20, 2014 

You guys actually deserve to get serious heat from Catholics like me for making us look like total morons!

December 21, 2014 
 [the day my mother died: at about 9:40 AM ET. Ross knew we were going through a living hell — the worst month in my entire life — with my mother dying, and said he got his group to pray for her and I thanked him for that. Yet he persisted with his nonsense . . . ]

I also want to make sure you understand I don’t want your Holy Land trip and what we did there be affected in any way so I don’t really want to talk about this torture thing anymore and I apologize for even bringing it up because I don’t want your trip ruined on my account. So I apologize for being a little snotty and I hope you forgive me and I’d like to be friends with you again.

Fair enough. You’re forgiven. 

Like I said my biggest concern is I don’t want your Holy Land trip ruined in any wayMy attitude is real simple and I was quite upset at myself for potentially ruining your trip in any way. I know that trip meant a lot to you and the last thing I want to do is be the one who affects it in a negative way so I’m kind of pissed off at myself for that reason alone.

The trip will never be ruined and I’ll be eternally grateful to you for it. But a few more messages like I got (if they are in public) and it could do great damage to my reputation. And of course the devil loves division.

Yes I know that and I agree with that nobody is out to destroy your reputation that’s for sure. 

We both go on what could be a once in a lifetime trip and here I am screwing up things over something as stupid as torture even though it’s an important subject it still shouldn’t affect our friendship.

Well it’s much easier to reconcile with you simply because we spent some time together and I got to know your character and you’re one heck of a nice guy so goodness gracious I know you don’t need a bunch of grief from another Catholic like me.

But I’m glad you really enjoyed the trip . . . 

I didn’t want to bring your trip down ….that is why I contacted you.

December 22, 2014

Dave can I ask you a question my friend?


What happened to your great review on Roaming Romans? 

It was no longer true, after the disgrace of the torture discussion, so I had to take it down. I couldn’t recommend Roaming Romans for positive, nonsense-free discussion after that. I’m not making a public fuss, like you did, or attacking you in public. I simply silently removed what I no longer think is true.

So you’re actually telling me that the pilgrimage that I took you on became a disgrace for you after all. Ok Dave here I take you and your wife on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for absolutely free and you do this to me you have to be kidding me.

[at this point he blocked me before I could even answer]

No. Your discussion / witch hunt on torture was a disgrace; has nothing to do with the pilgrimage.

[he later unblocked me. This has been a process that has been ongoing; with a total of five or six blocks, then unblocking me again. Remember that the following discussion took place on the day after my mother died.] 

So Dave the only torture witch hunt that’s really going on is Catholics rejecting the clear teaching on the Church and going after us for defending the clear Teaching! I’m certainly not alone in my camp by any means but it’s pretty obvious not a lot is being accomplished so as you can see I’m hoping that we can all just move on from this I think that’s the best thing to do! Pax

So now I am unblocked again, for the fourth time, is it? 

Well Dave I don’t have a problem being persecuted by Catholics for a torture witch hunt and that’s what’s going on and I can overlook the fact many of you have twisted this around on me but my point is I think it’s time to move on that’s why I contacted you one last time! Apparently Dave you weren’t interested in honoring that apology I had yesterday otherwise you wouldn’t have removed that review of yours and by the way I have absolutely no interest in your review I don’t need it it was just underhanded in my view simply after our talk yesterday.

Unfortunately Dave there seems to be a real problem with Catholics NOT wanting to move on from an issue that’s obviously a stalemate that’s what I thought we accomplished with our apology but obviously I was wrong.

You have no business pontificating to anyone. You’ve been a Catholic for only, what, six years? You’re not the magisterium. 

I thought the idea of Roaming Romans was to get away from apologetics and debate because you were burned out and fit to be tied. Now you’re going right back to that endeavor and dissing people like Toni Aceto and Margie [Prox Sindelar], telling them they are lousy Catholics? 

You don’t do very well at debate. It’s a skilled and learned art. It takes many years to learn and do properly. I have put in those years (33 and running). You don’t have the skill. This is why it has been a fiasco, as you are now entering back into that arena. And it’ll only get worse. Mark my words. . . .  

This is not good, Ross. You need to look at yourself, not everyone else.

You’re not resolving anything. A real apology discusses and resolves the issue, rather than simply mouthing words. The issue is your attacking many people personally, including me, on stupid, wrongheaded grounds. 

If Jimmy Akin or me, with our combined 45 years or so of published apologetics, disagrees with you, you send us packing [he blocked Jimmy Akin, too], with insults, thinking absurdly that you are an expert on fine points of Catholic moral theology.

Not only that, you continued the insults and stupidity literally when my mother was dying (and she did die yesterday). Makes no difference to you. You continue right on. You attacked Margie after her house burnt. So you gave $500 to try to make up for your abuse of her? That won’t do. You can’t “buy” every interpersonal problem away. You think everyone is at fault here except yourself.

You went off in a huff without hearing me out, blocking me for the third time. All I said was that I can’t recommend Roaming Romans because you claim it is a place for “positive Catholicism” and it is not that anymore, given the way you have been behaving. I could even have written another review with different words. I still have a “like” up for the page, after all. [I removed it only a few days ago: about a month after I wrote this]

But for you everything is black and white. I took down a review in good conscience, so now I am Attila the Hun and I’m blocked in a one-second decision (and here I am back again!). We disagreed on that, so now you pretend that I think the trip stunk (when in fact I just said that had nothing to do with that and that I am eternally grateful for it, and that it was fabulous. You were still acting normally then). This is how your “logic” works, I guess.

You decided to attack and disparage me and many others publicly. . . . You are making the devil dance with glee with all this absurd, pathetic infighting. He loves it, so do the atheists and Protestants, who mock us when we claim that the Church offers unity that they don’t have.

You’re the one sitting there judging people and their Catholicism and the states of their soul. You’re doing exactly what you have said you despised when the radical Catholic reactionaries do it or when Michael Voris starts attacking folks. This is rank hypocrisy.

You continue to lie about and distort what I and others have said. I do not defend torture. I think it is intrinsically evil, just as the Church says. So do Jimmy Akin and Fr. Harrison. The disagreement is whether all interrogation is torture. Toni noted this, so did Margie, so did I. If you say it all is torture, down to nuns slapping wrists, then you will have to argue with St. Thomas Aquinas and many others in Church history who upheld some forms of coercion.

Your tactics with those who disagree with you on anything don’t work with me. I don’t take kindly to you attacking me and savaging my character, talking about topics that are way over your head, with the living hell I have been through in the last six weeks: some of the worst days of my entire life.  

If you want to sit there in your forum and attack others and lose friends left and right, you do that Ross, but it won’t make you happy or fulfilled, or an example of your vaunted “positive Catholicism.” 

We don’t attack others on my page. We get along. We have constructive discussions. Many Protestants regularly visit; also many “traditionalists.” I haven’t been losing friends, or tossing them overboard. We had a perfectly reasonable discussion about the torture issue. You were the only one who didn’t know how to discuss it properly, with your repeated questions and stupefied non-comprehension of answers given to them (the anti-Catholics and reactionaries use those same tactics all the time). You’re better than that.
That’s fine my friend but I’ll stick with the Church and Jesus . . . you can do whatever you want you guys are bound in pride! All of you owe me an apology but I’ll tell you what…. I’m not going to wait for it but I will say this I forgive you Dave and so does Jesus!

Right; anything but face the issues and their root causes: why you keep getting into conflicts, dissing and offending people, savaging “friends” even when they are intensely suffering. It’s always our fault. You have the Church and Jesus and we are wicked evil morons . . .

Sorry Dave if you can’t see the truth . . . then there’s nothing I can do for you like I said you’re steeped in pride.

Right. God bless you Ross.

But thank God Dave, that the persecution that I’m dealing with is actually bearing some amazing fruit you can keep everybody deceived if you want Dave but we all know the truth Jesus isn’t a torturer, now Dave if I was you I would just move on, that’s all I’m asking!

[I did “move on,” on 6 January 2015, with my Facebook post, Sick and Tired of Controversy. But here we are twenty days later because Ross: who claimed a month ago that he wanted to stop discussing the issue, still is (along with Pete Vere and no doubt, Mark Shea, making it front and center on his pages, and now attacking and lying about me anew).] 

You can block me again if you like for the 4th or 5th time. Feel free.

December 24, 2014 

Dave I’m not going to block you again but there’s a growing number of Catholics that are just going to avoid Pro torture Catholics it’s really that simple the Church has clearly defined torture and how we should deal with it! Unfortunately you have decided to contest- the Church’s clear teaching so in essence your pro torture! It’s nothing personal! Mark Shea has it right! Guys like you are simply weakening the Church’s absolute stand on torture!

I’m not pro-torture in the first place. It doesn’t help you or anyone else to keep lying about my position. Get it right.

Whoever wants to avoid me is welcome to do so. God bless ’em. It’s all part of apologetics.

If I am so wicked and incorrigible, hit that block button and be done with me forever, Ross.

The “logic” you are using here is like the anti-Catholic who says to us, “you are guilty of gross idolatry because you actually worship bread at every Mass.” We point out that this is fundamentally wrongheaded: that we are not doing that at all. Whether transubstantiation is true or not, we  believe that we are worshiping Jesus, not mere bread (since we believe the bread is no longer present after consecration). Therefore, since idolatry is a matter of the heart, it’s not possible to accuse us of it in that instance. 

That’s what you’re doing. We say, “we’re not in favor of torture at all, and believe that some forms of interrogation are not torture.” This isn’t good enough for you and you define what we think and do in your terms, anyway, just as anti-Catholics do with the Eucharist.  

Even if we turn out to be wrong, we were not advocating “torture,” because we don’t believe that what we advocate is that at all. 

Dave! No actually my friend I’m simply following Church teaching that torture is an intrinsic evil. And it can’t be justified for any reason; even if our government thinks waterboarding a detainee would save all of North America it still can’t be done because it’s an intrinsic evil according to the Catholic Church this is a totally black and white issue! 

The only reason you’re going to resist this Dave is pride because now you would have to admit you were wrong to Ross we both know that! Merry Christmas.

Dave all you’ve done is allow every Catholic that I know to continue to believe they can water board or do whatever they want because the Church is unclear on Torture which is an intrinsic evil that can’t be justified in any way it’s astonishing to me that you don’t see that especially as serious as a Catholic as you are!

Yes, torture is intrinsically wrong. ZZzzzz (-_-) Next question?

I’m sorry Dave but I’m not going to really dialogue about this subject with somebody who’s not going to take it seriously I think this is a perfect opportunity to just move on! Like I said if I were you I would take a serious look at what Mark Shea is stating! . . . At this point Dave considering we’re not getting anywhere I simply want to look back on a wonderful trip and a great book that you wrote I’m passing copies out to people in my parish, and we can just go our separate ways and live happily ever after!

Hopefully one of these days you’ll realize the difference between a statement like torture is intrinsically wrong and that’s where you drop it and what the Church is really stating!

But I highly doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon Dave but maybe after some serious prayer who knows you might come around God bless and Merry Christmas!

And Dave just watch; all my page is going to do, is grow and meet the needs of excited Catholics who want to see pilgrimage sites all over the world! The best part of all of this I got a bunch of pro torture Catholics out of my life!

The last message I received from Ross came in an e-mail of 5 January 2014. Before that time I had commented on his site and he deleted my words and blocked me for the final time. Since then I posted again on the Roaming Romans Facebook page. Those comments were removed, too. Here is his last letter (with my present bracketed interjections): 

Dave my old friend. I have no idea why you seem so bitter against Ross? Things are absolutely LOVELY in Boise. My wonderful Deacon Bill Burn’s just completely demolished you in his blog. [I cross-posted that on Facebook] Here you are posting scripture TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT on your wall, trying to claim Jesus is advocating Torture, and you have missed the mark by a million miles. Your [sic] the paid apologist not me! LOL.

I would love to see you guys send my Bishop stuff I have said on facebook [great, then you’ll have no objection to my posting all of this] (As if that is going to matter,  I am not representing the Church officially [nor am I], I am not a paid Apologist, this would be a perfect opportunity to show my Bishop YOUR blogs and what your [sic] posting on your wall, and we can get your Bishop involved [feel free!]. I’m not the one directly contradicting the Catholic Church.)

As for my friends. My friend count is just under 5000. Of course I am picking up REALLY strong Catholics from Mark Shea’s friend pool, that aren’t practicing this bizarre Caffeteria [sic] Catholicism that is so popular these days.

Any way my friend. God bless

And I am sure strong Catholics like Nicole [DeMille] will keep you blocked, simply because your [sic] a near occasion for sin. And so will I.

Pax Ross 
* * * * *

See also the discussion about this article on my Facebook page, and a number of important  clarifying statements and semi-“new” arguments that I’ve made in the combox for this post, which carefully explain many aspects of my position that have been lost in the chaos and condemnations of the fanatical “torture 24-7” crowd, who aren’t interested in calm, rational, civil discussion.

UPDATE (1-27-15)

The attack piece at Roaming Romans, cited above (cross-posting Pete Vere’s remarks): put up by Ross Earl Hoffman, has been removed: as usual, minus any retraction or apology. Even the New York Times will retract a public error or calumny: albeit on page 27E or something. But Ross feels that he can publicly trash a Catholic apologist and then remove the garbage without a word, as if it never existed.

True repentance brings about:

1) apologies,

2) retractions of public calumnies,

3) reform of behavior, and

4) restitution: trying to repair the damage already done to someone’s reputation by public slander and defamation.

Pete Vere has also removed his attack post: also minus retraction or apology. If he retracts and/or apologizes, I’ll strongly consider modifying this response / paper. If not, it stays up with this note that he has removed it.

This has been my constant policy for 18 years online. If people exhibit true repentance (which necessarily includes retraction and apology for calumny), I am more than happy to remove responses to what is no longer applicable.

Otherwise, it isn’t certain whether removal was merely for expedience’ sake (i.e., it “backfired” and so was removed for damage control purposes). I don’t want to be cynical, but these are, sadly, too often realities online. Apologies for the thing that was wrong exhibit and are the observable fruit of a true change of heart. The attacks were made in public and possibly seen by many hundreds of people. Retractions and apologies also need to be made equally publicly and with equal vigor and passion.

It’s hard to eat humble pie, but these are the rules God made for normal relations. He knew what He was doing, in inspiring the Bible.

UPDATE (1-30-15) 

Pete Vere has apologized for and retracted his comparison of me with geocentrists (and I thank him and accepted that). He flatly refused to retract the comparison of my moral views with Holocaust deniers, after I cited his words above back to him. In so doing he has decided to ruin a friendship of 17 years’ standing. His choice, not mine. I tried to achieve reconciliation. No friendship can endure one regarding the other as like a Nazi or those who rationalize their extreme wickedness.

[Note (9-12-15): he later made a sort of “clinical” blanket apology for things he had said, but with no discernible remorse, explanation, seeming regret, etc. This was no minor incident. He said some of the worst things that anyone has ever said about me, and all in public for thousands to see]


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