Reactionaries are our present-day Pharisees and rigorist Donatists and Montanists.
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What I do is refuse to wrangle with reactionaries (be sure to see how I define this term) over endless “legal”-type particulars. This is the game that they try to play: “the exception becomes the rule” or “death by a thousand qualifications” or “can’t see the forest for the trees” and caricature of orthodoxy and obedient Catholicism as “ultramontanism” or supposedly thinking that the pope is impeccable and can never ever be criticized, even for what color socks he picks out, etc.
They love to caricature all opposition and create straw men. If we go back and forth with them on their slanted, bizarre, “black is white” playing field they will always “win.” It’s an endless treadmill; it’s like trying to run fast in deep mud, or trying to pull someone out of the water from above: they can always easily pull you in . . . .
As a good socratic in method, I reject the premises that underlie their troubled positions, just as Jesus did with the Pharisees. Jesus got right to the root of things: “you tithe mint and cumin and ignore the weightier elements of the law: love and mercy and justice,” etc. Then He strongly rebuked them for hypocrisy and noted that they wouldn’t believe, no matter what was said to them.
Radical Catholic reactionaryism is our modern-day equivalent of the legalism of the Pharisees and the rigorist / purist mentality of sects like the Donatists and Montanists, who were always carping on and on about sin in the Church, thus [choke] “justifying” their disobedience, schism, and continual detraction and calumny: what comes down to a lack of charity, humility, and obedience, and an excess of spiritual pride and “know-it-all-ism” (as with all schism or quasi-schism). It’s also a deficiency and disturbance of thought that can broadly be called “fundamentalism.” They know “better” than the rest of us peasants.
That’s what I’ve tried to do in my two books on this sad phenomenon: discuss general principles; and it’s why I never name individuals or groups in the two books (just as Trent didn’t, regarding Protestants).
But squabbling over the endless objections and complaints of radical Catholic reactionaries? I don’t think that works. It merely feeds their intellectual / psychological difficulties, because they “win” in those scenarios, and even if one pseudo-problem is sort of “solved” they simply come up with ten more, and it never ends. They love it. They’ll play critics like a fiddle, and engage in endless obscurantism, obfuscation, and sophistry. It’s because the whole “house” is built on a deficient foundation. It’s lousy thinking as well as bad, stunted spirituality.
The same methodological principle applies to [many] atheists and theological liberals and the small anti-Catholic factions of Protestantism and Orthodoxy : anyone with a strong agenda that colors their every response and makes them unable (and/or unwilling) to objectively see facts and truths that the rest of us readily see. They have an infinite list of complaints and accusations that they dig into, like Felix the Cat’s “magic bag of tricks”: even if one is halfway “solved” to their satisfaction (atheists and their 10,001 alleged “Bible difficulties” is one classic example).
It’s like trying to stop the leak of a bucket with a hundred holes in it. It can’t be done by trying to patch each one individually. We must attack the false premises, to undermine the whole flawed system that leads to untruths being held and defended at all costs.
How we overcome them, I believe, and rescue people from this tragic quasi-schism and intellectual / spiritual bondage, is to simply keep asserting basic Catholic truths and explain why their premises are wrong (which is what my books about them and my general apologetics efforts do), and through prayer and love, since it is, at bottom, a spiritual battle, and the devil is gleefully using this movement to divide and wreak havoc in the Church. My books — by the grace of God — have convinced several people to come out of that movement, through this method.