Did I Say Ed Feser Called Pope Francis a Heretic?

Did I Say Ed Feser Called Pope Francis a Heretic? June 4, 2021

+ Further Exchanges Back-and-Forth with Ed Feser

This is a follow-up to the two previous papers;

Short answer, for those lacking in time: I did not at all. Period.

I have now written two lengthy papers on the topic of Pope Francis’ views on divorce and Ed Feser’s critical remarks about same (links above). One can search both papers and discover that not a single time do I ever use the word “heretic” or “heresy.” The only times they appear are when Feser uses them and I am citing him. In those instances, he wasn’t using them to say Pope Francis is a heretic, but in reference to the notion generally or with regard to others like Popes Honorius, Vigilius, and Liberius.

I changed the title of the first one (with apology) and some words in the first paragraph. Neither entailed the use of the word “heretic” so it is not the case that it was present and was removed from either paper.

Now, it would be quite unusual to accuse someone of classifying a pope or anyone else as a heretic, without using either “heretic” or “heresy.” These are terms that are pretty unique and universally used in Catholic circles with this specific meaning of “heterodox.” One could say in turn that “heterodox” is the closest synonym. But again, searching the two papers, one will find that Ed Feser used the word “heterodox” in all but one instance.

When I used it, it was merely conditional: based on a choice I was urging Dr. Feser to make between two scenarios of how to interpret the pope. Note that I didn’t accuse him of asserting this, but only said that he would be doing so if he followed one particular path of interpretation. This was the very “heart” of my argument, as I later characterized it. But because Dr. Feser chose not to respond to my socratic questioning (and “dubia“?) there or anywhere else, we don’t know which choice he would make. Therefore, it remains true that we can’t say that he classifies the pope as either heretical or heterodox based on his own words. Here is the section in my second reply where I made this argument:

If you agree that those are completely orthodox statements, then you are now implying that the pope may not actually believe them, if indeed (as you insinuate and seemingly suspect) he is presenting heterodox opinions somewhere else. . . .

Or you could decide to accept what I documented at face value, as the pope’s true opinions; in which case you would then interpret the other statements that you regard as “problematic” in light of these orthodox, perfectly acceptable, traditional statements: interpreting the less clear in light of the crystal-clear, just as we do in biblical exegesis.

Other words that might be used similarly would be “modernist/-ism” or “[theological] liberalism.” One will find that I didn’t use these in either paper as well. I used “liberal” three times overall, but only in reference to political liberalism. I used “modernist” once in the second paper, but in a joking, sarcastic way: thanking Dr. Feser for not calling me one (as so many other critics of the pope have done).

So I have applied none of these terms (heresy, heretic, heterodox, [theological] liberal, modernist) to Dr. Feser’s views with regard to the pope or specifically, his views on divorce.

Therefore, whenever this charge is brought up against me, it is a lie, and I am being misrepresented, pure and simple. These are the facts of the matter. Yet look how often I’ve been falsely accused of doing this: including from Dr. Feser himself:

Dr. Ed Feser (first reply to me): “Before you misrepresent me again, note that I am not accusing Pope Francis of modernism or any other heresy.” (6-1-21)

“I have zero time or interest even to read, let alone respond, to whatever it is Dave is now going on about at his usual length at his own blog and now here. This whole ridiculous exchange began because Dave made a false charge. He has a significant enough audience in Catholic circles that I judged it worthwhile to set the record straight by commenting at his own blog. He could have put the matter to rest immediately by correcting the error then and there. Yet he not only refused at first to do so, but doubled down in the manner I described in the post above. That’s the reason I wrote the post.

“Only after I did so and his foolishness was exposed for all the world to see did he finally alter the original post and issue his half-assed “apology” – all the while portraying himself as somehow a victim, and insisting that I am somehow obligated to address the logorrheic string of posts and comments that were all predicated on his initial falsehood. Seriously?

“If Dave wants to continue this buffoonery, he’s welcome to it, but I’ve got other things to do and have already said all that needs to be said.” (6-4-21, underneath his ridiculous, mocking, slanderous post about me)

[note that he mocks my apology as “half-assed” and not even genuine or sincere: as shown by his derogatory use of quotation marks. This is a sin; he is again making out that I am lying. Here is what I wrote in my second reply: “[U]pon reflection I agree that the title [of my first reply] is too pointed and can easily be misunderstood as meaning what Feser took it to mean. I take the blame for that, apologize, and will change it.”]

James Scott / aka “Son of Ya’Kov”: “Feser simply didn’t say Pope Francis taught heresy.” (6-3-21)

“Clearly Dr. Feser does not claim at all the Pope holds heterodox views on divorce and remarriage and has stated plainly there is no evidence in any of Pope’s recent statements to charge him with heresy & those who do charge him with heresy are crossing a line.” (6-3-21)

“I wish Dave would just admit Dr. Feser DOES NOT accuse the Pope of teaching heresy on marriage.” (6-3-21)

“When he said “I am not accusing Pope Francis of modernism or any other heresy” yer should have just taken him at his word.” (6-3-21)

“He doesn’t debate people who attribute views to him he doesn’t hold.” (6-4-21)

“Dr. Feser knows is he read yer post and based on a plan reading of it concluded you badly misrepresented his arguments, motives and intentions. He jumped in and corrected the record and instead of saying “Oops sorry about that I get on that” ye doubled down.
I see it and I am yer friend and other loyal readers see it too.” (6-4-21)

Kyle P: “[I]n Feser’s case . . . you made it personal, and implied he thought the Pope is a heretic. That means he’s justified in mocking you.” (6-4-21)

Prasanth: “Dr. Feser is right- you misrepresented him, and he did well in pointing that out.” (6-4-21)

I apologized for an unfortunate title of my first reply, and changed it. I also changed words in the first paragraph. I have clarified till I am blue in the face that I have not accused Dr. Feser of these things, and now I have absolutely proven that. Yet I’ve been accused of doing what I have not done, over and over. Feser has repeatedly stated that I “misrepresented” him. And this aspect was front and center in that false charge.

Consistency and Christian ethics demand an apology and retraction from those who have done this, including Dr. Feser. I don’t demand it, but I am saying that Christianity does, and that it would be good for those who have committed this error to make it right. Bearing false witness is one of the Ten Commandments, after all.


I posted on Feser’s blog a portion of a comment from theologian Dr. Robert Fastiggi, on my blog:

For Prof. Feser to suggest that these orthodox statements are analogous to the efforts of the Modernists to hide their unorthodoxy with occasional orthodox statements strikes me as very unfair to the Holy Father.

Feser then responded with this fiery remark:

Oh for goodness’ sake, will his insanity never end? Why has everyone suddenly forgotten how to read?

I made it crystal clear what point I was making by reference to Pius’s criticism of the modernists, which is that he there expressed the general principle that ambiguous and imprecise statements are not excusable simply because a person makes clearer and orthodox statements in other contexts. I explicitly said that the point was not to accuse Pope Francis of modernism or any other heresy. (Honorius was also guilty of imprecision and ambiguity, but to point that out hardly entails accusing him of modernism, which didn’t even exist at the time.)

Seriously, Dave, are you now frantically emailing theologians for back up in this ridiculous tantrum you’re throwing? Would you please get a life and move on? Surely you have something better to do – mow your lawn, play Scrabble, watch Netflix? Something?

I responded to that on his blog:

I sure don’t need any “back up” in dealing with your arguments about Pope Francis: which are so poor and incoherent that you don’t even have the willingness to defend them and exhibit the courage of your convictions.

Instead we have disdain, mockery, more and more lies about me, childish fits of temper, and running away from the actual question at hand.

I was neither “frantic” in letting Bob know about this, nor seeking “back up.” I never once asked him to “Please go respond to Feser or I will have a mental breakdown!” You seem to enjoy indulging absurd fantasies and mythologies about other people.

Bob simply is interested in these sorts of issues where the pope is accused of something or other, as I am. He has dialogued with you in the past and with many others.

But you don’t like the fact that I simply made him aware of this discussion (which really turned out not to be one at all). Too bad. I don’t much care for all the abuse here from your fawning sycophants, that you are quite happy to let go on, while at my blog and Facebook page you’ll find no one trashing and ridiculing you (because I actually enforce consistent Catholic — and elementary biblical — ethics). But I live with it.

You can play the “academic snob” card with me, since I’m not an academic, but you can’t with Bob, who actually is a theologian, unlike you. And, also very unlike you, he is always civil in debate, and actually sticks to the topic, without huge digressions into ad hominem territory and making fun of someone’s name and making that a pretext to dismiss them entirely as people and fellow Catholics.

Dr. Feser responded to Dr. Fastiggi on my blog:

Maybe Dave has nothing better to do than to spend hour after hour on this ridiculous tantrum he’s been throwing for several days now, but I would have thought that you do! Certainly I do. But once again I’m dragged in to correct the record vis-a-vis a serious misrepresentation of my views.

I made it crystal clear what point I was making by referring to Pius’s criticism of the modernists, which is merely that he there expressed the general principle that ambiguous and imprecise doctrinal statements are not excusable simply because a person makes clearer and orthodox statements in other contexts. I explicitly said that the point was not to accuse Pope Francis of modernism or any other heresy. (Honorius was also guilty of imprecision and ambiguity, but to point that out hardly entails accusing him of modernism, which didn’t even exist at the time. Nor does it entail accusing him of any other heresy, as opposed to ambiguity or failure clearly to combat heresy. Same with the current pope.)

Having– yet again! — had to dispel the dust Dave keeps kicking up, I hope that will be the end of it, at least between you and me.

Dr. Fastiggi replied:

I am very glad you are not accusing Pope Francis of modernism or any other heresy. You did, though, bring up St. Pius X”s critique of the modernists in response to Dave Armstrong’s references to statements of the Holy Father that clearly affirm the indissolubility of marriage. Your comparison could suggest that Pope Francis was using the same tactic as the modernists. I am happy, though, you do not believe this is the case.

Feser responded:

Many thanks for your response. Peace to you (and to Dave too).

And Dr. Feser wrote again on his blog:

Dave, I’m being absolutely serious here: Please go have a drink or something. Throw a ball around with the kids. Anything other than obsessing over this. It will do you some good.

I replied there:

I’ll be working on my pool shortly (planned for several days now). I’m not “obsessed” (can you ever cease lying about me?) Rather, I’m principled. In addition to defending the Holy Father, I am defending my name and my character and even now my apologetics apostolate, which has been mocked by several folks here, against the endless onslaught that you have no problem allowing in your venue.

It’s nothing new. It’s a weekly thing for apologists. That’s why I’m neither “obsessed” nor “frantic” nor any other of the mind-reading fantasies that you have miraculously discerned as supposedly in me.

Finally someone actually defended me on Feser’s blog, after I took dozens of hits, one after another. David Gudeman wrote:

For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of Dave Armstrong before, and am something of a fan of Edward Feser, but in my opinion, Dr. Feser is clearly in the wrong here. Mr. Armstrong has repeatedly tried to dial down the heat, and clarify and correct misunderstandings, while Dr. Feser has repeatedly mocked him, taken him out of context to ridicule him, and ignored his overtures. Dr. Feser is acting a lot like a troll.

All to no avail. Feser issued further blistering personal attacks:

Since you seem in the past to have been a serious commenter, I’ll take the bait.

What on earth are you talking about? Really, it isn’t complicated. Dave A. got this whole stupid thing started by attributing a false claim to me. I twice asked him, at his blog, to retract it. He refused, and instead doubled down in the way I have described. So I responded with the post above. That’s it.

Finally, only after all that and under pressure of criticism from several of his own readers and mine, Dave issued a grudging retraction and altered the original offending blog post to take the worst parts out – but while at the same time bizarrely playing the victim rather than the instigator. For example, he accuses me of ungraciously mocking him despite his having given an “apology” – when the truth is that the “apology” followed the mockery, which was delivered only after I had twice more gently tried to get him to retract. So, if I’m “in the wrong,” why did Dave decide he finally had to issue a grudging retraction and apology?

Finally, all the other stuff Dave has written in this exchange is irrelevant to his initial mischaracterization, which is the only reason I responded to him at all. I have a million other things going on and have no time for or interest in an exchange with Dave about Amoris, Pope Francis, etc. I was interested only in correcting his mischaracterization of my views, and then moving on. Had he corrected it right away, rather than after two days of kicking and screaming, I never would have written the post above or paid the matter any further attention. And that I attempted to correct it does not somehow oblige me now to start reading through and responding to all the other stuff he’s been churning out over the last couple of days.

I replied:

My, my Ed. I should think that just by chance, if nothing else, you would get something right about my internal states of thought and emotion. But I have yet to see it. I suggest you stick to philosophy. Reading hearts and minds is a very bad look for you.

But Feser was still spewing the same nonsense:

If I engaged in an exchange with everyone who writes something about me online, I’d be doing nothing else. Perhaps you do not realize this, but I have a great many other obligations (several pre-existing writing projects and deadlines, keeping up regular blog content, teaching obligations, family obligations, etc.). I am not obligated to take on a new task just because somebody somewhere online decides one day to write a post about me.

For the 1234th time, the only reason I bothered to respond to Dave at all was to correct the falsehood that he had initially posted and refused for two days to correct. I had no obligation to do even that much, and certainly have no obligation to read the mountains of material he has posted since.

At the moment I am desperately trying to get some work done on the book on the soul I am writing, and to grade papers as the end of the semester looms. As well as taking care of various family obligations.

But I’ve had to waste valuable time on this nonsense, all because some guy out of the blue posted some crap about me, wouldn’t retract it, and now pretends that he’s a victim and that I ought to drop everything and debate him. Seriously?

And of course I couldn’t resist replying:

This is hogwash from A to Z. We’re all busy, but that’s not an issue here, as I will explain.

I did not misrepresent you at all: neither your views nor your motivations. My third reply proved that I never accused you of saying the pope’s views on marriage were heretical. But as you have noted several times, you stopped reading.

All I retracted was the title of my first reply, which I determined to be misleading and too pointed after reflection. You have never re-thought a title of an article or book chapter or any words anywhere in your output, these past thirty years?

There was nothing else to retract, because your accusations against me have been false from the beginning. I apologized for the bad title, and changed some words at the beginning of the first reply, too.

You blew that off as “half-assed” and questioned my sincerity. That’s not Christian ethics, which is “forgive 70 x 7.”

I have made several clarifications, in hopes of cooling you down, explaining real or possibly perceived excesses on my part, and getting you to deal on a level of reason and calmness, committed orthodox Catholic to committed orthodox Catholic, man to man rather than supercharged rhetoric and slanderous accusations, one after another in rapid succession. All to no avail. We could have easily agreed and moved on, and avoided this whole fiasco.

Not to worry: I have less than no desire to engage in debate with you: especially not after this pitiful performance (both intellectually and behaviorally). I think you have acted like a classic textbook case of an arrogant academic snob, and an intellectual coward.

There never was any need for long reply. I argued vigorously (as always), but at bottom, I was calling for a simple clarification of your views. The “heart” of my argument was to contend that the pope’s “problematic” statements on marriage and divorce ought to be interpreted in light of his unquestionably clear statements (that I collected).

I proposed that choice as one you might consider, rather than placing emphasis on what you think are unclear statements and thus (at least by insinuation) casting into doubt the pope’s clear utterances.

Our mutual friend “Son of Ya’Kov”: who has agreed with you and blasted me here and on my blog and Facebook during this entire debacle, causing much friction and frustration between us, did nevertheless suggest the same argument or proposal (not seeming to be aware that I already had), calling it an “out.”

All you had to do, essentially, was utter a simple “yes” or “I accept that scenario” or some such. One word or four words: taking less than thirty seconds. But you refused to answer that, because you refused to interact with any of my criticisms.

That’s it. Simple. Not time-consuming. If you spent one-hundredth of the time you have spent raving, misrepresenting and mocking me with this ridiculous, childish post, attempting mind- and heart-reading, trashing everything I do and attributing to me the lowest of motives every time, allowing me to be trashed by almost everyone in this thread, all of this could have been over two days ago, with infinitely less fuss and fury, and in fact, no acrimony at all.

But instead you dug in and decided to act like a horse’s @$$.

Most here have automatically agreed with you, and will continue to do so, because this is how online forums (sadly) almost always work. You’re the big “champion” here, and I truly do understand that, because you have done a lot of great work. In many ways that’s fine. We all need role models. Some folks put me in that role too.

But the groupthink / echo chamber / clonish agreement is what is dangerous. A true thinker and his blog followers would and should have welcomed such a critique as an opportunity for constructive discussion. But no, not you; nor almost all of your followers here.

Finally, a ray of light in the midst of the constant slander, like a flower in a huge pile of cow manure:

Just to be clear, though I find Dave’s recent behavior annoying and unjustifiable, I do not bear him any ill will and do not think he is a bad person. On the contrary, he does seem to me to be a good guy, but oversensitive. Certainly I highly respect his devotion to the Church and the fair shake he wants to give to the pope, even if I think the latter has driven him (as it has too many others in recent years) to excess. And he clearly has done a lot of good for a lot of people over the years through his writings. So, more power to him on that score. But he should probably spend less time online (as, frankly, we all should).

I responded:

This is good and constructive, and I appreciate it. But of course many serious charges have been sent my way, both by you and some 15-20 people here, including that I misrepresented you, am playing the victim card, supposedly have all sorts of negative and out-of-control emotions swirling around, that I am hotheaded, an incompetent, obsessed person who is merely an “amateur apologist with a loud blog”, who knows what else, on and on and on (someone, for example — typical of 90% of the comments about me — , just called me “a really volatile guy” and a “lunatic”).

Serious Christian adults retract such charges and apologize. So, real progress in this comment; something other than relentless insults, but much remains to be done (Jesus’ standards are very high). I have already tried to do a lot of conciliatory things but you blew them off or never even read them at all.

More from Feser:

Dave, I never said you deliberately misrepresented me. I just said that you misrepresented me. Nor did I call you incompetent, though maybe you’re referring to someone else who made that charge.

What I do think is that, while you did not intentionally misrepresent me, emotion and stubbornness did lead you, first, to refuse initially to admit that you had made a mistake; and second, once you finally admitted it, to refuse to let the matter drop. And I think that emotion and stubbornness then led you to take excessive offense at the perfectly understandable annoyance with you that I showed because of your initial refusal to admit the mistake, and to insist, bizarrely, that I am now somehow obligated to get into some exchange with you about the pope.

From what I can tell, the overall tenor of comments here is actually not too different from what it is at your own blog. In both cases, while there have been a handful of people who sympathize with you, the general drift has been to judge that you are in the wrong. And that is even after you deleted some comments at your own blog that were critical of you. (The only comments critical of me that I have deleted from this thread are from a longstanding troll who knows and cares nothing about the matters we have been arguing about, but instead, and whatever the topic of a post might be, routinely posts comment after comment after comment of insults, obscenities, off-topic references, and other such junk.)

Apparently, from the relief you expressed at one positive comment about you posted above, you have been getting similar feedback elsewhere. Once you cool down a bit, I urge you to consider that these facts might give you an objective measure of things.

Anyway, I’ve long since tired of this so, I hope, this will be my last comment on the matter. Peace to you.

And my reply:

Once again, I did not misrepresent you, period: whether intentionally or not. I didn’t accuse you of calling the pope’s views “heretical”; didn’t question your motives; none of that.

One title was misleading and I could see that it might easily be interpreted that way, but that interpretation was not my own. If you will spend five minutes reading my third reply (pretty short, if you don’t read the later exchanges that I collected), I prove from word searches of my replies that I never did. It’s a total myth. This is a false charge made against me, which has been repeated like a mantra, innumerable times (none of which makes it not false; ad nauseam fallacy). This is about the 6th time now that I have had to reiterate this because you will not or cannot receive it.

Fair point about your not saying I “deliberately” did so. I think I characterized it that way once or twice, and I will remove that word. Thanks, and my apologies for that.

Yeah, I have people often critical of me on my blog, because I don’t encourage groupthink and act like I am above all criticism. I welcome it. Usually people comment when they have a complaint, not a compliment, in these matters, as you surely know.

What doesn’t happen on my blog is a bunch of people trashing you. It simply isn’t there. I would delete it if it did happen, but it never started. There was one comment that was intellectual and not slanderous in nature.

But I got curious a few days ago how many of my Facebook friends thought I was a “hothead” as you (who barely knows me at all, and has never met me) absurdly claimed I was. It was only up a short time (because I knew it would be mocked, as it was), but it was 19-1 that I was not, and most (several of whom have met me) thought it was the exact opposite of the truth and a ridiculous claim.

So if I actively ask opinions, I get a lot of positive feedback. But because I don’t encourage clones, I do get criticism too.

Once again, I deleted comments (mostly from one person) because it had trolling characteristics and he was trying to dominate a discussion that properly ought to have been between us. My opinion (right or wrong) was that he poisoned the well, and so it was fit for deletion. It had nothing to do with being unwilling to be criticized, as you stated earlier.

I’ve deleted others of a sweeping nature because they accomplish nothing. I expect people to make specific criticisms of my words, not merely say, “That stunk; Feser clearly won” etc. My blog ain’t Twitter. I’ve never done Twitter. I expect actual arguments, not bald statements. Rush Limbaugh used to always ask people to be specific when they roundly criticized him. It was the same principle. Often, they couldn’t; they were spouting subjective impressions, not documented facts.

The three posts on this are closed now due to the unsavory nature of how it has gone down. My normal policy is to always have threads open. And I probably will open these again after the uproar dies down.

I hope it’s your last comment on this, too, but if you keep repeating the falsehood that I misrepresented you, that I have thoroughly refuted, I will reply. I won’t let that go out unopposed, on the same basis that you said the following:

“I do admit to getting ticked off when they egregiously misrepresent what I say. Criticize me for what I actually think – not for what I don’t think, or for what you’d like to imagine I think.”

We both have the same complaint about each other. So, just as you are passionate about protesting what you (falsely) think I have done, I am passionate about what you have certainly done (because I proved beyond all doubt that I never did what I am accused of).

Feser beats another dead horse:

Hmm, having just gone over to look, it seems you’ve now also deleted some of the other comments at your blog that were critical of you!

My reply:

You never cease taking your shots, do you? Now I have to explain this.

Actually, I already explained why, in my last reply, but we’ll do it again! It has a perfectly normal explanation. What is not normal, and plainly unethical, is the trash and the worthless slander that you allow to take place on your blog (along with the stupid, malicious, slanderous post you put up about me). It’s a disgrace. How can it be justified? You have no standards at all for comments (or posts when you get ticked off at someone)? And these things can potentially harm me in a very tangible way.

You have a nice professor’s job. I have ever-decreasing royalties (my three highest-selling books are all now 14 years old or older) and a few generous folks who think my work is worthwhile to support. I get Social Security now (thank God). I pay my bills. We don’t have credit cards. I have good credit. I’m not financially irresponsible. I’ve been a full-time apologist for over 19 years.

But I can be financially harmed, and that is one important reason why I defend myself. It’s not me. It’s the value of the work. People testify that I helped them, up to and including many who became Catholics as a result (even on your blog, a few have said this).

Since you are on my blog, can you do me a favor, take five minutes and read my third reply, so you can disabuse yourself of this notion that I misrepresented you? I would be eternally grateful.

Also, when I deleted several comments, for reasons explained, I deleted my own replies too. So they went down along with the comments that I thought did not move the discussion along.

I demand of commenters that they interact with my actual words and arguments. I don’t give a rat’s rear end about “you lost” or “you made a crappy argument there” or “Feser is a professor and you are an amateur just like anyone else, with a loud blog” etc. That’s Twitter, which is stupid and worthless. I demand actual interaction with my reasoning. I challenge my readers and commenters, just as you do your students.

It’s like one well-known fellow apologist and good friend who disagrees with me about Pope Francis. One day he told me, “I know a guy [presumably a mutual friend] who says he has lost a lot of respect for you.” I asked who it was, so I could respond to him. He wouldn’t tell me. That’s the same mentality: the willingness to throw out a non-specific blast or a potshot, where I have no ability to defend myself.

Usually I would simply let these things pass without comment (critical comments). But because of the ugly nature of this conflict, I decided that I could only put up with so much nonsense.

Now if someone had put up a thoughtful, serious, point-by-point reply, absolutely, I love that, and would have a reply up within 24 hours. That’s completely different.

That rarely happens. You yourself could have done it, but you refused. But when it happens, I absolutely love the challenge and opportunity, and put a very high priority on responding, because that’s the dialogue that I have loved ever since 1977 and my introduction to Socrates in my first philosophy course in college.

My blog proves what I am about. It has over 3,300 articles: many of them dialogues. I am the very last person where it makes any sense at all to accuse me of not welcoming or interacting with criticism and serious opposing views. I have dealt with every belief-system under the sun.

But believe as you wish. You still don’t know me from Adam.

More from Feser:

Dave, to suggest that I hold that “Pope Francis favors divorce” (the phrase you originally had in the post) certainly misrepresents my view, and also suggests that I accused him of heresy (since it would be heretical to favor divorce). And the misrepresentation is certainly a serious one, since it is no small thing to accuse a pope of heresy.

You want to insist indignantly that your remarks were “misleading” rather than “misrepresenting” in nature. What exactly you think the difference is supposed to be, or why you attach so much anger to your insistence on such hair-splitting, I have no idea.

All the remarks you deleted were, from what I remember, actually perfectly measured in tone and in some cases even friendly to you. More to the point, if you are going to pretend that the feedback you’ve gotten here at my combox represents only pro-Feser bias, then to be intellectually honest and test that hypothesis, you’d have to check your own combox to see what it reflects. Yet in fact your own readership was having much the same reaction — in which case, the “pro-Feser bias” explanation falls apart.

As to the charge of being hotheaded and otherwise overly emotional, by my count you’ve now posted four long blog posts at your own blog and over FORTY comments here, many of them very long and impassioned — all about something that could have been resolved in about 5 seconds several days ago. Not to mention all the Facebook stuff you’ve referred to. Do the math!

OK, enough for now.

I replied:

This is all old and tired stuff. Briefly (as I have explained and you probably never read), the title was rhetorical, with a question mark. I was probing your views in my first article, challenging and being provocative (as is my wont; and I do definitely love debate), but not making sweeping assertions. I was trying to get clarifications, just as you and other papal critics demand of the pope (what irony there).

That’s why I wasn’t intending to assert in the title that you made an outright denial. I was asking for clarification because your comments seemed internally incoherent.

It was a catchy title. But I came to agree that the second part (“Feser vs. the Facts”) did plausibly imply what you are saying, which was not my view, and thus wasn’t fair to you.

I made a mistake. I already apologized. You blew it off as “half-assed” and put “apology” in quotation marks, implying that it was insincere. That is atrocious ethics, and scandalous from a Catholic of your stature.

What the hell else can I do about it? I’ve apologized for it, changed the words, and clarified. Apologies are meant to be forgiven, with the incident not brought up again. That’s how Jesus designed it.

You have apologized for absolutely nothing, even though you have plenty to apologize for. You said a few nice words in one post, which was a hopeful sign for reconciliation and progress, but they were only the beginning. You have a lot to still account for and explain (and retract).

At least we’re talking. That’s good. But the significant progress is so S…L…O…W.

The other stuff ain’t worth responding to (again); believe as you wish. I vigorously respond when I am being slandered or even significantly misunderstood (where people behave normally), just as Cardinal Newman (my hero) did in Apologia pro vita sua (and no, I’m not comparing myself to him; that’ll be the next blast here, no doubt).

I recall an exchange with Kingsley in that marvelous book, where Newman said something like, “Retract it?! I never said it!” That’s how I feel with all this mess. You keep demanding that I retract a view that I never held and never asserted. I can’t do so, in the nature of the case.

One last condescending insult:

Dave, for goodness’s sake, enough already.

I called it “half-assed,” because by my lights, when someone digs in his heels and doubles down instead of admitting a mistake, then finally admits it days later only grudgingly and after criticism from his own readers makes the mistake undeniable — and then, on top of that, pretends that he is nevertheless somehow a victim and that I owe him an apology for expressing annoyance at his initial stubborn refusal — well, yes, by my lights that’s pretty half-assed. Apparently your mileage varies.

But again, enough already.

And I reply:

Okay, I give up. You don’t seem to want to exercise the slightest charity. This is not a Christian spirit. We were so close to breaking the impasse. But it takes two. You’re right back to your self-righteous rebukes and judgments again: just like a Pharisee. All God’s blessings to you and all here.

He finally accepted my apology (rather than mock it and question my sincerity):

Dave, I’m happy to accept your apology and I’m gonna leave it there, because I really ought to get back to other things. I hope that the rest of your weekend is relaxing. God bless.

Good start; and that’s all it is; it’s a bare minimum. He has yet to apologize for his massive slanders, and allowing many more on his blog. He seems to think he is a perfect saint, incapable of being wrong: at least where I am concerned. I’m done with him forever, short of a massive reform of his atrociously condescending, judgmental behavior.


Photo credit: George Bannister (4-3-08). Display of the Ten Commandments outside of the Clarke County Baptist Association office building in Quitman, Mississippi. [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


Summary: The debate continues regarding Pope Francis and divorce. Philosopher Ed Feser and three others have claimed that I said he called the pope a “heretic.” I did not, as I prove beyond doubt.


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