CATHOLIC ANSWERS VERSUS DEFENSORES FIDEI?
Posted by catholicfaithdefender on February 16, 2009
CATHOLIC ANSWERS VERSUS DEFENSORES FIDEI?
Bro. Marwil N. Llasos’ Reply to Rodimus of the Bereans
It all started when I posted in my blog a critique of Chapter 11 of Dr. Anthony Pezzotta’s Truth Encounter. After some time, I learned that the evangelical Bereans Apologetics and Research Ministry (Bereans) disclaimed that it is endorsing Dr. Pezzotta’s book. This disclaimer was published in the Bereans forum. Also, one of the moderators of the Bereans informed me through email that his group is not endorsing Dr. Pezzotta’s book against Roman Catholicism. This disclaimer from the Bereans meant a little victory for this Catholic apologist. I realized that Dr. Pezzotta is virtually alone in his fight against the Catholic Church considering that his brothers in the Bereans do not even take up his cudgels.
However, the same moderator of the Bereans, one who hides behind the pseudonym RODIMUS, raised some questions regarding the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I welcomed his email with delight as in fact I told him that I was delighted to receive an email from him. Despite my initial hesitation to respond to his email because his true identity was shrouded in utmost secrecy, I replied to his email by acknowledging it and honored him as a “brother.” In that email, he specifically told me to take my time in answering back. So I did. That was how much I trusted this Christian brother. I never had any reason to doubt his word. I accorded him full faith and credit. In the first place, he seemed to be very respectful and nice.
I was genuinely sincere when I told him that I was delighted to receive his email. I told myself that finally I would have a dialogue partner who may be reasonable, fair and a sincere seeker for the truth. What I had in mind was entering into an honest and scholarly dialogue with an evangelical friend. That way, I believed that we would be raising the standard of apologetics in this country – far different from what the ADD and INC are doing.
My idea was to imitate the exchanges between MR. DWIGHT LONGENECKER (Catholic) and MR. DAVID GUSTAFSON (Evangelical). Theirs was a friendly debate – sans the acrimony and rancor that are usually noticed in religious discussions. The antagonists in fact published their discussion. The output was the book Mary: A Catholic Evangelical Debate published by Brazos Press in 2003. I purchased that book immediately after I received the email from RODIMUS. I intended to pattern our discussion to the style and manner of those two respected gentlemen. Mr. J.I. Packer, an evangelical who wrote a Foreword in the book says –
“I liked this book, and commend it, for several reasons.
First of all, I appreciated its tone. It is a fine example of a literary form that is deservedly popular nowadays in Christian circles, namely the friendly debate. In debates of this kind, which are more than formal dialogues or informal chat while remaining less than all-out war, empathy moderates argument, the significance of positions to their protagonists is probed, and the verdict that each is partly right and partly wrong becomes possible. Such interaction gets readers further faster than old-fashioned polemics can do, and this is doubly so when, as here, questions are set at key points to draw them into the conversation on their own account. Full marks, then, for attitude and angle. And the exchange itself is well-informed, fair-minded, and clearheaded. Full marks again” [Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2003) p. 13].
I also purchased the book Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2006) by Tim Perry. I like Prof. Tim Perry and his book a lot. Although I disagree with him on so many points, I respect his honesty and scholarship. Prof. Tim Perry’s credentials are by any standards superior to RODIMUS. Prof. Perry is an Associate of Theology in Providence Collge (Manitoba, Canada), columnist for Faith Today and a published author.
I got hold of Tim Perry’s Mary for Evangelicals because I wanted to know where an evangelical is coming from when it comes to the issue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I don’t want to be accused of misrepresenting the evangelical position. My sense of justice and fairness as a human rights lawyer cannot permit anything less.
Sadly, my romantic notion of a beautiful and amicable discourse vanished in thin air. I was jolted by a rude reality check.
This happened last February 6, 2009 when I again received an email from the same Bereans moderator, RODIMUS. He sent me another query regarding the position of Mr. Jason Evert of Catholic Answers. He nicely told me that he was not following up on my answer but was just giving another question.
Little did I suspect that, while not yet waiting for my answer (in fact even before he emailed me his question) RODIMUS already posted in his blog an article with a very catchy title: CATHOLIC ANSWERS VERSUS DEFENSORES FIDEI. The impression he was obviously trying to convey is that the two Catholic apologetics organizations, one in the U.S. and the other in the Philippines, are opposed to each other. He said: “However, I have noted conflicting positions from two Roman Catholic apologists. One is from the USA, Jason Evert, a writer of Catholic Answers. And the other is Atty. Marwil Llasos, a resource person for Mariology of the Defensores Fidei Foundation in the Philippines.” RODIMUS also concluded: “The Roman Catholics are desperate that they concoct some spurious theories to obscure the truth without realizing it backfires on them. The glaring contradiction above is just one of the many.”
To be honest, I was hurt, nay, felt betrayed. All the while I thought that he would wait for my response before he would post anything. I was wrong. It turned out that even before he got my answer, he already made his mind and posted in his blog his accusations and conclusions against me and Defensores Fidei Foundation of which I am a member, the Catholic Church, and more importantly, the Blessed Mother’s perpetual virginity.
I felt bad by this “sneak attack,” if I may call it that. I was not upset by his accusations because I know in my heart of hearts that I can answer them. What I resent was the manner by which he wanted to deliver his point or message across. Upon reading his blog, I posted a comment there reminding him of his promise: “I remember you said that I can take my time and you will wait for my response patiently. I am holding on to that assurance from you. However, I didn’t know that you already posted the issue here in your blog.”
I also pleaded to his readers to suspend their judgment before I have responded to the issues raised by RODIMUS. I wrote: “To those who may have read your blog, may I appeal that they withold their judgment before I have given my piece.” For good measure, I quoted Proverbs 18:13 from God’s Word Translation that says: “Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful.”
Sadly, the actuations of RODIMUS reminded me of what the Japanese Empire did at the outbreak of WWII. While Japanese ambassadors were talking peace and professing friendship at Washington, DC, the Japs were already attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That prompted US President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced such perfidious and cowardly attack: “This is a day of infamy.”
I believe that what RODIMUS did was rather perfidious and sly. I don’t expect it from the hands of a Christian brother. With all due respect, I found it to be un-Christian. Last time I checked the Sacred Scriptures which we both profess to be the Word of God, treachery is not one of the Christian virtues. I was really very much disappointed.
At any rate, let me respond briefly to the attacks of the Berean’s RODIMUS.
My initial impression of RODIMUS’ article is that it is more polemical rather than scholarly. It is even amateurish and puerile, to say the least.
The first tactic that I noticed is the classic Divide and Conquer Tactic. RODIMUS skillfully made it appear that the US-based CATHOLIC ANSWERS and our very own DEFENSORES FIDEI contradict each other’s position. Nothing can be farther than the truth. As I will explain, the supposed contradiction is more apparent rather than real.
I understand why RODIMUS employed that tactic. Misery loves company. I think that he is privy to the divisions, if not contradictions, extant in evangelicalism that he is now trying with all his might to prove that Catholics are also divided as the evangelicals are. This is the case of the pot calling the kettle black.
RODIMUS harped on Mr. Evert’s caveat: “Here is a common misconception to be on the lookout for: ‘Catholics teach that the brothers were actually cousins.’ That’s not the Catholic position.” He pitted Mr. Everet’s statement to my argument that James, Joses, Judas and Simon mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Mathew 13:55-56 are the “brothers” of Jesus because they are His “cousins.”
I noticed that RODIMUS was only interested in my conclusion. He did not even bother to contest, much less refute, the premises on which I predicated my conclusion. It seems to me that my friend’s desire is merely to involve me in contradiction.
As I stated earlier, the contradiction in the mind of my good friend RODIMUS is only apparent rather than real. Mr. Evert merely stated his conclusion that it is not the official Catholic position that the “brothers” of Jesus are actually His cousins. It simply means that the Lord’s brothers should not always be taken to mean as His cousins simply because the word “brother” in Hebrew as well as in Aramaic have a more encompassing meaning. The Bible offers various meanings to “brothers” which cannot be restricted to siblings alone. Thus, it is equally true that it is not the official position of the Catholic Church that the so-called “brothers” of Jesus may not be His “cousins.” May I refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church –
“Against this doctrine [of perpetual virginity of Mary] the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus,” are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary.” They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.” [par. 500, Catechism of the Catholic Church (Manila: ECCE Word and Life Publications, 1994) p. 124]. (emphasis added)
Simply, there is no contradiction between Mr. Evert’s statement and my conclusion. Both are actually correct. So, Mr. Everet is correct in saying that that it is not the official Catholic position that the “brothers” of Jesus are not actually his cousins because as we can see, the official position of the Catholic Church mentioned in the Catechism is that these “brothers” are “close relations of Jesus” and did not use the word “cousins” to refer to them. However, my position is also correct because “cousins” are also “close relations.” The Church’s canon law as well as our own Family Code prohibits marriage between cousins up to a certain degree because of the close blood relationship that exists between them. Thus, as far as I’m concerned, my cousins are my close relatives. I just don’t know if RODIMUS considers his cousins as distant relatives.
Again, let us read Mr. Evert’s statement –
“Here is a common misconception to be on the lookout for: “Catholics teach that the brothers were actually cousins.” That’s not the Catholic position. In fact, we can’t tell if any of the “brothers” were cousins. All the Church affirms is that they were not children of Mary. They could have been children of Joseph from a prior marriage. But the specific word for cousin (anepsios) probably would not have been used in Matthew 13:55 unless all the “brothers” were cousins. If even one of them was not a cousin, the more general term “adelphoi” covers the situation. Even if all of them were cousins, the term “brother” could still be used by Matthew to appropriately describe them.”
RODIMUS made a serious misreading of Mr. Evert’s statement. RODIMUS claims that Mr. Evert “made it clear that in Matthew 13:55, these men were not Christ’s cousins; it’s a misconceptionRODIMUS.” RODIMUS’ conclusion is not accurate. He clearly misrepresents Mr. Evert’s view. Mr. Evert did not categorically say, as RODIMUS would have us believe, that Jesus brothers are not His cousins. In fact, all that Mr. Evert is saying is that “we can’t tell if any of the ‘brothers’ were cousins.” Furthermore, Mr. Evert theoretically argued that “the specific word for cousin (anepsios) probably would have not been used in Matthew 13:55 unless all the “brothers” were cousins.” Finally, Mr. Evert pointerd out: “If even one of them was not a cousin, the more general term “adelphoi” covers the situation. Even if all of them were cousins, the term “brother” could still be used by Matthew to appropriately describe them.”
Mr. Evert and I are in full agreement that the so-called “brothers” of Jesus are not the children of Mary. Mr. Evert was categorical: “All the Church affirms is that they were not children of Mary.” Where’s the contradiction there? In my critique of Dr. Pezzotta, I also mentioned that the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus were not said to be the “children of Mary.”
RODIMUS never realized that the arguments in support of Catholic teachings constitute a vast arsenal. There are many weapons in that arsenal. Catholic apologists may choose the weapon that best suits them. There are so many ways to skin a cat.
What is necessary in this discussion is that Catholics, apologist or not, agree on essential things. It’s enough that we are united in our belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity. The thesis to be proven, which the Church affirms and both I and Mr. Evert are unanimous about, is that the so-called “brothers” of Our Lord are not the children of Mary. There is so much room for argumentation on how one arrives at that conclusion. As I said, we are free to choose from our arsenal the weapon that best suits us.
In disputations, there is such a thing as “alternative argumentation.” This is case where we argue “assuming ex gratia argumenti” or “assuming arguendo.” In English, it goes something like “granting for the sake of argument” or “granting without admitting.” This is a valid form of argumentation.
That is what Mr. Evert and I precisely did! We presented alternative arguments. These alternative arguments in no way compromise the thesis that the “brothers” of the Lord were not children of Mary.
I don’t know what makes it difficult for RODIMUS to see that. Maybe, his anti-Catholic bigotry already clouded his thinking which I hope not.
Notice how Mr. Evert constructed his argument:
1. The Church affirms that they were not children of Mary;
2. We can’t tell if any of the “brothers” were cousins;
3. They could have been children of Joseph from a prior marriage;
4. But the specific word for cousin (anepsios) probably would not have been used in Matthew 13:55 unless all the “brothers” were cousins.
5. If even one of them was not a cousin, the more general term “adelphoi” covers the situation.
6. Even if all of them were cousins, the term “brother” could still be used by Matthew to appropriately describe them.”
It is clear that Mr. Evert used alternative arguments as can be noticed in the words he employed: “could have been;” “probably would not have been,” “if even” (or “even if” – i.e., “assuming for the sake of argument”).
Thus said, the sweeping and hasty conclusion of RODIMUS that “The Roman Catholics are desperate that they concoct some spurious theories to obscure the truth without realizing it backfires on them. The glaring contradiction above is just one of the many,” is utterly baseless. It has no leg to stand on.
Without having proven anything, RODIMUS categorically concluded that Mary had other children aside from Jesus. He said: “They (sic) way I see it, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is impossible to be proven because the New Testament has many verses that proves that Mary had other children after giving birth of Christ. Matthew 13:55 and 56 is very comprehensive about it.”
This is assumptio non probata. RODIMUS claims that Mary’s perpetual virginity is impossible to be proven because the New Testament has many verses that proves (sic) that Mary had other children after giving birth of Christ. What are these many verses? RODIMUS mentioned only Matthew 13:55-56 which is allegedly “very comprehensive about it.”
I’m sorry to state that RODIMUS statement that Mary had other children is an UNBIBLICAL assertion. Now I want RODIMUS to show me only two (2) verses in the Bible to prove his point:
(1) Where in the Bible does it say that “Mary had other children aside from Jesus?”
(2) Where in the Bible does it say that “Mary is the mother of the brothers of Jesus?”
Not unless RODIMUS can show these two verses, he has failed to debunk the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. I have other questions to ask but I will reserve them in some future time. It would suffice for the moment for RODIMUS to give me these two verses.
RODIMUS reliance on Matthew 13:55-56 as the supposedly “very comprehensive” verse that proves that Mary had other children is misplaced. The verse does not say say that the “brothers” of Jesus are the children of Mary. In fact, a parallel verse in Mark 6:3 refers to Jesus as “THE son of Mary.” The article “the” is significant in Greek because it signifies “the one and only.” Jesus, being the Son of Mary, means that He is Mary’s only Son in the same manner that Jesus, being the Son of God, means that he is the only-begotten Son of the Father.
Without any shred of proof acceptable to the reasonable mind, RODIMUS concluded that the “the Roman Catholics are desperate that they concoct some spurious theories to obscure the truth without realizing it backfires on them.” This brazen accusation holds no water.
Who are these desperate Roman Catholics who concocted the “spurious theory” of Mary’s perpetual virginity?
When did these desperate Roman Catholics concoct the spurious “spurious theory” of Mary’s perpetual virginity?
I want RODIMUS or any of his colleagues in the Bereans to tell me the exact day, month and year when the Catholic Church concocted the “theory” of Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Exodus 23:1 says: >“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.”
I am also bothered by RODIMUS fixation on the Catholic Church as though it is the only church that teaches Mary’s perpetual virginity. It creates the impression that only Catholics believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity. My friend must have forgotten that there are also such things as the Orthodox churches who believe the same dogma as we Catholics do.
I studied the history of the early Church and I found out that we Catholics who believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity are in good company. Early Christians, we call them Church Fathers, believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity. These men of learning and piety include Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius: Epiphanius of Salamis Didymus the Blind, Ambrose of Milan, Pope Siricius I, Augustine, Leporius, Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Leo I.
Jerome, the great Scripture scholar, stingingly rebuked Helvidius in a treatise on Mary’s perpetual virginity: “I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarcely known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defending….! I must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend the virginity of the Blessed Mary. I must call upon the Lord Jesus to guard the sacred lodging of the womb in which He abode for ten months from all suspicion of sexual intercourse. And I must also entreat God the Father to show that the mother of His Son, who was mother before she was a bride, continued a Virgin after her Son was born” [St. Jerome, De perpetua virginitate Beatae Mariae adversus Helvidium. Migne, Patrology, PL 23, 183-206. For more excerpts on the topic, see: William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol. II (Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1979) 190-191].
On the other hand, I also found out that the early opponents of Mary’s perpetual virginity were known as the Antidicomarianites. These were an Eastern sect which flourished about A. D. 200 to 400. They were so designated as the “opponents of Mary.” The other heretics who denied Mary’s perpetual virginity were the Ebionites. They were the first to maintain that Our Lord was merely the son of Joseph and Mary. This doctrine became repugnant even to their own adherents. Later on, they modified it so as to teach that, although Our Lord was born of Mary through the Holy Spirit, afterwards Joseph and Mary lived in wedlock and had many other children (modern Protestants and evangelicals like RODIMUS follow this view). The sect denied the formula “ever-Virgin Mary” used in the Greek and Latin liturgies. The earliest reference to this sect appears in Tertullian, and the doctrines taught by them are expressly mentioned by Origen (Homilia in Lucam, III, 940). Certain Arians, Eudocius and Eunomius – all heretics! – were great supporters of the teaching. The sect attained its greatest development in Arabia towards the end of the fourth century, and the name Antidicomarianites was specifically applied to it by St. Epiphanius of Salamis who wrote vigorously against them in an interesting letter giving the history of the doctrine and presenting proofs of its falsity (St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Contra Haeres., lxxviii, 1033 sqq.). [Cf. Luigi Gambero, S.M., Mary and the Fathers of the Church (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 1999) 122-123].
Beware of the company you keep, RODIMUS.
Why did the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, teach the heretics the truth which He did not teach mainstream and orthodox Christians?
Even the Reformers believed the “concocted spurious theory” of Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Martin Luther (1483-1546):
It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. … Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)
This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity.
In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. … Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.)
John Calvin (1509-1564):
It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. … Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary as at the same time the eternal God. (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.)
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531):
I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin. (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424.)
These Reformers read the same Bible as RODIMUS and other evangelicals read. How come they had a different conclusion? In fact, my question to modern day Protestants is why they do not anymore believe in the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a doctrine which was asserted and defended even by their very own founders. The contradiction it seems lies in the position of the Reformers and modern evangelicals.
In believing Mary’s perpetual virginity, were the Reformers heretics? If so, Protestantism (and all its offshoots) was founded by heretics. If they were wrong on Mary’s perpetual virginity, they can be wrong on so many things.
If the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity is not heresy, then what is my good friend and brother RODIMUS crowing about?