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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Philosopher, Healy Thyself

In his wild attempts to defend the indefensible Chris West, Dr. Michael Healy, a philosophy professor at Franciscan University, has now taken to providing inadequate quotes to moral theology texts, in much the same way that Drs. Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein deliberately mis-referenced Dr. Schindler's response to West.

Watch how this works. It is instructive.

Dear Steve,
Thanks for the sarcasm, but I’m afraid you are displaying your own ignorance. Are Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein also to be lumped with Grisez, West, and myself as suckering, deceiving heretics? [No. While Grisez is someone who already deliberately misteaches Catholic theology, as he explicitly denies the hierarchy of good, Drs. Healy, Smith and Waldstein are just Kool-Aid drinkers] Janet Smith mentions the same facts that I do about incomplete anal-genital contacts (while noting that both she and West find such acts completely unappealing, not to be recommended, and rather to be cautioned against, as do I); she also mentions that West’s books have received the Nihil Obstat after being reviewed by no less that Bill May. Is he also a heretic? If so, then we are rapidly running out of good theologians. [Notice the logical fallacy of "morality by acclamation." Everyone supports me, thus it must be true, an argument Arians used to excellent effect during a time when we rapidly ran out of good bishops.

Janet Smith has failed to back up her claims that sodomitical foreplay is morally acceptable. You have failed to do this as well, Dr. Healy. As for Bill May's opinion and the nihil obstat, I don't really care a fig for either. Neither is an expression of the infallible Magisterium. Bill May isn't even a bishop.]

Concerning the object of your ire here, it is certainly true that any orgasm, or even unjustifiable risk of orgasm, outside normal intercourse would be a grave sin against chastity. Everyone mentioned above fully agrees with this, so it is hardly parallel to denying the sin of abortion. [Straw man. The question isn't about orgasm, it's about the moral acceptability of sodomitical foreplay.]

Concerning such contacts as incomplete, preparatory acts, let me quote extensively [but not completely, as we shall see - click the link and check for yourself] from Frs. Ford and Kelly (both impeccably orthodox and writing in the late 50’s and early 60’s for seminarians, again with nihil obstat and imprimatur from Patrick O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, at a time when there was certainly no “fudging” in the granting of an imprimatur):

Practises such as these [Already he's implemented the bait-and-switch - used at all the finest used car dealerships - and you don't even know it's been done. Yet.] are repugnant and shocking to a great many people, and intolerable to some, but their morality cannot be decided on the basis of emotional reactions which, though normal, are apparently not universal. People differ very widely in their estimates of what is shameful or disgusting in sexual matters, these differences being the result of differing cultural backgrounds, family attitudes, sexual education, natural temperament, and other factors.” They go on to say that while no one should ever “speak as though there were no objections to these practises [which practices?] from the viewpoint of the Christian law,” neither is it justified to make “any universal a priori judgment as to sinful or inordinate hedonism” here, though these are the dangers. Further, of course, it would always be a grave sin against charity and justice to try to force such acts on an unwilling partner; they are not part of the marital debitum. It seems to me that all the authors mentioned above, including West, fit solidly within these guidelines. [What did the good Dr. Healy leave out of the quote? Why the sentence that preceded "Practices such as these" of course! But, because I'm a spoil-sport, I'll throw it in for you:

"As a practical matter, we feel it would be unrealistic nowadays to pretermit altogether discussion of the morality of oral-genital contacts preparatory to intercourse." (emphasis added)

See? There moral theologians being quoted are NOT referring to anal-genital contact at all. Drs. Healy and Smith being unable to distinguish the mouth from the anus, think anal-genital contact is parallel to oral-genital contact. In fact, while oral-genital contact is described as permitted above, NO ONE prior to 1970 has ever said anal-genital contact, whether as completed act or merely as foreplay, is anything other than a sin.

West supporters consistently twist the texts they quote. WHY?

If, as Augustine said, "God does not need my lie," why does God's messenger, Christopher West, ALWAYS require what Dr. Healy just did?]

Now this is not to deny that in the past even such incomplete acts have been condemned as intrinsically wrong by some theologians—and if you think so too, you also have support within the Catholic tradition. [Notice how he completely sidesteps the fact that his quote is deliberately taken out of context and actually refers to something else. He accuses me of being ignorant, and I cannot deny it - I am. But I prefer being called ignorant to dealing with the charge that can now be laid firmly at Dr. Healy's door.] But this is a question which has not been finally decided and closed—compared to the question of artificial contraception for instance. [Father Bernard Haring said abortion is not finally decided and closed. Drs. Janet Smith and Michael Healy would like to add anal-genital foreplay to the list, so as to cover Chris West's... back... with their waggish... words...] And as Ford and Kelly say (before Vatican II, before the massive rejection of Church teaching on sexuality), “most theologians today” would not describe them as always intrinsically wrong, but simply as dangerous and to be cautioned about. This is a fine distinction, but one that theologians have to make. [Would that these theologians had actually made the distinction Dr. Healy pretends they have.] However, as Janet Smith says, we really should not take up any more space about such topics in connection with Chris West, as such things are completely tangential to his message and his work. Yet if he is accused of betraying the Catholic teaching here, he has to be defended, despite the fact that I too, like Janet, would prefer not to mention the topic. (Quotes from Ford and Kelly are from Contemporary Moral Theology, Vol. II, Marriage Questions, Ch. 11, Special Problems of Conjugal Intimacy, pp. 228-230). [In short: don't bother about the man behind the curtain, the one who has been passing sin off as virtue. That's really not an issue. Let's move on to something substantive. Like where to buy a Krispy Kreme.

On the other hand, I am SURE that neither Dr. Smith nor Dr. Healy is interested in talking about this subject, since they can't defend it and it keeps coming up to bite them in the ... well... ]

If you bother to do a word-search on "anal" in the work of Frs. Ford and Kelly, as Dr. Healy obviously failed to do, you would discover the deeper problem in Healy's analysis. On page 309-310, the priests point out:
In surveying one of the Anglican defenses of contraception, we pointed out that the author's refusal to define coitus makes his arguments open to serious objections. In particular, since he refuses to concede even the minimum definition of coition as an actus per se aptus ad generationem, he must logically admit that any practice that has "relational value" for spouses (e.g., coitus interruptus and anal intercourse) is licit. (emphasis added)
This, of course is right up Chris West's alley. John Paul II's TOB audiences famously fail to discuss the generational aspect of the sexual act to any great degree. It is one of the odd but true aspects of those Wednesday audiences that those audiences, a commentary on Humanae Vitae totaling in excess of a quarter million words, mention the word "family" only once, whereas Humanae Vitae itself uses the word "family" 15 times in just 7000 words. Similarly, the words "parents" or "parenthood" occurs ten times in HV, but only three times in the TOB audiences (TOB figures based on the index in the first St. Paul edition of the TOB audiences).

The Theology of the Body audiences are 40 times longer than HV, but discuss the primary purpose of the sexual act between much less frequently in absolute terms. Yet isn't the point of contraception precisely the cutting off of any need to discuss family?

If TOB is not about the generational aspects of sex, then what is it about? It's emphasis is all on relationship - the "relational value," that the good priests warn against above.

As a result, the TOB audiences, while fine insofar as they go, do have huge theological holes in them, holes large enough to drive an ocean liner through.

Someone who primarily studies the TOB audiences and spends very little time with other JP II documents, or other Magisterial teachings in general, is very likely to mistake the importance of the relational aspects of the sexual act. That is, someone who is a largely self-taught "expert" on the Theology of the Body is likely to make precisely the mistake Chris West makes, and label anal foreplay acceptable.

Worse, Drs. Smith and Healy have leapt to defend West's statements not because they are defensible, for there is no defense available from the Magisterial documents. Rather, they have begun a "theology of personality", in which Chris West's statements have to be defended because of he who made them. Catholic theology is being bent to fit the predilictions of a specific personality.

I am a graduate of Franciscan University, but I was fortunate enough to never have Dr. Healy as an instructor. I'm sure he counts himself lucky he never had me as a student.

This is the kind of nonsense that is all too prevalent in Catholic institutions: mistaking fad theology for Magisterium, inability to distinguish between the orifices for nutritive intake and waste disposal, he literally doesn't know his ... from a... well... you get the idea.

This is often what passes for philosophy at Franciscan University. As a former graduate student, I can firmly attest and witness to the fact that, while Franciscan University's theology department is competent, their philosophy department has only a few decent thinkers. Far too many are of Dr. Healy's stripe. That's why I have never recommended the university to people.


Anonymous said...

Steve, while I think you are misleading and duplicitous about a great many things in this piece, I do want to point out that in my original article I explicitly mentioned TWICE that Ford and Kelley speak only of oral-genital contacts, adding on my own that anal-genital contacts short of orgasm would seem to be morally parallel. You are free to radically disagree with this last statement; however, to accuse me of deceiving people about what Ford and Kelley said is obviously a complete lie. You yourself in your false accusation of me here commit--quite obviously and publicly--the very crime you accuse me of. --Michael Healy

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Doc, this is what you said in your piece:

"I think Janet Smith has largely done this in her article cited above. Much depends on the context and situation, but nothing I see in that list is inherently wrong. It just needs proper explanation and application. Even the “anal penetration as foreplay” reference would seem to be parallel to the discussion of the status of preparatory oral-genital contacts discussed extensively by Frs. Ford and Kelly in their two-volume moral theology book from the 1950’s for seminarians (future priests in the confessional) with similar conclusion and this is referenced as the authority to consult by Germaine Grisez in his great ongoing compendium of moral theology. (See The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol. II, p. 641, ftnt 176 where Grisez mentions only oral-genital contacts, but as I say Ford and Kelly treat this in such a way that anal-genital contacts would seem to be parallel). "

Given your sentence structure, your reference is obscure, to say the least.

In your piece, you quote Janet Smith, you quote Chris West, but you never quote the two priests who claim to support Smith and West. When you *DO* quote them, you deliberately leave out the oral-genital context of their remarks, even though it's only another sentence.

As you yourself said: "First, as to content, whether Christopher consciously intends this or just naturally does it, I think he at times practices what Kierkegaard (a favorite of Alice von Hildebrand) describes as his own approach of “indirect communication.” Soren Kierkegaard, radical Christian existentialist, was of the opinion (especially in his early years) that just stating the truth to others on the level of direct intellectual communication often merely remained on that level and never penetrated any deeper. So Kierkegaard began to state things in extremes, yet in such a way that the clues and the evidence were there for the mind of the reader to see through the extreme statement itself and bring it back into balance as an insight and a “work” that the reader did for himself. Thus the truth was more actively seen by the reader, as an achievement, not just passively absorbed. Now I think Christopher West does the same—whether as a consciously chosen technique or not is irrelevant."

Well, I'm just following YOUR recommendations, doing what YOU praise Chris West for doing.

You yourself witnessed Chris West questioning an audience member about that audience member's grasp of his own sexuality. Sexuality lies at the heart of a person's identity in a way that mere scholarship does not.

If West can question the very core of a person's identity by overstating the case, if you find this endearing in HIM, then why don't you find it endearing when I just question your scholarship in a Kierkegaardian, over-the-top way?

A person's scholarship is not at the heart of his identity, Dr. Healy. But of course, you - being a good philosopher - would have already noted the parallels. Indeed, I would say that just as Smith argues in a way parallel to the good priests, I'm arguing in parallel to YOUR argument.

On that basis, you should thank me, compliment me and invite me to write something for Communio for having penetrated, "in a thrusting way," (as you so eloquently phrased it)into the core of your argument.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Michael Healy, Jr. I have an MA in Philosophy and an MA in Theology, both from FUS.

First of all, to situate myself in this discussion, I have heard West speak on one or two occasions and have met Waldstein, Alice von Hildebrand, and (of course) my father. I have my doubts about West's interpretation of Original Sin, but thus far have not seen any reason to question his general methods. Also, I am impressed by the fact that Waldstein, who so excellently translated The Theology of the Body, supports Mr. West.

Now, with reference to your response to my father's response to your comments, Mr. Kellmeyer, you are not following either my father's recommendations or Kierkegaard's technique.

In particular, Mr. Kellmeyer, you have failed to provide the clues that indicate the overstatement and enable the reader to see past it and discover the true meaning for himself. Without these clues, which my father refers to in the quotation you cited, it cannot be proven that you were using the technique of Kierkegaardian exaggeration, and your defense falls flat.

Also, my wife notes that you mispelled the word "philosopher" in the title.

Anonymous said...

Hello, this is Michael Healy, Jr., again. At the end of your general article, you made this comment:

"This is often what passes for philosophy at Franciscan University. As a former graduate student, I can firmly attest and witness to the fact that, while Franciscan University's theology department is competent, their philosophy department has only a few decent thinkers. Far too many are of Dr. Healy's stripe. That's why I have never recommended the university to people."

As a matter of fact, this is an unfair criticism. You are demanding that people who were trained in the tradition of realist phenomenology start thinking in a different mode (medieval scholasticism?) than that in which they were trained before you will take them seriously. This is just as unfair, though in a different way, as if a mathematical logician were to demand that you, after having been trained in theology at FUS, start thinking in the same mode as Bertrand Russel or Ludwig Wittgenstein before he would take you seriously. Surely you see that the latter would be an injustice, so please extend some Christian charity to the philosophy professors at FUS and accept that they can make valuable contributions to Christian philosophy even while using a method that you do not, perhaps, find congenial.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Mike, I demand logic from philosophers, not various logical fallacies. Certainly every philosophical technique at least follows that bare minimum?

For instance, your father's reply here engaged in the logical fallacy of "poisoning the well" in the very first sentence. He claims I am "misleading and duplicitous about a great many things in this piece", but he doesn't list any of them. We are supposed to trust his judgement. But what has made him trustworthy?

As for not following Kierkegaard's technique, please pay closer attention. I knew perfectly well that your father was likely to read this piece - one of the more popular Catholic news sites on the web linked to it. What was the likelihood that it would be completely ignored? None, really.

So, you (in the sense of a Healy supporter, if not a West supporter) were certain to come in and make exactly the attack you made. I've been waiting for you, precisely so this discussion could take place.

I am much more impressed by the fact that Christopher West's own instructors and the very institution from which he graduated is horrified by him than I am by Dr. Waldstein. Waldstein has nowhere near the clout in this relationship that Schindler does.

If you or your father are really personalists or TOB experts, you would recognize what John Paul II taught. That is, you would recognize West's response to criticism is to question the sexual identity of the person doing the criticism. You would recognize that this constitutes the most basic assault on a person's physical existence that can be made, apart from attempting to take his physical life.

"Male and female He created them." Our sexuality is basic to our identity, so basic that we retain that physical and psychic sexual identity for all eternity.

Your father witnessed an attack on an audience member's sexual identity by Christopher West and ENDORSED it. That's far more disgusting than a discussion of anal sex, no matter what epistemology you follow.

Jordanes said...

Steve, while I agree that Dr. Healy's attempt to draw a moral parallel between fellatio and anal intercourse doesn't stand up, and there is no tradition in Catholic moral theology to support the view of West and Smith that anal intercourse might sometimes not be objectively sinful, nevertheless Dr. Healy is correct that you have no basis to accuse him of "deliberately misquoting moral theology texts," as you put it. He simply did not do that, and you are morally obliged to withdraw your claim that he did so and apologise to him. You may disagree with his interpretation and application of that moral theology text, but he clearly did NOT misquote it at all -- and if he didn't misquote it, he couldn't have done so "deliberately."

Please rewrite your weblog post and apologise to Dr. Healy.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I am willing to compromise and change the wording to "inadequately referenced moral theology texts."

However, it is a fact that he didn't quote the original source AT ALL in his original essay.

It is also a fact that, when I called him on the source, he deliberately left out the immediately preceding contextual sentence in the quote he DID provide in order to lessen the dissonance between what he alleged and what the original authors actually said.

He's trying to get dead priests to support his assertion that sin is not sin by using a faulty analogy and cherry-picking texts.

Given these facts, I don't think I've got anything to apologize for.

Jordanes said...

It is also a fact that, when I called him on the source, he deliberately left out the immediately preceding contextual sentence in the quote he DID provide in order to lessen the dissonance between what he alleged and what the original authors actually said. ***

I don’t think you can insist that he did that deliberately and with a motive of lessening the dissonance. He has plausibly denied that’s why he did so, and it’s basic Christian decency to respect his denial and let God judge his heart. Thus, since it’s inaccurate to say he “deliberately misquoted” that text (the objection can’t be to how he quoted it, but to why he did and how he interpreted it), those words need to go and you ought to apologise, as accusing somebody of deliberately twisting moral theology texts is a dread serious charge. After all, as you rightly quote St. Augustine, God doesn’t need your “lie” either.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Jordanes, you have overstated the case. He hasn't denied manipulating the quote.

Rather, he has argued that it doesn't count as manipulation because he made oblique reference to the unsupplied quote in his main article. But that's the point: he didn't supply the quote in the article.

He only supplied the quote after I challenged him. Now, the full quote doesn't support his contention. But, that's easily fixed: he left out the beginning sentence. Then he discusses the quote AS IF IT supports his contention. As a result, if all we have is his discussion and no way to reference the original quote (and who would expect a morals book from 1953 to be available to most readers?), it LOOKS like the quote DOES support him, when the preceding unsupplied sentence makes clear how little his "evidence" actually brings to bear to support him.

Philosophers are second-hand philologists. Good philosophy depends on careful nuance. He knew what he was doing. Notice that he didn't come back. Instead, he sent his son to argue the point. And his son hasn't come back either.

I've seen this game played before in the journals. You make a heavily qualified statement near the beginning, laid out in as obscure language as possible. This is your CYA. Then, over the next several paragraphs/pages, lay out the full force of your whole argument, ignoring those initial qualifications as if they never existed. Quote selectively, garnish your facts, etc., whatever it takes to lay out your full argument.

Now you are covered. If anyone calls you on your manipulation of quotes or data, you point back at the first heavily qualified paragraph and say, "but I SAID that at the beginning!"

Nobody can touch you.

Jordanes said...

He hasn't denied manipulating the quote. Rather, he has argued that it doesn't count as manipulation ***

Um, doesn’t arguing that it doesn’t count as manipulation amount to a denial of manipulation? As for why Professor Healy and his son have not been back, maybe it’s because they were offended.

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

The thing is, the text does not support the argument. It only lends a line of reasoning. It is used to prop up a case that cannot be made. It is a misapplication that is not immediately apparent, especially because it was not even supplied, which seems to be why Steven called him on it.

When the quote was provided in the follow-up, the omission of the first sentence, as with the omission of any sentence, was because it was not considered significant. That does not make it purposeful deception, and Steven does not allege that. It is deliberate, however, because the specifics it mentions are irrelevant to the line of reasoning. Without them, it does seem applicable.

That is precisely why Steven highlights the omitted sentence and obliquely references - rather than directly quoting - Dr. Healy's equation of orifices. Is it significant or not? It suddenly becomes significant to Dr. Healy when they are his words that are omitted. "You yourself ... here commit -- quite obviously and publicly -- the very crime you accuse me of."

Yet, Steven explicitly mentioned TWICE that Dr. Healy, considering the distinction between anus and oralis insignificant, finds such contacts to be morally parallel. Wait, that defense look familiar. Check the first comment.

Indeed the distinction becomes very significant when you apply the common sense that Steven points out, and additionally so when he consults the same text on the matter. How fair is it to borrow reasoning from a text to support something the same text contradicts? Without being able to consult the author for clarification, it is highly unfair, and deserves to be corrected.

Dr. Healy Jr. responds that Steven failed to provide the clues to indicate his overstatement. Yet Dr. Healy Sr. says that Steven's misquote is "obvious." Which is it? I see it, and I do find this post to be instructive. Since it seems to be part of the discussion, I might add that I never attended FUS nor studied a lick of philosophy.

Steven seems to have anticipated their taking offense. That would be why he details what West did to an audience member. There is offending for the sake of offending ("you are displaying your own ignorance"), and there is offending in the process of pointing out error in defiance of pride.

There is a deeper and broader point to be seen here as well in this desperate grasping at straws to try to find some way to justify West. Steven's point isn't just to correct this particular error of West's. Rather it stands as a red flag. It becomes all the more alarming the harder and the more fiercely people try to defend it. To the extent they succeed in giving him credibility, it becomes all the more dangerous.

Pertinacious Papist said...

I have no interest in getting embroiled in this snake pit, except to offer a fraternal word of caution. Tone and attitude make a big difference in how credible you come off. If you have some legitimate criticisms of Christopher West (and I agree that there may be some), and if you have some legitimate concerns about the disgusting topic of anal foreplay (and I know that Dr. Smith personally finds them disgusting and has concerns about the question just as you do), you are doing the cause of divine truth and clarity no service by undercutting your own posts with an attitude of cavalier disrespect for prominent apologists for the Catholic Faith, who are widely known to be devout and faithful, magisterial Catholics -- not flagrant dissidents. This just throws up dust into everyone's eyes.

In Korea, they used to tell missionaries to say nothing but only to listen for your first ten years. By that point, you've earned the right to be heard, once you've won the confidence of your audience by showing that you understand their points of view and care about them as people. Then, if you speak, others will have some confidence that you will speak with respect, charity and understanding.

Is there respect or charity in this snake pit? Is there understanding or prudence in throwing down gauntlets and issuing fatwas against these friends and fellow Catholics? Please stop pontificating at the top of your lungs and consider a quiet and modest alternative: that of deferentially raising legitimate questions for Janet Smith and her colleagues for their consideration. When you "lay down the law" to them as you have here, you come off sounding like an upstart Korah in the Book of Numbers or a recent convert trying to play Grand Inquisitor or Pope. Nobody will listen to you. And that would be a pity if you really have some legitimate questions to raise, as I suspect you might. But I, for one, and not about to stick around until the smoke settles and the snakes quit biting to see for myself. It's far too unpleasant around here. One can hardly breathe. Clean house. Please. Pretty please with HONEY on top.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


What would you have said to Jeremiah or John the Baptist?

That whole "You brood of vipers... who told YOU that you could escape the coming destruction!" riff was really, REALLY evil of him.

And if you read some of the Fathers of the Church (St. Jerome, for instance), you can see that they were clearly NOT effective because of their high-handed attitude.

But, let's get to the point.
Do you have anything to contribute to the theological discussion, or is this just meant to point out that I'm a mean, vile bastard who is in need of repentance?

I mean, if that's your only theological point, well, YEAH, who wouldn't agree? I certainly can't refute it.

But if you don't have anything more than that to contribute, then why did you even open your mouth?

Except you wanted to be holier-than-thou and I provided a good chance to show off to the crowds?

Ok - well, you're great and wise, and I'm a heartless bastard of a sinner. That's settled then.

But Dr. Healy is still a substantial liar and his son isn't the brightest bulb on the tree. And Chris West is still a heretic, so all's right with the world, then, eh?

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

I wonder how can West's cheerleaders have it both ways...

No matter how bad he screws up, we're all supposed to shut up and look past his blunders - which everybody pretty much recognizes - for the sake of his message.

When it comes to you, they say they are going to ignore your message because your "tone and attitude" render them automatically dismissible.

Go figure...