Rushing to Judgment Without Checking Facts
Thomas A. Droleskey
One of the most distressing things to have to deal with is a misrepresentation of one's own words and actions. Criticisms of the substance of what I write are, whether accurate or not, to be expected as part of the price of making one's convictions known publicly. All well and good. It is, however, quite another thing when someone casts aspersions on another's integrity by broadcasting such aspersions widely without him the courtesy, as strict justice requires according to the dictates of the Eighth Commandment, of checking to see if the aspersions are warranted.
To wit, a reader e-mailed me yesterday morning, November 8, 2006, with the news that Dr. Robert Sungenis had engaged in a complete flight of fancy when asked by an inquirer on his website to comment on my analysis of his, Dr. Sungenis's, debate with John Lane at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington, on October 16, 2006. Here is the answer provided by Dr. Sungenis:
R. Sungenis: I haven’t read Drolesky’s comments but I can tell you what I’ve heard. In his first review of the debate he said that it was a 50-50 tie. I consider that a pretty good rating for our side, since it is true that Drolesky is a sedevacantist, and an ardent one at that. To give me 50-50 is just as good as saying I won the debate. In fact, I heard that he only left the sedevacantist compound in Spokane just a few days ago after he made the rounds doing damage control in the wake of the debate. Apparently, there are a lot of disgruntled people in the Spokane area asking pressing questions about the demerits of sedevanctism. Good for them. It is nothing but a cult. As for Drolesky, I also heard that, after he posted his first review of the debate, he changed his mind and posted another review, this time saying that John Lane won the debate. Go figure. I guess the sedevacantist camp put pressure on him to side with Lane.
But there is also something else disturbing about Drolesky. As the moderator of the debate, he stated that we should all consider each other fellow Catholics who are trying to reach the truth in the spirit of love and cooperation. So far so good. But I then heard that Drolesky scolded a nun at the debate for coming up and shaking my hand after the debate was over! I remember that nun. She told me that she found my arguments against sedevacantism very convincing. Imagine that. Here is Drolesky preaching the message of love and toleration in public, but then in private he won’t even allow someone to shake my hand. Very hypocritical, to say the least. Incidentally, Drolesky did shake my hand at the debate, along with uttering his verbal pleasantries.
Apart from not being able to spell my last name correctly, which I will accept as an oversight on Dr. Sungenis's part, his "guess" that the "sedevacantist camp put pressure on" me "to side with Lane" is unwarranted and without factual foundation. I had spelled out exactly what went into my review of the debate in
Debating Past Each Other. There is no need for idle speculation or guessing. Here is what I wrote:
Apart from Dr. Sungenis's protestations concerning being insulted, which many attendees saw as posturing and as an attempt to intimidate Mr. Lane from questioning him too closely, it is my judgment that the two debaters engaged in a spirited debate that avoided the use of the ad hominem. Although I believe that Dr. Sungenis avoided the key issues raised by Mr. Lane and used a lot of emotional red herrings during the course of his three presentations, both speakers conducted themselves as Catholic gentlemen, presenting their remarks forcefully. And I will say also that the debate "listens" better than it views. That is, having listened to the debate on the three compact disks that were recorded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, I believe that the arguments are much clearer and sharper in the medium of the audio recording than they were when viewed live with all of the distractions of the moment. It is on the basis of listening to the audio recording of the debate that I can reverse my judgment of ten days that the debate was a theatrical "draw" and state that Mr. Lane had the better of the substance of the debate.
Having stated this, however, I do not know how many minds were changed one way or the other. So many factors into one's perception of debates that I have come to believe over the years that they are not the most propitious of facilitating an understanding of different positions on a given issue. We need to pray, to read and to reflect on the issues facing us at this present moment in the history of the Church. Sound-bites prove nothing. The truth of a position does not depend upon who wins or loses a debate. Truth is what it is. It exists independently of human acceptance of it. Two hours of debating cannot begin to even scratch the surface of the many issues facing us today as Catholics.
One of the reasons I wanted to link to Bishop Mark Pivarunas's excellent lecture delivered at the Fatima Conference on October 13, 2006, was that His Excellency covered each of the major objections to sedevacantism in a very systematic and organized manner. He did not caricature the position of those who reject sedevacantism. Bishop Pivarunas went through each argument, including those that were presented in a haphazard, disorganized manner by Dr. Sungenis (the meaning of the term "perpetual successors," the distinction between heresy as a sin against the Divine Law as opposed to the crime of heresy punished by ecclesiastical law, the applicability of Pope Paul IV's Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio as contrasted to Pope Pius XII's 1945 legislation on the election of a pope, the specific heresies promulgated by the Second Vatican Council and the conciliar church).
There are authors who have put forth the anti-sedevacantist argument in a sustained manner. There are sedevacantist authors who have rebutted those arguments. This is quite similar to the back-and-forth exchanges, some of them quite heated, that took place during the Great Schism (1378-1417). All well and good. It is important for those who engage in a colloquy to understand each other's terminology and to present fairly and accurately the position of those they oppose. This is what, for example, Bishop Pivarunas did when presenting the anti-sedevacantist arguments from original sources, doing so charitably before he rebutted them. He understood the arguments. Dr. Sungenis would have done well to have attended Bishop Pivarunas's lecture in order to see that each of the arguments he presented, albeit in a scattershot, superficial manner, had been addressed by His Excellency.
Dr. Sungenis assumed, without doing me the courtesy of checking with me beforehand, that I had been "pressured" into changing my mind. Actually, there was no change of mind at all. I thought that he, Dr. Sungenis, did an abysmal job on the substance of the issues raised in the debate, although he presented his disjoined comments with force and vigor, raising various smokescreens along the way. My initial impression was that Mr. Lane had not countered the smokescreen effectively. I did note on the home page of this site that I wanted to review the debate once again before I wrote any commentary, waiting over ten days do so in order to get hold of the audio compact disks containing the full content of the debate rather than to rely upon my initial impressions. All of this is spelled out above. Dr. Sungenis presumed malice or a lack of integrity and then broadcast his presumption across the internet. Why was there such a rush to respond to the inquirer without first checking out my review of the debate or writing to me directly?
The conciliar Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is oft-cited on Dr. Sungenis's website, says the following about such rash judgment:
2475 Christ's disciples have "put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." By "putting away falsehood," they are to "put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander."
2476 False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness. When it is under oath, it is perjury. Acts such as these contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused. They gravely compromise the exercise of justice and the fairness of judicial decisions.
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.
2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.
Dr. Sungenis sought to impugn my integrity without checking to determine if his "guess" was correct. He can produce no proof whatsoever to contradict my abject denial that I was influenced or pressured in any way to write my review the way I did. He did not contact me. He contacted no one at the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen. He simply assumed that our presence in and around Mount Saint Michael and the City of Mary in Rathdrum, Idaho, caused me to be influenced in some way to prove my "bona fides" as a sedevacantist. He has no right under the Eighth Commandment to broadcast this unwarranted and unfounded supposition. He could produce no evidence in a court of law to justify it. He will find out at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead on the Last Day that he was dead wrong.
Dr. Sungenis compounded his response to his inquirer by relating one side of a private conversation that did not take place until this past Saturday, November 4, 2006, in Room 300 of Mount Saint Michael's Church and Academy, between a sister of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen and yours truly following the completing of a lecture I had given to the sisters at the request of the superior of the congregation, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Mark A. Pivarunas. Once again, Dr. Sungenis did not contact me before making his response to his inquirer. He relied on one side of a private conversation and chose to make public that one side of a private conversation for no other reason, it appears, than to try to make me look bad and uncharitable in the eyes of the public. His reasons for doing this are his own and it would be wrong for me to claim that I know those reasons. There was no need, as specified in the conciliar Catechism of the Catholic Church above, to make one side of a private conversation public, no less to state that I am a hypocrite for urging Catholics to be charitable with each other while allegedly "scolding" a religious sister for having "shaken hands" with Dr. Sungenis, which was not the issue of the conversation at all.
It does appear that some people have a problem viewing those who take the sedvecantist position as human beings whose reputations are not be put into question rashly. Indeed, it appears that Dr. Sungenis views anyone who takes the sedevacantist position as a deranged follower of a cult who has lost any right to be considered a sane or rational human being. I would assure Dr. Sungenis, however, that even a person who has embraced the sedevacantist position is entitled to his good name and that it is simply wrong to impute to another, especially by means of "guesses," the most vile of motives and to reveal publicly one side of a private conversation without thinking himself bound by simple justice to get both sides of the story first.
There is hardly any one of us who has not been guilty of rash judgment in the course our lives, perhaps even frequently, perhaps even every day! This is, sadly, part of fallen human nature. We must forgive those who make rash judgments about us just as we seek the forgiveness of those against whom we have rendered rash judgments. Et dimmite nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimmitimus debitoribus nostris. Nothing any of us suffers in this passing, mortal vale of tears is the equal of what one of our least venial sins caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. And we must recognize that the intentions of all hearts and souls are revealed fully only on the Last Day, a time when a lot of omniscient folks are going to see that their presumptions about others were most sadly mistaken.
Perhaps it would good for each of us to consider this passage from Father Belet's The Backbiting Tongue (published first in 1870 and republished by The Angelus Press in 1998, second edition):
We do no one harm in saying that a spade is a spade, and a cat is a cat. We should call all things by their name.
Now, backbiters have as many names as species. They attack first this person and then that one, putting on a fox skin today and a lion skin tomorrow. Among all the splendid names that apply to flatterers, only one applies to backbiters:
1. Backbiters are dogs. Scripture tells us, "Like an arrow lodged in a dog's thigh is gossip in the heart of a fool." A dog will have no rest till he is rid of something lodged in his flank. So it is with the backbiter: as soon as he sees anything with his curious eyes or hears anything with his long ears, he broadcasts it everywhere.
The food most suited to dogs is dry bread and bones. But dogs with faces of men eat not only bones; like famished wolves, they need flesh...human flesh. When Job was struck down he said, "Why do you hound me as though you were God, and insatiably prey upon me?" I see you gnashing you teeth like dogs. You insult me; and you bite, devour and swallow my reputation and good name.
Saint Gregory declares, "There is no doubt that those who indulge in backbiting others, feed on their flesh." Making himself equal to God, the backbiter pretends to examine hearts and to discern the most secret things in man, even his intentions. He would wrest God's sword from His hand if he could. The backbiter is so fond of human flesh, he often spares not even his own relatives. (pp. 40-41)
We must forgive each other the offenses that are committed in these difficult times in the history of the Church. We must be careful, though, not to impute to fellow Catholics who dissent not one bit from anything contained in the Deposit Faith the worst possible motives and intentions simply because we disagree with their positions. We must pray for each other, hoping that each of us, friend and regrettable foe, will be, by the graces won for us on Calvary by the shedding of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood and that flow into our souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces, reunited happily in Heaven.
Our Lady, Queen of Mercy, pray for us to be merciful and just to each other.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Vincent de Paul, pray for us.
Saint Augustine, pray for us.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Saint Vincent Ferrer, pray for us.
Saint Sebastian, pray for us.
Saint Jude, pray for us.
Saint Tarcisius, pray for us.
Saint Lucy, pray for us.
Saint Agnes, pray for us.
Saint Agatha, pray for us.
Saint Bridget of Sweden, pray for us.
Saint Philomena, pray for us.
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, pray for us.
Saint John of the Cross, pray for us.
Saint John Bosco, pray for us.
Saint John Mary Vianney, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius V, pray for us.
Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us.
Saint Robert Bellarmine, pray for us.
Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us.
Saint Therese Lisieux, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous, pray for us.
Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, pray for us.
Venerable Pauline Jaricot, pray for us.
Francisco Marto, pray for us.
Jacinta Marto, pray for us.
The Longer Version of the Saint Michael the Archangel Prayer, composed by Pope Leo XIII, 1888
O glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defense in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of our Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay, and cast into eternal perdition, souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. That wicked dragon pours out. as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on Her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck the sheep may be scattered. Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
Verse: Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
Response: The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has conquered the root of David.
Verse: Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
Response: As we have hoped in Thee.
Verse: O Lord hear my prayer.
Response: And let my cry come unto Thee.
Verse: Let us pray. O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as suppliants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of our souls.