Monday, October 31, 2022

A Halloween reflection: Vampire plagues and progressive Catholics

Early onset vampirism in Salem's Lot: Know the signs!
So for fun this year, I reread Salem’s Lot.  I’m not much of a Steve King fan.  Marcus Grodi once said he believed King to be the greatest American author.  I assumed he meant in modern times.  Since he was my boss at the time, I didn’t debate the statement.  Suffice to say I don't consider King to be near the top of American writers. 

But I do like a couple of his books. One is Salem’s Lot.  It strikes all those little chords: the haunted house, the small town secrets, the cemetery, the vampire hunter team.  Fun stuff.  It also does a neat ‘vampire plague’ spin, being what Dracula wanted to accomplish in London but didn't.

As the story unfolds and the plague of vampires grows, you can see the main characters grapple with reality as they come face to face with pure, legendary evil.  You feel them recoil as one after another, people in the town vanish or, worse, begin to show signs of becoming the latest victims of this plague of evil enveloping their home town.

I thought of that as I reflected on my last discourse with Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong.  I have followed Dave for years.  He did the heavy lifting with Catholic apologetics, often going after unfair or false accusations leveled against the Church.  His was never a blog to read with only two or three minutes to spare.  He would take his time and unpack some pretty hefty issues down to the nitty gritty.  That was more than worth the visits to his website.

For a long time, he also railed against other Catholics who were beginning to draw a line in the sand between good, GOP hating, Francis loving, new pro-life Catholics with stars on their bellies, versus stupid Francis hating Catholics who refuse to get in the progressive line.  More than once he posted long, almost tiresome attempts to reason with these Catholics who gave only one option, and that was to glorify them, the left, Pope Francis, and all that was pure Catholicism 21st Century style or pay the piper. 

Well, that was then.  Below is the discourse I had with him over a post dealing with Vatican II.  The whole of the post is here.  I have posted his end of the article summary, and my response.  My accounts of what happened are in bold, his answers and writings in italics.  The parts with no special font designs were my original posts in his actual comments section:

Brazilian Catholic writer Oliveira Leonardo has decided to start bashing and trashing Vatican II. I defend it and note that his oppositional zeal is utterly misplaced.

To which I responded with this comment:

I don't know, I think the discussion can be had.  I'm not sure the individual in question was claiming 100% of the problems in the Church are Vatican II.  There might be some who think that, but most I've read or listened to don't think that.  In fact, I've heard many not necessarily 'trashing or hashing' Vatican II, but who look at the state of the overall Church and wonder what went right, wrong and downright screwy after Vatican II.  I've heard more than one (including our priest) who clearly supports and celebrates Vatican II, but who also equally admits it was misused and abused by far too many Catholics to simply dismiss the subsequent decades as 'nothing to see here folks.'

I went back to see if there were any responses.  I noticed my comment was missing.  So I posted a question about what happened to it.  Seeing my question appear, I reposted my original comment.  Then I returned a day or so later and saw all of my comments were removed.  So I asked what’s up. And then Dave  answered:

I don't allow anti-Vatican II rhetoric on my pages unless I am in the mood for debating it (as I did in this exchange). Just take it somewhere else. I've had enough of it.

At that point, I responded:

Wait, was that my post? It couldn't have been, since it wasn't 'anti-Vatican II rhetoric' by any stretch of the phrase. All I said was the discussion about Vatican II can be had, and that most I know don't trash Vatican II as much as they try to figure what went wrong in the following decades. Which is true. So where did my comments go? I don't see them. Again, since again my posts were in no way close to 'anti-Vatican II rhetoric' I can't figure where they end up going.

Dave then responded:

That was my decision on my web page. If you don't like it, you can lump it.

With that pleasant little response, I answered thus:

You may do as you wish of course.  I wouldn't advise it since we've seen where others have ended up going with 'I have posted, now agree or be deleted.'  Mark Shea, of course, leaps to mind.  Best not to have comments at all if the only thing commenters are allowed to do is agree.   But again, despite seeing where others have gone with that approach, if that's where you wish to go, it is your blog.

Dave then responded once again:

If you bitch about it one more time, that'll be three strikes and you're out. What you are doing is universally agreed upon as trolling: continuing to strongly disagree on the policy of a site (how someone chooses to run his own pages), when the owner has made his view clear, that it crosses a line. Webmasters are benevolent dictators in their own domains. You don't like that? Get your own site and work for 29 years to build up name recognition, as I have.

You can pretend I am against free speech if you like. I guess that would be why I have 1,000+ dialogues, with my opponents' view (often, their complete article) on display for my readers. It's a standard lie when someone disagrees with me. Feel free to join the crowd there and make a fool of yourself.

I've dealt with THIS stuff for 25 years. St. Paul tells us to separate from contentious people. No one who is ever being contentious and divisive admits that he is.

This is my way of applying his command, while I still occasionally debate the issues, as I did in the OP.

With that, I then answered:

Well, there's not much I can say is there. Though I will say I had no intention of claiming you are against free speech. You might want to dial back the assumptions on that one. I would ask that you wait for me to do something before you begin piling on the problems with me if I do it. My only statement was questioning the wisdom of giving combox commenters no choice but to agree, given the track record of that approach to online discourse. Nonetheless, as you say, it is your blog and you may do with it as you wish. I'll respect your right to do so and drop the subject.

Dave then answered this way:

Wise choice. I just wrote elsewhere:

I have been totally banned for years at reactionary sites like The Remnant and Taylor Marshall's trash site. Peter Kwasniewski used to talk with me a bit. Now I am banned on his site, etc. One Peter Five banned me (under Skojec) when they had comments.

I only ban people who are persistently uncivil and hostile and won't follow my discussion rules: NOT because of what they believe. But I don't allow Vatican II-bashing or pope-bashing.

Certain folks call that "censorship." I call it Catholicism and Catholic unity.

"Best not to have comments at all if the only thing commenters are allowed to do is agree." If this lie from h e l l is NOT claiming I am against free speech on my blog, then we must have totally different brains, logic, and understandings of grammar and sentence meanings.

My final response, and my final comment on Dave’s social media platforms, was this:

With that, I'll leave you to it.

It’s worth noting this was not Dave Armstrong, c. 2006 when I first ran into him.  Or for that matter, it wasn’t him in 2016, ten years later.  It is, it should be pointed out, very similar to the likes of Mark Shea by 2016. 

I was informed it was becoming Dave Armstrong a couple years or so ago.  That was after Dave had a eureka moment, realized Pope Francis was absolutely right about banning the death penalty, came to realize the wonders of Pope Francis, and began banning people who hadn’t seen the light.  

I posted on this phenomenon of Catholics warming up to Pope Francis and growing in their intolerance of those who fail to agree, and how this was part of the war on EWTN waged by Pope Francis and his followers.  Not that those on the left, progressive Catholics or fans of Pope Francis are the only ones who do this.  But it seems an almost universal trait among those who are in those camps.

Because of that, I mentioned Dave was starting to sound strangely Sheaish in his dealings, which is never a good thing.  Dave visited my blog and protested that I had wrongly portrayed his approach to things.  He said this, despite the fact that I was going by people who he had banned for merely disagreeing with Pope Francis.  I accepted his perspective and figured fine, if he’s not going the direction that almost every Catholic who throws in with Pope Francis or progressive leanings seems to go, I’ll concede the point.

But now it’s this.  It’s like the feeling Ben Mears and Susan Norton have in Salem’s Lot as they begin to see more and more of the town show symptoms of being vampires.  As one after another shows the signs – bothered by sunlight, tired, sick feeling, strange dreams – they recoil all the more, for they know where this vermin plague of vampirism goes.

As I watch so many follow Pope Francis and inevitably end up going in the same direction in terms of intolerant behavior and vitriolic treatment of others; as I see so many jump in bed with the emerging Left, who inevitably follow the similar ‘I have spoken, celebrate or be banned’, I get the same feeling.  If it was just vampirism it wouldn't be so bad.  I fear it is much, much worse. 


  1. Armstrong is another one I have no idea really who he is. I've seen his name from time to time, but that's it. However, I don't understand the Francis thing AT ALL. I don't know if we were all just primed to hang on to every word of a Pope because of JPII, but I have been actively trying to ignore the guy since 2014. One year in and that was enough for me even though I respect that he holds the office of Pope. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I was wavering already in the first few months and his "Catholic rabbit" comment dis-endeared himself fully to me. And I can hardly forgive him for what he's doing to the poor Chinese Church! Yes, Francis is Pope, but if "by your fruits you shall know them", I'm not sure why one would be jumping on his bandwagon at this stage of the game, except there must be some easy worldly gain in it over the spiritual. And I will repeat this sentiment...I do not think most people should be making their livelihood off their professed faith, particularly as one has to essentially "brand" themselves to do it. I think very few people do it well to the true benefit of others or, ultimately, to themselves.

    Also, Stephen King is a pretty keen observer of human nature, I think. My husband and I look around us sometimes and see elements of "Needful Things."

    1. I'm not Catholic so I have no dog in the fight other than the general principle that we Christians should stand together less the World hang us separately. However I did find it interesting listening to this lecture.. well you can listen to the whole thing if you wish, but I timestamped the part where Pope Francis comes in. (1:14:00 if the jump doesn't work)

      He and Claus Schwabb apparently had the same mentor. Which starts to explain a lot.

    2. Regarding King, I find most authors to be pretty good observers of human nature. I don't think they could be an author otherwise. he's just not my cup of tea.

      Dave is a paid Catholic apologist. I first ran into him when I worked at the Coming Home Network. He does yeoman's work when it comes to unpacking the Catholic faith, especially against unfair or unwarranted attacks, as well as pointing to the biblical underpinnings of Catholic belief and practice. He traditionally was leery of the swing to the Left and the subsequent judgementalism and intolerance of those who everything from hated Trump to extolled the virtues of Pope Francis. But again, that was then, this is now. He's no hardcore leftist of course.. But then, neither were the Sheas, the Greydanuses, the Edens, the Moores, or many others I've seen go in the same direction and in the same manner. Perhaps he'll pull up before the dive becomes too much.

    3. Well, that clip above was rather stomach churning! It amazes me that people like Schwab speak so freely and openly about their intentions and if you repeat what they say you are somehow a "conspiracy theorist." The tentacles of Schwab and his Marxist ideas are long. But those who have eyes should see. For instance, I went to a county planning meeting over the summer and was treated to the most BORING talk I ever had to sit through. Two hours of listening to essentially nothing of substance being said. What WAS said was, "Be willing to question what you believe." "Be flux-able." "Sharing your possessions with the community is good." But it was all so vaguely presented it almost felt like subliminal messaging. Anyway, the speaker's name was April Rinne - (you can look her up) she's a young leader from the World Economic Forum and an advisor to China's "share" economy.
      She shares how she came to question all things after losing her parents in a car accident when she was in college. But she never came to any conclusion from that that she shared. There was no redeeming end to her story. The only conclusion she was trying to get across was that we need to be "flux-able" over the next 20 years because life can be unpredictable. I was absolutely horrified this person was speaking at my county level.

    4. Dave, you're right about authors. And King is not my cup of tea either, though I appreciate a few of his works. He seems at times to understand better how the Devil works than professed "children of the Light."

      I hope he pulls up, for his sake. It's a stupid and unnecessary hill to die on. I'm horrified how he responded to you with such lack of charity, but also with such active derision. That was a completely overwrought response. I would actually be more shocked except that I just recently saw it on a Greydanus thread where a man carefully laid out a case for looking at suggested anti-Semitism in context in Chesterton's works. He was thoughtful and thorough but the responses he got were basically boiled down to: "You're wrong and an idiot."
      It's exasperating more than anything as you would hope for better from these types of semi-public people representing faith, religion, and, one would hope, common decency.

    5. That's interesting that he would be chastised on Deacon's page over looking at anti-Semitism in Chesterton. That's all the rage - all the racism and bigotry in the great Catholics of old. Dawn Eden spent quite a few weeks this year going after Chesterton and others as anti-Semites. Same with Tolkien and racism, or Lewis and sexism. You'd think the Deacon's thread would be a safe space for that. But sometimes I think the internet almost encourages a knee-jerk attack response, even if normally we would agree. But what Dave did here, the saddest part, is the very thing he once called out. Which is all too common. I see Deacon Greydanus doing what he once clearly condemned. Which is it's own red warning flag. As I said, it's hardly unique to the left of center, but it seems almost universal to the left of center, both in and out of Church context.

    6. Whoops! I wasn't clear on that, sorry, David! (I was typing in between Halloween prep and running people places!) No...he was saying that you have to look at Chesterton's whole body of work and put his pieces on Jews in context and perspective. He was arguing (if you could say that as he was so even and polite) this as a Jewish man who appreciates Chesterton greatly. But I guess even being a Jew makes no difference if he doesn't come to the "right" conclusion.

    7. Ah, my bad. That makes perfect sense. Whether he is Jewish or not is as irrelevant as if Clarence Thomas is black or Tulsi Gabbard a woman. These privileged demographic groups matter to the Left only to the point their are convenient to matter to the Left. That has been made abundantly clear. It's a testimony to the power of this new revolution that it has already made it clear you may or may not be in a demographic group that matters - and yet how many happily follow along, betting the farm that it will just be 'them' who inevitably gets it in the neck. That this fellow would receive treatment like this on Deacon's page doesn't surprise me. Again, like Dave A. above, he once condemned such internet tricks and tactics, only to indulge them down the road. When he and I - who used to have enjoyable discussions about various topics - disagreed over Pope Francis and immigration, after a few rounds he threw a not too subtle accusation of racism at me and then banned me. The very type of thing he would never have done, c. 2006 when I first heard of him. Such is the legacy of those who swing left unfortunately. It's not an exception to the rule. It has all the appearances of an unbendable rule that must be followed.

  2. Dave: two things from a recently retired Catholic school teacher:
    1. Something was going on in the Church and society at the time of VII, and some of the falling away that happened afterwards might well have occurred anyway. Fulton Sheen's writings in the 1950s gave warnings (sometimes of the Harrison Ford "I've got a bad feeling" type that took no clear shape). The post-war conservatism was weakening, society was getting richer, and (as in the Renaissance) rich Christians were seeking ways to buy out of the Sixth Commandment, and the Church probably needed a council like that of Trent: some reform of old policies, but a strong affirmation of the Faith of the Ages, including a really resounding defense of Catholic moral principles, and clear opposition to both statism (not just Communism) and scientism. The age needed a challenge as well as dialogue and the challenge never came. Two things more (a) the liturgy should not have been touched and (b) Paul VI should never have consulted "experts" before writing Humanae Vitae, both of which gave the fatal "official" impression that the aforementioned rich could have their way out of the old moral doctrines..
    2. History shows we have had bad Popes, and by that I mean not just flawed but wicked men. We haven't had one in so long we seem to think the thing can never happen. Read Dawson on the "pornocracy" if you think the Lavender Mafia is a novelty. Read Dante on Boniface VIII, and there were plenty of bad characters in the Renaissance. There are few after Trent, and from Pius VII (elected 1800) we've had men of at least decent character, if not always great ability. But it is not out of line to ask certain harsh things about Francis, as long as we stick to the evidence. The popalators don't know their history.

    1. I'm not a bona fide Catholic Church historian. But it seems the Church attempted to stand against the fickle waves of modernity back when many mainline Protestant traditions were jumping full blown into whatever was the latest, hippest. Yet by the mid-20th century, you begin seeing statements and writings of Catholics sounding as if there is some middle ground to be had between the World and the Church. VII didn't start everything. Those who were there were already concluding the entire Faith neded to be brought into line - apparently WWII beijng enough proof that the world had a good head on its shoulders.

      And yes, we've had bad popes. I find Pope Francis's behavior to be the bigger issue, though he's clearly framing things to set up future changes in the Church's teachings. Right now, he's apparently fine saying aborting 65 million babies is nothing less than murdering 65 million children - but it's hardly a deal breaker. Not like failing to condemn the arms industry, or opposing open borders, or bucking the latest COVID measures, or questioning Global Warming. Do those things and he suddenly morphs into der panzerpappa. I think Rod Dreher was right when he said Pope Francis is the pope the Church has long dreaded.

    2. The problem is less Vatican II than Vatican I. The former, with its centralizing madness, made the papacy a single point of failure in the Western Church.

      Capture the papacy--or at least his ear--and all can be remade. That novelty made the current crisis inevitable. It also makes it unsolvable, at least within the structure of the Church itself. Leaf through the Code of Canon Law's sections on the papacy and you see that every Pope is Big Brother, and when he writes something, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

      The fate of Veritatis Splendor shows that Rome, too, has a memory hole. And it's activated by the pontiff deciding to ignore what his predecessors may have said. We don't get Amoris Laetitia if the pontiff cites Veritatis, an encyclical that Vatican II says binds the whole church, including one Jorge Bergoglio. But he didn't, because he's pope and you're not.

      Memory hole activated. New doctrine issued.

  3. (Tom New Poster)
    That was me just above.

  4. As I said on TAC, "repressive tolerance" is the name of the game. Anything from the left is permitted, anything from the right must be repressed. It is rather fascinating how much those who end up supporting Francis (let's not get into his past just yet) end up embracing this paradigm. That the window of permitted "tolerance" and disagreement keeps getting more and more narrow...

    Heck per the words I read, you were as civil as one could possibly be shy of actively posting praise for the host every other sentence. That is apparently "trolling" now. Though of course these authors are always supportive of "civil" discussion and disagreement mind you.

    It's just... funny isn't it how they can't ever seem to post any examples of such. (Or if they do, it's always from the left.)

    Other Dave can at least take comfort that he is making a strong case for the Orthodox Church.

    1. To be brutally honest, I think it's because people from Shea to Dave to Greydanus know what they're doing, what they have to do to do it, what they have to ignore to do it, and what they have to defend to do it. When people are in the wrong, they can become the proverbial cornered animal. For Catholics who have to insist Pope Francis isn't a politically liberal child of Marxist based Latin American Liberation theology, what can they do? Enter into civil discourse? Or pull online rhetorical tricks like name calling, boxing people into groups, or even preemptively condemning (as Dave did when he began pointing out why I'd be a fool for doing something I had no intention of doing). The option? Debate in good faith and maturity and listen to what the other one is saying. And as I say, I've learned among those Christians who swing Left and Catholics who go Pope Francis that such an option just isn't going to be in the catalogue.

    2. Oh, and right about the trolling dig. He said that and I had the sudden urge to do an Inigo Montoya about his word choice.

    3. "Dave can at least take comfort that he is making a strong case for the Orthodox Church."

      The only one who does it better is the reigning pontiff.

      But Dave is helpful in that he shows that Catholicism has devolved into pure papal positivism. If the pope says it, that's all that matters. Tradition itself is no more than wet clay in the infallible potter's hands, to be manipulated as his desires see fit. You must obey, contrary recent statements by other popes be damned.

      It began with Vatican I and the centralizing power grab that followed. But Pope Bergoglio (as the Italians are wont to call the popes, using their surnames) is just showing how far gone that choice was.

      If all that stops an autocrat is his conscience, you'll eventually get one whose conscience is, shall we say, more protean. Or worse. And here we are.

  5. Sad, the whole thing is sad...
    And Satan wins!

    1. The whole thing is sad, and as Nate said, it's a reminder why many will no doubt hang separately in the future instead of standing together in the present.

    2. Instead of hanging together, you mean. At least get the saying right.

    3. No, in other words, if we stand together today, we might not have to hang separately tomorrow. My point is, we need not hang. Not we can only choose how we hang. Next time seek clarification before leaping to assumption. It makes critiques seem more credible, and not just chances at 'gotcha!'.

  6. Being read out of polite society by Too Long; Dave Armstrong has become a badge of honor. His former merits have been submerged by the demerits that were always present.

    He's a PR man for his own brand in the mould of William Donahue. It becomes less of a ministry and more of a reflexive schtick every month.

    1. I will admit the quality has dropped. I wouldn't say it was all the moment he had his vision of Pope Francis, but it has certainly hastened since then.

  7. This happens a lot. There seems to be a progression.
    1. Blogger sees problems in the Church and desires to help.
    2. Blogger believes that blogs / books / podcasts like his are, if not exactly sacraments, somehow an essential part of a the Church, at least on par with the work and prayers of monks and nuns.
    3. Blogger becomes convinced that he is the only one who can save the Church.
    3a. Blogger sees his role as more important than that of priests. (Note: Blogger may actually BE a priest, but the blog is more important than the parish.)
    3b. Blogger sees his role as more important than that of bishops.
    3c. Blogger sees his role as more important than that of the Pope.
    3d. Blogger becomes convinced that God Himself could not save the Church without the help of the blogger.
    4. Blogger asks a talking flounder to make him God. Blogger finds himself back in a hovel.

    Several blogger / apologists are hovering near the threshold of step 4.

    1. There sure is that possibility. Personally I think it arises out of the tensions of believers forcing themselves to deny the obvious.

    2. Or believers spending more time writing about belief than practicing it or even much less, nourishing it.

    3. Ouch. Sometimes I fear I stand accused. As a pastor I recall it being difficult to separate being religious because one felt compelled to get closer to God, versus being religious because it's in the job description. I think the Internet has lassoed many laypeople into that little trap.

  8. (But known elsewhere and detesting Google)

    In looking at the larger landscape, it's as if the Left has become one giant Ouija board and those who play with it get vistors.

    1. The Left is the Bad Cop. Remember, the Good Cop is on the same side as the Bad Cop, and it isn't yours.

    2. True - to a point. In a pinch, I'll still take the good cop and hope he's really good. Since I'm already pretty sure about my chances with the bad one.

    3. It's as if it has become flagrant. Only months ago journalists and activists were outraged at the suggestion that minors are being surgically altered for gender identity. A viscous lie. A few weeks ago? I see on CBS that people are rejoicing that more hospitals are thankfully surgically altering the bodies of minors based on gender identity. It's as if they're daring us to complain as they become more flagrant in their goals.

  9. Dave Armstrong has a bad tendancy to lash out at anyone who disagrees with him. Several years ago, he posted an article blasting Michael Voris for criticizing the use of Amazing Grace in the Catholic Church. I made a comment saying why do we have to use any Protestant hymns or songs at all. The Catholic Church has a treasure trove of nearly 2000 years of music, so why even bother singing Protestant music? Well DA went ballistic on me because I suggested Catholic music for Catholic Churches. Over the next few months, I noticed that seemed to be the way he treated anyone who had the gall to disagree with his magisterial opinions. And over the years, I've noticed he has lost the friendship of several Catholic Apologists because he demanded that they see things his way or take the highway. Apparently, being the man is more important to him than being a friend.

    1. Sad thing is, I don't recall him being like that back in the day when I first met him. And I admit, part of it is the Internet alternate reality. A place, as and individual once said about trolls, that people who never had the courage to be a bully can go to be a bully. I'm sure some of it is that. But I can't help but notice it's picked up steam since he had is 'Pope Francis actually rocks!' moment. I think, from what others have said, Dave was already starting to warm up to the 'my toys, play my way or I'm going home' approach to blogging. But since that moment, he's sadly gone way over the top, as the above dialogue demonstrates.

  10. Good blog post Dave. I don't have much use for most Catholic apologists these days. Especially ones on social media. Shea, Henry Alt (Did he change his name?), Armstrong and the lot are just political hacks mostly these days. Books by Scott Hahn are decent. Jimmy Akin is a good apologist who generally steers clear of politics. Other than that I really have zero use for them when we have the Early Church Fathers, and the Cathechism. Most as someone else said are more interested in their brand than Catholic teaching.


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