It looks like I have some follow-up material to the piece I wrote the other day on Stephan Walford. I wrote because I saw a comment that dismissed Walford as a piano teacher and not a theologian, implying that ordinary Catholics have no place in discussions and debates concerning the Church.
I actually thought that it was mainly a combox thing but it seems that even Raymond Arroyo has resorted to this same dismissive tactic and is riding the "piano teacher and not a theologian" bandwagon. In a recent discussion with Fr. Gerald Murray on a segment of The World Over, Arroyo is quoted as saying.
"Now I should say, I've done some research on Mr. Walford. Near as I can tell he is a piano teacher with no other credentials, theologically or otherwise, except for a papal visit with his family"
Either Mr. Arroyo's researching skills are severely lacking, which would then make me question his qualifications as a broadcaster and reporter, or he deliberately misrepresented Stephen Walford personally. Even a cursory, rudimentary google search would have revealed that Walford is, indeed a piano teacher but also a Catholic writer and author. It would seem to me that Arroyo made a deliberate omission in order to make Stephen Walford appear to be inconsequential.
Not only did they deliberately misrepresent Mr. Walford himself they also misrepresented his arguments. Arroyo equated Walford's position as one who sees the Church as a political institution that changes its policies with each new elected official. Father Murray said that Mr. Walford was taking the position of saying that adultery can be a good thing. Walford's writing reflects neither of those positions. In fact, Arroyo only pulled two quotes from Walford's articles, one that was critical of himself and another that was critical of Fr. Murray. In essence, Arroyo and Fr. Murray were defending themselves.
I wonder if Mr. Arroyo would find if unfair for someone to disqualify him by asking what kind of theological or ecclesiological credentials you receive from New York University Tisch School of the Arts when you study acting? I am sure he would say that he only reports the news. However as he also includes commentary and his own opinions you might wonder what qualifies him to do so. Or if they invalidated the many lay apostolates of EWTN in such a way? It would indeed be an unfair assessment and a deliberate misrepresentation to make them appear irrelevant.
Another Piano man not a theologian, Scott Eric Alt responds to Arroyo on his Facebook page:
"If Raymond Arroyo wishes to attack Stephen Walford for being a piano teacher but having the audacity to depend the pope (I mean imagine--a Catholic defending the pope; what new paradigm is this?), then let him go after me too. I also teach piano, and I also defend Amoris Laetitia. When's my turn? An attack on one pianist is an attack on all"
Alt does list his occupation on Facebook as piano teacher. He also formally taught writing and literature. He has been writing in the area of apologetics for years. In September he wrote a 7 part series correcting the Correctors, refuting the allegations of heresy made by the signatories of the Correctio Filialis. Like Stephen Walford, Scott Eric Alt has often defended the pope against all comers. I wish Arroyo would invite them on the World Over. My money would be on the Piano Men.
Whenever I think about defending the Pope, I am reminded of the bible story of Moses, Aaron and Hur.
Moses therefore said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him; he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he left his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Exodus 17:9-14
The staff of God represents God's authority. As God sends Moses on his mission he institutes Moses' staff as the sign of authority. The staff is used throughout in the signs and the plagues. At the Red Sea, God even asks Moses why they are crying out to him rather than using the authority that he has already given Moses to use the staff to part the Red Sea.(Exodus 14:15-16) In the same way that Moses was chosen as the one in whose hands the staff of authority was solely given, so too has the authority of Jesus Christ been placed in the hands of his Church through the pope and magisterium.
Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in his human weakness but the staff remained in the hands of Moses. It is important to note what did not occur in this story. Aaron and Hur did not seize the staff, taking it into their own hands. Nor did they begin to berate Moses for his human weakness fearing that he will endanger them all. Joshua does not call up from the battlefield, "Moses, your weakness will be our destruction". Aaron and Hur came along side of Moses by necessity precisely because of human weakness. Joshua did not lose heart and stood firm.
We might want to be mindful of certain attitudes regarding the Pope. If we want to know what happens when we don't uphold the one who holds the staff we need only read Numbers chapters 16 and 17. When the people said to Moses and Aaron "Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord's congregation?" God's response involved the perpetrators of this rebellion being swallowed up by the earth, consumed by fire, as well as a scourge upon the people that was stopped in mid wave by the intercession of Aaron at the direction of Moses. Suffice it to say that it is an illustration that indicates that it is the prayers of the Church, the established authority, on our behalf that can turn the tide of the wrath of God even as the blow falls. And when Moses misused the staff it was God alone who dealt with him.
Jesus said "All power in heaven and earth has been given to me" (Matt 28:18). In Matthew 16 Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom that represent his authority into the hands of Peter and his successors. The gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against that authority. We cannot expect the tide to turn, that we will have the better of the fight if we will not support the arms of the one into whose hands such authority has been given.
This is why my money is on the Piano Men and those like them. Because they understand that there is one way and one way only to have the better of this fight. They understand that you can't equivocate a distinction between upholding the Pope and upholding the teachings of the Church. For it is impossible to support the teachings of the Church without supporting the one into whose hands the guarantee of those teachings has been given. Because they chose to be as Aaron and Hur in supporting the arms of the Pope. They chose to be like Joshua who stood firm and did not lose heart, with confidence in the power of God rather than relying on his own proficiency in battle.
Not so with many of the critics of the Pope who believe that they can wrest the staff from his hands and hold it up themselves without him. Or those who berate him for being human. Or those who fear that human weakness will bring about the collapse of the Church. Or those who believe that it is the proficiency of their arguments or their qualifications and credentials that will win the day. And when they resort to misrepresenting and misapplying the teachings of the Church in order discredit the Pope? When they resort to omissions and misrepresentations in order that his defenders will appear inconsequential and irrelevant?...I gotta say...they're probably on shaky ground.
For what it's worth.