Monday, January 15, 2018

Raymond Arroyo and the Piano Men

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.


  1. Vickie,

    Over the years I've most definitely appreciated all you have contributed on Vericast, articles you've written, and responses you've provided in the com-box. In past pieces you've written or spoken about you've provided good analysis, references and personal wisdom. I hope you don't take it personal but on these last two pieces it seems to me more of a defense of the persons character and validity of contributing to a discussion. While I completely agree with you on this I didn't see any specific analysis of the items being discussed. Which is what I would rather focus on. Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains yet another controversial idea introduced by Pope Francis. Basically presenting the idea that anyone can come to the realization that God wills him to stay in a sinful situation. condition. Didn't Saint Pope Paul II warn about presenting Church teaching as only a "ideal" in Veritatis Splendor? As Pope Paul II stated wouldn't this be a serious error? In my personal situation I would much rather receive spiritual communion and be obedient to the Church's teaching on marriage than to be admitted directly to communion before an annulment is granted. Personally I was drawn more into communion with the Church and hungered and thirsted for the participation in the real presense. Amoris Laetitia blurs the lines unnecessarily and blind obedience to authority without the wisdom of whole Church (as you and I are part of) discounts the dubia and those who have signed. I appreciate your defense of these lay people but caution full acceptance of this document but will continue to pray for our Church. But, hey maybe by next week Tim and Wilson will be back clarifying it for all of us Vericats. God Bless (Point Vicente)

  2. Hi Matt. Thanks for the comment. You may have given me some ideas for a couple of blog posts. As for these two...I often, in my personal blog, write pieces that are merely commentaries. They weren't meant to be an analysis of Amoris Laetitia. They were meant to speak to the idea that regular Catholics can contribute to the discussion and my take on some attitudes concerning the defense of the pope.
    You know, to pull one paragraph from a document outside of what proceeds and follows, as well as outside of the entirety of the document itself and compare it to a single statement from another Pope in another document, especially to prove conflict, is a form of proof texting. That is not the way the Church generally interprets itself.
    There are two usages of the word ideal. Church teachings are indeed the ideal, as in the standard or most beneficial response to the Gospel. At the same time they are not ideals as in mere concepts, ideas or abstractions. Pope John Paul II in VS says that it is an error to see Church teachings as mere concepts, ideas or abstractions and not concrete realities for our lives. In AL, Pope Francis, as far as I can tell uses the word in the sense of the standard, or most beneficial response to the Gospel.
    Paragraph 303 in no way presents the idea that anyone can come to the realization that God wills him to stay in a sinful situation. Rather it speaks of a gradualness that is expressed as well in the paragraphs proceeding and following. Which is in line with John Paul II. In fact, in the paragraph in question, Pope Francis specifically says one does not stay in their situation but must dynamically remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal (beneficial response) to be more fully realized.
    Also, when I see the words "blind obedience to authority" I proceed with caution. For it is not the position of those who defend the pope or defend Amoris Laetitia. I might expand on that in a new blog post. Stay tuned.


    This was written by Scott Eric Alt, one of the Piano Men mentioned in the blog. For some reason he was not able to get through on the comments. As he has researched Amoris Laetetia more extensively than I have I include this link as part of the discussion.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank You for your response. However, I strongly believe the general sense for the faithful is that when your divorced and remarried not a problem, consult a local pastor to receive direction to receive communion the following Sunday, with or without confession. There is no clarity on this matter which is why clarity is being sought after. So today I learn that Pope Francis conducted a wedding on an airplane. Have you read about this? Do you think this was a move that is good for a Catholic understanding of marriage? I do not believe it is but I'm just a Vericat:P

  6. Hi Matt,
    I understand about your misgivings concerning abuses but to state that in general the sense of people would be that they would be admitted directly to communion is an exaggeration. It has been quite clear to me this whole time that it would be a process that in some cases could lead to the sacraments, which would be both confession and communion. People don't want clarity they want the Pope to retract. No amount of guidelines, no list of requirements to clarify or avoid the abuse you mentioned would satisfy short of a retraction.
    It is interesting to me that you sent an opinion piece about the wedding on the airplane and not just a report of what happened. I did read about it. What the Pope did was called a convalidation. I am surprised that canon lawyer did not make the distinction clear. Because it would have provided some clarity. Since the Pope can dispense with certain requirements regarding these things, I think you that it is probably a thin argument that the marriage may not be valid or licit. As long as proper consent was given, which I have no reason to believe that it wasn't. However, am I dismayed that this isn't being explained properly? Yes. Could you make the argument of a disregard of how the event would be perceived that is not prudent regarding the Catholic understanding of marriage? I would probably say you have a point there.

  7. FYI:
    The Sarah case:

    The case for absolution:

    A possible reply to the dubia:

  8. Any thoughts on this article?

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