A false dilemma


False dilemma:

A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the “or” operator. Putting issues or opinions into “black or white” terms is a common instance of this fallacy.

E.g., criticize the pope, or pray and fast for him. Those are your only two choices.

An analogy was suggested at Mass this morning: that of St. Peter, the first pope, who denied Our Lord three times and yet subsequently became a great saint, and Pope Francis, who is likewise sinful and flawed but may also become a great saint. The homily’s implication was that we should temper our criticism of the Holy Father just as we do for Saint Peter.

First, praying and sacrificing for the pope, and criticizing or correcting him when necessary, are not mutually exclusive. I don’t believe our homilist explicitly claimed they were, but I suspect that many in the pews came away with that impression. This suggestion would be a classic false dilemma.

Second, it must be recalled that St. Peter, at the time of his denials, was not in a position of great influence. There is no record of others following him in his denials. Certainly, if he had encouraged others to do the same, any disciple of Christ would have been obligated to state publicly: “No, don’t follow Peter in this matter. He is wrong. To follow him would be a sin.” Unfortunately with Pope Francis we are faced with a pope who has immense influence and who has, in fact, led millions into false beliefs by his many heterodox statements. No good Catholic can be silent in the face of this reality. We must oppose Pope Francis publicly when he is misleading people publicly. Pray and sacrifice, of course, but also speak up!

It is crucial that the SSPX not be the only voice that warns people of this danger. The Society’s voice is important, but there also need to be voices among other orthodox Catholics of every persuasion. At this point, the orthodox clergy must toe the line, in order to preserve what good influence they have under this pope, but the laity are not so constrained. Speaking out at this juncture is primarily the duty of the laity. You have been taught your Faith for a reason. Defend it.

7 thoughts on “A false dilemma

  1. In fact, after Peter had the authority of the Pope, St. Paul (although not laity) certainly gave criticism to Peter (one example in Galatians). And of course St. Catherine of Sienna, charitably, but forcefully directly contacted the Pope more than once to return to Rome.


  2. Hi Janice, I hope I didn’t misinterpret the message. In any case, our good priests are doing the best they can in difficult times. P.S. Sorry not to have said “hello” when I dropped off G, but I would have ended up staying for an hour and talking your ears off. You know me. Very much enjoyed the drive otherwise!


  3. At this point, the orthodox clergy must toe the line, in order to preserve what good influence they have under this pope,

    Actually, it may be that this is the time for the orthodox clergy to start plowing the ground in preparation for a worse situation tomorrow. Without directly being contradictory to the Pope, they can be pulling out passages from the Fathers and Doctors and prior popes that clearly run in HIGH contrast to things the Pope is saying, and get people to realize that they have more to do than simply listen to the Pope, they need to sift and weigh and discern and, sometimes, conclude that the Pope is being (pick one) sloppy, goofy, facetious, or just plain unexplainable.

    When the occasional progressive gets in their faces about this tactic, they can quote Francis back to them: “It goes in one ear and out the other.” I have started using this quote regularly. If it’s good enough for Francis, it is good enough for me.



  4. Excellent point on We All need to speak out, not just letting SSPX carry this burden. That is the spirit of the recent SENSUS FIDEI. The laity needs to get with it. Great site!


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