Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Holy Water Debate: Concluding Statement

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Holy Water debate is now complete. Here is my concluding statement. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also, don't forget that you have until the end of the day tomorrow to email me any questions you may have for Turretinfan.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
Let's begin by listing the various holes and omissions that weaken tfan's defense of the negative position:
  • No response to my proof that he exagerated when he said, "the passage cited by PC does not appear in several versions of the Apostolic Constitutions."

  • No response to my argument that the anonymity of the author of the Apostolic Constitutions does not itself discredit the statements found therein.

  • Nowhere in our cross-examination did he show that the casting out of devils that Bede reports was due to the soil instead of water. Tfan asserted that they were cast out by soil, I told him why they weren't, and he simply repeated his position instead of refuting my answer.

  • No response to me when I said that the way in which the water became holy was irrelevant.
We see from this that tfan has done nothing to discredit either the Apostolic Constitutions or Bede's Ecclesiastical History as witnesses from the early Church of the effectiveness of holy water against demons. Keep this in mind whenever you read from him that I didn't provide any evidence from the early Church.

The holes don't stop there:
  • No Scripture passage provided that either explicitly or implicitly rejects the use of holy water against demons.

  • No response to the proof I provided against his assertion that "special miracles" ceased after the Apostolic period.

  • In his haste to disagree with me he contradicted himself on this point, denying that holy things can be effective against demons (here) after he had affirmed the effectivneness of soil (here).

  • When I pointed out the irrelevancy of his statement, "'unclean' is simply a figure of speech for the fact that they are evil," I again received no response.

  • When I showed that it could just as easily be the holiness of Jesus' name that expels demons as it could be the authority of guessed it, nothing.

  • When I explained the exceptions in which the devil and his demons are allowed to be in the presence of holiness, he simply called this a "fall-back position" without actually refuting it.
Note, regarding that last point, that when I said, "Demons are rightly repulsed by anything that is holy," I was speaking normatively, which is just common sense. If we tried to include every single exception whenever we spoke affirmatively, it would take us forever to actually say anything. So, my later statements regarding the examples he provided were hardly a "fall-back position" or an admission that he was right.

What these lists reveal is that tfan has not successfully defended his position on a variety of points. The few arguments that he did actually follow-up on and that I haven't responded to yet will be answered below.

From his rebuttal post:
Using Holy Water to counter demonic forces is undeniably innovative [. . .] and we have seen silence from the Early Church Fathers [. . .]
Noting that the Apostolic Constitutions and Bede's Ecclesiastical History have not been sufficiently discredited, there is also the following testimony from the early Church:
  • Under the subheading "Miracles by Holy Water" we read:
    "Sts. Chrysostom, Fortunatus, Theodore, Luthbert, Hegesippus, Anno, Anselm, Bernard, Malachy, Columba, and Edmond healed many afflicted persons from evils both of soul and body" [emphasis mine]. -- Richard Brennan, LL.D, The Means of Grace: A Complete Exposition of the Seven Sacraments, Their Institution, Meaning, Requirements, Ceremonies, and Efficacy (2nd ed., Benziger Brothers, 1894, p. 367)

  • "St. Achard [A.D. 687], abbot of Jumieges, in the diocese of Rouen, used to go over his abbey every night when the inmates had retired to their cells, and visit the dormitories with cross and holy water to drive away evil spirits, which often hid themselves in these places to scare the sleepers in their sleep." -- Surius, "Lives of the Saints"; as quoted in A Dictionary of Miracles: Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic by Ebenezer Cobham (Chatto and Windus, 1901, p. 505/605)

  • "A visitor to St. Sophia in sixth-century Constantinople described water 'gurgling noisily into the air' from a bronze pipe 'with a force that banishes all evils'" [emphasis mine]. -- Ann Wroe, "Holy Water", in America Magazine

  • The article on Holy Water from the New Advent Encyclopedia mentions "the Pontifical of Scrapion of Thumis, a fourth-century bishop, and likewise the 'testamentum Domini', a Syriac composition dating from the fifth to the sixth century" [emphasis mine], which contain a blessing of oil and water for the "putting to flight" of "every evil spirit." The article also mentions of a Joseph of Tiberias who blessed some water, and, pouring it on a man, healed him of his "infernal spirit."
It should be obvious by now that the use of holy water is far from "innovative", nor is it an invention of the Middle Ages.

B. Likewise, demons can be cast out by those who are not holy, for a variety of reasons. Chapter II of the Apostolic Constitutions states, “nor will those who cast demons be sanctified by the demons being made subject to them: for they only mock one another, as they do who play childish tricks for mirth, and destroy those who give heed to them.”
But that's not what that quotation means. Just because an exorcist is not sanctified by the act of expelling a demon, that doesn't mean that he was not already holy to begin with.

C. Similarly, canon 79 of the Apostolic Constitutions prohibits ordination of demoniacs, and even prohibits demoniacs from praying “with the faithful.” This would seem to be an utterly unnecessary prohibition if it was believed at that time that demons are repulsed by anything that is holy.
This is not an unnecessary prohibition. You wouldn't want someone ordained who is susceptible to possession by the devil. As for the prohibition from praying with the faithful, there are always sinners in the Church who could be negatively influenced by the demoniac, were the demon to return.

2. It has not been established that “Holy Water” is, in fact, holy.
There's holy water in Scripture (cf. Exo 23:25; Num 5:17; 19:9,13-20; 2 Ki 2:19-22). There's also the examples from the early Church that I have already provided, in which water is blessed and made holy. Water can definitely be made holy, just like oil can (cf. Exo 30:25,31; 37:29; Num 35:25; Psa 89:20).

B. The infidels and pagans also consecrate water, but it should not be deemed “Holy.” Thus, merely consecrating water is not enough to make it holy.
It is when Christians are involved.

Finally, from tfan's Conclusion:

It’s a classic example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy [. . .] It’s also a class example of self-reinforcement [. . .] Finally, to complete the superstitious stool, there is the leg of the statistical fallacy of filtering
There are no logical fallacies involved here. We are both operating under the assumption that if a belief and/or practice is found in the early Church, it is a valid one. That's why tfan has made that a requirement of me. I am simply fulfilling his requirement.

- Unclean Spirits: If we were trying to make unclean spirits clean, sprinkling holy water on them might make sense. But we are not, so it doesn’t. Ritual uncleanness for which the OT prescribed washing is unlike spiritual uncleanness, for which the OT prescribed sacrifice.
This is not true. Scripture specifically said that the "water for impurity" was used "for the removal of sin" (Num 19:9).

PC says that he is not willing to take John Paul Perrin’s word for the fact that the use of holy water against demons was simply a medieval superstition. Perrin however, documented his claim with an appeal to a Roman Catholic doctor (physician) who testified to that fact.
Physicians do not have authority in theological matters.

Furthermore, we have the testimony of other Catholics, such as Erasmus (who was offered the position of cardinal by Paul III), who acknowledge that the medieval era was awash with superstitions (see, for example, “In praise of folly,” pp. 85-87 (link)). One can even find admissions of the extent of superstitions in Europe from Cardinal Newman, who was certainly accepting of a continuity of miracles (see, Lives of the English Saints, Section 3 “Hermit Saints,” p. 57 (link)).
That doesn't mean that holy water was one such superstition.

In closing, I had several quotes from the ECF’s on holy oil that I promised to provide, but the word limit confines me to this single quotation:
  • "I know that a young woman of Hippo was immediately dispossessed of a devil, on anointing herself with oil, mixed with the tears of the prebsyter who had been praying for her." --St. Augustine, City of God (413-427 A.D.), Bk. 22

If there was every a doubt that holy things can be used to cast away demons, that should expel it.

Pax Christi,


*Linda Pinda* said...

Please let me say that I am pleased with the intellectual and spiiritual stimulation that your blog invites and encourages.

I realize this is an "old debate", so therefore I won't add any other questions, but I would like to comment that I find it interesting when folks attack what is holy by pointing to the fact that the same element was used in pagan rituals, etc. Weak argument.

Do these debaters wear wedding rings? Or do they intend to when they do get married? Oh, oh... better watch out. The pagans did that!

Let's face it folks... we can get wrapped up in all kinds of foolishness to try to dismiss what is holy, but in fact, there are only so many natural elements in this world and we all use them... Catholics, non Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslems, pagans, etc.

Scripture is full of all the ways God's holy people have used natural elements such as water and fire to worship, purify, etc.

We no longer have to sacrifice heifers because the great sacrifice has been made once and for all. But we continue to use certain elements that aid us in our worship and are indeed holy.

Jesus came to this world as a faithful ritualistic Jew. He practiced the laws of His Jewish faith right up to His death, and indeed it was followed through in His burial. He said He did not come to change the law but to fulfill it.

We continue to be a ritualistic people using the same instruments given to God's people by their loving Father. Our focus and our intent may be refocussed in light of Christ's sacrifice, but we continue to embrace all that He has given us.

Peace & Love, *Linda*

phatcatholic said...

Thanks for the comment, Linda. You're right, that argument is weak. Jimmy Akin calls it the "Pagan Influence fallacy." He refutes it at length here:

Pax Christi,

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