The Wile E. Coyote of Liberal Catholic Pundits



Among the born again ultramontanists so much in fashion on the Catholic Left in this country since the advent of Pope Francis, is Michael Winters of the National Catholic Fishwrap Reporter.  Robert George has designated him the Wile E. Coyote of contemporary liberal Catholicism in a root and branch take down at First Things:

For reasons I cannot fathom, Michael Winters of the National Catholic Reporter seems determined to cast himself as the Wile E. Coyote of contemporary liberal Catholicism. His elaborate efforts to capture his prey—his roadrunners are those “culture warrior” bishops (such as Charles Chaput of Philadelphia) and Catholic intellectuals who are too zealous for his taste in defending the Church’s teachings on life, marriage, and sexual morality—inevitably backfire, usually comically and sometimes humiliatingly. But he intrepidly keeps at it, hoping against hope, I suppose, that his next effort will finally bring success.

Earlier this week, I was the roadrunner, as from time to time I am. I had offered four points to bear in mind about the teaching authority of the papal magisterium as we await the encyclical letter Pope Francis is preparing on our moral obligations concerning the natural environment. They were drawn from the teaching of the Church herself (in Lumen Gentium and the Catechism) about magisterial authority. But Wile E. Coyote perceived in my stating them a nefarious purpose:

Professor George . . . set[s] out a nearly pitch-perfect set of talking points for minimizing the impact of whatever it is the Holy Father will say, that is, advancing his own conservative political agenda.

And, he thinks, he can prove it!

He quotes this sentence from my post:

The pope has no special knowledge, insight, or teaching authority pertaining to matters of empirical fact of the sort investigated by, for example, physicists and biologists, nor do popes claim such knowledge, insight, or authority.

Now anyone who knows anything about Catholic teaching on papal authority knows that this proposition is, not to put too fine a point on it, undeniable. If the pope wants to know whether it is going to rain tomorrow, he has no hotline to the Holy Spirit on the subject. Weather patterns are (to hew closer to the Church’s understanding of its authority) no part of the deposit of faith, complete at the death of the last Apostle, which the Pope and the bishops with him are protected from error in formally defining and clarifying over time. When it comes to meteorology, the pope has to do what you and I and everyone else must do: Consult the meteorologists. 

But Wile E. Coyote nevertheless thinks he’s finally got the prey in his grip. So he goes for it.

The sentence, he labors to explain, “suffers from several difficulties. First, the pope does have knowledge that you and I do not have, and that I suspect Professor George does not have: He listens to the bishops throughout the world and knows what concerns they have regarding the environment and other matters of moral concern.”

Let’s hit the pause button for a chuckle. I had pointed out that popes have no special knowledge regarding matters of empirical fact of the sort investigated by natural scientists. Mr. Winters tries to contest the point by saying that popes “listen to the bishops throughout the world and know what concerns they have regarding the environment and other matters of moral concern.” Thus does Wile E. Coyote’s explosive go off in his hand.

Go here to read the brilliant  rest.

More to explorer


  1. A pity that Prof George spoils an otherwise excellent piece by the assertion (irrelevant to his argument) that the child, from the moment of conception is “one that is numerically identical to the individual who will later be a nine-month old infant, a nine-year old child, and with luck a ninety-year-old woman or man.”

    Well, no. As G E M Anscombe pointed out, in the case of monozygotic twins, “Neither of the two humans that eventually develop can be identified the same human as the zygote, because they can’t both be so, as they are different humans from one another.” In other words, if twins A and B are each “numerically identical” to Z, the original zygote, then, by transivity of identity, they would be identical to each other: which is absurd.

    Of course, as Anscombe insists, the zygote is a “living individual whole whose life is—all going well—to be the life of one or lives of more than one human being.”

  2. Professor George:
    “The pope has no special knowledge, insight, or teaching authority pertaining to matters of empirical fact of the sort investigated by, for example, physicists and biologists, nor do popes claim such knowledge, insight, or authority.”
    Michael Winters:
    “First, the pope does have knowledge that you and I do not have, and that I suspect Professor George does not have: He listens to the bishops throughout the world and knows what concerns they have regarding the environment and other matters of moral concern.”
    Error: the opinion and concerns of the non-scientific Bishops about the environment does NOT constitute science.
    (1) Why do liberal progressive Democrats appeal to Papal authority when what they support is being supported by the Pope (environmental consciousness), but deny Papal authority when what they support is opposed by the Pope (homosexual marriage and abortion)?
    (2) Why do liberal progressive Democrats appeal to consensus (bishops throughout the world) as though consensus determines truth when in fact truth is truth whether all believe it or none believe it?
    (3) Why do liberal progressive Democrats appeal to opinion of clerics in matters of science when environmental consciousness is involved but deride the Church as anti-science in matters such as Galileo?
    Answers are not required given these are rhetorical questions only. I await with great trepidation the disinformation on TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima likely to be within this upcoming encyclical. The Pope is photographed between two environmental activists holding a T-shirt advocating a ban on fracking for oil and gas, but will he support the only alternative that can supply base-load electrical power 24 / 7 safely, cleanly and economically? I doubt it because he consults with bishops instead of bona fide scientists and engineers on subjects over which clerics have no special expertise. Thus he will likely make the same kind of mistake that was made during the case of Galileo, albeit in an opposite direction.

  3. Michael Sean Winters believes that the Roman Pontiff is listening to the bishops around the world. Well, a few of them, such as +Kasper, +Maradiaga and +Wuerl, but not many others.

    As for these esteemed members of the College of Cardinals, I remember an apt quote from the original Transformers cartoon of the mid 1980s.
    Star Scream – “I am the new Decepticon Leader!”
    Other Decepticon – “You couldn’t lead a pack of rats to a garbage can.”

  4. My favorite Roadrunner cartoons are the ones with Instant Hole and the Indestructible Ball. Acme made out like a bandit in sales to the Coyote.

  5. “Hampered by these injuries, Mr. Coyote was nevertheless obliged to support himself. With this in mind, he purchased of Defendant as an aid to mobility one pair of Acme Rocket Skates. When he attempted to use this product, however, he became involved in an accident remarkably similar to that which occurred with the Rocket Sled. Again, Defendant sold over the counter, without caveat, a product which attached powerful jet engines (in this case, two) to inadequate vehicles, with little or no provision for passenger safety. Encumbered by his heavy casts, Mr. Coyote lost control of the Rocket Skates soon after strapping them on, and collided with a roadside billboard so violently as to leave a hole in the shape of his full silhouette.

    Mr. Coyote states that on occasions too numerous to list in this document he has suffered mishaps with explosives purchased of Defendant: the Acme “Little Giant” Firecracker, the Acme Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, etc. (For a full listing, see the Acme Mail Order Explosives Catalogue and attached deposition, entered in evidence as Exhibit C.) Indeed, it is safe to say that not once has an explosive purchased of Defendant by Mr. Coyote performed in an expected manner.

    To cite just one example: At the expense of much time and personal effort, Mr. Coyote constructed around the outer rim of a butte a wooden trough beginning at the top of the butte and spiraling downward around it to some few feet above a black X painted on the desert floor. The trough was designed in such a way that a spherical explosive of the type sold by Defendant would roll easily and swiftly down to the point of detonation indicated by the X. Mr. Coyote placed a generous pile of birdseed directly on the X, and then, carrying the spherical Acme Bomb (Catalogue #78-832), climbed to the top of the butte. Mr. Coyote’s prey, seeing the birdseed, approached, and Mr. Coyote proceeded to light the fuse. In an instant, the fuse burned down to the stem, causing the bomb to detonate.

    In addition to reducing all Mr. Coyote’s careful preparations to naught, the premature detonation of Defendant’s product resulted in the following disfigurements to Mr. Coyote:”

  6. The Road Runner Manufacturing Company, of Phoenix, Flagstaff, Taos and Santa Fe has been named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges that the co-defendant did willfully sell with prior knowledge of poor performance one catapault that caused the Plaintiff to be continuously crushed flat, causing breakage to bones, tearing of ligaments, bruises, headaches, blurred vision and post-nasal drip.

    The Plaintiff alleges that the co-Defendants acted in concert to provide substandard consumer merchandise of the type needed by the Plaintiff for his work. Furthermore, the Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act between the co-Defendants and seeks treble damages from the Defendants as allowed by law.

    I. Fleecem, Attorney At Law
    Dewey, Cheatham and Howe
    Primary Office – Niagara Falls
    Apollo, Mars, Moon, Versailles, North Versailles, Washington, Houston, 84 and Intercourse

  7. Professor George:
    “We come into being as persons and do not cease being persons except by ceasing to be (i.e., dying).” Immortal souls have sovereign personhood that ceases never.
    “the Catholic teaching against intentional killing of innocent human beings was relevant throughout pregnancy.”
    “Of course, a biologist might still be pro-choice, but only on moral grounds that the Church does authoritatively reject: i.e., the idea that not all human beings are persons with a right to life.)”
    Will an unfertilized egg live and grow? NO. God designs creation of an individual substance of a rational nature, Thomas Aquinas’ definition of the “person”, contingent upon the act of procreation by the mother and by the father, the human egg fertilized by the human seed. Ensoulment occurs when our Creator creates an immortal soul for the newly fertilized human egg. The egg is no longer an egg. The seed is no longer a seed. The fertilized egg grows into a one celled human being complete with his own scientific DNA, ensouled with his own rational, immortal human soul, endowed with free will, intellect, every unalienable human right and belonging to the species: Homo Sapiens.
    Snowflake babies and donated embryos, those frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization, frozen in liquid nitrogen and then adopted and implanted to gestate, grow fully into human beings and children. Snowflake babies are proof, irrefutable proof that the embryo, fertilized, is a sovereign person with a rational soul, a will to live, free will and intellect, the whole human person, with moral and legal innocence and virginity, with a sovereign personhood, who has been denied the nurturing of the womb and care.
    Gracie Crane is a U.K. teenager adopted as a “leftover” IVF embryo.
    God enters into human affairs, in time and space at the request of his people. A husband and a wife become a mother and a father as a consequence of the fertilization of the female egg by the male sperm. Ensoulment is simultaneous and contingent upon procreation. The newly begotten human being experiences his existence and identity as a child of God: “I AM” in innocence and virginity, morally and legally innocent in truth and Justice, the standard for Justice, the compelling interest of the state in the newly begotten human person. The Supreme Sovereign Being has deigned to create his people. The sovereign personhood of the newly conceived in free will, wills to live. The individual’s will to live is inscribed and endowed as the right to life. The person who does not will to live becomes a miscarriage, a spontaneous miscarriage. The scientific proof of the life of the one celled human being is carried out by IVF and somatic cell transfer or three parent manipulation. It cannot be both ways at the same time. The one celled human being exists and is alive. There is no life without the human soul. There is only death without the human soul. The human soul is the form of the body…Aquinas. Unless the human body has a soul, how does the human body get to ensoulment? In twinning, there are two souls, two individual substances of a rational nature present to whom the human body grows to become whoever the soul is. Man procreates the human body. God creates the human soul.
    “I had offered four points to bear in mind about the teaching authority of the papal magisterium as we await the encyclical letter Pope Francis is preparing on our moral obligations concerning the natural environment.”
    It was Galileo who tried to teach the bible as scientific fact and was placed under house arrest. Pope Francis may hold that man has a moral obligation as steward to care for the environment. Not having Cardinals Burke and Pell, Pope Francis might not know that man’s conscience, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the moral authority for the individual on how one might fulfill his moral obligation to the environment. Each person’s call may be different.

  8. I believe it is more correctly stated as:

    National (not) Catholic (not) Reporter (not). or NCR (not)

    Guy McClung, San Antonio

  9. Mary,

    That came from the Three Stooges, like the Niagara Falls line. The “cities” I posted are all towns in Pennsylvania. Washington, Houston and 84 are all within 15 miles of each other. Moon was the home of the Pittsburgh Airport, so an arriving flight in Pittsburgh landed in…..Moon. On US 19 in Mars, there is a flying saucer by the road. The high school team’s nickname is the….Planets. Versailles is pronounced “fur-sales” in the local dialect. Intercourse is on the other side of the Commonwealth.

  10. Guy McClung wrote, “I believe it is more correctly stated as: National (not) Catholic (not) Reporter (not). or NCR (not)”
    Voltaire said of the Holy Roman Empire that it was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire (the Lord Privy Seal is an analogue)

  11. Jesus said: “Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit, he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
    Nicodemus asked: “How can a man enter the womb?”
    …by spiritually reclaiming his original innocence and virginity. St. Augustine did. by spiritually reclaiming every instance of his mortal and spiritual existence. Every saint did and offered their whole life up. Only in free will can a person obtain sovereignty over his whole life and offer himself, body and blood, soul and divinity (that divinity that persons have by being the brothers of Christ, adopted children of God) and with acknowledgment of who one is offer himself to almighty God.
    God, the Father loves His Son, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ loves His Father. God is love. Allah has no son to love or to love Him.
    When newly elected Pope Francis called “those obsessed with abortion”, those people aware of the free will of the newly conceived, Pope Francis dismissed the personhood of the unborn as God sees him and the right to life as the state sees him. Without the newly conceived, who every person is at one time, Pope Francis dismissed mankind.
    Now, Pope Francis with his environmental agenda will continue to dismiss the free will, conscience and the real existence of mankind, instead of relying on mankind to steward the environment and save mankind, one conscience at a time.

  12. Elaine Krewer: “Michael Sean Winters… soooper genius! :-)”

    ” … And remember, Mud spelled backwards is Dum.” Conclusion to the Warner Brother’s Bugs Bunny episode “Operation: Rabbit” (1952). After Wile E. Coyote intro.

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