"To every human child that has preceded us to the eternal home we may address an Ave pia anima as often as we wish but not to our Mother, for that would be Catholic !" ~ Wilhelm O. Dietlein, Protestant Theologian (translated from his book, Evangelisches Ave Maria written in 1863)
Part Two: Mr. Kurschner’s Use of Mockery as an Apologetic Stratagem
The first article I read concerning Saint Bonaventure’s Psalter of the Blessed Virgin was penned by Mr. Alan Kurschner, one of the luminaries who takes his place in the pantheon of Reformed apologists known collectively as the Alpha and Omega Apologetics Ministries. The article caught my attention because of its brevity and because of the unusual apologetic methodology it employed. Here it is in its entirety:
CATHOLICS DON’T WORSHIP MARY!
Keep in mind, in reading this, that Catholics DON'T WORSHIP MARY! I repeat, Catholics DON'T WORSHIP MARY! Catholics are not idolatrous!
(ht: Steve Hays)
What makes Mr. Kurschner’s squib interesting from an apologetics standpoint is that it did not pretend to overtly defend any doctrine or belief that Mr. Kurschner holds nor did it attempt to actually refute any position held by Catholics. Indeed, no effort is made to present any factual information whatsoever. Rather, Mr. Kurschner simply points to Saint Bonaventure’s Psalter of the Blessed Virgin and mocks it and the Catholics who recite it. Instead of showing how the Seraphic Doctor’s Psalter is idolatrous, Mr. Kurschner seems to rely upon the bigotry and prejudices of his audience to supply what is missing.
Now, mockery is often defined as a kind of jeering or show of contempt through the use of derision or parody. Traces of humor are often found the words of the mocker, often in the form of a caricature, satire, or sarcasm. The overriding characteristic of mockery, however, is the mocker’s malicious intent to seek to harm the object of the mock.
The rhetorical application of mockery often has several objectives. It is used as a way to dismiss another person's work or ideas and distract people from discerning fact from fiction. When used in connection with an ad hominem argument, mockery seeks to taint or vilify a person’s character or personality in an effort to discount that person’s views. Mockery is also used to create confusion by causing others to doubt the sincerity or cohesiveness of an opponent’s position. In truth, mockery is most often employed by those who do not have any real evidentiary support for their position. In other words, it's really not an argument at all; it's a tactic to avoid argument when you can't advance one.
With that being said, it would seem to me that using mockery as a rhetorical stratagem in apologetics is rather questionable and rather un-Christian. From my own personal experiences, mockery has seemed most often employed by playground bullies and advocates of liberal or radical causes. More importantly, it does not seem to be used with favor by prophets and apostles to proclaim the Good News.
Scripturally, one will not find mockery often used to defend and proclaim the Word of God. Aside from an instance in Chapter 18 of 1 Kings vss. 26-29 when the Prophet Elijah taunted the priests of Baal, I was not able to find an occasion when mockery was so used to bring people to God. Rather, those who mock, scoff or taunt are singled out for punishment by God. In Proverbs, the scoffer or mocker is lumped in with the simpletons, the fools and the wicked [Prov. 1:22; 9:7 (RSV)], and is otherwise considered an abomination [Prov. 24:9 (RSV)].
In terms of the New Testament anyway, mockery is one of the weapons commonly utilized by foes of Our Lord, Christ Jesus [See, e.g. Mt. 27:27-31; Mt. 27:39-44; Mk. 15:32]. More importantly, I am not aware of an instance where Jesus Christ mocked those who opposed His teachings. Yes, He upbraided them, He spoke harshly of them; He even called them names, but he never mocked them. If being a Christian means to imitate Our Lord, can one say that they are imitating Our Lord when they use mockery to proclaim His Gospel when He Himself did not?
Of additional concern is mockery’s limited use to persuade because it has the distinct tendency of hardening the heart of the person who is the object of the mock. In debating, as a tool of persuasion in argumentation, mockery is heavily dependent on the mind set of the audience. In the few instances that I have come across a person using mockery in legal fora, I have found that this sort of appeal works only if one’s audience is willing to suspend all objectivity and substitute in its place their own personal bias, prejudices and dictates of their passion. Happily, most folks that I have had the pleasure of interacting with or appearing before in my 25 years of legal practice are a bit more fair-minded than that and actually grant the accused the formality of due process and a trial before convicting.
Finally, as a rhetorical stratagem, I have found mockery often to be a poor substitute for the presentation of facts and evidence. Those who are well-versed in rhetorical vilification often deploy mockery as the weapon of choice to hide their own personal ignorance appertaining to the subject of their mock and seek to prevent the audience from learning the facts as well. By focusing on the opponent rather than the argument, the mocker seeks to avoid interacting with the evidence by pretending that it doesn't exist.
In his article, Mr. Kurschner gives no clue whether he knows how Catholics use Saint Bonaventure’s Psalter of the Blessed Virgin in their devotional prayer life. He offers nothing in way of context, milieu or background to suggest that he even knows that Saint Bonaventure wrote it for particular devotional practice known as the “Little Office.” He does not present the reader with any idea of what Saint Bonaventure’s Mariology entailed. Given the paucity of evidence that Mr. Kurschner actually presents to his audience, I think it is fair to believe that he has no knowledge of the facts surrounding this particular devotional writing and made his attack on it and on Catholics out of ignorance. Or if he did have such an awareness of relevant contextual information, why did he choose to withhold such to his readers or otherwise marshal his arguments to rebut it?
Now lest the reader perceives that I am somehow singling out Mr. Kurschner, I am not. I am merely commenting on the particular writing style presented in a particular article that he posted and nothing more. I am well aware that there are Catholic apologists who use mockery as a rhetorical stratagem on occasion as well. However, since the inerrant Word of God calls upon us as Christians as stewards of His grace to make a defense to anyone who calls us to account for the hope that within us with gentleness and reverence and to do so with ungrudging hospitality and in such a way that it glorifies God [1 Pt. 2:15; 4:9-11], I do not see how one can reconcile that with the use of mockery as a legitimate apologetic stratagem. Perhaps Mr. Kurschner or another apologist who uses mockery as rhetorical tool to proclaim the Gospel, not to edit it, can enlighten us otherwise.