A letter about Michael Dimond
Dear Mr. P—,
Thank you for your courteous reply and your edifying gesture of removing the Dimond material pending clarification.
Unfortunately I lack the time to undertake a serious evaluation of Michael Dimond’s writings, but I shall try to crash out a few rough notes here which may help you understand the problem.
First a few principles.
1. To write in public on matters of theological controversy it is necessary to be competent. That competence comprises the following elements:
Correct use of the mind – thinking straight. Distinguishing between a valid and an invalid argument; identifying a convincing proof, a probable proof, suggestive evidence, tenuous possibility and outright sophistry.
Sound general education: background familiarity with philosophy, history, etc.
The ability to write clear and correct English communicating exactly what one means.
Good all-round familiarity with all aspects of Catholic doctrine.
Ability to read the Church’s language: Latin.
A profound knowledge of the specific subjects being written about.
Integrity. I do not mean by this a high degree of sanctity. I mean the minimal austere uprightness that would never twist the truth, abuse logic or muster up unjustified certitude on doubtful matters and would always retract any mistake made.
Orthodoxy – perfect submission to what the Church’s authorities teach (which entails knowing what Catholics are obliged in conscience to accept as sound doctrine and the different ways in which the Church teaches us).
And Catholic controversial writing must similarly match certain minimal standards...
It must be clear.
It must be amply based on authorities with due references.
Its facts must be true and its arguments valid.
It must avoid overstatement.
It must be mild and charitable in expressing disagreement with other Catholics on controverted issues.
Now as a matter of fact, Michael Dimond does not possess that competence and his writings do not display those qualities. Indeed their failure to do so is so marked that serious Catholics simply do not take him seriously. A cursory glance would suffice to show them that this is one “voice crying in the wilderness” which may safely be left in the wilderness as it has no useful role to play in promoting the common good.
Probably the most salient characteristic of Dimond’s writings is the habitual pretence of having shown what he has merely alleged or has supported by entirely spurious argument.
Here is a sample from Issue 5, p. 57:
Commenting on John-Paul II’s words “...Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, who is the perfect realization of human existence” (Fides et Ratio), Dimond comments:
“There you have it! Jesus Christ is the perfect realization of human existence. Or if you prefer it another way, look up the word ‘realization’ in a thesaurus and you will find that it means the same thing as the word ‘understanding’. Antipope John Paul II is saying that Jesus Christ is the perfect understanding of human existence.”
Well, Mr. P—, to borrow a phrase, there you have it!
1. Obscurity. What do the words “Or if you prefer it another way” mean here? We haven’t had “it” any way yet; we have just had John-Paul II’s words repeated with no indication of what is wrong with them.
2. Absurdity. To find out what a word means, if we are in doubt, we look it up in a dictionary, not a thesaurus, which is a collection of words of broadly similar, but not necessarily identical, meaning.
3. Further absurdity. Some words have several meanings. Finding in a thesaurus, or even a dictionary, that a word can mean one thing, does not preclude its perhaps having a second meaning.
4. Ignorance. As a matter of fact, the word “realization” is one of those words that has more than one meaning. Admittedly it often approximates to “understanding,” but at other times it means “making real” or “giving actuality to.”
5. Fallacious argument. Diamond presumes that John-Paul II means “understanding” when he says “realization”. In fact, Diamond’s case here amounts to tacitly admitting that in order to expose the heresy he believes is contained in John-Paul II’s words, he has to change those words to others which better suit his objective – a procedure justified on the basis of his thesaurus trick. Common sense shows where we shall end up if we may use a thesaurus to alter words in the statements of others to some other word included in the thesaurus as having a broadly similar meaning.
6. Factual error. Quite clearly the meaning intended by John-Paul II here is not “understanding” but “making real” or “actualization.”
7. False witness. While John-Paul II’s words here are not in conformity with traditional Catholic expression, and could be said to convey a whiff of Gnosticism, nevertheless, they are not, for a change, heretical. Human existence has indeed never been more perfectly made real than in Jesus Christ.
Such sophistry is rife in Dimond’s writings. Four pages earlier you will find the following:
Commenting on John-Paul II’s words “Especially man must be given and restored to God, if he is to be fully restored to himself.” (Redemptionis Donum), Dimond remarks:
“He says that man must be restored to God if he is to be restored to himself. This clearly indicates that man is God.”
Non sequitur. It indicates nothing of the sort. Neither clearly nor obscurely. The inference is utterly unjustified by the text. A lost walking stick must be restored to the matron of the geriatric hospital if it is to be restored to the elderly resident who lost it. Does that “clearly indicate” that the elderly resident is the matron? Restoration to A is stated to be a condition of restoration to B. Dimond pretends that this logically implies that A and B are identical. It implies no such thing.
It is no defence to say that John-Paul II does indeed believe that man is God and has said this elsewhere. He does not say it here.
And if I wished to devote a couple of hours to the task I could find fifty similar sophistries in this one study.
Please do not misunderstand me, Mr. P—: the vast bulk of the John-Paul II texts Dimond has diligently collected in this issue are indeed unorthodox, and taken as a whole they constitute an overwhelming case that John-Paul II does indeed habitually hold and teach a heresy according to which Christ’s incarnation directly divinised the whole of mankind, rather than merely making possible the divinisation realised by grace in favour of the just.
But Dimond’s own commentaries are so exaggerated, so tendentious, so slapdash, so wanting in logical rigour or theological exactitude as to be worse than worthless.
I say worse than worthless because defending the truth with invalid arguments makes the truth vulnerable to the appearance of refutation when the invalid arguments are exposed (and there are various answers to Dimond already on the Web, contributed by John-Paul II supporters). And in any event, it will be no merit to anyone on the Day of Judgment to have been convinced by Dimond’s shoddy reasoning to reject the Polish heresiarch.
Now, here is a passage from issue No. 3, p. 30: Dimond is commenting on a text from the Council of Trent (Chapter 4, Session 6, On Justification) which he claims has been mistranslated.
“Mistranslation... ‘In these words a description of the justification of a sinner is given as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam to the state of grace...; and this translation after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected except through the laver of regeneration or the desire for it...’
“One who reads the mistranslation of this passage from Trent would probably think that Trent is teaching that one can enter into the state of grace either through Baptism or by the desire for it. However an accurate translation renders the meaning of Trent totally different. In fact the original Latin of the passage ‘except through the laver of regeneration or the desire for it,’ is ‘sine lavacro regenerationis aut eius voto’.
“True Translation – ‘and this translation...cannot be effected WITHOUT...the laver of regeneration or the desire for it’...
“...The subtle change of ‘without’ to ‘except through’ changes the entire meaning of the statement. The word ‘without’ used in this passage means that justification CANNOT happen without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it. Trent is simply distinguishing between the requirements for infant baptism as opposed to that [sic] of adults. Infants cannot desire baptism. Therefore in their case only the laver of regeneration is required to effect the sacrament. Adults on the other hand must have the desire for the sacrament that they are receiving...”
Mr P—, the mind capable of conceiving the ideas herein expressed is a ruined instrument for the apprehension of truth. And the mind capable of being deceived by them is sadly lacking in discernment, to say the least.
Trent dogmatically teaches that justification is impossible without either (a) Baptism, or (b) desire for Baptism.
Dimond brazenly declares that it means no such thing. It means, in his view, to affirm that justification is in all cases impossible without baptism, and that in addition to baptism, desire for the sacrament is also needed in the case of adults.
Now the word “or” does not have that meaning. Hunt in as many Thesauri as you will. The Dimond meaning is not even, at a stretch, a possible meaning of the text he is writing about. Trent’s words cannot possibly bear the meaning Dimond attaches to them.
The person who “changes the entire meaning of the statement” is Dimond.
Here is a comparison. A nation’s laws affirm that no foreigner may reside in it unless he is the spouse of a citizen or a naturalised citizen.
What lawyer would have the effrontery to claim that a naturalised citizen has no right of residence because he is unmarried? Or that the spouse of a citizen must leave because he is not naturalised?
Now suppose, to indulge Mr Dimond, that in fact, in this land, adult foreigners are never allowed to become naturalised citizens unless they are married to a citizen, though children can be naturalised without this condition.
Plainly this does not alter the fact that the law envisages at least some possible cases in which either of the two factors suffices without the other.
But in any event, Dimond’s claim is vitiated by the fact that while pontificating on alleged mistranslations of Latin, he does not actually know the language. Theologians writing in Latin (and Mr Dimond has never read one, for he does not have the ability to do so) would never dream of using the word “votum” (desire/vow) to express the intention that must be had by the recipient of a sacrament during its administration. The claim is merely ludicrous as anyone familiar with ecclesiastical Latin will confirm to you.
So we find Mr Dimond:
(a) Radically distorting the meaning of a dogma.
(b) Accusing others of radically distorting the meaning of the very dogma he is twisting in knots.
(c) Pretending to a competence in Latin he needs but does not possess.
(d) Performing intellectual acrobatics to twist meanings and logic while claiming that his crazy “interpretation” is manifestly the only correct one.
(e) Doing all the above because it doesn’t suit him to believe what Trent actually defined.
Yes indeed, Mr P—. That brings us to the issue of Mr Dimond’s own unorthodoxy.
First we find him denying the de fide truth that Baptism of Desire suffices for justification (which even Fr Feeney accepted!), and indeed for salvation. Trent is quite clear. St Thomas is quite clear. The Doctors are quite clear. Canon Law is quite clear. Historical examples of unbaptized canonised saints are numerous and clear. The Church’s approved theologians are unanimous. But Dimond denies this dogma because he doesn’t see how it is compatible with other texts. That’s how heresy happens. The reason he doesn’t understand is that he lacks the background education in philosophy and theology. Sad, but not a justification – no one invited him to adopt his present “apostolate”.
(Here incidentally is what St Alphonsus has to say on the topic in his Moral Theology Bk. 6, nn. 95-7:
“Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon Apostolicam, “de presbytero non baptizato” and of the Council of Trent, session 6, Chapter 4 where it is said that no one can be saved “without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it”. “
For Mr Dimond, this is just proof that Doctors of the Church are not infallible and can err. The possibility that Dimond himself is not infallible and can err fails to occur to his bloated ego. What is clear is that St Alphonsus, not misled by any supposedly inexact translations, understands the Trent text in the sense that Dimond (a non-Latinist) rejects and that St Alphonsus holds as de fide a proposition that Dimond emphatically rejects as a heresy. And while the Doctors of the Church are not individually infallible (only collectively) it is quite certain that the Church does not accord the accolade of Doctor to persons who represent heresy as dogma and dogma as heresy. Plainly any humble, prudent and docile Catholic will adhere to St Alphonsus, not to Dimond – not that the Trent text is in any way ambiguous.
Moreover, it is only by a startling inconsistency, of which he must surely be conscious, that Dimond fails to brand St Alphonsus Liguori as a heretic, for in referring to contemporary Catholics he invariably calls them heretics when he thinks they err on dogmatic subjects. Of course this is particularly terrible when, as on the Baptism in voto subject, Dimond is the one who errs and those he condemns are orthodox. But even when he is right, it is a certain truth that to be a heretic there must be direct error against dogma, held with pertinacity – i.e. realisation that one’s opinion conflicts with dogma. And Dimond rides roughshod over the pertinacity requirement, perhaps under the illusion that pertinacity is always presumed, whereas in fact it is presumed only where there are solid grounds for such a presumption. Thus he dismisses from the Church, as he himself admits, nearly all traditional priests, and indeed the laity.
Another grave departure from Catholic orthodoxy is found in Dimond’s attitude to those papal decrees and declarations, encyclicals, etc., which fall short of the requirements for pertaining to the Extraordinary Magisterium. Dimond sees no difficulty in arguing that as they are not guaranteed by direct infallibility, they may well contain error and that Catholics are free to reject their contents, indeed sometimes bound to...
As a matter of fact, as Pope Pius XII explains in Humani Generis, and as any serious student of Catholic doctrine knows, Catholics are bound in conscience to submit both exteriorly and interiorly to these non-infallible documents also, and the words of Our Lord “He that heareth you, heareth me” apply to them. Dimond rejects that truth by a combination of ignorance and necessity, for he cannot admit a fact that would at a stroke destroy his false doctrine concerning Baptism in voto.
Another grotesque error is one that Dimond has invented himself – namely that Karol Wojtyła is himself the Antichrist in person. What emerges from his attempts to defend this error is that he has not studied Catholic doctrine about the Antichrist. He simply does not know that the Antichrist will reign politically over the whole world for 3½ years, assassinate Henoch and Elias in Jerusalem, witness their resurrection, attempt to fly up to heaven himself (like Simon Magus of old) and then fall dead to the ground, struck by the breath of Christ. The Antichrist is not John-Paul II, nor was he Paul VI as the late Bill Strojie claimed. These men were/are very wicked and were/are antichrists, but THE Antichrist is still to come (perhaps quite soon) and Mr Dimond is not helping to prepare Catholics for the event. He is merely spreading cloud and obscurity on grave matters.
Further criticisms would include Dimond’s penchant for making highly controversial statements without providing adequate references and proof – for instance his claim that Baptism in voto was not mentioned in the original catechism of the Council of Trent and was added in the nineteenth century; that Baptism in voto was not mentioned in the original Catechism of St Pius X or approved by that pope, etc.
Then there are his merely misleading references. For instance, he attributes to Fr. Leonard Feeney the words, “Anyone who says the New Mass is a traitor to the Catholic Faith,” with a reference to From the Housetops, #24, 1983, p. 54. Incautious readers would casually assume that this was an article written by Fr Leonard Feeney to express his view. But in fact Fr Feeney was already dead. He died in 1978, though not before having himself said the New Mass. Dimond simply can’t be trusted.
There we are, Mr P—. I am sorry that time prevents me from being more thorough, but I think I have written enough to make it clear why I do not wish to be associated with Michael Dimond in any way.
To help you evaluate other writers on current controversies, may I suggest that you acquire a second-hand copy of Fr Edward Leen: What Is True Education? and study in it what an educated Catholic mind is supposed to be like. Perhaps the most marked characteristic of the mind is that it is judicious. I would strongly recommend limiting contemporary writers you publish on your site to those to whom the word “judicious” could reasonably be applied.
© 5th October 2001.
Note added 2017: Fr Edward Leen’s What Is True Education has now been republished and is available from Tradibooks.