Sunday, March 1, 2009

Professor Alexander Pruss responds to Lariat editorial

My Baylor philosophy department colleague, Professor Alexander Pruss, has submitted the following letter to the Lariat, the Baylor University student newspaper. His letter is in response to the February 27 editorial to which I responded on February 28.
Dear Sir/Madam:

While there is much to complain of regarding the accuracy and fairness of your editorial on indulgences (Feb. 27, 2009), I here only wish to address the concern that "the [Catholic] religion is resorting back to the Medieval Catholic church [sic]," which was also home to the "Spanish Inquisition and the Crusdaes [sic]."

The argument, if one may call it that, seems to be this: (a) during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had indulgences, the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades; (b) the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were very bad; therefore (c) indulgences are bad.

Now, to consider the Spanish Inquisition to be quintessentially medieval is historically rather dubious given that it was founded in 1478, close to the end of the Middle Ages. But the logic of the argument is worse than its history--a similarity in value is inferred from sameness of historical period. One might as well conclude that the very idea of university education is flawed, since the university is largely a medieval Catholic institution, with the University of Bologna being founded in the 11th century with Oxford and the University of Paris following in the 12th (dates much more squarely in the Middle Ages than the late 15th century founding of the Spanish Inquisition, by the way).

Are we then to expect future editorials inveighing against universities, cathedrals, the writings of Thomas Aquinas, the poetry of Chaucer, and, while we're at it, transatlantic travel (hint: 1492=1478+14)?

Sincerely yours,
Alexander R. Pruss
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Baylor University

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