As a public service to readers of the blog, I am happy to offer my nearly eighteen years of experience as an attorney to help you, the Reader, spot and understand a Bad Argument.
Bad Arguments are the scourge of civilized discourse, making for a corrosive effect on reasoning as a whole.
Fortunately (?), we received a recent example in the comment box, just teeming with fallacies, perfectly useful for examination. It was offered in response to this post. Note that my post is about the Kasper proposal to allow divorced-and-remarried-without-annulment Catholics to receive communion, and the Pope's enthusiastic praise for and preclearance of it.
So, how does the counter-argument go? Here's the first part:
Actually the Church has a legitimate doctrinal way to make Cardinal Kasper’s alleged liberal policy on marriage a reality.
According to the current pastoral practice in the annulment process it is the Church’s policy to assume a disputed marriage is valid till proven invalid. There is no dogmatic reason why this must be the case. The Church can assume all formally disputed marriages are invalid till proven valid which is a high bar to climb and would make Annulments even more wide spread & granted with more ease.
Now would that be a pastoral disaster? It could likely be since the abuse of it will undermine the Church’s teaching on marriage on the practical level. Not that under the current policy historically it hasn’t been abused especially in America.
Would it be an example of detectability or Fallibility? Not at all.
The opener is an instant sleight of hand. Does the arguer address the actual post itself, or the Kasper proposal? No, he does not. Instead, he changes the subject to an entirely unrelated proposal not under discussion--a classic red herring. This enables him to sidestep entirely the problematic Kasper proposal--one whose awfulness has been noted by men of no small theological erudition. Thus, instead of engaging with the actual problematic proposal, he can propose something different and use that to derisively attack his opponent.
Note also that it is question-begging of a staggering order: his argument assumes--without bothering to prove--that it is the equivalent of the Kasper proposal. It also assumes that such would not touch upon indefectibility. Why? Because he said so. Ipse dixit, quod erat demonstrandum. Might as well throw in e pluribus unum while we're at it.
In any event, his devastating riposte--the question-begging red herring--is a proposal that he admits would be a probable "pastoral disaster."
Well, I stand refuted. Or not.
Now, does he address the notion of sacramental intent--ex opere operato? That longstanding Catholic teaching is that sacraments are presumptively valid, not invalid, if the proper form, matter and intent are involved? Even if more than one competent, conscious person is needed to confect the sacrament--see also, penance, confirmation, holy orders? No, he does not.
One might be forgiven for thinking his argument was clouded by animus against his interlocutor. Here's the remainder of his argument:
You know Price rather then undermine people’s faith in the Church & Christ’s promises by extension, you might try learning some theology before getting hysterical and believing every radtrad conspiracy rumor mongering twit?
Oh.... all righty then! Ah, the ever-popular Chest-Poking Tough Guy! Closer. Apparently, his argument isn't so air-tight that he can dispense with the troweled-on well-poisoning: I'm some kind of hysteric (paging Dr. Freud) pied piper who leads people astray, cavorting with with idiot rad-trads in the process--run, children!
I just like this one.
As you can see from the third link, some very capable and decidedly non-rad-traddish people are appalled by the Kasper proposal endorsed by the Pope. But Tough Guy! would rather try (and fail) to put me in my place than square off with them. Invoking his own alleged theological authority in the process.
And that, folks, is darn near the Platonic ideal of a Bad Argument.