We Should Attack and Discredit
the Agent of Error
the Agent of Error
"In combating error it is wrong and uncharitable to attack the person who upholds it.” It is against this liberal "dogma," so frequent in our Catholic milieus, that Fr. Felix Sardá y Salvani argues. He proves it is indispensable to attack those who promote errors; otherwise one does not efficiently defend the Catholic cause.
Catholic apologists are often accused of making personal attacks during debates. And when Liberals and those tainted with Liberalism hurl this accusation against one of us, they imagine that this charge is enough to condemn him.
But they deceive themselves. In order to combat and discredit false ideas, we must make them look abhorrent and despicable to the same multitude they tried to convince and seduce. ... Now it so happens that ideas cannot be sustained by themselves in the air, nor do they spread or propagate by themselves. Left to themselves, they would never produce all the evil that harms society. It is only when they are applied by those who conceive them that they have an effect. Ideas are like the arrows and the bullets that would harm no one if they were not shot from the bow or the gun. It is the archer and the gunner, therefore, who should be the first target in our sight if one wants to stop that enemy. Any other method of waging war, be it liberal or not, does not make sense.
The authors and propagators of heretical doctrines are soldiers with poisoned weapons in their hands. Their arms are the books, the newspapers, the public speeches and their personal influence. It is not enough to dodge the bullets they fire. The first thing necessary is to make the shooter himself ineffective so that he can do no more mischief.
Therefore, we should not only discredit the book, journal or lecture of the enemy, but also in some cases discredit his person. For in warfare the principal element of the combat is the person engaged, just as the gunner is the principal factor in an artillery fight and not the cannon, powder or bomb.
It is thus lawful in certain cases to publicly display the infamy of a liberal opponent, to ridicule his customs, to drag his name in the mire. Yes, this is fully permissible, permissible in prose, in verse, in either a serious or a mocking vein, in caricature, or any means and methods within reach presently or in the future. The only care we should take is to not to employ a lie in the service of justice. This, never. Under no pretext may we sully the truth, even to the dotting of an i. ….
The Fathers of the Church support this thesis. The very titles of their works clearly show that in their combats against heresies, their first blow was at the heresiarchs. Almost all the titles of St. Augustine’s works bear the name of the author of the heresy against which they are written: Adversus (Against) Fortunatum, Adversus Faustum Manichaeum, Adversus Adamanctum, Adversus Felicem, Adversus Secundinum. Or, Quis fuerit Petriamus (Who is Petrianus?), De gestis Pelagii (About the Deeds of Pelagius), Quis fuerit Julianus, etc.
Thus we see that the major part of the polemics of the great Augustine was personal, aggressive and biographical as well as doctrinal, a hand-to-hand struggle with the heretic as well as the heresy. We could say the same about all the other Church Fathers.
What right do the Liberals have to impose on us the new obligation of fighting error only in the abstract and of lavishing smiles and flattery on them? Let the Ultramontanes defend the faith according to Catholic tradition as it has always been defended in the Church of God. Let the sword of the Catholic polemist strike straight at the heart. This is the only real and efficacious way to combat!
(Felix Sardá y Salvani, El Liberalism es pecado, Barcelona: 1960, pp. 60-62)