How many devils can dance on a pinhead?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 12, 2014

Though permission was granted on our comment form, simple charity demands that I withhold the name of the reader who submitted the following email in response to this story from November 4th: New York bishop bans travel to west Africa, citing Ebola threat.

See if you can count the number of faulty premises and illogical connections which render this argument both invalid and unsound—that is, hopelessly confused and necessarily false.

The Rochester Diocese, suffering a lack of priests because of its failure to ordain women and allow married priests, welcomed 18 African Catholic priests to serve in the Diocese. Now, in a racist exploitation that is similar to the family break-ups of slavery, Bishop Matano has banned the annual visit to their homes for priests from Ghana.

The ebola virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids. Since these priests are still in the old celebacy [sic] mode, such exchange seems unlikely. Bishop Matano should look at what has happened to his mentor Cardinal Burke and step lightly with unChristlike actions.

This was submitted by an unregistered user in Rochester, New York. I know you’ll think I made it up, but in fact this is the fully legitimate winner of our “Email of the Week” award.

Moral: Just because you step lightly, it doesn’t mean you won’t put your foot in it.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Feb. 15, 2017 1:19 PM ET USA

    When the Ark of the Covenant was made, the Israelites were told not to touch it owing to its great holiness. But Uzzah steadied it with his hand while transporting it by cart (a violation). He was struck dead on the spot. This isn't a veiled wish for anyone to be struck dead when receiving the Eucharist in mortal sin. I'm simply saying that the Eucharist is at least as holy as the Ark, and all should take to heart Paul's warning to discern our state of grace when we receive Him (1 Cor 11:28-30).

  • Posted by: DanS - Feb. 15, 2017 11:32 AM ET USA

    With all due respect, Phil, we do not need a "definitive answer" from the Pope: the doctrine is as clear today as 1,000 years ago. The evidence of the Pope's actions, words, and silence suggest he is "altering" doctrine. The sleeping beast of the Spirit of Vatican II awakes, and those prelates who would put their politics before their faith are emboldened. Perhaps this pontificate is meant to test our commitment to the Truth upheld and articulated by JPII and Ben XVI?

  • Posted by: rickt26170 - Feb. 15, 2017 2:01 AM ET USA

    We can only pray that some bishops or cardinals - who would almost by definition have a difficult time opposing a Pope (it didn't stop the Euro bishops in the 90s from opposing JPII in the Cologne Declaration - but JPII didn't look for scalps after controversy). It should be clear that Bergoglio wants to cripple or dispose of the entire concept of Church tradition and the Church's role in forming conscience. If so, Christianity Lite rules in Rome. There must be opponents. I pray so.

  • Posted by: john.n.akiko7522 - Feb. 15, 2017 12:35 AM ET USA

    I disagree that "we need a definitive answer, which can only come from the Pope himself." We already have a definitive answer; it comes from the constant teaching of the Church and it was reaffirmed by JP11. Those living in a state of adultery cannot receive Holy Communion. Certainly many prelates want to change this teaching, which would amount to destroying the Catholic Church. They are trying by various means, but Our Lord is preventing them; "the gates of hell will not prevail."

  • Posted by: mwean7331 - Feb. 14, 2017 6:54 PM ET USA

    Yes they are continuing to fail miserably. My "deep" feeling is that there is subterfuge present in the Vatican which has been evolving since the Death of Pope John Paul. it could be that Pope Benedict was "nudged" to retire or he saw no other "graceful" way "out" I feel that the German Bishops are heavily involved and found a way to get a Pope elected who at least is willing to compromise . D dangerous and could lead to another schism. Please Holy Spirit move in.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Feb. 14, 2017 5:04 PM ET USA

    To think this week is somehow novel is to misunderstand the problem. It is not new. It is an advance of something that has been in motion for some time. The conditions have become more favorable, but the persons have not suddenly changed for ill. There is simply more candor. These prelates opposing established teaching did not suddenly become unorthodox. They have been patient and motivated. And they hardly intend for this to be the extent of it. Slowly or with haste, more is to come.

  • Posted by: tcflanagan - Nov. 14, 2014 7:57 PM ET USA

    But deaconlarryssm4723! If they take no space, how can we attribute to them a location (like "on a pinhead")? They also have no legs (except when manifesting under some animal---possibly human---appearance, in which case they would take up space), so how can they dance? Therefore, I put it to you that the answer is "none." Silliness like that in the email quoted above are why I have given up reading comment boxes at all websites except this one.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Nov. 13, 2014 12:32 AM ET USA

    The more you think about it the funnier this email gets.

  • Posted by: deaconlarryssm4723 - Nov. 12, 2014 7:04 PM ET USA

    Since spirits take no space I would say that it's unlimited.