If “2+2” can equal “5” in theology, then it can also equal “9” and “catfish”

The other day, Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who associates himself very closely with the Holy Father, tweeted this:

Antics like Cameli’s [HERE] can only be topped by Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro’s tweet yesterday.

Spadaro ran into a buzz saw with this one, I’m afraid.

Go over to CWR and check out Carl Olsen’s demolition of Spadaro’s dreamy antic.

Olsen got Spadaro’s unwritten point right away:

Fr. Spadaro was apparently trying to make a point about certain theologians who are supposedly too rigid, dogmatic, or scholastic in their approaches to complex or difficult moral situations. A number of folks responded to his tweet, pointing out, in essence, that it was wrong, vapid, and otherwise embarrassing.


Olsen goes on to explain the incoherence of the nominalist tweet. He concludes … but you should go see the whole piece and savor it…

If “2+2” can equal “5” in the realm of theology, then it can also equal “9” and “catfish” and “?” and just about anything you want it to. More than a considered belief that there are exceptions to “the rules”, this is an irrational belief that “the rules” are essentially arbitrary and without objective, transcendent basis. And that is #arecipefordisaster.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Lighter fare, You must be joking! and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. polycarped says:

    “Olsen goes on to explain the incoherence of the nominalist tweet.”

    Really Fr, is that really an appropriate manner in which to address a brother priest…?!

    [Review my statement. I’m talking about the TWEET. The TWEET.]

  2. robtbrown says:

    Fr Spadaro has unwittingly given a sterling example of why the Culinary Institute of American is where the NY Jesuit Novitiate and Junior used to be.

    [Spadaro was not in that province.]

  3. Mary Jane says:

    From the post title, I thought that in this post we might see pictures of 9 pieces of fried catfish Fr Z cooked up for Epiphany dinner last night, in keeping with the Friday penance… ;-)

    [Sorry… stir fried vegetables and rice.]

  4. oldconvert says:

    Somehow I doubt if Fr Spadaro is a devotee of modern Eng Lit, but perhaps someone could put in his way an Italian translation of George Orwell’s 1984 with the famous torture scene at the end?
    [Clue: for snowflakes, it involves a man being so broken by abuse that his inquisitor can get him to agree to see any number dictated]. Also I seem to recall some comments by G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown on the subject of the inviolability of 2+2=4?

  5. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    Under the present dubia siege the Holy Father is having to live out of his bug-out bag.

    Two cans of worms and two cans of worms.
    Open them up and you have five cans of worms.
    Eat one immediately.
    Leave the rest for tomorrow.
    Exeo ut manducare vermes.

  6. Actually, in Mathematics (and, really, ONLY in Mathematics) we sometimes might have “2+2=5”, in the semantics of The Zero Ring; and even there it only works because we are already pretending “1=0”, which itself only works because there’s only one thing available to be “1”.

  7. Ceile De says:

    A few years ago a good Fraternity priest told us that Archbishop Lefebvre once gave an example of how modernism works by saying that eventually it would accept that 2 + 2 could equal anything except 4. i cannot find the citation for that but we see it in the attitude that diversity in worship is good – youth Mass, seniors Mass, Polka Mass – but bad when anyone suggests a TLM. The logic seems to be playing itself out now not only in practice but in theory.

  8. polycarped says:

    Father, I think you need to recharge the batteries in your humour sensor! :) Mind you these are particularly trying times.

    [It is precisely because I have a sense of humor that I take the serious things seriously.]

  9. johnthemad says:

    As Pope Francis severs the necessary link between doctrine and praxis he gives reign to those who would abandon reason altogether. Fr. Spadaro’s concept that in theology 2+2=5 can be valid severs reason from faith and must be opposed. God created a rational universe that is a reflection of Himself. That is why in Genesis God could look upon His creation and say that, “It is good.”

    It is good because, among other things, it is comprehensible (through revelation, Tradition and reason) and coherent, as is God Himself.

  10. acardnal says:

    For homework, I suggest that Fr. Spadaro read Veritatis Splendor and philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica. And then get back to us.

  11. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Isnt the law of non-contradiction sorta the basis of our theological arguments for God’s existence? I mean if 1 = 0, then I suppose anything is possible, even ultimate contradictons. Even a godless universe.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    Another exhibition of egregious arrogance. We are not only enduring an assault on the perennial Magisterium of Roman Catholicism from within, but the manifestation of a kind of personality disorder manifest in the clergy class which I am unqualified to name.
    These individuals appear imprisoned in a speculative bubble substituting for cognitive engagement, all the while indifferent to the scandal their narcissism wrecks upon certain laity who are unable to navigate the counter-intuitive clap-trap paraded as theological reflection. Their behavior appears as protracted adolescent rebellion employed to ingratiate some constituency they need to bolster their self-esteem.
    It is pitiful.

  13. Giuseppe says:

    I had a math teacher in high school who was a Jesuit. Extra credit on an exam: “explain how 1+1+1=1”

    I got the credit!

  14. SenexCalvus says:

    Reading Fr. Spadaro’s absurd tweet has made me question my sanity. I keep rereading it, hoping to get the joke or irony. I never thought I’d live long enough to read anything as satanic. I then thought back to the year 1984, when I read both the novel of the same name and the Spiritual Excercises of St. Ignatius. I was struck by this passage in the latter, so speciously similar to the 2+2=5 scene in the former:

    “Thirteenth Rule. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls.”

    Could it be — Heaven forbid! — that some lawful superior of the poor Father has commanded him to believe such a lie?

  15. Polycarpio says:

    Did not Pope Benedict say at Regensburg that a method of reasoning that “presupposes the mathematical structure of matter” ultimately “excludes the question of God?” I think that was Spadaro’s point here and it is well taken.

    [No, that wasn’t his point. Not originally.]

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Always good to see somebody call a Spadaro a Spadaro, especially when one mucks up in spades. But what a lamentable predilection for spadroneggiare, or its attempt, this one shows. Happy the thought the life of this one is still capable of reformation:dum spirat, licet nobis sperare.

  17. SenexCalvus says:

    As a school teacher, I’m beginning to see a silver lining in the good Father’s tweet. Could it lay a foundation for, say, an ACLU lawsuit arguing that my students’ previously WRONG answers on end-of-course math tests were actually correct, but on a “theological” plane that transcends the culturally conditioned rationalism of the last few millenniums of Western thought? Does this mean that physicians and nuclear engineers, to cite but the most obvious examples, should no longer be held accountable for computational “errors”, since such errors don’t exist in “real” life?

    Hey, now that I think about it, maybe I’m not overdrawn at the bank, since the bank’s a part of “real” life! Shoot, maybe I could even marry another woman or two, since 1+1+1=1 — in “real” life, that is.

    Is this what’s meant by “the freedom of the sons of God” — that I can finally count to twenty without taking my shoes off? With reckoning like this, there ain’t no need to worry about the Reckoning Day. Yeehaw!

  18. AvantiBev says:

    No wonder the left leaning clergy are often bedfellows with the Islamist or at least seemingly blind to the dangers they present. Allah too is unbound by laws of the nature he created; capricious and illogical.

  19. Michael_Thoma says:

    First level theology .. FAIL
    First level math.. FAIL

    What is wrong with these people – Were they deceiving wolves dress as sheep all this time or did their brains just fall out of their head the last few years?

  20. robtbrown says:

    robtbrown says:

    Fr Spadaro has unwittingly given a sterling example of why the Culinary Institute of American is where the NY Jesuit Novitiate and Junior used to be.

    [Spadaro was not in that province.]

    I never said he was–the CIA is just another example of SJs selling off property . The shrinking numbers of Jesuits are a problem in Europe and the Americas. IMHO, clarity of doctrine (or lack thereof) is prime factor in vocations.


  21. tskrobola says:

    With God all things are possible; that is, God can miraculously do what is beyond logic.

    However, with regards to theology, it is the study of the **logic** of God…..so in theology, 2+2 cannot possibly equal 5, because that would be reserved for a miracle by God, which is beyond logic and therefore beyond theological discovery.

    Bottom line, if we accept Fr Spadaro’s statement at face value, theology as a discipline ceases to be relevant, and God becomes unknowable by reason, tradition or teaching.

    Not even direct, public, divine revelation by God suffices in Fr Spadaro’s world, since no definitive interpretive/teaching authority can be credible to anyone in a universe where 2+2=???? theologically speaking.

  22. uptoncp says:

    There is one piece of odd mathematics in theology: 1+1+1=1

  23. Philokalos says:

    Interesting that the Regensburg address was already mentioned here, since it came to my mind for the opposite reason: what Benedict said at Regensburg is a detailed explanation of how this sort of claim can be understood as nominalist error.

  24. scotus says:

    You can imagine what fun the atheists will have if they get hold of this absurdity. Maybe they already have. “Told you so” will be the common refrain.

  25. robtbrown says:

    tskrobola says:

    With God all things are possible; that is, God can miraculously do what is beyond logic.

    However, with regards to theology, it is the study of the **logic** of God…..so in theology, 2+2 cannot possibly equal 5, because that would be reserved for a miracle by God, which is beyond logic and therefore beyond theological discovery.

    God cannot be unGodly. In so far as 2+2=4 is a property of nature, which is a creation of God, making 2+2=5 would be an unGodly act.

    Generally speaking, miracles are when God produces an effect without the natural cause. It is logical because God is the First Cause of every other cause.

  26. SenexCalvus says:


    You are quite right to point out, if I understand the implication of your post, that our theology of the Trinity transcends a merely quantitative calculus. In today’s mindset, alas, numbers rarely signify anything but quantity. Numbers nonetheless, as every child knows, can also be used to signify qualities and relationships that must be understood symbolically. If I should say, for example, that we are “one in the Spirit,” I would not be making a mathematical, but a symbolic assertion. Anyone who can’t grasp this point should now exit the conversation.

    My objection to Fr. Spadaro’s tweet is that he collapses multiple layers of potential meaning into one in order to advance a LIE, namely, that the Logos does not underly and inform every aspect of Creation, i.e., reality. I love reading Amelia Bedilia stories with little kids, but I have no patience for engaging in conversation with the likes of a Fr. Spadaro, who can’t distinguish between levels of discourse.

  27. SenexCalvus says:


    As I was washing the dishes, it dawned on me that my reply to your post made matters worse, more confused. I’m going on record here: 1+1+1=1, as Trinitarian theology, is rank heresy. One can’t substitute a plus sign for the word ‘and’ without changing the meaning. The Son adds precisely nothing to the Father, and the Holy Spirit adds nothing to the either the Father or Son, or both together. For the mathematical equation to be true, Each of the Coequal Divine Persons would have to be a part of God, not God Himself.

    I really need to stick with what I know. My apologies to you, Father Z and the readership, for any offense I may have caused!

  28. scotus says:

    The same people who say that 2+2 can equal 5 also tell us that 3=2. Mr Brown has been deserted by his wife. His wife has divorced him and gone through a civil marriage with Mr Black. Mrs Brown and Mr Black have a daughter, Miss Black. The three are Mrs Brown, Mr Black and Miss Black. Now the Spandaros of this world will tell us that the relationship between Mrs Brown and Mrs Black is one of intimate love and that this has nothing to do with adultery. Moreover, Miss Black is a sign of their commitment to each other. So, basically, what the Spandaros are saying is that because of the nature of their relationship, especially as shown by the birth of their daughter, their relationship is really one of marriage.
    Now, does that argument that Mrs Brown and Mr Black are not committing adultery sound familiar? The argument is that they are not committing adultery (despite the clear words of Jesus) because their relationship is based on love, not lust. And have we not also been told that St Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality only related to a certain lustful homosexuality and that he was not condemning loving relationships between two people of the same sex?
    One further aspect of this situation also needs to be clarified by the Spandaros. (Despite the fact that asking them for clarification is like showing a crucifix to a vampire.) What happens when Mrs Brown is deserted by Mr Black? Is it then okay for Mrs Brown to get ‘married’ a third time? Just, exactly, how many times can people get remarried and still be able to receive Communion?

  29. robtbrown says:

    Here’s a concrete case.

    I had classmate in Rome who is Ukrainian Rite. Married (but not marrying) priests are a possibility. He took a some time off before Ordination to the Diaconate, during which time he married. He then returned and became a priest. OK so far.

    He was working in Europe where his wife was a physician. After a few years she left him for another man, also a physician.

    So could he, following the process outlined in AL, marry civilly and go one with his priestly ministry?

  30. The Masked Chicken says:

    I suppose I should wade into this. To begin, some_guy_on_the_street, we should talk. It is seriously possible to introduce mathematics into theology. We could do a blog post on it.

    As for the proportive problem of the violation of the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC) by Fr. Spadaro’s tweet, things are not what they seem and everyone should take a breath. There are two possible ways to interpret what he said:
    1) as a specific statement, clearly written
    2) as a general statement, poorly written.

    In case one, 2+2 = 4 and 2+2 = 5 would be (except for the cases of the zero ring, as some_guy_on_the_street points out, assuming the usual definition of addition – this is a technical definition in the mathematical discipline of Category Theory – or of a time-dependent stochastic process, where addition of two particles can produce 2 or more particles, depending on how they fragment) an example of the LNC. Why is the LNC so bad? It is because if I am given that A = -A at the same time on the same discourse level, then I can prove that I am Superchicken or, in fact, any arbitrary statement. The proof is covered in most beginning logic classes and involves the use of the logical OR statement. In Latin, the statement is: ex contradictione (sequitur) quodlibet (ECQ) – from contradiction, anything follows. This is called The Principle of Explosion – the logic, “blows up,” to allow any arbitrary statement. It is worse than this, however, because if A = -A, then not only can I prove the I am Superchicken, but I can, also, prove that I am not Superchicken. One instance of contradiction contaminates the entire logic. In fact, if the LNC holds and one has a contradiction, then it becomes impossible to decide truth or assign a truth value to ANY statement in the language. It was thought that the LNC played a role in humor construction, but I showed in the early 2000’s that this was not true because humor statements have truth valuation – one can say unambiguous things about joke texts.

    So, if Fr. Spadaro meant this as a specific statement which was clearly written, then he has, clearly, written nonsense. More than that, since God is Truth, if he meant to write an LNC sentence, then he has, to some extent, excluded God from his universe of discourse, thus denying the very possibility of something called, Theology.

    Now, if, as I suspect, on the other hand, case two hold, that Fr. Spadaro has written a general statement in a sloppy fashion, then how may one interpret what he wrote, charitably? Assuming the usual interpretation of addition and not some reserved definition, then can 2+2 = 5? It turns out that it can in at least two different ways. Take for example, the issue of metrology – the science of measurement. In beginning courses, students are taught about rounding numbers. So, 2.4 is rounded down to 2 and 2.6 is rounded up to 3. Thus, 2.4 + 2.6 = 5. What about 2.5? If one has a rule that 2.5 is always rounded up, then 2.5 + 2.5 = 6; if one has the rule that 2.5 is always rounded down, then 2.5 + 2.5 = 4. In science, we take a more statistical approach. We round up half of the time and round down half of the time, thus making the total error reduced by half. Using this definition, then 2.5 + 2.5 = 5. So, one way to charitably interpret Fr. Spadaro’s tweet is that he is being imprecise and he means approximately 2 when he writes 2. In this case, 2+2 can equal 4, 5, or 6, depending on rounding.

    Another way to get 5 is by using something called Big O notation or asymptotic limits. Suppose 2 is really, 2+(1/2 +1/4+1/8+1/16…), now depending upon where one truncates the series, one can get 2 or 3 to order x^2 or O(x^2), since the harmonic series goes as 1/x^2 for x = 2. Thus, depending on where the series is truncated, 2+2 = 5 is a real possibility.

    I suggest that Fr. Spadaro is, clumsily, trying to say something like this. In his tweet, 2+2 = 5 should be read as a statement involving uncertainty. When he says 2, he, really means, 2±1 and 5 is 5±1. What he is saying in a very clumsy way is that life is messy and there is a certain amount of inherent uncertainty. Just like in science, unlike math, error bars have to be provided and, sometimes for highly uncertain measurements, such as moral culpability, adding two numbers with large error bars can result in the next highest number (plus or minus).

    Thus, charitably, I can argue that Fr. Spadaro is not a mathematician or logician and his tweet was a clumsy way of introducing metrological error into certain aspects of theology. Obviously, this does not work for certain precisely defined notions, such as how many persons are in the Trinity, but it has to be the case for such things as how long a boy can kiss a girl before he sins. For some boys, it can be two seconds; for others it can be 200 seconds. Thus, as Fr. Spadaro points out, obliquely, life is messy and statistical in certain areas of human activity. So, his flaw, besides being imprecise in what he says, is that he did not go far enough. Sometimes, 2+2 can equal 4, 5, 6 or even more if the measurements are really imprecise. In science we use the notion of significant digits or figures – sigfigs, as they are called. I used to show my students that depending upon what school of thought one follows, some complex arithmatical operations can give more than one answer, depending on how one interprets arithmatical operations on sigfigs. This is an art. In music, one often hears the expression, “close enough for jazz.” That is what Fr. Spadaro is saying, although the statement, in its original context was pejorative.

    So, the odds are very great that Fr. Spadaro meant something like this and not a violation of the LNC. This fits in with Pope Francis’s looser perspective on mercy.

    I can’t post at Catholic World Report, but if someone can, perhaps they could send this comment to Carl Olsen. I am not a fan of what is going on with regards to moral theology in the current Vatican climate any more than many people and it was not my intention to defend Fr. Spadaro when I got up this morning, but he has a right to be interpreted charitably in his tweet. I suggest the old adage, “Don’t ascribe to malice what can be attributed to incompetence,” holds, here. Twitter is, apparently, not a good method for explaining the nuances of theology.

    The Chicken

  31. carleolson says:

    There are a couple of problems with The Masked Chicken’s remarks, as erudite and learned as they are. One is that Fr. Spadaro is clearly not addressing or interested in scientific or even mathematical concepts, but in a theological understanding of God. His remark is aimed at those he thinks have a cold, calculating, rigid, and “mathematical” concept of God; conversely, I think he is trying to make a point about God being a “God of surprises” — a favorite motif of Pope Francis. Plus, the tweet is, I’m convinced, aimed at the controversy over AL, which is really about objective moral truth and specific, complex situations. The most charitable and “in context” meaning of the tweet, I believe, is that we must not limit God in any way, for he can do things that seem “irrational” to us. The problem, as I indicate in my post, is that while God is indeed beyond our comprehension, we can in fact know things about God, for He has revealed truths about Himself and we can use logic to further contemplate those truths. An essential truth about God is that He cannot and will not contradict His nature, which is both Love and Truth. I remain convinced that Fr. Spadaro, along with some supporters of an interpretation of AL that is contradictory of the moral teachings of the Tradition (especially as articulated by JPII in Veritatis Splendor) have adopted an approach that is nominalist, or has nominalist qualities.

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear carlolsen,

    I am humbled that you read my comment. Your explanation does not include all of the data, it seems to me. Fr. Spadaro tweeted:

    “Theology is not #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with #God and real #life of #people…”

    Now, his conception of mathematics seems to only include the belief that, in math, 2+2=5 is not posdible and this is not true, either mathematically nor in the practical word of numbers used in science, as I showed, above. Thus, if he is using the term, “mathematics,” as a proxy for black-and-white thinking, then he really has a very layman’s understanding of the field and should not be commenting using a word he does not employ correctly. Also, much of theology can be analyzed mathematically, although no one has undertaken the task. For those interested in a little math history, there was a very detailed discussion about God and infinity when Cantor developed his transfinite math back in the late nineteenth century.

    After dismissing mathematics as being black-and-white, He says that theology deals with God and real life people, but he does not specify how he means that. I don’t follow a Twitter, so I don’t know if he clarified, but from the tone of the Tweet, he seems to be talking about variability of outcome when God and humans interact, due to human foibles. As I say, I do not read this as making God imprecise, but as making human life imprecise, which it can be. Now, adding a precise value and an imprecise value still results in an imprecise value. Again, Fr. Spadaro seems to not realize that mathematics does deal with such cases. I think his is a sloppy way of saying human life is messy, not that God’s nature is messy. In any case, I think we can both agree that a Theology-by-Twitter&#8482 is not something St. Thomas Aquinas would have approved.

    I tried to provide a charitable reading of his Tweet, above. When I read his Tweet last Saturday, I initially assumed, as most people, here, that it was a violation of the LNC or incoherent, but it occurred to me, this morning that there was a way to read it that may have made sense to Fr. Spadaro, but not throw all of theological truths into the dustbin. I tried, therefore, give a read that did not assume Fr. Spadaro was making mistakes a Theology 101 student would not make.

    Who can say what he means without further clarification. The best we can hope is that he means nothing more than there are messy situations in life that require finesse and the willingness to accept, “good-enough'” solution. The worst case would be, as you say, that he somehow believes that God is incoherent and unknowable. I suppose for the sake of argument both possible interpretations have to be stated (I hold to no position, one way or the other at this point) and one can only hope for more data to resolve the matter.

    The Chicken

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    In any case, I think we can both agree that a Theology-by-Twitter™ is not something St. Thomas Aquinas would have approved.

    I keep forgetting the semi-colon at then end of the Unicode :(

    The Chicken

  34. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    When I asked my teacher what 4 +4 equaled, she said “Four, you little dolt. For that last time, FOUR! May God have mercy on you, it’s FOUR, not five, not six, FOOOOOOOOR!” And then started crying.

    So, it’s four, right?

  35. un-ionized says:

    Senex, you will have to work harder than that to offend me anyway. I loved your Day of Reckoning remark.

  36. DaveP says:

    There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that illustrates this non-principled way of doing math:

    As his financial empire was just beginning to grow, Howard Hughes realized he would need a very good executive to support his efforts. He interviewed a number of candidates, in the course of which he dropped the question, “By the way, what is 2+2?” To which the befuddled candidate would say “4;” that is, until Noah Dietrich arrived, who answered calmly, “What do you want it to be, Mr. Hughes?”

    Dietrich got the job and worked for Hughes for some 32 years as a key executive in his many enterprises. Hughes would say about him, “Noah can do it.”

    At what point does a positive, can-do attitude become a lie? When in its arrogance it presumes to substitute for Truth itself.

  37. Y2Y says:

    “The shrinking numbers of Jesuits are a problem in Europe and the Americas. ”

    How is that a problem? The world will undoubtedly be a better place when the last Jesuit draws his terminal breath.

  38. Nan says:

    @robtbrown, a priest may not marry. Your story indicates that the priest properly waited and married prior to ordination to the diaconate. This is because married men may be ordained in the Eastern Catholic Churches, but neither deacons nor priests may marry.

    The Greek Orthodox in the US give a divorced priest the option of continuing as a celibate priest or leaving the priesthood to marry again. I don’t know if other Orthodox or Eastern Catholic churches do the same.

    Because Orthodox only consider Orthodox wedding valid, civil marriage isn’t an option. If a Catholic and Orthodox marry, it’s always in the Orthodox Church because nothing else is recognized.

  39. robtbrown says:

    Nan says:

    @robtbrown, a priest may not marry. Your story indicates that the priest properly waited and married prior to ordination to the diaconate. This is because married men may be ordained in the Eastern Catholic Churches, but neither deacons nor priests may marry.

    I don’t see your point. I noted that there was nothing wrong with what he did, that the Eastern Rite Churches can have married but not marrying priests.

    Why did you bring the Orthodox into the discussion?

  40. SenexCalvus says:


    Thank you for your kind remark! Nothing I’ve encountered in this forum has upset me more than Fr. Spadaro’s tweet, and I thank you for looking past my hasty, ill-phrased remarks. As Father Z commented in a reply to another guest, this is a matter of the utmost seriousness.

    Masked Chicken,

    In the days before calculators, when I was a pupil, it was beaten into our poor little heads that an answer cannot be more precise than the data from which it is derived. Believe it or not, teachers actually used to count our answers wrong if they exceeded the given number of significant digits, even if otherwise right. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t 2+2=5 admit of a single significant digit? On what grounds, then, could you introduce addenda of greater precision than those given by the AUTHOR of the problem? If one can’t derive an answer more precise than the problem, how can one posit a problem more precise than the given answer? No wonder I never did well in math! More to the point, doesn’t the context of Fr. Spadaro’s false equation demand that it be taken at its face, namely, as a straightforward sum?

    To read into Fr. Spadaro’s absurdity anything other than error is the kind of sophistry that even virtuous pagans rejected. If one is tempted by a false charity to do so, it should be recalled that love divorced from truth is mere sentimentality.

    Equivocation is the resort of liars and the Father of Lies, and that is what we are faced with in Fr. Spadaro. While I respect your attempt give him the benefit of the doubt, I must ask you this: Do you actually think he himself would understand any of the math you used to pull him out of the mire into which he chose to throw himself?

  41. un-ionized says:

    Senex, I was always marked wrong for incorrect significant digits. I bet you also remember putting SRA after answers.

  42. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear SenexCalvus,

    You wrote:

    “Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t 2+2=5 admit of a single significant digit? On what grounds, then, could you introduce addenda of greater precision than those given by the AUTHOR of the problem? If one can’t derive an answer more precise than the problem, how can one posit a problem more precise than the given answer? No wonder I never did well in math! More to the point, doesn’t the context of Fr. Spadaro’s false equation demand that it be taken at its face, namely, as a straightforward sum?”

    No. You are not using all of the data from the problem.

    1. Fr. Spadaro says (or, rather, claims), explicitly, that , “Theology is not mathematics.” That is the first clue that he does not mean to use the representation of 2 as a mere mathematically abstract number or concept, so one must look further to see what he means by the symbol, 2.

    2. He, then, says that, “2+2 in Theology can make 5,” so it is clear that, since he is not talking about single-precision numbers, one is left trying to determine what 2 stands for and what protocol he is using that would let 2+2=5.

    3. He, then, introduces the notion that, “Because it [Theology] has to do with God and real life people.” The question is what does 2, then, stand for. He seems to imply that, unlike in the lay understanding of mathematics, 2 is not as precisely defined in real life. If this is true, then he is, essentially, using fuzzy measurements. That leads to my original comment about metrology.

    Now, if he means to apply this fuzzy reasoning to both God and man, then he is, clearly, wrong, as a certain attributes of God can be known with precision. I suspect that many of the online commenters are distributing the imprecision that Fr. Spadaro hints at to both God and man:

    Imprecision (Theology)=Imprecision (God + man)

    If so, then he deserves the comments he is getting. It is, however, also possible, that he is only applying the imprecision to the man part of theology, so:

    Imprecision (Theology) = God + Imprecision(man).

    If this is the case, then he is trying to use fuzzy measurements to determine theology, which is precisely the problem in using conscience, alone, to determine if a divorced and re-married person can go to Communion. The reason is that, in this specific case, God has forbidden the use of approximations in the measurement process. The case of being married or not married cannot be allowed to be fuzzy or judged only through the imagination of the internal forum. There are some aspects of moral theology that are, indeed, fuzzy – how long to kiss a girl, for example, but the whole point that Fr. Spadaro is missing is that his argument, which may be correct in certain situations, specifically does not apply to the case of determining whether or not a person who is divorced and re-married can go to Communion.

    So, either he is writing sloppily or he is engaging in misdirection. As I say, the presumption should be that he is writing sloppily, but those better informed than I might have a right to a non-rash judgment that he is engaging in misdirection, since his argument only seems to apply to marriage, when it, in fact, does not.

    The Chicken

  43. GregB says:

    Let’s see … doesn’t 2 cardinals + 2 cardinals = 5 dubia? :)

  44. SenexCalvus says:

    Dear Masked Chicken,

    Again, I applaud you for choosing to read Fr. Spadaro’s tweet charitably and then employing your erudition to help me and others do the same. Regrettably, my education did not equip me to see how 2+2 can equal anything but 4, and it would therefore be cantankerous of me to pose a counterargument.

    Let’s conclude with a statement on which we perhaps can agree: “. . . but the whole point that Fr. Spadaro is missing is that his argument, which may be correct in certain situations, specifically does not apply to the case of determining whether or not a person who is divorced and re-married can go to Communion.” If we are agreed that those “certain situations” are extraneous to the question of changing sacramental discipline in the wake of AL, I’ll say uncle.


  45. SenexCalvus says:

    No, un-ionized, I’ve blocked out all those memories. I wasn’t intellectually mature enough to understand even geometry, and I’ve been repenting ever since. Math is the doorway to philosophy, and hence theology, and anyone who’s read my posts can see how deficient I am in all of those disciplines.

  46. SenexCalvus says:

    Father John Hardon, SJ, pray for us!

  47. un-ionized says:

    Senex, math is definitely not the “doorway to philosophy.:

  48. Grabski says:

    Took time to percolate

    In 1984, the prisoner had to love Big Brother. Obedience was insufficient

    He had to submit and believe if the Party said 2+2=5 then it did

  49. robtbrown says:

    un-ionized says,

    Senex, math is definitely not the “doorway to philosophy.:

    Completely agree. The Medievals had it right with the 7 liberal Arts

    Trivium: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric

    Quadrivium: Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, Music.

  50. un-ionized says:

    I mean the most important part is to learn what is meant by living the Gospel. Sometimes I can live a sentence or two of it.

  51. SenexCalvus says:

    I can’t think of a better preparation for the study of logic than the endless proofs we did in freshman geometry. Plato may have thought the same. A medieval tradition holds that he had these words posted above the entrance to his Academy:
    (Sorry, but I couldn’t get the Greek font to work, so I used macrons to indicate etas and omegas.)

  52. SenexCalvus says:

    Looks like the macrons didn’t work either.

Comments are closed.