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Mark Shea, Pro-life and Religion as Politics

 

Mark Shea has taken his agree-with-me-on-these-issues-or-you-are-not-really-pro-life routine to the pages of the Jesuit rag America:

But weirdly, when the topic is not the unborn, many allegedly pro-life people often forget their wisdom. Result: on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.

And so self-identified pro-life people, in a solid majority, favored the launch of the Iraq War, despite the fact that it failed to meet a single criterion of Just War teaching, was sternly denounced by Pope John Paul II, warned of by the world’s bishops, and dismissed as folly by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who famously remarked that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and who warned that it would result in catastrophe—as the destruction of the Chaldean Church, the deaths of at least 100,000 people and the transformation of Iraq into chaos eloquently attests.

..
Relatedly, self-identified pro-life Christians supported, in greater percentages than the general U.S. population, the use of torture against prisoners. Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life. This is despite the fact that the church describes torture as gravely and intrinsically immoral—exactly the same terms in which she describes abortion.

Similarly, the death penalty is sometimes treated as an issue in which the church’s guidance to inflict the punishment only if absolutely necessary is rejected on the theory that God “commands” rather than reluctantly permits the death penalty. Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually “wrong” and work to execute as many victims as possible.

Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women (thus increasing the likelihood of abortion for poor families who fear they cannot afford another child) and the even stranger spectacle of self-identified pro-life people brandishing guns and screaming for desperately poor refugee children from Central America to be sent back to the extreme dangers of rape, sex slavery and murder.

Go here to read the rest.  Mark is an interesting case study in someone who attempts to turn his religion into his politics.  Post Vatican II Catholicism has seen the Popes embrace a number of stances that are ill-represented in their entirety on the American political spectrum by any political party, and thus Shea, formerly a conservative, now heaps scorn on both of the major political parties.  Unfortunately, attempting to make religion one’s politics works about as well as trying to transform one’s politics into one’s religion.  We can see that when we consider some of the points raised by Mark in his commentary.

The Church has always condemned abortion. The Church has regarded as morally licit just wars, even when Catholics disagreed, as they usually did, about whether a conflict was just.  Until the papacy of John Paul II, the Church had no problem with the death penalty which was frequently utilized in the papal states until 1871 when the papal states were dissolved by the newly unified Italy. As to torture, Church teaching has been in a state of flux as some popes have condemned it, and some have allowed its use by legitimate authorities. Torture, like the death penalty, was utilized by some popes as rulers of the papal states in judicial proceedings, as was common in most European states in those times. Other popes condemned the use of torture. Popes have differed wildly about the desirability of the welfare state.  Shea is an absolutist in areas where the Church has held opposite stances over time.

Cardinal Ratzinger recognized the difference in 2004 in a letter to Cardinal McCarrick when it comes to abortion and euthanasia over other issues:

 

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion

General Principles

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).

2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

4. Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.]

Every faithful Catholic should always take the views of the Church into consideration when determining his or her politics.  However, on the vast majority of political issues the Church has wisely left her sons and daughters free to make up their own minds.  To pretend otherwise is to seek to transform the Church into a political party, something she has never been.

 

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

30 Comments

  1. I guess Shea also needs to re-define “illegal immigrant” into “refugee.” Otherwise he is not supported by JP II:

    “Illegal immigration should be prevented, but it is also essential to combat vigorously the criminal activities which exploit illegal immigrants.”

    “4. When no solution is foreseen, these same institutions should direct those they are helping, perhaps also providing them with material assistance, either to seek acceptance in other countries, or to return to their own country.”

    Now if they were real refugees escaping Central America and “the extreme danger of rape, sex slavery and murder…” then international law is quite clear that Mexico should have taken in these “refugees.” But they were no such thing. They were illegal immigrants encouraged by lax enforcement of just laws. Of course Shea needs to redefine the term as “refugees” otherwise he is not consistent with Church teaching. Now I thought he was against such word play.

  2. Mark Shea’s absolutism excommunicates so many from the church of Mark Shea it may have a membership of one. But not to worry, if individuals somehow fit through the eye of the needle in agreeing with him on those points he will find others to toss them out.

  3. He of rural Washington context ( no crime to encounter ) actually gave me the laugh of the morning …does Romans 13:4 from the Holy Spirit sound like reluctant death penalty to anyone who is not doing mushrooms from Oaxaca…..” not without reason does it carry the sword…it is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil”. So very very filled with sensitive reluctance and indecision….and Jesuitical feminized theologizing. Then Shea quotes a very unfortunate passage of Benedict in which Benedict seems to see the catechism as something inerrant on preventive war and a catechism removed from Benedict who oversaw its editing….lol. Pope Benedict didn’t believe the herem of the Old Testament were ordered by God ( Verbum Domini,42). And all Christians prior to the historico-critical school did believe they were from God. And people now who notice that Christ predicted the worst one….70AD….know that God brings them about actively…not through karma.

  4. I once had a tangle with Mr. Shea over the issue of waterboarding. It left a rather bad taste with me.

    Let me start by pointing out that many people assume that any torture involving water is waterboarding. James Bradley had a photo of an American soldier using water torture on a Filipino insurgent in his book The Imperial Cruise: The Secret History of Empire and War; the caption read that the Filipino was being waterboarded. The movie Zero Dark Thirty had a ‘waterboarding’ scene in which the victim spits up a significant amount of water. This is inaccurate – there is no ingestion of water in waterboarding. Senator John McCain has stated that in World War II, the United States military hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American prisoners of war – again this is inaccurate, the Japanese used methods that were much more invasive than waterboarding.

    Point #2, and the most critical one, is that waterboarding is not torture under U.S. law. Why? Because it is used by the U.S. military in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. U.S. law prohibits the torture of its military personnel during its training. At some point in the past a decision was made in the SERE curriculum development that waterboarding did not constitute torture, and so could be used in training. It may have involved legal hairsplitting, but the precedent was made.

    Point #3 is that it is hard to say that waterboarding is not torture. One of Bush’s Assistant Attorney Generals [sorry, forgot who] and writer Christopher Hitchens both supported waterboarding of al-Qaeda bigwigs, volunteered to be subjected to it so they could defend it’s use, and changed their minds after being subjected to it. My opinion is that I would hate to see the SERE program lose whatever benefit waterboarding gives to the ability of our military personnel to resist torture, but that loss would be outweighed by reclassifying it to be torture under U.S. law and ending this controversy.

    None of this history mattered to Mark Shea. He believes he is entitled to his own facts: U.S. law prohibits torture, waterboarding is torture, therefore waterboarding is prohibited. I pointed out this history to him online; he ignored my conclusion – which was basically in agreement with his conclusion – and he proceeded to rip me a new bodily orifice. You see, he wants the defenders of waterboarding to be evil men deserving of his ire, and not ordinary men under pressure who grasped onto a legal precedent created for other circumstances. He could have defended himself with a “Thanks for the history Tommie, but it is obviously torture, so the Bush guys shouldn’t have grabbed that precedent”, but he didn’t. He responded with “You’re another supporter of torture”, because my sin was to not agree with his labeling.

    I’ve written this before: if I were to write Mark Shea’s epitaph, it would read “Here lies Mark Shea, Catholic writer. No man was ever so wrong about so many right things than he

  5. BTW, when it comes to “Render unto Caesar…” I particularly like the words of Soviet dissident Sister Nijole Sadunaite, who told her judges “What is due to Caesar is but the remains of that due to God”

  6. Mark is an interesting case study in someone who attempts to turn his religion into his politics.

    Perhaps. Or perhaps a case study in how we get to be caricatures of ourselves as we age (except in his case the act is not the least bit amusing).

  7. I once had a tangle with Mr. Shea over the issue of waterboarding. It left a rather bad taste with me. .

    Gosh, no kidding.

    “Torture” or capital sentencing or proper responses to illegal immigration or disaster relief in New Orleans or the utility of psychotropic medications. Different issues, same behavior.

  8. “…on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.”

    “Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life.”

    “Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually ‘wrong’ and work to execute as many victims as possible.”

    “Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women…”

    I never realized what a true idiot Shea was until reading this!

  9. “One of Bush’s Assistant Attorney Generals [sorry, forgot who] and writer Christopher Hitchens both supported waterboarding of al-Qaeda bigwigs, volunteered to be subjected to it so they could defend it’s use, and changed their minds after being subjected to it.”

    Ok. Here is the problem that I have with water boarding being called “torture.”
    1. Does the person experience physical pain?

    2. Is there any permanent physical damage done?

    3. What is it specifically that makes this torture (supposedly?)

  10. ProLife by the numbers: [feel free to add any other category with number of victims and/or dead]

    Persons lynched in the history of the United States: 5000; but let’s err on the side of questioning history and say 100,000; add whatever number you like for beatings, torture etc not resulting in death

    Persons dying of hunger each year in the United States: a few thousands, but let’s go with 100,000 [this is way outlandish]

    Persons tortured in the US and/or by US officials each year: supply your own number-mine is 10,000 -no basis for this

    Persons executed since the death penalty reinstatement: about 2000, but let’s go with 4000

    Persons killled by abortion, including RETA, daily in the United States: 3500-4000.

    Persons killed by abortion since Roe in the US: approx 56,000,000

    Minority members victims of abortion since Roe [Black + Hispanic]: approx 29,000,000

    Mothers of minority abortion victims: less than 1/3 total population

    RETA = Racial Eugenic Targeted Abortion

    Guy McClung, San Antonio

  11. Here is a military-doctrine/economy of force analogy to Shea’s and all liberals’ ineffectual pro-life positions. It’s like ordering an infantry division against the enemy’s drummer boys while ignoring the infantry.

    Every soldier knows that in a fight you must first destroy the heaviest weapons shooting at you.

  12. Is there an ounce of sympathy for the soldier on the Bataan Death march who has his appendix ripped out on a dirty trail? How about beautiful young Harold John Smith who fought in VN and was literally burned to death after being put on point during one of the war’s fiercest battles? War is hell. Abortion is hell! Who started these wars. We react. Who forced abortion on demand on us. Who has not been as strong as they should have been during this last 40 years? A very liberal church. A church infested with vermin who have robbed this church of billions of dollars to cover their deviant behavior, while Catholic schools are forced to close by the thousands. Give me a break. I am so sick of the two faces of blather. The entire congress of this country is overwhelmingly “Christian” and this is what we have to deal with. CINO(Christian in name only) to get themselves a few pukey votes at the expense of millions. Oh now, Billy Graham “advisor” to all the presidents speaks out about abortion on demand. Do you ever hear a word out of Joyce Meyer’s mouth as she is preaching to thousands in the big arena’s about action. I haven’t heard one word about IsIs or what is happening in Iraq and Syria and wherever about the persecution of and praying for Christians suffering so at any Mass I have attended in the last 6 mo . I am sick of getting the “Diocesan” newspaper and reading about the bishops dog! Good God Almighty, people I might be a measly farmer but even I can see that most “catholics” are reading these rags and that is why they know nothing of the real truths of the faith. Someone better tell the pope and a few of these other ding dongs that someone will be held accountable for this diabolic (confusion) of the faith that they are perpetrating. People are so mixed up.

  13. ‘Enhanced interrogation techniques’ which included waterboarding were widely used on terrorist suspects (both republican and loyalist) in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, mostly by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the interrogation of suspects was seen as a police rather than an army responsibility). Many of these interrogations were carried out at the Castlereagh detention centre by teams of detectives specially trained in such techniques. Following a campaign by Amnesty International the European Commission ruled that this constituted torture, but following an appeal by HMG the European Court of Human Rights downgraded this to ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’. The adverse publicity led to its being discontinued, although it had had some success in eliciting confessions which were not later retracted in court.

    The paramilitaries themselves routinely tortured (in a much cruder way) those whom they suspected of being informers although ironically PIRA had ‘traitors’ at the highest level – it has recently emerged that one of its most senior figures agreed to act as a government agent in return for escaping prosecution for sexual offences against children.

    The point is that fighting terrorism is a dirty business since the adversary acts without legal or moral constraints whereas the authorities must be seen to act within the law. One man’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ are another man’s ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ and a third man’s ‘torture’.

  14. “One man’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ are another man’s ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ and a third man’s ‘torture’.”

    This is my point exactly.

    I have never had to use physical force in my entire adult life on another person. And I have been in some very stressful, threatening situations. If I ever decide that physical force is necessary–it will not be pretty.

    If I decided to torture someone physically, no one would have to question wether or not it was torture.

    Amensty International has done some good things. However, they have also done some whacky things.

  15. PS. The reason that I specified not using physical force in my “adult” life is because before I turned 21, I used some physical force on some folks. Lol

  16. But they were no such thing. They were illegal immigrants encouraged by lax enforcement of just laws. Of course Shea needs to redefine the term as “refugees” otherwise he is not consistent with Church teaching. Now I thought he was against such word play.

    Nah, Mark is only against “Lying for Jesus” on minor, secondary issues of no real import, like abortion. When it comes to serious, unambiguous areas of the Faith like the moral imperative of giving amnesty to an unlimited number of illegal immigrants no matter what, he’s okay with it.

  17. Deuce,
    Exactly, Shea considers breaking into a country illegally, stealing its resources, overwhelming it’s health and educational systems, and disturbing the peace of its legal citizens as simply a matter of not having the right “piece of paper”. Or as liberals like to classify them, the “undocumented”. When I pointed out to him the hypocrisy of his consequentialism, I was just deleted and banned.

  18. “Shea’s a demokrat party operative masquerading as a Catholic crank.”

    No, actually, Mark Shea is a Paul-bot, as in Ron Paul disciple. Or, at least he was, a few years ago, when I got banned (he didn’t like being shown the absence of logic in his positions).
    I haven’t read him much in the past couple of years, so, maybe he’s changed.

  19. Mark Shea needs to be locked up in the Octagon with Chris Ferrara, Texas Death Match style.

    Why Christopher Ferrara? Mr. Ferrara may be wrong on some issues and overly astringent on occasion. His viewpoint is not, however, largely reducible to irritable mental gestures.

  20. when I got banned (he didn’t like being shown the absence of logic in his positions). –

    In my last attempt at conversing with him, he was in a state of rage against any countervailing opinion. Everyone’s remarks to that end were deleted.

  21. Art, it was an attempt at humor. Ferrara is what Mr. McClarey calls him – a crank, but unlike Mark Shea, Ferrara has truth on his side.

Comments are closed.