12

Congratulations Mark!

 

 

I have to hand it to Mark Shea.  He has managed to get into the verbal equivalent of a fist fight with Ed Feser.  Ed is a philosophy professor, and runs a blog where he breaks philosophical concepts down to bite sized chunks for readers like me.  He is a loyal son of the Church and a true gentleman.  Getting him angry is rather like getting Gandhi to take a slug at you or being hissed at by Mother Teresa, but Mark managed that feat:

 

Not too long ago, Catholic writer Mark Shea and I had an exchange on the subject of capital punishment.  See this post, this one, and this one for my side of the exchange and for links to Shea’s side of it.  A friend emails to alert me that Shea has now made some remarks at Facebook about the forthcoming book on the subject that I have co-authored with Joe Bessette.  “Deranged” might seem an unkind description of Shea and his comments.  Sadly, it’s also a perfectly accurate description.  Here’s a sample:

 

Yes. This needs to be the #1 priority for conservative Christian “prolife” people to focus on: battling the Church for the right of a post-Christian state to join Communist and Bronze Age Islamic states in killing as many people as possible, even if 4% of them are completely innocent. Cuz, you know, stopping euthanasia is, like, a super duper core non-negotiable and stuff.  What a wise thing for “prolife” Christians to commit their time and energy to doing instead of defending the unborn or the teaching of the Magisterium. How prudent. How merciful. This and kicking 24 million people off health care are *clearly* what truly “prolife” Christians should be devoted to, in defiance of the Magisterium.  Good call!
“Prudential judgment” is right wing speak for “Ignore the Church and listen to right wing culture of death rhetoric”.
This book will be the Real Magisterium, henceforth, for all members of the Right Wing Culture of Death on this subject. It’s judgments, not that of the Magisterium, will be final and authoritative for the “prolife” supporter of the Right Wing Culture of Death.

 

It will do nothing but foster right wing dissent. It will be the New Magisterium for the entire right wing and give oxygen to the War on Francis.

 

The Right anoints a Folk Hero antipope who tells it it’s okay to reject the obvious teaching of the Church and do whatever they want and then the cry “Prudential judgment!” goes up.

 

Etc.  End quote.

 

No comment is really necessary.  Still, I can’t help calling attention to a few points:

 

First, the book has not come out yet, so Shea hasn’t even read it.  His attack is thus aimed at a fantasy target rather than at our actual claims and arguments.  In fact, all of the concerns Shea might have about our position are answered at length and in detail in the book, and in a scholarly and non-polemical fashion.  Hence Shea’s remarks are – to say the very least – ill-informed and unjustifiably vituperative. 

 

Second, the few substantive assertions Shea makes here – and note that they are mere assertions, completely unbacked by any argumentation or evidence – have already been answered in my earlier exchange with him.  For example, in the initial response to Shea I posted during that exchange, I noted that Shea’s claim that “4% of [those executed] are completely innocent” misrepresents the authors of the study from which Shea derives this claim.  I also there noted the problems with Shea’s use of the term “prolife,” which is merely a political slogan deriving from contemporary American politics and has no theological significance.

 

As to the bogus charge of “dissent,” in my second post in our earlier exchange, I quoted statements from Cardinal Ratzinger (then head of the CDF and the Church’s chief doctrinal officer) and Archbishop Levada (then writing in a USCCB document, and later to take over from Ratzinger as head of CDF) which explicitly affirm that faithful Catholics are at liberty to take different positions regarding capital punishment and even to disagree with the Holy Father on that particular issue.  Both Ratzinger and Levada in these documents also explicitly assert that abortion and euthanasia – which, unlike capital punishment, are intrinsically evil – have a greater moral significance than capital punishment.  Hence, when Shea mocks Catholics who are strongly opposed to abortion and euthanasia but who do not share his views about capital punishment, he is implicitly mocking Ratzinger and Levada – who, unlike Shea, actually have authority to state what is and is not binding Catholic teaching. 

 

Shea has, in several follow-ups now, given no response whatsoever to these points or others made in my earlier posts.  He simply ignores the arguments and instead reiterates, with greater shrillness, the same false and already refuted claims he made in his initial attack on Joe and me.

 

Third, the charge that Joe and I are motivated by a desire to justify “killing as many people as possible” is not only false and groundless, but a truly outrageous calumny.  Shea made this charge in our original exchange, and (as I noted in my second post in that exchange) when I complained about it he seemed to back away from it.  Now he is back to tossing this smear at us.

 

Fourth, if Shea insists on flinging calumnies like these, he ought to consider just how many people he is implicitly targeting.  On my personal web page I have posted the endorsements given our book by J. Budziszewski, Fr. James Schall, Robert Royal, Fr. Robert Sirico, Edward Peters, Fr. Kevin Flannery, Steven A. Long, Fr. George Rutler, Fr. Gerald Murray, Barry Latzer, Michael Pakaluk, and Fr. Thomas Petri.  This list includes some very prominent faithful Catholics and respected scholars, representing fields such as moral theology, canon law, philosophy, and criminal justice.  And unlike Shea, they have actually seen the book.  It is worth noting that Fr. Sirico, who happens to be opposed to capital punishment, does not even agree with our conclusions.  He graciously endorsed our book anyway simply because he regards it as a worthy and serious defense of the other side, which opponents of capital punishment can profit from engaging with. 

 

Now, I imagine that Shea knows and respects many of these people.  Of course, they could be wrong, and the fact that they endorse our book doesn’t mean we are right.  But would Shea go so far as to label all of these people “dissenters,” or proponents of a “culture of death” who want to “kill as many people as possible,” etc.?  If not, then perhaps he will reconsider his rhetorical excesses. 

 

Fifth, the out-of-left-field stuff in Shea’s remarks about “kicking 24 million people off health care,” “the War on Francis,” etc. have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with the argument of our book.  Shea made similarly irrelevant remarks in our earlier exchange.  His seeming inability to refrain from dragging in his personal political obsessions shows just how very unhinged he is.  It also manifests his lack of self-awareness.  Shea accuses fellow Catholics who disagree with him about capital punishment of being blinded by their political biases – while in the very same breath bizarrely insinuating that our support for capital punishment somehow has something to do with President Trump’s health care bill (!) 

 

Sixth, Shea’s political obsessions blind him to other and more important aspects of the debate over capital punishment, in ways I have already explained in my earlier posts – where, here again, Shea simply ignores rather than responds to what I wrote.  For example, Shea appears not to realize that there is a very influential strain of thought within otherwise theologically conservative Catholic circles – namely, the so-called “new natural law” school of thought – which takes a far more radically abolitionist position than even he would.  Shea has repeatedly acknowledged in the past that capital punishment is not always and intrinsically immoral and that the Church cannot teach that it is.  But the “new natural lawyers” maintain that capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, and they would like the Church to reverse two millennia of teaching on this point – indeed, to reverse the consistent teaching of scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the popes.

 

One of the main motivations for writing our book was to rebut this extreme position, which has very dangerous theological implications that extend well beyond the capital punishment debate.  Indeed, our primary concern in the book is to demonstrate the continuity of Catholic teaching and rebut any suggestion that the Church has contradicted herself, with advocacy of capital punishment in practice being a merely secondary concern.  Among the many novel things the reader will find in our book is a far more detailed and systematic response to the extreme “new natural law” position on capital punishment than has yet appeared. 

 

Since Shea too rejects the extreme “always and intrinsically wrong” position vis-à-vis capital punishment, one would think he would see the importance of rebutting it.  Unfortunately, in his apparent desire to fold every Catholic theological dispute into his obsession with current American electoral politics, Shea seems unable to understand that some of us have much larger and less ephemeral concerns in view. 

 

Go here to read the rest.  I should note that Mark has apologized and that Ed has accepted.  Go here to read about it.  I truly hope that the apology is sincere and will lead to an amendment of life by Mark, but the words of Patrick Henry come to mind:  I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.  Mark has made similar apologies in the past and has resumed his outrageous calumnies against fellow Catholics within days.  Hope springs eternal, but I have only a weak hope that Mark has the ability to change, except for the worse.  That a man with his manifest issues is considered a worthy apologist for the Catholic Church in this nation is beyond belief.

Share With Friends
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

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.

12 Comments

  1. Of course he’ll be back to his old tricks! In the long run, his leftist agenda is more important than showing Christian charity.

  2. A friend of M. Shea’s in meatworld might do him a great favor and grease the skids to an ordinary wage-job (though not one where he has anything to do with the public). Something that would occupy his time and allow him to undertake a prudent (and penitential?) silence. This is just too much (though I’ve seen some of these tropes before, flung at Tom McKenna).

  3. You cannot dialog with liberals like Mark Shea. Rather, you must either acquiesce to their irrationality or defeat, muzzle and emasculate them. Defeat so that they lose in the public eye, muzzle so that they cannot spread their lies and deceit, and emasculate so that they cannot reproduce their falsehood and heresies.

  4. This:

    “That a man with his manifest issues is considered a worthy apologist for the Catholic Church in this nation is beyond belief.”

    Is the issue. Mark has issues. Serious issues. But who doesn’t? We all have our own issues. But Mark’s issues are antithetical to being a credible representative of any religious tradition, much less the Church. His use of slander and false accusation, his inconsistency and fusing the Gospel with his personal opinions, are the stuff that would keep most Protestants I know from being Sunday School teachers, much less paid apologists.

    It’s that Mark is given such a platform and supported by Church leaders, religious and Catholic organizations is the problem. He has issues that he should work through. But that he is given such praise for things that are so detrimental to the message says something is wrong with the apologetics world in the American Church at least.

  5. The irony is that capital punishment is an effort by the state to protect the public and even prison populations from truly dangerous people. Further unlike war, there seldom is indiscriminate killing. It seldom happens except after a long legal process and seldom is done to innocent or incompetent persons. Finally, it offers justice that is commensurate with the crime.

    Compare this with abortion and euthanasia. A public execution is a cold-blooded thing. I shook me to the core to put down my family dog. I would hate to be the person who put down a human being no matter what his deeds. So many murderers are never caught, and with rare exceptions, his crime is lesser than those of many who escape justice. But abortion is the most callous act of which we are capable, because it denies the obvious: that the victim is a human being. Exactly the same as herding men and women into a gas chamber, made all the worse because it is the decision of those who ought to care the most. From the time of Cain, mankind became inured to slavery. But it could be justified in the name of expediency. Prisoners of war pressed into involuntary servitude;women taken to satisfy the lust of their captors. Mitigated by human compassion, but supported by customs and law as inevitable as other human acts of violence. Celebrated also as positive act by those who treated the enslaved as lesser beings. The same attitudes affect those engaged in abortion and euthanasia. Like “positive slavery” these practices rot society at its core and taint all of us who allow it.

  6. Deny oxygen to aerobic bacteria and they die. I have never in my life heard a speech by BarrySoeotoroBarack Obama or by HR Clinton – I simply refuse to listen or watch-and turn them OFF. Ignore Shea and his public work dies. No audience = no paycheck. Remember Bogey to Peter Lorre in Casablanca: Ugarte: “You despise me , dont you?” Rick: If I gave yo any thought, I probably would.”. Give Mark no thought. Guy McClung, Sasn Antonio, Texas

  7. ” It is worth noting that Fr. Sirico, who happens to be opposed to capital punishment, does not even agree with our conclusions. He graciously endorsed our book anyway simply because he regards it as a worthy and serious defense of the other side, which opponents of capital punishment can profit from engaging with. ”
    Capital punishment is executed through the power of attorney of the condemned. As a citizen of the state, the condemned is executed by the citizens of the state. Priests and consecrated persons do not engage any person without their consent, not even to execution. The first mission of the priest and consecrated persons is to serve God in the Catholic Church. It is the state of whom the condemned is a citizen who must execute the capital one murderer because the capital one murderer has not expired with grief over his crime.

  8. Is the issue. Mark has issues. Serious issues. But who doesn’t? We all have our own issues. But Mark’s issues are antithetical to being a credible representative of any religious tradition, much less the Church.

    What’s odd is that he wasn’t a particularly troublesome figure ca. 2003, though his voice was much improved by editing. No clue what happened.

    It’s that Mark is given such a platform and supported by Church leaders, religious and Catholic organizations is the problem.

    I don’t know that I’d call Sherry Weddell, Karl Keating and Jimmy Akin ‘church leaders’. Catholic Answers had about 20 employees at one time. A diocese of ordinary size might employ 2,000. People who were once his patrons (e.g. Crisis, and, again Karl Keating) have ceased any dealings with them. I’m not sure who the progenitors of Patheos are, but it’s not a specifically Catholic apostolate.

  9. AD, it’s not just them. I know Fr. Longenecker, who emerged as a pretty popular voice in some circles, spent several years giving Mark a thumbs up and defending Mark against critics. I don’t know if he still is. I don’t know if Bishop Barron is aware of Mark or not, but Mark seems linked to some who have worked with him. Certainly Mark’s own bishop has been made aware of him. I know some have contacted his diocese. Mark frequently gets visits and support from deacons and priests, both on his blog and FB page. Or at least he was. And he’s regularly asked to speak at parishes and dioceses around the country, esp. Washington. It’s enough to say that the casual net surfer, stumbling through wanting to know a Catholic who can explain the Faith, might just stumble across the name Mark Shea. And seeing a priest here or an apologist there give him a stamp of approval, that’s enough – in the world of Catholic apologetics – to warrant official endorsements.

  10. You cannot dialog with liberals like Mark Shea. Rather, you must either acquiesce to their irrationality or defeat, muzzle and emasculate them. Defeat so that they lose in the public eye, muzzle so that they cannot spread their lies and deceit, and emasculate so that they cannot reproduce their falsehood and heresies.”

    As far as I can tell, this is the approach we must take with all Leftists–or waste our time & energy.

Comments are closed.