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Mark Shea, the Angelic Doctor, Francis Bacon and Truth

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at Mark Shea’s ongoing debate with strawmen:

 

 

I must admit, one reason I left Patheos was so that I could keep better track of Mark Shea.  When I came on board Patheos, our editor asked me to leave Mark alone and cease and desist arguments with him.  I more or less behaved myself, usually confining any references to Mark to the praise and ‘well done’ category.

That didn’t stop Mark, however, from visiting my blog a few times and throwing out his usual preemptive accusations, and then leaving.  Since Mark banned me from his own sites, I couldn’t respond, and he never returned to dialogue with me.

That became frustrating to be sure.  I tried to behave on my part, and yet felt I was coming out on the short end.  Therefore one of many reasons to leave Patheos was so I could speak more openly about Mark’s descent into the deepest levels of the modern Left.

This post is a grand example.  First of all, there is nothing wrong with the substance of what Mark says about Church teaching.  The Church condemns racism.  If you only oppose immigration because you are a racist, then that is bad.  Likewise, our salvation does not rest in blood or soil or nation.  The Church is not America, nor is it Western Civilization.

But that’s not the problem. First, Mark used a rather poor example to illustrate the opposing side of the debate.  Assuming this all came to Mark as he indicates – and knowing how Mark falsely accused me of saying things about him, I must wonder – it is obviously a poorly written, poorly thought out piece.  There are other, better pieces explaining the problems with open borders and post-national Christianity.  The biggest problem is that whatever negative results occur, it won’t be us who pay the price.  It will be future generations.  A sort of martyrdom by proxy: By the degree to which future generations pay for our opinions have we declared our righteousness.

Mark doesn’t address those.  He takes something written by what could pass as a high school Facebook rant.  And he uses it to subtly suggest this is par for the course for those who don’t agree with the Church’s current approach to the subject.

He then does the really, super duper bad thing.  He ascribes only the most vile and evil motives to those who oppose open border immigration.  And then, to add salt to the wound, he takes it to the next level:

“…is (like all these Alt Right guys) obsessed with his sperm.  That’s why he bizarrely speaks of “cuckolds” as he insults celibate “Catholic leaders”.  It’s all about the weird fear these guys have that darkskins will inseminate “their” white women.  The sexual insecurity of these wretched bully boys just leaps off the page every time they write.”

Go here to read the rest.  Saint Thomas Aquinas would take arguments he rejected, make them stronger than their adherents did, and only then subject the arguments to his powerful analysis.  Of course the Angelic Doctor didn’t post on the internet and his goal was not to get hits from red meat fans.  His whole purpose was to arrive at the truth of any subject he wrote about, as best as he could.  Unfortunately the attitude of  most internet posters to truth is summed up in the beginning of Francis Bacon’s essay Of Truth:

“What is truth?” said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

We can do better than that, and not just Mark Shea.  This is a duty especially for those of us who follow Truth Incarnate.

 

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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.

26 Comments

  1. Shea is not a theologian, or an historian or anyone even remotely qualified to offer a valid analysis on anything Catholic. He should stop writing and go learn some more, but a hallmark of the Left is arrogance.

  2. This is interesting. I must confess that I haven’t read Mark Shea, but he doesn’t sound like my kind of writer from what’s quoted. I also have to confess that I don’t follow Patheos. Am I missing out?

  3. Mark who?

    Over a decade ago, I stopped reading that total-bull crap site.

    Does he persist, like liberals, in distorting; omitting facts/truths that belie his leftism; fabricating out-of-thin-air Church Teaching, doctrine, Objective Truth, etc. to support his far-left silliness?

    In short, I saw him as one pushing personal, left wing opinions (Opinion is not truth – Plato) as if they were Church Teaching and Objective Truth. And, woe to the person that dared disagree. Seemed he thought he was a latter-day Tomas de Torquemada; however, answerable only to himself. .

  4. Again, to see M. Shea as a purveyor of ideas is, I think, to misunderstand him. His trajectory over the last dozen years has been a cautionary tale.

  5. Everytime I see Mark Shea’s name, I know that proverbial manure is about to fly.

    This blog is decidedly (and thankfully) conservative orthodox Catholic and patriotically Constitutionalist (may I say that? I think it’s true). No one here is a racist and racism has been repeatedly condemned (some people even got banned for anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi comments). And legal immigration is supported and encouraged. But what isn’t encouraged – what is in fact condemned – is illegal immigration (flouting the law).

    Indeed, there are some people here who are like me – a white man married to a non-white legal immigrant. This thing Mark Shea states that we white men fear that dark skins will inseminate our white women is ridiculous. If two people (man and woman) – white, black, brown, red or yellow – love each other, then let them avail themselves of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Personally, I think it’s healthy and great to mix around the gene pool (hence I care not what the race is of the man who may one day marry my daughter one day so long as he treats her virtuously and nobly).

    But I still oppose DACA and all other forms of illegal immigration. My reason has nothing to do with whether or not I want Hispanic people in the country. Heck, one of my co-workers is Hispanic, another is Asian Indian, another is Chinese, and two are African American, all sitting in cubicles within feet of where I sit. We work together all day long (sometimes swear at eahc other too – ha! ha!), and we got no racial problems whatsoever. And if I make fun of the Chinese or Indian or Hispanic guy’s accent, he’ll make fun of my damn Yankee accent (which is truly horrid). I say again: we got no probems. Rather, the problem is racist people like Mark Shea who turn every conservative promotion of the Constitution and every advocacy of orthodox Church practice into an unjust, unkind, divisive, racist program. People like Shea see color everywhere; people like us see Americans (or those wishing to become Americans).

    P.S. My Asian wife opposes illegal immigration and DACA too. And that Hispanic guy at work? He’s a right wing, gun toting conservative. And the two black people? They don’t like Trump (heck, I don’t like him, having voted 3rd party), but they didn’t like Hillary either. Black doesn’t mean being a blinded dumb Democrat drone on the plantation of government largess. And the Indian guy? He wants us all to get the job done right – imagine that! The truth doesn’t fit into Mark Shea’s narrative or paradigm. He better wake the frack up (as we all had better) before we meet our Maker.

  6. Again, as a broken record, leftists/liberals base their opinions on emotions versus logic. Our emotions often become distorted because of the fall. Emotions based people refuse to listen to logic.

  7. Sigh. One of the sad but under-recognized harms of the antinomianism and disintegration of order within the Church following the Council is that folks like Mark Shea can publicly hold themselves out as Apologists and Catholic “experts.” I’m not certain he’s a college graduate, and I’m certain he has no formal theological education. In a saner day and age, he might be the Grand Knight at his parish KofC, ushering at Mass, and cooking pancakes for the parish pancake breakfast, and working as a department manager at Sears. He would not be confusing the Catholic faithful with his personal musings disguised as Catholic apologetics.

  8. I’m not certain he’s a college graduate, and I’m certain he has no formal theological education. In a saner day and age, he might be the Grand Knight at his parish KofC, ushering at Mass, and cooking pancakes for the parish pancake breakfast, and working as a department manager at Sears. He would not be confusing the Catholic faithful with his personal musings disguised as Catholic apologetics.

    As far as I’m aware, his books do not indicate what his background is in their biographical burbs. I think one book was a memoir, so there may be some indication in there.

    He turns in copy on time and has a history of adequate writing when he has an editor. That skill is atypical in society at large and I do not think very prevalent among supervisory personnel at Sears.

    It does seem very peculiar that he’s been employed as a freelance writer all these years. Even 20 years ago, the number of people who could earn their primary living from that likely did not break into five-digits. The one person I’ve known in my lifetime who did wrote ad copy. Some of his critics have said that at this point in his life he’s Rosie-O’Donnell-with-a-beard and likely would be terminated in short order in an ordinary work setting.

  9. I would strongly suggest you run, not walk, away from them, yesterday.

    I haven’t looked at it in a while. It seems more like an aggregator which will provide a berth to just about anyone. I think David Mills had a spot there for a while.

  10. In a saner day and age,

    Have you looked at the Ignatius catalog. Lots there, but mostly re-issues of books written decades ago by people who have sadly passed on or are very old. Robert George is still actively producing academic and popular work. Dr. George is 62. Carl Olson’s a ratchet down from that. He’s 47. Ryan Anderson is one of the few young men producing new work. You get Shea because there’s this vacuum (consequent to the self-immolation of the Catholic colleges).

  11. It seems to me that Vox Nova was put together by a group which was well salted with formal theological training. I think the Spiritual Friendship crowd has its share of those people as well. I wouldn’t hold it against Shea that he’s stayed away from divinity schools.

  12. Art Deco, are we being agist–“by people who are very old”? I’m 87, and although I can’t do 50 pushups anymore, and the distance between the neurons seems to be getting further and further apart, I still manage to do a few crossword puzzles, read books, and write occasionally.

  13. I agree with much of what has been written above and in the comments, only I think it is a mistake to try to project all differences onto a left/right axis. For one thing, that is a vast oversimplification in either politics or religion. For another, Shea was showing signs that something was wrong with him for quite some time; these signs emerged before his political shift.

  14. Art Deco, are we being agist–“by people who are very old”? I’m 87,

    If your sophisticated philosophical and theological minds are predominantly elderly, it’s because you are not nurturing new talent. That’s not a state you want to be in.

  15. Art Deco wrote in respond to Dr. Kurland, “If your sophisticated philosophical and theological minds are predominantly elderly, it’s because you are not nurturing new talent. That’s not a state you want to be in.”

    I was completely unfamiliar with Dr. Kurland (and his age which I think is immaterial) until his first post here a few days back. Then I did my cyber stalking and starting reading what he had written at his blog, Reflections of a Catholic Scientist, and at the Magis Center for reason and faith. I don’t detect anything “elderly” (as in senile) there, but I do see wisdom that comes with age. I am sure I shall never be that wise, but maybe from that wisdom I can nurture new talent in myself.

    BTW, whatever happened in our society to respect for those of us who are “ancient?”

  16. BTW, whatever happened in our society to respect for those of us who are “ancient?”

    Why is this simple point escaping both of you? People are born, they are educated and trained, they enter into an occupational life, they retire, they die. Younger cohorts pick up the baton from them at various points. The problem Catholic discourse, intellectual life, and literary live has had has been that hardly anyone was there to pick up the baton. That’s not a criticism of anyone old. That’s a lament that the culture is no longer generating the talent it once did. Ignatius Press distributes old material because it does not have much new material to publish.

    Over 200 colleges were founded by religious orders and diocesan bishops. The number who are true to their foundational mission as that would have been understood in 1962 might just break into two-digits. Or it might not. (And the better Catholic schools are tiny institutions founded in response to the decay of Catholic education). Their faculty consist of teachers and most college teachers publish little. There are about 10 Catholic research universities. Of these, 1 or 2 might be salvageable if a collective effort is made. The episcopacy who ignored Ex Corde Ecclesiae will do nothing toward that end.

    Generative of this was the demographic implosion (and escalating corruption) of the religious orders. Annual ordinations of regular regular clergy have declined 90% since 1965. The Christian Brothers will likely disappear. The Jesuits (nearly 10,000 strong in 1965) may number fewer than 1,000 when the shakeout is complete (and we might be better off if they disappeared as well).

  17. Art Deco, I see your point, but you may be too pessimistic. I read articles about younger people flocking to Mass in the Extraordinary Form. And there are, as you point out, Catholic Colleges which have not succumbed to the Kultur virus–Thomas Aquinas, Christendom, St. Anselm’s–to name just a few off the top of my head. My apologies for not interpreting your comment correctly, but I’m getting tired of people saying “yes sir” and opening the door for me.
    Nevertheless, it’s not clear to me that there’s a Dutch Βοy available to stick a finger in the dike–the debasement of culture in the media and all around us–how can we stem it?

  18. Art Deco, I see your point and I agree. But I wonder if the tipping point has been passed. I know there are Catholic colleges–St. Thomas Aquinas, Christendom, St. Anselm’s–that give a liberal and orthodox education, but can they prevail against the too pervasive culture?

  19. Part of the lack of “young” Catholic thinkers may be that most of the folks looking for a “youth” voice are not going to select solid thinkers, they’re going for cool points.

    Cool points carry no logical value.

  20. Part of the lack of “young” Catholic thinkers may be that most of the folks looking for a “youth” voice are not going to select solid thinkers, they’re going for cool points.

    I’m not ‘looking’ for anyone or anything. I’m noticing what’s not there.

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