As you probably know, I’m skeptical of the Global Warming hype, not least because its marketers and packagers keep changing the name. First, it was “Global Warming,” then “Climate Change” (as if climate does anything besides change) and lately it’s “Global Climate Disruption.” I’m also skeptical that it is man made, and I think the dishonesty of some of the scientists in the field, not to mention the packagers and marketers, leaves me cold (clever pun, eh?). So, for instance, when I see evidence of rising sea levels that doesn’t always refer me back to the same remote island nobody knows anything about except that it might be a case of erosion and not rising sea levels, I will begin to take our melting ice caps more seriously.
And just days after Francis gave him a copy of Laudato Si, begged him to listen, and Trump lied that he would read it. (It’s longer than 140 characters and Trump’s name is not in it anywhere. Boring.)
Me: I boringly think wisdom lies with listening to the Holy Father. But of course, the kneejerk response of the revanchist Trumpified Catholic is “Francis is not speaking infallibly, you know! We’re talking about Prudential Judgment! You can ignore him on climate change! It’s not like he’s a climate expert!”
I write today neither to accuse Greg Gianforte nor the voters of Montanta, neither of whom I have much to do with.
I write to accuse those who excuse, dismiss or enable intolerable behavior like Gianforte’s, or who give ear and support to those who do.
I’m talking to you, Dinesh D’Souza. I’m talking to you, Laura Ingraham.
Most of all, I’m talking to you, all my friends who still regard D’Souza and Ingraham as voices worth listening to.
It pains me to say this, because the fact is that I not only liked Ingraham and D’Souza, I *respected* them. I feel betrayed by what the American Christian conservatism I once identified with has become. I feel like a fool for not having seen it sooner.
In this words of this article, “None of this is a gray area. You either uphold certain basic standards of decency or you don’t.”
And the answer is: We don’t. Obviously. Read what Ingraham and D’Souza had to say about a now-elected official body-slamming a journalist, and realize the truth of the world we live in: The Tribe Right or Wrong; The Tribe Über Alles.
With the appropriate incantatory words (depending on your sub-tribe and the situation, they may be “But Hillary,” “The Babies,” “Obamacare,” “Immigration,” etc.), people who pride themselves on decency and traditional values will not only look the other way, but actively *defend* bad behavior and harm as long as the right people are being defended or harmed.
That’s what most horrifies me: not simply that someone might say “Unprovoked assault is obviously terrible and unacceptable but what’s on offer on the other side is even worse,” but that people will say “It was our guy hitting their guy? Eh. He had it coming. He’s a crybaby. He’s a sissy for not hitting back.” (This is paraphrase but scarcely exaggeration. Read the piece.)
I shouldn’t have to say this, but experience shows that I do: If your first reaction to this scolding is to bring up punching Nazis or what happened to Charles Murray at Middlebury, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
Tu quoque won’t help you here. First of all, because *I’m* making the accusation, and *I* neither punched Richard Spencer, nor joined in the Middlebury mob, nor have I defended those who did.
I’m against punching Nazis and mobbing out-of-favor academics on college campuses, and *I’m* telling you that if you listen to people like Ingraham and D’Souza who defend blatant thuggishness as long as the violence goes the right way, *you’re* the one being harmed. Tu quoque is no defense when both sides are sipping arsenic.
Some might be tempted to modify the tu quoque and ask me why I’m actively calling out defenders of Gianforte when I haven’t gone out of my way to call out defenders left-wing violence. There are many answers to that, but the simplest is that I USED TO LIKE AND RESPECT INGRAHAM AND D’SOUZA.
The people I’m talking to are still, in spite of my alienation from the conservative machine, very much my peeps. We agree on many of the things that matter most.
What it seems to me we haven’t yet managed to agree on is the spiritual danger of embracing The Tribe Über Alles.
To be sure, not all Republicans endorse this filth. Some of them, known by the goons and thugs who now constitute the bulk of the Party of Trump as “fake conservative” and “wusses” still speak out on behalf of civilization and are shouted down by Real Christians and Real Conservatives:
He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression; and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness; and Washington without his reward.
Benjamin Hill on Robert E. Lee
Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts notes that Mark Shea has embraced the leftist crusade of purging the nation of all things Confederate:
Why should we have a monument in our capital named for a hypocritical racist slave owner? Or for that matter, why should our capital be named for one? Mark Shea explains. Mark isn’t advocating the eradication of Washington’s name from his home state, or the destruction of the Jefferson Memorial, or the closing down of Independence Hall, or moving the presidential residency from a building built on the backs of slaves.
Nothing in his post, however, could be used to condemn such actions. In fact, the post could be used to defend such actions. As a Believer, I’m a little bothered by the sudden emergence of the ‘erase the Confederacy and everyone in it’ movement that has gained steam since the Charleston Shooting. Mark himself decried the sudden removal of Confederate symbols from museums and other historic locations.
Nonetheless, he seems fine with the removal of monuments for even such luminaries as Robert E. Lee, who often was compared to Erwin Rommel, a brave and noble man on the wrong side of the debate. Sure, you could argue there is a dearth of high schools or statues celebrating Rommel, but that is because for the longest time, people actually believed that the American South, if not America, and Nazi Germany were different animals. Now, of course, those differences are eroding. Since there is typically good and bad in most people, places, and things, deciding to weigh all equally on the Nazi Comparison scale seems a dangerous trend.
In fact some could argue, as Mark appears to, that there was little moral difference between the North and South. Perhaps the rest of the US was every bit as bad. And if so, then why keep anything honoring it or those who fought for it? No more God bless America? Just God damn America? Perhaps. Given that in my lifetime I watched a concerted effort to stop seeing such historical luminaries as Attila the Hun, or such civilizations as the Vikings or the Mongols in purely negative ways, I have a hard time seeing the reverse trend when it comes to America.
From the thread on the post where Mark Shea announced his apology to Ed Feser:
Trump remains, without any possible comparison, the worst and most dangerous crook to ever live in the White House. The issue is not how people voted. The issue is the massive scandal of Christians who still support, deny, and excuse every lie and cruelty this feckless incompetent commits at this hour.
The Christian right, in huge percentages, voted for a lying sex predator who embodies the antithesis of the gospel in almost every way and has continued to defend him with silence and acclamation to this hour. They have killed my faith in their judgment and their honesty stone dead. Until I see some signs of repentance I will regard them with the same incredulity as I regard Catholics for a Free Choice. Indeed, *more* incredulity since CFFC at least have the honesty to state clearly that they are at war with the Magisterium while the Catholic Right has the gall to claim they represent the Church better than the Pope does.
And yes, I do deeply disagree with Feser about the death penalty. The one thing this world does not need is a Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty.
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.
God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you, Mr. King.
This will be today’s thing for Catholic Trump supporters to defend instead of the unborn and the Faith.
And so it will go for four long years.
Or you could just stop defending every filthy thing Trump and his toadies do and say and get back to defending the Faith and the unborn.
Go here to read the comments. I was imagining brown shirted and lederhosen clad Austrian legions goosestepping through downtown Washington. I was crest-fallen to learn that Shea was actually referring to the Austrian Freedom Party. Founded by a Nazi in the 1950s, it is a rather conventional center-right European party. Except for their opposition to immigration, the Freedom Party would on our political spectrum be moderate Democrats, and about as much Nazis as the members of a Rotary Club in our country.
Austin Ruse in a post at Crisis tells what happens when he pointed this out to Shea:
I recently came under a blog-swarm (though not on blogs rather on Facebook), but the swarmers were mostly bloggers who I will not name except to say they fashion themselves as Über-Catholic Defenders of Francis-Destroyers of Nazis-Creators of the One True Church of Pro-Life-and-Wrath of the Old Guard.
I forget exactly how it began except with a Facebook post nitpicking something Donald Trump had done. Never Trumpers still sit in the caves of the Pacific with their field glasses trained on the enemy and whenever Trump does even the littlest thing they judge to be wrong they shout, “See, see, we told you” or “Isn’t it interesting that Trump would (fill in the blank).”
In this situation I usually prefer to ask a question and have the unhappy fellow defend the silly nitpicking. But, in this case, from out of nowhere, The Thing That Used to be Catholic Apologetics lumbered through the underbrush and grunted “So do you defend Trump meeting with Nazis?” or something to that effect.
So, here we have Trump meeting with actual goose-stepping Nazis? I had to admit I had missed that and had to inquire, “Huh? Wuh?”
Jefferson bought the entire Louisiana Purchase for two cents an acre. It was an incredible steal. Smartest decision in American history.
Trump is buying the complete cooperation of prolife Christians even more cheaply. For the cost of a few words from Mike Pence and KellyAnne Conway at the Prolife March in Washington, prolifers will henceforth reliably go to bat for every evil he wants to do. Torture? Fantastic! Scapegoating immigrants? We are on board! Destroying access to health care for the poor! Great!
Christian Trump supporters have completely bought a false soteriology that opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world.
Mark Shea, fresh from his losing crusade to make pro-abort Hillary Clinton President of the United States, is now attacking pro-lifers who have no problem with President Elect Trump naming former Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon as his Chief Advisor. Go here to read Shea’s attack. Leaving aside the fact that there is no evidence that Bannon is a racist or an anti-Semite, Breitbart has always been firmly pro-life. Go here and take a look at the Breitbart articles on abortion. I can understand of course why Mark ignores this. As his support for Clinton indicates, the fight against abortion is now low on his priority list.
Dave Griffey at his blog Daffy Thoughts wrote this about the recent comments by Rush Limbaugh regarding sexual morality:
What Rush Limbaugh said is here. What Rush Limbaugh didn’t appear to say in the least was that rape is defensible. I’m no fan of Rush, and you’ll notice I seldom reference him. Not that he isn’t right sometimes. Sure he is. My favorite reference is the time he observed that the Baby Boomers are the first generation in history that didn’t have to grow up. Good observation there.
Nonetheless, he’s problematic enough for me to look to other sources for opinion. Still, with that said, he doesn’t deserve to be falsely accused of something as horrific as defending rape unless it can be demonstrated that he unequivocally said rape is defensible. What he appears to be saying is what many have said over the years, and what we are witnessing today.
Assume, just for a minute, that Donald Trump is innocent of the accusations being made against him. And assume, just for a minute, as opposed to what Major Garrett on CBS said yesterday morning, that he doesn’t have to provide evidence to show he is innocent, but that the accusers have to show evidence that he is guilty. Assuming this basic ‘innocent until proven guilty’ standard that was so crucial in the late 90s, we can say that what Trump has said about and to women is vulgar, despicable, deplorable, wrong, bad, horrific, and anything else to drive home the point. If, that is, we say there is such as thing as objective morality.
The problem Rush has is that those who are saying this are some of the same who stood idly by 4 years ago when similar things were said about Michelle Bachmann, 8 years ago when worse was said about Sarah Palin, her daughter, her children, and almost 20 years ago when more than one accuser of Bill Clinton was called a liar, a whore for the Republicans, and trailer park trash. All while we were told that when it comes to sex, nobody cares, there are no real objective morals, it’s up in the air, it isn’t important, and it doesn’t even matter if we lie or commit perjury. As long as you have consent – and even that seemed to depend on who was saying there wasn’t consent involved – everything was fair game.
It’s a fair statement and a fair observation. Perhaps he didn’t do the best job conveying that view. But nothing in the complete statement suggests he was defending rape or in any way suggesting rape is not wrong or that there is a problem with being upset about rape.
Mark Shea showed up in the combox and, as usual, was the quiet voice of reason:
Mark Shea, in his full throated conversion to the Left, puts on display his current lack of intellectual honesty:
Today’s “Conservatism”: where there’s something weird and silly about having a problem with non-consensual sex. Mr. Limbaugh: the term for that is “rape”. And yes, for rape we do, in fact, call the police, you dolt. I’m sure that your moronic remark has nothing to do with the ongoing struggle of the freak show that is right wing media to defend their Sex Predator candidate.
Trump is gonna lose. And it will be so satisfying to watch him and his team of professional liars and mob of misogynist racist followers trying to claim that he was robbed and blame everybody but themselves for the catastrophe for which they and they alone are totally and completely responsible. It’s about damned time the Party of Personal Responsibility was forced to take some responsibility.
Notice that Mark did not link to Limbaugh’s site. Here is what Limbaugh actually wrote:
Standards, you stand up for moral standards, you’re gonna be mocked and laughed out of the room. They’re gonna call you a prude. They’re gonna call you a Victorian. They’re gonna call you an old fuddy-duddy, an old fogy, and they’re gonna claim you want to deny people having a good time. So a culture which rejects moral standards. In other words, anything goes. You know what the magic word is? The only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is one thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is?
If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine, whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of theequation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left. “How ironic, then, that a culture which rejects moral standards has suddenly become so pure and pristine, sitting in judgment of someone they deem too immoral to become president because of something he said in private. As a logical person, I have to ask these paragons of newly found virtue where this standard by which they’ve judged Trump is found.”
If morality is relative to each individual — and believe me, it is today. You try to define morality, and they’re gonna come for you and mock you and make fun of you, and, worse than that, it’s like you don’t have any right to define morality. One of the Undeniable Truths of Life that I wrote back in 1987 is that morality has becomean individual choice. And, of course, it isn’t.
Morality is what it is. Virtue is what it is. And you either are or you aren’t. And the left doesn’t like that so they’ve obscured the lines and the definitions. And the definition now is moral is whatever you can get somebody to do with you, consent. You can do anything. If you could get the dog to consent with you, if you can get the horse to consent, we got no problem with it. And they don’t! So morality has been boiled down to consent, is my point, and it’s true.
So it’s said here, “If morality is relative to each individual — a purelysubjective experience — by what standard are they judging Trump? Obviously, in such a secular climate, there can’t even be a ‘standard.’ Why should anyone listen to people who out of one side of their mouths declare the death of objective moral standards yet out of the other condemn someone for violating objective moral standards?”
Because, you see, morality is not subjective. “Human beings possess the capacity for rationality and objectivity. We’re able to distinguish what’s good and what’s bad,” and we know it. We know right from wrong. We know good from bad. We know what we should do and what we shouldn’t do and the left wants to not feel guilt when they engage in what you shouldn’t do. And the way to get there is to simply erase the concept of objective morality. There isn’t any. You don’t get to define it. Nobody else does. You get to define your own. And therefore you can’t criticize.
Well, in this atmosphere, how does anybody dare preach to Donald Trump? When we have spent the last 25 or 30 years obliterating the moral code, when we have blown virtue to smithereens, who are you phony baloney, plastic banana, good-time rock ‘n’ rollers all of a sudden now sitting in judgment of Donald Trump?
“Trump’s trashy comments do not uphold sex and romance as a beautiful and fulfilling, uplifting activity. But neither do Bill Clinton’s actions over the years, particularly with respect to his many, many dalliances with women. Bill Clinton is not running for president. His wife is. But his wife built her whole career off the springboard of his presidency. Without his presidency, she would not have become a U.S. Senator and later Secretary of State — a badone,” but she wouldn’t have become either if it weren’t for her husband and her using that as her springboard.
Go here to read the rest. I guess winning political battles by any means, fair or foul, possible is important in some quarters. For myself, I like being able to look at my face in the mirror when I shave.
Philosopher Doctor Ed Feser takes on Mark Shea on the death penalty in the biggest mismatch since Godzilla tangled with Bambi:
As Pope St. John XXIII once wrote:
The Catholic Church, of course, leaves many questions open to the discussion of theologians. She does this to the extent that matters are not absolutely certain…
[T]he common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity. (Ad Petri Cathedram 71-72)
What Catholic could disagree with that?
Well, Mark Shea, apparently. For no sooner does he acknowledge the truth of what Joe and I wrote than he proceeds bitterly to denounce Catholics who have the effrontery actually to exercise the right the Church herself has recognized to hold differing opinions on the topic of capital punishment. After acknowledging the truth of our basic claim, he writes: “So what?” – as if Joe and I were addressing some question no one is asking. This is followed by a string of remarks like these:
When it comes to taking human life, the right wing culture of death asks “When do we get to kill?”
The Church, in contrast, asks, “When do we have to kill?”
The death penalty supporter looks for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that he gets to kill somebody. The Magisterium urges us to look for ways to avoid killing unless driven to do so by absolute necessity…
The term for that is “prolife”. You know, from conception to natural death. It’s what we are supposed to actually mean when we say “All Lives Matter”. Even criminal ones.
So it comes back to this: If you stop wasting your time and energy fighting the guidance of the Church, searching for loopholes allowing you to kill some of those All Lives that supposedly Matter to you, you find that you have lots more time and energy for defending the unborn that you say are your core non-negotiable. Why not do that instead of battling three popes and all the bishops in the world in a struggle to keep the US on a list with every Islamic despotism from Saudi Arabia to Iran, as well as Communist China and North Korea? Why the “prolife” zeal to kill?
Be more prolife, not less…
“I want to kill the maximum number of people I can get away with killing” is, on the face of it, a hard sell as comporting with the clear and obvious teaching of the Church and perhaps there are other issues in our culture of death that might use our time and energy more fruitfully, particularly when the immediate result of such an argument is to spawn a fresh batch of comments from priests scandalously declaring the pope a heretic, wacked out conspiracy theorists calling the pope “evil beyond comprehension“, and false prophets forecasting that “Antipope Francis” will approve abortion. This is the atmosphere of the warriors of the right wing culture of death. It does not need more oxygen.
Well. What on earth is all that about? And what does it have to do with what Joe and I wrote?
Let’s consider the various charges Shea makes. As to the “So what?”, Joe and I are by no means merely reiterating something everyone already agrees with. On the contrary, there is an entire school of thought with tremendous influence in orthodox Catholic circles – the “new natural law theory” of Germain Grisez, John Finnis, Robert P. George, and many others – that takes the position that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral and that the Church can and ought to reverse her ancient teaching to the contrary. Many other Catholics, including some bishops, routinely denounce capital punishment in terms that are so extreme that they give the false impression that the death penalty is by its very nature no less a violation of the fifth commandment than abortion or other forms of murder are.
In our article we cited cases in which even Pope Francis himself has made such extreme statements. We also suggested that the pope’s remarks should be interpreted as rhetorical flourishes, but the fact remains that they certainly appear on a natural reading to be claiming that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong – a claim which would reverse the teaching of scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and every previous pope who has addressed the topic.
Since Shea agrees that the Church cannot make such a change, to be consistent he would also have to admit that the more extreme rhetoric from the pope and some bishops and other Catholics is misleading and regrettable. He should also agree that “new natural lawyers” and others who hold that the Church should completely reverse past teaching on capital punishment are taking a position that cannot be reconciled with orthodoxy.
The late Cardinal Dulles, among the most eminent of contemporary Catholic theologians, has (in remarks quoted in our article) gone so far as to say that a reversal of traditional teaching on capital punishment would threaten to undermine the very credibility of the Magisterium in general. Our primary motivation in writing our book was to show that the Church has not in fact reversed past teaching on this subject, and thereby to defend the credibility of the Magisterium. Accordingly, Shea’s charge that Joe and I are in the business of “fighting the guidance of the Church” is unjust and offensive. So too is Shea’s casually lumping us in with those who characterize Pope Francis as a “heretic” and “antipope.” In fact we explicitly said that we do not believe that the pope wishes to reverse past teaching, and we proposed reading his statements in a way consistent with the tradition.
As to Shea’s other remarks, it is simply outrageous – to be frank, it seems as clear an instance as there could be of what moral theologians would classify as an instance of calumny – to suggest that Joe and I are really just “look[ing] for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that [we get] to kill somebody,” that we “want to kill the maximum number of people [we] can get away with killing,” that we have a “zeal to kill,” etc. There is absolutely nothing in what we wrote that justifies such bizarre and inflammatory accusations.
1933: “Well, sure, Hitler really hates Jews, but he has a great policy of getting everybody back to work!” 2016: “Yeah, Hillary is an abortion extremist, but she really loves the welfare state!”
Hmmm. the willingness of Mark Shea and other Catholic “pro-lifers” to endorse Hillary abortion-uber-alles Clinton has attracted the attention of a writer outside of Saint Blogs. Tom Riley at The American Thinker dissects this movement of the absurd:
Now that the practical choice is between coughing Clinton and terrifying Trump, the Seamless Garment crowd is making new attempts to co-opt pro-life sentiment in favor of the vociferously pro-abortion candidate – that is, Clinton. This New Pro-Life Movement is supposedly bolder, more sincere, more consistent, and especially more “prudent” than the old (and conservative) one.
It’s wise to wave aside some of this with a sneer – especially the tried-and-false dilution of the pro-life message with the goofy pretense that opposing capital punishment makes innocent lives safer. But it’s also wise to take seriously a more profound falsehood: that the way to advance pro-life goals is to throw our full support behind the welfare state.
Oddly enough, one of the most prominent proponents of this viewpoint is Mark P. Shea, whose self-written Wikipedia listing describes him as “an American author, blogger, and speaker working in the field of Roman Catholic apologetics” and whose forays on behalf of broad pro-lifery display all the telling logic and rhetorical effectiveness of a banana slug in the noonday sun. Shea is fond of telling us such things as that the invasion of Europe must be encouraged by pro-life Christians, maybe because Jesus was a refugee, too. It’s pointless to ask him whether little German girls ought to be raped by Jesus stand-ins. Indeed, it’s pointless to offer counter-argument to anything Shea says, since he never offers argument. He makes assertions and accuses anyone who disagrees with him of defying the Magisterium.
But Shea refers us to Matthew Tyson, whose presentation of the New Pro-Life Gospel is more explicitly reasoned and cogent. Tyson reasons thus: pro-lifers have put all their authentic plastic fetal models into the wrong basket. They’ve been working to elect Republicans for years. They’ve concentrated on changing the composition of the Supreme Court. Yet time and again, the Court has handed them defeats, and legalized abortion has continued unabated. Therefore, pro-lifers must address the “root causes” of abortion – by expanding various welfare programs so women will not feel forced to seek the destruction of their children.
Like all the most effective lies, this one has a limited truth behind it. Efforts to establish a pro-life – or even a strict constitutionalist – Supreme Court have proved less than encouraging. Tyson is right that both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were decided by courts on which Republican presidents had appointed a majority of the justices. (He’s certainly wrong, however, to characterize these courts as featuring a majority of conservatives.) Why has this strategy proved a disappointment?
One reason is that pro-life conservatives haven’t managed to place all their most favored nominees on the Court. Please recall that Robert Bork was President Reagan’s first choice for the vacancy left in 1987 by the retirement of Justice Powell, and that Douglas Ginsburg was Reagan’s second choice. (Ginsburg withdrew his nomination over marijuana use, arguably a necessary qualification for Democrat presidential candidates.) Instead of Bork or Ginsburg, we got Anthony Kennedy – the “conservative justice” liberals love to flatter, and the deciding vote in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Why is it that we got Kennedy instead of Bork? Because Bork was borked by just such Democrats as the “pro-life” Tyson proposes to vote for. Let’s hear it for a progressive pro-life attitude!
Whole Woman’s Health is certainly the most extreme pro-abortion decision ever rendered by the Court – and it’s important to look at who, aside from Kennedy, rendered it. We have Stephen Breyer (a Clinton appointee), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a Clinton appointee), Sonia Sotomayor (an Obama appointee), and Elena Kagan (an Obama appointee). One of the reasons the grand pro-life strategy for the Supreme Court hasn’t delivered is that voters like Shea and Tyson have labored to thwart it. Tyson mocks conservatives for electing Republicans in an effort to influence the composition of the Court: supposedly, in conformity with the commonplace definition of insanity often attributed to Albert Einstein, conservatives do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Is Tyson saner because he intends to the same thing over again (that is, vote Democrat) and get the same unacceptable result?
Tyson boils the whole pro-life emphasis on the U.S. Supreme Court down to a single question: can pro-lifers overturn Roe v. Wade? He concludes – reasonably, though not unassailably – that they cannot. Yet is this the only question of importance to the movement that is likely to come before the Court? Whole Woman’s Health shows that it is not. Texas’s perfectly sensible restrictions on abortion mills could have stood without overturning Roe. They didn’t stand because a Democrat-influenced Court is inevitably devoted to expanding Roe. This is a process that will continue if the insouciant Mr. Tyson gets his way. Will the Court overturn state requirements that only a physician can perform surgical abortions? Following the example of California’s legislature, a Democrat Court almost certainly will. Will the Court restrict even further the First Amendment rights of abortion opponents? A Democrat Court will. Will the Court lift restrictions on fetal tissue procurement and sale? Yup – if the Democrats prevail. Mandatory abortions for mothers deemed unfit? Don’t count it out. After all, Hillary is a big admirer of Margaret Sanger.
It’s all coming down that great big pro-abortion highway, folks, and “pro-lifers” Shea and Tyson are, in effect, cheering it on. None of this stuff really matters, after all. What really matters is “focusing on why.” What really matters is “thinking deeper.” What really matters is expanding the welfare state in every way imaginable.
An entertaining deficiency in Tyson’s argued thesis (and Shea’s unargued one) is the assumption that pro-lifers should practice something that can only be called vital utilitarianism. Just as Jeremy Bentham thought ethics should focus on the greatest good for the greatest number, the new “pro-lifers” think our only concern should be the most lives for the greatest number. In this assessment, questions of principle are mere distractions. American law is establishing an expanding right to kill? Who cares? We can’t change that anyhow and shouldn’t even try. The only question is, how can our heroes Shea and Tyson save the most lives? Photos on their websites should let the critical reader know just what unlikely action heroes Shea and Tyson would be. More important, utilitarianism of this sort, even if it’s not explicitly hedonistic, isn’t an ethical theory consistent with the Catholic faith.
Despite their ethical confusion, our new “pro-lifers” insist that the smart and prudent thing for pro-lifers to do is to support every state program for making lives easier, work less necessary, and businesses more likely to collapse. Only that way – and not by maintaining pro-life principles – can we truly call ourselves pro-life.
This is the most offensive part of the argument because it is so hypocritical. Expanding the welfare state too is the same old thing expected to produce new results. Tyson indicates that aborting mothers are women in poverty who feel they don’t have options. But why are there so many single mothers in poverty? Shea and Tyson probably don’t remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan – although, as a liberal Democrat, he would certainly have won their vote. Way back in 1965, Moynihan first began to assert that the expanded welfare state wasn’t good for poor people, and especially for poor blacks. Experience since then has only tended to strengthen his distrust of such expansion. Shea and Tyson like simplifications, so I’ll give it to them simplified. Welfare programs contribute to the breakdown of the family, and the breakdown of the family contributes to the abortion culture.
A little trip down memory lane. Go here to see Mark Shea gloating over the axing of Maureen Mullarkey by First Things. Then we have Simcha Fisher’s reaction, go here to see Paul Zummo’s report on that tempest, to Hilary White reporting accurately on Pope Francis at Lifesite News. The wheel doesn’t always come round, but when it does it is hilarious.
Prophetic considering that a very good Catholic woman named Simcha Fisher, faithful to the Catholic Church, a mother of *ten* children who has worked tirelessly as a witness to the greatness and goodness of our Holy Catholic Faith, a fine writer who could be making a million bucks somewhere but who is spending her prodigious gifts in the service of the gospel, has been kicked out of her job to the salacious screams of a mob, all for using the English equivalent of “skubala” (Philippians 3:8) now and then and for making a couple of bawdy dick jokes on her private FB page (you know, like when St. Paul remarks to the Galatians that he wishes the circumcision enthusiasts would castrate themselves).
Look, I *get* that I’m abrasive and I get the rejoicing over my losing a job. Fair enough. But don’t hand me a load of bushwah about how Simcha Fisher had this coming. Somehow or other, the anti-abortion-but-not-prolife movement has mutated into a thing that eats its young and imagines that the unborn are being served by punishing a mother of 10 children with loss of her livelihood.
This. Was. Wrong.
Simcha Fisher is an ornament of the Church. She has been such a gift to so many and I will be grateful to God for her till the day I die. Punishing a mother of 10 with loss of income over something this utterly trivial is a judgment, not on her, but on the mob of bullies across St. Blog’s rejoicing over her humiliation. She does none harm. She says none harm. She thinks none harm. Nevertheless, it is not for the bawdy jokes that this mob have sought her blood, but because she would not bend to the marriage of the Faith with a fraudulent disgrace like Donald Trump.
If you value her witness, check out her book and think about hiring this funny, earthy, humble, godly and orthodox woman to come and speak at your parish.
Let’s parse this out shall we?
1. Shea starts out by comparing the persecution of the Church with a writer losing a writing gig.
2. He goes on to say that Fisher could be making a million bucks somewhere unnamed. (I guess then that losing a minor writing job is not an immense tragedy for her?)
3. Shea is unable to see why a Catholic publication would find it problematic to have a writer who makes “dick jokes” on her Facebook page.
4. Shea utilizes the old pro-abort technique of condemning people who oppose abortion as not being pro-life.
5. With no evidence other than his assertion he proclaims Fisher an “ornament of the Church”.
6. Once again he laments the loss of what I assume was a fairly modest income to someone who could earn a million bucks elsewhere.
7. Shea concludes by comparing Fisher to Saint Thomas More and Donald Trump to Henry VIII.
I have described being banned from a site on the internet as being akin to being gummed by an elderly poodle: it does you no real harm, but it does tell you that it is time to move on. Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has been banned by Mark Shea:
UPDATE: Apparently Mark has banned me from his Facebook page for good. We’ll see if there is more to say about that later. For now, the link might not work. Which is fine. It wasn’t pleasant reading. Anyway Happy July 4th.
UPDATE 2: Mark has now banned me from everything at this point. My wife too. Towards the end of the Facebook debate, Mark called upon his readers to join him. No, he didn’t say he wanted them to join and gang up on me. But I was pretty sure that was where he was going. During the course of the development, his readers made it clear that they supported Mark’s approach to discourse over mine. They were also aghast that I would post a link to his page and beg my readers to go over there. Personally I wouldn’t have minded if a few readers came over and helped me out against the onslaught.
Now Mark has done that very thing more times than I can count. I was shocked to find out it was a big deal. Heck, back in the day I would follow links Mark posted about debates he was in on other sites and rush to defend him when he was being attacked. I imagined that it was fine to do. But Mark clearly had issues with it, and Mark is an honourable man.
Likewise, Mark made it clear he was outraged at the posts where I have criticized him, his styles, or that part of the Catholic blogosphere with which he associates. Usually, those posts came after heated debates with Mark in which Mark either said something about others I felt crossed the line, or said something about me which I thought crossed the line, and either threatened to ban me or ordered me off of his page. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being accused of wanting to increase human slaughter or not really caring about Jesus. Especially when, in the course of debating, I’m forbidden from defending myself under threat of being banned.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that Mark has made his living by posting the writings and statements of others and criticizing them and calling on his readers to do the same, he was upset at the fact that I had done the same to him. I didn’t see it as some hate thing, I’m sincerely worried about Mark’s spiritual pilgrimage. Yet Mark was offended. And Mark is an honourable man.
So from now on, if Mark stops taking the words of others and using them to attack those individuals or encouraging others to do the same, then I will refrain from further posts or criticisms of Mark or his tactics. Quite frankly, if Mark stops doing that, I’ll have little to complain about. When Mark actually writes about Church teaching or unpacking the Bible or day to day Christian living, there are few better. What could I complain about? So that is my pledge. I will no longer criticize Mark or post references to him, unless it is to give a thumbs up regarding something he has written, if Mark also ceases the same approach that he criticized me of using. After all, if he does that, then I could honestly say that Mark is an honourable man.
When Christians offer “thoughts and prayers” not as prelude to obeying, but as prophylactic *against* obeying the fifth commandment, God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles.
Not, of course, that I agree that thoughts and prayers are useless. On the contrary, I think them vital since I believe that the Gun Cult is a demonic spiritual stronghold just as abortion is. I think that conscious, deliberate prayer *against* that stronghold, undertaken by spiritual warriors at every Mass, will be an invaluable part of defeating and destroying this enemy of human life and this disgraceful and warping stain on the prolife movement and the witness of the Church. I believe Catholics must implore our Lord to send his mighty angels to break the grip of principalities and powers and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places who hold people in thrall to fear and selfishness and blind them to the need to place the fifth commandment above their cultic devotion to the gun. But of course, such prayer will indeed be prelude to action, not studied inaction shrouded in pious goo.