Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In his response to Blosser ...

Mark states the following:
That there are people who are clearly attempting to avoid the obvious teaching of the Church about the intrinsical immorality of torture is, I think, beyond dispute. The Coalition for Fog distinguishes itself in this way, when it declares that reading Veritatis Splendor as a condemnation of the intrinsic immorality of torture is "fundamentalist proof texting". Clearly, the goal of such rhetoric is to say that the Magisterium does not teach what it does, in fact, teach. It's as believable as Daniel Maguire's attempts to square the circle of the Church's condemnation of abortion with his pro-choice zealotry--and as contemptible. At the end of the day, the Coalition for Fog is trying, by hook or by crook, to tell us that we can ignore Veritatis Splendor when it declares that physical and mental torture are, like rape and abortion, acts for which there can never be any justification. That's what "intrinsically immoral" means, and that's what Veritatis Splendor says. I do not think the members of the Coalition for Fog are fools, therefore I have to conclude they are dishonest in trying to pretend VS does not say this, and that they cover up their dishonesty with name-calling about fundamentalist proof-texting.
I use the term "fundamentalist proof-texting" because it strikes me as an apt one for the type of argumentation that Mark is employing. His entire argument consists of an appeal to a set of texts, or more precisely his reading of those texts. I regard these readings as both historically dubious and inconsistent with what the Magisterium actually teaches if taken to their logical conclusion (as, I suspect, does Mark, unless he is now arguing that deportation is an intrinsic evil) and Mark's reply is that I am ignoring their plain meaning. With all due respect, this is exactly how a fundamentalist argues.

Now in all fairness, Mark finally got around to addressing the issue of the Church explicitly mandating torture in the past, a point that I have been trying to make here for several months but which Mark only bothered to address when Greg Krehbiel noted this problem.

Mark's explanation is as follows:
What he fails to do is distinguish between the Pope's actions as governor and his actions as teacher. It is only in the exercise of his office as teacher that the Pope is protected by the charism of infallibility. That's why, when Peter refused eat with Gentiles (an action done in his capacity as governor, not as Teacher), Paul could rebuke him and be quite right. Indeed, Paul was making use of Peter's infallible authority as Teacher to do so, because it was Peter who formulated the basic dogma of salvation by grace and not by works of the law (Acts 15:11). It's also why the Church could reprove, as foreign to the mind of Christ, acts of religious persecution in Nostra Aetate--including acts order by previous Popes and councils. And it is also why John Paul can indeed say that previous Popes have committed acts of intrinsic moral evil in permitting or ordering torture or slavery . Bottom line: infallibility does not protect the Pope or councils in their juridical acts.
While I think that this reply fails to take into account issues like the development of doctrine, which is extremely important to how the Church came to its current understanding of religious toleration. But Mark doesn't argue that doctrine has developed with regard to torture (a la the death penalty and as I've noted, this is one of the ways that would get him out of historical dilemma!), he somewhat counter-factually regards it as always having been an intrinsic evil.

Still, I think that problem here lies more with Mark than with myself since torture is an issue that he has frequently and explicitly equated with abortion as an intrinsic evil. As a historical matter, multiple popes formalized regulations concerning the practice and employment of torture not only within the papal states but also among the clerics who oversaw ecclesiastical courts throughout Christendom. To take Mark at his word, multiple popes instituted and approved of an intrinsic evil for literally hundreds of years and if we were talking about abortion rather than torture I think that the astute reader can understand the type of indefectability issues that appear within this context. The Magisterium is either infallible in matters of faith and morals or it is not, which is why our entire approach here is motivated by fidelity rather than dissent.

Mark then proceeds to assert that those who seek to disagree with him on this issue fall into three categories:
1) Those Catholics who are not actually serious about their loyalty to the Magisterium
2) Radtrads who hate Vatican II and all its works
3) The amoral realpolitik types

I'm not sure where he puts me and Victor, though he accuses us of initiating a "direct assault on the Magisterial teaching of the Church," to which I would reply that Mark Shea is not the Magisterium.¹ We have found his arguments with regard to torture to be both lacking and intellectually and historically unsatisfying and I have even gone to the length of attempting to explain alternative means through which he can retain his preferred practical policies (no torture practiced by the US, passage of the McCain Amendment, et al.) without requiring us to suspend our preference for rational argumentation. Jimmy Akin, Father Neuhaus, and Christopher Blosser, none of whom could be described as torture advocates, have all managed to do this without falling into Mark's fundamentalist reading of Magisterial documents (or demagoguery either) and if Mark wants to embrace their position I'll be more than happy to shut up on this one. Until he does, however, I will continue to note these differences and note that Mark doesn't hurl the same vitriole at them that he does at us.

He also fails to distinguish between the moral issue and the policy one, which may explain his willingness to invoke the spectre of Michael Ledeen, who to the best of my knowledge has not written about interrogation (Mark may of course be aware of his true thoughts on this matter just as he apparently discerned that Ledeen radiates evil energies) and in any case is Jewish rather than Catholic and hence would not be expected to agree with Church teachings on this or any number of other topics. I would note that Mark is willing to understand this quite well when it concerns Jonah Goldberg but is unwilling to extend the same charity towards Ledeen, who Mark's comments regarding are often completely unhinged without any attempt to understand the man's positions and would probably be considered libel. He's a neocon, after all, a group of people Mark has equated with idolators in the past because they support democracy promotion.

Regarding Mark's use of photos of Abu Ghraib:

Somehow, they seem to have it in their heads that I am saying our military is all about more Abu Ghraib's. On the contrary, the Administration was all about more Abu Ghraib's and would have gotten their wish if they had succeeded in loosening the regulations on interrogation. However, the Army, to their great credit, defied Cheney's attempt to do this and instead made clear that prisoner abuse was not in keeping with the traditions of our honorable troops.

Two points to this. The first is that it is at best counter-factual and at worst a blatant distortion of events marked by Mark's increasing Bush Derangement Syndrome, as is indicative of the fact that he apparently now believes that Cheney runs the administration and actively desires more Abu Ghraib's. There is also a difference between the military raising objections to the administration and actively defying it, one that I would hope anyone who understands the importance of civilian control of the military would recognize.
¹ VJM add: I'd guess #1, with #3 as the motivator. Applying #2 to us is prima facie stupid.


  1. Someone also neds to point that Mark is *wrong* when he says that:

    "infallibility does not protect the Pope or councils in their juridical acts."

    In fact, the Church *is* infallible in those acts.

    The Popes may err in their PERSONAL BEHAVIOR (which is what applies in the case of Peter's blunder over table fellowship with Gentiles), but not in their LEGISLATION as Supreme Pastors.

    Here's what the Catholic Eneyclopedia notes:

    "As to moral precepts or laws, as distinct from moral doctrine, infallibility goes no farther than to protect the Church against passing universal laws which in principle would be immoral. It would be out of place to speak of infallibility in connection the opportuneness or the administration of necessarily changing disciplinary laws, although, of course, Catholics believe that the Church receives appropriate Divine guidance in this and in similar matters where practical spiritual wisdom is required."


    I've tried to point this out to Mark, but he responds by banning me.

    Mr. Shea's an excellent apologist when it comes to debating the Catholic-Protestant issues, but otherwise he's a big-baby who can't take correction, or the moral high ground when it comes to misrepresenting ideas or being consistent in the application of his principles.

  2. Shea banned you too? What other catholic blogger bans so many people? apparently if you're not in the amen chorus, Shea will silence you. hardly catholic, small c or big c.

  3. ericg:

    I'm not in favor of you or anybody being banned. But I've seen you use abusive language like "stupid" and "idiot" on Mark's blog.

    Frustrating he certainly is. But civil dialogue is a two-way street.

  4. Fair enough, Jeff. But I was simply engaging Mark on his own terms.

  5. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I'll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

    Here is my web site - Pickup-Artist.Com

  6. Asking questions are in fact fastidious thing if you are not understanding anything totally, however this article presents nice understanding even.

    Also visit my webpage ...

  7. I absolutely love your website.. Very nice colors
    & theme. Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as I'm trying to create my very own blog and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Thank you!

    Feel free to visit my webpage;

  8. Hi there it's me, I am also visiting this site on a regular basis, this web site is truly good and the visitors are genuinely sharing pleasant thoughts.

    Also visit my site -

  9. Ѕaνed as а favorіte, I геally lіke yоuг webѕitе!

    Look into my blog post; Full Write-up

  10. Ιt's awesome to pay a visit this web page and reading the views of all colleagues concerning this article, while I am also zealous of getting know-how.

    my weblog :: Learn Even more Here

  11. Wow, that's what I was exploring for, what a material! present here at this web site, thanks admin of this web site.

    my page - Http://

  12. This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am really happy
    to read everthing at single place.

    Review my blog:

  13. I'm very pleased to uncover this great site. I wanted to thank you for your time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every little bit of it and i also have you book-marked to check out new things in your website.

    Also visit my site;

  14. wonderful points altogether, you just received a brand new reader.

    What might you suggest in regards to your put up
    that you just made a few days in the past? Any sure?

    my web page

  15. Yοu made some really gοoԁ pοіnts theгe.
    I looked on the net to leаrn more abоut the issue and found most peoplе will go along with уоur νieωs on
    this websitе.

    Alѕo visit my weblog;

  16. Verу quickly this web site will be famouѕ among all blogging
    and sitе-building peορle,
    due tο it's good articles or reviews

    Here is my web blog - stock options training

  17. Ιt's an amazing piece of writing designed for all the online people; they will take benefit from it I am sure.

    My site ... Click At this website

  18. Wireless systems rely or depend on the latest or invigorated innovative versions of technology or electronic transmissions
    which are an accolade of radio frequencies that are
    transmitted by the door contacts or knobs, windows or plush panels,
    and motion activated sensors or electronic devices to ensure safety and prevention of any
    threat at its best. So install a quality, high end deadbolt
    that is resistant to key bumping. Send notification when triggered: this setting sends a text-only email
    to notify users that an event has been triggered and is used
    primarily for image buffering rather than transferring.

    Feel free to surf to my web-site :: national news

  19. TҺіs iss my fіrst timje pay а quick visit at here and i am really
    happy to read everthing аt alone plaϲe.

    Feel free to visit mʏ blog post :: best muscle building tips advice

  20. Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and in depth
    information you present. It's great to come across a blog every
    once in a while that isn't the same old rehashed material.

    Fantastic read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to
    my Google account.

    My site :: kayaks for sale