Monday, January 08, 2007

Hi, ho, hum ...

First of all, let me address the charges Mark brings against me:
there is much excitement over the "anathemas" I hurled last week concerning the execution of Saddam. Those readers with memories shorter than a fruit fly's will remember those stern anathemas, such as when I severed men's souls from the hope of the redeeming grace of God by answering the question "What did you think of the execution?" with, "I think we should listen to our Mother. Unless absolutely necessary, don't execute people. My *opinion* is that it was not absolutely necessary in the case of Saddam, but I recognize others have legit differences with that opinion. I have no problem with that."

Pretty withering self-righteousness that. If you can find something else in what I wrote that constitutes an anathema, please let me know.

I was basically referring to this:
Do I think some who supported execution were so motivated? Of course. But one need not look very far in cyberspace to find the overwhelming majority of commentary from the average pro-death penalty comboxer on your average news site to be marked, not by sober discussions of the nature of Justice according to St. Thomas, but by glee, gloating, and nakedly expressed hopes that Saddam not only die, but that he go to hell. One is hard pressed to believe that the millions of people who accessed the video of his execution did so out of a saintly desire to pray for his soul and not out of a fascination with and joy over his death. Call this what you like, but I think we kid ourselves if we believe that this is somehow furthering the mission of Christ in the world.

So, unlike most of the conservative Catholic blogosphere, I wasn't particularly bent out of shape by the Vatican press guy's denunciation of the execution. In point of fact, it did not meet the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution, and I'm just fine with that fact that Rome pointed that out. Many conservatives had various levels of denunciation for Rome on this. Some were disappointed. Some called the condemnation "prissy". I found myself thinking, "On the whole, I'd just as soon Rome be on the side of mercy as not." Yeah, the Vatican statement was not worded with exact theological precision. So what? At the end of the day, Rome came down on the side of not killing more people unnecessarily and I'm glad of it. Meanwhile, the conservative wing of St. Blog's tended, it seemed to me, to try to conform the Church's teaching to the national narrative rather than try to conform the national narrative to the Church's teaching. Yes, I recognize that the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral. Yes, I recognize that, in terms of strict justice, Saddam got what was coming to him and the state had the right to impose it. But I am haunted by the notion that the gospel is about more than the imposition of the bare strict minimum of what we have coming to us.

... Beyond the curious spectacle of right wing blogosphere gleefully rejoicing over the death of Saddam (I mean the whole right wing blogosphere, not St. Blogs), and the biblical quotations about justice (but not the quotations that say "I the Lord take no joy in the death of the wicked") and the earnest wishes for eternal hellfire as we celebrate the Birth of the Redeemer, my difficulties are prudential as well. From a purely practical perspective, we have achieved one thing: giving an Iraqi culture that is absolutely drunk on vengeance and reprisal one more big stiff drink. This seems to me like trying to cure an alcoholic by buying him a tavern. It will not do one damn bit of good to the Iraqis. At best it will simply be Reason #39485734985375 for yet another round of vengeance killings. But it did make a good end of year news cycle moment in a war that is increasingly sparse on good news. And Saddam will no be missed by many people. So why not?

... Much is made, as I have already pointed out, of the term "prudential judgment" in approaching what is admittedly not a dogma but more on the order of a counsel. As somebody who does not take a Minimum Daily Adult Requirement approach to the Church's teaching, I think that when Holy Mother Church says, "X is a good idea" it's generally wise to listen to Holy Mother Church even when she does not preface it with "We declare, pronounce, and define..."

Some Catholics are fine with this. The reasons for this vary. Some already oppose the death penalty on other grounds and, in fact, go further than the Church by trying to say the Church errs in permitting it at all. I think they are wrong both for theological reasons (i.e. Scripture clearly permits it at times) and for practical reasons (sometimes people just need killing for the common good). Some agree with the Church's teaching as it is laid out in Evangelium Vitae.

But some, at the end of the day, are very uncomfortable with the Church's teaching. And some flatly reject it. Indeed, some even lie about it and try to claim that it is a rejection of and a contradiction to previous Church teaching. Some declare JPII a heretic and routinely label any bishop who articulates the Church's teaching a Euro-weenie, a liberal, etc. The usual reactionary blah blah.

This was what I was intending to reference when I wrote "thus have missed Mark's latest anathema sits against all of St. Blogs and the entire conservative blogosphere for disagreeing with him over the issue of Saddam's execution and the death penalty in general." I intended to use anathema sit as a term of hyperbole rather than theological percision and in particular I strongly object to his characterization that the conservative wing of St. Blogs is motivated purely by politics in their desire to part ways with Rome on the need to execute Saddam Hussein. When added with his second post that seemed to indicate that those that parted ways with him on this were only engaging in what he terms "a Minimum Daily Adult Requirement approach to the Church's teaching," (and that certainly seemed to me to be what he was saying) I took issue with that and thought that it was worth it to note it.

Also, in both his comment here and the blog entry, Mark has referred to me as "Chris." I have no idea who this is intended to be, but if he thinks he has learned my secret identity he has little idea of just how funny this is.

As far as Mark's comment about my making a distinction between torture and prisoner abuse, if he had read rather than "skimmed" my post he would note that the point I was trying to make was:
... Mark makes a false conflation between prisoner abuse and torture (there is a difference between the former and the latter), just as he conflates disagreement with him and his bad arguments on Catholic teaching to a desire to condone torture.

Which it's pretty clear that he didn't understand either because he seems to be saying that I am "So bent on defending the indefensible that you just don't care anymore how silly your defenses sound." I never defended the fake baptism as described in the article and would note that my identification of it as prisoner abuse as evidence that I probably don't support the practice.


Victor said...

Actually, Torq, you understate the strength of what Shea says in one particular place:

In point of fact, it did not meet the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution...

If one says that "not meet[ing] the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution" is a "point of fact," then that person cannot say people can disagree with him about the justice of executing (in this case) Saddam.

A "point of fact" is not a disagreement about what facts mean, nor is it a different privileging or weighing of considerations of fact. Like "what are the consequences of executing Saddam Hussein." It's well ... a fact. No ... more like "Saddam Hussein (PBUH) is dead."

To give an easy example, if Chris ... er ... Torq were caught speeding, it would be factually and objectively unjust to execute Chris ... er ... Torq because, as a point of fact beyond reasonable disagreement, his minor crime does not poses a threat to society worthy of death, and thus, as a fact, "[does] not meet the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution."

Some of EV is open to interpretation on some points, but one of those it is not is that if an execution, in point of fact, does not meet these criteria, it is unjust.

Or in a phrase ... judgements are disputable, "points of fact" are not.

I myself doubt that a prudential judgment can actually be a "point of fact" (though obviously being based on points of fact). But someone who thinks they can and actually has intellectual integrity and has thought things through (stop laughing people) is saying that such an execution is, in point of fact, evil, and that there can be no dispute on that point.

Victor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christopher Fotos said...

Shea on Saddam's execution:

In point of fact, it did not meet the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution, and I'm just fine with that fact that Rome pointed that out.

As remarked by others, in fact Saddam's execution can reasonably be shown to have met even the novel or highly developed situation sketched in EV, the dictator's continued existence very much presenting numerous threats to public safety in Iraq. For that very reason, there's a discussion in various quarters about whether there is now a functional prohibition on all capital punishment--if you can't justify Saddam's, we're done.

Also I note that when Mark writes the following:

Beyond the curious spectacle of right wing blogosphere gleefully rejoicing over the death of Saddam...

I find it curious that Mark finds that curious. How bad are we supposed to feel? Yes, it can be excessive; no, I would not want the responsibility of personally consigning someone to hell, and God has wisely refrained from assigning it to me....But Saddam can never again murder anyone, rape anyone, gas anyone, shred anyone....Let's just say I see a lot of upside.

As for the Mysterious "Chris," it's occurred to me that Mark thought Torq was yours truly, based on slender reeds that include my posting comments here and having earned my appointment to his list of Apologists for Satan, Tools of Satan, the Rubber Hose Right, and was described as having done a "Catholics for Free Choice imitation" when trying to harmonize past and present teaching on torture, etc.--this from the Pride of Catholic Answers--anyway I say this for the benefit of people like CAEI comboxer Diane who will find harsh descriptions of Mark here, but for reasons he not surprisingly failed to elaborate.

It's sloppy at best and ignorant at worst for Mark to start addressing Torq as "Chris" out of the blue, but my theory is only a thinly-supported guess. But if anyone is shall we say skimming this combox, I am not Torq, Torq is not me, and I suspect the closest we may ever come to learning his identity is here.

Victor said...

Recasting that grammatical abomination in my second (now-deleted) note:

Shea is not saying anathema sit, but he is calling Saddam's execution an objective evil, and thus saying that backing it is a damnable sin (assuming all the usual subjective caveats in the definition of sin -- foreknowledge, intent, etc.)

Anonymous said...


The whole point concerning Shea's foaming-at-the-mouth hyperventilation about capital punishment is the fact that he blissfully ignores centuries of teaching from Scripture and Tradition that recommends (if not demands) the execution of murderers. So, frankly, did JPII in Evangelium vitae, for nothing he said in that encyclical -- and certainly nothing he did in his personal activism on behalf of abolitionism -- can be squared with previous teaching. I maintain that the abolitionist perspective pervading the bishops was JPII's intent all along.

But back to Shea: It would be refreshing if the Irish Torquemada of the Pacific Northwest actually would address the principles that governed centuries of Church teaching on the subject. Then again, that would take serious research and the ability to analyze information, not the ability to pump out the kind of adolescent propaganda that his blog specializes in.

roger h. said...

But if anyone is shall we say skimming this combox, I am not Torq, Torq is not me, and I suspect the closest we may ever come to learning his identity is here.

Torq is really Speed Racer's older, estranged brother, Rex? I KNEW IT! Hope Richard Comerford doesn't see this. ;)

Victor said...

Smile when you take the name of Torquemada in vain thar ... Giuseppe.

outofjurisdiction said...

I'm waiting to read Comerford's post about how, when he was an executioner in the state penal system, he was taught to respect his prisoners while xing them. Bush is just not teaching execution in compliance with Vatican guidelines.

Phillip said...

Commerford has brought out his "old soldier" line again on Mark's blog. This after being rather humble since his lawsuit phase.

Unfortunately he is now using his veteran status to accuse conservative Catholics of persecuting him. This does go along with the disordered nature of his thoughts.

I just wonder when Mark will start citing him as an expert again.

Tom Connelly said...

Hey Torq and Victor,

I'm asking this out of genuine curiosity: Why do you continue to (IMHO) micro-analyze Mark Shea's comments? (I ask this as someone who agrees more often with you than with Mark.)

I think it's a shame, actually, because both of you have interesting things to say.

It would be nice to see more pieces that didn't simply react to Mark's latest postings.


Anonymous said...

I'm actually kind of with Tom Connelly here: not to sound like I'm stalking Victor all over the web, but in responding to defenders of Cuaron's Children of Men in his own combox and (IIRC) Peter Chattaway's, he-Victor produced some very interesting thoughts on Gitmo/Iraq/loosely-related issues that I thought would be a shoo-in for the Coalition blog. This place is his and Torq's space of course, to do with as they see fit, but, well, it's worth asking about.


Phillip said...

I'm of two thoughts here. First, it would be interesting to see commentary on other items. I think Victor and Torq could easily discuss a number of different subjects.

That being said, I have followed Mark's comments on a number of subjects over the past three years. He has become increasingly shrill and abusive. In addition he seems to cherry pick his posts to support his preconceptions about the Iraq war, torture, etc. Other information is poorly read or presented with gross errors of understanding which he then refuses to correct.

Commenting infrequently due to time limitation, I can understand how Victor and Torq have limited time to respond. Given the gross misrepresentations that Mark makes and the amount of time it can take to refute simplistic positions, I can see why the subject matter is limited.

Anonymous said...

A while ago I had the mistaken impression that Chris Fotos was Torq and mentioned this impression while in conversation with Mr. Shea, so I may be ultimately to blame for the confusion (then again, maybe not).

But really, things have past the point of parody over at the CAEI blog. He says that people who want to see Saddam go to Hell are like Hitler. Then, the very same day, he writes a post about how a Bishop is going to end up in Hell because he made a stupid comment about the Nazis. The lack of self-awareness is just unreal.


Pauli said...

Then 8 minutes later the dude posted the laughable Public Library Capitalism Bigger Threat Than Radical Islamist Terrorism post. I think there must be medication issues.