Concerning lawsuits online, what I meant was that it is silly to try and sue people for most of what they say on an internet blog. It may well be stupid, outrageous, or malicious, but I in my non-lawyer mindset think that in most cases it doesn't rise to the level where a lawsuit would be adviseable. It's the equivalent of taking a nuke to a knife fight. The fact that Comerford was so eager to play that card the moment he was confronted with serious criticism or scrutiny was one of the things that indicated to me that the man was off his rocker because I don't think that the overwhelming majority of what is said online, whether it be at Mark Shea's or anywhere else, rise to the level where those kinds of threats become even remotely viable.
Now I do understand that people like Joe D'Hippolito have basically been cyberstalked by Mark Shea and that he has tried to harm him professionally. I don't think that's right, but at the same time I don't think that it is rises to the level where a lawsuit is wise or even remotely viable. I don't control Joe so he can do whatever the heck he wants to, but that's my $0.02 on the topic and I don't think that offering my thoughts on the matter should be taken so offensively. Your mileage may vary.
On the overall question of what to do with the blog, this is something that I have been thinking about for some time now, in large part because when Victor first tried to set up a forum where those of us who had been misrepresented by Mark could reply in kind to reply, I was initially somewhat reluctant to participate, in large part because I think that there needs to be something more to a blog than our disagreements with Mark. That said, his continued refusal to moderate his rhetoric towards myself or Victor (if anything, it has intensified over time) has left both of us with little choice on the topic. The problem has now grown to the point where even if the Coalition shut down completely, I see little chance that Mark will view this as anything other than encouragement that he was correct both in his rhetoric and more importantly in what I regard as a serious problem concerning his theology. I do not want to see that happen, because I do not want to see bad theology disseminated regardless of its character. And the fact that Mark continues to have no real answer apart from ad hominem or rhetorical slight-of-hand on what I think is a fairly strong critique of his interpretation of the Gaudium et Spes quotation that forms the core of his argument that has been authored by myself and others strikes me as pretty glaring.
Dave Armstrong, whom I will continue to note here as the apologist who helped to bring about my own conversion to Catholicism, writes:
Often I have read here, e.g., that Mark Shea gave me a pass in the torture discussions because I was a fellow apologist. I agree that I was treated a bit differently than Torq and Victor were. I didn't receive the direct personal attacks that they have been subject to.
But on the other hand, I wouldn't say I was treated with any particular courtesy, let alone personal warmth (and I have met the man and drove him around town when he spoke in the Detroit area). My comments were routinely ignored or misrepresented in subsequent posts, and Mark himself said that he didn't even read most of my stuff on the issue. Fellow apologist or no, this fact didn't change how I was responded to all that much. It was certainly not normal discourse, by any reasonable definition.
I regard it as a basic courtesy to at least read the other guys' material, if one is claiming to be in a "discussion" with him.
I think that the core of my allegation here is that Mark tends to treat Dave or Jimmy differently than he does Victor or myself lies in the fact that he remains extremely wary of coming out and stating that their arguments are out-and-out wrong and/or in conflict with his own even though this flows logically if you compare them side-by-side. He still ignores or represents their positions, but their views at the end of the day are to Mark acceptable points of disagreement that people of good faith can differ on. Not so with Victor or myself, who are frequently accused of only disagreeing with him in order to curry some kind of favor with the Bush administration. He has yet to produce any evidence to support this charge, but that has not stopped him from making it or from arguing that to disagree with him is to objectively support/excuse torture and prisoner abuse (the differences between which appear to elude him), that his is the only correct view of Gaudium et Spes and Veritas Splendor, and so on and so forth.
Then there is Mark's ever-increasing tendency to conflate being a faithful Catholic with his own essentially paleocon (minus a hard line on illegal immigration) views. This to me is something I regard as a bad thing for secular political reasons and it is for those same reasons that I desire to take issue with someone promulgating it with such vitriole from the platform of a major Catholic blog. Especially if that someone is an individual who has, on the balance I think, done pretty good apologetics work in the past.
One other thing that I tried to mention before is that some of the people commenting here appear to have far more far-reaching disputes with Mark (and in some cases other Catholic apologists) than do I myself. I haven't followed the particulars of these other disputes (except in the case of D'Hippolito I am familiar with Mark's particular beef with him because he continues to raise the topic with Pavlovian accuracy whenever Joe's name is invoked), just as I haven't really followed the disputes between Drehrer and some of the commenters here beyond my broad philosophical objections to his "crunchy conservatism." So I once again want to make it clear, as Victor prepares to address these issues for himself, that to me Mark is nothing more than a stranger that I disagree with.