Thursday, April 19, 2007

And to answer your other question, Dave ...

First of all, prayers would be appreciated for Caitlin Hammaren, one of the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre. I didn't know her personally, but she was the friend of a friend and as such I would ask that you pray for her soul.

Secondly, Dave Armstrong asks in reference of my comparison to Sungenis:
I am objecting to two-three years of ongoing rebuke, with whole blogs and (from the looks of it) virtually entire lives and tremendous energy being devoted to the "anti-Sungenis" cause.

Some of the same people doing this have already squandered (in my opinion, having known them personally) tons of opportunities to do some very helpful apologetics and use of their considerable gifts in other areas, by becoming embroiled in the stupidity and separationism of so-called "traditionalism". Instead, they alternate between bashing popes and Bob Sungenis. It's a sad, very troubling waste of God's gifts.

But on my original point: it's not a disagreement over principle (anti-Semitism and goofy cosmology should be opposed) but prudence (how long and how much energy do we devote to rebuking manifest error, and what better use of our time is conceivable?).

The same analysis applies to this blog. As long as I have given you some food for thought and basis for at least pondering my observation, that's good.

I think that the difference, at least for me, is that outside of his core followers Sungenis has been pretty thoroughly reduced to obscurity. He isn't a major blogger and he certainly isn't seen as a respectable authority on Catholic teaching outside the kook fringe. All of the material seems to me to be available online for those who are interested in following the ins and outs of the Sungenis dispute. Mark, as Dave noted, has been consistently recognized and approved of by ordinary Catholics for his increasingly erratic and loopy views on social and political commentary. Moreover, he isn't an obscure figure by any means and as such I think that it is appropriate to challenge his theological views before they lead other Catholics into what I believe to be an erroneous reading of Magisterial documents as well as an extremely ultramontane view of foreign policy. I would also argue that a lot of his ideas should be challenged on prudential grounds, such as his increasingly warped view of American democracy.

I offer an example to substantiate this, that being Mark's reaction to the Supreme Court upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion. Mark was initially celebratory until it was pointed out that maybe, just maybe he might want to give credit to the GOP whose leadership he accused of wanting to do away with the entire pro-life cause. That led to today's post in which it was noted quite diligently in the combox that the GOP is far from worthless when it comes to the pro-life cause and had Mark's readers followed his earlier advice and supported a third party, this ban would never have occurred. They also noted that his current strong dislike (if not hatred) of the GOP appears to be far more complex than that they aren't pro-life enough for his tastes.

As a bonus, we actually get a real definition for the concept of a unitary executive that Mark has turned into his latest white whale against the Bush administration:
The term "unitary executive," properly understood, refers to the president's authority to supervise and control the executive branch. Supporters of the unitary executive argue that, because the constitution says that "[t]he executive Power [of the United States] shall be vested in a President of the United States of America," and requires him to ""take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," he has power to control all subordinates in the executive branch. This power, as asserted by the advocates of the unitary executive, has taken such forms as Executive Order Nos. 12,291 (Feb. 17, 1981) and 12,498 (Jan. 4, 1985), providing for presidential management and oversight of rulemaking by all federal agencies. Opponents of the unitary executive argue that the agencies got their rulemaking authority from Acts of Congress that implicitly authorized the agencies to exercise independent judgment in making rules with force of law, and that executive orders such as those cited infringe on this congressionally-granted agency authority. Supporters of the unitary executive reply that all authority granted to any agency is implicitly subject to presidential control.

(Really aggressive advocates of the unitary executive argue that there is no constitutional basis for "independent" agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, if by "independent" is meant that the means that the agencies are independent of presidential control.)

Opponents of the unitary executive argue that their view is the more traditional one. As one old authority stated: "It was quite clear that it was intended [by the Framers] that [the president] should not, except as to [those political duties which are not subject to judicial control], be the administrative head of the government, with general power of directing and controlling the acts of subordinate federal administrative agents." 3 W. Willoughby, Constitutional Law 1479-80 (2d ed. 1929). This view was challenged by the Roosevelt Administration, which took steps to centralize the administration of the executive branch, and that trend was continued, and given theoretical underpinnings by, the Reagan and Bush II Administrations.

Note that all this is really administrative law inside baseball, about who has ultimate authority over the executive branch, not about how far the authority of the executive branch extends. Thus, for example, it has nothing to do with whether the president has the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely or without judicial oversight.

My point in highlighting all of this is to demonstrate the same point that a lot of people made in the combox - had people followed Mark's advice (let alone his retrospective advice), this victory for the pro-life movement in all likelihood would not have occurred. At the very least, I think it's safe to say that one would not have occurred under a Gore or Kerry presidency. And as long as this is the message that he is going to keep putting out as his award winning social and political commentary under the auspices of his true adherence to Catholic teaching in contrast to the wickedness of those still supporting the GOP, I hope that Dave and others understand why I feel compelled to challenge it.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Torquemada,

That was my post that started all of the ruckus over at CAEI. The reason I posted what I did is exactly because of the point that you made so articulately. I believe that driving people away from the individuals in government who have actually helped the pro life cause is really helping the pro choice bunch and they don't need any help. Truthfully, I sent Mark an email to keep out of the way of his frisky commentors and he responded in a very polite and reasonable way. I'm starting to think that confrontation is sort of a "style" over there (blogger and commentor)

Carroll Scott

Bubba said...

I mean this as a serious question; I'm not trying to be flippant.

I think we could assume that Mr. Armstrong agrees that Mark's behavior justifies a rebuke, considering that he's criticizing the method and duration of the rebuke, and apparently not its content. Making that assumption, has Mr. Armstrong expended a comparable amount of time and energy to criticize Mark Shea as he has to criticize the bloggers here?

If he hasn't, it suggests that the current situation could be made acceptible to him if only people stopped complaining about Mark Shea: that Shea's behavior, absent the criticism it's generating, is not intolerable.

kathleen said...

what is this business about the existence of "an entire blog" as somehow damning the criticism it expresses? a blog represents merely a collection of moments over a prolonged period of time. taken as a whole in one reading, it may read like constant, unending obsession, but that impression is objectively inaccurate. composition of "an entire blog" is in fact a casual, off-the-cuff enterprise that takes mere moments on a given day. one can write "an entire blog" in less time than it takes to do the ironing or get dressed. if anything, the existence of "an entire blog" is testament to the importance of his criticisms to the critic. why should that be dismissed more easily than a one-time criticism?

Mark Adams said...

Making that assumption, has Mr. Armstrong expended a comparable amount of time and energy to criticize Mark Shea as he has to criticize the bloggers here?

In David Armstrong's defense, I suspect he recognizes that the CoF people are actually open to rational discussion and criticism and knows that trying to engage Shea on the same issue would be pointless.

Victor said...

Bubba:

Dave took Shea to task at length about his actions toward us, Blosser, Fotos, Fr. Harrison, etc., during the torture discussions several months ago at Jimmy Akin's site, the resulting threads at Chez Shea, and (I believe) at the Pope Benedict Fan Club.

Dave expended a lot of pixels (and emotional energy, I suspect) to find out that Shea wasn't reading his posts and that Zippy is quite the asshole (my faborite thing that fuckwad said was that he didn't have to provide cites for 'Victor said X' because he was telling the truth. Really.)

That's what I know publicly. There may have been private correspondence too (though I'd bet against it; Dave seems to be more the "public matters should be addressed publicly" type -- though obviously correction open).

Mark Adams said...

Dave expended a lot of pixels (and emotional energy, I suspect) to find out that Shea wasn't reading his posts

I believe that was when the famous "skimming" line was first uttered (or written).

Dave Armstrong said...

has Mr. Armstrong expended a comparable amount of time and energy to criticize Mark Shea as he has to criticize the bloggers here?

At least ten times as much, yes (if not 20). Have you read my paper on that topic? And the criticism is, qualitatively, vastly different (hardly even the same thing at all). I disagreed with Mark's position as a matter of principle, and (especially) strongly disagreed with how he treated others who disagreed with him (including the majors here). To me it was an ethical discussion on two levels: not only about torture, but about how others who honestly disagree ought to be treated.

Here, OTOH, I am merely offering respectful advice as to the prudence of continuing what I believe to be a futile effort. The two can hardly be compared at all. I was treated callously and flippantly at Mark Shea's blog. Here people (except for one I won't name) act normally, for the most part, and (what a novelty!) actually listen and interact.

If he hasn't, it suggests that the current situation could be made acceptible to him if only people stopped complaining about Mark Shea:

There is a sense in which Catholic discord is undesirable, considered wholly apart from the issues being battled over. That was my point. If nothing is accomplished anyway, then in some cases, the scandal generated by inter-Catholic warfare is a weightier consideration and influence than the good that the basically-correct parties hoped to accomplish (at which point -- and to determine when it occurs is the difficult trick -- it is prudential to cease).

that Shea's behavior, absent the criticism it's generating, is not intolerable.

How you can derive the exact opposite meaning of what I have been saying, is a mystery to me.

what is this business about the existence of"an entire blog" as somehow damning the criticism it expresses?

This again misses the point entirely. I haven't "damned" the criticism of either Sungenis or Shea at all; to the contrary I agree with the great majority of it. I have been addressing whether such a tremendous expenditure of effort in both cases is prudential and wise. I mentioned Sungenis precisely because it was another closely analogical instance of a justified criticism but perhaps an imprudential prolongation of same, past its usefulness.

taken as a whole in one reading, it may read like constant, unending obsession, but that impression is objectively inaccurate. composition of "an entire blog" is in fact a casual, off-the-cuff enterprise that takes mere moments on a given day. one can write "an entire blog" in less time than it takes to do the ironing or get dressed. if anything, the existence of "an entire blog" is testament to the importance of his criticisms to the critic. why should that be dismissed more easily than a one-time criticism?

This is true of blogs in general; however, I was specifically referring to blogs devoted entirely or 90% to constant criticism of one person (and a fellow Catholic at that). The anti-Sungenis blogs exist solely for that purpose. Coalition for Fog exists some 90% of the time as a vehicle to criticize Mark Shea.

I am saying that all that energy and thoughtfulness could better be devoted to other topics. Victor already seems to agree with me. Torq disagrees quite amiably. That's fine. I appreciate the classy response. Matters of this sort need not be the cause of discord and fighting. It was simply friendly advice from a friend. I'm not demanding anything or making any accusation of wrongdoing (prudential matters are not of that sort). Just throwing some stuff out for consideration, is all.

I have reminded everyone (including myself) that we are all stewards of the time that God gives us, and that it is good for us to periodically ponder what we are doing with our time and what might be more profitable in that regard than what we are doing.

Bubba said...

Very cool: like I said, I meant the question sincerely.

Thanks. :)

Dave Armstrong said...

In David Armstrong's defense, I suspect he recognizes that the CoF people are actually open to rational discussion and criticism and knows that trying to engage Shea on the same issue would be pointless.

Precisely. Thanks. If one is concerned about public feuding (even apart from the issues) and has tried reasoning with one party to no avail, whereas the other will listen and respond rationally, then clearly one opts for attempted persuasion of the second party.

Shea wouldn't even read my stuff. He said so; it wasn't even speculation. And this was after he initially expressed (openly, on his blog) an avowed interest in my opinions. It's the same old BS of how people often act when they seem to have no rational reply. I go through it all the time in my line of work. I know every trick in the book.

That's why I have objected to the motif that appears now and then on this blog, to the effect that all the apologists stick together, and that Mark treats them quite differently.

I agree that I was treated better than Victor and Torq, but not by much. If someone doesn't even read one's criticism and what he does say in response is a breezy dismissal or downright rude expression, I don't see much difference.

In one sense it is arguably even worse, seeing that I know the man (I drove him around town once when he came to the Detroit area) and am a fellow apologist, and still get treated in that fashion. If one treats a supposed friend (or at least friendly acquaintance) like dirt, isn't that considered a bit worse than how he treats strangers?

Victor is also exactly right. There was no private correspondence, and on precisely the grounds that he stated (though if it started up I would not be averse to it on principle, especially if I felt it might do some good).

There was simply no sustained rational interaction to be had, the insults started coming (zippy) and then my very observations were ignored. At that point I generally cease, since it is a waste of time, and I highly value my time. I have lots to do and write about, and there is no need to interact with frivolous, fatuous, flatulent, folly (how's that for alliteration?!).

Here is a funny exchange I went through at the time with The Inimitable Comerford:

---------------

Richard W. Comerford wrote:

"Are you upset with Mr. Shea being Mr. Shea? After all in the 20th Century every great Catholic Apologist in the English speaking world was both controversial and combative. Mr. Shea reminds me of Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc in that regard."

One can be both "controversial and combative" without being insulting, condescending, cynical, hyper-suspicious, given to unworthy polemics and rhetoric, straw men, etc. Mr. Chesterton (whom I know a little bit about, as I have perhaps the largest Chesterton links page on the Internet, and some 25 of his books in my personal library) was very much the former, but not the latter.

That's why he had a running vigorous dispute with folks like George Bernard Shaw or H.G. Wells, while maintaining warm friendships with them. This is not the case with Mark and his present self-made "foes." He bans them, mocks their opinions, continually (far as I can tell, since he refuses to document anything when I ask) misrepresents those very opinions, etc. There is no warm friendship. Those he opposes are, seemingly by the dozen, becoming intensely frustrated and angry at him. The contrast couldn't be more great.

Mark is alienating those he disagrees with. Chesterton didn't do that at all. Even his dialectical opponents loved him.

--------------------

Comerford shot back:

Dave Armstrong:

Thank you for your kind reply.

I admire Mr. Shea. I think it takes guts to stand up and say that torture is just plain evil every time all the time. I know very little about Mr. Chesterson [sic] other than that I like what little I know. Mr. Shea reminds me of the little I know about Mr. Chesterton.

If you say Mr. Shea is not like Mr. Chesterson [sic] then I bow to your superior knowledge.

Thank you for the education.

God bless

Richard W. Comerford | 10.31.06 - 4:30 pm | #

Hello Mr. Comerford.

I am Mr. Armstrong, and I am a dummy too, like you.

I also admire Mr. Shea. I do not admire the way Mr. Shea is treating many of his opponents at the present time. And Mr. Shea does not remind me of what little I know of Mr. Chesterton when Mr. Shea does this.
Dave Armstrong | Homepage | 10.31.06 - 4:48 pm | #

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Whatever happened to Comerford, I wonder. Wasn't he trying to sue you guys?

Victor said...

Among other things, he wrote The Washington Times. My bosses handled it to my satisfaction.

Victor said...

I believe that was when the famous "skimming" line was first uttered (or written).

Actually, Mark, it wasn't. I can't find the original very quickly, but I was throwing the line back at him last July.

Mark Adams said...

Well, I'll be damned. My face is red.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Torquemada's response to Dave's points once again illustrates the need for more effective ways to hold Shea accountable. Regardless of what Shea's thinks of the posts on this blog or Dave Armstrong's response, it's obvious that he's really not stopping. Therefore, stronger measures must be instituted. That's why I keep insisting that Armstrong, Akin, Keating, et al get together and confront Shea with the possible consequences (which I've already stated) of his continued behavior. For better or worse, his behavior reflects on the whole apologetics community, of which they constitute a substantial part.

Phillip said...

"Josiah says:

Whatever happened to Comerford, I wonder. Wasn't he trying to sue you guys?"

I think his behavior got so irrational that even Mark banned him.

Hopefully Comerford is getting the help he needs. When I remember I say a prayer for him.

Pauli said...

I'm glad someone else has publicly noticed that, whatever value Mark Shea has as an internet content provider, he isn't very much like G. K. Chesterton at all.

Marc L said...

Coalition for Fog exists some 90% of the time as a vehicle to criticize Mark Shea.

I am saying that all that energy and thoughtfulness could better be devoted to other topics.


I'll second this, if only so that Victor might get around to maintaining his other blog.

Seriously.