So it'll continue to go on indefinitely? Isn't there a point when it becomes overkill or unedifying or scandalous (Catholic against Catholic for months on end) or counterproductive, or some combination of the above?
That's what I truly wonder about. Okay; so you guys disagree on the torture thing, and related issues, and you think Mark is a big-mouth blowhard loose cannon. We get that. Is there nothing else that can be productively written about or have a blog devoted to?
I think that Victor and I have periodically written about other topics and that we are likely to continue to do so as the situation develops. However, I hope that you understand that our disagreements with Mark have now progressed far beyond the original issue of torture, which I don't think that I have explicitly brought up for some time now. He has made a number of claims over the course of the Lenten period alone that are, for lack of a better term, nothing short of crackpot and black helicopter. I don't think that these are theological errors (though they could easily lead to that), but I think you'll understand if I find it rather alarming to see someone expounding upon these views from the platform of a prominent Catholic dialogue.
To me, this is a secondary point even to Mark's hyperbolic rhetorical style - I would be equally alarmed by a Catholic apologist who argued that American democracy is basically a sham or that we are ruled by a conspiracy of millionaires who want to kill off the lower classes no matter what his rhetorical style. That Mark packages his socio-political views as being those of the Truly Faithful Catholic rather than his own peculiar synthesis of libertarianism, paleoconservatism, and more recently to a far lesser extent Marxism makes it all the more presumptuous and inflammatory, at least to me.
What good is accomplished? That is what I am wondering. It's fine to discuss legitimate issues but this thing has gone far beyond that. It involves far too much personal sniping back and forth, which is what is scandalous among Christians and fellow Catholics. Is there not a time when any good that could come from a discussion that has been beaten to death (any discussion), has been exhausted, and when it is time to move on?
In terms of the torture debate, I agree that we have probably reached that point with the exception of allowing ourselves to correct his repeated misrepresentation of our positions whenever he feels in the need of a straw man. As I said, if I were in Shawn's position and lived in Seattle, I would have been more than happy to meet with him in a respectful fashion and explain where he and I part ways and why I believe myself to be correct on these issues. On a secular political level, I have repeatedly offered to purchase multiple books for him in order to help him better understand the political views of his opponents in the hopes that he will refrain from his reckless style of argumentation against "neoconservativism." That was intended as a serious offer rather than sarcasm and those books are his any time he wants to ask for him. It was my hope that by adopting the Biblical standard of testing all and retaining that which was good that he would be able to recognize that neoconservatism in particular that he has all but explicitly linked with the section of the Catechism that refer to the rise of the antichrist (and conflated with libertarianism, but that is neither here nor there) is a lot more than the secular messianist project that he alleges it to be if you just read their own words.
I feel the same about the Sungenis issue, and have stated so (mostly at Against the Grain. I fully agree with his critics. He is dead-wrong. But what's the point of now three years or so, worth of public criticisms? Entire websites devoted to Sungenis' difficulties; several people seemingly devoting all or the lions' share of their energy and labor spent writing online, to Bob Sungenis . . . isn't there anything better they could do? I certainly think so.
Imagine if one of these folks died tonight and God asked them, "what have you been doing with the time that I have given you, with regard to ways to get out the message of Christianity?" And they say, "well, Lord, I've been writing against Bob Sungenis for three years." Does anyone seriously think that this would be very high on God's list of priorities of what a Christian could spend time doing, for years on end? I highly doubt it.
To be fair Dave, had Sungenis been allowed to carry on without reproach it would have done far worse to the Church. I think that both the apologetics movement and the Church in general are better off with Sungenis marginalized, though I continue to pray for him. The reason that I draw the parallel to St. Paul confronting St. Peter is that Mark is not a marginalized kook like Sungenis but is instead an extremely influential Catholic blogger who in my opinion is sinking further and further into some extremely bizarre views about how the world works. Moreover, he is increasingly adopting a pseudo-ultramontane view that holds that those who disagree with him are less than fully faithful to at least the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. At that point, I think we enter into the area of theological error and like St. Paul in Galatians I think that we have an obligation to try and correct it for the edification of his readers if not Mark himself.
As far as what we hope to accomplish, while I can't speak for Victor I myself want to prevent other Catholics from falling into the same theological errors that I believe Mark has because, particularly within the current domestic political context within which these errors are held, the likelihood of producing even greater scandal and division within the Body of Christ become even more likely. I would also argue that as part of our loyalty to the actual ordinary teaching Magisterium and how Pope Benedict has applied it to Europe that we have an obligation not to just write off Western civilization the way Mark did with that sickening prayer that the West and Dar al-Islam destroy one another. Long-term, I would also like to convince Mark himself of the errors on this score or at least reach the point where we can agree to disagree without having being subject to his periodic issuing of anathema sits. I don't see the latter occurring as long as this conversation occurs only online, however, because I do not think that the medium is helpful to that level of discourse.
I hope that this helps to answer Dave's question.
One other thing that I have said repeatedly (and will say again) is that I understand that there are people who comment here who have a lot bigger beef with Mark than Victor or myself. I hope that these same people also recognize that a lot of different people have a lot of different perspectives on how to tackle this issue. So while there are legitimate discussions to be had, I want those discussions to occur within the context of civil (if sometimes heated) conversation. I think Victor said pretty much the same thing in the combox the other day.