Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More melting down

Yes, I'm violating my vow of Sheastity, but this is just remarkable, even by his standards. Shea is reduced here to yelling, stamping his feet and banging his shoe on the table here (the first italic paragraph is the too-patient Sydney).
Well duh. But I still think that, despite your attempts to ignore it, there is and should be a difference between coercive interrogation and torture.

Duh nothing! I've said about 1000 times that there is a difference. You know that. It is bullshit to say that Barnett was just making a plea for normal coercive techniques. He wasn't even making a plea for mere *torture*. He was making a plea for Dresden, for the fire bombing of Tokyo, for the glory of deliberate mass murder of millions and millions of innocents and for doing what it takes, no matter what, because it's our side and we can do as we want!

Syd, I am unbelievably tired of this sort of shit. If you can't be honest about the fact that I have, literally hundreds of times, acknowledged that there is a real distinction between legitimate and illegitimate coercion, that I have--hundreds of times--offered definitions, not just of torture, but (more important) "humane treatment" then please do me the kindness of just shutting your mouth.
But of course, like everything else Shea says on this topic, this bold stuff simply isn't true. Let's go the film ... no, wait ... there's actually a fresh batch of footage today. Shea writes (emphases mine; Barnett's words in red; Shea's in green):
Dean Barnett, in his execrable defense of Salvation Through Leviathan by Means of War Crimes writes:
That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
There is no way to read what Shea actually writes other than "coercive interrogation techniques are a war crime." And it's hard to imagine what "war crime" Shea could be thinking of, if not torture.

Additionally, that same Shea post immediately thereafter removed all doubt about the lie he yelled at Sydney. He approvingly ("perfectly right") cited the following from Daniel Larison.
And Daniel Larison tartly replies:
Oh, Barnett is sad about torturing people–so at least there’s some hope for him yet! ... Doesn’t Barnett realise that it is far worse to be a relatively sane person who nonetheless rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture and insists upon using the propagandistic euphemism “coercive interrogation techniques”? ... he thinks he is showing how reasonable and decent the friends of torture are!
He's perfectly right.
But if you follow the link to Larison, you find the following interesting juxtaposition (Larison, much as I disagree with him, has the intellectual integrity to actually quote people, rather than paraphrase in the form of a Shavian Straw Man™). Here is part of what Barnett says, as cited by Larison:
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.

That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
Note that in this excerpt, Barnett never uses the word "torture" except in constructions like "torture debate," which as good a form of shorthand as any other. But when actually describing his own position, he consistently calls it "coercive interrogation." In fact, you can read through the whole Barnett column in vain for any use of the term "torture" as a noun in a construction that says or implies Barnett approves of it or backs its use. Larison (and Shea) quoted the "best" part, and it relies on the "torture-coercion distinction" quite fastidiously. (In fact, so fastidiously that, though this is only my opinion as an editor and writer, it reads to me as if Barnett was consciously keeping this distinction in the forefront of his mind.)

But note how "coercive interrogation techniques" becomes "torture" in Larison's ridiculing, ranting paraphrase.
Oh, Barnett is sad about torturing people–so at least there’s some hope for him yet! ... Doesn’t Barnett realise that it is far worse to be a relatively sane person who nonetheless rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture and insists upon using the propagandistic euphemism “coercive interrogation techniques”? ... he thinks he is showing how reasonable and decent the friends of torture are!
And again to remove this latest "lie" charge to the category of "beyond all doubt," Larison doesn't simply say "Barnett is advocating something that will put us on a slippery slope" or "this distinction will be washed over in practice" or "Barnett doesn't realize where he's going." Nor does he touch on the more-esoteric questions of soldier culpability and inculpability for evils committed.

No. Larison says Barnett "rationally and knowingly justifies the use of torture" and ridicules the distinction, one that Shea says he has acknowledged thousands of times and tells people to shut up for thinking he doesn't acknowledge, as "a propagandistic euphemism."

As I say, there was more game film from previous days, like this, where Shea indicates that from the very beginning he (a) never understood Barnett's column and (b) ignored the distinction between the coercion and torture.

In fact, these were his very first words:
Time was when torture supporters played the game of "Nobody's talking about supporting *torture*. No, we're just in favor of "coercive interrogation"." Happily, the days of euphemism and fog are passing in some quarters and torture supporters are clearly and unequivocally saying "I support torture".
For someone who acknowledges a torture-coercion distinction, these are very strange words to describe a column which never says "I support torture" or anything that can be paraphrased thus without reading "coercive interrogation" as "torture."

Shea even did the same thing Larison does, quoting "coercive interrogation" and then not even pausing for a breath before paraphrasing "torture." (First paragraph in red is Barnett; second in green is Shea.)
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.
Nice straw man. But of course, it's not true. The reality is that people generally support torture because they think ... (what follows doesn't matter for the point here, VJM)
In the blink of an eye, "people who support coercive interrogation" becomes "people ... support torture" without even the semblance of an attempt at the appearance of the most-cursory efforts at reasoning. It's just fiated. "Coercion" becomes "torture."

Further aggravating Shea's initial misreading of the Barnett column was the emphatic way he said this was the end of euphemism. That's a a 24-karat falsehood. Even from his perspective, the worst you could say was that the column perpetuated a bad euphemism. Shea's post was slanderous. And culpable. Thus a lie. Morally speaking, it was libel when he says Barnett "gets in touch with his inner abortionist," a point that isn't even misreadable (the whole rhetorical point Barnett was making depended on his NOT supporting abortion).

Even apart from these fresh cites, for someone who thinks there is a legitimate distinction between coercive interrogation and torture, Shea has been going about it rather oddly for years. His longstanding ridiculing with terms like "torture-lite" and "just a teeny bit of torture" would be double-plus-unhelpful if he actually thought this was a difference that matters between coercive interrogation and torture.

The real reason that, in Rod's words, "Shea's head exploded" at Barnett's column? Perhaps this line:
The anti-torture argument sits on a fragile branch of moral vanity.
As a description of the political debate in the US, circa 2004-7 ... nothing truer has been written.

UPDATE: More at Rod's. Predictable posturing and false attribution.

47 comments:

Roger H. said...

Interesting that Sydney Carlton later says he knows Shea thinks there's a difference between coercive interrogation and torture. Like you, Victor, I've never seen Shea do such a thing. I wonder why Sydney backtracked.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Larison is one of those "paleocons" who will use any rhetorical trick to support his anti-war position -- any trick to disguise his unwillingness to form a comprehensive alternative to the Bush Administration's ideas about handling Islamism, let alone about extracting information from enemy combatants.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

BTW, I couldn't leave this thread without noting the following:

The D'Hippolitification of right wing rhetoric is becoming normalized. It used to be only a nut in a combox. Now it's emerging on the website of a guy who loudly bills himself as a member of the religious right and commands a radio microphone.

Gee, I guess I really have influence, don't I? ;D

Actually, I would be flabbergasted if Barnett ever heard of me but that's not the issue. Compare Shea's comment with the following from one John L.:

An important cause that does not get much discussion, and that is behind approving of torture, mass killing of civilians, etc., among professed Christians, is a lack of the virtue of courage. Not only are these things contrary to God's will, they are also likely to get the people who approve of them in more trouble than woudl refraining from them - because they will create a lawless merciless government that will act as history shows such governments always do; which will be much worse than any possible damage that can be done by Islamic radicals. Why do people not see this? Because they're cowards. They are overcome by their fear of the immediate threat in front of them - Islamic terrorism - and thus don't see, what would have been obvious to previous generations, that the 'remedies' they propose will be worse than the disease....

What John L. and Shea do not understand is that the Islamist threat is more real than either of them realize. John L. and Shea seem to be among the millions in the West for whom 9/11, Beslan, London, Madrid, Bali, etc. was nothing but a bad dream. They do nothing but give unconvincing lip service to the idea that Islam -- let alone Islamism -- is a totalitarian ideology that advocates slavery, if not outright genocide, for the Greater Glory of Allah (whom, all "really orthodox Christians" know, is nothing but Yahweh with an Arabic name).

What John L. and Shea consider "cowardice" is nothing but a legitimate fear of an evil ideology and the desire to prevent that ideology from killing more innocents and spreading its evil tentacles over more of the world. If that's "cowardice," then I and many millions of other plead guilty.

Frankly, I would rather be such a "coward" then allow myself and my neighbors to suffer unnecessarily as a result of the esoteric, academic, pseudo-morality under which John L. and Shea would like us all to suffer because it is somehow more Christ-like for the evil to win than for the potential victims to fight back.

What John L. and Shea do not understand is that the extreme measures they cite might not be necessary if governments were allowed to take less stringent measures (such as listening to overseas phone calls) that they, probably, would find just as abhorent.

I imagine John L. and Shea would also consider the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, Sherman's March to the Sea, Wilson's Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918 -- and, yes, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which ultimately saved lives on both sides by shortening a ravaging war) -- examples of moral cowardice.

All this shows is that such morons cannot tell the difference between legitimate self-preservation and real moral cowardice -- such as the cowardice Shea exhibits each and every time he slanders somebody, deliberately distorts their arguments, engages in personal attacks (even after apologizing for such behavior as a phony Lenten exercise) and refuses to do the necessary research to support his positions.

I find it highly ironic, to say the least, that a man who is so concerned about torturing enemy combatants has absolutely no concern about destroying the characters of people with whom he disagrees.

frank sales said...

Shea's labelling of those who argue the theoretical justification of coercive interrogation as crypto-abortionists is particulary vile.

Shea mocks Barnett for being sad about torturing people but himself seems gleeful in own his lack of charity.

stephen j. said...

The fundamental point of disconnect seems to be that while both sides in this debate verbally acknowledge a distinction between legitimate, morally permissible coercion and illegitimate, morally impermissible torture, each side believes the other's avowal of that distinction to be fundamentally dishonest.

Mark and those of his mindset seem to genuinely believe that whenever a person of the Coalition's mindset uses the phrase "coercive techniques," he is using it not to honestly mean "as distinct from torture which we do not wish to do," but as a dishonest euphemism for public consumption while in practice and in private such distinctions are ignored as meaningless.

Correspondingly, the opinion here seems to be that whenever a person of the Sheavian mindset uses the phrase "coercive techniques," he does not honestly mean "forceful but morally permissible interrogation practices that stand a reasonable chance of obtaining vital information from implacably hostile enemy agents, but that don't cross the line into torture" but rather "not a jot or tittle more than what the law permits us to do to ordinary criminals, no matter what the crisis or threat or possible information value - and less if possible, should ordinary American civic law contradict (my understanding of) the Magisterium."

In other words, each side believes that while the other side nominally acknowledges this key distinction, in practice they have defined it so far up or down as to be effectively meaningless: the Sheavians believe the Coalition's distinction so loose as to permit anything in practice, and the Coalition believes the Sheavians' distinction to be so finicky as to permit nothing in practice.

Mark's demonstrated tendency to attribute the worst motives possible to those who disagree with him on this issue, and his refusal to state himself what forms of coercion he personally accepts to be morally permissible, don't help. (In practice he has always referred to official documents like the US Army Field Guide for definitions of "acceptable" vs. "unacceptable", though why he trusts those documents when he doesn't trust the administration that produced them seems problematic to me.) Nor is he likely to return any gestures of good faith. But making such gestures remains worthwhile, if one can be made.

Anonymous said...

This latest outburst just proves that Shea is simply not rational on this issue, on any issue that relates to this issue, or on any issue that might possibly be tangentially connected to this issue. Anyone who disagrees with him on torture/coercion is met with a hail of quite astonishing vituperation, personal attacks, and threats of Hellfire. Adding to the problem is the fact that Shea seems to know very little about history, international law, interrogation techniques, or many of the other things on which he so confidently holds forth. All else aside, I wonder if he knows how much damage his "attack dog" personal style is doing the cause of Christian Apologetics...

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

I wonder if he knows how much damage his "attack dog" personal style is doing the cause of Christian Apologetics...

He knows. He just doesn't care. Shea ultimately worships his own self-righteous anger as God.

Dave Armstrong said...

The eternal discussion . . .

It's amazing to me (wholly apart from the relative merits of each side: this is simply a "neutral" sociological observation) how much intellectual and emotional energy this topic generates. I truly marvel at it. And especially I am astonished that people don't simply get tired of the wrangling and lack of communication and move on to something else. My hats are off to you. I couldn't do it. We tend to admire what we find difficult to do.

I wonder if he knows how much damage his "attack dog" personal style is doing the cause of Christian Apologetics...

I answer at some length because this is a repeated theme I have seen here and elsewhere.

Don't make the mistake of insulting the enterprise of apologetics by confusing it with this verbal warfare hogwash. The torture thing is essentially a moral issue. People can come at it from any number of angles: legal, political, compassion, concern for geopolitical justice, just war, national security, etc.

It is tangentially apologetic in that Catholics can bring to bear Church teaching on the issue, but it has little to do with defending Christianity or Catholicism per se.

Shea blowing his top or personally attacking folks has little or nothing to do with apologetics (let alone any other apologist) and has everything to do with his own personality. What does that have to do with me, or any other apologist?

It's not like Shea has a monopoly of the trait of shooting his mouth off, anyway. There is plenty to go around. So I'd appreciate it if my own profession doesn't have to be dragged through the mud because of the behavior of just ONE person.

If you don't care for Shea's style, then don't read him! God can take care of things in the long run. The universe won't collapse because someone has a problem controlling his tongue. Apologetics will still be here when Shea and Keating and Akin and Hahn and Madrid and all the other current apologists (including yours truly) are dead and gone, and that is because it is a biblical command and mandate.

Apologetics stands or falls on its merits and truth or falsity, or effectiveness as a persuasive endeavor, and the good fruit that hopefully results therefrom, not because of someone's temper or unsavory behavior. In the same way, the papacy is what it is, and doesn't become discredited just because there were bad popes who sinned and whored around, etc.

Ironically, the new "anti-apologetic" tendency (that has shown up here fairly often, even in my limited reading) simply repeats the same old anti-Catholic canard that sin somehow casts into doubt a body of teaching or a methodology (in this case, defense of the faith).

Moral of the story, or nutshell version: when Mark Shea is indulging in this kind of rhetoric it is precisely when (or because?) he has left the apologetic field.

I have said again and again that apologists (if they wish to be regarded as such) should stick mostly to apologetics. I wish he would do that. Why is it that supposed apologetic venues devote themselves mostly to political and cultural issues? It's as if there is nothing in apologetics to write about and so the person jumps right on the Internet bandwagon of discussing every fashionable issue.

Anyone can discuss politics and the issues of the day. I'm not running that down at all; simply stating a fact. But not everyone can do apologetics (in an intense, laborious way that the specialized field entails once one truly becomes serious about it).

I think it is a shame that someone with as much God-given ability and talent as Mark Shea feels compelled to devote himself far too much to all this other stuff (and to do a bad job at that because he is too uncontrolled and given to ad hominem attack).

That's not to say that apologists can never do those things. We can express our opinions on whatever we like, just like anyone else. I certainly do that. I've written recent posts (on my blog's front page right now) about Virginia Tech, stereotypical prejudice, and Jackie Robinson.

But by and large I stick to what I have been called to: Catholic and general Christian apologetics and evangelism. Mark Shea would only help himself and others if he would ponder doing that as well, because he remains a fine Catholic apologist (i.e., WHEN he is actually doing apologetics!).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Armstrong,
I certainly did not mean to lump you or any other apologist in with Shea. I apologize if I seemed to do so. All I meant was that Shea is a very well-known Catholic Apologist,and someone coming "cold" to his site would get a very misleading idea about apologetics. I have always admired the Church for its fine intellectual tradition. Let's just say that Shea is not exactly living up to that tradition these days.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Dave, if what you say is true, then why did Christ Himself ever bother proclaiming, "by their works you shall know them"?

Certainly, the truth of Christianity as a whole (or of Catholicism in particular) doesn't rely on the behavior of one individual, or even a group of individuals. Just as certainly, the value of most professions (except of those such as drug trafficing) doesn't ultimately rest on the personal or professional behavior of an individual or group. If that were true, I never would have bothered becoming a newspaper reporter.

But Christ expects those who claim His name to act appropriately. While it's not possible for somebody to be absolutely sinless in this life, it is not only possible but expected for Christians to behave as God would want them to (let alone demands). SS Paul, James and Peter made this quite clear in their letters.

This is why your comment about immoral Popes merits far more scrutiny than you might like. Certainly, individuals are responsible for their own behavior (and the papacy obviously confronted the problem by establishing an organized, disciplined system of choosing Popes). But at some point, repeated gross immorality without accountability ultimately reflects on the system that produced the perpetrators. Unfortunately, all too many Catholics (at least on the Internet) refuse to recognize that the clerical sex-abuse crisis was a systemic failure of profound magnitude -- and that such a failure ultimately dishonors God's name.

kathleen said...

dave armstrong, you protest too much. a catholic apologist with such a clearly dysfunctional manner in dealing with people (not to mention ideas) calls into doubt -- by his very behavior--the persuasiveness, even the truth, of what he is "apologizing" for. no amount of hand-wringing or professed astonishment at our persistent criticisms can change that sad, pathetic fact. Shea's making you look bad. it ain't our fault. it's his.

personally, it has caused me to question whether lay apologetics is a good idea for the catholic church. IMHO the clerical establishment, even with its myriad problems, can usually keep it together in terms of carrying on intellectual dialogue with a modicum of sanity.

Dave Armstrong said...

Kathleen,

Yeah, but what do you think about the numerous arguments I gave? I'd be most interested in hearing that. You're simply asserting. You made no argument, let alone any response to mine. You're clearly a sharp and intelligent person. I think you are capable of doing so. But you have to be willing, of course.

How can Mark Shea make me look bad (particularly when I have been very vocal in condemning the very same positions and behavior that many of you here have)?

I suppose there is a limited sense in which one can say, e.g., "Bill Clinton [or Richard Nixon, if you like] brought scandal on the office of the Presidency." Sure . . . but this sense is mostly a public relations type thing. It has nothing, really, to do with the office itself or our governmental system. One must distinguish the validity and essence and purpose of the office from occupants of same, who may be good or bad or all shades in between (just as with the papacy).

Likewise, if someone is doing apologetics badly (and I made an argument that I thought Shea usually isn't even doing apologetics when he acts objectionably), that is no reflection on the actual thing itself. It only shows that he is doing it (or, often, things only tangentially related to it) badly! It would be like saying:

1) "Kathleen plays baseball very badly. She doesn't know how to do it right."

2) "Therefore, scandal is brought upon baseball by this poor performance."

3) "And this causes me to question whether lay baseball is a good idea for folks to play."

How silly is that? Yet you apply it to apologetics at the drop of a hat. Your gripe surely must lie elsewhere, to think so illogically in such a manner. Bad logic usually flows from some personal experience or non-rational emotionalism.

Anonymous (nice name!),

I wasn't trying to single you out, but responding to a theme I have seen here. Kathleen represents it well. What she wrote is exactly what I refer to. I would agree fully with your clarification, and thanks for the humility and kindness in which it was offered.

kathleen said...

dave armstrong, catholic apologetics is not baseball. it's qualitatively different from baseball. umm, would you not agree? catholic apologetics are written to persuade someone of an eternal, life-changing truth. it ill serves such truth when a catholic apologist is insufficiently influenced by eternal, lfe-changing truth as demonstrated by his ill behavior toward fellow catholics. and when said catholic apologist is more volatile, confrontational and rude than even the drunk guy on the street corner who has zero experience with catholicism, it's a problem for catholic apologetics and catholic apologists alike.

sorry if this sounds rude ,but I am making assertions, not arguments, because the assertions are self-evident to most people.

kathleen said...

PS: a catholic lay apologist compares catholic apologetics to THE GAME of baseball. catholic apologetics -- just another game, eh? that was a really unfortunate comparison that illustrates perhaps more than you realize.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Dave, you're right in saying that not all Catholic apologists are as obnoxious as Shea, nor that his behavior should be taken to represent all apologists or apologetics as a whole. However, you cannot ignore the fact that, to many people, Shea's behavior makes a stain not only on your profession but also on your faith.

There's an easy way to deal with the situation, one that comes straight from St. Paul. Get some of your fellow apologists together and tell Mark, "You're behavior is obnoxious and uncalled for. You're becoming an embarassment to yourself, your family, our profession and the faith. We beseech you to change your ways. If you don't, there will be consequences from the apologetics commmunity."

None of this is to dismiss your individual attempts to correct him. But if Mark persists in spite of those attempts, do you just give up or do you try something else?

Dave Armstrong said...

Kathleen wrote:

dave armstrong, catholic apologetics is not baseball. it's qualitatively different from baseball.

Really? Wow! Excuse me a second while I write that down, so I can remember it henceforth. Thanks for that valuable tidbit of information.

umm, would you not agree? catholic apologetics are written to persuade someone of an eternal, life-changing truth.

Now someone who wishes to ditch lay Catholic apologetics altogether lectures one as to how it is different from baseball.

Of course the analogy fully applies, since it was a purely logical point that can be applied to other examples, even though they are dissimilar, because the logic had to do with internal relationships of propositions.

In other words, the analogy and similarity is not to the subjects or topics per se, but to the logical analysis that is employed in both instances. Anything whatsoever, then, could have been used as an analogy. It has nothing to do with how similar the two things are.

it ill serves such truth when a catholic apologist is insufficiently influenced by eternal, life-changing truth as demonstrated by his ill behavior toward fellow catholics. and when said catholic apologist is more volatile, confrontational and rude than even the drunk guy on the street corner who has zero experience with catholicism, it's a problem for catholic apologetics and catholic apologists alike.

What does this have to do with ditching the whole thing? It's a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

sorry if this sounds rude ,but I am making assertions, not arguments, because the assertions are self-evident to most people.

This is precisely the problem, because you are thinking so illogically that you aren't even aware you are doing it, and so (like many who argue irrationally) simply assume that the statements are self-evident, when they are not at all. It may be self-evident that Mark Shea needs to do a better job of personal interaction and charity towards those who disagree (I fully agree, and I cold easily think of dozens of people where this reform would be well-advised), but that does not equate to the notion that lay Catholic apologetics is at its death door.

PS: a catholic lay apologist compares catholic apologetics to THE GAME of baseball. catholic apologetics -- just another game, eh? that was a really unfortunate comparison that illustrates perhaps more than you realize.

Lord, give me patience. Again (repetition is a great teacher), the analogy does not rest upon the essence of baseball compared to the essence of apologetics. It requires no relationship at all between the two things. It is a reductio ad absurdum: showing how the (assumed, unspoken) logic applied in one case would look if applied to another that is known to all of us (baseball).

You completely missed the point. Sorry if this sounds rude.

If you don't like baseball as the analogy, then I'll use something closer to the subject matter (and, come to think of it, far better as an argument): bishops and the episcopacy. I'll take your logic and apply it to both scenarios. If you don't get the point, surely many others will:

1) Episcopacy (the rule of bishops) is (so we are told) a good and a very Catholic thing, based on Tradition and Scripture.

2) But American bishops in particular have provided a terrible example of conduct and policy decisions as of late. They have been insufficiently influenced by eternal, life-changing truth as demonstrated by their ill behavior toward fellow priests who were caught molesting children (thus, they treated the children abominably as well). And when said Catholic bishops are less concerned about the welfare of children than even the drunk guy on the street corner who has zero experience with Catholicism, it's a problem for Catholic episcopacy and Catholic bishops alike.

[hidden assumption / analogy: winking at sexual molestation of children and trying to cover it up and enabling priests who do so is far, far more evil and scandalous than Mark Shea's eruptions of verbal diarrhea]

3) Therefore, this being the case, it should cause us to question whether bishops and episcopacy are a good idea for the Catholic Church.

By this logic, then, if lay Catholic apologetics should be tossed out because of the conduct of one man, much more so should episcopacy and the rule of bishops, because of the behavior of many more of them, amounting to great evil and injustice.

The logic is impeccable and unanswerable. But I'm sure that those given to emotionalism and illogical thought will find some way "out" of it, quite possibly (if experience is any guide) including recourse to the very tactics of personal attack that they so vehemently, passionately decry in others.

kathleen said...

fine, dave armstrong. shea's behavior has nothing to do with the field of catholic apologetics. no man is an island, except Mark Shea.

BTW it's nice that you know the term 'reductio ad absurdum" but that doesn't mean you have to use it everytime you see an opportunity to do so (something your colleague Shea is fond of doing as well.) This level of analysis is not particularly impressive, nor is it particularly persuasive. After your latest comment, I'm more convinced of my position on lay apologetics than ever.

Dave Armstrong said...

Excellent. I knew the insults would be next, as I predicted. One gets used to these tired patterns after engaging in lots of discussions. But I was dumb enough to think reason would cut through the crap. I should have known better. Insufferable idealist about the power of reason, I am . . .

You believe whatever you want about lay apologetics. Meanwhile, folks are converting to the Church all the time because of it (leading Protestant ethicist Francis Beckwith, for example, is a very notable recent "revert" to the Church, owing in some part to Jimmy Akin's work). Both Jimmy and I have blogged about it.

You sit there and mock it while people come into the Church and grow in the faith and become far better equipped to share that faith with others, with confidence.

Somehow, I think when we apologist types stand before God, that God will be more impressed that we are doing something (however unworthy and lacking in charity it may be determined to be) to aid souls in coming closer to God and His Church, than he would be at your sort of condescending, illogical legalism about and breezy dismissal of these sorts of efforts, simply because you've been hurt by Mark Shea or whatever your negative personal experience was.

But the devil loves to get Catholics fighting with each other over worthless issues, doesn't he? If you run down lay apologetics, when it is self-evidently a good thing overall, then the devil can cause further division.

Victor said...

(something your colleague Shea is fond of doing as well.)

In what sense is His Most High Sheasus Christ "your colleague" to Dave?

nowickis said...

Dave,
I for one take your point that lay Catholic apologetics in general shouldn't be blamed for Mark Shea's sins. However, what frustrates me and others is that many of Shea's fellow apologists (including his "boss," Jimmy Akin) seem unwilling to chastise him or hold him accountable in any way, no matter how abominably he behaves. What do you say to this?

Dave Armstrong said...

I say they should. I've said that all along. I'm not aware that Jimmy Akin is his "boss." Mark works for Catholic Exchange. That is his only "boss" I know of, besides priests and bishops.

I have a long track record of opposing personal attacks and slanderous garbage: wherever they occur and whomever they target (recently, e.g., I defended John Calvin on my blog against a slanderous lie).

I've been subjected to many of them myself: some even from fellow Catholics and many quite vicious and 100% truth-free. Anti-Catholic James White, just last night, called me (along with Mark Shea and two others) a moonbat, an extremist wacko, and a stalker. All in a day's work (LOL) . . . So Mark's case is no different from any number of cases I have strongly condemned.

Some people think it is a joke or a non-issue; others claim one is being hypersensitive to point out the obvious imperative of NT Christian ethics. Still others think it proves a martyr or persecution complex (i.e., in instances where I spoke up, when I was the target).

People have all kinds of excuses to keep up the unethical behavior. Even when one speaks up against it, they have to have the energy and tolerance and patience for catching hell and being attacked themselves. I can handle it, but I get awfully tired of it at times.

Reform of Internet discourse should be a high priority for everyone, because has gotten so bad (among Christians, who are actually some of the worst of all) that it is now often causing scandal.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Reform of Internet discourse should be a high priority for everyone, because has gotten so bad (among Christians, who are actually some of the worst of all) that it is now often causing scandal."

Amen! The internet is too valuable a resource for information and reasoned debate to be wasted in vitriolic flame wars.

kathleen said...

dave armstrong, am i to believe that your "breezy dismissal" of coalition criticisms of Shea was not an "insult" in the first place? one repeated from earlier threads? and since we're speaking of "cutting crap", let's cut the holier-than-thou crap too. It's clearly not your bailwick to worry about what God will think of my interactions on the internet. um, don't give it another thought. seriously.

the "power of reason", seductive as it is, doesn't always apply. e.g. it shouldn't necessarily be applied to deconstructing someone's plainy obvious point about how Mark Shea is causing scandal not only to catholic apologists, but to catholics. in your first comment you profess "astonishment" at the persistence of our criticisms, and now you say shea should be chastised. in that context, forgive me if i find your first comment in this thread ... somewhat unhelpful. you started it, brother.

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for your thoughts. God bless you.

For others (since you [Kathleen] clearly couldn't care less about anything I write): I haven't dismissed "Coalition" criticisms of Mark Shea at all. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite: I agree with most of them (except for one commentator here whose views don't totally represent the position of Victor and Torq, as they have repeatedly made clear).

My opinions had simply to do with the prudence of continuing to devote this blog to Mark Shea. They were taken seriously, judging by the lengthy responses (by torq in particular).

Torq and Victor seem (far as I can tell) to think I made some valid points here and there, but they clearly have not taken my view in its entirety. In any event, I haven't perceived that they thought my comments were intended as insults or anything of the sort (which is correct; they were not at all). If they have taken them in that way, I am not aware of it myself, and it wasn't my impression.

It's fine if they disagree with me. I have no problem with that at all. Matters of prudence are precisely ones where good and reasonable men can disagree, and we all ought to respect each others' application of prudence to complex and troubling issues.

Andy Nowicki said...

Dave, my impression had been that Akin was Shea's supervisor at CA in some capacity-- I think I had heard words to that effect somewhere from somebody. I might well be wrong. In any case, whether Akin et. al are above him in authority or merely equal to him, they ought to hold him accountable for his behavior, and they aren't doing so, and this is stoking some bitterness among some of us non-apologist types who have been victimized by Shea.

I for one am encouraged that you have gone a different route, i.e., that you are actually calling Shea on the carpet, and I hope other apologist-types follow your lead.

Dave Armstrong said...

As far as I know, Mark doesn't work for CA. He works with Catholic Exchange and receives some salary for that. I'm sure he has done some projects with CA, as I have done (articles, radio, maybe some conference talks), but that is more of a contractual relationship, not a boss-employee thing.

Roger H. said...

CA lists Shea as one of its seminar speakers. Odds are CA doesn't employ Shea, but retains him on an independent contractor basis.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure a blog devoted to Mark Shea is a good idea--good for anybody's soul, that is. But I must say I'm more sympathetic to the idea right now than I would have been a few hours ago. In Mark's comboxes, he has just managed to radically misconstrue my own comments, missing my point so completely and utterly that it almost seems, well, intentional. He completely ignored what I actually wrote and proceeded to set up a straw-man, whereby he could caricature me as a judgmental harpy. Apparently he presumes bad faith on the part of anyone who dares to disagree with him--and takes it from there. What you actually write is irrelevant. If you can be caricatured, misrepresented, dissed, and dismissed with clever Sheavian rhetoric--that's all that matters.

Whew. I don't know what hit me. :o

Diane

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

As an independent contractor myself, I can tell you that the life of an independent contractor is far from secure. That being said, it behooves those whom Shea has abused to bring his behavior to the attention of Catholic Answers and demand that they hold him accountable.

doubting thomas said...

"It is a reductio ad absurdum: showing how the (assumed, unspoken) logic applied in one case would look if applied to another that is known to all of us (baseball)."

Actually a reductio ad absurdum is a logically valid tool. If the logic is poor in one situation you apply it to another to point out the absurdity of it.

This is not to be confused with the argumentum ad nauseum where one repeatedly says the same thing in the hope that repetition will act as proof.

Anonymous said...

Now Mark is apparetly lying about me outright--repeatedly inssting that I am "diagnosing [Bill Cork's] soul." I have never said Word One about Bill Cork's soul. Or about his heart, mind, or left elbow, either. I never followed Cork's blog; I know very little about him; and frankly I'm not that exercised about his recent actions. Perplexed, yes. Exercised, no. I have NEVER presumed to say One Judgmental Word about Cork's reasons for defecting. I have simply defended other people's right to be bewildered, shocked, and scandalized by Cork's defection--a very understandable response, ISTM.

Mark Shea is a liar. And a bully. That, I think, is why this blog's existence is justified. Mark silences his opponents and then lies about them, insisting on having the last (lying) word. This should not be simply accepted --it involves slander, after all. There should be a venue (like this one) for setting the record straight.

My 2 cents' worth.

Diane

kathleen said...

Diane, you have run head-on into the system of social and religious law known as Shearia ( also Shearī'ah, Sheari'a, Sheariah). Shearia is traditional religious law also known as the law of the Most High Sheasus (thanks Victor). The Most High Sheasus sees no distinction between religious truth and his own opinions. Hence Shearia, a system of 1) laws 2) rules and 3) rationales for comment deletion, is applied to protect and defend the ego and opinions of the Most High Sheasus. Shearia is by the Most High Sheasus applied not only in the realm of catholic apologetics but in any aspect of day-to-day life which the Most High Sheasus wishes to address.

Anonymous said...

LOL, Kathleen! What happens if you violate Shearia? Do you get your yping hand chopped off? Or does your computer get stoned to death?

Iguess I'll have to go into hiding, like Salman Rushdie, to avoid this horrible fate. :)

Diane

kathleen said...

well, diane, naturally, you get (cue the reverb) *banned*. but that's just for starters. I can only shudder when i imagine the even greater punishments held in store for those who continue violate the code of the Most High Sheasus (punishments administered, one must remember, with the utmost in "charity", that virtue which is so highly emphasized at every turn on the blog of the Most High Sheasus)

kathleen said...

LOL diane, can't stop laughing at the image of mark shea stoning your computer to death, with his amen chorus looking on in nodding approval

Pauli said...

"...can't stop laughing at the image of mark shea stoning your computer to death..."

Reading this causes a new version of the much-parodied "Mac & PC" commericials to form in my head. This time, the gloves are off....

Phillip said...

Diane,

Can't tell what happened as it seems that Mark deleted most of your posts.

But while we're on the topic, it seems Mark is willing to give Mr. Cork a lot more charity when he leaves the Church then he did to Sean Hannity when he threatened to leave the Church. I guess it depends on one's ideology whether one is dealt with charitably or not.

Let Mark's hypocrisy go. The more I read his blog the more I realize that he is a bully and incapable of any logically consistent thoughts.

kathleen said...

another great example of Shearia, where the MHS deletes one's comments, but refrains from deleting his (highly charitable) personally-directed chastisements for same.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Kathleen. Doncha love that selective delete button?

Oh well. Let the mighty one stew in his bile. I'm shakin' the dust off my non-birkenstocks.

Diane

Victor said...

Yikes.

I can understand deleting someone's comments if you think they're inappropriate (prescinding from judgment in this case). But doing that AND keeping in your own chiding is just preening and vanity.

I deleted an anonymous comment that I thought was morally libelous against Shea last week, but felt no need to announce it and berate the commenter.

But then we ARE talking about a man who'll spill oceans of 0s and 1s telling us how much he DOESN'T care about something.

Dave Armstrong said...

I'm very sorry to hear that you had this experience, Diane. If you're the Diane I think you are (you seem to be!), who is my friend, you know that I've always defended you against personal attacks, and how much I admire your zeal for the faith.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am that Diane, Dave! BTW, I took your name in vain recently: I told Certain People at a message board we're both familiar with that you were right about the juvenile-frat-boy antics prevalent there. I do not post there any more, although I do cherish the people there as my brothers in Christ. (I say "brothers" advisedly as the venue in question is very much a Boys' Club these days...all the gals have decamped.)

Anonymous said...

For the record, here's the gist of the stuff I wrote, which Mark deleted: (1) Mark should not assume the worst about his comboxers, pre-emptivgely accusing them of judging Bill Cork's soul before they've even had a chance to respond at all; (2) It is normal, natural, and understandable that those who followed Bill Cork's blog (or whatever) should now be stunned, confused, and unsettled by the news of his defection. Under those circumstances. it is entirely understandable that these folks should ask "why?"--that is, that they should try to make sense of the apparently senseless. This does NOT mean that they are "running diagnostics" on Cork's soul. (Some people may, but most folks seemed simply blindsided and stunned; their responses could be summed up as, "What the...?")

I also pointed out that Mark seems to employ a double standard: He urges us to be solicitous of the fragile feelings of his e-pologist chums, but our own concerns and feelings do not merit such consideration. We can be scandalized till the cows come home, and we're not supposed to peep about it--not even to ask "why?"

Because I stuck up for the comboxers, observing that they too are human beings with legitimate concerns, I was accused of being a judgmental inquisitor "diagnosing" Bill Cork's soul. The fact that I have not, to date, said one word about Cork's soul apparently does not matter in the surreal world Mark Shea inhabits.

And so it goes.... ;)

Duane

Anonymous said...

sorry for typo--that should be "pre-emptively" obviously.

Diane

kathleen said...

Shea's justification for deleting diane's comments -- but of course: it is because he is more spiritually evolved than you or i:

"...having some total stranger in a combox yell at me and tell me what's wrong with me and make fun of my name is highly unlikely to help me find my feet. ...Here's the thing: I *do* care more about the fragile feelings of people who are in obvious crisis than I do about people who have nothing better to do with their time than badger and gossip about people they don't know in a combox. I have this crazy notion that people in deep spiritual crisis benefit more from prayer and gentleness than from bullying, hectoring, cross-examination and shouting. I think that hammering such souls in crisis with internet apologetics betrays a stunning tone deafness to the problem. Indeed, I think that many Catholics in cyberspace have a vastly inflated notion of the capacity of ASCII to heal and redeem. Souls in crisis need sanctuary, not the agora. And cyberspace is emphatically the agora and not sanctuary."

so if "catholics in cyberspace have a vastly inflated notion of the capacity of ASCII to heal and redeem" then doesn't the fault lie precisely with the souls in cyberspace who insist upon blogging about their conversion? should cyberspace reform itself into the sanctuary to accommodate those clueless souls who so misguidedly look there for such?

just a thought: maybe these souls are in deep spiritual crisis *precisely because* they seek "sanctuary in the agora". If they are busy reading comment boxes to see what "complete strangers" are saying about their conversions, then maybe their spiritual sufferings are the fault of their over-developed ego, rather than the fault of the commenters upon whom their "spiritual crises" were inflicted in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Oy! I hadn't read Shea's diatribe against me. All I can say is--what is he smoking? When did I engage in "bullying, hectoring, cross-examination and shouting"? I have yet to utter Word One about Bill Cork's soul. I have yet to take Cork to task, lob apologetical arguments at him, or do any of the other nefarious things Mark mentions.

Bottom line: I have no earthly clue what Mark Shea is talking about. It seems he has gone completely ballistic over a straw-man.

More and more, ISTM that Mark Shea is incapable of addressing and engaging the arguments people actually make. Apparently engaging his opponents' actual arguments does not serve his rhetorical purposes. It seems he prefers to shoot big, blunt, poorly guided Scud missiles at straw-man arguments of his own creation. The more disconnected from reality his rhetoric is, the more wholesale, sweeping, and over-the-top it becomes.

I am frankly at a loss for words. Which, as my DH will tell you, doesn't happen too often. :)

Diane

Anonymous said...

just a thought: maybe these souls are in deep spiritual crisis *precisely because* they seek "sanctuary in the agora". If they are busy reading comment boxes to see what "complete strangers" are saying about their conversions, then maybe their spiritual sufferings are the fault of their over-developed ego, rather than the fault of the commenters upon whom their "spiritual crises" were inflicted in the first place.

Excellent point.

But wait! Don't you know that comboxers are EVIL jerks who must be dissed and dismissed, whereas the members of Mark's Apologetical Fraternity are alone worthy of consideration?

Sheesh. If Mark hates his comboxers so much...why does he even bother blogging?