Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So much idiocy, so little time ...

Is sort of my reaction to Mark's latest anathema sits of the day against both VDH and the Bush administration. I don't have time to dwell on them in the depth that I usually prefer to, so let me instead make the following points:

- He never really addressed Ron Paul's racial issues, he just dismissed them as the product of the GOP smear machine. Given that even some of Paul's self-professed supporters found his explanation a lame one given the nature of the material in question, I think it's worth throwing out there. Certainly he doesn't seem inclined to grant the same benefit of a doubt when it comes to clarifying such statements to Victor Davis Hanson. So once again I'll follow the Biblical example and call him a hypocrite who is straining a gnat by attacking Hanson while swallowing a camel as he goes to great lengths to rationalize every word that comes from the mouth of Ron Paul.

- As Victor noted, if there is any candidate who seriously believes that the free market is the answer to all ills, it is Ron Paul. Glad to see what Mark is actually serious about cricizing versus just blowing smoke for effect.

- What the hell are "Fox News implants" supposed to be? For a man who does not watch television news, it is bad form if nothing else for him to discuss a matter of which he has no first-hand knowledge. Or has his conspiracism now advanced to the point where he believes that only Fox News is the reason why most Americans tend to support what he regards as torture.*

- His continual blaming Bush for turning America into a "torture state" (his words, not mine) and destroying the conservative movement once again make his repeated claims that he doesn't hate the man somewhat less than persuasive.

- I don't see why Mark finds it so hard or so controversial that a non-Christian like VDH regards war as the natural state of man. One of the points that any number of Catholic intellectuals have made over the century is that while the classical Greek intellectuals got a lot of stuff right, they still endorsed horrific practices because they lacked the benefit of revelation. I fail to see why he finds it so surprising or alarming that a contemporary figure has reached much the same conclusions. I would also note that the view he ascribes to the Bush administration that war is the natural state of man is wildly at odds with his other charges that they are secular messianists who delusionally seek to impose Wilsonian democracy everywhere. Which is it, exactly?

- Highlighting personal tragedies from Iraq is a little less than convincing come from a man who used the death of one of our soldiers to score a cheap shot at Norman Podhoretz. Same goes with someone who is blithely ready to accept a great many personal tragedies by calling for our troops to withdraw. No doubt the souls of the Chaldean community will praise him to heaven as they are slaughtered by the Islamic Emirate of Iraq.

- If he seriously believes that the war on terrorism is now a war on western civilization, I would once again thank God that he was not alive during World War 2.

- Opposition to what Mark considers torture is not a position held solely by Ron Paul within the GOP candidates. As he grudgingly admits, even by his standards it is also held by McCain. Given that McCain is actually a serious contender for the nomination, he might want to reconsider his view that the GOP is running anyone who opposes them on this issue out of town. McCain's current problems, for instance, have little to do with torture but everything to do with immigration. I think it's fair to say that McCain has a far better established animosity among GOP activists than does Ron Paul (Hugh Hewitt, if memory serves, blamed him for the 2006 mid-term election massacre) yet no one has made any effort that I am aware of to bar him from the GOP debates. Near as I can determine, only one actual GOP figure has seriously suggested that Paul be barred from the debates and his rationale for doing so has nothing to do with torture and everything to do with his embrace of what is widely perceived among many conservatives as an isolationist and blame America first mentality. Given that the issue of torture has become Mark's white whale, I can understand his emphasis in focusing on it, but if he has any evidence that the people seriously suggesting I would ask that he put up or shut up.

* I'm not trying to be wishy-washy on definitions of torture, but Akin and Armstrong (among many others, including yours truly) have both made a number of arguments on this issue that Mark has yet to address in any substantive fashion other than to (selectively) accuse anyone who repeats either argument directly to him of ill faith and being in league with the Bush administration. Not exactly the most persuasive case, as I think anyone who examines Mark's arguments fairly would note regardless of their view on torture.

So it's been quite a day, near as I can tell.


Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Actually, when you actually consider it, war is the natural state of man. When you think about how the human race would behave without law, without restraint, without accountability and certainly without revelation, war between people and nations is the natural result.

For that matter, look at how humanity has behaved even with international attempts to establish peace (UN, League of Nations, Kellogg-Briand Pact, ABM and SALT treaties, Washington Naval Conference, Triple Alliance, Triple Entente, Oslo accords, Camp David accords, ad infinitum et nauseaum)

And, let's not forget the wars that Catholics and Protestants fought against each other in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries...

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Moreover, when you consider what Christ actually said about humanity, it's not what Mark thinks (despite selectively quoting JPII). Somewhere in John's Gospel, it says that Christ knew human nature well and did not need anybody to tell him about it. Christ was no pollyanna concerning human nature. If he were, then the idea of becoming a sin offering to redeem humanity would be patently absurd.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you guys for this blog. (Ironically, I found it by following a link from Mark Shea's blog.)

I am in the process of a mid-life conversion to Catholicism. My faith, I believe, is quite strong, but it is also young and unseasoned. I have found Mark Shea (among others) very helpful in clarifying certain issues of the Faith for me. But I was at first puzzled, and later annoyed and alarmed, by his hysterical monomania and self-righteousness over recent US foreign policy. If I truly believed that one had to agree with his views on this issue to be a good Catholic (as he seems to insist), I think that my journey into the Church would have come to a complete halt.

I am not willing to say that the CFF is all right and Shea is all wrong. But at least you folks have convinced me that there is room in the Catholic Church for discussion on this issue. According to Mark Shea, there is no such room. In this way, I think he is seriously undermining his otherwise excellent apologetic talents. Thank you for providing a counterpoint, and please keep doing it.

Donald R. McClarey said...

War is one of the myriad miserable consequences of original sin. I am afraid that the quotation wrongly attributed to Plato, "Only the dead have seen the end of war" is absolutely correct as a result. However there are wars and there are WARS. Fight a small war now and you may prevent a big WAR in the future. Ignore festering problems, prefer peace above all other values, and assume that evils will vanish if blithely and resolutely ignored, and a big WAR may well result. The Civil War and World War II are prime examples of how these situations can develop into huge terrifying conflicts.

doubting thomas said...

I think what Mark has done is to confuse the different senses in which the word "natural" may be used. Before the fall, our nature did not include sin and thus war was contrary to it. After the fall, war becomes a reality of our fallen state and thus is "natural" in the same sense that our nature is fallen and prone to evil.

What John Paull II was alluding to was our call to rise above our fallen nature and order ourselves to what Christ calls us to. But I don't think he would have said as a matter of theology that it was contrary to our nature. If so then the Catechism would not permit it.

Marc L. said...


If what you are saying is true (and sorry, I have to take anon. posts with a grain or two) then, damn. Hopefully your experience is not widespread. Mark has done very good work on other fronts, but if his exercises in these matters really are "seriously undermining his otherwise excellent apologetic talents," he needs to sit up and take note.

I don't frequent his site except through links anymore--frankly, they are occasions of sin for me. But it would be interesting to see his reaction to a comment like yours in his own comboxes. The reactions to his co-religionists on the subject has been less than charitable and/or engaging. What about the intended audience of his ministry? Would he recognize the damage he's doing there? Or is this now his "higher calling"?

Bluntly: is this his Bob Sungenis moment?

Anonymous said...

One small correction - I believe that VDH has referred to himself as a "Protestant Christian" in the past. He has also indicated that he does not discuss his religious beliefs publically.


Anonymous said...


I see there's another "Anonymous" here, so call me "Anonymous 1". :-)

I completely agree that Mark Shea has done "very good work on other fronts". He has helped me, and continues to help me, in learning the Catholic Faith. And I continue to read his blog. But whenever his White Whale comes in sight, I have to skip to the next item. It's not even that I totally disagree with him on substance - it's his tone that's intolerable. And, to be fair, some of that tone is to be found here as well. But the difference is that there is also some actual discussion going on here, in between the anathemas.

Also, my case may well be unusual. In general, Dave Armstrong is probably right that such squabbles tend to repel new converts. All I can say is that, in my particular case, the CFF provides a helpful corrective.

I note that one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, The Anchoress - one of the fairest-minded people in all of blogdom - doesn't have a link to Mark's blog. Speaks volumes to me.

Steve Golay said...

Are we so certain that VDH is a non-Christian.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Somewhere in John's Gospel, it says that Christ knew human nature well and did not need anybody to tell him about it.

I found the verses in question: John 2:23-25:

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

Then again, all Jesus had to do was meet Mark Shea in the flesh...

Anonymous said...

Donna said:

Mark l:

I am a Catholic revert. If I had happened upon Shea's blog before my return to the Church and if he had sounded then like he does now, I might very well have concluded that being Catholic was not enjoyable in the slightest and that continuing to sleep in on Sundays was perfectly justifable.

Of course, that would have been spiritual and intellectual laziness on my part. But I see very little on that site these days which would attract a wavering Catholic or a curious non-Catholic to the faith unless that person already shares Shea's hatred of Bush and the adminstration.

I note that one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, The Anchoress - one of the fairest-minded people in all of blogdom - doesn't have a link to Mark's blog. Speaks volumes to me.

Me too. The Anchoress is a beautiful writer and one of the most civil souls in St. Blog's Parish. Alas, she's a Dubya supporter and therefore an evil torture lover. I doubt she would last a day in Shea's comboxes.

Flambeaux said...

steve golay,

To the extent he's made any mention of the matter publicly, VDH is a prot of some variety -- presby if I were to guess.

But as it's not relevant to his academic work (expertise in the classical world and ancient greek warfare in particular) he's not built his career on grandstanding about his faith (unlike some folks we know).

I've read him for many years now, although I do not know him personally. His observations have always struck me as consistent with historical fact.

Chalk this up as another of Mark's Outrageous Misrepresentations.

Susan B. said...

I note that one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, The Anchoress - one of the fairest-minded people in all of blogdom - doesn't have a link to Mark's blog. Speaks volumes to me.

I noticed the same thing.

Christopher Fotos said...

To anonymous or any revert or convert:

The Anchoress, indeed. And perhaps more explicitly focused on faith:

Amy Welborn and

Anything by Christopher Blosser (Benedict blog etc.)

Run, don't walk, to those blogs and pay attention to whom they pay attention.

Christopher said...

christopher fotos -- thanks for the plug, although I don't think I'd measure up to the others. But let me plug 'Pontifications' as another faith-oriented blog (and by an Anglican convert). Also, Michael Liccione's Sacramentum Vitae.

For what it's worth, here were my contributions to "the torture debate" of last year:

On torture and aggressive interrogation (Part I), Part II and Part III. Part II and III concern themselves with Mark Shea's "contributions" as well as a closer look at the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Suffice to say I think the issue, and root cause, is a little more complex than "Dick Cheney wants more Abu Ghraibs" (to quote Shea) and asserting that "virtually the entire field of GOP Candidates and most of the Allegedly Conservative Punditocracy Favors [beating a man to death]."

No time to wade through all the above, see: Q: What do I think about torture? -- being a quick summary of the above posts.

I'm quite sympathetic to some of Mark's concerns about the Bush administration. I would also note that Michael Ledeen and John Derbyshire of the National Review (regularly lambasted by Mark) have written forceful columns against torture. So has Victor Davis Hanson for that matter, who Mark today slammed as a pagan warmonger. And The Weekly Standard (occasionally lambasted by Mark as a neocon rag) has published articles criticizing the Bush administration's practice of rendition and in support of a uniform standard prohibiting detainee abuse.

I've endeavored to point out all of this to Mark on numerous occasions but as you can see, he's quite wedded to his current approach of slamming the "Rubber Hose Right" and "The Torture Party" en masse, sacrificing clarity for convenience.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

The joke in all this is that, if Shea had his way and Pres. Bush is impeached and removed, then VP Cheney (whom Shea detests even more) becomes president!

Oh, wait. Shea will then argue that the Congress should impeach and remove Cheney. Then Nancy Pelosi (whom Shea probably detests because of her support for abortion) will become president!


Phillip said...

I will also put in a plug for Christopher's blog. I rarely comment there. That's because his posts are loaded with information that takes me significant time to work through, if I can.

Go there Anon for a real sense of Catholic inquiry.