There's a discussion going on in the combox as to whether or not Victor and I are justified in our accusation that Mark has lied about our positions. As more than one individual has noted, we are extending a lot more charity to him than he has either to us or the Bush administration. To illustrate this, let me note his explanation for how the entire American political system works:
And they [religious conservatives] have been exploited and used by the beltway pros, the Karl Roves, the Dick Cheneys, the various consummate professionals and millionaires who make up the culture of DC and who differ from their consummate professional multimillionaire Democrat opponents, so far as I can make out, primarily in terms of which vast pools of political innocence they prefer to exploit with empty promises and cynical contempt.
The evidence that Mark cites to support this assertion is the "failure" of the religious right to adequately criticize the administration on the war in Iraq (that some of them might not adhere to Just War doctrine or might, shockingly as it seems, consider the war in Iraq to be a Just War has escaped him), their "quasi-idolatry of the Prez" (as I'm sure was apparent when Harriet Myers was nominated for the Supreme Court - also didn't Mark defend a group of hard-core evangelical Christians' reverence for Bush on the grounds that they were just trying to follow the old tradition of honoring the man they consider to be God's annointed or something similar to that?), "the weird conflation of GOP corporate values and culture with the Kingdom of Heaven," though it isn't apparent to me how his picture demonstrates this. If I recall, Ralph Reed favorably quotes Pius XI in Active Faith on the need for both subsidiary and limited government. But I am getting ahead of myself, since the standard of proof that Mark uses to demonstrate the deception and cynicism of the entire American political system (and what does that say for supporting democracy at home, one wonders?) is considerably lower than what we are willing to grant him. I'm not doing this as some kind of self-righteous chest-thumping, but rather to help readers understand the problems inherent in why Victor or myself exercise a little less restraint in using the term "lie" when Mark willfully misrepresents our positions.
Speaking of which:
But that said, let's not kid ourselves, shall we? The *main* reason this is even an issue is because the Bush Administration has pushed for and is practicing torture. Nobody was making excuses for it, or writing articles in the right wing press justifying it and laughing it off till it became clear that the Bush Administration was *doing* it and was determined to go on doing it. In previous wars, we have not seen Americans urged to accept and justify torture. In this war, we have. Catholics, to be sure, may contribute specifically theological attempts to justify torture in the interest of "preserving the indefectibility of the Church" as Chris Fotos put it. But what drives the discussion is the need of the Right for justifying Bush policy since the outbreak of the GWOT.
While it could be argued that Mark is reasoning from the particular to the general here (and if this is again supposed to be insinuation that I am Chris Fotos, I must once again state that I am not and do not plan to be), I don't think it's too much of a stretch to read this as applying to us. And if Mark gets too incensed by our use of the term liar to describe him, he might want to be more careful about using his charism of telepathy to assert the real motives of Victor and myself.
He has done this repeatedly (and not just to us, as I believe he also asserted that Chris Fotos was some kind of rad-trad because he dared to criticize Mark's view of Veritas Splendor) and we have both refrained from responding in kind by, for example, arguing that his criticism of torture is due entirely to the Iraq war, his stated animosity towards Bush, or his desire to see the Democrats win politically. Now I think that all three of those claims would be smears and I don't think that it would be that terribly hard for him to extend the same courtesy towards Victor or myself. If our arguments are as twisted and vile as he claims, then what is lost in accurately representing them in order to refute them. Dave Armstrong does this repeatedly, and his ability to argue convincingly while assuming the best possible motives of his opponents was one of the things that helped along with the Holy Spirit to lead me towards converting to Catholicism.
Mark then proceeds to argue:
In the same way, one *could* put forward some sort of abstract theological justification for slavery (it was, after all, tolerated by the Apostle Paul). But, oddly, nobody is pouring out elaborate arguments for slavery and declaring that if we do not all accept the defensibility of slavery we are endangering the "indefectibility of the Church." Nobody is saying that the condemnation of slavery by the Church is "slavery phariseeism" or laboring to show that there are situations in which it would be a good thing to reinsitute slavery. We don't find sustained efforts to show that slavery is really quite compatible with Catholic teaching, nor to demonstrate that Dignitatis Humanae or Veritatis Splendor can basically be ignored or discounted in their condemnations of slavery. Why?
Because there is no driving political agenda that has suddenly made excuse-making for slavery a theological premium. Because, in short, the political situation is not imposing itself on the teaching of the Church in such a way as to make some Catholics want to accomodate the Church's teaching to the needs of the powers that be.
Actually, if Mark actually bothered to read both our arguments what Cardinal Dulles and others have had to say about slavery, he might be surprised to learn that my view on torture is almost exactly like that which Cardinal Dulles and others have argued with regard to the Church teaching on slavery. Among those who hold to this view are Dave Armstrong and Jimmy Akin, for instance. That doesn't mean that either of them have a desire to revive the practice of slavery, no more than Victor or I have to see anyone tortured. Clarifying theology (assuming Mark can decouple it from politics for a moment) is quite different from wanting to revive practice, but Mark has wrapped his political arguments under the banner not only of theology (I don't have a problem of this) but of what I think is a very bad theological argument at that. So I argue theology rather than politics, because at least to me one flows naturally from the other and not the other way around. Mark, near as I can tell, can't even conceive of such a scenario where anyone would disagree with him except for the basest of political motives and so he lumps me in that category.
The failure, it would seem to me, is one of his own imagination.
Anywho, I really wasn't planning to type this much because like Victor, I take no particular joy in posting about Mark Shea. However, if he is going to continue to willfully misrepresent our positions to fit his own paradigm of how we must, I don't think Victor or myself is going that far out of the way to set the record straight on the subject.