Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why do I do it?

Why do I go back to CAEI? Tis a question that has puzzled the great thinkers of the ages.  Especially after so many of my posts that have been critical of it, which is sort of unfair.  I mean, it's not like I'm read by billions or anything, so criticizing CAEI on my blog is sort of cheating.  Except that if I came close to saying there what I've said here, I'd be banned, as so many are who disagree with Mark at this point.  Even if I'm not banned, for far less than what I've said here, I've taken some pretty tough knocks.  So why go back to be told the following by a well known celebrity blogger:
Catholic moral theology is divided between those (like these popes) who ask "How can we avoid the taking of human life if at all possible?" and those (like you) who ask, "When do we *get* to kill and how can we maximize the number of people we get to slaughter while feeling really righteous about it?" (Emphasis mine)
Now to quote the younger generation, that's some pretty cold smack.  Accusing me of wanting to increase human slaughter because of my vile self-righteousness?  When I've time and again said I believe there are reasons to abolish the death penalty, at least now and here, and this is still said?  Wow.  I mean, wow.  I went back to all the most hardcore fundamentalists I've met - I mean read the KJV or burn in Hell fundamentalists - but don't remember anyone being accused of that.  Jerry Falwell?  Bill Maher?  Maybe.

I'm sure it's been done.  But not by anyone that sane people would regard as credible.  And yet in the Catholic modern media world sans accountability, Mark has become quite the beloved soldier of the True Faith.  Flying around the world, celebrated by Church leaders and bloggers and apologists, increasing his published materials through Catholic publications.  Now, why would I go back to this?  Who in their right minds goes to a blog by someone who clearly has become disgusted by your presence, defends others who insult and accuse you of heinous things, and then steps in and says the same?  I stopped going to radical atheist sites because of better treatment.  Why continue?

Well, because.  First, CAEI was my first roadway into the Church.  Back when I was looking for something by Scott Hahn on the internet that I wouldn't have to purchase, I stumbled on Mark's writings.  They were whimsical and direct, filled with heart and emotion, but with a solid and fair assessment of Catholic teaching as it is understood or misunderstood in today's time.  Without being rude or obnoxious, Mark had a way of making a point with a wink and a nod.  He was clearly conservative, but not afraid of calling conservatives out.  He reserved wrath for those most heinous of assaults on basic morality.  He respected and loved America, while admitting its sins.  He upheld the best of Protestantism and all that Catholics could learn from their Protestant brethren.  For this Protestant minister looking at Catholicism, and knowing some of what I knew at the time, that was important.

Also, because I owe Mark for assistance he offered years ago.  When we were in desperate straights - one of the many times we've been in bad ways since we became Catholic - Mark rallied his readers and really came through.  I don't forget favors easily.

But there are other, less obvious reasons.  For one, I'd hate to think that Mark's approach is making him successful in the Church.  His whole approach is like a bad trip through the worst cable news stereotypes.  It's rage, inconsistency, bad arguments, judgmentalism, leftist intolerance and loathing of a growing list of people over an expanding list of reasons, all of which appear to have made him a bit of a star.  But what does that say for the modern Church?  What does it say about those bishops and priests and fellow bloggers who call him blessed?  Do they approve?  Is this what they want?   Again, the Catholic Church is not efficient, if it is anything.  But to reward this type of behavior.  It bothers me if this is what the Church and its representatives are looking for.

Also, because I'm hoping that despite my fears, the Church really isn't selling out to the Secular Left as my suspicions say it is (see the prophet Saraman, a new power is rising in the dying West).  I mean, I'm not one who denies that the Church has made some bad turns over its long history.  I can't help but wonder if the same is happening today.  Secular liberalism has clearly won the battle for the mind and heart of the dying West.  One can't help but notice that many of the changes in the Church's teachings and approaches to doctrine mirror the post-Christian progressive over anything traditionally understood.  And Mark, who sees himself as forever obedient to the Church, might well mirror this trend.

Finally, because I'm fond of Mark. Like Scrooge's nephew.  I can't help but think there's still that old Mark down there somewhere.  I fear for him, too.  Unlike many in the Church who have dispensed with old notions of Hell and punishment, I still worry that eternal loss of salvation is a possibility.  Mark comes dangerously close to things that Mark c. 2005 would have said put a person's soul into jeopardy of eternal loss.  Such as the above accusation.  That's a false accusation.  That's a judgement of another's heart and soul.  And I offered him my forgiveness, only to have my offer shoved back down my throat for daring to "attack" him (that is, call his arguments lousy, something far kinder than he's said to me and others).  That is a person driving a thousand miles an hour toward a cliff.  If he was a fellow colleague in ministry, we'd have staged what we used to call 'an intervention' by now.

Instead, it being the Catholic blogosphere, he is rewarded and praised.  His growing liberal base loves him and encourages his wrath, anger and hatred of all except his personal friends who cling to conservatism.  And Raca and Fool?  That is the name of the game.  Even when he apologizes for crossing the line, some of his readers chastise him and call him out for straying from the True Way.  And that True Way is the way that helps them understand they are part of an ever shrinking band of Worthy Believers surrounded by an ever increasing sea of deplorable disgraces to the Gospel.  And when I see that happen, I can't help but pray.  And return, hoping that at some point, somehow, against all hope and increasing success, Mark might snap back the the Mark I used to know.  The one who helped me in my journey across the Tiber and into Rome. Anyway, those are the reasons.


  1. I similarly ask myself why I keep going back myself. And despite that fact that a good number of his posts worsen my mood he has displayed a moral clarity on certain issues that I am grateful for. Starting with an old article in Crisis he helped set me straight on the torture issue. And more recently I think he's shown similar clarity on the issue of Live Action lying.

    I don't know how you keep commenting in the face of all of the abuse, but if it might help some other readers see reason, hey, kudos to you. Arguing on blogs is just about the opposite of my favorite pastime so I gave up trying a long time ago. I think the last time I commented on CAEI was when I mildly defended The Oatmeal for a webcomic critical of religion and got ganged up on for it, and it's gotten a lot worse since then.

  2. Thanks for that. Moral clarity is also a boon, as long as it's clear. But recently it's become somewhat inconsistent. I'm thinking of things like gun control, which really isn't a 'doctrinal absolute' in terms of solutions. Even the Live Action issue. The issue of lying is, of course, an old one. The Church so far is clearly of one mind. Yet some of what happened during that debate (I call it the Great Lila Rose disaster of 2011), reminded me of the worst I'd seen on other blogs.

    Generally I don't comment much anymore either. But for olden times, and because I still hold out the hope above, I do keep plugging along, hoping something will snap back.

  3. There are a couple of points where I disagree with Mark. However, I can tell very well that he has clear, well thought-out and SOLID reasons for saying what he says on that topic. I fully respect that.

    But there are several topics where he seems to abandon any form of logical thinking ad just feverishly EMOTE without understanding, without facts, without using reason, yet with real malice.

    When irrefutable facts are brought up and linked that disapprove his statements in these cases, he ignores them.

    Were he to display a halfway decent grasp of marketing, I might suspect he was simply generating click bait. But I don't think that anymore. There are just some things where accepts falsehoods because it fans his emotional fits. No, I'm not saying he is DISHONEST. I'm simply saying that his emotional fits give him far to much of something he wants and, I guess, needs, to allow them to be threatened by any real understanding of the subject.

  4. I've generally noticed that Shea's "morality" is like a lot of battle plans. Seems great on paper but can never survive contact with the enemy (in this case, the real world).

  5. Heh, I know the reason why *I* keep going back there: You keep linking to it, and then I feel the need to defend good men against the ignorant, vicious slander of Mark and his shrill left-wing minions. :-)

    Frankly, I think that moral clarity is all but extinct at Mark's site. True, he takes loud and unambiguous positions on political and moral issues, but there is a difference between being loud and being clear and coherent. It's backed up by nothing more than his emotions, paired with angry condemnations of anyone who dares to confront him with facts or logic.

    Contra what others think, the issue of torture is actually where I first noticed that he was really going off the rails in this manner. While I personally ended up of the opinion that waterboarding presents all sorts of risk of moral hazard and that we ought to get out of the business of it, it was no thanks to Mark. In fact, the intellectual dishonesty of the way he "argued" his case just about convinced me that the anti-waterboarding side didn't have a leg to stand on. Just look at his discussion with Edward Feser in the combox here.

    It's immediately obvious which of the two is actually bringing clarity, and which is demagoguing the issue. Ed is making the very important point that in making proclamations against torture in the name of Church teaching, you must make sure not to contradict what the Church considers infallible doctrine, and Church doctrine precludes the idea that all causing of suffering to a guilty person is automatically "torture" and therefore intrinsically evil. Mark doesn't even *try* to resolve that problem in the comments. He just screams at Ed for even bringing it up.

  6. (cont)

    And it's the same with the death penalty. It is Church doctrine that the person guilty of murder has forfeited their right to life, and that it is legitimate and just for the justice system to execute them. Period. That's been the constant doctrine of the Catholic church, and nearly ALL branches of Christianity, up until halfway through last century. It's also spelled out in Scripture itself.

    Now, the fact that it's just and legitimate to execute murderers doesn't necessarily mean that we MUST do it. We can abstain in the name of mercy, and Pope John Paul II recommended that we so abstain practically always. But, it certainly precludes referring to just executions as "human sacrifice to the pagan god of vengeance." That wild claim can in no way be reconciled with what Scripture and the Church teach about it. That's not clarity, it's confusion. Clarity would mean trying to logically reconcile what he's saying with Church doctrine, not simply condemning people for even noticing that they're at odds.

    Ditto his idiotic claim that Catholic moral theology is "divided" between those who want to abolish the death penalty altogether and those who want to kill as many people as possible. That's not clarity, it's a rank logical error. *Obviously* there is lots of room between those two extremes - room occupied by nearly all Christians throughout history.

    He doesn't even attempt to resolve these contradictions. He merely demands that you ignore them and live in cognitive dissonance, and tries to paper over them by screaming "three consecutive Popes!" over and over. Well, 263 consecutive Popes were in favor of the death penalty, as well as the Apostle Paul (who made it official by endorsing it in Scripture), Aquinas, and all of the Church Fathers, among others. Were they all worshiping the "pagan god of vengeance"? Were they all trying to kill as many people as possible?

    And why does anyone care what the Popes say anyhow? What authority do they have such that their opinion carries any weight? The answer of the Catholic church, of course, is that they have been granted authority by God to preserve the Tradition handed down by the Apostles. Their authority derives from that Tradition. To claim that we should simply disregard all of it because of the opinions of the last three Popes, therefore, is to saw off the very branch on which their authority rests. If they are really contradicting Scripture and the rest of the Tradition, then their opinions carry no special weight, because then they have declared null and void the very source of their authority.

    Of course, the Popes know that, which is why when they talk about abstaining from the death penalty, they don't shriek lunatic inanities about "the pagan god of vengeance" and so forth as Mark does when supposedly speaking in their name. In fact, I'm pretty sure all three would object to their position as it is presented by Mark. And given the points made by Ed Feser above, that's probably why Benedict himself was much more circumspect when speaking against torture that Mark was in relaying Benedict's position.

  7. Deuce,

    That was a great unpacking of some of the specific cases. Mike, I'd say what Deuce says sums up the problems. And that in addition to the vitriol that defines the blog now. Quite frankly, nine years ago, Mark would have been banned by Mark for the things Mark has said. That's nowhere near clarity or solid. Nor is it, hopefully, what should represent modern Catholic apologetics.

  8. Wow. Today's post:

    The good news is that, among my solidly conservative Catholic readership (admittedly a subset of American conservatism, but still a big voice),

    1) HOW can he still believe his readership is solidly conservative?

    2) A "big" voice? I've yet to see any evidence that any of his readership is a voting bloc anybody's bothering to pander too. Oh wait, he always says our votes are useless when election time comes, so how can there be a "big" voice?

  9. Yeah, I saw Deuce's posts. The thing with Mark is that, in addition to his Conservative who loves liberals story, it's the level of wrath that he throws out at people, including accusing people [me] of things that are false, and calling them names and insults. Those are things Mark used to ban people for. And one of the results of this, the entire blog has diminished in quality and grace. I mean, some of the things that are said by regulars at CAEI would have been laughed off the blog eight years ago. And these represent some of the most popular readers who Mark has backed and supported. Perhaps it's because Mark is becoming successful doing it, or maybe it's because his writings are now published and he doesn't 'need' his blog to get his ideas out. After all, Mark's public persona is certainly more balanced and sedate than the blog suggests. Or maybe both. Hard to say.

  10. Ok, sorry to post again but I had to call this out.

    commentator #1: posted 7 hrs ago.
    Living in Honduras and Guatemala is equivalent to getting raped, sold into sex slavery and killed??? You're insane. I'd like my children to have a country of their own. You're dispossessing White American children with your open borders agitation. Our cities resemble Third World countries already. You're uncharitable towards your own people by advocating for their physical and political subjugation.

    Now Shea replied to this "6 hrs ago".
    Well, that was... clarifying. No racism here. Nosirree!

    commentator #2: also posted 7 hrs ago.
    This is probably how your ancestors came to America (shiploads) so quit acting. My mother's side (Mexican) were in the parts that are now Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada & Colorado (notice the Spanish names) since back when those vast American (as in North American, not USA) lands were MEXICAN, before the White USA Americans INVADED them. In Texas under Mexican Law, White USA immigrants had to disown Slaves (Mexico outlawed slavery way before USA) & become Catholics, but those "American" immigrants to Texas (Mexico) broke Mexican law & brought their slaves for cotton fields & their Protestantism. Those children detained at the border are Central American (not Mexican children, Mexican children get automatically deported by US law) btw. I support Immigrants.

    Uh... not going to call out the racism there, Mark? Double standards much?

  11. Dang, TM Lutas just gave him a firm talking to:

    At best, you're not paying attention if you don't think that the Democratic party is adopting the amnesty cause in the hopes of getting more votes. Who are you kidding with your brushback pitch that such calculations are repulsive when they're done by the other side of the political divide?

    No. Amnesty is not a sudden humanitarian issue for the left. It's one that is based on cold, hard, political analysis. They have been disappointed with the people in their reluctance to adopt their agenda and have decided to elect another one by importing them. They are incenting the worst sort of immigration by legally advantaging the breaking up of families.

    "Go home to your parents" is being portrayed as morally reprehensible and vile by you and facilitating the multi-generational fracturing of these families is held up as the apogee of christian compassion. I very well understand how much that fracturing screws up family life as being personally on the back end echo of the phenomena two generations prior in my own family. But my personal story is probably uninteresting.

    What is more interesting on this issue is this caricature of the Catholic faith persistently being peddled by you, complete with name calling and outrageous efforts to get your readers to shut down our thinking faculties and just engage in emotionalism.

    The 2008 law that legally advantages family breakup immigration by unaccompanied minors must be repealed. By itself, this will reduce the growing wave of such cases to more manageable proportions.

    He's right, it is rather ironic that Shea seems to work so hard lately to encourage people NOT to think. Didn't he council the opposite once upon a time?

  12. I've often said that CAEI has become all the things that Mark used to criticize when it came to defending the faith and speaking to the issues of the day. All of this not counting his love affair with so many high profile liberal pundits. But that's another story.

  13. "The bottom line is that both Palestinian and Israeli leaders–and the zealous American supporters of Israel and zealous European supporters of Hamas–all favor murdering children for the greater good."

    The stupid. It burns.

    The Deuce's experience is similar to my own, and I think it was the great Catholic blog debate over torture (circa. 2002-03) that became part of the great unraveling of CAEI. That's not to say I don't share his concerns or moral condemnation of the interrogation tactics we employed and deplorable treatment of prisoners, but Shea had a manner of unfairly demonizing the opposition that drove even those who might have otherwise agreed with him away.

    Somebody had some fun a while back -- and you can see some of his greatest hits:


    "If it were only possible to have the Shea of 2001 debate with the Shea of 2008." -- Catholic & Enjoying It Reader

  14. I agree. It's not so much the content as the tone. The tactics. Bad arguments with Jack Chick style judgementalism. I think it was the Torture, the A-Bomb, and the Harry Potter debates that spun things in a different direction. Then moving to Patheos, and hanging with a newer group of bloggers who were prone to that 'how does God tolerate those other types' of Catholicism. All combined to take one of the best Catholic apologists into an example of everything he was once so quick to condemn.

  15. Yeah, it is hilarious though to see Mark... well he's pretty much admitted himself that he's leftist when he posts a headline like:

    The Left is the natural home for hatred of the first amendment

    150% of your recommended daily dose of irony right there.

  16. Given the number of his readers who heap scorn and loathing on the Constitution, the idea of free speech and the Bill of Rights in general, I'd say his headline falls on deaf ears more often than not.


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