Mark Shea's Facebook page. I know. When CAEI closed up shop, I said I was glad and could kick the dust off my feet and move on. Why then, oh why, would I go to his Facebook page and renew the frustration?
Partly because I had never gone to his Facebook page. In fact, by the end I stopped reading most of Mark's materials outside of CAEI. Of the articles that were being published, most were old articles, from Mark c. 2006 or earlier. Back when he was clearly a conservative Catholic, albeit one who was willing to call out conservatism and give liberalism credit where it was due. A good thing.
So most articles I saw were ones I had already read. As for the newer ones, if I wanted to read those I could go to any liberal Catholic website. In some cases, I could go to secular liberal websites. As often as not, there was little difference.
Nonetheless, out of sheer morbid curiosity, I thought I should at least see what all the hubbub was about. I had heard horror stories about Mark's Facebook page, both from Mark and his detractors. So I thought at least some level of informed opinion was in order. Therefore last week, for the first time, I went.
Dear Lord. I thought Daily Kos and Huffpost were bad. On this page, Mark has thrown out all pretense of being conservative. He still opposes abortion and hates Planned Parenthood, and the HHS mandate as much as always. Naturally, being a proud former D&D playing non-conformist, he rails against any politician who is established. But otherwise, he is a liberal advocate through and through. As I noticed below, with the exception of a couple of articles centered around opposing Planned Parenthood or abortion, he seems to get his information from a collection of partisan, liberal websites and news sites.
And the Rancor? Wow. I mean now the gloves are off. Mark hates conservatives. He hates just about anything to do with guns, though the actual identities of those he hates regarding guns are never clear. He hates the Oregon Protesters. The GOP. Just about everyone and everything right of center. And he runs with any article that supports his views, no matter how vile those articles might be. Just as I said below. An article that mocks a killed man merely because he is conservative, and it is referenced as Gospel Truth by Mark.
But it isn't Mark's clear and obvious liberal advocacy that is the problem. I haven't seen him say he still sees himself as a conservative on the Facebook page at this point. Which is good. Lies are wrong, as he has made clear. And to do all that and still consider yourself conservative either means you have a problem, you are lying, or the English language no longer matters in the Post-Modern world. But that's not the issue.
The issue is the world of Social Media. If you thought things written by readers on CAEI were bad - and sometimes they were beyond bad, and were sin - they hold nothing to the comments here. At one point, Mark posted a link deriding the widow of Chris Kyle, known for being the subject of the movie American Sniper. One of the readers posted that she was glad Chris was killed because he had it coming. Mark did step in on that one and say that it was wrong to want the death of others. Which was good.
But in other cases, such as the Oregon protesters, similar things have been written as well. All but cheering at the death of Mr. Carter. Mark himself says he would like to see the Protesters starved and frozen out of where they are. Imagine if someone said that about Muslim terrorists. I know what would happen, because over the years I saw what Mark's reaction to such things would be.
Now? That conservatives are stupid, evil, racist, that gun owners are largely murderers who as often as not get what they have coming - these make up the debate in his comments sections now. When someone to the Right suffers or has ill fortune? 'Hurray!' Mark's readers write. And unless an extreme case like that above happens, Mark is silent. In fact, as I have found out, if you try to balance things or remind people that evil isn't only cleansed by the Gospel of Liberalism, that non-liberals who trust in Christ can also overcome the evils of the world, you'll be labeled a Right Wing Partisan, not only by the readers, but by Mark himself.
All of this is to say that Mark's Facebook page far exceeds some of the most vitriolic and rancorous left wing websites I have ever visited. And some of the things his readers say, and that articles that Mark references say, are flat out sin. The sin of hate. The sin of slander. The sin of hypocrisy - for what do you call someone who excuses something as good when, if applied to someone else of a different political, religious or racial identity - is considered evil?
And yet? Mark continues to rock it. Across the world of modern Catholic apologetics, Mark is a star. A star in a car. Leading figures within the lay apologetics world continue to post on his page, giving him much praise and adoration. Fr. Longenecker chimes in to give support on occasion. Others who are Mark's friends frequently post. They may not jump in with the worst of the comments, but when the comments are bad, they seem to be silent. When the comments breach the wall to full-blown sin, nothing.
In my ministry days, if we saw a colleague suddenly turn a corner and go down a path like this, where false accusations, partisanship, and slander and even cheering for the suffering of political adversaries were the norm where once such things were openly condemned, we'd have what we used to call an 'intervention.' We'd certainly be cautious about making it appear as if we were condoning what was happening. We might not call him out publically, but we would be meeting with him, and we would pull back from openly advocating him until things came back down to earth.
So how can we see people watch someone who at best has laid out a social media page where sin and slander and the cheering of suffering based on political ideology is all the rage, when ostensibly we're all about the higher way?
Well first, those who are being mocked and derided and attacked are the ones typically in the crosshairs of Pope Francis. For a man famous for asking who he is to judge, he can judge pretty harshly. He simply appears to apply mercy to a section of humanity whose sins are typically associated with a more modern, progressive ideological bent.
But there is something else I've noticed over the years. It's not that in Protestantism there can't be a certain CYA syndrome. In my third church, I ran into a previous pastor and staff that was corruption personified. The pastor I replaced controlled the money, controlled the finances and basically he and his wife had set the church up as a base for a daycare center that she ran and from which they made a crap ton of money. The problem was, the pastor was friends with the leaders of the State Convention (that's a sort of statewide diocese to us Catholics). I more or less knew what I was getting into, but was completely ill-prepared for the level of corruption that I encountered. The pastor would take what he learned from counseling and feed it to his wife who would use it to malign anyone who questioned their dealings with the Church. Anyone who questioned her administration of the daycare found himself or herself on the receiving end of false accusations, including sexual assault or child abuse. It was bad.
And it wasn't just them. They had surrounded themselves with friends and friends of friends within the ministry staff. And though there was occasional infighting, they were willing to circle the wagons and go after anyone who upset the apple cart. Which brings us to me. In my naïve way, I thought I could fight such corruption and, let me tell you, it looks easier in the movies. I appealed to the State Convention for help, and guess what? Yeah, you guessed. When it came to stepping out and doing the right thing, it was more or less 'uh sorry Dave, just play ball, you know...'
So I know CYA happens. But the one thing I noticed, even in that case where corruption and favoritism were ripe in the State Convention, there was still a sort of shame. They new it was wrong. They even - behind closed doors - admitted it was wrong. They just weren't going to go after a pastor who now worked for the State and was buddies and friends with the powers that be. They just wanted it swept under the rug. They didn't spend that time openly praising the former Pastor mind you. It was sort of hush-hush.
But in the Catholic world, I've picked up on this strange trend that such things, in a Catholic context, are almost irrelevant. It's not really CYA. It's just that Catholics don't even address it. If they like each other, or consider one another to be on the Catholic team, it doesn't really matter. It isn't just hanging a head in shame and not wanting to confront the sin. It's like the sin is irrelevant. That's not to say sin is irrelevant simply because you are Catholic, though more than once I've seen Catholics invoke 'ah shucks, we're all just sinners doncha know' when pressed.
There is, in fact, much partisanship and accusation between Catholic 'camps.' But within those camps, it really doesn't matter. You can do or say or be just about anything and still laugh and yuck it up at the local pub after hours. And if you bring up the fact that there might be a lay apostolate that isn't what it seems, or there is someone representing the Faith who might, in fact, be sinning and being a horrible witness? Eh.
Superior by Catholic is a phrase used by anti-Catholic pundits to describe the tendency Catholics are supposed to have to say if you are Catholic, thereby obviously awesome. You might be wrong, you might gang rape babies, but in the end: Catholic!
Now on one hand, that is a stereotype. In reality, all Catholics don't do that. They don't look at the abuse scandal and say 'Ah shucks. Catholic!' And yet, there is also this tendency to not sweat the little things. Like sin. Like slander. Like hypocrisy. Like debauchery. I don't know if that's why most Catholics I knew (most, not all) growing up could out party Prince in 1999. But I see it. I see it with Mark, and with some others in the world of the Catholic apologetics sphere. There seems to be, if you're part of the Right Catholics, a notion that it doesn't matter. Do or don't do as we say others should do, and who cares about the rest?
It's like the Coyote and the Sheepdog from the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Remember how they were friends, and then when the work whistle blew, they took on their respective roles as hunter and guard dog? Then at the end of the day, friends again? It's like that. We might stand against this or that or advocate this or that, but at the end of the day, we're all buddies - if we're Right Catholics. Not that those who would support Mark or hire Mark think that disengeinousness or hypocrisy or slander or even allowing for the cheering of death and suffering are a good thing. In fact, they love it when Mark attacks such things. It's just that, it doesn't matter. When all is said and done, it's to the pub for a pint of Guinness and a pipe all around.
It's the sort of thing you do when your friends aren't Catholic, or Christian, and you understand their morals are informed by a completely different set of standards. But for some reason, one I can't quite pinpoint, within the Catholic world, it is almost as if these morals we are called to defend are at the same time merely those things we can all grab or loose as we see fit, because, well, at the end of the day, they are a completely different set of standards. I don't have an answer to this long, rambling post. It's just something I've noticed in my ten years of being Catholic.