Thursday, February 18, 2016

How to be a post-modern Catholic

Easy.  You follow the post-modern way of declaring things to be yesterday's truth. So Mark Shea is absolutely beaming at Pope Francis's remarks about Trump. True, the media is now reframing the story and suggesting that perhaps Pope Francis didn't really mean Trump is not a Christian.  Perhaps.  I'll leave up my last post simply because the Pope's reaction, no matter how you parse it, stands in stark contrast to his reaction to previous questions about abortion and homosexuality.

But Mark Shea built his ministry on attacking traditionalists and conservatives for, among other things, hoping that popes would swing in and call out this politician or that Catholic.  Combox Inquisitor I think is the term Mark used.  Those who even thought about questioning the spiritual character of an individual - like Stephen Colbert for instance - were immediately attacked as a radical traditionalist or fundamentalist.

So Mark's reaction to the Pope doing what no previous pope should be expected to do?  This:

Note, Mark is not cheering the Pope on despite the fact that he may have called out Trump's Christian identity.  He is doing it precisely because he believes, based on the headline and story, that the Pope did just that.  The very thing Mark spent years hammering, and so many of his readers joined in to condemn.  Now, the very thing that makes the Pope awesome, and more to the point, Catholics awesome for agreeing with him, is that thing Mark harshly condemned for so many years.

Post-modernism and Catholicism are as compatible as Kosher ham.  And it does no good to condemn the relativity of post-modernism if you go ahead and live it.  As I've said before, we're not liberals.  It's not what you say that matters.  It's what you do.  And if you spend your ministry life condemning Catholics who hope the pope acts as der panzerpapa and calls out this or that politician, then when it finally happens your response should be sorrow.  It should not be elation.


  1. It's a lot simpler than you suggest. Shea is not a post-modernist. Shea has no discernably coherent world view, not even a Catholic one. Shea is nothing but a 21st Century version of Rex Mottram, nothing more. To paraphrase a saying used by conservative Protestants, "The Pope said it. I believe it. That settles it." That's why he was so adamant about supporting JPII's arbitrary revisionism on Catholic teaching concerning capital punishment.

    Shea is, in effect, a Catholic Scientologist. He refuses to discern non-infallible papal statements or understand the logical consequences of his views. To Shea, Catholic group identity -- in, of and by itself -- is the ultimate value. As a lot of Catholics before him, Shea measures that value by blindly following the Pope.

    Shea is a cipher. He's also a caricature -- and, unfortunately, the logical consequence of Catholic "docility" to the Petrine office.

  2. I don’t know about being a cipher. Mark is a big voice in Catholic apologetics. If the people themselves don’t know him, many apologists do. And they seem to heap praise and adoration on him, rather uncritically at that. That is my main beef. He represents the faith and, what’s more, influences people. I cringe when I see people say ‘because of Mark I entered the Church.’ Exactly what about Mark’s way said ‘that’s the Church I’m looking for’? What’s more, is it the Church that Mark represents? That bothers me even more.

    But yes, I think post-modern is apt. Post-modernity is marked by a lack of concern about facts and truth. All is relative. The only thing that matters is my awesomeness. All truths must point to that, so it’s not worth studying or investigating. Mark, in a strange three-way impersonation of Bill Maher, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, exemplifies that. He can be as crass and condescending as Maher, as wacked out in some of his arguments and ideas as Beck, and like Palin, he absolutely refuses to do the homework to become more informed on the topics he discusses.

    Why is up for grabs. I think part of it is what you say, that he equates being a good Catholic to elevating the pope to almost Protestant stereotype levels. And though a former conservative, he has to grapple with the fact that the Church is lurching ever more to the Left on a growing number of issues. It is not the centrist Faith tradition that I sought, but simply one that embraces the modern Left almost line item except for a few doctrines it simply can’t change. That has caused Mark to be twisted around in his advocacy, since he once boasted of conservative views and traditional values, but must jettison them as his loyalty to the Church appears to demand it. Plus, he also once spoke of seeing conservatism and Christianity as if they were one and the same. When he realized there really are parts of conservatism that aren’t Christian, that, along with the other, ‘pushed him over’ and now we have this mess. But a mess that seems to be embraced and lauded by modern Catholic leaders and apologists.

  3. David, what you describe in Shea, Maher, Beck and Palin is nothing but good ol' fashion' self-promotion. It has nothing to do with any particular philosophy or world view. It has everything to do with human nature. Social media not only brings out that aspect of human nature but encourages it. It's Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame on steroids.

    As far as Shea being a cipher goes, he's destroying his reputation at Mach speed, so when he's done, he will be a cipher.

    As far as other apologists defending him, that goes back to the whole idea that blind group identity is far more important than truth or honesty. That's not solely a Catholic problem, of course. But it's a fundamental reason why Catholic apologists like those at Patheos will defend any Pope's positions, regardless of whether they make any sense or even contradict previous teaching!

  4. He might implode someday. But I fear the damage done in the meantime. Though, in all honesty, it's getting more difficult to separate Mark from many of the memes coming out of the apologetics sphere today.


  5. "'s getting more difficult to separate Mark from many of the memes coming out of the apologetics sphere today."

    Unfortunately, you're right. Even more unfortunately, that behavior reflects the tendency I described in my previous post. If the Magisterium, let alone the Apologetics-Industrial Complex, starts sounding like the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984, then Catholicism as a world view and an institution is doomed!

  6. I should say, however, that if Mark just admitted he now considers himself a pro-life liberal who renounces conservatism, that would be a step up. I would still disagree, and feel he uses bad tactics and approaches at best, but there would be that glint of honesty. Right now, his 20 posts a day blasting conservatives and everything conservatism ever valued while singing the praises of liberalism and socialism while still insisting he's a conservative at heard (who yearns for some mythical time when apparently conservatives were awesome because they were liberal with social issues and embraced socialism?) is almost more than I can stomach.

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