Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mark Shea and the Catholic Left

So a reader sent a link to Mark Shea's Facebook page.  I swore bushy tail on that site, and to be honest, I've been the happier for it.  Nonetheless, he sent it to me and observed that this post explains a lot.  And indeed, it does:

"Interesting. Dreyfuss is an old Lefty. But lots of old Lefties are people who, like Rachel Maddow, self-identify as people who would have been happy voting for Eisenhower. People who, like Dreyfuss, owe a huge amount of their outlook to such dangerous Communists and America-haters as Frank Capra and Jefferson Smith. They are, in short, flag-waving patriots every bit, if not more so, than a Tea Partier. They are quite sincere about hoping that the GOP finds its way back fro...m the abyss of nihilism into which it has hurled itself. And, I am sad to say, with rare exceptions like Robert P. George, it would be extraordinary to see somebody from the Right make a similar visit to see what the Dems are up to. The fear of contracting Liberal Cooties is too great. Good for Dreyfuss for venturing on to foreign soil to try to make common cause with fellow Americans. This is light years from the spectacle of Trump urging his brownshirts to beat up protesters. Gives me hope."

Mark comments on the story about Richard Dreyfuss going to the GOP and looking for the Old GOP.  Now what he means by Old GOP is not explained.  It could be he wants that pre-Goldwater, pre-Reagan GOP that didn't concern itself with social issues, and in fact, was often pretty far to the left as we understand it today.  I don't know.  I like Mr. Dreyfuss, and admire his willingness to do homework when it comes to American history.  Even if I disagree, I can respect someone who has gone the extra mile and studied what he is talking about.  That doesn't mean he hasn't had his moments of crazy.  But on the whole, I like him.

But Mark's post is revealing.  One of Mark's major themes is that liberals are ultimately better than conservatives.  At least nowadays.  In fact, apart from a couple unfortunate sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance, liberals are right and awesome and hip and cool and swell and caring and kind and pure and fun and on and on. Conservatives, on the other hand, are the gun totting, Bible clinging racist, bigot Neanderthals that such esteemed publications as Huffington Post and Daily Kos suggest they are.

It's worth noting that, on his blog CAEI, Mark insisted that part of the proof for this assumption was all the mean and horrible things conservatives said to him, and all of the terrible accusations they made against him.  More than once, for example, he insisted that conservatives accused him of being secretly pro-choice.  For my part, I could say many things about Mark, but I would never say he was pro-choice, secretly or otherwise.  And yet Mark accused me of doing just that.  No matter how I protested that I never thought of such a thing, Mark held his ground.  So I often wonder just how accurately he portrayed other cases where conservatives supposedly accused him of such things.  Did they?  Or did he simply say they did, in a way similar to what he said about me?

But factual or not, this is one of the main reasons Mark justifies his warmness toward liberalism and liberals - even those who are passionate defenders and champions for abortion or gay marriage, blaspheme or heresy.  They're just more swell than those rascally mean and hateful conservatives. 

But note the post. This is the revealing part of it all.  Mark uses Mr. Dreyfuss to demonstrate some sort of unstated fact that liberals are the sane ones and good ones who really love our country and would gladly reach across party lines.  I don't know if Mr. Dreyfuss has reached out at other times or not.  And I don't have any numbers on just how many liberals would gladly support a Republican president, then or now.  I only have the example in this post of Mr. Dreyfuss (and a nod Mark gives to Rachel Maddow).  Mark also presents Mr. Robert George.  I don't know Mr. George, but Mark presents him as an example of Conservatives willing to reach across the aisle.  But here is the telling part: Mark presents the two differently.  Mr. Dreyfuss represents the best of the "Good Old Days" as well as, not too subtly, the best about liberals.   Mr. George, on the other hand, is presented as some freakish exception to the unfortunate rule that most Conservatives would never be so good or awesome.  Two examples, each used differently to sustain the narrative.

And that, kiddies, is how Mark does it.  Just why Mark now aligns with the Left is beyond my ability to guess. In fairness, that doesn't put him too far from the leadership of the Church as a whole.  But he justifies it in large part by insisting that it's conservatives and their wicked ways that have all but shoved him over the aisle, as opposed to liberals who are just nicer, sweller people. It's never hard to besmirch a group  of people if you see one bad example as proof of their badness, and any good examples as nothing more than some strange exception.

BTW, we should realize that Mark's entire premise about the superiority of liberals is obviously wrong, if not downright stupid.  Liberals, just like conservatives, are no better or worse as people because of where they stand on the issues.  You get good.  You get bad.  They may be different in how they act or tend to react based on their beliefs, but the goodness and badness is going to be the same, at least on a personal level.  In fact, it's almost childish to say 'they're just nicer people than those people there' based on politics or issues.  People are far more complex than red state/blue state. What adult would even listen to such a thing?  For every case of good liberals, I can find as many bad.  And for every case of bad conservatives, I can find as many good. 

If you embrace liberalism as the best method for living out the Faith, then say so.  Don't base it on the laughably inane notion that, Jesus notwithstanding, where you fall in a media generated political narrative dictates the kind of person you are.  That a leading Catholic apologist rests his case on something so clearly false is troubling enough.  That he continues to be lauded and praised and called to represent the Faith says more about the state of Catholic apologetics today than I care to admit.


  1. "People who, like Dreyfuss, owe a huge amount of their outlook to such dangerous Communists and America-haters as Frank Capra and Jefferson Smith.'

    Hilarious. I guess Mark does not know that both Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart, who portrayed Jefferson Smith, were conservative Republicans.

    In regard to Eisenhower, Ike was in favor of reducing conventional military forces and relying upon nukes in any future military confrontations, a policy that I somehow can't imagine Mark supporting if a Republican today proposed it.

    When it comes to politics and history, Mark knows as much as a pig does about penance.

  2. The similarities between Mark and Sarah Palin are, ironically, striking. Mark spends little time actually doing the research on the subjects he blasts others over. Often he has no grasp of the subjects and offers no real solutions. He seems content with whatever internet meme feeds his opinions - in his case the primacy of liberal and socialist ideals. Personally I have no problem with people having opinions even if they aren't experts. Especially if they offer their opinions in a spirit of humility and willingness to learn. I do have a problem if they refuse to be educated, and more, if they add stereotypes, slander and false accusations against anyone who disagrees with them. Especially if the ones attacked come from a position of actual study and research, as opposed to just your typical bumper sticker sloganeering. That was my problem with so many fundamentalists from my Protestant days, whether liberal or conservative fundamentalist. Catholic fundamentalists like Mark are no different. They might wear a different hat, but it's still the same problem.

  3. Why does anyone take Mark Shea seriously. Too much ink wasted on that guy.

  4. Partly for Mark's sake. He needs prayers. Second, he is an influential voice in Catholic apologetics, yet he represents a form of fundamentalism that Protestant fundamentalists would have shied away from. One that is based on false premises, stereotypes, false accusations - in short, sinning against the clear teachings of the Church while attacking others for doing the same, even if they really aren't. If he was in some back corner of the world, no problem. Then it would be prayers and prayers alone. And I had no trouble confronting him. But given his influence and readership, I keep on when it's brought to my attention, hoping that enough folks see these things that they may begin pressing Mark to stop it, and warning others not to follow such a path.

  5. Mark *used to be* an influential voice in Catholic apologetics, but not anymore. I suppose he still has some ability to influence the ignorant, but the word is out about Shea. Nobody listens to him anymore, other than for the sake of entertainment. It would be smart for Shea to open up his blog for real discussion about his ridiculous opinions, and if he would actually engage his detractors instead of maligning and blocking them. At least then he would have an interesting and engaging blog. But there isn't even that reason to pay any attention to him.

    1. Yes most of the other apologists have quietly distanced themselves from him. They haven't announced their distancing but I do remember in the past Mark Shea was teamed up with Scott Hahn for some bible studies and now I can't find those anywhere. Scott being the decent human being he is probably just quietly stopped having anything to do with Shea.


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