Monday, February 15, 2016

Oops he did it again

Mark Shea once again indulges in the time honored game of Catholic Word Play.  You see, here is the problem.  From 2008 through 2012, Mark and many others on the Catholic Internet made the case very clear: voting for the lesser of two evils was basically just giving into Satan. Especially in presidential elections where our votes don't count anyway.  Sure, you  could vote for the lesser of two evils.  After all, Pope Benedict said so in clear terms, and the US Bishops said so as well. 

And yet, Mark also made it clear, especially on his now defunct blog, that doing so was nothing less than dancing with Satan.  It was compromising the purer faith and potentially jeopardizing your soul.  Those who tried to argue for Romney or McCain were subject to a blistering assault from Mark, and many of his readers, with the accusation that they were putting tribalist loyalties above their very salvation.  If Mark's public writings made it clear he had little good to say about voting for the lesser evil, his blog posts drove the point home in no uncertain terms.  

In fact, by the end Mark was saying there was no real justification in his mind for voting for the lesser of two evils for either party:
"So here’s the deal: I see no proportionate good in supporting candidates from either party who support grave evil.  I do, however, see a proportionate good in refraining from voting should no candidate appear on the ballot who does not advocate grave evil."  (National Catholic Register, 2011)
But now, Mark is stuck allowing liberal Catholics a clean conscience even if they cast a vote for one of America's most pro-culture of death politicians, Bernie Sanders. 
"The Church's intellectual and moral tradition on such questions is not geared toward telling you what to think, but how to think: how to navigate the varying prudential decisions that must be made in order to cast a vote with a reasonably quiet conscience. And that means different Catholics will arrive at different conclusions in good faith."  (National Catholic Register, 2016)
Note the difference in tone.  True, technically nothing has changed.  Mark says the same thing, sort of.  But the emphasis now is clearly on the acceptability of voting for the lesser of two evils in good faith, under certain conditions, rather than insisting there is really only one way for the serious Catholic to vote.

How do we reconcile such an apparent disconnect in only four years?  Easy.  Mark demonstrates how a talented writer can play at words in order to make sure that when he said Red was the best color four years ago, he clearly meant Blue was entirely acceptable.  Mark has discovered an out.  He now says you still can't vote for the lesser of two evils.  That's voting for evil.  Just like he said.  But if you vote to limit evil then it is just fine. The first, which he accuses conservatives of, is clearly cynical and wrong.

That is the lesson of the story ...  if you interpret it correctly
But the second, wanting to limit evil, is quite acceptable.  Righteous.  Beautiful.  Therefore those who will support Bernie because they believe they will limit the evil of conservatism and the GOP, have no issues.  They are limiting evil.  It's not like those right wingers of the past who voted for the least evil Romney in order to limit the assaults on religious liberty, abortion and gay marriage or anything.  That was cynical.  That was tribalism.  That was putting party politics above the Church.  That really was voting for the lesser of two evils, not voting to limit evil.

See the obvious difference?  No?  Well, neither do I.  Because there isn't one.  Not in the real world of day to day living. Most who vote in such a way will likely feel they are doing it because 'this fellow will do less damage and evil than that fellow over there.'  That's all.  That's what they meant with supporting Romney.  That's what those who will vote for Bernie will probably mean.  And, at the end of the day, that's what the Bishops say. But Mark, who made it clear the jaws of Hell potentially yawn before those who would take the lower road of voting for the lesser evils in 2011, now has to scramble to justify why doing the same thing for a Democratic candidate he clearly admires, despite the candidate's vibrant track record for the culture of death, is actually hunky-dory. 

If you want to know when to pull the ripcord on someone, consistency is a good thing to watch.  At least consistency or the willingness to admit change, since people, as Nate points out in the comments, do change.  Do they say what was true four years ago is still true today?  Do they admit they have changed and see it differently?  Or do they seem to be saying it's all different, but was really always true as long as you interpret it correctly?   When following shepherds, make sure they plot a straight course for the sheepfold every time, or admit this time it will be different.  If it looks like a different sheepfold than last time, and yet the shepherd insists it's all the same, you might want to jump ship and find a new shepherd. 


  1. If you want to know when to pull the ripcord on someone, consistency is a good thing to watch. Do they say what was true four years ago is still true today? Or do they seem to be saying it's all different, but was really always true as long as you interpret it correctly?

    I'd amend the above to "or do they acknowledge their mistake & the change." After all people do change (you changed your religion, no?) and one thing I've noticed is that the surest sign of pride is when someone gets called out and pitches a fit instead of saying something like, "I was wrong then." or "I have learned more." or even laugh and say, "What a fool I once was."

    That's always been, to me, the worst thing about Shea is not only does he shift constantly, but NOTHING will anger him more than pointing out the shift (I think one of my fastest bans was once when I just replied to each of his comments with a quote from one of his earlier articles.)

    I say watch for consistency, but beware the shepherd who doesn't acknowledge growing in wisdom and understanding.

  2. Good point. I made the adjustment. You're right about that. I've said that if Mark would admit he's changed and now identifies somewhere broadly as a pro-life, liberal Democrat/Independent, I'd have no problem.

  3. In terms of "voting for evil" and Catholic teaching, we need to look at ALL the data.

    Most dissent from Catholic teaching involves something to do with human sexuality. Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, marriage, divorce and remarriage all have an aspect of sexuality to them.

    The term “dissenting issues” is an overgeneralization and overgeneralizations must first be separated and clarified before any clear discussion or action can be taken. Once more specific matters are listed, like those mentioned, they can be prioritized by considering the current and future impact of each one.

    It can be difficult to measure or quantify such things, but we can consider how many unjust wars we are currently involved with or about to jump into, how many people are executed each year and how many people are tortured or likely to be tortured in the future by the government. Now contrast this with all the effects of the dissenting sexual issues.

    What are the current and future impacts of all the unwanted pregnancies and the resulting increase in poverty and single parent homes? How about the number of unborn children being killed and that will be killed in the future? Think of the impact from broken homes due to divorce? Ignorance and dissent about the true purpose of sex also brings us pornography, sexual addictions, molestation, sexually-transmitted diseases and marriage confusion.

    Thinking means connecting things. Many, if not most, of the ills in our society can be traced back to sexual confusion or dissent.


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