"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In the Ghetto

Where to start? With Shea’s breathtaking sliming of a good, orthodox priest, Fr. Brian Harrison? This priest has had to suffer the slings of the uber-trads because he maintains that Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) can be reconciled with previous teaching on the Social Kingship of Christ.

He now has to suffer the arrows of the neo-Catholic left, typified by Mark Shea smugly dismissing him as if he were an… I dunno, uncredentialed convert (what are your qualifications, Mark?) rather than someone who has studied theology professionally for years, holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology and teaches the subject at a pontifical university. This neo-Catholic leftism is perfectly illustrated by Shea in his latest diatribe, where yet again he insists that if anyone questions Shea's interpretation of Pope John Paul II’s teaching on torture, let him be anathema.

(Shea joins such luminaries of the religious left as Sister Helen Prejean, another one-issue wonder who thinks that her private views on an issue [capital punishment], also supported by fairly absolute language of John Paul II, trumps anyone’s reservations about the weight and exact meaning of that Pope's new teaching.)

Shea has gone so overboard in his hatred of Bush and Cheney that he now wants to slink off to a convenient ghetto, where he and his combox pals can sit in a circle and hurl anathemas at the rest of the Christian world that has not followed them. They will not vote in the election, no, that would make them ritually impure. You see, voting for the Republicans means voting for torture, an intrinsic evil. Voting for the Democrats means voting for abortion, also an intrinsic evil. See? The parties are morally equivalent! They will stay in their circle and pray before the tabernacle, thanking God they are not like other men.

Meanwhile, Catholics who have not lost the ability to discern, who know they must be “wise as serpents,” know that when two candidates are up for election, and neither entirely upholds Catholic moral principles, then the principle of proportionality permits, indeed demands, that we vote for the politician who will most closely follow the moral teachings of the Church and will most probably save more lives by opposing abortion on demand.

Now which party supports abortion on demand? All together now, the Democrats. Elect them and we guarantee maximum state support for abortion. Elect them and the federal judiciary slips even further into activism, especially on social issues like marriage and abortion.

On the other hand, we have the Republicans. Does this party support the Catholic moral agenda in all respects? All together now, “no.” They are, however, less likely on the whole to support abortion rights promiscuously and throw state sanction behind them. They are less likely to appoint judges who will produce opinions like Lawrence v. Texas (striking down Texas’ sodomy law), Roe v. Wade (abortion); Griswold v. Connecticut (striking down Connecticut’s anti-contraception law); and, soon to come, successful challenges like this one against state bans on homosexual marriage.

Now does voting for the Republicans imply agreement with every policy they pursue? No. Will voting for Republicans at least marginally improve the chance of public policy reflecting Catholic principles? A reasonable Catholic could conclude so. Shea on the other hand has become so wrapped up in the torture issue that he would sit by in his ghetto and watch the Democrats come to power, all because he supposes that a Catholic cannot vote Republican because they support torture.

Got that? Partial birth abortion, tax-funded abortion, activist judges, homosexual marriage, all coming to a country near you, if Mark has his way and all good Catholics abstain from voting, because he wants to make a point about (what he thinks to be the case) a few rotten Islamic terrorists supposedly being tortured.

There's proportionality for you.

Never mind, by the way, that his whole case is a house of cards. As I've pointed out, the Vatican and the U.S. both share a common definition of what constitutes torture.
The United States has bound itself to refrain from acts falling under this definition of torture, while setting up detailed guidelines to delimit the types of interrogation tactics that we will use.

Aside from an off-handed comment by Cheney about “dunking” which the White House has expressly disclaimed as signaling support for waterboarding, Mark has absolutely no grounds to accuse the administration of supporting torture, or of wishing to re-define it in a way that’s inconsistent with the shared Vatican-US definition. Says Mark:
The United States of America has engaged in and continues to engage in acts which no reasonable person can deny are torture. Men have (repeatedly) died from such acts. The United States has now passed legislation which effectively disengages the US from the obligation to abide by the Geneva Convention by giving the guy ordering the torture the final authority to define what is and is not torture. I have named three acts which any sane person (except George W. Bush) recognizes as torture: waterboarding (which the Veep himself boast about while denying he is doing so), cold cells and Palestinian hanging. The President has lied by declaring "We do not torture" while authorizing these and other intrinsically immoral acts and continuing to do so.

Shea may think Bush is lying because there was a limited use of such methods in the past; but unless he has proof that right now, post-Military Commissions Act, the administration is still using such methods he needs to stop, pause, and re-consider.

To help this process, let's consider this Military Commissions Act of 2006. According Justice Mark Shea of the Court of Hasty Judgments, the Act is objectionable because the court gets to determine who is an illegal enemy combatant and that the whole world is subject to this arbitrary determination ("I believe that once the precedent is set that the Executive has the right to arrest and detain anybody it likes for as long as possible on suspicion of being an enemy in the war on Terror, history shows that language will only become more flexible when the Executive has sole discretion in deciding what "enemy" or "material support" means.).

What does the Act actually say? ‘‘Any alien unlawful enemy combatant is subject to trial by
military commission under this chapter." Emphasis added to show that this act applies only to non-U.S. citizens. Again: U.S. citizens are not subject to the Act.

Moreover, under the Act, the accused gets a defense attorney, is afforded the right to have compelled statements excluded (i.e., statements shown to result from torture will be excluded from evidence), has the right to review the government's evidence and cross-examine witnesses against him and subpoena his own witnesses. Perhaps most significantly:
the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of a final judgment rendered by a military commission (as approved by the convening authority) under this chapter.
In other words, unlawful enemy combatants (i.e., jihadi terrorists) have access to civilian appellate courts. So although the non-U.S. citizen unlawful enemy combatants do not have habeas corpus rights under this Act (is there some compelling reason they should?), they have full direct appeal rights to civilian courts.

Does the President under this Act have the authority to decide what specific methods constitute torture under the Geneva Convention? Yes. Is this some nefarious Bushie plot to overthrow democractic government? No-- to go back to civics 101 for a moment, the executive branch is charged with enforcing treaties. The President has always had the authority to determine in what manner the treaties we enter into should be interpreted, especially where, as with the Geneva Convention, the treaty expressly deals with conduct of executive branch employees, i.e., the military.

To bring this full circle, then, here is what the administration has in the past determined are appropriate interrogation methods. Rumsfeld and the administration specifically drew up this list and it excludes waterboarding and if you read it, you will see that the methods approved are pretty mild and uncontroversial.

Whatever methods the Administration now adopts, moreover, must be published in the Federal Register and will be subject to judicial review. The Administration already knows that a bipartisan majority of Congress believes that waterboarding and extreme temperatures constitute torture, and so will have to abide by that or risk further, explicit legislation outlawing those methods.

So Mark Shea needs to stop hyperventilating about the President and acting like Chicken Little, as if torture chambers are just around the corner for all of us. In point of fact, while publicly wishing to say little or even to allow an impression to remain for our enemies that the methods Shea objects to might still be available, the fact of the matter is that the Administration has never expressly adopted the methods in question, and almost certainly will not do so now.

The "Bush is a torturer" thing may be a nifty paradigm for the left to suppress the vote for the upcoming election, but is a disservice to the truth and a cartoonish mischaracterization worthy of the hyperbolic rantings of the flower power 60's radicals. Grown-up Catholics on the other hand have a vital interest in defeating the real party of death.


Anonymous said...


Tom, I think it's time to consider the possibility that Mark Shea is a de facto supporter of jihadism. I know that's extreme but consider the following:

1. In response to the effect's of Israel's security wall in the West Bank on Palestinian Christians, Shea calls it "one of the reasons I reject the thesis that Israel is immaculately conceived and preserved from all stain of sin, original and actual." He ignores the fact that the wall has saved who-knows-how-many lives and that Palestinian Christians fear Palestinian authorities (who are overwhelmingly Muslim) far more than they feel disgust toward Israelis; hence, the completely asinine rhetorical straw man he constructs.

2. His apparent sympathy for the Khalil Sheikh Mohammeds of the world overwhelms any apparent sympathy for innocent victims of Islamic terror who have been murdered and maimed -- whether in Israel, Bali, Beslan, Madrid, London, Istanbul or anywhere else.

It's time to call this fellow what he is: a de facto collaborationist on the order of Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo (to whom he favorably links)

Anonymous said...


There's another, more rational explanation for Mark's behavior (outside of adolescent boorishness).

For Mark, JPII was the be-all and end-all of Catholicism. Not Christ (if that were true, his behavior would be far different). For Mark, Catholicism began in 1978 with Karol Wojtyla's election. That's why he declares that anybody who disagrees with one of the late pope's prudential decision must hate him. Shea's absolutist views on abolishing capital punishment mirror the late pope's, though they have no support in Scripture or Tradition.

Shea doesn't belong to the Roman Catholic Church. He belongs to the Wojtylan Catholic Church. Or, more appropriately, to the Sheavian Catholic Church.

Then again, I support the Culture of Death (as His Most Holy Sheaness sees it) so what do I know?

Pauli said...

Tom: "They will stay in their circle and pray before the tabernacle, thanking God they are not like other men."

Great post. There is something wild-eyed about Shea's pontificating on this that turns me off completely. I've always felt that Mark is a knowledgeable and talented apologist on the basics, but you're right, he's way over his head on this torture matter and is bleeding credibility because it ties so closely to his Bush-hatred.