"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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Peace on Earth, But About that Good Will stuff...

Good Lord, if anyone can stand more of this... I'm not really up on this in-house Catholic- converts-turned-professional-apologists industry, but apparently Mark Shea's boss is someone named Jimmy Akin, a cowboy-hatted apologist for Catholicism who apparently is considered a guru by many in the Catholic blogosphere. Akin and Shea both earn their daily bread at a lay-run outfit called Catholic Answers. At any rate, there is much consternation among said "St. Blogs" because Akin has weighed in on the torture "debate," and concluded, like Fr. Brian Harrison and Cdl. Avery Dulles, that not all physical coercion constitutes morally prohibited "torture." Now you would think that this Akin gentleman is some type of mouthpiece of the Almighty given the quivering anticipation that some bloggers have had awaiting his utterances on the torture issue.

But alas, he's disappointed many of them, and for the sin of agreeing with a pontifical professor of theology (Harrison) and an orthodox Cardinal (Dulles) and disagreeing with Shea and those who follow his interpretation of Veritatis Splendor Akin is already being excommunicated by the combox cardinalate. As for Mark Shea, who is the high priest of torture orthodoxy and will admit of no legitimate disagreement or even of parsing out exactly what VS and the contemporary Church is proposing for our assent, he's in the most uncomfortable position of having to explain why Akin is not a torture heretic like Shea's other opponents (like myself).

But wonder of wonders, Shea now admits that "there may be, in some other world, a way to get to something that looks an awful lot like torture but is not intrinsically immoral and therefore not necessarily condemned by Veritatis Splendor." Of course, he won't concede that America would ever really act in a way that is not intrinsically immoral in concrete circumstances: Bush and his minions are still reckless, lying purveyors of death, indiscriminate mayhem, and are probably responsible for the obesity epidemic, too. Whatever.

Nevertheless: debate over: we all agree on the fundamental proposition: not all pysical coercion is immoral torture; all else concerns peripheral issues like "how much" coercion; "what circumstances" justify it; "who" may use, and like questions.

Of course, it's nothing but a tempest in a teapot and no doubt of little concern to anyone outside this feverish little blogging community, but it's a pertinent reminder of why faithful Catholics follow the Church, not personalities, and why humility before the long and venerable intellectual tradition of the Church is preferable to the loud shouting of guys who not long ago thought the Church was the whore of Babylon and who haven't taken the time to plumb the depths of her intellectual tradition of moral reasoning, but rather, in true Evangelical fashion, simply wave a proof-text in our faces and utter denouncements.

These types have no patience for the slow and careful process of actually discerning what the Church has said in the past, and how and in what way She proposes adjustments to Her teachings, and what weight is assigned to these "adjustments." It's as if the mental habits accured from being in the anti-intellectual millieu out of which many converts come has remained with them.

Akin, for his part, is to be congratulated for his serious efforts to find out exactly what the Church has said and is saying, right down to his latest contribution, an interesting study of the Latin (and hence authoritative) text of VS and how that text is not as definitive on torture as the proof-texters assume.

Most of all, he's to be congratulated for being the catalyst for Mark's grudging concession which effectively resolves the kernel of this debate.


Steve Golay said...

Perfectly put:

. . . it's a pertinent reminder of why faithful Catholics follow the Church, not personalities, and why humility before the long and venerable intellectual tradition of the Church is preferable to the loud shouting . . .

Once knew a convert to Orthodoxy (a bright fellow) who put himself under the discipline of NOT writing about Orthodoxy for ten years.

Anonymous said...


Tom, I wish the Church would put itself under the same discipline when it comes to capital punishment. When you look at the late pope's stance, the current pope's responsibility (as head of CDF) to put that stance in the CCC (thereby directly contradicting previous editions of the Cathechism, let alone teaching from centuries of Tradition and Scripture), you have nothing but an ecclesiastical equivalent of the Oceania Ministry of Information in Orwell's 1984. How else does one explain Chaput's ignorant rant converning Scalia's remarks about the Church's current revisionsist stance toward capital punishment?

Steve Golay said...

You're right, things seem to be in a sorry among Catholic apologists. (Look at Mark Shea and Jimmy Akin blogs for 12/01.)

If their primary market (unbelievers and non-Catholics) knew of the spat and dug-in stubbornness would it give them pause to listen when they do speak from their true calling?

Maybe it is time for Mr. Shea to take a deep breath and ask of his soul "What is the true heart of my calling?" His calling gives him a mission. Any mission, faithfully done, does its job within boundaries and under discipline. And being that, a mission, this is public work. The tools of it, including blogging, are not private means for his own exclusive individual self. That is why I so admire Christopher Blosser's site (blog and all) because he is very much aware of his PUBLIC duty.

All this reminds me of Cardinal Dulles piece, awhile back in First Things, about Catholic. Will take another look at it. Yes, there was Last's article on Catholic blogging in the same journal - will let that one pass for now: but have wondered, during this torture debate, what he now thinks of the state of things.

Final note: By now, so much of this torture conversation is about church documents and the legal slicing of circumstances and cases. Maybe it is time to take this discussion off the blogs and comboxes - and admitt that this format does have its limitations.

Mark said...

I don't work for Catholic Answers. Jimmy is not my boss. Indeed, I'm not sure if Jimmy is anybody's boss. You'll have to ask him.

I am on their Speaker's Bureau (which means now and then somebody contacts them and asks me to speak and we split the honorarium). Several non-employees of CA are if memory serves. And I do write for This Rock on occasion. But that's about it. So you are mistaken about our professional relationship.

Just FYI.