Saturday, December 02, 2006

I thought I made this pretty clear ...

When I first commented on Mark's reaction to Akin's comments:
Do understand, I have no desire to start a conflict between Akin and Mark, no more than I did to be in conflict with Mark to begin with. I do, however, have an obligation to call attention to what I view as moral hypocrisy (let alone fundamentalist readings of Church documents) on the part of a fellow Catholic. So my challenge to Papa Mark is this: if you are going to continue heaping scorn our way, please explain where Akin's position (or Dave Armstrong's for that matter) differs from our own beyond your telepathic insight into our true intentions.

I stand by those remarks. I don't want to start trouble between Mark and Akin, no more than I want to start trouble with Mark to begin with. Believe me, I have far, far better things to do with my time. What I do want to hear, however, is a detailed explanation as to where my position differs substantively from that of Dave Armstrong or Akin on this issue from Mark and why he chooses to hurl invective and anathema sits our way while granting them a fair hearing.

Mark writes:
I really appreciate this a lot. One of the most irritating things about this discussion is the awareness that there are people who would very much like to pit Jimmy and I, who are friends, against each other. One of the most saddening things for me is that I have said things which have been hurtful to Jimmy when I have had no intention of doing so. The reason the post yesterday took so long to compose is that I kept having to go back to it and say, "No, this makes it sound like Jimmy is making a bad faith argument" when what I was trying to get at was that Jimmy's argument seems to me to have the effect of supporting those who I believe argue in bad faith, while it is manifestly obvious to me that Jimmy himself does not intend to do so. I say this because I know Jimmy and I know that he wants to think with the Church.

Why he believes that I want him and Akin to be in conflict is beyond me since I specifically stated the contrary, instead saying:
Given that Mark is a respected Catholic apologist on an issue that we believe to be deeply wrong on this issue, is it really that terribly surprising that we would appeal to other Catholic apologists and theologians to demonstrate what we believe to be the weakness of his position?

He is also claiming that we are arguing in bad faith, in which case I really don't understand how he would know that given that he has never attempted to substantively argue us or if he does believe this why the hell he cares what we think. Even if we are, that still doesn't make the arguments that we are making or have agreed with wrong, but then again so far he hasn't really tried to substantively engage those either but instead issued broad statements and farmed the work out to others.
And since terrorists kill our children, why not hold their hostage and murder them if need be." That's not Jimmy's thought. But (in the case of threatening to kill children) it is what the CIA has, in fact, already done according to Ron Suskind. So it seems to me to be a perfectly obvious conclusion that most Americans would make if we make proportionality the measure of whether an act is torture of not. (Which is why, by the way, I appreciate that Jimmy is also concerned about opening Pandora's Box.)

There is a huge gulf by any standard of morality between telling a captive detainee that we have their children and that we will kill them if they don't tell us what we want to know and actually going out and doing so. Suskind alleges the former, not the latter, if I remember correctly, and one would think that Mark would find scaring the heck out of a detainee far more preferable than say physically beating the information out of them. The "bad cop" in most standard police interrogation sessions atypically threatens detainees with all manner of nasty things (none of which they have any intention of actually doing) unless they fess up and to the best of my knowledge no one has a problem with that.

Mark then makes IMO a fairly tortured argument that because Jesus does not teach us every conceiveable form of evil but instead asks us to uphold good that asking questions regarding how far you can morally go with regard to interrogation is equivalent to how far you can morally go with murder or adultery. He then says:
Veritatis Splendor regards the various prohibitions against various sins such as abortion, torture, slavery, etc. as the rock bottom lower limits of morality. They are the starting point, the minimum of bare human decency, not the goal of Catholic moral teaching.

And as a general standard for human conduct, I think it's a fine list. However, as myself and others have attempted to note, it should not be read as the kind of authoritative standard that trumps all prior Catholic teaching on the subject that Mark has been selectively using it as (i.e. ignoring the references to deportation among other things), nor do I think that John Paul II intended for it to be used in such a fashion. Akin understands this and said as much in his posts on the subject, but Mark largely refused to engage that argument because his appeal to the text is about the only thing he has left at this point, which is why I have referred to him as "arguing like a fundamentalist."

Mark continues:
It's like this: On September 10, 2001 a Catholic could have approached the question of how to treat prisoners in wartime in a lot of different ways, because it really was a purely abstract discussion. I think the general approach before the outbreak of war would have been to start with Paul's (and Christ's) counsel to love your enemies and then go from there to the question of real world applications of how to get intelligence within that basic limitation.

However, with the outbreak of war, the peculiar heinousness of 9/11, then the revelation of brutalities committed by our troops and by the CIA, then the various attempts by favored pundits to downplay the significance these acts (and the various attempts of others to parlay them into political capital), coupled with a wide sense that torture is a "realistic" option we must keep open in desperate times, what quickly emerged was real world need to define the question in a particular way so as to serve this need to defend the Administration and to defend acts of torture or explain them away as "not really torture". To this was added as well, the curious spectacle of an odd tendency to major in minors.

I got involved when Michael Ledeen and Linda Chavez offered appalling defenses of, respectively, murder and torture. I was amazed to see respected opinion makers do this and I analyzed their arguments and responded to them in "Toying with Evil".

First of all, Catholic teaching on torture and interrogation did not change on 9/11. As I think Victor posted awhile back, neither he nor I were really all that aware of the Church's teaching on the subject until we read Mark's blog and realized just how out of whack his increasingly hysterical pronouncements (and as long as he's accusing us of bad faith I'll throw this out - almost certainly fueled by hatred of all things neocon and opposition to the war in Iraq) were with actual Catholic teaching on the subject. He also made a number of what were IMO factual errors by embracing every lefty conspiracy theory imaginable available on the subject and then pronouncing before the 2006 mid-terms that he regarded both parties as being complicit in intrinsic evils. Because Victor and myself disagree with Mark on both secular political issues, factual issues, and moral theology (which we are able to distinguish, even if he can't) we challenged him in particular on the latter since he is a respected Catholic apologist and as such we feel the need to hold him accountable and correct we view as extreme failings in both his position and argumentation.

As for Mark's melt-down on Ledeen, it is entirely clear for me (and I trust Chris Fotos to provide the necessary documentation for those who are interested since I believe he's posted it in the comments of at least one of the last several posts) that he cannot have a civil discussion concerning the man. Whatever Ledeen's positions (and I contend, as before, that Mark completely distorts and misrepresents them, especially now, but that is a post for another time), most people generally draw the line at calumny.

Mark then proceeds to conflate questioning his reading of Veritas Splendor with questioning Catholic teaching on abortion, which here again illustrates the fact that he can't have it both ways in this debate. If his view of Veritas Splendor is that of the Magisterium, then he should have the guts to come out and say so rather than going to great pains to stress his lack of "quasi-magisterial" authority as in his previous post on the subject. If the Torq/Victor/Armstrong/Akin view of the document is definitively wrong by some means other than Mark's repeated appeal to the text and there is evidence to that effect, I'd like to hear it. Thus far he has yet to provide any, however.

He then proceeds to lump us together with Joe D'Hippolito on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand for the sake of further demonization and continues:
Mostly what I began to encounter was this strange tendency to major in minor that eventually solidified into deep and rancorous hostility. It was an attitude best summed up in the words of Tom Kreitzberg, as "making the case for fog." It became apparent after a time that the goal was to do just like McBrien: encourage as much as possible the idea that the normative teaching of the Church on torture (summed up as "It's bad. Don't do it") could always be explained away. If the Church said it was intrinsically immoral than the goal was to find a way to say that it wasn't. If that didn't work, then the goal was to find a way to make it impossible to distinguish between legitimate coercion and torture. Again and again, the conversation steered toward encourage as much confusion as possible about the distinction between legitimate coercion and torture and then accusing anyone who opposed torture of opposing legitimate coercion, of hating Bush, of being a "Torture Pharisee", of loving terrorists but not victims and so forth. If Church teaching was raised, the first and last order of business was repeat constantly that anybody who cites Veritatis Splendor, Gaudium et Spes, Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism to say, "We are are committing torture. It's wrong and should stop" is a proof-texting fundamentalist. When asked point blank if they thought torture is legitimate or not, they refused to answer "on principle" (whatever the hell that means). They demanded answers (from a guy who is neither an expert in moral theology, nor specially trained in interrogation) to the question "What is torture?" yet never accepted the answers given, despite the fact that these answers appear to have worked perfectly well for police and military interrogators right up to the time the Bush Administration suddenly needed to justify prisoner abuse and a network of secret prisons. And the folks who were demanding and refusing all these answers provided no answers of their own.

Actually, Victor and I provided our own answers quite aptly when asked about the subject by Dave Armstrong and you can read mine here. If Mark wants to know my view on the topic, that's where he can go to read it. Somewhat ironic for those that Mark alleges are so dedicated to obfuscating this issue, we seem to be quite up-front with our positions if he ever actually bothered to learn what they were for the purposes of his argument. And, as before, he equates us with abortion supporters and claims that the only reason we could be doing this is out of partisan political motivations.
I was alternately accused of feigning a "cornpone aw shucks I'm just an unfrozen caveman pose" that wouldn't answer the question and of forbidding anybody from answering the question. Yet instead of turning to professionals in moral theology and/or specialists in legitimate forms of coercion, they simply kept demanding I supply a definition of torture. After a while, such behavior makes it pretty clear that such people don't really want an answer to the question "What is torture?" If they did, they would quite badgering an incompetent and take his advice to talk to an expert. So it became obvious to me that this was a classic case of people asking questions in order to keep from finding out something (and in order to keep others from finding it out too).

The primary reason that we demanded that Mark supply a definition for torture early along the line is the fact that the Church has not defined it and unless Mark was willing to supply one that he should at least be open to alternate points of view that some of the specific techniques described were not torture, if only to refute them. I don't feel that this is terribly controversial, though it became so when Mark made clear that he would not, lest he put a crimp in his moral umbrage.

Mark then proceeds to completely miss the point as to why we objected to his use of Abu Ghraib photos within the context of a debate over authorized interrogation techniques. Unless he believes (and he may very well at this point depending on how far his Bush Derangement Syndrome has gone) that what happened at Abu Ghraib was ordered by the administration, what occurred there was/is quite different in type if nothing else from what took place at CIA interrogation facilities around which the debate over the McCain amendment (which I supported) that IIRC Mark injected the photos to demagogue regarding. This is a category mistake if nothing else and an effort to manipulate emotions every bit as disgusting as that which Mark has wrongfully alleged that Vice President Cheney did to link Iraq to 9/11. Again, he conflates it with using abortion photos, but a better analogy would be if you were using photos of murdered (aborted) babies to support the illegalization of a form of surgery, in which case I would again be quite appalled by their use. His continued attempt to argue by analogy by bringing abortion and those dissenters who support it into the discussion is a good indication that he both feels the need to demonize and isn't able to argue on his own ground.
Now the Coalition guys are not all negative. They do provide ringing defenses of Michael Ledeen's sly suggestion that we "enter into evil" and "do things we know to be morally wrong" (such as shooting wounded unarmed combatants lest they grow up to be Hitler in 20 years). They do speak out bravely for the unjustly reviled Machiavelli. And they do have a creative repetoire of insults for people who say "The Church says torture is wrong. We shouldn't do it." (I'll leave you to scan the Coalition's archives for that. A great deal of the blog is dedicated (when it is not devoted to minimizing the normative teaching of the Church torture) to large group discussion of my numerous faults, failing, errors, lies (lots of these) and sins. It's a cornucupia of hostility!

You get this from "skimming" our blog, Mark? Where to begin ...

- Ledeen has explicitly stated that he doesn't favor the killing of unarmed combatants, but no doubt you know what he really meant to say through your charism of telepathy. While torture may be a sin, calumny and libel seem not to be as long as the target is right.

- I would be extremely interested to know if you have actually read Machiavelli at any point in your life. One need not agree with everything he says to find valid points in what he writes. The same can be said of any number of other writers and philosophers.

- Near as I can determine, most of our scorn here is directed, usually in retaliation, against yourself, Zippy, and the rest of your tag team on this issue. This has little to do with the argument and more to do with the amount of invective we have had hurled our way, yet for all our shots at you guys we somehow seem to get through it without conflating you with abortion supporters or questioning your standing as Catholics.

- I like that term "cornucupia of hostility." It's too bad that Thanksgiving is over or it might have been the inspiration for a Photoshop.

We then get to hear of the exasperation inflicted by the wicked juggernaut that is the Coalition against Mark and his merry men:
Meanwhile, of course, there is everybody in the middle of this raucous conflict with me, Zippy and a few others on the "Torture is bad, don't do it" side and the Coalition. These poor folk are stuck (those who haven't found the argument boring and exasperating) They can't really picture Jesus waterboarding people, but they also can't picture Jesus just standing by while a city is nuked. All they've heard is the endless repetition of two question, "Does the Church really insist that torture is always wrong?" and "But what *is* torture anyway?"

Mark then proceeds to extend his anathema sit to most of St. Blog's while simultaneously shifting his rhetorical goalposts:
First, I simply don't see *anybody* at St. Blog's overemphasizing the idea of loving the terrorist. On the contrary, my experience of St. Blog's over the past year has been of a fantastic amount of emphasis on discounting the Church's ordinary teaching on torture, teaching which, even in the midst of the War on Terror, and even granting (which I don't) that we can waterboard the Ticking Time Bomb Terrorist, *still would prohibit virtually everything the US Government has granted itself the power to do in its abuse of prisoners. I have never met a soul (except perhaps the cockeyed optimist pacifist Chris Sullivan) who thinks that a big hug will fix everything. I have met many loud and vociferous souls whose minds are dominated by the assumption that, of course, it's going to be necessary to "go to the dark side" to some degree or other. The great effort in the discussion has not been to restrain those teeming throngs who want to distribute flowers and love beads, but to get people to not immediately dismiss "love you enemies" as moralistic, pollyanna, and Kumbayistic. Even I, Holier Than Thou Moralizer Extraordinaire, have not focused on, "How can we be maximally loving toward terrorists?" That's because it too is the wrong question. Our obligation is to the common good. That means we have to consider both the humanity of our enemies *and* the good of our people. That why I think the question is "How do we treat prisoners humanely and still get the intelligence we need?"

Mark's fundamental problem in his perception of his intellectual opponents, however, is one noted by Frank Sales:
Why can't those who disagree with Mark be given credit for arguing from principled consideration of the issues rather than as shills for Bush or responding through animal fear of terrorists?


He then proceeds to apologize to Jimmy for heaping vitriole on him that he does on us. No word when we might be getting the same and I'm not holding my breath.


Christopher Fotos said...

It has been quite a spectacle, hasn't it.

I was alternately accused of feigning a "cornpone aw shucks I'm just an unfrozen caveman pose" that wouldn't answer the question and of forbidding anybody from answering the question.

Well, you kept telling us you weren't an expert in moral theology, Mark. What with that and Richard Comeford repeatedly informing us he was a dummie, eventually some of us felt compelled to agree.

More Shea:

Yet instead of turning to professionals in moral theology and/or specialists in legitimate forms of coercion, they simply kept demanding I supply a definition of torture.

Yet we did turn to professionals in moral theology, or at least someone more professional than you, namely some priest named Fr. Brian Harrison, of the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico. As I said at the time, that doesn't end the argument but it's a heckuva place to continue it. At various times some of us also turned to specialists in coercive interrogation who said yes, sometimes it does provide useful information, but that didn't slow you down too much either.

I could say much more, and will, about Torq's post, but I'll briefly add that yes, I have links galore, hither and yon, regarding Mark's strange reaction to Michael Ledeen. They're located here at COF, at various points in Christopher Blosser's Torture Series, and in my own files. Some can no longer be linked since they were deleted from CAEI, as noted fairly soon thereafter at COF.

As for the Cornucopia of Hostility--which sounds like a good name for a crater on the moon--I think we are supposed to understand that only Mark can be hostile, and bonus points to banned commenters if they never post anywhere again.

paul zummo said...

As this continues to play out, I am reminded somewhat of the gay marriage debate. When things began heating up early in 2004 on the issue, I was actually sympathetic to those who argued that homosexuals should be provided the same rights as heterosexual people vis a vis marriage. But then I started reading the debates, and frankly it was so one sided that there really was no way to go but to outright oppose gay marriage. The shrillness of people like Sullivan just turned my stomach. They offered no substantive arguments, and their blatant intellectual dishonesty had me convinced to go with the other side.

To be honest I wasn't sure how I felt about "torture", and to a large extent I'm still questioining my beliefs. But in terms of substance, it's not even close. That's why I don't even read Shea's blog anymore - he's become a Sullivan on this issue. The sheer force of his dishonesty, bad faith argumentation, hystericism (is that a word?), and ignorance on all matters political (claiming that the problem with neoocons is their belief in realism? Yeah, that's what he thinks) has been enough to drive me off.

And here is Akin making what is a well thought out argument, showing honest reflection, and what choice do I have as someone sort of on the fence but to follow the person who's actually carrying the intellectual weight?

If Mark actually wants to advance his own cause, his best course of action might actually be to remain silent, because he's proobably done more damage to his own cause than help.

Anonymous said...

The Abu-Ghraib-photos business is one of the few instances in the whole "torture controversies" conflagration where Mark has been in the right.

Remember, there were people at the time arguing that cruel, degrading, and inhumane tactics could never be torture, since they didn't involve the infliction of large amounts of pain. It's reasonable to point out that under that definition what happened at Abu Ghraib wouldn't count as torture, and if it's reasonable to point that out, I don't see why using the photos to bring the point home would be objectionable.

You are right, though, that Mark has a nasty habit of "skimming" and a tendency to shoot from the hip rather than reflecting on other people's positions, which has led him to say a number of silly things and has led to all sorts of ill-will on his part and others.


Anonymous said...


Consider the problems Dennis Prager is facing after criticizing recently-elected Rep. Keith Ellison for refusing to take his oath on a Bible, choosing to replace it with a Koran. Prager criticized the idea that an elected official would breach collective tradition by substituing some other document for the Bible. Prager actively wondered whether society should allow a racist to take an oath of office on Mein Kampf.

Nowhere did Prager equate the Koran to Mein Kampf. Yet leftist bloggeers condemned Prager for doing so and criticized him for being racist (when Prager himself said that race wasn't the issue).

Mark Shea is no different that those leftist bloggers. He will deliberately distort facts to promote his own position and cover himself. He will engage in vicious personal attacks to deflect attention from his logical shortcomings.

If Shea lived in Germany during the 1930s, he would have joined Goebbels' Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. If Shea lived in the USSR during the same period, he would be writing endless paens to Stalin and engaging himself in airbrushing "political non-persons" out of photographs.

John Calvin is a better Catholic than Mark Shea.

Shea is a liar to the core, pure and simple. The fact that his fellow apologists don't reckon this (or refuse to) certainly bespeaks ill of the state of Catholic apologetics.

Christopher Fotos said...

What is it with some guy named Mark Shea? In his latest post:

It was what happened next that really amazed me though. Fr. Harrison responded to my article, not by addressing what I believe is the bleedin' obvious issue of two respected opinion makers urging us to "enter into evil" and "do what we know to be morally wrong" by embracing murder and torture, but by quibbling over whether the teaching of Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, Gaudium et Spes and the Catechism were really all that prohibitive of torture since they were so recent. He followed this up with a careful and wire drawn study which worked very hard to find a way to say that in some remote and hypothetical circumstance, torture could still be licit.

There is something truly disappointing about a Catholic apologist who cannot bring himself to characterize a serious and charitably drawn oppositional view with something in kind.

Quibbling? Fr. Harrison quibbled?

Fr. Harrison did not address what you believe to be bleedin' obvious because he doesn't think the foundation of your position is bleedin' obvious. He explained why based on Church history, Church practice, and authoritative Church statements. We all could have benefited from a Jimmy Akins-style refutation of that view instead of Mark's snarkfest. Has Mark even now not only read but also engaged with Harrison's condensed scholarship? Does Mark know that in Harrison's account, when the Church receded from plain condemnation of torture, Harrison expressed his dismay? Or would that be a sly tactic?

Fr. Harrison, in his second article alone, cites and quotes in context Tertullian, Emperor Constantine, St. Augustine, The Theodosian Code, The Digest of Justinian I, St. Thomas Aquinas, Early Catholic abolitionists, Cardinal Juan De Lugo , St. Alphonsus Liguori, Fr. (later Cardinal) Pietro Palazzini, the 2005 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope St. Nicholas I, Councils of Reims (1049) and Toulouse (1056), Pope Alexander II, Pope Innocent IV, the Ecumenical Council of Vienne, Pope Leo X, Pope Pius VII, Code of Canon Law, 1917, Gaudium et Spes, Pope John Paul II in an Address to the International Red Cross, the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, and Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente--all of that to prepare the ground for his theological evaluation. And not a little of that material "argues against interest" for those inclined to show the Church doesn't ban everything the layman would describe as torture.

Mark calls all of this not a careful examination of the depth and breadth of Catholic history, but a careful and wire drawn study which worked very hard to find a way to say that in some remote and hypothetical circumstance, torture could still be licit.

This is how a Catholic apologist greets a serious study by a Catholic theologian in good standing at a Pontifical university?

When a theologian not known to be a renegade writes, as conveyed at Tom McKenna's blog, that it appears the authentic (and much less the infallible) magisterium, correctly understood, does NOT clearly condemn as intrinsically evil the direct (intentional) infliction of severe bodily pain, does it not obviously merit a more serious and respectful response?

Mark needs to be civil and to deal honestly with people other than Jimmy Akin, Even if Jimmy doesn't think so.

Anonymous said...

Mr. D'Hippolito,

Your defense of Dennis Prager's comments regarding the Koran and Mein Kampf would have more force if you didn't go on to say that "[i]f Shea lived in Germany during the 1930s, he would have joined Goebbels' Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda." I mean, really.


P.S. Torq, if you're out there, I'd like to email you about something but can't find an email address. If you could send it to me I'd really appreciate it. My address is josiahneeley at yahoo.

Christopher Fotos said...

Joe, comparing Mark to anyone who would join a Nazi or Stalinist outfit is nonsense, and really doesn't help prove whatever point you're trying to make. Mark does use some of the tactics you describe, shamefully so, but let me suggest confining any indictment to the reality-based community. If you'll pardon the expression.

On a separate topic, does anyone know what "wire drawn" means? Mark has used it at least twice now. I assume it's something nice people don't do, but I've never heard this expression before.

Anonymous said...


Josiah and Christopher, I stand by my comments concerning Shea, Nazism and Communism.

My point isn't to call Shea a Nazi or a Communist; he certainly isn't either. My point is to show just how much of a fanatical ideologue he is; I don't think there's any dispute about that.

My point is to show that, if he lived in a different context in different times, Shea would be no different than some of the apologists for some of the worst secular doctrines known to humanity. He is so infatuated with his own opinions that not only can he not see beyone them; he confuses them with Ultimate Truth.

Let me put it another way: If Shea lived in Orwell's Oceania, he would have been more than willing to call you both, Victor Morton, Fr. Harrison, Cdl. Dulles or any one else who disagrees with him "double-plus ungood." He probably would be instrumental in designing something akin to the "Two Minutes of Rage" concerning Emmanuel Goldstein -- with any of the above parties sitting in for Mr. Goldstein.

He has already done so regarding various issues, not just torture, concerning those whom he considers "double-plus ungood."

Piraeus said...

Mr. D'Hippolito,

Truly contemptible. Your ability to go beyond the pale continues to amaze. It seems to me that CFF has made a point to that *unlike* Shea they will not speculate on the relation of their opponents' souls to the Catholic Church. Yet you have determined that one of history's most notorious opponents of Catholic doctrine and one of the most destructive forces to Christian unity is a better Catholic than Shea.

And given that Shea shows a constant affinity for contrariness (and I don't mean that as a compliment) I see absolutely no basis to place him in the German and Soviet camps to which you've assigned him in you hypothetical historical speculation.

Someone has said that if Shea wishes to advance his anti-torture views that at this point the most prudent thing he could do is remain silent. I would say that if you wish to discredit Shea, you may also wish to stop typing.

Anonymous said...

Mr. D'Hippolito,

Saying that Mark Shea would have been a Nazi if he'd lived in 1930s Germany is crazy on a number of different levels. First of all, whatever the problems with his approach, Mark doesn't say the things he does in order to ingratiate himself with the ruling party or political ideology. If he did, he would be praising the Bush administration for doing what must be done to defeat the Islamofacists instead of condemning it for same.

Second, comparing people who disagree with you to Nazis is so extreme and stupid that it's a sure fire way to get you not taken seriously.

Saying "if Shea had lived 100 years ago he'd be saying that Catholics had to oppose 'progress, liberalism, and modern civilization' because of the syllabus of errors" would have made your point nicely without making you look unhinged.


Piraeus said...

Mark doesn't say the things he does in order to ingratiate himself with the ruling party or political ideology.

Thanks you Josiah. This gets across better what I was trying to say regarding Shea being a contrarian.

torquemada05 said...

A couple quick points. While it is Victor's site, I want the stuff about Shea being the kind of person who would join the communists or the Nazis to stop ASAP. I think that Godwin's Law still serves a useful purposes by limiting rhetorical excesses (this is one of my problems with Mark) and unless somebody wants to break out a TARDIS to add something substantive it's not a discussion I want to have here.

Concerning Josiah's point about the Abu Ghraib photos, based on what's in the government report there was a fair degree of what I think any fair-minded person would consider torture there. Nor does it appear to have been done for interrogation purposes or under any kind of "exceptional circumstances" rule. The latter point was clear to me as soon as the stories broke because most real torturers go to great lengths not to have records of their work, lest evidence surface that might incrimidate them at some future date. What I saw Mark doing was conflating US-sanctioned interrogation techniques for individuals being held at CIA detention facilities with what took place at Abu Ghraib, which is a category mistake absent a conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...


Very well, then, let me put it this way: If Shea were a Nazi living in Germany during the '30s or if Shea were a Communist living in the USSR during the '30s, then he would have joined those respective parties and been an enthusiastic propagandist for those respective ideologies.

Josiah's point about Shea likely opposing any sort of progress 100 years ago because of the Syllabus of Errors is well taken.

But you are all missing the point. The point isn't whether Shea is a Catholic or an advocate of a secular ideology (or would have been either in another time and place). The point is that Shea is a selfish, infantile ideologue who exhibits all the traits of a totalitarian utopian; why else does he ban people who disagree with him intensely yet with respect? (Whether that utopia is religious or secular is irrelevant.)

Yet you have determined that one of history's most notorious opponents of Catholic doctrine and one of the most destructive forces to Christian unity is a better Catholic than Shea.

Mr. Adams, have you ever heard of ironic sarcasm? I hold no brief for Calvin; indeed, I believe him to be roasting as we speak, as it were.

Anonymous said...


And now for something somewhat different...

You know, gentlemen, we can do only so much by complaining about Shea. We need to do more.

I propose encouraging other Catholics to boycott all things Shea, especially his writings and speaking engagements. Discourage Catholic groups and parishes from inviting him to speak until he cleans up his act.

For that matter, if apologists such as Akin and Keating refuse to hold Shea effectively accountable for his behavior, then Catholics should boycott them until they call Shea to account.

Catholic apologetics is not a lucrative venture. Let's hit these morons where it hurts the most: in their pocketbooks.

Besides, if the faith has to rely on the Sheas of the world to promulgate the Gospel, then Catholicism truly is bankrupt.

Greg said...

As one who doesn't always like the tone employed by Mr. D'Hipplolito in his criticisms, I agree 100% with what he says about the need to boycott Shea, encourage parish and other Catholic groups to boycott him, and pressure Keating, Akin, and the rest of the Catholic Apologetics establishment to hold Shea accountable. Shea is, after all, part of the Catholi Answers Speakers Bureau.

Piraeus said...

Mr. Adams, have you ever heard of ironic sarcasm? I hold no brief for Calvin; indeed, I believe him to be roasting as we speak, as it were.

Well it's good to know you to don't seek Calvin's intercession but you proved my exact point. You apparently believe Shea to be a worse Catholic than someone you presume to be in hell. Now if you are being sarcastic then that would mean that you think Shea to be rather impressive Catholic -- and I don't think that is what you meant. So perhaps you meant it as hyperbole in which case I would advise you to look at the example of another person who quite frequently makes hyperbolic pronouncements and ask yourself how successful that technique is for him.

One of the biggest gripes against Shea during this whole debate is when Shea determined that the Coalition authors were "alleged Catholics." Victor said at the time, "I will freely admit that I can be quite the asshole, but one thing I've never done is question someone else's religious bona fides -- whether via the term CINO, 'Cafeteria Catholic' or 'alleged.'" Victor then provided various means through which Shea (or anyone else) could confirm Victor's status in the Church. Perhaps you should pursue similar lines of inquiry before throwing Shea out of the Church.

Anonymous said...

anonymousIV sez...

I completely disagree with the Shea Boycott idea. I don't like it when Mark says that he hopes Joseph D'Hippolyto should be kicked off FrontPageMag, and I don't like it when Joseph says Mark should be kicked out of Catholic Answers. I say, keep people's livelihoods out of our insane little internal flame wars.

Steve Golay said...

I appologize to you, Good Lord, and all my bothers and sisters for all the wasted hours spent reading Mark Shea.

Steve Golay said...

I appologize to you, Good Lord, and all my bothers and sisters for all the wasted hours spent reading Mark Shea.

Tom Connelly said...

Does that seem snarky?

Yes, Anonymous, not to mention beneath contempt.

By the way, if you have read Mark's blog, you will know that he freely acknowledges his own sinfulness.

torquemada05 said...

Let me step back into ringmaster mode once again and say that contrary to whatever Mark may believe, I have no intention of resorting to the same crude rhetorical tactics that he has used against us. I'm no fan of Mark, but cracks about his weight and the like are nothing but cheap shots and need to stop - period.

As far as organizing a boycott or what not, if you guys want to do that then go right ahead. My primary concern has always been his rhetoric towards those who disagree with him on this and other issues than it is anything else. While I agree that an intervention is badly needed by the other apologists part regarding his invective, I have no desire to prevent him from speaking to others via Catholic Answers and the like. As long as he continues to do so though, I think we are Biblically bound towards correcting his behavior the way that St. Paul did for Peter as described in Galatians and are honor-bound to hold him accountable when he behaves like he has on this issue.

Victor said...

Yeah, Torq.

I went ahead and deleted the 9:27 PM, December 03, 2006, comment by Anonymous, to which Tom and Torq are (now kinda mysteriously) responding.

Partially the uncalled-for (and pretty unfunny) weight comments, and partially the poster's anonymity. I won't categorically eliminate an entire note for a schoolyard ad-hominem, but anonymous poster have fewer rights.

Victor said...

As for boycotting Shea ... well, I can hardly do that since I don't do too much business of that sort (I've only bought one book by Amy, say, and not from her directly) and I have never given to Shea's pledge drives. I would never do either now, of course.

I actually remember when I first thought that Shea went beyond intellectual-moral shortcomings and into pure moral assholishness. That was when he exhorted his readers to complain to Front Page Mag about Joe. I was so pissed that I wrote a letter to David Horowitz and Jamie Glazov, and cc'd it to Joe. As then, and like Torq, I want Shea to mind his manners, not lose his livelihood.

And also, as Mark Adams pointed out, I don't see what good can come from questioning someone's religious bona fides, certainly at the distance the blogosphere permits.

Pauli said...

I have to second what Torq just wrote. Mark Shea frequently goes alabandical on issues such as so-called torture, but to compare him to a Nazi and engage in name-calling are good ways to take yourself out of the ring altogether as a serious contender.

Also I don't think that calling for a boycott gains a whole lot of ground for anyone's cause compared to the reasoned debating which goes on here. I loved reading Mark's book By What Authority? when it came out. I still highly recommend it. Mark is just way off on his political rants, IMO. He insanely accused me of a "love of salacious nastiness" for my contributions to a parody blog, but I maintain that Mark is an alright guy and a good Catholic who just needs to calm down.

I wish Mark great success in life. We all need to work on mastering Einstein's 3 components for success, especially the third.

frank sales said...

Mark's been deleting my posts to Richard Comerford, the old soldier. Comerford keeps drawing people into arguments on torture and then when he can't respond substantively he pulls his ripcord and says something like "I'm just a dummy (or idiot, or little brain) but I know that the Church does not want me to apply pliers to testicles and show up on judgement day with my arms red with the blood of my victims". No one bothers to engage him in sustained debate for long because of these copouts. For some reason though, Mark keeps quoting him as some kind of sage.

I'm also bemused by Comerford's resume: special forces in Vietnam, covert ops in Nicaragua, training CIA operative and army regulars, policeman and/or police consultant, prison special response team -- the list seems neverending.

Phillip said...


Comerford does have and impressive (and apparently expanding) list of military accomplishments. Some include his claiming to going into harm's way soon to hunt the bad guys.

Of course this never happened and he continues to happily blog from where ever he is.

Phillip said...

Cut the haloscan link but you can search for it on Mark's blog.

frank sales said...

Thanks Phillip. I guess Bush rejected his application when he found out that Comerford wasn't prepared to gouge out the eyeballs of civilians.

Phillip said...


Please remember, Comerford's preferred torture technique is not gouging out eyes but rather applying pliers to testicles. :)

Phillip said...


But in a more serious tone, here are the coversations that have occurred between Mr. Comerford and the subject of his going "in harm's way." The first quote is the original from Mark's blog and the rest by conversation with him on Christopher Blosser's.

"I object to the atomic bombs being dropped; and I am, so to speak, joining the first wave. I recently took a physical to return to active duty. I have already spent 30-years in uniform. I was found fit for duty. I am an old Special Forces soldier. I have volunteeered fro a combat assigment. I expect, if they take me, to go somewhere where I will be shot at. I will have no problem x-ing out bad guys if given the opportunity. However I will not support any immoral means to wage wr that may save my life.

It was a serious sin, a great evil to drop atomic bombs on Japanese cities. There was never an excuse for it.

Wish me luck hunting bad guys.

God bless

Richard W. Comerford"


By the way, whatever happened to your being recalled and sent into harm's way? Phillip"


Thank you for your question.

You posted in part:

“By the way, whatever happened to your being recalled and sent into harm's way?”

The Department of the Army Inspector General and the VA has informed me that allegedly I was never discharged in the first place. How this happened and how it could happen no one has explained to me. The Secretary of the Army has promised my Member of Congress an answer as to my current military duty status. Yesterday I wrote to my Member of Congress and requested that he ask the U.S. Army to either send me orders to go to Iraq or to properly discharge me.

Another reason we are losing the war is bureaucratic screw ups like this one.

Thank you for your concern."

Then this:

"If you are bored my inglorious career both as a soldier and a cop is online in Comerford v. U.S. Department of Defense et al; C. A. No. 99 - 11712-WGY. The facts are sworn under the penalty of perjury I am told that it is the most voluminous case on file in the Court. I am the plaintiff therein." R. Comerford

Note the change in his "volunteering" for active duty after 30 years to never having been properly discharged from the military and going to court over it.

frank sales said...

Comerford appears to have time, energy, and is a little bit off kilter ("wish me luck hunting the bad guys"?). I'll bet significant government resources are spent dealing with him. Mark's devotion to him is telling.

Phillip said...

Yeah. I've thought there's been a skunk in that woods for a while, but haven't been able to definitively prove it.

Piraeus said...

Here is what I could find on the case that Richard cites. Note this line in the court’s opinion which sounds remarkably like a discussion on St. Blogs: “repetitive motions [on the part of Richard] do not raise for review the merits of the underlying judgment” – Mark


(The Court's decision is referenced in a "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions" appearing in the Federal Reporter. . . . )

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
Richard COMERFORD, Plaintiff, Appellant,
U.S. DEPT. OF ARMY, Defendant, Appellee.
Army National Guard of Massachusetts, Defendant.
No. 99-1741.
Sept. 29, 2000.


After carefully considering the briefs and record on appeal, we affirm the decision of the district court.

To the extent that the appellant's arguments are addressed to the underlying judgment, they are unavailing because he did not effect a timely appeal from that judgment. Although his appeal from the last three post-judgment motions is timely, those repetitive motions do not raise for review the merits of the underlying judgment. [cite] Moreover, the appellant failed to provide developed argumentation or authority establishing that the appeal is timely with respect to the substantive issues raised in those post-judgment motions. [cite] Finally, to the extent that the appellant's arguments are addressed to the merits of the district court's rulings on the post-judgment motions, he has not demonstrated abuse of discretion.

We deny the appellant's motion to compel.

Phillip said...

It looks like our Comerford spent most of his time in the Mass. National Guard. A lot of it with physical complaints. Case was tossed out because he never submitted to a physical to determine his claims. Was represented by the Mass. Civil Liberties Union.

The man's a fake.

Victor said...


Could you post a link? That's a serious charge you've made, and I think it's incumbent on you to present the evidence.

Phillip said...

I could fax or email you the records I pulled of his court case from the public record. Turns out part of his court case had him accusing the Mass. National Guard of allowing organized crime figures to use Army equipment, to recruit mercenaries on base and to smuggle drugs from Colombia and diamonds from Sierra Leone. I have several of the court documents as PDF files.

Piraeus said...


In the records you have is there anything that indicates his name is actually John Richard Comerford and not just Richard Comerford?

Phillip said...

I have the plantiff as Richard W. Comerford

Piraeus said...

Very good. Thank you Phillip. My Westlaw search brought up a weird case with John Richard Comerford and I wanted to make sure it wasn't one in the same.

Phillip said...

I used PACER to find the case. Spent a small amount of $'s but think it was worth it.

Phillip said...

Will be out the rest of the evening. If you all wish to talk more I will be available tomorrow.

frank sales said...

Mass. National Guard sounds about right. He knows just enough about the military to b.s. about his service. But the way he talked never rang true. His special forces/covert ops/ police/ prison special response team resume was like something out of a bad action movie.

I wouldn't be surprised if he is one of those people the courts call vexatious litigants, acting for themselves in righting all the imaginary wrongs done to them. A little bit nuts and costing people all kinds of time and money to deal with. Philip, was he self-represented?

frank sales said...

Sorry, just saw your post on Richard being represented by MCLU. Figures.

Victor said...


If you have the documents in electronic form (PDF is good enough), I'd appreciate it if you sent them to my email address, which is vjmorton2001 [at] yahoo [dot] com

If you don't, that's fine. Your description of your research rings true and is specific enough for anyone determined enough to check against.

frank sales said...

There's a version of a complaint posted on a lawyer's website: It contains Comerford's allegations and does suggest that he was a major in charge of a reconnaissance commando unit. But if you are familiar with pleadings and read this thing it looks pretty nutty.(one of the allegations is that the Guard was telling people he was a nut). I'd love to read the decision he appealed from and which presumably dismissed his complaint. Anyway, I don't want to malign the guy, maybe a shell went off to close to his head in Nam; just interesting that this is the dude who provides so many of Mark's quotable quotes.

Tom Connelly said...

This "investigation" of some guy who comments on a blog site is really ugly.

Why don't you just drop it?

Phillip said...


That would generally be true. One would not wish to commit slander or calumny.

In this case however, one is quite publicly making claims and knowingly referencing public records in support of his claims. These claims include aspects of military service which, if false, are a dishonor to those who have truly served.

If these claims are also being used by apologists to support a Catholic position, they must also be questioned if untrue.

I have sent to Victor what I have found in the public record as referenced by Mr. Comerford. I would contend that they do not support his varied claims.

Victor said...


If Comerford had only ever written what has been written on this subject by Zippy (i.e., ideas I disagree with, stated by someone I totally despise), then I'd agree with you. It'd be no more relevant than whether Zippy keeps up with his child support or whatever other (fictional to my knowledge) character flaws I could make up sitting here right now for illustration's sake.

But ... Comerford has (1) argued from personal authority; (2) posed as a personal authority; and (3) been taken and cited by others (without discouragement but with full knowledge) as a personal authority.

Under those circumstances, whether that authority is being presented truly and accurately is relevant.

frank sales said...


Can you send me the PDF documents at chettmorton[at]yahoo[dot]ca?