Some Of My Favorite Things

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shooting Shea's Own

Mark Shea recently expressed frustration about the Catholic outcry over Christopher West's appearance on ABC's Nightline. In that 7-minute video, Chris said some amazingly silly things.

But Mark, relying on imprimaturs and his own sense of things, responded by saying, "Why do we Catholics so often bayonet our own troops?"

In fact, Mark did exactly this to me ago during the Da Vinci Code flap a few years ago. In the course of those discussions, I pointed out that Carl Olsen and Sandra Miesel, both friends of Mark, were in error regarding their labelling of DVC as Gnostic. Subsequently, Mark not only wielded that "but we're on the side of the angels!" line like a sword, at least one Catholic magazine editor deliberately set me up so that Carl Olsen could beat me up in the pages of a Catholic magazine.

But, I'm not interested in re-hashing that old fight. What I am interested in is this idea of "shooting (or bayonetting) our own."

Consider: I am sure Mark Shea has said vitriolic things about Nancy Pelosi, Sam Brownback, Joe Biden, et. al. over the last few months.

Now, those people are all baptized Catholics. Why would Mark denigrate them? Why would he engage in "shooting our own"?

"Ah,"he may argue, "But they are NOT our own - they are flouting the teachings of the Church!" I agree. But a lot of people felt the same way about Christopher West. A lot of people feel that way about people Mark happens to like.

So, what's the difference between whaling on Nancy Pelosi and whaling on Sandra Miesel or Christopher West? They're all baptized Catholics!

When Mark rolled out his line on me, wasn't he shooting ME by using the line?

What was the difference between me and Sandra Miesel except Mark happened to like the latter's position (and the latter) more than the former's position?

This "bayonetting our own" line is just a variant of the old pro-abortion argument, "No one has a right to impose their morality on others." Well, what if my morality says I DO have that right? By telling me what to do, aren't you assuming that YOU have the right to force this arbitrary standard on me? If you REALLY felt that way, you would have to remain silent, recognizing that I may not share your sentiments.

So, if the argument is so stupid from a logical standpoint, why would anyone say it? Well, it serves three purposes:
  • First, I get a chance to take the moral high ground - when I use the argument, I can pretend that I am serving a higher standard than grubby little you.
  • Second, because you have just been "shamed" you will probably shut up. After all, how are you going to fight against these "higher morals" I have just revealed?
  • Third, if I use that argument, I don't have to answer any of YOUR grubby little charges. I've attacked YOU, not your position.
It's pure ad hominem attack, and it's sleazy.

This "shooting our own" gambit accomplishes precisely the same objectives. Mark is really just demonizing his opponent as someone who doesn't understand the Faith, while he places himself in the moral high ground of someone who understands every aspect, and is capable of judging behaviour. Best of all, he doesn't have to address any of the arguments brought forward. Indeed, as he himself points out, he doesn't even have to read the book or hear the talk that's being attacked. He generally rolls this argument out when
  • he doesn't have a counter-argument and
  • the person he intends to demonize is attacking someone he likes, as opposed to someone he doesn't.
Now, does Mark Shea like Chris West?
Not necessarily, but he DOES like West's publisher.

In this case, Chris West is being published by Matt Pinto. Matt Pinto and Mark Shea go WAY back. In fact, Matt Pinto's Ascension Press, Tom Allen's Catholic Exchange (where Mark Shea is chief editor) and Alan Napleton's Catholic Marketing Network are all joined at the hip, from a business perspective. That is, they've done a fair bit of business together. Quite a lot, actually.

So, was Mark's defense of West a business decision? It doesn't have to be. People work together because they like each other and hold similar views. It could be Mark just wanted to cover Matt's back.

So, what Mark Shea really means here is, "I have some sympathy with the person being attacked or his position. I don't like the fact that you are engaging in a proxy attack on me by attacking my friend, who holds the same position." When seen in this light, the phrase "shooting our own" becomes La Cosa Nostra, to which those who Do Not Think Rightly are excluded.

The key question: who constitutes "our own"?

Different people are going to have different judgements about where, prudentially, the line should be drawn in various debates. I'm not saying there isn't an absolute standard. I'm just saying that a lot of us engage in self-serving spin, myself included.

So, the next time Mark Shea or any of his minions roll out that line about "let's not start shooting our own," ask them who they include in that "our own" category. And if you are included, ask them why they are attacking you by saying YOUR position is wrong.

If you aren't part of the group, why are they shooting you?

Because they don't like you as much as they like the other guy.

And they aren't honest enough to say it out loud.

45 comments:

Recovering Feminist said...

Wasn't Shea a critic of the critics of Harry Potter http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=844? Fr. Euteneuer, an exorcist, warns us about the potential spiritual dangers of Harry Potter and Twilight http://www.thebulletin.us/articles/2009/02/03/news/local_state/doc4988101b9f018743172734.txt. Fr. Euteneuer has appeared on EWTN's World Over citing the dangers of the occult, no matter how it's presented. We can't judge a person's soul, thank God, but we can judge their actions and character.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

St. Paul publicly rebuked St. Peter for his hypocrisy. When a Catholic is engaged in a public scandal he needs to be called to account publicly to reduce the impact of the scandal. I suspect there a people who have sat through West's programs and had reservations who may have feared their feelings were the "prudishness" he criticizes. It is important to validate that their feelings are the healthy reaction of modesty and prudence.

http://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com

Dymphna said...

Thank you.

Mark P. Shea said...

Steve:

This is now the second time you have inexplicably lashed out at me. I'm genuinely baffled as to why. My memory's not so hot, so I did a search of my blog for the times I've ever mentioned you. Here they are. I can't seen anything there that remotely looks like what you claim I said. In fact, it's all basically complementary. It would be nice, if you had a grievance for you to write me rather than just haul me out for the crows to peck at.

There may be something I'm missing (since I do, in fact, now that you mention it, think that Olson and Miesel are accurate in thinking DVC gnostic). But I have no idea what you are talking about in imagining that I somehow sent some witchhunt after you. I may have disagree with you (I can't recall). But that's about it.

Oh, and you're welcome for writing the blurb for that book your company is publishing. Thanks for reminding me once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Mark P. Shea said...

By the way, I linked to, IIRC, two different critiques of West (Jimmy Akin's being the most thorough), on my blog (I just got back from vacation and my memory's groggy).

By "bayonetting our own" I mean things like declaring West a "pervert" and suggesting that his intention is to undermine the faith. If you can find someplace I have ever come remotely close to that in your case, you'd have a point. As it is, I simply disagreed with your take on DVC's gnosticism. I attributed no ill will to you (though you have--twice now--done so to me).

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, Mark, Dr. David Schindler (Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family) says West "in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex"

If you can explain how that doesn't translate to "pervert", I'm all ears.

As for the Da Vinci Code conversation we had several years back, it does seem to have disappeared from your blog. I have no idea where it went or why it got deleted, as I don't maintain your blog. But, while you may not remember the remarks, I quite clearly remember your defense of Miesel and your phrasing while you did it. Let's just say you weren't being "pastoral."

And as for me hanging you out to the crows, do you extend that courtesy to people you shoot in your comments section on your blog? I don't believe you do.

In fact, I believe you say something along the lines of, "This is my blog, and if you don't like it, get out." I don't know if you've done it recently, as I haven't read your blog in years, but that certainly used to be a habit.

So, what's the difference between shooting someone in the comments and shooting someone in the article? Either way, the crows peck at their bones. And don't give me bull about how they came in. You're a much bigger name than the people who comment on your blog, and you've got a fan base sitting there read to back you up. You bully people who come onto your blog and disagree with you, plain and simple.

As for what you do or don't write, what on earth does that have to do with whether or not the phrase you so commonly use is appropriate?

You're a great guy in many respects, Mark, but you and I have already had private conversations about our respective warts back during the Da Vinci Code racket. Both of us are sinners, and this is one more public display.

So, to get back on topic, if you can demonstrate why the phrase "shooting your own" or "bayonetting your own" is NOT essentially dismissive, I am, again, all ears.

You bring up a lot of topics, but none of them address the crux of the article: the phrase you use and the way you use it is sleazy.

Mark P. Shea said...

Steve:

Ah! I found it!And I don't unsay a word of it. There was no call for you to treat faithful brothers and sisters like enemies, just as there is no call to treat West like an enemy. But treat people like enemies you do--even when they attempt to help you by endorsing books you publish.

So, as the Lord commands us when people treat us like enemies: God bless you, Steve.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Hey, Mark, what happened to "It would be nice, if you had a grievance for you to write me rather than just haul me out for the crows to peck at."???

I don't remember getting an e-mail from you prior to that DVC post. In fact, the only thing I ever got from you on that was an e-mail sent at the goading of one of YOUR regular readers, which consisted entirely of two words: "I'm sorry."

At the time, given the level of rhetoric you employed, I had doubts about the sincerity of that missive.

And now I see it is back to, "And I don't unsay a word of it"!!!

God love ya', Mark, how do you square these things?

Besides, Mark, you haven't addressed - and you still refuse to address - the problem of La Cosa Nostra. Just because someone is a faithful Catholic, or WANTS to be a faithful Catholic, DOES NOT mean that what they say is correct.

What possible difference can it make to say that Miesel or Olsen wanted to be faithful Catholics if what they wrote was wrong? Heck, I'm sure Joe Biden wants to be a faithful Catholic on some level. So what?

You seem to deal entirely in ad hominem. What matters to you is, are the people being represented as wrong, are these people your friends?

If they are, they get a pass. If you don't know one person as well as you do another, then the one who gainsays your closer friend is "attacking a faithful Catholic."

At no point during this discussion have you addressed the content of my point, which is this: the "shooting our own" line is a sleazy way to avoid engaging in a discussion of the facts.

Instead, you trot out the fact that you have recently written an endorsement for a book my company is publishing, as if your recognition of the quality of the book is somehow a FAVOR to me.

Mark, here's a news flash: people are supposed to endorse books because the books are good. Period.

If you didn't think the book was good, you shouldn't have written the endorsement. If you DID think it was good, what difference does it make who is publishing it? I didn't ask you for the endorsement, the author did that on his own. He trusted your judgement. Was he a fool to do so?

And what does ANYTHING about your endorsement (or lack thereof) have to do with the discussion of how you have habitually used a sleazy argument in defense of your friends?

Why don't you talk about the charge *I* am making TODAY? Why do you keep changing the subject?

Brendan said...

This really hits home for me. You have illustrated well the logical fallacy. There are several errors we must reject.

1. Every argument in favor of the truth should never be criticized, lest it detract from the defense of the truth.
No, the pursuit of truth means we want to get it right, which means accepting criticism. That intellectual honesty gives credibility. and making (and sticking to) faulty arguments can in fact be more damaging.

2. It is unkind to tell someone he is wrong.
No, if it is in charity it means one wants to see the person know the truth. Otherwise, one should not even correct the "opposing" side, if it is for the sake of "attacking" people.

3. Correction should never ever bruise another's sentiments.
Virtually impossible to do, and the idea is not supported by how our Savior corrected people in the Gospels, nor how the Saints have engaged in it. These sentiments pertain to pride. Distinguish between belligerent disrespect and bold clarity.

4. Every correction is invalidated by the comission of any error by the person correcting.
Follow this to its conclusion, and you find every correction invalidated. Follow the contrary to its conclusion, and you find that this exercise of charity benefits everyone.

Mark P. Shea said...

Steve:

I did endorse the book because it's good. My apologies for taking the time to do so.

I haven't changed the subject. You chose, yet again, to launch into a vituperative attack on brother and sister Catholics and I criticized you for doing so four years ago. Now, years later, you play the victim when, in fact, you were the aggressor. I don't know why you do this.

By the way, since you choose to lie about Schindler's critique of West, it's only fair that your readers realize that he specifically disavows precisely the tactics you are using. Of West, Schindler says, "Let me stress that I agree with those who vigorously defend West’s intention of fidelity to the Church." You, meanwhile, label West a pervert, twist Schindler's word to back you up, and whine about being victim.

Sad.

If you could find some way to engage disagreements with good-hearted brethren without all the nastiness, you'd be doing everybody, especially yourself, a favor.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Mark,

Read Schindler's letter again. Note Schindler's closing remarks:

"West presents a problem for the Church, not because he lacks orthodox intentions, but because his unquestionably orthodox intentions render his theology, a priori, all the more credible... It is scarcely the first time in the history of the Church that abundant good will did not suffice to make one's theology and vision of reality altogether true."

Now, deal with the reality.

What a person WANTS to do is NOT relevant to what a person SAYS.

It doesn't matter if Chris West or Sandra Miesel or Carl Olsen or Steve Kellmeyer or Mark Shea WANT to be faithful. The question is: Is What They Said Faithful?

You have repeatedly said we should not "shoot our own." Please explain how this phrase is NOT:
1) an ad hominem attack
2) that allows the one using it to avoid engaging the facts of the argument by
3) pretending to take a higher moral stand?

This is NOT a question about intentions. This is a question about orthodoxy of presentation.

Chris West is NOT orthodox.
That's Schindler's point - West intends to be orthodox, but he doesn't have the intellectual or verbal skills to accomplish his intention.

Engage the facts of the argument, Mark. Explain how your statements can be squared with valid logical argument in general (in re the "shooting our own" comments) and Schindler's own discussion of West's shortcomings in particular.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, and Mark, have you apologized to Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and other "brother and sister Catholics" for your attacks on them?

Or do you think everything they do is sweetness and light, and we Catholics shouldn't go around publicly "shooting our own"?

Horns of the dilemma, Mark.
Which horn do you want?

Mark P. Shea said...

Steve:

As I have repeatedly pointed out, I posted links to critiques of West, which engaged (as Schindler does and you do not) the substance of what West says without labeling him a pervert or suggesting that his intentions are wicked and wilfully at odds with the Church. It was that, and that only, I objected to in the witchhunt after West, just as it was that, and that only, that I objected to in your snotty attack on Olson and Meisel. If you dislike being called out on your snottiness toward innocent people, you might try refraining from it.

Obviously, in the case of people like Pelosi or Biden, I *do* think they are acting out of wicked intent and with a will to defy the Church's teaching. So I see no big dilemma.

Steve, the problem is basically this: had it been you and not Aquila and Priscilla, your approach would have been to tell Apollos to shove off with a terse, "What a person WANTS to do is NOT relevant to what a person SAYS." Apollos was bearing witness to Jesus when he knew only the baptism of John. Clearly, he's a pervert! And an enemy! You would have denounced Aquila and Priscilla for coddling somebody whose theology was only half-baked. All that matters is what he SAID. He taught about Jesus while only knowing the baptism of John. Off with his head. And off with theirs too for consorting with people whose theology is not absolutely perfect.

Sorry, Steve. But you are way out of line here. Not for the first time. The only time I've ever spoken against you has been when you have taken it upon yourself to ascribe infidelity or ill will to people who manifestly have every intention of being as faithful as they know how to Holy Church. I will continue to do that, should another one of your mini-Inquisitions happen to come to my attention. Sorry you don't like that.

I wish you well and hope the book I blurbed does well. But if you keep treating innocent people like enemies, don't be terribly surprised if people don't much cotton to it.

You can have the last word.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Mark,

Dr. David Schindler says West "in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex"

How does that NOT boil down to "pervert"? How does West's endorsement of anal intercourse not make him a pervert? Isn't that the very definition of sodomy?

Where did I ever say Olsen or Miesel were either perverts or "willfully at odds with the Church"? I would really be interested to know.

So, Pelosi and Biden can be nailed for their actions and teachings because YOU have judged their will and found it wanting, whereas West cannot have his teaching described in negative terms because YOU have judged his will and NOT found it wanting?

I see you can predict my interactions with historical figures. What other historical figures are within your powers of prediction? Further, since you know my mind so well, can you tell me how or why I would find Apollos incomplete baptism on par with calling Mary "flat-chested? Or perhaps you know I would connect it with saying (from Dr. Schindler's critique of West) "there's nothing inherently wrong with anal penetration as foreplay to normal intercourse."

I'm really interested in knowing this, as I was not previously aware I had made any of these connections, between baptism, Mary and anal intercourse, although you clearly have seen them in my head.

And Mark, am I to be SHUNNED for writing this post and these comments? Ostracized for critiquing you and Christ West? Outed for having named Matt Pinto and Alan Napleton as your co-workers (not that this is news, but...) If any of these things were to happen, how would I be able to tell? The least you can do is give me a hint.

But sadly, you are gone. How convenient that you bow out now, Mark, just when you noticed that you are unable to defend your own remarks or West's.

Jordanes said...

Not a very edifying or constructive exchange. Gives me almost as much nausea as Christopher West's endorsement of sodomy.

Thanks, by the way, for your contributions to the very needful criticisms of Chris West's distortions of the theology of the bdoy. West clearly should cease his attempts to teach people the Church's doctrines on human sexuality.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you should be ashamed of yourself. Would Jesus act like you do?

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

And would He act like you, Anonymous?...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Let's see... Jesus...

"You blind guides, who told YOU that you would escape the coming destruction!"

"You hypocrites, you make your disciples twice the sons of perdition that you are!"

"I came not to bring peace, but a sword, to set father against son and mother against daughter, three against two and two against three."

And the famous unrecorded remarks between two men in the Temple, "Hey, who's that guy with the whip?"

God is love.
God ain't "nice."

Brendan said...

It is sorrowfully unfortunate to see the mutual personal bad feeling, and there is a sense of disappointment as if we have missed an opportunity for a little constructive dialog. However I did take from this exchange a lesson. There is a certain element of cynicism in book publishing to take into account when discerning even Catholic writings.

If I may, Steven, I think the difference between Dr. Schindler's words and "pervert" is the latter carries a more powerful connotation, and with its broader meaning it could potentially be interpreted to accuse one of more than what is intended.

The "broader meaning" part makes it a reasonable position to object to that reduction, though I would not call it lying. The ugly connotation gives it the appearance of being mean, or "nasty" and "snotty."

To me it is the difference between a red sign with the word "STOP" and a white sign reading "There is fast-moving cross traffic at this intersection." The white sign is more pleasant, but it is far less likely, by itself, to evoke the necessary reaction.

When people take it personally, I think it proves your point.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Brendan, your points are spot on.

Catholic books are subject to
"log rolling" just like every other kind of books. Log rolling is when you write a positive review for a friend, or to heal an old wound, and not because the book is necessarily any good, or even that you've read it.

When I was at FUS, the joke was that you could tell who authored certain Catholic books simply by reading the back cover. Whoever wasn't on the back cover had to be the author. La Cosa nostra again.

Your point about "pervert" having broader connotations than might be desired is well-taken. But, given Schindler's phrasing (e.g., "pansexualist tendencies") and West's own words concerning the admissibility of what has long been called a perversion, it's hard not to boil it down for the sake of conciseness and clarity.

christina said...

Maybe Chris West had Fr. Heribert Jone's book _Moral Theology_ in mind when he wrote that. In Section 757, on "The Sins of Married People,” Fr. Jone wrote:

“Imperfect Sodomy, i.e., rectal intercourse, is a grave sin when the seminal fluid is wasted: Excluding the sodomitical intention it is neither sodomy nor a grave sin if intercourse is begun in a rectal manner with the intention of consummating it naturally or if some sodomitical action is posited without danger of pollution....”

It seems at least some moral theologians (Jone's book is pre-Vatican II with an Imprimatur) thought such an act is okay as "foreplay"... though the unsanitary nature of the act probably rules it out regardless.

dcs said...

Christina,

If you read the whole of Jone's passage on rectal intercourse you will see that he still classifies it as a sin - he says that it is not a "grave sin" if the seminal fluid is wasted, but he also says that the wife must oppose it, at least internally (she can remain "externally passive"), and cannot "consent to any concomitant pleasure." So Fr. Jone would seem to classify it as a venial sin if the seed is not wasted.

christina said...

Here's the whole passage:

"Imperfect Sodomy, i.i., rectal intercourse, is a grave sin when the seminal fluid is wasted."

"Excluding the sodomitical intention it is neither sodomy nor a grave sin if intercourse is begun in a rectal manner with the intention of consummating it naturally or if some sodomitical action is posited without danger of pollution. - Positive co-operation on the part of the wife in sodomitical commerce is never lawful, hence, she must at least offer internal resistance. However, she may remain externally passive, provided she has endeavored to prevent the sin. She thus applies the principle of double effect and permits the sin to avert the danger of a very grave evil which cannot otherwise be averted; it remains unlawful for her to give her consent to any concomitant pleasure."

First, he says it's not sodomy if the act is not completed, then he says the wife should not cooperate with "sodomitical commerce." The latter statement would then refer to an actual act of sodomia imperfecta (a completed act), not to an act that is not completed since Jone just said that the latter is "not sodomy".

Of course, its all still really gross. :-P

But I think this is what West meant when he wrote what he did. I disagree with a lot of how West presents TOB and think he must change his message in a lot of ways. But if what he wrote about sodomia imperfecta came from (or at least is supported by) an old Catholic moral theology text with an Imprimatur which is even reprinted by the very traditionalist TAN, shouldn't that be taken into account in criticizing him?

christina said...

Okay, I hope I don't get insulted for this one, but Steve, there are some problems with your post justifying angry words.

>Let's see... Jesus...
>"You blind guides, who told YOU that you would escape the coming destruction!"

That was St. John the Baptist, not Jesus. He was a prophet and OT prophets sometimes talked tough, but they were speaking as the Lord inspired them. Are your condemnations God-breathed like theirs?

>"You hypocrites, you make your disciples twice the sons of perdition that you are!"

Jesus knew men's hearts (John 2:24) so when He said stuff like that about someone it was 100% true. He would never call someone a "hypocrite" or "son of perdition" if he weren't one. Do you know all men's hearts well enough to be sure that your words are just as true as His? If not, then your harsh words may be a mere angry insult, and Jesus also said:

"I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matt. 5:22)

>"I came not to bring peace, but a sword, to set father against son and mother against daughter, three against two and two against three."

This is a statement of fact that faith in Christ may divide families. It's not a carte blanche for Christians to insult people. St. Paul wrote:

"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:29-32)

Please take this in the spirit in which it is written, a spirit of gentle correction. I bear no ill-will to you, if only you could hear my tone of voice rather than just reading words on a computer screen it would help. God bless.

christina said...

Okay, sorry, I confused the first statement with something similar St. John said. But even so, the answer to Jesus' second statement stands. We don't know men's hearts as He did, so we can't condemn them the way He did. So the God-Man's words and actions don't justify our own merely human words and actions. Our speech should be edifying... build people up rather than tearing people down.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Christina,

"Prophet" means "mouth of God." If a prophet said it, God said it.

I have heard the argument that "Christ knew hearts, therefore He could do these things, but we shouldn't." Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we only follow Him as far as we are able.

It says at least seven times, "Be ye holy as GOD is holy." We are supposed to imitate Christ in everything. Scripture doesn't say "imitate Him when you have perfect ability to do so," or "imitate Him only when He wasn't displaying divine knowledge."

Put another way, couldn't I argue that I don't need to have perfect chastity because only God did it perfectly and I'm not God? Or I don't need to have perfect love because I'm not God and I can't know/do love as well as He does?

It says imitate Him. There aren't any conditions put on that. It says BE Him. No conditions.

He, in His perfect Love, was not generally nice. In fact, given the evidence of Scripture, I don't see any real difference between how God acted in the Old Testament or the New Testament.

As for St. Paul, have you read the Letter to the Galatians? What he told the Corinthians? He was perfectly capable of saying things that seem insulting and decidedly "un-gentle." So, we have to read his words in the context of Scripture itself, and the language he uses in his letter to the Galatians is part of the example of Scripture.

Given all this, it must be the case that harsh language can be loving language. Indeed, there are lots of examples of Magisterial documents that are quite harsh in their language, some of them from the twentieth century (try Mit Brennende Sorge, for example).

There is certainly precedent for being harsh. Whether it is correct to be so in any particular situation is a prudential judgement, upon which good Christians can disagree.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

As for the possibility that Chris West read a morals manual from TAN, sure it's possible.

But, given the several personal interactions I've had with the man over the years, he's struck me as not being particularly well-read in anything but the Wednesday TOB audiences. Perhaps things are different now, but in years past, he seemed almost completely unacquainted with Aquinas, moral theology and Scripture. Indeed, given what I heard him say in one of his talks and my subsequent conversation with him, he seemed unacquainted with major apostolic exhortations from JP II.

Good News was his first major book. I don't think it was based on anything from TAN.

christina said...

You may be right, he may not have gotten it directly from Fr. Jone's text. But he could have gotten it from another moral theologian instead. Dr. Janet Smith recently wrote a defense of West in which she said:

"...few seem to know that there is a tradition of approval of such behavior as foreplay to intercourse (not to be confused with the biblical condemnation of sodomy which replaces intercourse) by orthodox Catholic ethicists. The principle generally invoked is that consensual actions that culminate in intercourse are morally permissible.

"People are free to challenge the "tradition" on this point, but it should be acknowledged that West is not a maverick concerning this issue. Indeed, his position is perhaps more "conservative" than that of the "tradition." In his book Good News About Sex and Marriage, West clearly discourages the practice. Perhaps it is time for ethicists to work on the question, but what Schindler failed to mention is that West’s position is precisely (or even stricter than) what priests have been trained to teach married couples for a very long time."

http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/news/janetsmithresponse.html

So he could have gotten it from elsewhere if he didn't read Fr. Jone's book. Dr. Smith is right, though, that it's time for ethicists and/or moral theologians to revisit and rethink this question.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Christina,

If you read Dr. Schindler's critique of West, you'll note that he indicates West does not take correction. From what I could tell in my interactions with him, he doesn't really read much besides JP II's TOB stuff. He doesn't (or at least didn't) even read JP II's "non-TOB" stuff.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say his "Good News" is him reading JP II, then writing down his thoughts on what he read and publishing it. That's it. No more research than that.

christina said...

>It says imitate Him. There aren't any conditions put on that. It says BE Him. No conditions.

Jesus is the Truth. We imitate Him by being truthful. If we cannot read people's hearts, how do we know that our scathing condemnations of them are truthful, are the kind of thing Jesus might say about them?

The Pharisees were very judgmental of St. Mary Magdalen because she was a sinner (Luke 7:39). But Jesus saw her repentant heart and was kind and forgiving. When we rail against someone, how can we be sure that we aren't imitating the Pharisees rather than Jesus? Maybe He wouldn't say to that person the things we say.

Isn't it better to correct people with a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1) rather than assuming the worst of them. Especially when we can't read their hearts?

Yes, St. Paul said some rough stuff in his Epistles, but again, those Epistles are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Are our condemnations of others also equally inspired by the Holy Spirit?

christina said...

>If I had to hazard a guess, I would say his "Good News" is him reading JP II, then writing down his thoughts on what he read and publishing it. That's it. No more research than that.

Yes, I remember listening to his "Naked Without Shame" tapes years ago and thinking, "Gee, he interjects an awful lot of his own reflections into this lecture!" Granted, he would begin by saying something like, "This is my own reflection, not the Pope's teaching..." but wouldn't it be better to just stick more closely with what the Pope wrote... and with previous Church documents like Casti Connubii. Pope John Paul II's TOB should not be taught in isolation, IMHO.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

That's why I said the decision about what language to use is a prudential judgement upon which good Catholics can disagree.

I knew a man, Rev. Johnny Hunter. He had a nephew who was a sodomite. Out of the whole family, Rev. Hunter was the only one who constantly told the nephew "What you are doing is a sin and God is going to smite you for it. You cannot continue in this life!" The nephew avoided him, the family laughed at him or told him he was embarrassing them.

Johnny Hunter didn't care. At every family gathering he told the nephew the same thing.

The nephew got AIDS and was dying. When his family came to see him on his deathbed, he told them to get the hell out of his hospital room. The only man he wanted to see was Johnny Hunter.

When Johnny Hunter came, the man said, "You were the only one who ever told me the truth. You are the only one I want with me when I die."

When the truth is harsh, the words have to match it or the words aren't true.

christina said...

Another thought occurs to me. You defend Christians using harsh condemnation by pointing to the example of Jesus and St. Paul. I've argued against them by pointing to passages that tell Christians how they are to behave toward others.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember any passage in the NT telling Christians to use harsh words against others in imitation of Christ's words to the Pharisees. There are many passages though, exhorting us to things like kindness and gentleness... two of the fruits of the Spirit there. (Gal 5:22-23)

There is a reason for this. Our Lord could say harsh things to some people because He is God Incarnate Who knows the hearts and minds of all men. St. John the Baptist could call the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" because he was a Prophet and the Lord was telling him what to say. St. Paul could write harsh things because the Spirit so moved him.

Most Christians, OTOH, are not so inspired by the Spirit, nor prophets, and none of us are God Incarnate! So we are exhorted instead to put away anger and clamor and to have a spirit of gentleness in dealing with each other.

christina said...

Great story about Johnny Hunter. There is nothing wrong with telling a sinner they are sinning and on the path to Hell. I'm not saying don't do that. But it is best done with gentleness rather than anger and rancor. Name-calling turns people off to our message more often and is not necessary in warning people about their sins.

And especially when dealing with fellow Christians, we should do as St. Paul says about being kind, tenderhearted and forgiving rather than trying to imitate his Spirit-inspired words to the Galatians when we are not similarly inspired by God.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Christina,

I would think the evidence of Scripture is just the reverse. Gentle words for people who are NOT Christians(Catholics), harsh words for those who are.

Jesus spoke harshly to fellow Jewish leaders. Paul spoke harshly to fellow Jews and to Peter, his superior.

Christians (Catholics) should be more ready to accept the truth (have already accepted Truth), and therefore more willing to deal with harsh truths. It's the Gentiles who live in the illusion of sin, who need to be enticed to the truth with soft words.

So, you seem to have it exactly backwards. In my own case, I tend to judge fellow Catholics a lot more harshly than non-Catholics. Catholics are, by their baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, responsible for knowing the Faith. I can't expect non-Catholics to know anything, so they aren't held to the same high standard.

christina said...

Well, I already pointed out that Our Lord's harsh words for the Pharisees were based on an omniscience which we don't share, not even concerning the motives of fellow Christians. So there's not much I can say about the last post without repeating myself.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yeah, and I've already pointed out that we can't plead lack of divinity in order to get around the Scriptural insistence to imitate Christ in every aspect of our lives, so I would be repeating myself as well.

Looks like we're at an impasse.

Jordanes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordanes said...

But I think this is what West meant when he wrote what he did. I disagree with a lot of how West presents TOB and think he must change his message in a lot of ways. But if what he wrote about sodomia imperfecta came from (or at least is supported by) an old Catholic moral theology text with an Imprimatur which is even reprinted by the very traditionalist TAN, shouldn't that be taken into account in criticizing him? ***

Whatever West meant to say, it's not at all what he said. He said there's nothing wrong with it, whereas it's always at least a venial sin.

The guy's got serious problems with his ideas. He should cease his TotB-distorting ministry immediately.

dcs said...

"The latter statement would then refer to an actual act of sodomia imperfecta (a completed act), not to an act that is not completed since Jone just said that the latter is "not sodomy"."

Fr. Jone uses "sodomitical commerce" to refer to any act of rectal intercourse. He might not call it sodomy proper, but it is still "sodomitical" (i.e., like sodomy).

I would also point out that Fr. Prummer (who wrote another widely-used manual) says that it is not permitted at all.

Dr. Smith should cite something from the permissive "tradition" if she's going to make a statement like that.

Given what Mr. West wrote in the first edition of his book I strongly doubt he had Fr. Jone's work in mind when he wrote it. It is good to see that he corrected it in the second edition but the correction did not go far enough. And it is somewhat dismaying that he can't come up with solid reasons for stating that it is wrong.

christina said...

Thank you for the reference to Fr. Prummer. I will see if I can acqurie a copy of his book.

christina said...

Sorry for misspelling "acquire" in the last post.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather go straight to hell than have to deal with the smart-ass nature of Steve, that's all I can say.

He is a big turn-off.

Jordanes said...

I'd rather go straight to hell than have to deal with the smart-ass nature of Steve, that's all I can say. ***

Don't say such damned fool nonsense, Anonymous.

Patrick said...

Actually, Anonymous is just stating that by interacting in Steve's discussion (thus "dealing with it") is keeping them from their preferred alternative, Hell. Sounds like a ringing endorsement from one saved soul to me.