Friday, January 23, 2015

Facebook fun with His Sheaness

Usually I don't waste my time arguing with neo-Cath apologists on online forums, but I recently had the opportunity of engaging in a tit-for-tat with His Sheaness on Facebook. The occasion was Shea's commentary on Damon Linker's piece "The Foolish Cruelty of Catholics Who Wants Gays to Disappear", published in The Week in December, 2014. Linker's piece itself was occasioned by a previous piece by Austin Ruse entitled "The New Homophiles", featured in Crisis magazine.

I recommend you read the two articles above for background. Ruse's article on the New Homophiles is fairly straight forward and represents traditional Catholic teaching on the question well - he basically makes the point that even if gay Catholics can serve God chastely and in good conscience, we should not view homosexual orientation as some kind of "good", and that the attempts to find special "gifts" and goods in homosexuality qua homosexuality constitutes a real rupture with Catholic teaching. The fact that the Church accepts orthodox homosexuals who are living celibate does not mean we ought to affirm a homosexual "identity".

Linker's piece trashes Ruse. He suggests homosexuals do have special "gifts" to offer the Church. He suggests that it is wrong to approach homosexuality as something that ought to be "cured". He has no problem with homosexuals being admitted to seminary and, while affirming that Catholic homosexuals have an obligation to live chastely, affirms the concept of homosexual identity.

Mark Shea posted a link to Linker's piece, in which he expressed complete approval with Linker's attack on Ruse and Linker's overall positive assessment of the "gifts" of homosexuals. "Gay identity" is a very broad topic, but I challenged Shea on the very narrow point of whether Linker was right that homosexuals should be admitted to seminaries, which has been very clearly answered in the negative by the Church.

Two things: First, I have not included the entirety of the Facebook thread, not because I want to hide anything but because it was one of those threads with hundreds of comments - and not all relevant - and posting them all would be tedious, so I've only posted the interactions between Shea and myself. Second, I have blacked out my own name. Although many of you know how I am, I have blotted out my own name simply because I choose to blog anonymously and try to keep my name off the Internet whenever possible. So the black boxes are me speaking.

In my entrance into the debate, I start with quoting Linker's article. Linker had criticized Ruse for stating that persons with homosexual desires were not suitable candidates to the priesthood, even if they were successfully practicing chastity. I then go on to quote several Vatican documents affirming the very position Linker slams Ruse for affirming:

Then Mark Shea jumps in and tosses out a typical neo-Cath canard: that of the mean traddie Pharisee:

Now, me it sounds like Shea is disagreeing with the document Religiosorum Institutio, as well as the 2005 Instruction. He seems to be saying that if a man is deeply attracted to men but simply manages not to act on it, then we shouldn't worry about admitting him to the priesthood. Not wanting to accuse Shea of saying something he is not, I ask him a simple yes or no question in order to clarify his position:

This should not be difficult. Linker had attacked Ruse for this position, but Ruse was quite correct in affirming the 1961 document of St. John XXIII, as well as the 2005 Instruction and Bertone's 2008 reaffirmation. Would Shea affirm these instructions?

*Sigh.* I guess I should have known better than to get a straight answer out of him. So, I recap my question and explain how it is related to the articles by Linker and Ruse:

Of course, Shea refuses to answer. To say "yes" puts him in clear opposition with the documents just cited, while to say "no" undermines his attack on Austin Ruse's article - or at least this aspect of it. So, as expected, he waffles on the question again, while also making some astonishing statements:

I respond to his comment about me "wetting myself" about gays sneaking into seminaries next, but notice the comment "discipline is discipline. It's malleable." Well, that is true, but my goodness, we are talking about disciplines reaffirmed as recently as 2008. We're not debating some medieval document. I grant the point that discipline is "malleable" (Shea and I would probably disagree on to what degree), but if discipline is so malleable as to be subject to complete revision and overturning in a space of a mere six years, then there is really no point anymore in talking about Catholic disciplines.

Also, note "since I'm not forming or becoming a priest, I don't much care what the Church does." That's pretty astonishing, but not really that surprising, given an increasing amount of neo-Caths seem to be taking this approach; remember Simcha's statement that nothing going on in Rome or in the Curia was important to her?

But he does reveal a bit of his hand here. He personally sees no problem with homosexual priests being ordained - and offers the argument that they would be the best qualified to minister to other men with same sex attraction! So...if we have a gay priest, we think it's a good idea to pair him up with other homosexual men?

At any rate, Shea dutifully says that he accepts the Church's "current policy" even though he personally doesn't see homosexual ordinations as a huge problem. Setting aside the laughable notion of the non-admission of homosexuals as simply "the Church's current policy" (as opposed to her perennial discipline), I wonder then, if he disagrees, should the discipline then be changed? Should the practice affirmed by the Church's newest sainted pope and reaffirmed twice in the past decade be chucked? And if so, what, exactly, has changed since 2008?

To his earlier comment, it's not me but the popes who cared about gays getting ordained. If this was the case since time immemorial until 2008, then the only justification for altering it must be that something has profoundly changed since 2008. How has the situation changed since then, Mark? Why are the directives of Benedict XVI and John XXIII no longer good enough?

Oh. They have nothing to do with the discussion. I see. It is evident that nothing has changed since 2008 - except public opinion. And now we are seeing a neo-Cath shift to bend with the winds. 

I've basically decided to throw in the towel by this point.

Mark really can't understand why his answers are not satisfactory:

So I toss it out to him one more time: If you disagree with the disciplines, then are you advocating they should change? Are you advocating that "chaste" homosexuals are suitable candidates for the priesthood? Should the traditional discipline be abandoned?

After maintaining a charitable demeanor in the midst of such responses, even another commentator, one who actually took Shea's side on the debate, tries to pry a straight answer out of him:

Well, it was fruitless. I got no more responses from His Sheaness, and the thread eventually deteriorated into some argument about whether the North or South was right in the Civil War.

But I think this thread demonstrates some inherent problems in the neo-Cath position: To what degree will we see that alleged orthodoxy to the Church is really just a matter of supporting what is viewed as "current policy"? Is there not a problem with viewing a perennial discipline as merely "policy"? Is not the value of discipline and tradition severely downgraded. if so? And if these sorts of matters are simply the "current policy" that can change the way it changes with each American presidential administration, what tools does the Church really have to ensure discipline and continuity in the long run?

Ultimately, the neo-Cath strategy is to insist loudly that certain things can never be changed so long as the current Pontiff does not want to change them; then, when the "policy" changes with another pontiff, suggest just as loudly that such matters were never immune from change to begin with. I'm not suggesting the practical question of whether or not to admit persons with deep-seated homosexuality to the seminary is a doctrinal question or that infallibility is on the line here; I am suggesting that reasoning that the Church's very old discipline on this matter (it goes back to Trent and before) can be seen as merely "current policy" is destructively reductionist.


Unknown said...

Oy. There is a reason I stopped reading his blog a long time ago.

Beefy Levinson said...

It's astonishing to me that a man as thin skinned and temperamental as Shea makes a living as an apologist. He banned me from his blog a long time ago, which I consider a badge of honor.

Boniface said...

Yeah...he has really gone down hill, which is a shame. Years ago, his book By What Authority? convinced me to join the Catholic Church, but since he became a Patheos blogger I have found little value in his writings, even though I agree with him on many things.

Beefy Levinson said...

He can be a very good writer when he has an editor to rein him in. I can recommend the books of his which I've read. On his personal blog, the man just radiates seething hatred of "reactionaries," which should be read as "Fellow Catholics who call him out."

Boniface said...

"An editor to rein him in."

That's a good way to put it!

Marie said...

I once wandered into Shea's blog and came upon his defense of "Amazing Grace" as "liturgical music."
Shows you how ignorant he is of the Mass. I have no patience for people who talk like an authority but are actually clueless.
I never went back to his site.

Anonymous said...

Read this once: "Shea is the Keith Olberman of Catholic pundits."

Yep, pretty much sums it up.

Anonymous said...

Mark Shea is simply not smart or interesting enough to tolerate patiently his mercurial and vindictive rants at the more orthodoxly inclined but it says something about the persistent positive marketing and potency of the homosexual mythos that they can cause so much damage to the Church in credibility and financial stability by their misbehavior and malfeasance that they still have apologists. I suppose that their cultural ascendancy with the bizarre demands for marriage and redefinition of the AIDS epidemic from a Venereal Disease to a mysterious affliction visited upon innocent noble naïfs has a lot to do with it.
I don't trust or care about the opinion of anyone who insist that their odd sexual or sinful inclination is sufficient reason to grant them a special consideration. It is common sense that they should be excluded from all ministry not just the Priesthood. We simply cannot afford them. They rob the poor with their evil and drive good men from the Seminary and the Church.

Anonymous said...

What does the homosexual priest offer as his sacrifice? What is he sacrificing--not a wife or children. How do they answer that?

Dave Heath said...

...just another case of the passions subduing Reason. Which also is against Church teaching.

sparrow said...

Very affirming to read theses opinions of Shea

c matt said...

Good thing you only asked him about a narrow issue. I wonder how large a circumference ground zero would have had if you asked him if a homosexual orientation is intrinsically disordered.

Anonymous said...

It stands out quite strongly to me that Shea is not very charitable in debate and quickly descends into shallow waters, ex. "Teh Gays" "bitchy swipe".

Truly, lame.

Lazarus Gethsemane said...

Is this the same Mark Shea who often referred to homosexual advocates as "BrownShorts"?

Well yes. Yes it is.

I swear, Shea's blind political partisan advocacy of Pope Fallacious is making his two faces split his empty head in two.

Lazarus Gethsemane said...

Is this the same Mark Shea who often referred to homosexual advocates as "BrownShorts"?

Well yes. Yes it is.

I swear, Shea's blind political partisan advocacy of Pope Fallacious is making his two faces split his empty head in two.

Anonymous said...

It certainly seems from not only this exchange with Shea, but others I’ve seen, that there is something up with him … irrational emotional reaction seems to be a frequent response for him.

c matt said...

My own take is that he is heavily invested in the Popes personally, as opposed to the Papacy itself, as part of his Catholic identity. Having only been exposed to relatively decent popes, he cannot abide that we may have a real stinker now.

Dad29 said...

Well, yah, but Shea's hardly the only one who will NEVER, EVER, answer a logical argument if it goes against the PC vision of the world.

Anonymous said...

Is the 'church' aware of his royal sheaness' fruitiness? He is a featured columnist at the NCRegister, the foremost neo-catholic rag after all.

Anonymous said...

Fellow Catholics, it is best and most Catholic to simply and dispassionately critique a writer's ideas from the point of view of sound Catholic doctrine, instead of heaping scorn and mockery upon that person.

Leo Wong said...

I recommend R. V.Young, "The Gay Invention."