Tuesday, August 23, 2016

NCR Firings: Martyrs or Loose Cannons?

There is a lot of hubbub this week over the recent shakeup at the NCR; I am speaking of course of the recent firings of John Paul Shimek, Mark Shea, and now Simcha Fisher.

When unexpected things happen, people generally try to create a narrative of why they happened. A narrative is a certain interpretation of what certain facts mean; narratives help people assimilate the events into our preexisting worldview in a way logically consistent with it. I discussed this some years ago when Benedict XVI resigned and Catholics were scrambling to come up with an explanation for it ("The Benedict Narrative Emerges", Feb. 2013).

Similarly, I am seeing mainstream Catholics kind of scrambling to come up with an explanation of why Shea, Fisher and Shimek were let go. The narrative emerging is very pathetic.

What I am seeing supporters of Shea and Simcha saying is that this has to do with his views on Catholic social teachings - essentially, Catholic conservatives uncomfortable with the fact that Shea opposes the conservative-Republican agenda and supports Catholic social teaching. In other words, making Shea into a martyr for the Catholic "middle way", as if his firing were about his political opinions. Similarly, Eye of the Tiber ran a piece satirically insinuating that Shea and Simcha were fired for "having opinions."

Of course, this makes these people into martyrs for their opinions, something they are encouraging (Shea's rant about Simcha's firing compares the sacking of an author to anti-Christian persecution); but it is very far from the truth.

These people were not terminated for having opinions, much less political opinions, but for being loose cannons.

John Paul Shimek - who said he wanted his mission in life to be making Traditional Catholicism an "unthinkable option" for the Church - had had his scathing articles censured for posting his dribble without authorization and bypassing any editorial review. And even those that weren't were horridly abusive to traditional Catholics in particular.

As for Shea, the official statement of the National Catholic Register states very clearly why he was sacked, and it had nothing to do with political opinions expressed in the Register. Rather, NCR cited Shea's behavior on forums outside the Register and questioned his charity in dealing with online debates:
"The Register is no longer publishing blogs or commentaries submitted by Mark Shea. Mark’s writings at the NCRegister.com or published in our print edition were within our editorial guidelines. However, his writings and engagement on other forums were irreconcilable with our editorial vision or standards of charitable discussion."

"Irreconcilable with our editorial visions or standards of charitable discussion." He was fired for being uncharitable in his online debates. I had one with him last year in which I upheld the shocking proposition that gay men should not be ordained. While he was not personally uncharitable to me in this debate, he was slippery, and his disdain for the Church's traditional teaching was unsettling. 

As for Simcha...I don't know. I imagine more of the same. Simcha's writing was terrible whiny and unprofessional; consider her lovely little NCR piece she wrote about Cardinal Burke's transfer back in 2014, which we critiqued back then. Look at how she talks about people who were concerned about Burke's demotion:

You, with the subscription to Whimpers in Blogvillia! You, with your Blackberry set to play "Dies Irae" every time Four Lattes Daily resets their Novus Ordo End Times Ticker. You, with the Lady Cardinal robes in your closet, still in the dry cleaner bags, waiting to be whipped out the moment it Finally Happens. You, with your all your personal clocks set to Central European Time, so you don't miss a moment before you weep or break out the Chateau de Schutte '79 every time the doorman at the Roman Curia unlocks the front door, sweeps off the doormat, and chases the homeless cats away in preparation for another day of things that never do and never could have any affect on your personal life.

That is so terribly unprofessional...is that the sort of rambling nonsense one wants to read in the NCR? Rorate Caeli is often held up as the epitome of mean rad-trad blogs, and Rorate never posts anything approximating this. I don't know why Simcha was fired, but if someone told me it was because she straight-up sucks as a professional writer, I would not be surprised.

So, forget the narrative of the top-notch, quality Catholic authors unjustly fired because they were valiantly supporting Church doctrine against greedy, Americanized conservatives uncomfortable with the Catholic social teaching. They were fired for being uncharitable loose cannons who never deserved to have the platform of the NCR from which to churn out their ridiculous nonsense. The message of NCR was clear: act like adults, or get fired.

One more thing: consider emailing Jeanette Demelo, Editor at the NCR, and thanking her for terminating these loose cannons. She can be reached at: jdemelo[at]ewtn.com


Joseph D'Hippolito said...

I have a unique perspective on Shea, since he harassed and stalked me online for seven years (and I don't operate a blog; I just has the temerity to disagree with him energetically). Shea is an obsessive, lying bully. He makes a habit of trying to destroy other people’s reputations, deliberately distorting opposing arguments and emotionally manipulating people with false apologies.

If Shea had serious concerns about his temper, the least he could have done was to “avoid the near occasion of sin,” as the Act of Contrition puts it, by staying away from social media. But Shea didn’t have such concerns about his temper. He reveled in it. He allowed it to become his modus operandi, even to the point of being a vile, obsessive bully. He stalked me for seven years on the Internet. He called somebody else’s employer to complain about that person’s comments. He LOVED doing that. He LOVED his behavior. Otherwise, why would he engage in it so often and with such gusto?

Shea lies the way the rest of us breathe. He is evil. Not just deluded. Not just a candidate for spiritual direction, psychological counseling, an exorcism or a swift kick in the ass. EVIL. The fact that it took an EWTN outlet this long to find that out doesn’t speak well for EWTN.

Shea is a con man, pure and simple. He conned a lot of sincere but gullible Catholics with his nonsense. Well, the jig is up — and, frankly, none too soon.

Remember Matthew 7:18-20. You shall know them by their fruits. Also, remember Numbers 32:23 and Galatians 6:7. Your sin will find you out. God is not mocked. Shea has made a livelihood out of mocking God, and that sin finally has been found out.

New Catholic said...

We really have no idea how this fame of "epitomy" of meanness ever arose, but thank you for your comment. It's enough to read the main page of Rorate to realize it makes very little sense, it's just a blog of current affairs, event notices, local reports, some devotions, with not much personal input.

Mr. D'Hippolito seems to have reached a fair measure of the situation.

Boniface said...

You're welcome, New Catholic. Your blog's content has never been mean spirited. It's simply news and articles with little personal commentary. An excellent standard of charitable Catholic reporting without any pandering.

Kevin Tierney said...

If I may speculate, I would say the perceived meanness came mostly from the days of comboxes at rc, which occasionally got rowdy.

New Catholic can correct me if I'm mistaken, but I believe those went away when, 2013? People don't adjust their narratives, and people like Shea and Fisher have a financial incentive to not be too curious about changing narratives