It’s amusing, but sad, to watch the same people for whom Vatican-II is a superdogma trying to weasel their way out of obedience to prior magisterial teaching. Ultimately nothing is settled for these folks except the doctrine of what’s happening now. What used to be called simple fidelity is now “magisterium fundamentalism”. I like the sound of that.

23 thoughts on “Weasels

  1. I do not agree with the Sedevacantists that Vatican II (properly understood) ushered in a new religion, I am afraid that 99.9% of non-sedevacantist Catholics (such as Shea and his commentariat) do, and they follow that religion rather than Catholicism.


  2. Thanks for the heads up, Arturo. I just finished reading it and I feel your frustration. I’m finding that, with so many of the neo-Caths, conversation just isn’t possible on some issues. I thought you made a great point about the arbitrary nature of their “revisions”.


  3. Wow. I’ve been reading the comments on this today at Mark Shea’s blog and my jaw is just on the floor. When I first came back to the Church, Mark Shea seemed awfully sensible, and now I can barely believe that he can’t see how the defenses of polygenism in that combox are just totally creepy and unCatholic.

    Obviously the TLM is having an effect on me. :)


  4. I do not agree with the Sedevacantists that Vatican II (properly understood) ushered in a new religion, I am afraid that 99.9% of non-sedevacantist Catholics (such as Shea and his commentariat) do, and they follow that religion rather than Catholicism.

    You’re saying that 99.9% of Catholics are not Catholic?


  5. Maybe I don’t read the right stuff, but I’m really confused. Can you define some terms for me?
    What is a Sedevacanist, what is a Neo-Catholic, and since Mark Shea lives in my area and has quite a following, what is it he’s doing that everyone is upset about? I don’t have time to read quite the amount y’all have been, so can you give me a cliff’s notes version, pretty please?


  6. Ann Marie,
    Sedevacatists are a peculiar variety of schismatic. They believe that Benedict, JPII, JPI, and Paul VI are/were not really popes, and hence they (and bishops appointed by them) do not have to be obeyed. Some will push that back to include John XXIII as well. They often (though certainy not always) do this to justify their non-Catholic take on extra-ecclesial salvation, or another doctrine.

    Neo-Catholic is a term of disparagement used by Traditionalist Catholics. It is a play off of the word Neoconservative, and identifies those Catholics that are usually called Conservative or Right-wing in the press. To a Traditionalist, the term indicates an excessive reliance on the faddish theology of the current Roman Curia and ignorance/disrespect of the theology and practice of the Church before 1965. Especially, it indicates those who are also converts who presume to teach Catholics about the Faith, like Scott Hahn or Mark Shea.

    What he’s doing is giving cover to those who would deny the reality of Adam and Eve as our first parents (and by extension the doctrine of Original Sin), on the basis that some scientist says it’s impossible for a single pair to have been the basis of a healthy population, due to inbreeding.


  7. Jeff- Great job on going toe-to-toe with Shea (if that is a correct metaphor). One thing I do not fathom is why does Shea have such a “following”? Apart from the substance of his “apologetics” (he seems to covet worldly-scientific – “respectability”- more than the Truth) the manner of his post/blogging is very snarky, petulant, and juvenile. It as if he is more interested in scoring points with the “unbelievers” than a true, charitable exchange of ideas. St Thomas Aquinas – pray for us!!


  8. “Apart from the substance of his ‘apologetics’ … the manner of his post/blogging is very snarky, petulant, and juvenile.”

    He’s a real piece of work, isn’t he? I can’t engage him anymore. There’s only so much “you’re-a-fundamentalist-neener-neener-neener” a person can take.


  9. Let me see if I understand this correctly: It’s supposed to be scientifically impossible for Adam & Eve to have been the ancestors of everyone living because their descendants would have died out of accumulated birth defects caused by inbreeding. Assumption: God didn’t maybe make them physically somewhat different from ourselves in ways that would be relevant to this. What is the reason for this assumption? I’ve got it! Further assumption: The only role permitted for God in the creation of mankind as a unique type of entity is something called “ensoulment” which is _totally non-physical_; it doesn’t involve God’s doing anything (at least not anything very important) drastic to the _body_ of some evolutionarily-descended humanoid. Hence it is completely removed from any suggestion of God’s acting in the biological realm and is “safe” for sophisticated folks to believe in.

    Is there something I’m missing?


  10. Lydia, I’m not really the one to ask – I don’t keep up with the science – but your understanding sounds about right to me.

    The problem, as Philip Johnson would call it, is philosophical naturalism. The assumption is that the material world we experience and observe must have always functioned according to natural processes we can document today. When Catholics bow to the great gods of Science and accept this kind of thinking as it pertains to origins, they become mad and incoherent, like Mark Shea, because of course one can’t be a consistent philosophical naturalist and a believing Catholic simultaneously.


  11. Thanks for the explanation, but I’m still confused. Please keep in mind I don’t read Mark Shea’s blog, but I am a big fan of Scott Hahn. I really don’t think the whole creationist vs. all those other ideas out there argument is very integral to my salvation, so I don’t dwell on it much. But I do seem to recall Pope Benedict saying something along the lines of religion and science not being mutually exclusive recently, and I am wondering if that fits in here? I think it’s good when questions are asked, but I don’t like it when people don’t have real answers, be they “conservatives”, “traditionalists”, or “darwin-fans”. That’s the part of argument that really gets me, is when people close it down and won’t budge. It seems to be happening a lot lately. What about the positive things that have happened as a result of converts? I think the Hahns have done a ton to help cradle Catholics appreciate what they have instead of just going to Church without any real belief in the Real Presence. So many people go to Church in a fog, and don’t even know what they are doing until someone wakes them up. Maybe you can tell me who you think is on the “right track” and then I can have an idea of where exactly you are all coming from.
    Meanwhile, I don’t see that infighting is really getting us anywhere. What happened to Christian love and patience, bearing with one another?


  12. Ann Marie,
    When you have been beaten over the head for 20 or 30 years, called everything from stupid to evil, and literally driven out of your home parish, merely for believing what the Church has always taught, you can come talk to traditionalists about mutual tolerance. Historically, it’s not been the traditionalists that are intolerant.

    You can even see the insulting and dismissive sub-text in Shea’s discussion linked above. People who do not accept the new dogma of polygenism are dismissed as cranks, wierdos, fundamentalists, stupid, irrational, unreasonable, etc. ad nauseam. Those who do accept it are smart, wise, scientific, rational, reasonable, and so on.

    And I think that polygenism vs monogenism is far more closely related to your salvation than you might think. It is certainly so for those who have not heard the gospel, for we must give an accounting of our belief, and without monogenism, the Christian understanding of Original Sin is incoherent nonsense. You can see Mark’s commenters grasping at straws trying to maintain both in their heads. It cannot be done. And without understanding Original Sin, the Crucifixion become nothing more than a huge freakish sado-masochistic torture scene. Without Adam, the sacrifice of the second Adam (Jesus) makes no sense.

    Perhaps you could simply decide to ignore the contradiction, but many of us can’t, and how could one try to convey such an incoherent story to those who do not already accept the Gospel?

    I have nothing against converts, I married one. My problem is that often Evangelicals, particularly Evangelical pastors, come to the Church and rather than be informed by the Church and Her 2000 years of insight, they (because of their background and training) start trying to re-analyze theology and scripture, now from what they think is a Catholic point of view. Sometimes they do well. Other times, they severely misfire, like Scott Hahn’s recent book claiming that the Holy Spirit is actually feminine in nature and is the spiritual wife of God the Father. This is not just bizarre, it’s dangerously heretical.

    BTW, it’s semi self-contradictory to want people to “have real answers”, and then complain when they won’t budge. The truth is not a negotiation. As one fellow I know puts it: “Some say the sun rises in the East. Some insist it rises in the West. The truth is probably somewhere in between.” The truth is unitary, and not subject to compromise. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. No one is entitled to his own facts.


  13. And since you all stirred my curiosity so, I went to his blog, and here is something interesting.

    I think I owe various readers an apology
    Starting with I am Not Spartacus but including various others I can’t recall

    I will often have an idea prompted by something somebody will write in my comboxes. Sometimes I agree with what they are saying or (more often) I am prompted to write because I disagree with what they are saying. So, for instance, yesterday I was prompted on a train of thought because I was disagreeing with some of the notion IANS was expressing.

    Fair enough. But I noticed something recently. When I am disagreeing with a stranger, my focus in response is entirely on their ideas. They don’t enter into the picture: just the idea they are expressing. However, when somebody I actually know says something I disagree with, I *do* pay attention to them, to their past, to the way in which they might respond to the point I’m making, to their person. Of course, that’s easier because I actually know something about them. But it got me thinking about how simply responding to ideas apart from the person expressing them can often make my writing rather blunt when rejecting things I do, in fact, reject. I started wondering how many readers with whom I’ve disagreed have felt like I was just mowing them down rather than having any regard for their feelings. It’s not my intention to mow people down (though I think I can be pretty brutal in a fair fight with people who mean to mow me down).

    Anyway, all that is to say “Sorry” to IANS and any others to whom I have been abstract and unfeeling. Your prayers are appreciated.
    Posted by Mark at 11:29 AM Comments (5) | Trackback
    Labels: Mea Culpa


  14. This is something Mark will do on a regular basis. I’m sure he’s sincere. Like me he’s an Irishman, so he’s not prone to back down from a fight, and sometimes he goes over the line of charity. When he sees that he has done so, he’s man enough to repent, and to apologize. I really respect him for that. In fact I read Shea every day, and most of the time I really agree with him. But he does have a huge blind spot around traditionalists, who they are and what they’re about.


  15. +JMJ+

    On converts:

    For several decades after Spanish missionaries brought the faith to the Philippines, native Catholics were not allowed to become priests or religious. In the 70s and 80s, this was portrayed as racism on the part of the friars. As far as I can tell, only the writer Nick Joaquin had the sense to point out that converts, no matter how sincere and enthusiastic, might just not be ready:

    The missionaries had carried over from the Americas the caution that peoples only a generation or two away from paganism might not be ready for the sterner disciplines of the religious life. You must master arithmetic before you can advance to calculus–though this rule indeed cannot apply to the child mathematical genius . . .

    Mark Shea, Scott Hahn, et al may be apologetics geniuses, but they still sound very much like Protestants and certainly have their strongest following among converts from Protestantism and reverts who had to rediscover the faith. This isn’t to say that the rest of the Church has nothing to learn from them, of course, just that one who looks to them as teachers should proceed with caution.


  16. A lot of good commentary here. We’d all do best to go back to our origins. In a contemporary sense, no Catholic can go wrong w/the encyclicals of Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XII… But we must also obey and know that other Pope’s since Pius XII were, indeed, our Popes. Read “Liberalism is a Sin” if you can find it. Good old Tan Publications. Compare it to the many contemporary Catholic writers. Judge for yourselves. I believe Pope Benedict XVI would highly recommend this book.


  17. Anne Marie:

    Thanks for your comments, and my apologies for not addressing them sooner. (I really appreciate Danby helping out.)

    There’s a lot of “back story” to this controversy that, come to think of it, probably goes over the heads of many readers. It’s just as well. Those who don’t know the back story will not likely benefit from being sucked into the polarization that has taken place. I hesitate to “educate” anyone on the differences between traditional Catholics, neo-Catholics, progressive Catholics, or any other political distinction among Catholics, and think it is best that most Catholics don’t think in such terms. Nevertheless these categories do exist, and they exist because there are, in fact, a range of beliefs and approaches to doctrine and liturgy among people who call themselves Catholic. I don’t see the virtue in ignoring such distinctions when the inevitable line-up takes place on certain issues.

    That said, there’s plenty of overlap. There are quite a few traditionalists who would not consider me one of their own due, for example, to my acceptance of the ecclesiology articulated in Dominus Iesus, or my occasional attendance at a Novus Ordo Mass, or my having good things to say about phenomenology and personalism within certain parameters. Many ordinary Catholics, too, who do not self-identify as traditionalists, have an attraction to the Extraordinary Form and make their homes in Latin Mass communities around the world. They just want to be the best Catholics they can be and are not interested in partisan labels. That’s the kind of Catholic I want to be, ultimately, but so long as these differences exist we are going to need names for them.

    I’m a convert myself, as you know, so obviously I have nothing against converts. Nor do I have anything against apologists. On the contrary, Catholic apologists were a big help to me in the process of my own conversion. Their writings helped me to understand the filial respect and obedience that is owed to the Church – which is why it is so infuriating to see people like Mark Shea treat the sacred Magisterium like his personal cherry orchard. It is more than infuriating: it is a scandal.

    I’ve been reading Mark Shea for a number of years. We’ve had numerous discussions and debates, both cordial and intemperate. He is a master of caricature, distortion, and maddeningly fallacious arguments, especially when it comes to traditionalists. But he’s not a bad fellow at heart. Twice now, he’s come to my personal aid on his blog, without my solicitation, and I’ve benefited both materially and spiritually by the response of his readership. I met him once in Sacramento where he gave an excellent talk on the Eucharist, which made a profound impression on my protestant guest. He’s got a big heart, and he’s the kind of man I’d like to spend some time with. I like to think we’d get along. He’s also the kind of man I’d like to see taken to the woodshed by the kind of bishop most of us don’t have anymore.

    What motivates Mark Shea? I suspect – though I can’t prove it – that his secular background and his mission as an apologist/evangelist have given him an overwhelming desire to remove every possible obstacle to conversion. For instance: many educated, intelligent, worldly and secular people, with a great respect for modern science, view “fundamentalism” as an insurmountable obstacle to embracing Christianity. Mark Shea wants desperately for such people to embrace the Catholic Faith, and therefore he would rather that Catholicism not be perceived as “fundamentalist”, or presented as anything remotely smelling of “fundamentalism”, as defined by the worldly people of his acquaintance. So much the better if he can persuade people that “fundamentalism” is a weird protestant phenomenon, not to be confused with Catholics who are sophisticated and nuanced and worldly-wise and up-do-date. Catholics who might be perceived as “fundamentalist” get in the way of this image, so he must portray them as a tiny, fringe, radical minority whose views are rightfully scorned by the mainstream.

    Mark Shea’s zeal for converts is admirable, of course, but when it displaces simple fidelity to established Catholic doctrine it has gone much too far. We can’t win the less-fundamentalist-than-you-think contest. The doctrine of transubstantiation is not less “fundamentalist” than the doctrine of creation as traditionally understood. In the eyes of the world, anyone with absolute fidelity to religious dogma is a fundamentalist, and that means us.


  18. +JMJ+

    Jeff, that is the best description of Mark Shea that I’ve ever read. It is as insightful as it is charitable.

    I agree with you that Mark is doing necessary PR for the Church on his ‘blog, inasmuch as he is addressing charges of fundamentalism. Do I think he goes overboard sometimes? Oh, definitely–which is why I stopped reading his ‘blog long before I stopped linking to it. It’s just not the kind of thing I like to read, which is one thing; but I’ve let it affect my opinion of the whole man, which is another issue.

    You’d think I’d have some idea of the difference between one’s ‘blog persona and one’s actual character. I shouldn’t have been so surprised to read that Mark seems totally different in real life . . . and yet I was. Thank you for writing this about him.


  19. Thanks, Enbrethiliel. It’s really just a guess. I should clarify that I don’t know Mark Shea in real life – just listened to a talk, shook his hand, and thanked him once. As for the difference between blog persona and actual character, I’ve thought about that quite a bit. It may be that blogging is a lot like driving a car. Getting behind the wheel of a car sometimes turns otherwise likable fellows into raving lunatics. I suspect blogs might do the same (in my own case anyway!).


  20. I know Mark a little better than that in real life. He is, indeed, an excellent fellow to have over for food, friendship, and grand arguments over life, the universe, and everything, and I am happy to call him my friend.

    I think Danby has it pegged right. I also admire Mark’s ability to own up to having screwed up. I suppose someone might point out the regularity of this event, but then … I also have sins that I return to. Mea culpa



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