Mark Shea deserves some kind of award

One of the hardest and most necessary things in the world to do is to bear witness to the truth among friends who don’t want to hear it. It is a vastly easier thing to be such a witness to one’s enemies, who don’t like you anyway, and whose barbs bounce off, if not harmlessly, then at least as something expected. There are no such defenses against one’s friends, and there is much more to lose. And yet by virtue of our closeness, it is precisely our friends who most need our witness when they err.

I admit that I don’t read Mark Shea’s blog as zealously as I once did, although I still do read some of it. Mostly it is because he has a polemical style that I don’t much like in my own writing.

But it needs to be said that Mark has truly been a voice in the wilderness in opposing torture. It has cost him readers and popularity and respect. I imagine it has even cost him financially and professionally. I have seen him ripped by letters in faithful Catholic newspapers where his column appears. And yet he has soldiered on.

In the rough give-and-take of his blog, that polemical style has sometimes crossed a line, but such an event rarely passes without a manly apology from the author. I readily understand his anger, and struggle myself not to sin in it.

But he has performed as distasteful and important a service as one could wish for, something one shudders to think was even necessary: witnessing to faithful Catholics that torture is wrong. And I hope at some point even those whose feelings he may have hurt – and I well recognize the irony of worrying about the tender feelings of torture apologists, but we must be charitable to all – will come to recognize that.


8 thoughts on “Mark Shea deserves some kind of award

  1. Kyle – I didn’t know you had a blog! Mark Shea’s blogspot is my favorite Catholic blogspot even though I agree with the weaknesses that you point out in your post. When he writes about the faith he is outstanding and obviously has a gift for it, and he does indeed stand up for the faith against many hardships, even though he does so imperfectly at times. May God bless his work, and bring him to the holiness and perfection that we all strive toward on this journey.


  2. Hey, Kyle – just a question. While I would agree that torture is not right – how would you suggest that our people get information from people whose only goal is to kill you and your children? I am torn on this issue, because while I don’t believe anyone should be harmed – I don’t want my son to die because we didn’t have information that could have been obtained if our people pushed a little harder.

    I don’t know what we (meaning our country) should do. Do you?


  3. Ann, I think we have to stipulate at the beginning of the conversation one of the basic, bedrock principles of all Catholic moral teaching, namely that one may never do evil that good may result.

    Since the Church has taught that torture is intrinsically evil – that is, that it cannot be justified by any circumstances or intentions – we have to stipulate that EVEN IF WE CAN’T get information from a prisoner without torturing him, we still can’t torture him. To say otherwise is a form of consequentialism and is therefore not compatible with Catholic thought.

    With that said, I think the answer is simple: Do all the stuff we would have done before 2002. Detain them. Question them. Show them the consequences of terrorism. Try to convince them. Use the information already gathered prudently to extract more. And treat them humanely – which I have heard is surprisingly effective in encouraging people to talk to you.


  4. Glad to see you blogging, Kyle. Thanks for a good post.

    You point out the on-going reality of living as a Christian: the ethics are most important when they are least convenient, and when the arguments to abandon them are more convincing.

    We are followers of the One who did prayed that a cup be taken from him – but healed the high priest’s servant even as he was being brutally carried away for execution. I don’t at all suggest that we should not do all the things we can to detect and prevent terrorist attacks. But if we take on the terrible behaviors of our enemies, they have won already by taking charge of our hearts.

    The powerful (and gruesome) story of 2 Maccabees 7 is always there to remind us that nothing is more important than clinging fast to the Lord and his commandments. It reminds me, too, that the strength to do this comes only from God. On our own, we can do nothing.


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