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.