Catholic commentator Mark Shea offered a very public apology today for the way in which he has argued on his blog lately. While contemplating the Eucharist during the Mass of Corpus Christi, Mark said it became apparent that he has received messages from many people saying, in effect: “You taste bitter.”
And I couldn’t argue with that. I do taste bitter. And for that I am deeply, profoundly sorry, because it is through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault that I do. I’ve become bitter in much of my interaction with people. And bitterness is a root that “defiles many” according to Hebrews. In my case, I think I have defiled quite a number of hearts who came here looking for the gospel and instead just got Mark Shea getting increasingly cynical and angry about all sorts of stuff. You can’t eat food, including food for the soul, that is bitter. My apologies to all to whom I have done this.
But Mark’s self-examination doesn’t stop there. People who he thought willfully refused to get the point? He started to dehumanize them. He also confessed that he treated those in the public spotlight like they were not human persons. And he included Lila Rose of Live Action in this.
To Lila Rose (and all her associates and sundry supporters) my sincere apologies and contrition. I got so caught up in arguing about points I wanted to persuade people of that I completely failed to see you as human beings and reduced you to means to an end. It was a sin and all I can do is ask for forgiveness. In addition, as the argument has “hardened” (for want of a better word) I have let that bitter taste poison the conversation. It’s lost people who might otherwise have listened, which is my own stupid fault.
To be clear, he wasn’t announcing that he had changed his mind on a specific theological question. What he was doing was more impressive. He was calling himself out for the way in which he argued: “Again, the point is not who was right or wrong about the point being argued, it’s that I have been wrong in the way that I argued, very often reducing people to means.”
Mark added: “In [the] future, I’m going to be trying to take the blog in different directions. Don’t know what that will look like, but I think it needs to happen.”
I’ve also made mistakes in public and had to apologize in public. It’s incredibly difficult and humbling to do. Mark’s earnest apology is to be commended.
I have met Mark face-to-face (offline as they say) and consider him to be a friend. I think he has a service to provide Catholics who honestly yearn for the truth of the Catholic Church and strive to be faithful to her. Much in our politics today is distorted by a Culture of Death. Conservatives and Catholics alike are not immune from this. (And the Culture of Death affects how we treat each other; it affects human sexuality and greed, etc.) And so we need to make sure that we take stock from time to time and make sure we question our cultural assumptions.
And Mark can be excellent at that. He can remind people that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are totally unjustified. He explains that torture is immoral (and by the way, doesn’t work well anyway.) He’s not afraid to call out the Prosperity Gospel and those who ignore the poor. He gets Catholics to really second-guess the Bush-Wilsonian aggressive foreign policy which tries to solve all the world’s problems.
While I don’t agree with him on every issue, I’m glad that he makes Catholics defend their positions in line with the Church rather than simply accepting everything Rush Limbaugh says as infallible.
So I hope that Mark will continue to write about politics and about how Catholics have a role to play in improving our public policy debates.