Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Missing the “Mark”—Oh, Shea can't you see (that Huckabee has heart)

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye’ while the wooden beam is in yours? --Matt. 7:3-4.
We want to know the real sentiment that was the social bond of the common man ... so long as the historian cannot do that, fiction will be truer than fact --G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.

Today, the day before the Iowa Caucus, Mark Shea, senior content editor of the prestigious Catholic Exchange Web site, while flying the banner of popular Catholic convert and apologist G.K. Chesterton, disses Christian presidential candidate Michael Huckabee, saying Huck's statement on moral law is all wrong. Of course, Shea, like the Pharisees in Jesus' time, is technically correct. For Catholics, it's not the law (or man) but God who decides what is right and wrong, and Huckabee seems to imply the opposite.

But two things must come into consideration in Shea's play for fanning anti-Huckabee passion. First, Huckabee is not Catholic, so to expect him to phrase things as Maritain (or even Merton) would, is truly unfair. For Huck's point "that all law establishes morality" can be summarized by an example from my own teaching experience. Kids attending public schools, especially those kids from a pseudo- or non-religious background, receiving not only free condoms but directions to the nearest abortionist, easily come to believe that pre-marital sex (as well as the Machiavellian ways of dealing with it) is legal, normal, and thus moral. Which brings us to the second point, a crucial one that seems to elude Shea. Either Mark quoted Huckabee incorrectly, or Huck's statement is actually more correct than Shea's corrections. For according to Shea, Huckabee said, "All law establishes morality," NOT "All law establishes GOOD morality."

So it appears Huck's got you, Mark, just like Jesus did the Pharisees. For even a fool would not miss the larger point of your article. In other words, characterizing Huckabee's comments as "idiotic" or "stupid," lumping him with "parroting" "stumblebum" politicians and then equating his philosophy with that of Stalin or Hitler is not calculated to get people to like him, let alone vote for him. Your article reminds me of when I was a student at Notre Dame, and was attending one of Fr. Richard "the chicken-hearted" McBrien's lectures, and a devout old man challenged McBrien as to why he didn't follow the Church or the Pope on a particular doctrine. McBrien, in turn, began to pick the man apart by playing word games, saying the "Church" and the "Pope" are not the same, that you really mean the Magisterium since it's a doctrine, not a dogma, and since it's a doctrine, not a dogma, it's not to be infallibly followed anyway. True, the man walked out out-talked, but he walked out still with the true faith—while our fine Father of the flowing words did not.

And so, Mark, I think that even if your article was disingenuous rather than outright dishonest, you owe your readers an explanation if not an apology. Surely, you have heard both the Pope and the Bishops make statements to the effect that the right to life is the one non-negotiable political issue, and unless you do not follow the Pope, you should explain to your readers that Huckabee is the most articulate of the candidates on this primary issue, and thus Catholics in good conscience could (if not should) vote for him. Mike's impassioned plea for the rights of the unborn on Sunday's Meet the Press were so eloquent that my wife, Jeanette (or Ms. FIT as she is known to my Fighting Irish Thomas readers), stood up and said, "Certainly a man could not defend life so well unless he was filled with the Holy Spirit!" Alas, my wife is only a junior college graduate, so her statement cannot be as weighty as someone with as many degrees and titles as you ... and yet, in Huck's case, so many devout Christians echo Jeanette's words, not yours ...

But as an English major and student of Chesterton's writings, I am qualified to strongly object to your use of the great apologist to seemingly support your transparent anti-Huckabee point of view. Not only was Chesterton a champion of the average man (as Huck and many of his supporters are), but G.K. was quite the poet and your plain speech (in this case, with forked tongue) disqualifies you from using him. G.K. said it takes a poet to criticize a poet, and whereas Chesterton used small statements to prove big points, you used a big Chesterton quote to support a small (and petty) one. It's funny you associated the word "hell" with Huckabee's speech, for it will be a cold day in hell before Mark Shea turns a phrase like Gilbert Keith, the master of analogies, did regularly. Until then, your use of Chesterton, as well as your uncharitable "Catholic" criticism of Huckabee is unjustifiable; legal, but not moral. For although you may have proved the point that Michael Huckabee is no Thomas Aquinas, let it be known that I have read extensively both what you and G.K. have had to say and (to paraphrase a famous political debate line), Mark Shea, you are no G.K. Chesterton.


Jim M said...

Wow. And thank you.
Go Mike!

Anonymous said...

Wow Tom, great post. My face actually warmed up from all the fire coming from the screen. I think that was Mrs. FIT's influence :)

If Huckabee doesn't win the nomination, I really hope whatever Republican does makes room for him in his White House, whether as VP or a cabinet position. Although I'm really thinking he might win the nomination, so the point will hopefully be moot.

Tom O'Toole said...

Jim, Go Mike indeed! The caucus is today ... gotta go pray!

JimAroo said...

Hey this is the OTHER Jim M! LOL

I did get my 2 cents worth in at Shea's article yesterday and I managed to slip in a plug for FIT!

Any analyst will tell you this is still the most wide open Republican primary season since 1952. Anything could happen.

Hillary has made tactical errors by spending her time running for President instead of for the Democratic nomination. I think Gov. Huckabee has made the same error. When running for the republican nomination it isn't smart to both tick off El Rushbo AND attackthe foreign Policy of President Bush. He shot himself in both feet.

FIT and the other readers may agree with the Governor about those - more power to you. But his goal here is not to win Democrat votes but to win Republicans. He had made a tactical error unless he isn't running for the Republican nomination at all...

Maybe he is running for President... thinking 3rd party...ala Ross Perot. He just brought on political hack Ed Rollins whose last big job was getting Clinton elected in 92 by running the Perot campaign.

The Governor is not a party loyalist- he made that clear in his speech to the pastors. Why should republicans vote for someone not committed to helping the whole party win?

My guess is that he is planning a 3rd party run. If he does that well, with Rollins' help, he will help elect whoever wins the democratic nomination. And you will not see a single worthwhile judge appointed or pro life policies promoted.

Tom O'Toole said...

Michael, It sounds like you're getting on the Huck Truck too! Well, you both do have the same patron saint.

Tom O'Toole said...

Jim, Although you're right on with the saints, as far as Huck is concerned, you're completely off target.

As Jeanette says, Rush Limbaugh is a blowhard. Many of his facts he just makes up. The day you stop taking Rush seriously is the day you realize Huckabee is the only candidate who (with the exception of the death penalty) believes in the one non-negotiable issue, pro-life agenda, from the heart.

Third party is the LAST thing on Huck's agenda. I believe that strategy will be employed by "Dr. No." As far as being a party loyalist, have you not seen Mike's talks ... praising Bush on nearly everything. My God, Jim, John Paul II didn't want us to invade Iraq ... whose "party" line is more important? Huck's not a yes man and the fact that he says we made several tactical errors in Iraq (while at the same time supporting the troop status quo) is not disloyal unless being a Republican is your religion and you follow every current leader BLINDLY ...

The fact that he doesn't support all the tax breaks for the rich (and indeed may raise tax to help education for the poor) doesn't bother me in the least, and shouldn't bother any Catholic. I am not as well off as many Republicans and can see economics from the other side. Did you ever stop to think that the reason many Republicans are pro-life only when politically expedient is because they have no concept of the true plight of the working poor and those issues are connected?

So whoever is feeding you that 3rd Party crap is obviously another Huck-basher. Surely you've heard Huck speak highly of McCain and while Giuliani's lifestyle and Romney's slanderous attack ads scandalize them (and Fred must be dead for I haven't seen him in weeks), there's no way he would leave the party. That's just another Romney/Giuliani strategy of marginalizing him.

With little money and even less organization, Huck has made mistakes and realistically remains a long shot. But the average church-going Catholic and Christian sees a sincere politician for the first time in ages and is saying the heck with the polls. I Like Mike!

Jarnor23 said...

While I'm a big Huck supporter, I do believe that Huck is wrong in what he said, and hopefully doesn't believe that, but rather just spoke his mind incorrectly.

Law cannot make something right or wrong. Things are right or wrong regardless if they are legal. Many governments have immoral laws. Making something legal does not make it good.

It DOES make it seem acceptable to the culture, which is why we have to fight against bad laws so much. Many will ignorantly assume that if something is legal, it is okay to do.

I'm gonna go with the assumption that an ex-minister believes that moral law comes from a higher authority, and give him the benefit of the doubt. However, Shea is no Pharasee for calling out a bad statement that really should be clarified by Huck. It's a troubling statement if he really meant it as it is.

Tom O'Toole said...

jarnor23, The problem with Shea is that he KNOWS Huckabee knows good morals (note the difference) come from God and he still takes Huck's words out of context (much like an attack ad) to try to make him look foolish. But, as by dictionary definition, Huck is NOT wrong -- who is the real fool?

Jon said...

Mark Shea is a stooge for the Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi/National Catholic Register, a consortium so "orthodox" it could not muster enough faith to criticise the Connecticut bishops for allowing abortifacient contraception in Catholic hospitals. Shea must be in deep with Romney, a phoney pro-life politician if there ever was one.