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.