Friday, March 24, 2017

A low down dirty Shea

Not too long ago, Catholic writer Mark Shea and I had an exchange on the subject of capital punishment.  See this post, this one, and this one for my side of the exchange and for links to Shea’s side of it.  A friend emails to alert me that Shea has now made some remarks at Facebook about the forthcoming book on the subject that I have co-authored with Joe Bessette.  “Deranged” might seem an unkind description of Shea and his comments.  Sadly, it’s also a perfectly accurate description.  Here’s a sample:

Yes. This needs to be the #1 priority for conservative Christian “prolife” people to focus on: battling the Church for the right of a post-Christian state to join Communist and Bronze Age Islamic states in killing as many people as possible, even if 4% of them are completely innocent. Cuz, you know, stopping euthanasia is, like, a super duper core non-negotiable and stuff.  What a wise thing for “prolife” Christians to commit their time and energy to doing instead of defending the unborn or the teaching of the Magisterium. How prudent. How merciful. This and kicking 24 million people off health care are *clearly* what truly “prolife” Christians should be devoted to, in defiance of the Magisterium.  Good call!

“Prudential judgment” is right wing speak for “Ignore the Church and listen to right wing culture of death rhetoric”.

This book will be the Real Magisterium, henceforth, for all members of the Right Wing Culture of Death on this subject. It's judgments, not that of the Magisterium, will be final and authoritative for the “prolife” supporter of the Right Wing Culture of Death.

It will do nothing but foster right wing dissent. It will be the New Magisterium for the entire right wing and give oxygen to the War on Francis.

The Right anoints a Folk Hero antipope who tells it it's okay to reject the obvious teaching of the Church and do whatever they want and then the cry “Prudential judgment!” goes up.

Etc.  End quote.

No comment is really necessary.  Still, I can’t help calling attention to a few points:

First, the book has not come out yet, so Shea hasn’t even read it.  His attack is thus aimed at a fantasy target rather than at our actual claims and arguments.  In fact, all of the concerns Shea might have about our position are answered at length and in detail in the book, and in a scholarly and non-polemical fashion.  Hence Shea’s remarks are – to say the very least – ill-informed and unjustifiably vituperative. 

Second, the few substantive assertions Shea makes here – and note that they are mere assertions, completely unbacked by any argumentation or evidence – have already been answered in my earlier exchange with him.  For example, in the initial response to Shea I posted during that exchange, I noted that Shea’s claim that “4% of [those executed] are completely innocent” misrepresents the authors of the study from which Shea derives this claim.  I also there noted the problems with Shea’s use of the term “prolife,” which is merely a political slogan deriving from contemporary American politics and has no theological significance.

As to the bogus charge of “dissent,” in my second post in our earlier exchange, I quoted statements from Cardinal Ratzinger (then head of the CDF and the Church’s chief doctrinal officer) and Archbishop Levada (then writing in a USCCB document, and later to take over from Ratzinger as head of CDF) which explicitly affirm that faithful Catholics are at liberty to take different positions regarding capital punishment and even to disagree with the Holy Father on that particular issue.  Both Ratzinger and Levada in these documents also explicitly assert that abortion and euthanasia – which, unlike capital punishment, are intrinsically evil – have a greater moral significance than capital punishment.  Hence, when Shea mocks Catholics who are strongly opposed to abortion and euthanasia but who do not share his views about capital punishment, he is implicitly mocking Ratzinger and Levada – who, unlike Shea, actually have authority to state what is and is not binding Catholic teaching. 

Shea has, in several follow-ups now, given no response whatsoever to these points or others made in my earlier posts.  He simply ignores the arguments and instead reiterates, with greater shrillness, the same false and already refuted claims he made in his initial attack on Joe and me.

Third, the charge that Joe and I are motivated by a desire to justify “killing as many people as possible” is not only false and groundless, but a truly outrageous calumny.  Shea made this charge in our original exchange, and (as I noted in my second post in that exchange) when I complained about it he seemed to back away from it.  Now he is back to tossing this smear at us.

Fourth, if Shea insists on flinging calumnies like these, he ought to consider just how many people he is implicitly targeting.  On my personal web page I have posted the endorsements given our book by J. Budziszewski, Fr. James Schall, Robert Royal, Fr. Robert Sirico, Edward Peters, Fr. Kevin Flannery, Steven A. Long, Fr. George Rutler, Fr. Gerald Murray, Barry Latzer, Michael Pakaluk, and Fr. Thomas Petri.  This list includes some very prominent faithful Catholics and respected scholars, representing fields such as moral theology, canon law, philosophy, and criminal justice.  And unlike Shea, they have actually seen the book.  It is worth noting that Fr. Sirico, who happens to be opposed to capital punishment, does not even agree with our conclusions.  He graciously endorsed our book anyway simply because he regards it as a worthy and serious defense of the other side, which opponents of capital punishment can profit from engaging with. 

Now, I imagine that Shea knows and respects many of these people.  Of course, they could be wrong, and the fact that they endorse our book doesn’t mean we are right.  But would Shea go so far as to label all of these people “dissenters,” or proponents of a “culture of death” who want to “kill as many people as possible,” etc.?  If not, then perhaps he will reconsider his rhetorical excesses. 

Fifth, the out-of-left-field stuff in Shea’s remarks about “kicking 24 million people off health care,” “the War on Francis,” etc. have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with the argument of our book.  Shea made similarly irrelevant remarks in our earlier exchange.  His seeming inability to refrain from dragging in his personal political obsessions shows just how very unhinged he is.  It also manifests his lack of self-awareness.  Shea accuses fellow Catholics who disagree with him about capital punishment of being blinded by their political biases – while in the very same breath bizarrely insinuating that our support for capital punishment somehow has something to do with President Trump’s health care bill (!) 

Sixth, Shea’s political obsessions blind him to other and more important aspects of the debate over capital punishment, in ways I have already explained in my earlier posts – where, here again, Shea simply ignores rather than responds to what I wrote.  For example, Shea appears not to realize that there is a very influential strain of thought within otherwise theologically conservative Catholic circles – namely, the so-called “new natural law” school of thought – which takes a far more radically abolitionist position than even he would.  Shea has repeatedly acknowledged in the past that capital punishment is not always and intrinsically immoral and that the Church cannot teach that it is.  But the “new natural lawyers” maintain that capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, and they would like the Church to reverse two millennia of teaching on this point – indeed, to reverse the consistent teaching of scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the popes.

One of the main motivations for writing our book was to rebut this extreme position, which has very dangerous theological implications that extend well beyond the capital punishment debate.  Indeed, our primary concern in the book is to demonstrate the continuity of Catholic teaching and rebut any suggestion that the Church has contradicted herself, with advocacy of capital punishment in practice being a merely secondary concern.  Among the many novel things the reader will find in our book is a far more detailed and systematic response to the extreme “new natural law” position on capital punishment than has yet appeared. 

Since Shea too rejects the extreme “always and intrinsically wrong” position vis-à-vis capital punishment, one would think he would see the importance of rebutting it.  Unfortunately, in his apparent desire to fold every Catholic theological dispute into his obsession with current American electoral politics, Shea seems unable to understand that some of us have much larger and less ephemeral concerns in view. 

Seventh and finally, judging from remarks he made in our earlier exchange, Shea appears to think that, even if a Catholic might in theory support capital punishment, in practice the downside of doing so is so great that his vituperative treatment of supporters is justified.  I have already explained in the earlier posts why this is a mistake, but there is a further point to be made.  What Shea does not consider is that, whatever good he thinks he is doing, there is also a very grave downside to his own abusive methods.  Even if Shea is correct that some Catholic supporters of capital punishment are acting in bad faith, there are very many who are not – people who sincerely believe that they are within their rights as Catholics in supporting capital punishment, and who put forward arguments for that conclusion in a sober and non-polemical way.

If Shea is going to convince these people that they are wrong, then he can do so only by actually answering their arguments and not by merely repetitively flinging insults at them.  Shea only does his own side harm in behaving the way he does, confirming in the minds of his opponents the judgment that the anti-capital punishment side has no rational basis but is grounded in emotion and demagoguery.  He also acts gravely contrary to justice and charity.

In this connection it is worthwhile emphasizing that Shea made his reputation – or what’s left of it at this point, anyway – as a Catholic apologist.  Now, apologetics is of its nature a rational enterprise aimed at persuading those who do not already agree by means of sober argumentation.  And Catholic apologetics has always been guided by the principle of meeting one’s interlocutors where they are, charitably finding whatever is of value in their position and using it as a basis for discussion, etc.

Shea seems in the last few years increasingly to have abandoned these ideals.  He shows little interest in persuading anyone or in giving arguments.  In blog post after blog post he tosses out strings of ungrounded assertions, attacks caricatures, hurls insults and abuse, seems content with the “high fives” his more rabid fans give back in response, and offers further abuse and mockery in response to critics who try to engage him substantively.  I have had reason over the years to note how “New Atheist” writers and their own fan base routinely attack books and arguments which they admit they have not read, and ritualistically attack a set of phantom opponents who exist only in their imaginations and bear little resemblance to any real world adversaries.  It is striking how closely Shea and his fan base resemble these people, in style, ethos, and method, even if not in content. 


  1. Mark Shea is a good person, but for someone like you, Edward, he's low hanging fruit because as someone already said, he's light on logic and heavy on emotion.

  2. The problem with Shea is that his mask slipped, and he revealed himself to be about as Catholic as 'Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good'. You know, Podesta's Catholic front group which was meant to yank the Church in a leftward direction in all ways. He's already gone pretty well all-in on that, and there's no turning back for him.

    Really, you had him pegged here: "Sixth, Shea’s political obsessions blind him to other and more important aspects of the debate over capital punishment"

    Except it has to do with a whole lot more than capital punishment.

    There's no appeasing this one, no bringing him down to earth. Keep in mind that while he attacks you with rage for defending a position that is woven into the history of the church, he'll cheerfully talk about fans of his who are abortion-loving atheists. Literally, the man will coo happily at advocates of outright baby-slaughtering if they're on his political side enough and pay him a kind word, but devolve into ranting hatred at Catholic philosophers whose crime is upholding Catholic orthodoxy.

    Really, he's just the "Catholic" version of Loftus, in too many ways.

  3. It's funny how when Shea is talking about immigration, Muslims are kind and peace-loving people, but when he's talking about the death penalty, suddenly they're bloodthirsty Bronze Age barbarians.

  4. DNW said "He's very emotional."

    Edward Feser said...

    " Ya think?"
    March 24, 2017 at 12:15 PM

    I wanted to make sure that I didn't take away and then spread a false impression; so, I followed the link back, and reread his Facebook comments a couple/three times

    They seemed more the product of an emotionally erupting mind edging toward unhinged, each time I reread them.

    The wearisome cattiness, sarcasm, and indignation thing he and his fanboys have going there ought to get stale even for them.

    The guy has a problem. And it's not conservatives.

  5. Third, the charge that Joe and I are motivated by a desire to justify “killing as many people as possible” is not only false and groundless, but a truly outrageous calumny. Shea made this charge in our original exchange, and (as I noted in my second post in that exchange) when I complained about it he seemed to back away from it. Now he is back to tossing this smear at us.

    Mark Shea only thinks in political slogans. I think he just has a lists of slogans stored up on a variety of topics, and whenever someone disagrees with him, he starts automatically enumerating him. I wouldn't take it too personally. But it is monstrously unfair and irresponsible.

  6. Do you go into any discussion of the cost the executioner faces psychologically or emotionally? It seems asking a health care professional to end the life of a nuetralized threat is a high price to pay for a form of justice that isn't absolutely necessary. Its my primary objection to capital punishment.

  7. "It's funny how when Shea is talking about immigration, Muslims are kind and peace-loving people, but when he's talking about the death penalty, suddenly they're bloodthirsty Bronze Age barbarians.

    March 24, 2017 at 1:22 PM"

    That Bronze Age characterization seems to have been picked up from the kitbag of secularist anti-Bible ridicule.

    Of course, the "Bronze Age" is generally considered to have ended in the relevant area about 1150 BC or so; making such a reference not only in-apt but ridiculously so.

    Of course, if archeology ever succeeds in establishing that not only Hebrew verses were current in Judea in the tenth century BC , but can be pushed back a couple centuries earlier ... then the phrase Bronze Age may become apt. But it won't do much for those the cause of those who claim that the Bible message was made up in the seventh.

  8. ahem : "it won't do much for the cause of those"

  9. Also, taking a look at the comments of Shea's post is a foretaste of how extraordinarily entertaining will be Feser's responses to Catholic critiques of the book. There is going to be so many abysmal reviews.

  10. Some authors seem incapable of being dispassionate. I think it is because when forced to address a limited number of issues with someone capable of identifying (and willing to vocalize/meticulously pick apart) their ad hominems, non sequiturs, and just generally bad arguments, they can't keep up. So instead, they make an Internet business throwing soda cups and popcorn bags at the screen, being sure to only use vehicles like social media that let them attract the most possible attention just kicking up dirt while giving an impression of engagement without any actual promise to pursue substantial discussion. ("It's so down-to-earth of him to maintain a Facebook, but he's a busy guy! You can't expect him to reply to everything!")

    Sometimes I wonder if folks picture themselves as Christ Himself running around a temple flipping tables with a holy vitality.

  11. @jem: ... flipping tables with a holy vitality.

    Is that, like, some kind of crozier?

  12. Suggestion: Ed, in your posts could you create a little bit more visual contrast between your own words and any quoted text. Italicizing alone leaves it just a tad more difficult to read than it need be. A simple way would be to embolden as well as italicize. More cumbersome, in html, but equally effective would be to indent each quoted line, or precede each with "> " or "# ", or something.

  13. He's just upset that you've executed the death penalty on his position.

  14. It's kind of a shame. When it comes to defense of the Catholic faith Shea is impressive.
    For awhile I was actually thinking about becoming Lutheran. My wife is Lutheran. But it was Shea's defense of Catholicism that really impressed me with the Catholic defense of positions that Protestants typically attack.

    I'm not a fan on his social views.... and even less with how he treats those he disagrees with on those topics. But guys like him, Steven Graydanus, Simcha, and a bunch of others just leave a bad taste in my mouth.
    Makes me wish guys like Voris were more sane.

  15. I should have read his facebook post before commenting.
    Wow. Unhinged. Then he actually mocks Feser in his comment section for even replying.

  16. Shea: Feser is fighting the Church and setting himself up as his own Magisterium! He delights in killing as many people as possible! Supporting the death penalty is like supporting torture and slavery!
    Feser: [calming and fairly responds]
    Shea: Wait, are you really spending your time responding to me? I'm a nobody!

  17. Shea also attacked you a couple days ago (March 22 or 23) on his "connectting the dots" program with Rob Bennet (yesterday now I see it):

    It's about halfway.

    -Neil P.

  18. He's been noticeably degrading for several years. He barely even mentions the Faith on his blog anymore, at least when i used to read it.

    I give him another 8-12 months before he's found wandering the highway randomly screaming at and excommunicating passing cars.

  19. Ed:

    First, the book has not come out yet, so Shea hasn’t even read it.

    De rigeur for that mental midget. Shea has a regular habit of attacking people for writing stuff that he refuses to read, presumably lest he soil himself with badthink by actually informing himself on the subjects of his ire (or even worse -*gasp*- be forced to admit that he was wrong about something!). He did the same thing with Matt Walsh's articles opposing suicide, leveling bizarre attacks on claims that weren't in them, and showing himself incapable of answering basic questions about the things that were. And that's just one example of many.

  20. Ed, speaking of your book, wasn't it supposed to be out by now? I see it's delayed until the end of May. You finished it before Christmas. My ignorance of what goes into publishing a book tells me Ignatius seem like slow publishers.

  21. So I’ve now looked at the latest FB stuff and listened to the radio interview.

    What a bizarre person Shea is. Same wild flailing about at fantasy opponents, same refusal to engage counter-arguments and evidence against his assertions (re: the bogus 4% claim, the Ratzinger and Levada statements, etc.), same projectile puking of bile and smears in every direction.

    An especially nice touch in the radio interview is all the phony chin-pulling about why-o-why any Catholic might be motivated to defend CP. Well, he could, y’know, just read what I’ve actually written to find out. But that would take work, and would confront him with arguments he won’t know how to answer. Better to construct imaginary motivations and attack those instead.

    He is right about one thing, which is that he isn’t worth responding to – not on the merits of his position, anyway, since there aren’t any. However, his phony aw-shucks humility notwithstanding, he is well aware that he has a following in the Catholic blogosphere. And in my opinion, when a prominent loudmouth opponent self-immolates in public, it is always a good idea to draw attention to the spectacle. Hence my decision to reply to him. By all means let his light shine for all to see rather than be hidden under a bushel. He is a sterling example of how demagogic and bankrupt extreme anti-CP rhetoric is, and the more he opens his mouth the more he discredits his cause.

    One more thing: Shea (and Bennett) seem blithely unaware of the begged questions implicit in what they present as the Church’s teaching on CP, viz. that CP is permissible only when absolutely necessary to safeguard innocent lives. For – as people who actually know the theological literature on this subject are aware – whether this restriction on the application of CP constitutes a development of doctrinal principle or merely a prudential judgment is precisely part of what is at issue. There are orthodox Catholic theologians on both sides. Cardinal Avery Dulles (who did not himself favor capital punishment) and Steven Long are two prominent theologians who take the view that it is merely a prudential judgment. And this is supported by the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger himself in one place explicitly denied that there was any change at the level of doctrinal principle, and in another place explicitly said that a Catholic could be “at odds with” John Paul II on that particular subject and that there could be a “legitimate diversity of opinion” among Catholics on CP. He could not have said those things if it were more than a prudential judgment. And as head of CDF, he was, I submit, in a better position to know than Mark Shea. Naturally, Shea continues to pretend that these statements from Ratzinger do not exist.

    Anyway, we address this very issue at length in the book. There are arguments that Dulles, Long, Joe and I, and others have put forward which people like Shea need to answer if they really want to know what they are talking about rather than just shooting off their mouths ignorantly. If he’d bother to read a book before denouncing it like some fundamentalist Bible thumper, he might save himself some embarrassment, and the rest of us the time it takes to point out his errors.

  22. Hello Kiel, the date in Ignatius's new Spring catalog is May 15. The March date that was on Amazon before was just a dummy date -- often initial dates on Amazon are not (and not meant to be) precise.

  23. It is sad to see a talented apologist like Shea degenerate into lunacy. I won't be surprised if he descends into heresy one day, like Tertullian or Pelagius.

  24. I don't see the point in getting all lathed up over this. Do you think criminal justice has ever, in any society, resembled or even approximated God's justice?

  25. Shea's remarks are of course stupid (Ed is the Anti-Pope now?).
    They do however touch on something I've been wondering for a time, namely that there a number of Catholics who, even if they accept that Capital Punishment is permissible in some circumstances, have qualms about these circumstances being dictated by 'prudential' (Utilitarian) considerations.

  26. If Shea wereen't doing so much harm, his posts would be funny.

    Here is a recent one:

    Had a conversation with an angry Fundamentalist atheist the other day. He was a former Fundy who went to Liberty College [probably Liberty University is meant here] and made the sensible choice to reject the ugly god of Fundamentalism–a god I don’t believe in either. Unfortunately, he then did what many ex-Fundamentalists do and rejected the real God as well.

    Shea is forever lecturing people who don't believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God as being dissenters and (rather implausibly) polytheists. However, Shea apparently believes Catholics and Protestants don't believe in the same God. Stopping fighting Francis, the Church and the Magesterium Mark!

    -Neil P.

  27. @ Daniel

    They do however touch on something I've been wondering for a time, namely that there a number of Catholics who, even if they accept that Capital Punishment is permissible in some circumstances, have qualms about these circumstances being dictated by 'prudential' (Utilitarian) considerations.

    This is a fair concern. It is generally tough for natural lawyers to say how the permissibility of actions depends on consequences without conceding that utilitarianism is possible.

    On the other hand, I think it's important to appreciate that this problem is quite global and has nothing to do with capital punishment per se. The justification for having law enforcement in general is utilitarian. So is the justification for permitting or prohibiting the sale of pornography.

  28. “The reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium. Consistency with scripture and long-standing Catholic tradition is important for the grounding of many current teachings of the Catholic Church; for example, those regarding abortion, contraception, the permanence of marriage, and the ineligibility of women for priestly ordination. If the tradition on capital punishment had been reversed, serious questions would be raised regarding other doctrines." --- Avery Cardinal Dulles, “Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty”, in Owens, Carlson & Elshtain, op. cit., p. 26. Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning

  29. There a flame war going on on face book. She apparently Eds book has something to do with trumps tweets on wiretapping according to Shea.

  30. Do you go into any discussion of the cost the executioner faces psychologically or emotionally? It seems asking a health care professional to end the life of a nuetralized threat is a high price to pay for a form of justice that isn't absolutely necessary. Its my primary objection to capital punishment.

    So don't ask a health care professional.

    Anybody can stick a needle into a person with sufficient poison to kill him. There is absolutely no necessity to make the death penalty painless, and the notion that it ought to be painless is as nonsensical as Shea. We might just as well go back to beheading or the firing squad.

    Or, like Athens 2400 years ago, give the criminal a cup of hemlock. It works for the Hemlock Society.

    Just like with the other professions we call on to exercise controlled violence, (police, soldiers), the executioner ideally has a very clear notion of why and how what he is doing is serving the common good and is itself an act of virtue, not a disordered act; and he should be psychologically stable about his role in killing. If he is either excessively hardened (so he doesn't perceive his action serious), or excessively squeamish (so he can't interiorize the valid reasons why his actions are good), he needs another line of work. The executioner is taking on just the same morally serious kind of act that a soldier must prepare for the night before his commander sends him out to ambush an enemy force. If there is no such thing as an executioner doing so in a sane and virtuous manner and coming out from it with his soul and psyche intact, then neither is there one for the soldier.

    So get health care professionals back in the hospital where they belong, and give the job to the people who are expected to be able to kill when that is in the service of the common good.

  31. Interesting to look into the 4% claim:

    "With an error rate at trial over 4%, it is all but certain that several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent (21)."

    Still, this is from recent past.
    What about the death penalty from before such stringent adjudication?

  32. Also, it'd be interesting to do some kind of analysis on the effects of having an anti-capitalist punishment stance into the future.

    For example, a dictator rules over a country in the future, but either faces more [or less] resistance to putting ppl to death based on the culture.

  33. Shea is no better then the reactionary Radtrad crowd he used to oppose.

    In fact it is the duty of all faithful Catholics to call him that.

    Mark Shea is a Radtrad! Shea is Bob Sungennis of the pseudo-left and twice and nuts and four times as unreasonable.

    Also my wife Rosemarie has stopped reading his blog cause she can't stomach him anymore.

  34. I just debated Mark over at his facebook page. He seems to think opposing the death penalty is "magisterial".

    It isn't. Neither BTW is supporting it.

  35. Hi SoY, see my latest post. Shea's readers should demand that he directly address the Ratzinger and Levada texts and explain how his assertions can be reconciled with them. I wont hold my breath.

  36. [To DNW from the Anon he was responding to earlier] Yeah, in addition to the inconsistency I was commenting on, the Bronze Age line rubbed me the wrong way because it smacks of the whole "more recent ideas = better ones" mentality. You'd think a Chesterton fan like Shea would know better. I didn't make the connection with anti-Bible rhetoric until you pointed it out, though (although I've heard the term used for that before). 'Medevial' is the usual term used for bashing the Middle East, but I know Shea is aware that popular conceptions of the Middle Ages are overly negative, so I guess he needed a different time period to use as an insult.

  37. @ abcde234324:

    "With an error rate at trial over 4%,...

    abcde, the study was about "exonerations", which appears to have included any and all convictions set aside. However, such a standard leaves ambiguous several types of situations, for example, including the cases where the defendant was guilty, but the conviction was set aside because the trial judge made (or allowed) procedural errors. The state's refusal to re-try may not be based solely on its re-evaluation of the guilt of the defendant in light of the trial error, but include many other factors.

    Not to mention the cases where the conviction was set aside on appeal by a judge THEN making an error in so deciding. (One has to assume that there is an error rate for exonerations, i.e. exoneration decisions by judges who are just as capable of error as trial judges. One has to wonder, in such a discussion, of the number of validly convicted death row murderers that the Supreme Court turned out of death row back in 1972 because of their impetuous Furman decision, and the possibility that the ONE JUDGE (the decision went 5-4) got it wrong.)

    It would be more interesting to get us figures on the number of convicted death row inmates who have been exonerated in the sense of later being "proven to be innocent" where "proven" is according to at least a rigorous standard as that of conviction: beyond a reasonable doubt. THAT kind of statistic would be far more important to the death penalty debate.

    Nevertheless, while the precise error rate must be of interest to those who are responsible for fine-tuning the justice system to improve it, it is not a serious problem for the principles of death penalty. Those who advocate that the death penalty is in principle a licit punishment must (and can) provide in their reasoning for there being ANY error rate at all, even Antonin Scalia's asserted 0.027% rate. Once you can provide for any errors, the precise rate is of lesser import.

  38. Hysterical is a better descriptor than deranged.

    "... Bronze Age Islamic states ..."

    How islamophobic!

  39. I have a vision that Old Scratch was outraged when he lost Patheos's Leah Libresco. So now, he and countless other demons are focusing all their attention on him in revenge. Similar to the "Concentrate all your fire on that super star destroyer" moment from Empire Strikes Back.

    His "Mother of the Son" books were some of the finest apologetic writing I have come across. Like good families, good apologists are the favorite targets of diabolism, for understandable reason.

  40. First, the book has not come out yet, so Shea hasn’t even read it.

    Since when did our liberal opponents allow a trifling little technicality such as that stand in their way?

    It's like how liberals don't let you point out their fallacies because some alleged neo-Nazi organization has also (allegedly) made the same point against them, which obviously means you must be a Nazi or Nazi supporter to make the same argumentative point; e.g., pointing out that "It's [insert current year here], I can't believe [insert issue here; e.g., Patriarchy] still exists!" isn't an argument. Apparently neo-Nazis on the interwebs make this claim; therefore, if you point out "but it's year X" isn't an argument you must be a neo-Nazi, too.

    I sometimes wonder if the DNC sets up fake and egregiously racist or vile and stupid organizations to preemptively criticize their own policies -even with legitimate and unrelated criticism- in order to cast detractors or opponents as guilty by association. Like does anybody still remember when the ACLU and the SPLC weren't just liberal-progressive ideological mouthpieces and hired character assassins? These groups always seem to manage to find some eccentric, whacko individuals or groups - even "churches" - that literally nobody has ever heard of before to demonize conservatives and opponents of neo-Marxist/"progressive" DNC policies, which then media in turn dutifully reports for them to shame and silence opponents. This has been happening like clockwork for at least a decade now.

    But back to topic: Isn't Shea being a total freaking hypocrite? Should he stop and think that it's rather unnecessary to split the Church and make a mountain over an issue such as, e.g., the death penalty? Shouldn't he rather put his mouth where he claims it is and actually spend more time defending the unborn rather than tossing acid at other Catholics? Doth the lady protest just a wee bit too much?

  41. One thing has always puzzled me about objections like the "4%". If you object on the ground that sometimes the justice system will go awry, isn't that equally an objection to most other punishments (certainly imprisonment)? You cannot give those years back, either, nor erase the memory of what the convicts fellow prisoners do to him. Equally, cops will sometimes shoot innocent people; soldiers will shoot their allies. The standard raised seems to me to amount to paralysis. I don't get it.

    OTOH, lest one be too blithe about the innocence of the executioner, it is well to recall the custom of forgiving the headsman.

  42. Unfortunately, the Internet in general, and particularly when applied to apologetics, seems to be a nasty drug, with bad consequences for the character of the user. Shea is not the only person to fall prey to its effects; Dreher, who has a history that makes him a bit of a religious butterfly, seems to have followed a similar trajectory, and I know that too much Internet makes me into a bigger jerk than I am already.

    I wonder if this hasn't happened before. The printing press was the Internet of its day, and it seems likely that a similar pressure drove Luther to become angrier and more heretical.

  43. "Shea accuses fellow Catholics who disagree with him about capital punishment of being blinded by their political biases"

    Ne accuses people of being that or evil if they disagree about anything.

    Since Trump, Shea has gone totally bonkers. He hates the man and the GOP with blind passion and basically this rules his life now.

    He bashes all Christians who do not share is thoughts as "Christianists" (basically evil Christian fundies), which is the same as claiming that he is the one who supports True Christianity (TM) and all others are a-holes.

    Ironically he likes to surround himself with cronies who constantly bash Christians, praise muslims like they are all peave loving hippies (while stats show thay over 50% are radical) and generally just love to please Mark Ego by ganging up in those who disagree.

  44. @thinkling

    Before Trump Shea was a normal person and actually a fine apologist which I liked a lot. After Trump started campaiging and -worse- won, Shea basically lost it.

    Now I'm not pro Trump. Not sure if he's even better than Hillary.
    He does good and bad things, mostly bad, granted, but Shea and pretty much most of the liberal media tries to Hitlerize him, to make him out as a being why is utterly evil and can do not right thing.

    Frankly, it's tiring and boring. Even SNL said people are fed up with anti Trump satire and I believe that.

  45. Wow. Well done. Professor Feser you should allow me to buy you lunch someday in Pasadena so I can thank you for this article.

  46. Shea posts the photo of Trump "mocking a reporter's disability" practically every week. He has been sent the proof that this never happened, again and again. He keeps posting the lie. That's how he works.