Me and My Big Mouth

Over at John C. Wright’s blog, a reader writes that he has struggled for years with a harsh reply I once gave him during the thick of the Torture Arguments on this blog several years ago. This is another one of those Things I Feel Bad About moments. So, since the sin happened publicly (albeit I was unaware of the devastation it caused him at the time), it’s only fitting that I post this publicly too:

Dear Tom:

I saw your complaint on John C. Wright’s blog and would like to apologize for hurting you.  You are, it seems to me from what you write, obviously somebody of tender conscience who seeks to do what is right before the Lord.  It pains me to think that, in the heat of combat with a host of combox interlocutors who were deeply insincere ( and actively bent on rationalizing mortal sin while doing all they could to smear me ( I wound up, so to speak, shooting an innocent in my polemical gunplay with them.  It was, believe me, not my intent.  Please forgive my rash words and please take assurance from me that I want to retract the assumptions I made about your honest question.

As a token of good faith, I will also post an apology on my blog.  My entire purpose in fighting that fight against the advocacy of torture was that I loathed the abuse of people’s human dignity.  It saddens me that I abused yours.  Please know that it was not my intention and please know, especially, that whatever burden of shame and guilt I placed on your shoulder with my harsh reply to you should be allowed to roll off.  The fault was mine, not yours.  Please forgive me.

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  • Good for you, Mark. A sincere apology demonstrates a humility rarely seen in cyberwars. Kudos.

  • Truth be told, Mark, it’s probably safest to assume that most, if not all, are of tender conscience seeking to do what is right before the Lord, rather than assume anyone is deeply insincere, especially in the world of Internet wrangling. After all, it is almost impossible to really know people through Blog discussions in the best of circumstances. If we are willing to assume the worst, we run the risk of misreading someone else who we only thought was deeply insincere, when in fact they may have been the most sincerely seeking individual there is.

    Perhaps that’s why the Catechism warns us, in the same section devoted to lying, that Christians should “avoid rash judgment”, and that “everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”

    • Ted Seeber

      Remember not so accursed a soul can be,
      That within some good a loving eye can see.

      I cannot give you proper attribution for that statement without breaking a vow I took, but I will say that the source thereof is Catholic and orthodox.

  • Geoff

    Yet another reason why I have so much respect for you.

  • Allan

    That’s great, but then a few posts later you’re back to slinging the mud, this time at Tom McKenna, even when he’s agreeing with you. Are you absolutely sure he “hates you with icy contempt”? Sounds like you’re accusing him of a pretty serious sin – are you sure you know his heart well enough to say that? Could one not read your post and say you feel the same way about him?

    You also just posted about a teenage criminal who shot and disabled a police officer. Would your approach of labelling the criminal a zealous advocate of shooting people have been more effective than the priest’s ministering to him and the police officer forgiving him? I enjoy your appearances on EWTN and your more formal writing, but sometimes I think blogging just doesn’t suit your temperament – it’s too easy to spout off and write things that are unduly harsh about fellow Catholics who are still travelling the difficult road (although I guess the same could be said about the comboxes).

    • Mark Shea

      All I know is that I have been on the receiving end of contemptuous sneers from him for years. I can’t read his heart. I can only read his words. After the umpteenth time he has spat out “Pope Mark” to refer to me–and with never a single solitary effort to speak charitably of me–I conclude he hates me. I never said I didn’t forgive him. Indeed, I commended him for being right. I was simply amused that he couldn’t bear to be perceived as agreeing with me when he was, in fact, agreeing with me. And yes, the fact is his blog is one massive act of advocacy for death penalty maximalism, up to and including advocating for the execution of minors. Again, not reading hearts. Just reading words.

      • Confederate Papist

        You made a believer out of me Mark. I used to tussle with you over Nagasaki/Hiroshima and the “chair”. Your rebuttles forced me to do something many people don’t; and that’s look to the Catholic Church’s teachings. We have so many resources at our fingertips, the Bible, the Vatican website, the CCC, etc. Thanks for challenging me to think….and to learn more about our Faith.

        I still have a long way to go!

  • Mr. Shea, you do me too much honour; but it redounds to your own honour, and to the mercy of Our Lord, that you do. I have replied to you privately at greater length, but please allow me to reiterate here, in public, my gratitude that I can forgive you without fear of presumption (as it would be presumptuous to forgive one who had done no wrong) and that I need not count myself among your enemies. God bless you, sir; you have removed a heavy weight from my heart.

  • Last Lent I gave up participating in internet debates because I realized that I was turning into a monster and it all just made me a bitter, bitter man. Some things are just not worth it.

  • Thomas R

    I disagree with you a fair amount, but there are times you really impress me. Good job, both of you.