Through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault

The past week has not been a pleasant one, but it has been a fruitful one.  I won’t bore you with a lot of autobiography, but I will say that the Holy Spirit has been very busy, turning over some rocks in the heart that have nasty things living under them.  And since some of them concern youse guys (who have been way more patient with me than I would be if I were reading me over the past several years) I think I owe some apologies.

You know how something can be right in front of your face and you can’t see it?  That’s what it’s been for me this week and really for a good number of years.  I’ve sensed that something is wrong, but not been able to really get it or know what to do about it.  Partly I spent a lot of time thinking about the reaction to this piece, in which it was very plain that the issue for readers was simply that I had offended and angered a lot of people for a long time. But in many ways, the reactions to that piece just seemed to recapitulate a lot of reactions over the years. It seemed obvious to me that the problem was me, not my readers (since I don’t believe in conspiracy theories).  My assumption is that when a random sample of people all report a very similar experience, that’s because they are reacting to something that is there, not conspiring to create an illusion of something that is not.

So there was that.  There is also the fact that, over the past several years, I have engaged in a number of arguments on a number of questions that have brought to the surface some pretty deep rooted habits of soul.  I have remarked on them in the past and tried to repent of them (sincerely, I might add, but of course the problem with besetting sins is that they are besetting: think about that sin you’ve confessed a hundred times and seem to make no progress with.  Frustrating, ain’t it?)

Anyway, it all kind of came to a head this weekend on Sunday, starting at Mass.  The hymn was, appropriately enough for Corpus Christi, “Taste and See”.  As I was praying it just got more and more apparent to me that the message I’m getting back from so many quarters is, if you will, “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.

There’s more, so bear with me.  I mentioned things living under the rocks.  One of the things that lives under the rocks in my heart has been a deep and abiding fear, a kind of heart conviction about the universe that long predates any conscious relationship with God I formed as an adult (recall that I was no raised Chrisian). I’m not saying it’s a truth about the universe. I’m saying it’s something more like a broken bone in my soul that never knit right. And what it comes down to is a pattern of assuming that I am, at best, a tool of God, not a son of God and certainly not somebody God loves.  And with that has been a fear that, at the end of the day, once my utility to God is spent I would be tossed away like a candy bar wrapper.

Observant readers will grasp that this has more than a little to do with my intensely strong reaction to the notion of using people as means to ends–as though the person himself is merely a tool.  Hence my intense reactions to such questions as abortion, torture and the whole Live Action thing, all of which involve reducing people to things or means to an end.

But there’s a bitter irony in all that too.  Because while I have been busy (for instance) arguing all that stuff here, I really saw this weekend that I have myself long had a habit of reducing other people to means to ends, depersonalizing them, and treating them with little or no respect.  It works this way:

If I am arguing with somebody who seems to me to merely be in intellectual error (like somebody getting their sums wrong or having an honestly mistake idea) I will treat that one with respect.  But when I feel as though I am engaged with somebody who is wilfully refusing to get the point, I will generally reach a point where I decide “Okay, you refuse to listen honestly or reply honestly, so I will henceforth respond to you only for the sake of those third party bystanders watching the conversation who will listen.  You have just been reduced to a Thing: a means to the end of talking to them.”

In addition, my attitude toward Public Figures is much the same.  I tend not to see them as human beings, but as sort of semi-fictional characters.  People who don’t fully exist but who are In the News and therefore symbols or representatives of ideas.

The upshot is this: Irony of ironies, a friend asked me today if I had contacted Lila Rose.  I said that I had contacted her organization–recently.  He said, “Why didn’t you contact her at the start of the contretemps?”   I had no answer.  It had never occurred to me.  Those familiar with the history of the controversy will recall that when it erupted, I basically was of the school that saw no big issue and said pretty much what most LA defenders say.  It wasn’t till various readers, Dawn Eden among them, challenged me and I could not find a way to argue with them that I changed me mind.  Honest, you can go back to the Register blog archives and watch the progression of my change of mind in February 2011.  Anyway, as the conversation moved along, I was basically thinking on the fly and in public and as opposition to the change of mind increased, it never occurred to me to contact Lila Rose because, well, my argument was primarily with people talking about her and she was a public figure acting publicly like, say, a movie star or politician or philanthopist in the headlines.  And so, instead of doing what Matthew 18 says and going privately and speaking in love, I simply treated her as though she wasn’t so much a person as a thing–a Figure in the Headlines and therefore a means to an end wherein I made some points about things I wanted to say to third parties I wanted to convince.

If you are noticing a certain irony (the more accurate term is “sinful hypocrisy”) in that, so have I. Because it has been right at the heart of my complaint about Live Action’s tactics.  Physician, heal thyself.  Next stop: confession.  But first, 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.

Finally, those patterns have played out repeatedly in other arguments over the years: take your pick, you guys know better than I do.  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.  Again, mea culpa.

There are undoubtedly more rocks to turn over, but that’s all I have worked out so far.  Your prayers and forgiveness would be appreciated.

In 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.

  • Archaeology cat

    Prayers for you. And please, if you can, pray for me.

  • Curious

    Well put Mark. Does this mean you will also stop reducing Traditional Catholics to “things” that can be mocked and tossed out as well?

    • Stu

      Shipmate, hold fire.

    • Nancy

      This. The commentor who remarked that Mark lose the habit of “naming” groups or opponents is on the right track. Empathy is good.

    • chezami

      I will try.

      • Shocked Trad

        Thanks Mark. Your humility and charity are inspiring. May you be further blessed in them through our merciful Savior.

  • Nancy

    I think the best example of this utilitarianism was the Perry Lorenzo business. That’s when Mark lost me. It’s a perfect example of what he’s talking about here: Using a dead guy – who didn’t ask to be talked about, whose family didn’t ask for him to be talked about – to prove – what? That the writer is more open-minded that the readers he is trying to incite? Discussing the man’s sexuality – again, the sexuality of a deceased person who was VERY PRIVATE about that sexuality – to highlight one’s own True Catholicism or broad mindedness or get loads of blog hits and attention or what have you – was reprehensible, in my mind. Just back here because I saw it on Simcha.

    • chezami

      I don’t think he was all hat private (given that lots of people seem to have known about it, just not me). If I thought he and his partner (who, after all, published the mention of their relationship in his obituary) wanted it all confidential, I would not have mentioned it.

      • Nancy

        So if a person is married – a public status – that means the expression of their sex life is fair game for discussion after they are dead so we – the general public – can judge their souls? Geez. *Checking out now.*

        • chezami

          I said nothing about his sex life, precisely because I knew nothing about it it and it wasn’t my business. My whole point was that I couldn’t and didn’t judge his soul. It would appear, however, that you’ve judged mine pretty harshly.

        • Bill

          Mark’s baring himself here, and you’re kicking dirt on him.

    • Beadgirl

      I disagree, Nancy. I really liked that post, because it added complexity to an issue that too often gets reduced to “Catholics hate gays!” It did a good job of explaining how being gay is not, in and of itself, a sin, and it also made the point that having gay sex is neither the worst sin in the world nor the only thing that matters about a person. We are so much more than our sins, but unfortunately we have a tendency to judge others solely on their sins while excusing and minimizing our own.

      • singermomma

        Agreed. In fact, that blog post was one of my favorites from the last year for all the reasons Beadgirl mentions.

        • Barbara Bowman

          I, too, agree. I thought a lot about that blog post, and returned to read it more than once. I don’t think there is anything to apologize for in that entry.

    • Kate Cousino

      I disagree. I though that was a wonderfully human post with a personalistic appreciation for the compexities and virtues of an individual human being. It may have been partly intended as a corrective to the tendency to reduce people to their sexuality, but it certainly didn’t partake in it.

  • rwaligora

    mark..don’t you think this article should have been posted in the National Catholic Register where you to lila rose and her tactics to task

    • chezami

      I think the readership is broader here, so I went where it was most like to be seen. I will link to this over at the Register in an upcoming entry there.

  • Kelmomma

    Mark, this is impressive. I came to read from time to time off of New Advent and couldn’t follow along too much because of the debates taking place in the comboxes. I am so impressed by what the Holy Spirit is doing and in your response and saying yes. All I can say is wow and thank you. You have a great talent and the Lord just sharpened your blade of truth. Can’t wait to see His gentleness come boldly through your work.

  • Eileen D’A

    Wow. Thank you for pouring out your soul here. I was edified to read your comments and apologize if I egged you on in a bad direction with the Live Action debate. If I may I’d like to offer another way of thinking about these debates – sometimes it’s not that people refuse to get your point. It’s just that they don’t agree with it. Perhaps they don’t understand the principles as deeply as you do. Perhaps they understand them better. Perhaps they just see things differently. In any case I understand how frustrating it is when someone will not agree with you.

    Peace, brother, deep and abiding peace to you.

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    Hey there. I’m a frequent reader. I’ve been staying out of the LiveAction controversy, but I know what’s going on.

    I’m so glad that you’re owning up to whatever bitterness and skepticism are in your heart. Melancholy is an easy sin to fall into.

    But at the same time, I hope that you can use your granddaughter as an inspiration. Not only is she absolutely adorable, she comes off to me as fearless and happy. Children help us see that life is wonderful.

    Don’t give up on your political commentary by the way. As somebody who is stuck in the middle of the political spectrum, you’re one of the few people who gives me solace about where I stand.

    I’ll be praying for you. I hope things get better.

    Monique: frequent reader, sporadic commentator, and 20-something.

    • Beadgirl

      Ooh, yeah. Do whatever is best for your soul, of course, but I’ve really appreciated your writing on various issues (even if not always your tone). You’ve taught me a lot about things it never occurred to me to think about.

      On a lighter note, I am amused to see Discus or Patheos or whoever recommend your “I’M NOT SORRY! I’M NOT SORRY!” post at the bottom of this one.

      • chezami

        Bwahahahaha! I hadn’t noticed that. Perfect.

  • Deacon Keith Fournier

    Dear Mark
    I was deeply moved by your honest and humble article. You have my prayers as you continue on this path – which is so obviously led by the Holy Spirit.
    In the Lord and for His Church,
    Deacon Keith Fournier

    • chezami

      Thank you, Deacon. I appreciate it.

  • Jim J. McCrea

    It is a whole life-time work to uproot hidden sins and faults – it should always be our sincere prayer to ask the Lord to show us the sins and faults of which we are not presently aware.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Surely you knew that some would smell blood in the water with this, as indeed they have, which makes your very public mea culpa all the more commendable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnhschaefer John Schaefer

    Mark, I couldn’t help but be drawn originally to your article on arguing. It’s an area I have spent a great deal of time on trying to make myself better in recently. I’ve read several books on arguing and fallacies and have found them to be helpful in my progression. When I started to read the article though, I sensed a great irony in your writing, but didn’t have time to comment on it at the time.

    I find you to be quite honest, a bit over reactive at times, but honest. But I admire honesty above most other traits. I like knowing where people stand. I don’t KNOW you. We’ve never met. But, I feel like I have known you for a long time. A friend of mine likes to point out that we are drawn to people like ourselves. Who am I to disagree.

    I have also learned something you pointed out…people turn to different writers, pundits personalities and TV talking heads not because they are right, but are louder, in your face, and aggressive with their opinions – some might say more boorish. You do carry some of these traits, which is why you have built your readership up. Sometimes, though, our great weakness is our greatest strength, or opportunity.

    Mark, I do admire you for running to your problem. I might suggest that before you post – especially in the comboxes – that you think a little bit more before.you hit the “Post” button. Other than that, don’t beat yourself up too much…there’s a lot of folks here that like you…even though you can be a little jerky sometimes! ;-)

  • Bill

    Mark,

    I appreciate your candor and your willingness to apologize for brusqueness.

    I also think that you are often right, and the people who are offended are often wrong, and I think you do a good service in showing them the light too.

  • Michael Newhouse

    That’s refreshing honesty. Too often in the Church we line up behind our party positions and just ‘man the barricades.’ I will pray for your ongoing transformation in Christ. May we all be transformed in Him.

  • http://blog.goliard.us/ Blog Goliard

    Very well done, Mark. You’re setting a good example here.

  • Sebastian from Florida

    Wow This is what Ive been telling you for years. Treat Lila Rose like she was the cuteness and we could have happily disagreed. You went after her so furiously so many times I was against you no matter what. Nice sign of unity and humility Mark, something that i missed from you and really had turned me off your writing for a long time.

  • ponerology

    Thanks. And I hope this means less trashing and bashing of Tradition and those who adhere to it. (I’m not sure why I showed up today since I’ve not been here in weeks…..)

  • Newp Ort

    Whoa, hey, everybody looks like we got a human being over here!!!

  • kmk1916

    The whole “tool of God” thing–it was Blessed Teresa who said something about being an instrument (or was it a pencil?) that God could put down or take up when He wished. St. Therese (“Little Flower”) talked about being a ball in the garden, that dear Jesus could play with her then leave her in the grass to wait, and she was content to be a small wild flower.

    The first readings are from the Book of Tobit this week, and our pastor today, commenting on Tobit getting unjustly upset with his poor wife after 4 years of stress and suffering, warned about putting difficult circumstances or sufferings under a microscope and fixating on them, without pulling back and seeing the big picture, and how much God loves us and is always there. As you know, the Book of Tobit ends with everyone living happily ever after (actually, I haven’t read to the end yet!) and presumably Tobit understanding how much God loves him–that he isn’t just a righteous tool of God (in the first Chapter, Tobit describes how he goes the distance in being a good Jew).
    That humility and great and simple charity displayed by both Theresas is the key, right? They were absolutely convinced that they were loved by the Lord, and spent hours with Him to get to know Him , and that’s the only way they were able to do anything. I don’t think they thought of “tool” as something dispensable.
    You and other apologists have a tough job over the internet.It is difficult for us to acknowledge each other as unique adopted sons and daughters of God on many occasions. You already know what we are all supposed to do–we’re supposed to conduct ourselves as if we were in your living room,I think that used to be on your old blog, anyway. Well, just remember we’re all in each other’s living room,and sometimes your sarcasm might be blowing holes in commenters’s hearts–esp those who might not be as witty, or intellectual.
    God bless you–I am a believer in the Church’s take on corporal punishment because of years of reading you, and the 2 recent posts about joining the military had so many thoughtful comments, it was very helpful.

  • Deacon Tom Lang

    No doubt Saint Augustine is smiling! Now, time for all of us to exam our consciences and determine where “mea culpas” are due.

  • MommaChaves

    Thanks for this. I first started reading you for your cheerfulness. The name of your blog fit so well. During the torture debate, I had to stop reading you. Not because I disagreed or agreed; but because I was struggling to understand what constituted torture (I always understood that torture was always and everywhere wrong) (It also took me 3 years to fully embrace the Church’s teachings on contraception. I did it by reading, reading, and reading) I wanted to explore the arguments about torture, but at some point you started accusing people like me of willful ignorance, etc. I had to go off on my own exploration and avoid you and all the other pompous commentators who had reached their conclusions much more quickly – and were dismissive to the rest of us. Personally, I like a good debate. I think it’s healthy. What I don’t like is when one side decides the debate is over and anyone who still has questions is basically told they have no right to those questions and doubts. I really hope I can get back to reading you, because it’s so important to sow joy in this world – which is what I originally liked about your writing. Thank you so much for the apology !

  • David

    Thanks, Mark. I used to follow you diligently, and after the Fr. Corapi OpEd you posted (I thought you were right about some things, wrong about others there), sorta tuned you out. I’d read once in a while, but stopped being a fan.
    I didn’t know you felt that way about Lila, but OK, as long as you don’t dehumanize her, I’m good.
    I will say this: I guess we all need to turn our rocks over and see the ugliness under them. And it takes great courage to do so so publicly. God bless you.

  • Seraphic

    Dear Mark, I always admired how you said your opposition to violent punishments was because of how violent you felt towards people who hurt children. Meanwhile, St. Augustine was adamant that one must never tell a lie.

  • CatholicReligionTeacher.com

    Mark, I have to admit that I stopped reading your blog about a year or so ago because I noticed the negativity and lack of charity slipping into my own thoughts and discussions with family, friends, students, and strangers in Combox Land. I’m grateful for your show of humility here (which I was alerted to via CatholicVote.org) and pray that all of us (myself included!) do a better job speaking the truth with saint-like love.

  • B.E. Ward

    If I were ever dumb enough to get a tattoo, it would be “Speak the truth in love” so I’d be forced to see it every day of my life.

    It’s one of the most complex tasks a human can undertake, especially in public. But it has to be a balance.. there must be charity, but there must be truth, too.

  • Lint Hatcher

    God bless you, Mark. Thank you for being so transparent and repentent. Honestly, I think you are struggling with the reality of blogging, the internet, Facebook — all technology that at one and the same time bring us together and separate us. On the one hand, the new social media are connecting a lot of people, getting the word out despite the mainstream media. At the same time, we are all alone, sitting at our computers, typing away, barely in any sense neighbors. I think a touch of dissociation in which we objectify the people we meet via comboxes is inevitable and it is good that you are struggling with this and its various implications (limitations?) regarding heartfelt communication about issues that are both universal and deeply felt. I don’t think you could have avoided this struggle. God bless you for searching your own heart, being responsive to the conviction of sin, and for your confessional approach to your readers. I am a writer at heart and believe fiercely in the power to communicate via the written word and I am sure you will find your way to express yourself more fully.

  • Sum Romanus

    No, you are involved in public debate and the other parties are aware of this fact. We can’t talk about these issues without getting personal as they are deeply personal and public issues. We can’t enter into to debate as if we are talking to a 12 year old. Everyone involved knows it is not personal, it is the subject matter. Yes, there is the occasional personal jibe, but better that than treating everyone like a kid – That would be an attack on their human dignity. When people are wrong they need to be told the truth. In compassion, naturally; but not so much that they think they are not being taken seriously. Better as you are than Mr. Soppy pants, at least I think so. We can’t have you losing your edge.

  • AnsonEddy

    Wow. This is humbling. No advice from me. Nothing I want to back over and relitigate. Kind of just want to put down my stone that so severely shames me now and flee.

  • rwconspirator

    Mark, as a sinner, I feel you are a piker. What you are concerned about probably is an issue that should be addressed, but I have my doubts that it is even sinful. However, I applaud your sincerity and courage in “confessing” to us and look forward to your future columns. And good luck in perfecting the virtue of charity.

    • chezami

      Oh, it’s sinful alright.

  • Paula Gehringer

    Mark, Where do you think Christ wants you to be in order to best serve Him and live out the truth of the Gospel in your life? I am going to write boldly and tell you I get the impression that you need some serious healing. Whatever is not conducive to that, no matter how noble a cause it may be , must take a back seat to removing what is creating a barrier between you and your ability to fully get who you are in the eyes of Christ.

    I pray that your heart will opened always with charity for others, but mostly for yourself so that you can humbly accept Christ’s love.

    Paula Gehringer.

    • Pavel Chichikov

      You mean that about yourself too, don’t you?

      • Paula Gehringer

        Yes, of course. Our Salvation is what really matters when you cut through all the other stuff of life. We will not understand that until we “get” just who we are in the eyes of Christ. He alone should define us. In Him alone should we come to know ourselves. When we come to see this we will understand why we matter and why our salvation matters and why most all we do should be done with that in mind.

        Paula

        • Pavel Chichikov

          God bless.

          I’ve had two showings – if that’s what you’d call them – about how forgiving God is, and how He takes our stumblings and messes.

          It’s OK, as long as you try. True contrition. Even tears.

          As Dame Julian reported: All shall be well.

          • Paula Gehringer

            It is an astonishing moment when you realize that God desires you. That He truly wants you to be saved and to share eternity with Him in heaven. He looks at the hot mess I am and His response is love and mercy. How can I not be contrite in the face of such a bring me to my knees thunder bolt?

            God bless you too.

            • Paxton Reis

              And in that desire for us, he send his Son to us.

              • Paula Gehringer

                Amen.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    I need to pray more for the atheist who called me a “slavering cur” the other day.

    Actually, for a cur I’m rather dry mouthed.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    I heard a homily some years ago by a priest who in his time has been a notable alpinist. I’ve seen him mentioned in at least one book about Himalayan climbing.

    He said: The only thing in life that is important is to get to heaven.

  • Joseph Q

    Don’t take advice right now…just take support. Stay, Mark. Stay. This is an encounter with hope. Never slough it off as a phase. It’ll develop. (I know. That’s advice). Here’s support: I suck too! I’m so lame at times. I stay on Frassatti’s back, constantly, begging for the reminder of charity. Charity, charity, charity. An hour later, I flop.

    I thought so many times (about you) just “Unlike” him. He’ so in-your-face. Other bloggers are noting how wrong they think you are. But you were (are?) like me. So I stayed. And, as a more traditional guy, I need a reminder. I sometimes can’t find that elsewhere. But no matter how snappy you were, there was often some truth for me to help me gain a different perspective. A Catholic perspective. After a night of letting something you said marinate a little, that opposing view, whatever it was, helped me to observe from a new vantage point. I disagree with you…a lot. But sometimes I don’t. Stay bro, it’ll be worth it.

  • Ross

    I know about besetting sin. But your confession is encouraging to me who also has living things under the rocks in my heart. Thanks

  • anna lisa

    Well God bless you for wanting to build bridges. You never came off as bitter to me. I can’t imagine all the muck you wade through. Who wouldn’t get a little ticked off from time to time? Be good, follow the inspiration of the spirit, and don’t let the dark voice convince you of anything. I have really appreciated and benefited from your writing. Thank you for being a good example of building community through charity. God Bless you and yours.

    • said she

      My thoughts, exactly!
      Please keep writing, Mark. We need you!

  • scary goat

    Hi Mark

    I have never read your blog, so I don’t really know who or what you are talking about….I just followed a link from another site. The one thing I really noticed in what you have written here is the mention of not being raised Christian and how it’s hard to break free from a previous mind set…the subconscious sort, not the conscious. I related very much to that….I have the same problem (although it affects me slightly differently)….I recognise it in myself….but it is so ingrained that I have to consciously remind myself otherwise I lose it.

    I was brought up Atheist (the more nihilistic variety) and have virtually zero sense of self worth. I then married into the Islam where people are “slaves” or “servants” of God, not beloved children. Basically I went from fear of nothingness and pointlessness to fear of a dictatorial God whose demands I couldn’t meet. And in neither of these positions did I encounter love.

    And now? ” Like a broken bone in my soul that never knit right”….yes exactly. It’s something like belonging to the Church is the most wonderful thing….if only I knew how to feel loved, forgiven, of worth. It is wonderful at a conscious level where I understand it….. but somewhere deep inside my bones I struggle to relate.

    And I think this is a problem in trying to evangelise….people are so broken out there these days it is hard for them to relate.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    • KM

      Scary Goat,

      I really appreciated what you had to say in response to Mark’s helpful post. I was raised Catholic, strayed from the church, then returned a few years ago. So even those of us “raised in the church” can harbor nagging doubts and shame about whether we’re christian enough. As a result it’s hard to fit in, or to feel part of the community. Just know that you’re not alone. There are many of us out there who strive to live christian lives but often feel like we fail at it. Sometimes we unintentionally lash out at others because of the inward turmoil we feel, then we promptly feel horrible which adds to the self-misery. I constantly pray to God for strength, healing, and for the increased capacity to love God, neighbor and self.

      • scary goat

        Thank you KM for your kind words and good advice for both me and Mark.

  • Stevelsn

    A cynical, self-serving hypocrite and fat to boot. The trifecta.

    • chezami

      God bless you, Stevelsn.

      • Stevelsn

        God bless you too sir,or is it ma’am?

    • Thomas Boynton Tucker

      Dude. Seriously.

    • Stu

      I think that will be a regretful remark.

    • Rosemarie

      +J.M.J+

      Comments like this only make one seem petty and mean.

      • Stevelsn

        As my momma used to say, “don’t be so sensitive”.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          I’m not being “sensitive,” I’m pointing out how you appear to others when you make such inappropriate comments. If you’re okay with other people reading what you write and saying, “Gee, what a petty, rotten person he is,” then feel free to disregard my comment. But don’t expect to win any points with that attitude.

    • Joe

      And I suppose you’re a skinny one? I can only claim to be a slightly overweight one.

      • Stevelsn

        Does 20# make me fat?

        • Joe

          What do you think as a cynical, hypocritical creationist?

          :)

    • Greg B

      Steve, grow up.

      • Stevelsn

        Havingbeen on the receiving end of the wrath of the word merchant Mr. Shea, I felt I ought not miss this opportunity to “kick the dog while he is down”, But, in fact, I appreciate his candor and admire him for recognizing the error of his ways.

        • Joe

          And a backhanded compliment! Stevelsn does not follow directions well Greg!

          • Stevelsn

            Do you ever notice how the comments to a blog spin off into other little dramas. Like this one with Greg and Joe taking umbrage at a comment(s) of mine. And doing so in such a way as to suggest just a touch of wit.

            • Joe

              Well, Internet trolls do have a talent for starting them. But do your job, and make sure you get the last word in, Steve! :)

  • Fiestamom

    Hi Mark, thank you for paying attention to the Holy Spirit and what it was telling you! Something we all need to do.

    I think you are someone who I agree with on most things,but it’s hard for me to get past the terms like “the thing that used to be conservatism” I am a political conservative, who wants to be a good Catholic first, and maybe part of a solution to help reform our country…through conservative principles. I read a lot of your Lila Rose posts, and if you would have been a bit more charitable, or reached out to her, I would have been more sympathetic to your arguments….because I am still willing to change my mind on that issue. (My political side is happy with her use of Alinsky-like tactics against alinskyites…but as I said, I need to be a faithful Catholic first).

    If you really are going to do things differently, why not a podcast, or post YouTube interviews with folks,when something like this comes up?. Ann Althouse has discussion videos every once in a while, and they are good. Good luck, and God bless.

  • Irksome1

    I just don’t know what to say.

  • Gina Marie Perpetua

    Thank you.

  • Paul Williams

    I agree with the comments that this has a lot to do with the nature of the internet, the boldness/nastiness that anonymity and distance can bring, and the real spiritual danger that can come of it. I used to write for a website and was increasingly disturbed by the nasty anonymous hate mail I received, and the temptation to answer back in kind.

    Mark, I have to admit that I visit your blog for not the most pure of reasons, as sometimes there will be a story in the news that pushes one of your hot button issues (traditional Catholics, LiveAction, exorcists, Michael Voris, republicans, etc.) and I tune in to watch the fireworks. While I appreciate your willingness to go against the grain in some cases, your reaction can be sought out for entertainment purposes as well. Sometimes this is based upon a “a reader emailed me and asked for my take on…” intro in which it appears someone threw a piece of red meat your way to get a reaction or provoke you into a rant.

    It seems like there is a growing realization that the real person of Mark Shea may be fading behind the persona or brand of “Mark Shea” that has become more and more associated with negativity, bitterness and verbal battle. I have also noticed that commenters that disagree with you (even in what I consider reasonable language) are often dismissed, attacked or assumed to be of ill will.

    If you are interested in unsolicited advice, I would have a set of questions to ask yourself (perhaps on a sticky note on your computer screen) each time before you push the “publish” button: What is the purpose of this post? (entertainment? enlightenment? venting about something that bugs me? education? spreading the Gospel? defending the Church?) How is it likely to be received? What real people would be affected by this in a negative way? Sometimes our pride can take us down a path that doesn’t seem to edifying in hindsight.

    I would also second the previous recommendation of some type of Baron-esque video series in which you talk through some of your longer posts rather than type them. I think that you come across with a much softer edge when communicating verbally than you do in print, and your humor, authenticity and personality shine through. It may help put a more positive spin on things.

  • singermomma

    Mark, this is a really courageous and inspirational post. We all have stuff to work on that separates us from who God wants us to be, and turning those stones over and looking at that stuff is so, so difficult. Please know that you have played a very influential role in helping me think about some aspects of my Catholic faith that I’d never considered before. As someone who suffers from almost an opposite problem of being *too* retiring and easygoing about my faith (which, strangely, stems from the same problem you mention – fear) you and many of your readers have helped me see my way to a more courageous witness and given me the means to do it. Thank you for that.

    Prayers for you!

  • brnicolosi

    So beautifully humble and good, Mark. You make me ashamed of myself. In a good way! God bless you, brother –

    • Nordog6561

      Yes Mark, what Barbara said goes double for me (Norris).

      • chezami

        Thanks (and love) to you both.

  • KM

    Mark, I just want to say a word of encouragement. I’ve read your blog occasionally over the last year, and have made a few comments (but I’m not a regular known commenter.) The posts I’ve loved the most on your site are the silly humorous ones that show us something positive in the world (e.g., the post about the guy playing Bach on glassware) to counteract the usual negativity in the media.

    I especially love your posts that delve into the Catholic catechism and expound upon cultural issues from that perspective. I’ve also enjoyed many of the political posts because they’ve helped me examine my beliefs. It’s great to have a fellow traveler and guide who wrestles with things we all struggle with. Your humility expressed in this post is an inspiration. Thank you and God bless you.

  • Mike

    Wow, what can I say? Thank you. You’re a brave man and a good person. God bless and again, wow. I am no longer a regular contributor as my office explorer doesn’t support Disq but I still read you everyday.

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    Mark, you and I suffer from the same spiritual disease.
    We’ve had our differences.
    Insofar as I’ve contributed to your difficulties, I do sincerely apologize and ask your forgiveness and prayers.

    • chezami

      Thank you, Steve. Of course I forgive you. Please forgive me for doing all that stuff I talk about here to you.

      • Steve Kellmeyer

        Absolutely, brother. :)

        • chezami

          God amazes me. I never anticipated this outcome. Thanks be to God. God bless you, Steve.

  • Laramie Stewart

    Wow Mark, you’re so humble.

  • TeaPot562

    Let the blogger who is w/o sin cast the first flame.
    (Welcome to the group of those who sin, and whom Jesus redeemed.)
    TeaPot562

  • philotheist

    God bless you!

  • twb

    I quit reading your blog several years ago, because it pissed me off too much – sometimes I’d disagree with you (though rarely in substance), or you’d argue the point all wrong (at least not the way *I’d* do it, which = wrong of course, ha!), or I thought you were being deliberately rude and provocative (a style for which I’ve lost pretty much all respect over the years), or I saw way too many sweeping dismissals and gratuitous barbs for my taste. And the comments box is always a source for offense on any blog.

    Were I to judge by your books only, you’d have my respect (as well as the dreadful envy I have of all published authors) – and I have recommended your work to a number of people.
    Were I to judge by our personal friendship, well, I’d count you (as I already do) among my better friends (better in several senses of the word). But were I to judge by your blog, I’d simply write you off as just another online snarker who’s more concerned about looking witty and pointing fingers from behind a wall of unassailable self-assurance, than helping anyone find truth (let alone Truth).

    But after all, you’re a published author and I’m not; you have lots of fans, and I don’t have a single fan who’s not genetically or matrimonially linked to me; you have the courage to put it out there and I don’t; you have the discipline to produce and I’m pure sloth. I’m not, as far as I can tell, even your target audience, so there’s no point in aggravating myself over it. And, frankly, a lot of the things that bother me are more matters of style and approach than substance; no reason to get in a fight, or insist on correcting, or getting involved.

    But my opinion of your blog is approximately the least important point about anything.

    As I read this, however, I think it would be a great disservice to both of us to keep silent. Tears come to my
    eyes as I read this even now:
    “One of the things that lives under the rocks in my heart has been a deep and abiding fear, a kind of heart conviction about the universe that long predates any conscious relationship with God I formed as an adult (recall that I was no raised Chrisian). I’m not saying it’s a truth about the universe. I’m saying it’s something more like a broken bone in my soul that never knit right. And what it comes down to is a pattern of assuming that I am, at best, a tool of God, not a son of God and certainly not somebody God loves. And with that has been a fear that, at the end of the day, once my utility to God is spent I would be tossed away like a candy bar wrapper.”

    As you know, we share similar spiritual roots – and this struck a chord, one of those deep, resonant chords,
    like a massive ancient gong, reverberating through my soul. I have felt much the
    same thing, my friend. A few years ago – around the time I hit 50 – I looked
    around and came to the conclusion that if God had “a wonderful plan for my
    life” (to coin a cliché), I’d obviously missed it; either He never told me, or
    I’d missed the cue; or God finally just gave up on my ever being ready to take
    on any worthwhile task. No “ministry,” no particular wealth or power, no
    influence, no useful qualifications, nothing to show for half a century of
    breathing; not like, say, my friend Mark Shea, who writes (and sells!) books
    (Books! On Christianity!), has a popular(!) blog, and travels across the
    country and the globe to give talks and participate in conferences (not just
    attend, but contribute!).

    So, take that same fear you described, and put it in the heart of someone whose highest justification to exist is that he provided a steady (not large, but steady) income to support a wife and child. At a job he doesn’t like (and whines about constantly). So unless I miss the mark (pun intended?), I’ve got some idea what you’re up against here. I hope you can accept my sympathy, at the very least.

    As you know – as well or better than I – there are sound theological responses to this… but as powerful as intellectual theology can be, it doesn’t always touch the heart. My heart was touched in this exact area when the priest to whom I was confessing made a simple remark. Months later, that still resonates – as a call to and reinforcement of faith, humility, reassurance…

    I can’t say that particular insight is suitable for anyone else; my point is that I hope you find that kind of grace and insight that will help you through this realization, confession, and repentance. If there’s anything I can do to help, just ask. In the meantime I shall at least pray for you… and maybe follow the blog for a time to see how this turns out :)

    • chezami

      Thanks, Tim. I don’tt have any big brilliant thing to say in response. Only that I love you and that I’m grateful for your and Laura’s friendship down through the years and think you matter a helluva lot more than you may think you matter. Listen to your priest. Wise man. And wisdom is no “innowation”. :)

  • Francis Beckwith

    You’re a good man, Mark.