“Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing.” – Saint Peter, our first pope (1 Peter 3:9)
Mark Shea has posted an article on his blog about Faithful Answers that is presumptuous, vitriolic, incorrect, and uncharitable. As President of Faithful Answers it falls to me to provide an answer to Mr. Shea. Before I begin, I want everyone to understand that I will not engage in a tit for tat war of words with Mr. Shea. I do plan to cite his words where appropriate. But it is primarily Catholic principles that I am concerned with in doing so. Above all things, I am concerned with the theological virtue of charity which I owe toward my neighbor for the love of God. This is the nature of the articles you can expect to see on Faithful Answers. It is in this spirit that I address Mr. Shea. I will now begin to address Mr. Shea’s article with the hope of reconciliation with Mr. Shea:
- Mr. Shea has failed to follow
the words of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ when He commands “But if thy
brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him
alone.” (Matt. 18:15) Mr. Shea did not contact me in person, in writing,
or by phone before writing his tirade against Faithful Answers. If he had,
he could have better safeguarded his integrity. And he could have prevented the scandal of a false acusation.
Instead he charged in with a pile of incorrect assumptions and completely
I contacted Mr. Shea asking him to take down his article until he could follow Matthew 18. He refused. Since I have mentioned Matthew 18 to him he has written me questions privately which I will not disclose here, but which I intend to answer here. But he has still refused to take down his article. This after asking him twice privately and in writing to take down his article until he could hear me out. He refused twice in writing. I do not have an axe to grind with Mr. Shea. I am simply answering his accusations.
That, as of this writing, Mr. Shea refers to me as “some guy named Chad Arneson” betrays the truth of what I have written in this first point. He doesn’t know me. I’m just “some guy” that he does not hesitate to write against.
- Mr. Shea’s first accusation is
based on an assumption he has crafted from thin air. Mr. Shea has accused
me of calling Catholic Answers “Impure Enemies of the Faith.” This is
called slander by any definition. I have never written these words. They
do not appear anywhere on the Faithful Answers website (except in this article of course). In fact, this
article is the first time the organization “Catholic Answers” has been
mentioned. We haven’t mentioned the name Karl Keating (first time for that
name here) either.
And yet Mr. Shea defames Faithful Answers by asserting thus about the name Faithful Answers: “get it, CA isn’t “faithful” and is in fact riddled with “dens of modernist misinformation”.
Here is a great reason for the wisdom of St. Matthew 18. Had Mr. Shea written and asked me, “Hey Chad, why is it named Faithful Answers”? He would have had a very different response. Here’s the reason, Mr. Shea: We allude to two meanings. First, we are Christ’s “faithful”. That is a very old designation for the members of Christ’s Church. Second, we strive to give a faithful answer to those asking the truth of the orthodox Catholic Faith. We will be judged by Christ if we are not faithful to answer correctly. Does Mr. Shea need me to quote a mountain of Scriptural and Patristic evidence for why we would think this name is a good idea?
And yet Mark Shea is apparently so engulfed in the bubble of a “good ol boy’s club” mentality (since I’m not in it I’m just “some guy”), that in his mind I MUST be reacting to an organization this website has never mentioned before this very letter. Does Catholic Answers have a monopoly on the word “answers”? I’d like to know. Has even one bishop ever given that organization such a monopoly on the lay apologetics apostolate so as to enshrine them in Mr. Shea’s mind as the ONLY kid on the apologetics block? For Mr. Shea the answer is apparently a resounding yes.
The good news, as far as I can tell, is that neither Karl Keating or Catholic Answers has made anything close to that claim. How could they? This response is not to Catholic Answers or Karl Keating. I only mention them in reference to Mr. Shea’s remarks. Faithful Answers is not in the business of ad hominem. We are concerned with objective truth.
Yet Mr. Shea goes on to write: “But outfits like “Faithful Answers” can’t even accept organizations like Catholic Answers that are *obviously* for the Church. Not pure enough.” – Mr. Shea, who is not accepting who?
If we differ from Catholic Answers on any point it is obvious to the world. We do not have to throw stones at anyone to underscore that fact. On any issues that we would differ from them we would trust in the grace of God to vindicate the true position. We have true charity for Karl Keating and those who work in his organization.
- Mr. Shea commits the “guilt by association” fallacy. A website in Dallas was kind enough to write a favorable article plugging Faithful Answers. I want to thank them again for that here. Mr. Shea took my lack of response to their assertion that Faithful Answers is a “More Traditional Alternative to Catholic Answers.” Please ask yourself, why in the world I would even begin to chastise that blog in Dallas for choosing such a title for their post. It is no secret that we hold positions that would require positions held by Catholic Answers to be incorrect. I am not interested in either supporting or defaming Catholic Answers as an organization. We have our work to do. They have theirs. If there is an agreement between our positions, fine. Catholic Answers in not our primary concern. Answering faithfully to those outside the Church is. And our secondary concern is answering faithfully to those inside the Church on topics that endanger one’s faith. Mr. Shea has successfully taken our energy away from that goal. But perhaps this answer to Mark Shea will not be entirely unfruitful.
- Mr. Shea refers to Faithful Answers as “Mr Arneson’s group of angry traditionalists.” One wonder’s what Mr. Shea has read from us that is “angry”. I’ll give you a hint. He hasn’t read anything from us that is angry. This is called “demonizing” your opponent to make yourself look good. Well we aren’t going to return the favor. Mr. Shea, you are making yourself look bad and hurting the seamless garment of Christ. In the name of Christ, stop it!
- Mr. Shea claims that Faithful Answers treats CA and EWTN as enemies. Citation please Mr. Shea. I believe the logical fallacy here would be called “straw man”.
- Mr. Shea accuses me and Faithful Answers of committing the “the worst of Protestant fissiparousness.” For those readers who need that to be re-phrased, Mr. Shea is saying that Faithful Answers is being divisive and creating multiple sects as the Protestants have done. What is ironic is that it is Mr. Shea who has written a very divisive letter about “some guy” whom he has never met and an organization that has demonized no one, but which he does not hesitate to demonize himself. I will let the reader decide who looks more like Martin Luther.
- Mr. Shea commits the
“bandwagoning” fallacy by attempting to associate Faithful Answers with
organizations we have never mentioned: “Angelqueen” (don’t they have a
forum that is locked to new comers? I’m not in it) and “Pewsitter”
(whoever they are). Having thrown us all on the same bandwagon, he sees no
logical problem with claiming thus: “who likewise regard almost the
entirety of the Catholic Church’s members as enemies of the Faith except
for themselves and a few like-minded Catholics.”
Words fail me to express how wrong and untrue this accusation is. It is really horrific. Mr. Shea gives no citation for these words with which he includes Faithful Answers by reference. And indeed there is none to be found. I suppose it isn’t just a bandwagon he would put us on. He has set up yet another straw man.
Once is not enough for Mr. Shea. He goes on to do it again. He writes: “So while Pewsitter and Angelqueen and Faithful Answers [bandwagoning] may have concluded that me and my ilk (that is, 99% of the Church) are a blight and a plague on the Purely Pure Church and need to be purged [straw man], I think them members of the Body of Christ who are, to be sure, massively wrong on a number of things, but still my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Um… Mr. Shea, this is the first time we’re mentioning YOUR name of Faithful Answers too. One begins to wonder if Mr. Shea is in need of an enemy to feel normal. Where is he getting all of this? Who knows?
- We finally get to the topic of
Mr. Shea’s article title when he writes: “And that’s the crowning irony:
those who believe themselves charged by God with cleansing the Church of
the Impure seem to consistently demonstrate just about the worst
anti-charism of discernment on the planet.”
Now that he has failed to seek understanding by contacting us, assumed what he wanted (wrongly), and went on and on and on with his straw man assertions regarding us, he finds egg on his face by claiming we are setting out to do something we are not setting out to do. Our mission is not to “cleanse the Church of the Impure”. We never stated that as a goal. We never will. That is ridiculous. All Mr. Shea had to do is to read our “About Us” page and he would have known that is the farthest thing from our minds. Not my area. Not my job. I don’t want it. That I would have to write this is insulting. But my Lord was insulted. I am not worthy to be insulted. What a beautiful grace God has given me through Mr. Shea. Deo Gratias!
Our primary audience: those outside the Church. Secondary audience: answering “objectively” matters harmful to the faith of those inside the Church USING PRINCIPLES, not ad hominem.
- Mr. Shea finally gets to what
must be the reason for all of this pent up vitriol that he unleashes upon
a man and an organization that he neither knows or seeks to know: Dr.
Apparently Mr. Shea has had a long time animosity for one of the most effective apologists the Church in America has had in the past couple decades. Let me quote here what I wrote about Dr. Sungenis on that Dallas blog comment box:
” Robert Sungenis is one of the best apologists we have. Though he doesn’t get credit for it, he provided a strong polemic against a heresy that was printed in the US Adult Catechism and afterwards was likely responsible for having it removed (the heresy was that the Old Covenant was still valid for the Jews…I know. Really bad.) The ADL and SPLC have worked overtime to tar and feather the guy. What makes me sick to my stomach is that the response of the Catholic world in the US was largely to buckle under that pressure and throw the guy under the bus. If someone wants to show me any evidence of Dr. Sungenis’ heterodoxy I would be VERY interested in looking at it. It is just that we aren’t going to bow to pressures by non-Catholic groups…or to “Catholic” groups who do bow to that pressure. It isn’t just. I encourage everyone to actually go read what we have posted by Dr. Sungenis with his kind permission and try to find any fault with it. My guess is that you will be extremely edified.”
And so Mr. Shea, I assume, desires to show me the evidence of Dr. Sungenis’ heterodoxy. Let’s deal with some of these charges by topic (I’m not going to paste Mr. Shea’s quotes in here. Anyone who wishes may go to Mr. Shea’s blog and read them.) Here are the charges by insinuation or direct charge:
- Charge: Dr. Sungenis is anti-Semitic, meaning that he hates Jewish people. Answer: Mr. Sungenis’ political or historical opinions and theories do not constitute this sin as far as I know. He has never, to my knowledge, claimed to hate Jewish people (or any other people for that matter). Faithful Answers does not get into politics or the history of World War II or the assessment of the performance of any modern state. It is entirely outside our mission. Hating a people group because of their race is sinful and we hereby condemn it.
- Charge: Dr. Sungenis denies the “holocaust”. Answer: This is a topic entirely outside of Faithful Answers scope. We do not take a position on it. Denial of any interpretation of history, unless it is Scriptural history as unanimously consented to by the fathers or bound upon the conscience of Catholics by the Magisterium, is not objectively heretical. Why, besides for political reasons, would we throw Mr. Sungenis under the proverbial bus when he is not a heretic? As I stated above, that is unjust to him. And it is cowardly.
- Charge: Dr. Sungenis describes the belief of Judaism inaccurately. Answer: Of course Mr. Shea provides no citation to show that Dr. Sungenis has erred in his assessment. Such citation would have been more respectable in his presentation of quotes to this effect (which he likely harvested off of someone’s website somewhere with ease and now expects us to take hours to defend). Nevertheless, if one of our apologists did describe Judaism or Buddhism or Jainism or Hinduism incorrectly in a capacity apart from Faithful Answers that would not be sufficient grounds for immediate termination. We are all human. We make mistakes and at times misspeak. If such an inaccuracy was on Faithful Answers, then we would make every effort to assure the accuracy of the remark.
- Charge: In bold emphasis, Mr. Shea quotes the following as though it is a mark against Dr. Sungenis: “Jews often, secretly or not so secretly, conceive themselves to be morally and intellectually superior to their neighbors.” Answer: But when anyone reads the whole quote on Mr. Shea’s website they can easily see that this quote is attributed to a certain Mr. Ginsberg. What is Dr. Sungenis response to this (and posted in the same quote on Mr. Shea’s website)? I quote Dr. Sungenis: “Now, and on the other side of this coin, you know, we’ve got to be very cautious, because these are human beings too. Jews are human beings, and God loves them just like He loves you and I”
- Charge: Dr. Sungenis accepted a false quote by Benjamin Franklin when put on the spot on some radio show somewhere. Answer: Big whoop. He’s human. Get over it.
- Charge: Dr. Sungenis claims that Jews have turned many Catholic apologists into Jewish apologists. Answer: Um… Mark, you’re not really doing a whole lot to dispel that claim here. But seriously, have you asked Dr. Sungenis what this means before throwing it in his face? I take this statement to mean that Dr. Sungenis believes that “God loves them” and he doesn’t want them to believe their false religion anymore. If Catholic apologists are preoccupied with affirming those Jewish people that follow Judaism in their rejection of Christ, which some in recent times have done by claiming that their (old) covenant is still valid, then they have in effect turned into apologists for Judaism and not Christianity. That is not charitable toward Jews. To wish the damnation of Jewish people by keeping the truth of Christ from them is against true charity.
Mr. Shea, why do you insist on trying to force Faithful Answers to endlessly go 20 years into Dr. Sungenis past and defend everything tiny thing he has ever written or said? We’re not interested unless it is an unrepented heresy. Make one argument (not an out of context string of quotes). Give us the best you have. Show us that Dr. Sungenis is heterodox. As far as we know and have seen, Dr. Sungenis:
a. Has true charity for people of Jewish ethnicity and of all races
b. Believes that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance”, including the Jews
c. Eschews any form of racial hatred as sinful
If Dr. Sungenis has, by any intentional and unrepented remark, spoken of Jewish people in a way contrary to the points above, THEN I would see a problem and confront him (according to Matt 18).
But do you know what I have seen? I have seen a man, imperfect though he is, fight valiantly as an apologist to defend Holy Mother Church. Who cares if anyone thinks the moon landings were fake? Who cares if someone doesn’t buy the official 911 story? I don’t. That isn’t our area. It’s not our mission. And belief either way in those things does not harm one’s faith or integrity. A person could believe either way and still have no impediment to canonization.
Cowards bow to the pressure of politics and adopt agendas Christ has not yoked us with. I fully intend to live my life according to the words of St. Paul when he wrote:
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please
men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
If Dr. Sungenis is the servant of Christ, and you have yet to show me otherwise, then he should be honored, respected, and defended as to his orthodoxy and his Christianity. If this was a political website then perhaps we would choose men according to that criteria. But it is not. Dr. Sungenis is an effective and faithful defender of true orthodoxy. And as long as he is so, he has my esteem, support, and fraternal charity.
But I’m not going to stop there. I am going to publicly call Mr. Shea to be consistent. He has condemned Dr. Sungenis for his written opinions regarding the Jews. If he is to be consistent then he must condemn many of his holy fathers in the faith including the following popes quoted here who made FAR more explicit statements than Dr. Sungenis has. Let’s start with a sainted pope:
“The Jewish people fell from the heights because of their faithlessness and condemned their Redeemer to a shameful death. Their godlessness has assumed such forms that, for the salvation of our own people, it becomes necessary to prevent their disease. Besides usury, through which Jews everywhere have sucked dry the property of impoverished Christians, they are accomplices of thieves and robbers; and the most damaging aspect of the matter is that they allure the unsuspecting through magical incantations, superstition, and witchcraft to the Synagogue of Satan and boast of being able to predict the future. We have carefully investigated how this revolting sect abuses the name of Christ and how harmful they are to those whose life is threatened by their deceit. On account of these and other serious matters, and because of the gravity of their crimes which increase day to day more and more, We order that, within 90 days, all Jews in our entire earthly realm of justice - in all towns, districts, and places – must depart these regions. After this time limit shall all at the present or in the future, who dwell or wander into that city or other already mentioned, be affected, their property confiscated and handed over to the Siscus, and they shall becomes slaves of the Roman Church, live in perpetual servitude and the Roman Church shall have the same rights over them as the remaining [worldly] lords over slaves and property.” – Pope Saint Pius V (Hebraeorum Gens)
“Since it is completely senseless and inappropriate to be in a situation where Christian piety allows the Jews (whose guilt—all of their own doing—has condemned them to eternal slavery) access to our society and even to live among us; indeed, they are without gratitude to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return invective, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority: we, who recently learned that these very Jews have insolently invaded Rome from a number of the Papal States, territories and domains, to the extent that not only have they mingled with Christians (even when close to their churches) and wearing no identifying garments, but to dwell in homes, indeed, even in the more noble [dwellings] of the states, territories and domains in which they lingered, conducting business from their houses and in the streets and dealing in real estate; they even have nurses and housemaids and other Christians as hired servants. And they would dare to perpetrate a wide variety of other dishonorable things, contemptuous of the [very] name Christian. Considering that the Church of Rome tolerates these very Jews (evidence of the true Christian faith) and to this end [we declare]: that they, won over by the piety and kindness of the See, should at long last recognize their erroneous ways, and should lose no time in seeing the true light of the catholic faith, and thus to agree that while they persist in their errors, realizing that they are slaves because of their deeds, whereas Christians have been freed through our Lord God Jesus Christ, and that it is unwarranted for it to appear that the sons of free women serve the sons of maids.” – Pope Paul IV (Cum Nimis Absurdam)
“We therefore renew in this canon, on account of the boldness of the offenders, what the Council of Toledo providently decreed in this matter: we forbid Jews to be appointed to public offices, since under cover of them they are very hostile to Christians.” – Pope Innocent III (Fourth Lateran Council)
“With great sorrow and mortal anxiety, We have heard that the Jews have in a Christian land the same rights as Christians, that Christian men and women live under the same roof with these traitors and defile their souls day and night with blasphemies.” – Pope Stephen III (Epistle to the Bishop of Norbonne)
“The wicked perfidy of the Jews – from whose hearts Our Saviour did not remove the veil because of their enormous crimes but caused them justly to continue in their blindness, commit acts of shame which engender astonishment in those who hear, and terror in those who discover it.” – Pope Innocent IV (The Wicked Perfidy of the Jews)
Is that enough for you, Mr. Shea? Because I could produce quite a bit more on these lines. I could start with the quotes of the popes commanding the burning of the Talmud, or their command the Jews wear special clothing, or that Christians are forbidden to work for a Jewish employer. Now I do not wish you to condemn these popes (one a glorious saint) and so incur damnation. And I am not suggesting a high level of magisterial weight for each of these things. But to be consistent with your vitriol against Dr. Sungenis you would have to condemn a very good number of the popes who have sat on the throne of St. Peter.
I think what many “apologists” would just love to do is “go ostrich” and stick their heads in the sand and present to the world a picture of the Church that is polished according to the contemporary “group think” of political correctness.
We have chosen not to do so. For it is Holy Tradition (which includes Scripture) that is the remote rule of our faith. This rule MUST be completely agree with the proximate rule of our faith, which is the living Magisterium as it rules with varying levels of authoritative weight. If the proximate rule is vague or unclear, it is the duty of every Catholic to cling to the remote rule until clarity is given by the proximate rule. For the faith is one, as is the Church that proclaims it.
- Mr.Shea accuses Faithful Answers of failing to follow the pastoral document Nostra Aetate when it records: “Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
Mr. Shea. Read those words, please. Faithful Answers does not persecute Jews. And Dr. Sungenis does not persecute Jews. Writing and speaking in the manner of the popes of history (including Pope SAINT Pius V) cannot be construed as “persecution” against the Jews. Otherwise this document would be condemning a long list of Roman Pontiffs. And that would be absurd.
If it can be shown that Dr. Sungenis is an unrepentant anti-Semite (meaning he hates Arabs or Jews – yup Arabs are Semites!) then I will, after following Matt. 18, disassociate myself and this apostolate from Dr. Sungenis. Faithful Answers, too, “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” You can take that one to the bank.
- Mr. Shea attempts to tell my
testimony without even knowing me. He writes: “A relatively new convert
comes into the Church as a fundamentalist reacting strongly to his
Protestant background and imagining he has finally found the Pure Church.
Then, to his horror, he discovers he has not found the Pure Church, but
merely Christ’s Church: “an institute”, as Belloc described it well before
the Council, ”run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the
work of God it would not last a fortnight.” The fundamentalist, aghast at
what he sees, then learns the exact wrong lesson: that what the Church
needs is his reactionary fundamentalism, not that he needs to abandon his
reactionary fundamentalism and learn to think like a Catholic and accept
human weakness with mercy and pity.”
Actually… what I found was Catholicism. I don’t know what religion Mr. Shea thinks he has that is so different (or “indifferent”). Mr. Shea has obviously not read my article “The Ethiopian Eunuch and Sola Scriptura.” or spent much time on this website. If he had, he would know that we are the opposite of what he describes. We are anti-reactionary. Principles informed by the fathers, doctors, medievals, theologians, popes, and councils are what is important. If Mr. Shea thinks that sounds Protestant, I’m tempted to try and sell him some ocean front property in Nebraska. O, and speaking of Nebraska, does Mr. Shea think that cradle Catholic priest and seminary professor from the FSSP seminary Fr. Ripperger is a Protestant? What about Fr. Rodriguez? Is he a Protestant too? What about Michael Duddy, Ryan Grant, Hugh Owen and the rest of the crew? What a pile of absolute nonsense.
Mr. Shea continues: “He clings to his biblical fundamentalism about Genesis.”
Actually Mr. Shea is, in denying the unanimous consent of the fathers regarding Genesis, siding with the Protestants of the 19th century who introduced a new liberal “critical” way to read the Bible. These men ended up denying the Divinity of Christ, the miracles of Christ, and other matters that Catholic faith would oblige any Catholic to believe. What Mr. Shea may be blind to is that, while the orthodoxy of Faithful Answers can be demonstrated using Catholic traditional principles, he may himself, along with many other modern “Catholic” convert apologists, be forcing his liberal Protestant biases he had before conversion upon his Catholicism.
The reader should understand that the term “Evangelical” is not synonymous with “Fundamentalist.” American Evangelicalism contains membership from Fundamentalists AND Liberal Protestants. It contains both Calvinists and Arminians. It is a melting pot of various doctrinal idiosyncratic beliefs with baggage from all over the place.
Why won’t Mr. Shea hear the fathers? Does he realize that he is equating the position of every Church father with Fundamentalism? Even St. Augustine is a Fundamentalist to Mr. Shea. St. Augustine’s Big Bang theory was literally to the effect of “God spoke. And Bang it happened.” Does that sound like a bumper sticker you’ve read anywhere? Maybe in the Bible Belt? Well St. Augustine, the dissenting view among the fathers, was more conservative than the other Fathers in the opposite direction of evolution. So… Who is reading what they want to into the text and preaching their “private interpretation’? Hmm… I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t me.
Mr. Shea continues to accuse me
thus: “He is convinced he cannot trust the Magisterium except when it speaks
long ago, just as a Fundamentalist believes he cannot trust any Christian
leader but the dead writers of the New Testament (and himself, of course).”
Well that surely isn’t true. I trust the Magisterium of all ages, including the one we’ve got right now. Where did they find this guy? And just who is publishing him after hearing this diarrhea of the mouth? This detraction? This public scandal? This accusing spirit?
- I will paste one more thing from Mr. Shea. He writes: “Memo to all Protestant converts attempting to remake the Church in your image and likeness: you cannot build a life on protest.”
And I would ask anyone reading this
to ask themselves, just who is doing the protesting here? What article on the
Faithful Answers website can be described as a “protest”? Far from it. We are
merely answering questions about the Catholic faith according to its universal
and constant understanding. Anything less isn’t Catholic.
God knows your heart Mr. Shea. I won’t attempt to judge it. Your words are a different story. And it isn’t me who judges your words. It is the faith of Jesus Christ. And that faith is one.
God bless you!
Founder and President
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