Saturday, May 5, 2012

Another example of a strange habit

A reader pointed out this post on Mark Shea's blog to me. I read through it, looked at the comments and sort of rolled my eyes. Then this comment by a commenter named Esther caught one of my eyes mid-roll:

Do you know that when you now google “Perry Lorenzo,” two of the top four results are blog posts speculating about his sex life and eternal destiny in relationship to that sex life?

I’m sure his family is thrilled.

Good job, Mark.

Mark, I really think you should do an examination of conscience about this whole series of posts. They weren’t about Mr. Lorenzo. They were about you, and some bizarre desire to present your views on another person’s private and spiritual life matter as if the world should care what you think. In matters like these, I try to put myself in another person’s place. If my Mom died tonight, what would I think of a popular blogger taking her life and death, making them the center of several posts without my permission, and inviting the world to contemplate her flaws and sins for days on end?

Finally: it is not a Catholic thing to do to speculate on a person’s eternal destiny. It strikes me, actually, as a very Protestant thing – “Are you saved?” “If you died tonight….” To focus in on the congregation in front of you, picking out the saints and the sinners. If you reflect on the witness of the saints and great spiritual teachers, you don’t see that happening. That is not the language, nor the discourse. After a person dies, in particular, it’s not the Catholic Way to speculate in anyway on a person’s eternal destiny – it is the Catholic Way to pray for them, in hope. Period.

I know you are being hailed for this post far and wide, but I think it was a terrible, puzzling and even scandalous mistake, and an invasion of a deceased man’s privacy – not to speak of the privacy of the living, including his partner.

This more or less nailed my biggest problem with all these recent posts. It seems like a strange habit which some writer's possess, this opportunistic culling of information about a recently deceased person, especially material of a primarily speculative nature. Maybe a writer has a desire to be a biographer, but not enough ambition to write about someone famous. So they opt to be a hagiographer of someone personally known by them. The facetious line "I’m sure his family is thrilled" sums up a good enough reason to stay out of this business.


  1. I see Anchoress, a fellow "Patheos" blogger, jumped in with both feet to defend Mr. Shea, both of whom apparently feel zero revulsion at the phrase "monks in love". The same Anchoress who likes to call conservative patriots "Ameridolators". 'Monks in love' good, conservatives who fight for American principles bad. GOT IT? PatheTICos is garnering quite a reputation for itself.

    And whoever originated the phrase "monks in love" pertaining to the life of the deceased is grossly insensitive at best, even and especially if it's his "partner". For Mr. Shea to sell us the phrase "monks in love" as descriptive of a state of grace is really beyond.

  2. Although I certainly agree that Shea's form is de facto reprehensible, actually I have more criticisms of Shea's substance than you do.

    Matthew 5:28 -- But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    Are we meant to assume this only applies to WOMEN? That is, are we to assume that men with SSA hanging out with other men with whom they are "in love" feel no lust in their hearts and therefore never commit adultery? Apparently so, since Shea assumes that lack of "homosex", i.e. the homosexual act, equals chaste. This is at best a tortured reading of the Gospel, but we have already witnessed Shea twisting religious teaching to satisfy his apparently rapacious ego.

  3. I *do* have a problem with the substance, and I think Shea's Twister moves are due to his attempt to continue his amateur saint-making regardless of what is learned about the person. Words like "in love" and "dating" imply something to most people. And as usual, it seems like he is trying to bait what I'd call regular, serious Catholics into accusing this guy of sin so he can then say "you brood of vipers!" and accuse them of wanting every gay person to go to hell.

    So the commenters who defended the sensible position and brought up avoiding near occasions, etc. made good points, and good for them, but he attacked them for wanting to condemn the guy. It's at that point where I think the whole format of the discussion should be called into question. This is because there doesn't seem to be enough information to say that the guy was living wrong, but on the other hand there's definitely not enough evidence to prove that he achieved a heroic degree of sanctity.

    I knew of a gay guy who was trying to live right and he basically told my friend--who told me this story--that he couldn't be around him because he was attracted to him and didn't want to fall back into his old ways. To me that was heroic and took courage. At any rate, we should dismiss the notion that a chaste gay male should engage in anything you could call dating or refer to himself as being in love with another male. For starters.

  4. If Mark finds himself running short of material he knows to be true and gets criticized by commenters when he tries to make up for it by speculating about those who can't talk back, I think I might have a good solution.

    He could solicit pictures from his commenters that he then runs as his own content, interspersed every couple of posts or so. He could even formalize this into a regular series, maybe call it something like "View From Your Parish", where his readers send in pictures of interesting church architecture, a funny sign, or maybe a spectacular potato salad somebody brought.

  5. "...or maybe a spectacular potato salad somebody brought."

    Now that's an AWESOME idea. I'm drooling like Pavlov's pooch already.

  6. I'm not as up on the gay definitional lingo as perhaps I ought to be(?), but I figured "gay" meant being a "practicing" homosexual, rather than having same sex attraction.

    So the title ("A Gay Man I Consider a Saint") of Shea's original piece threw me, especially considering that I read his backfill first (in which "gay" doesn't really mean "gay-gay", but only "gay" "in love" but not necessarily doing "gay" things IYKWIM). Was Shea really trying to say something with the first piece ("it's OK to be 'gay'") and then chickened out? Or does "gay" not mean "gay"?

    Then Pauli weighs in with the reference to a "chaste gay male". I figured that "chaste gay" is either a contradiction in terms, or is to be taken to mean that some gay "activity" can be chaste. Since I figure Pauli not to subscribe to the latter view, maybe I've been wrong all along.

    But if I am, than I don't know what anyone is talking about anymore (I mean in the larger culture) -- now I can't tell whether someone is talking about SSA, or acting on that attraction. Unless obfuscation is the intended tactic, which it may well be.

    I'm so confused . . . .

  7. How can SAme sex attraction exist without lust? That's Shea's biggest honker.

  8. And apparently no one even addressed lust versus concupiscence or Matthew 5:28 in Shea's multi-hundred comments! amazing. Ridiculous as they are, I thought Shea and his crew were smarter than that.

  9. Kathleen, regarding The Anchoress's comments on conservative patriots, there's a strong strain of anti-Americanism among a good deal of "orthodox" Catholics in the hierarchy, the clergy, the Catholic commentariat and the blogs. I've sensed that since 9/11. Apparently, such people believe that, since the United States is "Protestant," patriotism is verboten. Talk about posers!

    As far as Shea goes, I'm beginning to believe the man is a borderline sociopath. He demonstrates no empathy for other people. He fails to recognize the consequences of his actions or comments. He just sails merrily along, like the Titanic on its maiden voyage, oblivious to the icebergs surrounding him.

    Either that, or he's so cynical (and desperate) for blog clicks that he'll write anything, consequences be damned.

    Either way, as a Catholic, Shea makes a great Scientologist.

  10. Either that, or he's so cynical (and desperate) for blog clicks that he'll write anything, consequences be damned.

    That's why I suggested he just feature a nice potato salad instead.

    Of course he could always double down on those insidious nursing breasts, which I am shocked to learn could leap out and confront us at any time.

    Or perhaps the ultimate happy medium, Mark, nursing breasts wrestling in a nice potato salad. Yes, I think you could lock that in as a personal trademark.

    1. Nice.

      Is this anonymous "new anon" or "manonymous" or "that other frickin' anonymous"? Please choose a tag for yourself if you don't mind.

  11. As an aside, "If you died tonight..." is a very Catholic thing -- or at least was, back when Catholics believed in hell.

  12. Joe, the catholic anti-Americanism of which you speak seems to coincide with, shall we say, evidence of a life excessively oriented toward the goal of comfort and immediate gratification. Which lifestyle is made possible, of course, by the exertions of harder men.

  13. Then Pauli weighs in with the reference to a "chaste gay male". I figured that "chaste gay" is either a contradiction in terms, or is to be taken to mean that some gay "activity" can be chaste.

    Sorry, I should have said "chaste homosexual male".

    Here's the problem. Terms like "gay" and even "homosexual" don't have any solid definitions, so they shouldn't even be dragged into these discussions without at least some qualification. What we are talking about is being tempted to do something, which is not a sin, and doing something which is. I read in a Catholic dictionary that people used to distinguish using the terms "homosexuality" to mean the disordered attraction and "homosexualism" to mean the disordered act. The act is also called "sodomy" but both those words which were pretty precise have gone by the wayside.

    IMHO, the word "gay" should be thrown out of the discussion entirely because it is too colorful, and all other terms should be defined and then used exclusively even if a writer feels like he should vary terms to make for pleasant reading. Nothing about homosexuality is pleasant even as nothing about hell is pleasant.