The other day, someone commented on one of my old posts about the “Great Lila Rose Debate” and said that he thinks anyone who would question Lila Rose is not really pro-life. I posted a few responses, but one of them was, “I think anyone who can’t distinguish between critique and condemnation is not really educated.”
I notice that in a lot of these internecine Catholic blogosphere debates, one of the things that come up is that the two sides tend to “argue over each other” in the sense that one or both sides *think* the other side is saying something they aren’t. Usually, one side is talking about an absolute principle, and the other side is talking about “judging”.
So, for example, the (for lack of a better word) “pro-Lila Rose” side said things like:
“How dare you judge Lila Rose? You’d have to be a moral idiot to think what she’s doing is wrong!”
Now, for the most part, while there were some condemning Live Action absolutely in that discussion, most people on the (for lack of a better word) anti-Lila Rose camp were just saying, “Hey! I admire her courage, her commitment to the pro-life cause, her love for God and the good work she’s accomplished. I’m sure her good intentions subjectively give her a great credit in God’s eyes, but we should note that what she’s doing technically violates the teachings of the Catechism, and it raises a moral question that’s never really been discussed. Is overcover work ever morally permissible?”
On the other side, a lot of people said, “I am inclined to think that what Lila Rose is doing is good, but I agree that it’s hard to justify from existing Catholic teaching. Maybe some Biblical examples and incidents in the lives of the saints provide parallels. . . . .”
I’ve heard there were a lot of fanatical voices “condemning” Lila Rose absolutely, but I never saw any in all the reading I did of those debates. I *did* see a lot of fanatics on her side condemning Make Shea, Chris Tollefson, Dawn Eden, etc., of being “not really pro-life,” etc.
There’s that “rash judgement” thing again: on the one hand, the same people accusing Shea/Tollefson/Eden/etc. of “rash judgement against Lila Rose for saying “are we sure what she’s doing squares with the Catechism?” would turn around and commit the epitome of rash judgement by saying that Lila’s critics were “not really pro-life,” participating in a Satanic conspiracy against her, etc.
I, for my part, dove into the discussion when I’d read very little about it, by noting that the Sunday Gospels were in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. The reading for that particular Sunday was the whole “turn the other cheek,” “pray for your enemies and bless those that persecute you” thing. I asked how we could square direct “attacks” on our enemies such as Live Action’s tactics against Planned Parenthood with Jesus’ teaching in that Gospel. Rather than listening to what I said, people just attacked me, viciously, saying I was morally bankrupt, engaging in a Satantic attack against a living saint, etc. And I hadn’t even read much of the existing debate or formed a position yet, but they sure led me to know which side I wanted to be on.
Then comes the Great Fr. Corapi Debate, and we see the same thing:
1. Corapi gets suspended based upon a combination of a) possibly unsubstantiated allegations against him and b) the fact that SOLT has been trying to regularize his ministry for some time, and he’s been defying them. SOLT makes a judgemeent call that this accusation, in the light of what they already know about Fr. Corapi’s lifestyle, is worth suspending him and demanding he come back to Corpus Christi.
2. Corapi files a suit against his accuser. Corapi waits a few months, sends SOLT a letter of resignation, and then announces publicly he is now the “Black Sheepdog” and will continue to “evangelize” (“but to a broader audience”) through his new Blog, Facebook page, Twitter Account and YouTube Account.
Once again, a group of apologists (Mark Shea among them, but this kind including Deacon Greg Kandra, Elizabeth Scalia and several prominent blogging priests) say, “I don’t know whether Fr. Corapi is guilty of what he’s accused, but his behavior right now is horribly scandalous and disobedient. People should not follow him as ‘The Black Sheepdog’ because he is a suspended priest, and he’s not allowed to teach.” We looked at some of his statements and critiqued them.
Once again, it’s “anyone criticizing Fr. Corapi is serving Satan.” “How dare you judge Fr. Corapi?” “Judge not lest ye be judged.” “Don’t commit rash judgement.” Etc.
Yes, there are some people attacking Fr. Corapi under the presumption that the allegations against him are true. Yes, there are some people (Shea included) casting aspersions on his entire ministry or saying his famous “conversion story” is all or partially a fraud. Those would definitely be areas that I’d say we’re not allowed to delve into other than to possibly note that the situation does raise questions.
At issue *should* be a) whether his “Black Sheepdog” “ministry” is illicit, b) whether people should continue to buy his “old” materials, and c) whether people should continue to listen to/use his old materials. EWTN, for example, has permanently cancelled his programming. For this, the “stop making rash judgements” crowd have declared EWTN part of the “Grand Conspiracy of Satan” and promised never to donate to it again.
It fascinates me that, for the most part, one finds the same people taking the same “sides” in these discussions.
Take Medjugorje, Harry Potter, Lila Rose, the recent Corapi debate, and certain other issues, and I generally find the same people lining up. The difference seems to be a kind of populism in the faith versus intellectualism, if it can at all be reduced to a simple parallel between the issues.
The “populist” side seems to want everything to be “black or white” in a behavioral sense, if you criticize something, you are condemning it as the work of Satan. Thus they see any criticism of _Harry Potter_, legitimate or illegitimate, as proving it’s the work of Satan. On the other hand, they see any criticism of something they think worthy of support (Medjugorje, Corapi, Lila Rose) as being the work of Satan because any one criticism of something implies condemnation in their minds, and why would anyone criticize something so obviously good unless that person is evil?
On the other hand, the “intellectualist” sides of these arguments tend to be arguing for a strict reading of Catholic teaching where applicable, but also saying that one can see the good and the bad in a given situation without *necessarily* saying it has to be all good or all bad.
One of the things about the Corapi debate that strikes me is how many people keep saying things like “don’t kick a man when he’s down” or “he needs prayers not criticism.” Well, yes, insofar as he’s possibly guilty of the things he’s accused of, that’s true. However, for most of those “criticizing” Corapi, his soul is not the issue. I don’t see anyone saying, “tie him to a stake and burn him” (though maybe some are). I *DO* see plenty of people saying, “Stop buying his CDs, don’t buy his new book,” etc. And this is what baffles me. If I or Shea or someone else says, “Don’t ‘follow’ ‘The Black Sheepdog,'” and someone else says, “Don’t kick a man when he’s down,” it makes it sound like the second party is saying one has to enable Corapi. To buy his CDs now, even his old ones, is to enable him (and he certainly doesn’t need to money). To post supportive words on his FB page or Twitter account or blog is to say, “Way to go, Father ! I support your defiance of your superiors and your bishop!” Indeed, most people who are still supporting him are saying just that.
I really don’t see why people find it so hard to distinguish between criticism of his continued “ministry” and criticism of him as a person.