Showdown at High Noon

February 19, 2010 § 12 Comments

Well, technically it was 12:40.

Before I continue my series on the pathologies of the “waterboarding is not torture” idea and why it is (and is not) significant, a brief mention of another matter. My new friend Austin Ruse and I had lunch yesterday in Washington, DC. (It was just lunch. The following are impressions from lunch. This does not imply that I have done comprehensive due diligence on everything Mr. Ruse has ever said and everyone with whom he has ever associated, or that I am interested in debating his character, or in rehashing the details of the combox encounter, or anything of the sort. You know who you are. Stow it.)

Austin and I first “met” in the comboxes of this shootout at The American Catholic. As the transcript reveals, we decided to meet in person.

Mr. Ruse is a gentleman: warm, genuine, and smart, one of those guys who is really interested in people, their organization into formal institutions, and the activities of those institutions; the kind of guy who will wander around with you and introduce you to everyone he knows with handshakes and smiles and talk about all the various groups and programs and things going on in the community. A very likeable man, with a great love of the Church and a passionate devotion to protecting the unborn.

The whole debate – the substantive part of it – is new to him. His impression of anti-torture Catholics was formed, prior to this recent encounter, almost entirely by interactions with Catholics of a certain sort: the kind of Catholics who will see marchers at a protest of Roe vs Wade and snarl under their breath “Pro-life! If you were really pro-life you’d be out there helping get the Obama health plan passed!”; as opposed to, say, “Bless them. I really should be doing more myself.” You know the type I mean.

It was just a nice lunch between two Catholic guys with rather different personality traits and personal interests. But there is one substantive matter relating to the earlier thread which I should address. Tom summarizes the concern thus:

I suppose there are three possibilities:

1. He’s mistaken; decrying torture will not hurt his interests.

2. He’s correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because he has accidentally scoped his interests too narrowly (I think in particular of his implications that voting Republican is a necessary good, which may simply be a means he’s become accustomed to seeking uncritically).

3. He’s correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because his interests are not wholly directed to the common good. (This is essentially the Vox Nova position, that organizations like C-FAM are merely Republican or called-conservative-but-as-liberal-as-they-come shops.)

Before reading his own words, I would have dismissed possibility #3 out of hand.

I think the real answer is a variant of (1):

When you are deeply committed to protecting the unborn, the holocaust of whom is possibly a worse stain on humanity than even the large-scale atrocities of the last century, and one of your personal passions is organizing people into formal institutions to engage in political action; and when you further see nothing but unprincipled political hatchet jobs coming from people who literally hate anything resembling an existing actual formally organized anti-abortion group; and when a principal weapon employed in these hatchet jobs is this particular issue — when all of that is true, you can’t help but have a particular impression of this whole debate.

Until, that is, you encounter orthodox Catholics who are also deeply passionate about protecting the unborn on that same side, the side forming the edge of the hatchet, under the “stopped clock” theory, of this particular issue.

In fact, being the sort who does the organization think-tank policy dance every day, he was enthusiastic about orthodox activist-anti-torture Catholics getting involved at that level and in that manner. A great idea; though probably a job for someone other than myself.

Well met, Austin.

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§ 12 Responses to Showdown at High Noon

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I am touched and proud to call you my friend, Zippy. We have more friends to make in common and i will be in touch on that score soon.

    As a brief message to everyone, one that i made yesterday to Zippy, is that we all should be about the business of making converts rather than punishing heretics. I say that as an old heretic punisher myself! Coming under fire on this debate has taught me many things and that is chief among them. If someone comes your way, even a little bit your way, run out to the road and hug him by the neck.

    I also said to Zippy, that he mentions in his post, that if you all are serious about this issue then you should do what others do for their issues; get involved with public policy, write papers, send letters, have (egads!) meetings, make your case, convince, convince, convince! Yours in an honorable position and you should advance it in the public square, of which the blogosphere is only a tiny part.

    Blessings on you all.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I think we should be thankful that God has given us this season of Lent to perhaps take out shoulders off the wheel a bit and take a bigger look at who we are and what we should be doing.

  • brandon field says:

    we all should be about the business of making converts rather than punishing heretics

    Amen. Well said, Austin.

  • Mark P. Shea says:

    Excellent! Well met, indeed!

  • I'll admit that sometimes I have to make sure I'm not one of these

  • Darwin says:

    This is one of the most human and encouraging posts I've heard come out of “the great torture debate” in the Catholic blogsphere.

    Good for both of you.

  • I love this post, and Austin's comment. Both give me great hope.

  • Matt C says:

    Awesome. I'm new to (and seriously impressed by) a trail of blogs I followed from Sullivan's refutation(s)(es) of Thiessen, inc. you and Mark Shea and yeah, sorry, I like vox nova too.

    I'll be back

  • Todd says:

    While I appreciate the link to my site, Zippy, I have to suggest you consider commenting rule #1. Lacking a link to a particular statement of mine, and given my own experience as a marcher in my youth, and an active supporter of Birthright, as well as many, many prayer initiatives in parishes for the past thirty years, I think I can expect reasonably request a retraction. If you're ever in my part of the country, you have a standing invitation to come over, and share some cheer.

    Blessed Lent to you.

  • zippy says:

    Fair enough, Todd. It has been a long time since the old combox wars; and who actually likes “he said that!” (no! he said that!) link wars anyway?

    In the ecumenical spirit of the present post, I'll remove both specific links.

    Blessed Lent to you.

  • Rick Lugari says:

    Good stuff, gentlemen. While heartened, I have to admit that I'm not surprised by the happy outcome and understanding. It all has to do with respect, sincerety, and at least a touch of humility.

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