The line.

You know, the line. The line is is what you cross when in the defense of some perceived good, you do something not so good.

I have crossed the line occasionally here (alright, more than occasionally). Sometimes I have done it merely in an attempt to be funny. Actually, this is where I make the most mistakes. Also, I have occasionally erred when I let my passion over an issue obscure or overwhelm my charity.

As part of my efforts here I write a lot of stuff. Most of it, fairly judged, is nonsense. I think that one of the merits of CMR is that Matthew and I make no claim on think tank quality stuff. Quite the contrary. If we can find and excuse to work the Pope, Hugo Chavez, Richard McBrien, and the Chupacabra (Bigfoot or zombies in a pinch) into a post, we will do it just for yuks. When I go over the line in the name of comedy, retractions or apologies can be proffered quite easily. It is when I am deadly serious that perspective and those same retractions and apologies are typically less forthcoming.

For me, in those times, it is tough to take a step back and look at my words objectively lest I question the motives for writing them in the first place. But, as we all know, sometime motives can be good and judgment and execution poor.

I truly consider myself fortunate that in those moments where my where my judgment has been impaired (or absent) whether due to comedy or conviction, I have had good people to offer me correction.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a Catholic blogger I am frequently offered correction of all types, much of which is offered in the form of the ubiquitous anonymous comment. This I put no stock in. However, sometimes correction comes from otherwise supportive sources (my wife, my brother, and other bloggers whom I respect). When the otherwise amiable and erudite suggest that I missed the mark, I listen. Maybe I don’t listen right away, but I eventually listen. When I do, I am usually better off for it.

Why all the preamble? Because offering correction is tough and I know that I have a plank in my own eye. Even so, I feel compelled to say that I suspect that Mark Shea has crossed the line.

Mark, in his righteous fury over the support for torture demonstrated by this administration seeks to bolster his contention that the “bushies” are evil by relaying the following third hand anecdote.

You might be interested in an anecdote I haven’t published because it is just a rumor, though it is a rumor only once removed from me.
A pilot friend of mine knows another pilot who flies big cargo planes. This other pilot, not my friend, flew big freight airplanes in and out of Iraq as a civilian contractor for a while. Mostly his ‘cargo’ was prisoners. He would regularly take off (so he says) with, say, 65 prisoners, and land with only 25 or so. Supposedly prisoners were being interrogated and then pushed out the door ten thousand feet up if they didn’t please the interrogators. Our own intelligence agents (not military) were the interrogators, according to the pilot. They always made sure they were done throwing prisoners out the door before they got into NATO airspace.

My pilot friend who told me this had never discussed the war or prisoner interrogation or anything like it with me. I first met him years ago, but I’ve only gotten to know him well in the last year or so. We were chatting up various pilot careers at the time, and discussing the ‘freight dogs’ who fly really big cargo planes. He just brought it up out of the blue when talking about this ‘freight dog’ friend of his.

Anyway, a few years back I would have dismissed such rumors as conspiracy theorists tunneling under our houses with black helicopters provided by aliens passing by in a comet. Now they strike me as eminently plausible. Maybe I was naive before, but if so I kind of wish I still was.

While I find the plausibility of this anecdote suspect, I will not debate it here because it is irrelevant to the point I wish to make. While the Bush administration can rightly be critiqued and perhaps even condemned for its support of torture, I do not think that it is remotely Christian to relay an admittedly third hand and unverified anecdote that accuses Americans of systematic large scale murder.

Mark refers to the above as ‘entirely believable’ on the basis that Bush has supported other bad things. But this third hand unverified anecdote accuses not just Bush (although that would be bad enough) but other U.S. citizens of systematic (large scale) murder with absolutely no proof.

I believe this crosses the line. I am not going to get into the specific areas of the catechism that address such horrific public accusations. I am quite confident that anyone who cares about it can find the relevant passages on their own. Long story short, this is plainly wrong and profoundly un-Christian.

I remember back in the day when President Clinton was outed as an admitted adulterer and perjurer. There were those on the right whose judgment was so clouded by disdain (and even hate) for the President that they used these obvious transgressions as cover for publicly entertaining any all scurrilous rumors about the President ranging from from rape to murder. It was wrong when they did it then and it is equally wrong today.

Frankly I think that Mark Shea is a better person and a better blogger than this post would indicate. I believe that posting such a heinous rumor with absolutely no evidence simply on the basis that it fits with your view that the administration is corrupt is a serious error in judgment. Mark should retract that portion of the post as it is a disservice and a distraction to the good work that he typically performs on his blog.

Update: Joining the fray…
Erin Manning
Jay Anderson