Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Response to Personal Attacks from the "Anti-Apologist" Shawn McElhinney

 By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (8-6-13)

I have preserved Shawn's gossipy, calumnious comments (in blue below), made on a public Facebook thread (later removed, without any public retractions), and have replied to them.

Were these persons regular joes or were they claiming more "advanced credentials", . . .? . . . to agitate and create controversy is one way that not a few of the apologetics mentality get attention for themselves and also are better prepared to hawk their wares -either in book sales, donations to their "apostolate", or whatever. There are also those who troll threads for material to gin up controversy for the purposes of attention and cash. A wrestling promoter named Eric Bischoff wrote a book years back called Controversy Creates Cash and he could have had the apologetics movement in mind every bit as much as he did professional wrestling with that title but that is neither here nor there.

Shawn -- with whom I had been friends -- decided to savagely attack my person and motives in 2005 when we disagreed on the morality and justifiability of Hiroshima and Nagasaki being nuked: he for, me against.  Since that time, he repeatedly wrote blistering and repeated attacks against my character on his website. I replied at length at the time to the numerous outrageous slanders, but on the urging of a mutual friend (Catholic apologist Dr. Art Sippo), unilaterally removed all my replies, while Shawn decided to keep all of his up. But I did later preserve just a few of the choicer tidbits from his bizarre attacks (see #1 in this "Top Ten" paper: since removed, itself), and consider them the worst things ever said about me by anyone online, including even the avalanche of insults from the anti-Catholic Baptist luminary James White. 

He has also viciously attacked Karl Keating and other apologists. Much of his garbage [though he has removed or modified a considerable portion] remains up to this day on his old site, Rerum Novarum. Just search for my name there and you'll find posts like, "On David Armstrong's Tragic Mental Meltdown": discussing my "pathetic delusions," etc. You get the idea. Here's my absolute favorite of his reams and reams of insults and lies at my expense (I am blessed with no end of belly-splitting laughter over this one, whenever I read it):

. . . your claim to want to dialogue was a sham exactly as I said it was. You should have had the decency to have admitted to it publicly rather than try to pretend that you wanted to dialogue. Furthermore, if you never intended to interact with my arguments, then you have NO BASIS WHATSOEVER for crying about how soundly I bitchslapped your crap down publicly . . .

Alas, I'm not the only apologist in Shawn's huge three-car garage doghouse. For example, here he is writing about me in boorish and inane fashion, on 10 December 2006:

For one thing, he tries to bring into the picture Dr. Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and Pat Madrid as if they are necessarily being viewed by me in the same light as I do Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, and himself. Secondly, Dave obviously is interested in playing this up in his predictable Jerry Springeresque way . . . Dave, Jimmy, Mark, and/or their uncritical and fawning sycophants . . .

All friends of mine: all men I greatly admire . . . but for some reason Keating, Akin, and Shea are in Shawn's doghouse with yours truly (honored to be in there with 'em!), while the other three manage to escape it. What's the huge difference? Well, none, really (all three of the "good guys" have given very glowing reviews of my work, by the way), except whether ol' Shawn grants them his Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval or not! As if anyone cares in the first place. . .! 

Not many cared at all about Shawn's endless, War and Peace pontifications, as he consistently used to get about ten readers per day, average, on his site. But no doubt he would say that this was because his sublime profundities were well beyond the grasp of the unwashed masses of ignorant peasantry. At least he had the eventual sense to shut the thing down. In past years (before all he could do was rant against me and other apologists), he actually did quite a bit of valuable work, especially about radical Catholic reactionary errors: some of which I still cite, despite all.

 . . .  in the words of those great western philosophers The Who: "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

And Shawn is the same old Shawn: acting as usual, like (well, you fill in the blanks) . . .  


One exception to that rule [name]: if he has a slew of yesman amigos to help him with his dirty work. He does not like one on one contact with someone who can throw real punches and expose his glass jaw, that's for sure.

Everyone knows how utterly fearful I am of one-on-one debate.  That's why I have about 700 debates posted online, because I am scared to death of them. I guess that's why I once did a talk (in person) with sixteen atheists and agnostics: me being the only theist (let alone Catholic) in the room. It's obviously the reason why I have been on national radio shows (Catholic Answers twice), answering questions live, with no idea what they might be. This sort of abject fear led me to debate James White spontaneously one night in his chat room, or take on Matt Slick of CARM fame, or engage anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer in hostile territory at CARM, debating whether the Church Fathers believed in sola Scriptura. He did so poorly that he split even before it was halfway done.

And we see (above and below) how Shawn "argues". He's the very last person to be lecturing anyone about how to engage in calm, rational, constructive (minimally ethical and charitable) argumentation. I would send my three sons to a rabid hedgehog in heat to learn how to dialogue before I would send them to Shawn. In any event, good will, attribution of good faith, and mutual respect are required for any good dialogue to take place -- to be possible at all -- , per Plato and Socrates (as I have often noted).

. . . this was just another example of Dave wading onto a thread and subject he did not know as much about as he tried to pretend and could not admit that lest he lose face. Saimo-saimo with The Venerrrrablleeee Daaaaaviiiiid basically but I digress

So now I don't know anything about "traditionalism" and it's opposing faction, the radical Catholic reactionaries. That's odd, since Pete Vere (canon lawyer and co-author with Pat Madrid of a book on the topic) is also participating in these discussions and (to his eternal credit) being very classy: refusing to indulge in the attacks. It's tough to be neutral like Switzerland but Pete is managing to pull it off. Kudos! He is friends with all of them over there, and they obviously respect him.

Pete asked me around 2000-2001 or so to come work and live at the FSSP place where he was (Scranton diocese in Pennsylvania). It was being very seriously considered. Isn't that strange? He must have thought I knew something about the topic: had some sort of qualification. Why, he even credited me with playing some part in his own departure from his former ways, and his very vocation, writing:

Dave Armstrong['s] . . . apologetics ministry was one of God's tools through which I both reconciled with the Catholic Church and discerned my vocation as a canonist.

Now, that is quite a feat, to have managed to persuade someone out of schism or semi-schism (wherever he was; SSPX at one point), while not having much of a knowledge at all about the subject (which Shawn pontificates is the case, even today). If anyone can figure how that can be, please let me know pronto. My brain can't wrap itself around it, much as I try.

Shawn himself used to be quite effusive in his praise of my apologetics till he and I disagreed on nuclear war and whether incinerating 100,000 civilians is right in line with Catholic just war ethics or not. I'm almost positive that would have included my work in critique of the radical Catholic reactionaries ("RadCathRs"). In fact, this is indeed documented:

In his third edition of A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' -- dated 17 March 2003, Shawn writes the following in the Acknowledgements (I'm one of four people he thanks):

David Armstrong whose critique of a few section attempts at a revision in early 2002 (which were subsequently lost in my harddrive crash of May 2002) was nonetheless influential in my approach to this third edition. (And of course being linked to Dave's ubersite the past few years: a tremendous circumstance that undoubtedly widened the viewing audience of this work.)

I was also thanked in the first edition, with many others.
Is this not hilarious? I go from being thanked as "influential" in Shawn's magnus opus against RadCathRs in 1998 / 2003, to being lied about as a more or less ignoramus on the topic, in March 2013.

Someone else in the thread claimed that I have little firsthand knowledge of mainstream "traditionalists." The fact of the matter is that I have many "traditionalist" friends: folks like David Palm and Ben Douglass and others. Many (quite a number, actually) follow my blog and Facebook page. I have many, many Eastern Catholic friends, too.

Isn't it interesting, too, that I have the most cordial, trouble-free relations (including phone conversations) with someone like Tracy Tucciarone, who is one of the owners of the influential Fish Eater's "traditionalist" forum. Others run me down there, too, but she and I have normal, mutually respectful discussions.

 . . . did I not tell you . . . that Dave would find a way of bringing me into the mix if he could? 

Shawn started gossiping about me as soon as he had opportunity to do so, in one of the attack threads. But if I dare respond to his lies, that's me trying to drag him into the conflict, and somehow being paranoid / mentally ill / contentious [or insert chosen alternate epithet] . . . this is classic Shawn polemics. This is how cynical revisionism and creation of fairy tales proceed: urinating all over the actual facts of the matter, which are plain as day.

I doubt I have said one word to him in about six years but he is STILL smarting over getting his ass handed to him back in 2005 and 2006 when he bit off more than he could chew with me. 

Humility or truth-telling about his own deficiencies was never one of Shawn's strong points . . .

I am no psychologist but Dave sure shows symptoms of NPD in the way he reacts to things and the way he cannot let anything drop. 

Oh, of course. No attacks on me would be complete without personality / mental analysis. "NPD" is "Narcissistic Personality Disorder."  This is the strictly comedic and entertaining aspect of otherwise tedious and ultra-boring ad hominem attacks. The anti-Catholics love to do the same thing (this is one of their favorite slanders; lacking any rational arguments), and Shawn will readily use any lie from their playbook, on the old principle of "my enemy's enemy is my friend." Pray for the man. One can only pity one who feels the need to stoop so low.

It's real simple, folks; makes perfect sense; nothing mentally ill about it at all. I document because people (ones who want to clash with me) have a tendency to revise the past. I know this because it has happened over and over: much first-hand experience. If I didn't keep people's words (the ones who feel led to personally attack me), they would simply spin them as if they were no big deal. After all, a person that is willing to shamelessly lie about another has no compunction about lying about the lies later on, to cover their own tails and present themselves in a saintly (or at least situationally faultless) light that never was the case. I don't give it a moment's thought otherwise. If the thing rears its ugly head again, I have the documentation. And oh, how people hate that!!! Shawn agrees completely with this methodology because he does it himself. On the public Facebook group, Banished by Mark Shea: A Support Group, Shawn wrote on 23 March 2013:

. . . if I can offer one piece of advice for anyone who tangles with MS [Mark Shea], it is this: document what happened. Keep copies of all written correspondence either in his comboxes, on your own pages, or whatever and if you can take screenshots for preservation purposes, do that as well. I am glad I kept stuff from years past on this stuff not to relive it but instead to make sure the historical record remains preserved lest folks like him try and play the role of the historical revisionist viz. what actually happened and what he would like to pretend happened.

When I deign to cite Shawn's own words, however, all that flies out the window and he comes back with the old mental illness canard and gripes about things being years old. He has to. This is his modus operandi. It's like a hog scratching his itch. He's gotta do it!

The actual narcissists and glory-seekers out there wouldn't last a month in my field, since what they're about is looking for praise and rapt admiration all the time. That doesn't exactly coincide with apologetics (to vastly understate it)!

Nothing like the facts . . . They sit in my "Idiotic Comments and Attacks" file. Big Deal! All Shawn can do these days is sit on the sidelines and lob imbecilic attacks and flatulent avalanches of words. If he's not going after (with his rah-rah buddies patting him on the back and indulging his sin), he can always flail away at his numerous other targets: Karl Keating, Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin, the class of apologists as a whole, men, women, human beings, dogs, cats, mice, the ocean; anything on God's green earth will do, as long as it is a target . . .

I mean, its been more than SEVEN YEARS now and he is still going around digging up tidbits from my mothballed weblog from those conflicts that he spins out of context. He has to do that because context on these things is not his friend and deep down, he knows it.

Yes; down deep (at least in my better, most honest moments) I know that Shawn is my overlord and superior in every way: ethically, mentally, intellectually, as a writer, debater, amateur philosopher, political junkie, as a webmaster (with his ten hits a day average that he never managed to break out of), as a father (if he is one), as a sports fan, athlete, cookie-maker, weed-puller, repairer of can openers, you name it: anything and everything! He'd probably even beat me in chess and arm-wrestling. But he can't outlaugh me. When I read his drivel, I laugh and laugh till the cows come home: till my gut hurts; till I cry a bucket . . . I think he missed his calling as a comedian.

All this does is illustrate why I proactively blocked him on FB as soon as I found out he was on here: I have no interest in retreading old ground and being trolled by this person.

Oh, that is great news! Delighted to hear it. This is delicious irony. Shawn sits there attacking and gossiping away in the slander-thread, while if I try to defend myself at all there, my comments are deleted. But I am the troll, you see, and he's pure as the driven snow.

[someone else] Boy am I clueless. I don't even know who Dave is. 

Count your blessings, [name]!

Obviously a lot of people have way too much time on their hands, if all they can manage to do is attack and lie about me. As always (I've been subjected to 17 years of this sort of thing, online), it doesn't do the slightest thing to stop the work I am called to. My argument that brought on all the galaxies of manure and imbecilic sewer scum attacks is still here, intact. And that's all that matters. Who cares about all the other nonsense and verbal diarrhea? Let the nattering nabobs play, pat each other on the back (to rationalize their sin), and pummel away . . . 

It was mid-August 2005-Spring of 2006 with flare-ups that summer and fall. I sought to end it in September of 2006 and Dave then sought a "reconciliation" in January 2007 which in retrospect it seems he just used as a ruse to lure me back in and try and get me to affirm his whitewashed version of previous events by default. 

Even my attempts at reconciliation are a "ruse" . . . you see the cynical spirit at work here.  That is the spirit of the father of lies, the accuser (and I'm not trying to be melodramatic at all; just matter of fact); not of the God of the royal commandment and 1 Corinthians 13. This is not the Spirit of Christ. And this is why reconciliation was impossible, with his unyielding demand that I must admit I am an inveterate and deliberate liar, as his first condition. Once I admit that and bow and kiss his feet, everything's great! Well, hell's gonna freeze over before I will kowtow and admit (just so he can feel smugly superior) I was a liar and scumbag, when it was not the case at all. My big outrage was to merely disagree with the man.

I finally took the emails I wrote to him, edited mentions of him out of them, edited any of his actual words out of them, and structured the sequences into three threads that encapsulated the core problems I had with him and blogged them in the winter and spring of 2007. Those three threads are now required interaction by him if he truly wants a reconciliation or not and by all appearances he does not.

I always did want reconciliation (as I do with anyone with whom I have had a falling-out). I tried everything under the sun: reason, pleading, endless explanations of prior comments and arguments I made that Shawn would relentlessly and cavalierly (not to mention quite pompously and arrogantly) blow off as "grandstanding" or "insincere".  Finally, I removed all replies about him and anything about him at all from my blog (except a few places where I cite work of his that had some actual value: that he used to do, once upon a time).

At length, I worked with Dr. Art Sippo, a mutual friend, to try to achieve a breakthrough. He quickly persuaded me to remove the papers, but of course (shock!) Shawn was absolutely inflexible (but I'm the one with the grudge, you see, while his innumerable flatulent attack-papers remain online to this day). Now you can all see how he requires these asinine conditions. Essentially I have to admit that he kicked my butt in the nuclear debate -- which is untrue -- and that he was absolutely right, and I was dead-wrong, or else I am necessarily (by the singular Shawn "logic") dishonest and a liar beyond all doubt. He mocks any and all of my attempts at reconciliation as insincere.

Nothing can be done with him. I mightily tried (far more than most people would have had the patience to do). My conscience is perfectly clear on this. God understands contentious people: that we can't always get along with them, no matter how hard we try. His present resumption of personal attacks at the drop of a hat, without the slightest attempt to hear or interact with my side, is hardly grounds for hope of a reconciliation. I wish the man well. I have no resentment at all (I don't waste time with that in my life). I'm simply passionately responding to nonsense and calumny. May God bless him abundantly in all things.

In light of that and other similar issues with other folks (including sad to say the late Fr. Richard Neuhaus), to say that I have a view of apologetics now as a rule that is lower than my view of prostitution is no small exaggeration. But that is another subject altogether for another time.

I like that! My profession is lower than being a whore. Isn't that a wonderfully edifying thought? Even Fr. Neuhaus wasn't safe from Shawn's self-righteous ire. Now the world's oldest and most disgusting, loathsome professions are not one and the same. It's a split ticket. We apologists are the lowest of the low: cain't get no lower than us'n's!.

But of course ol' Shawn brings no personal or intellectual bias to the present conversation; not at all (and no one could possibly think that!). No! It's all sweetness and light and rock-solid objectivity from our friend. I'm over here degrading myself (on a level lower than the ethics of prostitution) by trying to help folks escape from the prison of RadCathR nonsense, but it's all worthless, because I supposedly (like Akin and Shea and others) used one word like a dummy and an ignoramus; and I must be attacked at every turn with lies and calumnies for doing so.

Hell, Dave even edited it to put my name in the title! See what I mean about folks who cannot let things go?

. . . Dave continues to add stuff from this thread in a desperate effort to try and goad responses from us and again courtesy of his selective prooftexting ala the way folks prooftext magisterial texts or even Scripture for their own ends. (Albeit nothing said on this thread here has that sort of status of course!)

But since he is seeing this thread, before you change the settings, I will address this to him personally and say nothing else on this thread in the foreseeable future. Here goes...

Hey Dave, the issue I had with Fr. Neuhaus (God rest his soul!) had NOTHING to do with you whatsoever. It was in the grand scheme of things a minor matter (as virtually all things which involve someone who passes on are) and I let it drop a long time ago -mentioning it only in an aside to Pete on this thread which now I wish I had not. But hey, if you had any sense of honour or decency, you would not kick dirt on the grave of a deceased for the sake of your ego.

That's the problem with someone like you who is not interested in the truth but instead just spinning anything they can into whatever revisionist light best suits their inflated ego. I am thinking of going back to where I reviewed one of his books on Amazon and deleting the review -the thought of saying anything nice about someone who acts this way is frankly something I am starting to regret.

. . . I am through on this thread feeding Dave's massive revisionist ego. I will pray for him that he seeks the help he so badly needs and accept this as a reminder of why Christian unity in general is such a seemingly insurmountable mountain and only by God's grace will it ever occur on this side of the eschaton.

[reply to someone who was mockingly saying they "disagreed" with me; as if no one can ever do so] So you were "Denying The Faith" then,. . .?

Trying to use controversy to create fictitious monsters to then ask for money to "fight the monsters" is part and parcel of the whole schtick. I would actually have loved to be proven wrong on this (and conceivably still could be) but so far, every prediction I made on this whole episode privately has come to pass.

. . . the problem with those who act the way certain parties have been is they lose sympathy where the area of possible misunderstandings are concerned. There is also the issue of objective manifestation vs. subjective intention, something I tried to explain until I was blue in the face to no avail. But as it is apropo here, I will briefly touch on it anew. Essentially, one can say something meaning one intention that if you look at what is said objectively at face value conveys a different meaning altogether. So many problems would not exist if more folks realized that sometimes the way they think they are coming across is not how they actually are. (And of course they would have to look as objectively as they could as to how contextually they come across.) But if you cannot get someone to even consider that they may have run afoul in this area, then you have no hope of ever getting through to them period and that is what [name] has seen in the circumstance she encountered with someone whose name shant be mentioned here. 

Flail away, Shawn! God sees everything you are doing . . . . Reply is perfectly futile at this point. The above is more than enough its' own refutation and self-condemnation, for anyone with the slightest acquaintance with New Testament Christian ethics. Shawn would do very well to heed "traditionalist" Kevin Tierney's words (3-20-13), that apply to him in almost every little detail:

The Internet can be a very edifying realm where individuals exchange ideas and make things better.  It can also be a place of nothing but urine and vinegar, where egotists obsess about things said almost ten years ago as if they are fresh battles, and portray even the smallest of disagreements as lies and willful distortions of the highest order.  Everyone loves the former, and most (except those who thrive on urine and vinegar as a way to generate traffic or sometimes revenue) avoid the latter.

I heartily concur with Shawn's statement on his Twitter page (3-17-13):

There are many things good about getting older (and a few not-so-good) but #1 on the good list: you care a lot less about what others think!

Thank heavens, I learned this years ago. If I hadn't, the likes of Slash-and-Burn Shawn and an army of additional irrational, facts- and logic-challenged critics would have easily drummed me out of apologetics a long time ago (never to look or go back again). Fortunately, I didn't take up this vocation to win a popularity contest in the first place (or to become rich: another apparent misconception of many: at least in my case).


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