Mark Shea – aka he who exudes the “Odor of Sanctimony” – and other apologetic hacks

July 18, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – As with with most – if not all – Catholics who have reservations with many things related to Pope Francis, I have not come to my current position regarding this pontificate lightly, or without constant prayer. Many moons ago I wrote articles which appeared in the old Catholic Answers magazine, This Rock.  These articles primarily dealt with defending Catholic doctrines related to the papal primacy and papal infallibility, rebutting arguments from the likes of William Webster and James White (see, for example, Guilty of a failure to teachJames White is Wrong, The False Decretals).

How then did I come to found and write for Roma Locuta Est in its present form? Actually, I had long intended Roma Locuta Est to be a site for general Catholic apologetics against Protestant and or atheist positions. At Roma Locuta Est, we do try to insert such articles (for example The Historicity of the Crucifixion Darkness) from time to time.  However, it was the advent of Francis’s pontificate that would change the plan for what Roma Locuta Est was originally intended to be to what it would later become when it finally launched.  From the moment I saw him on the loggia I had concerns, why I did so at that precise moment, I cannot fully say.  I do know others have said similar things. Within months a priest I know with good sources in Rome was issuing warnings about Francis.

Later, like so many other Catholics, I tracked the synods on the family with great concern. Yet, familiar with John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortia, I was praying — and hoping — that Pope Francis would defy expectations and actually defend the teaching of Familiaris Consortio and the perennial teachings of the Church.

Yet, when Amoris Laetitia was finally published, I was shocked at what I read in it. I remember going up to my Pastor the Sunday afterward and expressing my deep concerns about the theology behind it. These concerns in 2016 continued to grow. By 2017, my original plan to have a blog to write on Catholic vs. Protestants/Atheists apologetics changed. As I write in my “About” (see here), an article by noted papolatrist Stephen Walford (see Summa Contra Stephen Walford) prompted me to get off my keister and enter the blogosphere:

“I had long toyed with the idea of blogging. This itch had been held firmly in check by the conviction that a blogger should be one of two things: either a very interesting person or at least someone with something very interesting to say.  Ideally, one is both. Fearing myself neither of these things, I contented myself with wearing out my local archbishop, pastor, friends and family with my screeds over developments in the Church, especially during these past few years following the issuance of Amoris Laetitia. Yet, an article published in Vatican Insider on the La Stampa website prompted me – against my better judgment that I lacked both of the aforementioned qualities – to enter the blogosphere to comment on the events of our time with my initial blog article (see Pope Francis’ Predecessors come to the Defense of his Magisterium? Well–Yes and No, Mr. Walford).”

My archbishop at the time was Wilton Gregory (my apologies to the Catholics of Washington D.C). I wrote to him to oppose his allowing of Catholic support of the “Gay Pride” parade in Atlanta. I also wrote him about Amoris Laetitia.  Yet, he never responded to the emails.

As I said, my past apologetic writings have focused on the papal primacy and papal infallibility. Thus, it really peeves me to read the silly defenses offered by the Francis apologists (such as those at Where Peter Is which might as well be more appropriately called Where Francis Is). It is not my rejection of the primacy or infallibility that prompts my “resistance” (ala Dr. Roberto de Mattei) to Pope Francis, but rather it is precisely my belief in them that does.

It is not lightly I have come to my opinions regarding Pope Francis. Thus, I can only roll my eyes at the insipid smugness of the likes of Mark Shea — known on Roma Locuta Est as “he who exudes the odor of sanctimony” — who titles an article “I do not understand people who struggle to understand this pope” and then immediately adds (emphasis added):

I don’t really believe they find him “confusing”. I think they just don’t want to listen to him. Everything you need to know about him is summed up in the words, “He has preached good news to the poor.” His mortal enemies are people who either a) dislike the Church’s teaching on our duty to the poor or b) dislike evangelism because it brings people they regard as riffraff into a Church they want to make an accessory to their views on money and power and race and aesthetics and not face it for what it is: the body of the living Christ.” (Source: here)

We shall leave aside Mr. Shea’s persistent and tiresome propensity to cast the current crisis in the Catholic Church in political categories of left and right. But, for someone like Mark Shea, who has been involved in Catholic apologetics for quite some time, to say he doesn’t “really believe they (the Catholic “resistance”) find him (Pope Francis) “confusing”… I think they just don’t want to listen to him” is, itself, an unbelievable statement.

Such a statement is utterly absurd. Any Catholic reading Familiaris Consortio 84 and Amoris Laetitia 305 (n. 351), for example, can see the cause for confusion. Even Francis ‘defenders,’ such as Stephen Walford and Robert Fastiggi come to opposite conclusions (see Confusion at Vatican Insider?) on key aspects of Amoris Laetitia, but oddly enough we are supposed to still believe there is nothing confusing to be found here.

Thus, for Mr. Shea to trivialize this crisis and the concerns of so many sincere Catholics by suggesting by implication that those who signed or support the Dubia, the various filial appeals or corrections, and or the Open Letter only did so because “they just don’t want to listen” to Pope Francis is utterly absurd. Such a conclusion reeks of a lack of charity and of intellectual honesty. It is also a sign of intellectual laziness to the Nth degree.

It is very unfortunate some Catholic apologists in the blogosphere are so dismissive of the many Catholics who have real, honest concerns about this pontificate which arise — not from their own political leanings — but rather from their knowledge of and a heartfelt desire to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and to Jesus Christ. Until such apologists understand that much, they will continue to be rightfully dismissed as the apologetic hacks they are.

God bless them though.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a former intelligence officer. He and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall 2019 (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).








16 thoughts on “Mark Shea – aka he who exudes the “Odor of Sanctimony” – and other apologetic hacks

  1. Of course, Shea seems to have exchanged his Faith for leftist politics these days. It’s safe to say, as so many hyper-papalists, that he is feigning the claim of no confusion. This denial is partly a coping mechanism for these folks. Shea’s mental stability even seems in question- he is definitely very angry and quite vicious in attacking anyone who disagrees with him, including frequent use of calumny, detraction, lies. I saw the other day that he openly admitted that he makes a practice of banning anyone who disagrees with him, then attacks them, and of course, they can’t reply because he’s blocked them. Yet he sees nothing wrong with this. His friends need to have an intervention for him.


    1. David, thanks for the comments. Can’t say I’ve met Mr. Shea to comment on his mental stability. What is clear…is his sanctimony in just about everything he writes. He must be a real joy at family get togethers, reunions or neighborhood grill-outs.

      Thanks for reading.



  2. @Mr. O’Reilly: I’ve read some of your pieces from This Rock and I greatly appreciated them as I was investigating the “pearl of great price” at the time you contributed to that magazine and my younger brother had directed me to James White aka Jack Chick–lol. I sincerely thank you for your work.

    In this present blog piece, you note that it is your belief in the primacy and infallibility that prompts your “resistance” ala Dr. de Mattei. What exactly do you understand about primacy and infallibility which prompt you to resist and have you thought any more regarding reversing St. Ambrose’s statement, “Where Peter is, there is the Church” and its possible relevance regarding yours and others’ visceral needs to resist?


    1. Islam….thanks for the comments and question.

      What about the primacy and infallibility ‘prompts my resistance?’

      First, I would say that I accept by all outward appearance, process, form, etc., that Francis is pope. I have no authority to de-pope him, or declare him deposed.

      Second, I note, obviously, that Paul withstood Peter to his face. So, we do have an example in scripture of “resistance” to a pope.

      Third, past statements of the magisterium must be respected and accepted. I believe that the teaching of FC 84, for example, is infallible via the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church. I sort of touch on it in a past article here: and also again in my three part rebuttal to Mr. Walford’s book on my blog (Part I here:

      So, if Francis obviously contradicts past teaching, then he must be resisted “as pope” as long as he is held to be the pope.

      How then to explain Francis? I think the jury is out on that still. But, in Church history we have the analogies of John XXII and Honorius, for example. No analogy is perfect, but I think much of Francis can be explained within that conceptual framework, i.e., where error is possible within an understanding of what is necessary for an infallible teaching and where error can lurk where the conditions do not apply. Admittedly, Francis is worse than all the historical analogies combined–which in itself may be a sign of the times.

      So, I think it evident and safely said that Francis is, at a *minimum*, through negligence fostering heresy through ambiguity, etc. This scenario would have Francis as a “favorer” of heresy, in a way similar to Pope Honorius. Heresy must be resisted, just as folks resisted John XXII; or resisted as Paul did Peter. (Note: there is ambiguity in Francis’s words, as I note in the article, a couple of his main ‘defenders’ contradict each other on interpreting some key points…see

      The above said, evaluating this pontificate, I think it hard to limit Francis’s behavior to simple negligence. That is just a personal opinion. Only an ecclesiastical authority above me or us as laymen can hear the evidence and judge it, I do think a good case could be made Francis has intended all of what has happened, and he is simply hiding heretical meaning and intent under the guise of ambiguity.

      Thus I believe the Open Letter should be reviewed by cardinals and bishops, i.e., to evaluate the case for formal heresy.

      Personally, my pious opinion has always been a pope could not fall into formal heresy. That opinion may be in error. But, it may still be true…in which case how to explain his pontificate if it is established he is found undoubtedly to be a formal heretic?

      For me…I do not exclude the possibility a future pope might declare Francis to have been an anti-pope all along. The possible grounds I see, not listed in any order:

      1. Certain conditions found in Pope Paul IV’s Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio (though canonists have problem with this document).

      2. Violations of UDG by the St. Gallen Group. There are potentially a few of them. One surfaced recently on Roma Locuta Est is found here involved UDG 12: ( and (

      3. External influence in the conclave. There is the strange coincidence of Cardinal Scola’s archdiocesan offices being raided by anti-mafia police, pre-dawn, the morning the cardinals went into the conclave. There are the Hillary/DNC types wanting a “Catholic spring.” This is only speculative at this point, but I discuss this here (see

      4. My darkhorse favorite involves Bergoglio’s Jesuit vows: (

      Those are the four areas that a future pope might investigate. I know lots of folks have their hearts set on Benedict still being pope, but I dismiss that theory for the reasons I’ve argued for a long time on this blog. That said, I do believe the future pope will address it, if only to give peace of mind to those who believe it.

      In sum…I’d say we must accept Francis as pope – recognizing, at a minimum, he is favoring the spread of heresy through silence and inaction, while not excluding the possibility he may one day be found to be either a formal heretic or an anti-pope (but we do not have the authority to definitively rule that).

      In a case like this, the only option is to “resist” where there is clear contradiction to the true magisterium of the Catholic Church.

      Hope that helps.



      1. Mr. O’Reilly, thank you for your thoughtful, thorough, and lengthy response. I appreciate the wrestling that you have done as well as sharing your wrestling with me. Yes, it has helped me to arrive at a conclusion: It appears that we must all wrestle with what is known and then do what is within our understanding, authority, and state in life to do regarding this unprecedented situation in the Vatican.

        With this in mind, there are two points that I will make in regards to your advice. You advise that “we must accept Francis as pope … [and] ‘resist’ where there is clear contradiction to the true magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

        Point number one: At the same time that you give your advice, you seem to admit that some future pope might find Francis either a heretic or an anti-pope. I do not intend to put words in your mouth so I will instead give the observation that according to your reply there are at least four and perhaps five (Benedict’s ‘resignation’) places to examine that indicate Francis may be determined in the future to have been a doubtful pope.

        God transcends time and since there is room for Francis to be a doubtful pope (to be definitively determined by some future authority), it seems to me that this future possibility, especially in light of the present state of Modernism and apostasy in the Church, overrides my being condemned for sinning against the Faith when I voice my conviction about Francis being a doubtful Pope now.

        Moreover, since it may be that the Papacy of Francis is not certain (to be definitively determined in the future), there should be incentive to ask the present authorities in the Church for an investigation as to who really is Pope now because “Where Peter is, there is the Church” and we do presently have two individuals living in Rome, who call themselves “Pope”.

        Significantly another commenter recently said that, “the real Pope, a true vicar of Christ, is the primary source of unity in the Church, and when there is unity there is visibility. The true Faith can be clearly visible and living that Faith can be much easier. One is freed from so many distractions and worries about whether the other Pope is a heretic or which of his teachings should be ignored, or what disciplinary regulations are in line with the Tradition of Holy Mother Church.”

        Point number two: I think that there is a grave difference between resisting and rejecting. For example, when I renew my Baptismal promises I’m called not to resist Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises but to out and out reject them. To this end I bring to you one of my bishop’s sermons wherein he likened people’s response to what Francis has been saying and doing to people’s response to Jesus. In other words my bishop said that people’s rejection of both men’s teachings indicate that they are both prophets.

        To be clear the exact words he used were, “This is seen clearly in Pope Francis. He is peaceful and free. He is not perfect, and he makes mistakes. But he has inner freedom. Despite all the problems in the Church, he says that he has an abiding peace. I am convinced that he is a prophet. He is disliked by some in the Church because he has the freedom to listen to the Word of God and let it refresh the Church as we deal with troubled marriages or issues like immigration. Especially, he urges us to be merciful like the Father is merciful. His appeal to mercy is one of the reasons that people reject him.

        He is a prophet, so we should expect to see him rejected, even by Catholics. Since he is the Vicar of Christ it is fitting that he is being rejected.”

        In response to his homily from which this excerpt is taken, I explained to my bishop that I am called by my Baptismal vows to reject evil when I see it and that there is much in Francis’ present ambiguity and silence that is evil. I concluded, “Therefore, I think that to consider Francis a prophet akin to Christ and then liken Catholics’ rejection of him to people’s rejection of Jesus is nigh on blasphemy.” Needless to say, my comment was not posted on his blog nor did I expect it to be. I made it for his eyes only.

        My intent in retelling this anecdote is to note that to resist is an insufficient response in the face of Francis possibly being a doubtful pope (which may be definitively determined in the future). His ambiguities and clear contradictions to the true magisterium of the Catholic Church must be rejected. I think that we must also encourage others and voice our own convictions about his present doubtfulness confident that we do not sin against the Faith in so doing. We can thus confidently storm our chanceries requesting an investigation as to who is really Pope right now.


      2. Islam, thanks for the reply.

        To be clear, I am not suggesting who will be “condemned” or not. We certainly live in a confused, murky time for the Church. As I alluded to before, it may be quite some time until that murkiness is dispelled.

        In the meantime, at a time of such murkiness, I just think it unwise to hold to certain theses as *definitively* true–when they lack sufficient of evidence.

        I’d put the Benedict is pope (BiP) theory into that category. I would probably have less problem with the theory IF its proponents treated it as just that, i..e, a theory only–not as fact known with moral certitude.

        In such a way, the BiP theorist could accept Francis’ pontificate, but leave open the possibility a future pope may, or may not one day declare his pontificate invalid.



        Liked by 1 person

      3. Indeed, no, Mr. O’Reilly, you have not condemned anyone in this time of grave murkiness and for that matter neither do I–especially NOT Pope Benedict. However, per this specific blog post and your most recent reply to me, it seems that you would agree that there are those morally certain “Francis apologists” as well as rare “BiPpers” who do condemn others.

        Yes, I see that you have masterfully identified a primary stumbling block for the inability of the examination of BiP to gain traction: its proponents. That observable obstacle being noted, surely it is possible to separate the message–to have the theory of BiP authoritatively examined now, from the messengers and their moral certitude? To not separate the two is like killing the messenger to avoid the message.

        Is it correct to say that your present position is to accept the Francis pontificate but resist/reject the bulk of what is promoted by it/him while not asking for an examination into BiP because of the wrong-headed assertions of moral certitude by some BiP promoters and not so much because there is absolutely no evidence or grounds for an examination of this theory? (I have read your previous posts regarding BiP, but perhaps there is a chink in your thoughts of late seeing as you now give room to the possibility of a future pope’s judgement regarding BiP.)

        In other words if the BiPpers were less intractable in their moral certitude, you might now see yourself going along with calling for an examination of the matter/evidence surrounding the possibility, the theory, of BiP? What do you say, Mr. O’Reilly? To authoritatively examine BiP now amid the murkiness, or wait for some future time of less murkiness for that examination while at present and for the foreseeable future staunchly resisting/rejecting and enduring?

        With this in mind another question arises: Is it possible that forestalling an authoritative examination of BiP now is actually one of the point sources for the grave murkiness of our present situation?

        Thank you for your consideration and for allowing this discussion. Oh, yeah. What are your thoughts about reversing St. Ambrose’ statement, “Where Peter is, there is the Church” as a means of finding Peter amid the murkiness?

        It seems to me a little like the “Marco/Polo” game that children play in the swimming pool. Lol And yet even that game makes sense in this context since Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. Hmmmm My bishop said that it made sense to him that Catholics are rejecting the Vicar of Christ. And he said it with a straight face. Pretty murky.


      4. Islam…thanks for the comments.

        My opposition to the BiP theory is *not* based on its proponents having moral certainty about the theory. My opposition is based on my examination of the evidence offered by the proponents of the theory–not their claims of moral certainty. I do think the claims of moral certainty are unwarranted based on the evidence available. Any argument will not *appear* as strong as it might otherwise, if proponents oversell the evidence.

        For example, with regard to Benedict’s last audience, there are possible natural and innocent readings of the text which do not require one to reach the conclusion Benedict meant to hold on to the papacy (see

        The BiPers I have interacted with on this specific text typically reject the more mundane reading for no good reason, IMO. They will only read and interpret in its most controversial sense, which is itself inherently improbable. Thus, it appears to me, their certainty in reading it *their* way appears to me to result from reading the evidence with a conclusion in mind. Thus, I cannot help but wonder if the other evidence they offer to me is similarly colored.

        As I said…we live in a historical moment of murkiness in the Church. I tend to think it is intended to be so, as a test. Thus, while some may be blessed with special graces to see the clear answer (I have not), my hunch is we must wait till God provides the answer.

        If there is a future pope who examines this case, I am certain many theories will be looked at – including BiP – if only so as to dismiss them for the peace of mind of those who have invested much in them.

        The reality is…at the moment…there is a no more than a .0001% chance cardinals and bishops will investigate Pope Francis for formal or material heresy now. What chance is there really they will look at the conclave or the resignation now? I say practically zero.

        So, my suggestion, accept what appears to be the case. Francis is the pope. A pope who is saying and doing questionable things. This is not a complete oddity, as there have been popes doing so in the past (e.g., John XXII, Honorius). Yes, Francis seems to be much, much, much worse. But, John XXII and Honorius probably shocked people in their time. It’s our turn. Hang on. Pray.




  3. Shea IS a hack. He was never ever that good. Unfortunately he has descended into vitriol and spite because of some hurt feelings over never being the next Patrick Madrid.

    Prayers for him, he needs it. As do Faggioli, Martin and co.


    1. Chris, thanks for the comment.

      As I suggest in the article above, there are too many blogosphere apologists who want to dismiss ‘resisters’ on the basis of motive, whether it be supposed political leanings, or various labels applied to various flavors of what they see to be the Catholic spectrum of opinion. This seems both dishonest and lazy to me.

      I try, maybe not always with success, to simply accept the other is sincere in their belief, and thus proceed directly to the merits of the argument. It would be great to see some of these apologists provide a point by point rebuttal of the “Open Letter” as to either (1) why the 7 propositions in them are not heresies, or (2) if they admit they are heresies, a rebuttal as to how Francis does not subscribe to them. Where is that argument? I have not seen it.

      Instead, for the greater part, we get simple ad hominem attacks and labeling. Thus, their ‘arguments’ will, in the end, most likely only appeal to the ones who make them, and those already so inclined.

      Thanks for reading.



  4. Shea has an article on his blog where he is ruthless (and mindless) in the insults he throws at Thomas Pink. It’s an easy article to find.
    Thomas Pink, who has little to nothing to say on current American political issues and who is English, is called:
    “Conservative Christianists enemies of the Magisterium in love with Trump and at war with Francis are fighting the Church on nearly every aspect of her social teaching. Unjust war, torture, living wage, capital punishment, tearing families limb from limb and caging children, contempt for refugees, gun violence, health care, climate change, you name it.”

    Literally unhinged response from Shea. And not even remotely related to anything Thomas Pink has written on.
    I’ve stated that I’m convinced Shea knows nothing at all about Pink but only made that post because that rhetoric he is prone to posting generates traffic for his blog and maybe revenue.

    Then Shea has the audacity to end the article by calling Thomas Pink a “transparent liar”.

    To throw those kind of claims at some as erudite and willing to engage in thoughtful debate as Thomas Pink is disgusting.


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