Do you ever feel like telling someone to shut up and sit down?
That’s basically what canon lawyer Edward Peters did the other day to Steve Kellmeyer, though he did it temperately, which I’m sure gave his message all the more impact. Dr. Peters reacted to Kellmeyer’s vituperation against Dr. Janet Smith, a widely respected professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, and one of Christopher West’s defenders in the recent imbroglio over the latter’s “Theology of the Body” methods and message. Kellmeyer has been a fierce and persistent critic of West, as Mark Shea recently observedwith great bemusement.
(Note: Legitimate criticism of Christopher West’s methods is not the problem. Plenty of thoughtful Catholics have come down on both sides of that controversy. Rather, the problem is the acrimonious way in which some, such as Steve Kellmeyer, have prosecuted the issue.)
I cannot say that I know Dr. Smith well, though I have had brief conversations with her, here and there over the years, and my wife and I once shared a very pleasant private meal with her in Munich after a conference at which Dr. Smith and I spoke. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her and her long history of excellent service to the Catholic Church, and thus it pained me, as it obviously pained Edward Peters and, I’m sure, her many friends and admirers, to see her unjustly attacked. That’s why I’m glad to see people come to her defense, especially Dr. Peters’ response to the canon law argument which Steve Kellmeyer unwisely employed in his recent foray against her.
As for Steve, I’ve known him for many years, though not well, and my impression of him has always been that he is a highly intelligent and gifted man with a sincere desire to explain, defend, and promote the Catholic Faith. To the extent he uses his gifts prudently and charitably to accomplish that goal, I applaud him and wish him all success, especially of the spiritual variety. But to the extent that he undermines that worthy goal by being gratuitous, mean-spirited, petty, and querulous (as, sadly, he has been toward people like Janet Smith and Christopher West) Peters, Shea, and the others who are telling him, essentially, to shut up and sit down are rendering a much needed service. Not everyone who is nice to you is a friend, and not everyone who is harsh with you is an enemy. I hope he heeds their admonitions, cools down, and then resumes his work calmly and without the acerbity from which it currently suffers.