Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1984

Last week, we started looking at the broad movement among some conservatives (including Catholics) over the past several years to excuse, minimize, defend, and champion the use of torture by the U.S. government in the “War on Terror.” Among Catholics, in particular, the conversation has taken place at multiple levels, since the Catholic torture defender has to address it not only as a crime but as a sin. Church teaching, which describes torture as gravely and intrinsically immoral (cf. Veritatis Splendor 80), makes this a particularly difficult project, given the plain language:
Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exists acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator.”
Plenty have tried to find a way around the language, and the Catholics who do have more often taken their cues from secular sources than from Catholic ones. Indeed, Catholics support torture by a greater percentage than does the ordinary population.
The most extensive attempt by a theologian to probe whether Pope John Paul II really meant it when he said that torture was intrinsically immoral was that undertaken by Rev. Brian Harrison (here and here). What is remarkable is the distinction between what Father Harrison actually concluded and the ways in which his conclusions have been ignored, garbled, misconstrued, and, well, tortured by Catholic torture defenders (a typical and broad cross section of whom can be heard in the comboxes on my previous article).
The key point Father Harrison makes is this:
Thirdly, there remains the question — nowadays a very practical and much-discussed one — of torture inflicted not for any of the above purposes, but for extracting life-saving information from, say, a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous “ticking bomb” scenario). As we have noted above, this possible use of torture is not mentioned in the Catechism. If, as I have argued, the infliction of severe pain is not intrinsically evil, its use in that type of scenario would not seem to be excluded by the arguments and authorities we have considered so far. (John Paul II’s statement about the “intrinsic evil” of a list of ugly things including torture in VS #80 does not seem to me decisive, even at the level of authentic, non-infallible, magisterium, for the reasons I have already given in commenting above on that text.) My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.
Father Harrison’s argument is summed up here, where he compares the UN “Convention against Torture” with the 1992 Catechism on the subject of what specific actions qualify as torture. He suggests that the drafters of the Catechism, “while generally following the Convention’s proscriptions, deliberately decided not to do so on [the] particular point” of torture for obtaining information. Because it looks to Father Harrison “like a deliberate decision on the part of church authorities, rather than a mere oversight or coincidence,” he regards the morality of torture for obtaining information to be an open theological question.
Now, in a purely abstract universe, Father Harrison’s slender thread of speculation might make for a fascinating theoretical discussion (bearing in mind that it is predicated on a fantasy scenario). But we don’t live in a purely abstract universe. We live in a universe in which Father Harrison’s conclusion that torture might not be intrinsically immoral (given an incredibly remote hypothetical situation) was instantly pressed into service by Catholic torture defenders to mean “John Paul II didn’t really mean torture is intrinsically and gravely immoral. In fact, torture is basically okay, as long as it’s done to bad guys to get information and not to be sadistic.”
All over the Catholic blogosphere, Father Harrison’s speculative opinions (seconded by no magisterial authority of which I am aware) were instantly elevated by torture defenders to something like an official response to a dubium from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Result: While Rome was reiterating its opposition to the torture being inflicted in the real world, and archbishops were pointing out obvious truths like the fact that the use of torture by Americans was “a more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11″ because “the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves,” American conservative Catholics were continuing the project of trying to square the circle and declare, not remote hypothetical ticking time bombs, but the real tortures authorized by the Bush Administration to be compatible with Catholic teaching.
Given that, two things are worth noting:First, it could well be argued that, instead of asking, “What do we do if we are an action hero in a ticking time bomb fantasy?” Father Harrison’s pastoral energies might have been more wisely expended asking, “Is it right or good for conservative Catholics to whip themselves into a frenzy of fear over remote hypothetical time bombs instead of attending to the very real fact that Caesar is, at this hour, engaging in acts that may very well be described as war crimes, as well as gravely and intrinsically evil? Why encourage a near occasion of grave sin by cultivating fantasies that tempt us to ignore the clear and obvious teaching of the Council and the last two popes on the sinfulness of torture?”
The second thing worth noting about the popular distortion of Father Harrison’s conjectures is this: Let us grant Father Harrison’s remote speculation that torture to obtain urgent life-saving information is okay (some Catholics dilate on this speculation to claim that it cannot be torture at all if it is inflicted against terrorists, and carefully replace the word with “enhanced interrogation”). What then?
Following Father Harrison’s lead, the average Catholic torture defender grants that it is wrong to use torture to “punish the guilty” or “satisfy hatred” (since the Catechism actually spells that out). We are then usually told that the only thing legitimating torture is “obtaining life-saving information.” Similarly, defenders of torture in secular conservative media constantly remind us that they are not themselves motivated by some thirst for vengeance, but are simply arguing in favor of “doing what it takes” to get the information necessary from extremists who want to kill us and disrupt the fabric of society. In the words of Charles Krauthammer:
Let’s take the textbook case. Ethics 101: A terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb in New York City. It will go off in one hour. A million people will die. You capture the terrorist. He knows where it is. He’s not talking. Question: If you have the slightest belief that hanging this man by his thumbs will get you the information to save a million people, are you permitted to do it? Now, on most issues regarding torture, I confess tentativeness and uncertainty. But on this issue, there can be no uncertainty: Not only is it permissible to hang this miscreant by his thumbs. It is a moral duty.
Krauthammer later modifies his scenario from torturing to save a million people to torturing to save one person. What he does not modify is his conviction that “if you have the slightest belief” that torture will get you the information to save lives, you have a moral duty to torture.
“I completely agree!” says the post-Christian efficiency expert in the Ministry of Safety of the not-too-far-off Security State. “Therefore, we will be rounding up the wives and children of all extremists suspected of possessing life-saving information and subjecting them to waterboarding, cold cells, and stress positions in front of the suspects. Bless my soul, even the most dangerous extremist sings like a canary when his little girl starts screaming and begging for mercy.” 

At this point, the Catholic torture defender — who has been laboring to assure us thatwaterboarding, cold cells, and stress positions are not torture, that the extreme demands of war mean we should look the other way even if they are, and that doing it “purely to obtain life-saving information” is okay — is taken aback. He stammers, “But the wife and children are innocent!”

To which the post-Christian efficiency expert replies calmly, “So what? This isn’t about punishing anybody, as you yourself say. It’s about getting necessary life-saving information in the most efficient way possible. It’s a known fact that men who would otherwise die as martyrs will tell you everything they know to save those they love. Why do you think John Yoo said all those years ago that the president could, if he thought it best,authorize crushing a nine-year-old boy’s testicles?”Here the efficiency expert smiles a warm and reassuring smile: “And we’re not even talking about crushing testicles, of course. We aren’t barbarians. We’re just talking about a little harmless ‘dunking,’ as Vice President Cheney once called it. It’s safe, legal, and rare.”

“Oh! And by the way,” he finishes, “I thought you should know that the newest directives have placed your brother and his family on our Extremist Watch List, since he is on record as having criticized abortion providers, the Transportation Safety Administration, and the president. Given the history of endangerment to human life from domestic terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh, abortion-clinic shooters like Eric Rudolph, and various other clear and present threats to national security, I’m sure you’ll understand.”
Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He is a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and a columnist for Crisis Magazine. Visit his blog at www.markshea.blogspot.com.

  • Austin

    I read that they waterboarded this Sheik Khalid guy something like 160 times. I also read that they claim to have gotten some good info from him as a result of the waterboarding. My question is, did they get the info after the first time? After the 160th time” or Somewhere in between? I can understand doing it once or twice under the “ticking bomb” scenario, but I doubt that they had 160 ticking bomb scenarios. Sounds like something that should have been done as the exception, became the rule. Also, did they in fact, get good info as a result of the waterboarding, or is this an after the fact justification?
    Cheney wants classified documents released to justify their actions. I wonder what really happened?

  • Ender

    Let us grant Father Harrison’s remote speculation that torture to obtain urgent life-saving information is okay

    I want to ask this question as narrowly as possible without wandering into speculation: if you concede this point (above) doesn’t it mean that torture cannot be intrinsically evil?

  • Thomas More

    You have not dealt with the fact that two Doctors of the Church (St. Bellarmine and St. Thomas Aquinas, a.k.a., the Angelic Doctor) disagree with you. See Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 65, Article I.

    Or the fact that both Romans 13 (says government “terror” to evildoers) and Exodus 21 (which calls for mutilation of the guilty)seem to be in contradiction of your interpretation.

    In a previously unpublished St. Thomas Aquinas Commentary on Romans 13, he interpreted it thus: “From this it is clear that it is not only lawful but meritorious for rulers to execute vengeance on the wicked, when it is done out of zeal for justice.” St. Thomas Aquinas, Letter to the Romans Commentary at 512, available at vivicat1.blogspot.com.

    Also, the list in Gadium et Spes calls out for interpretation, unless you think that ever “attempt[] to coerce the will itself” is instrincially immoral. Interpreted literally, this would include spanking. Before you accuse me of using an outlandish example, Sweden has already outlawed corporal punishment of children and it was attempted in California. Additionally, “deportation” is on the list. Is the deportation of immigrants who violate our immigration laws an intrinsic evil? Also on the list is slavery, interpreted literally this would included the forced labor of criminals who are made to clean litter and perform other tasks as punishment for a crime. Slavery is reserved as a punishment for any crime that is a felony in the 13th Amendment, is this instrincally immoral?

    Additionally, is burning someone to death torture? Pope Leo X condemned as heresy the teaching of Luther that the burning of heretics was against the Holy Spirit: “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”

    The one thing for sure is that the torture of the innocent is intrinsically evil. Therefore, the real torture president is Barack Obama who is currently implementing and funding a domestic and international policy of child torture on the scale of millions. So please, stop trying to draw equivalents between a republican administration and the majority of Church-going Catholics who agree that torture and murder of the innocent is wrong but allowed for the pouring of water over guilty terrorists heads and those officials, like Barack Obama and their Catholic supporters, including Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Patrick Leahy (who wants to have a torture truth commission that you have endorsed) who suppor the largest wholesale torture and slaughter of innocent children that this world has ever seen. Something which no Doctor of the Church or Pope has ever indicated in any way is moral, unlike the torture of the guilty. Your continued obsession with drawing this equivalence and in such inflamatory terms, including discouraging individuals from voting during the election, in direct contravention of the Catechism of the Cathlic Church 2240, leads one feeling very concerned about your motivations on this “torture issue.”

    “2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country”

  • Guardian

    Having read all of the hypothetical “Ticking Time Bomb” scenario defenders from the last article and, I’m sure, this one—-I have a question. What if your Torturer feels it necessary to torture in order to save the lives of hundreds, thousands, millions, billions or even trillions of people and there really is no “Ticking Time Bomb”? Should the Torturer be punished? What should be his/her punishment? What should be the punishment for all those who tortured over the last six years and did not stop a ticking time bomb?

  • Joe H

    An excellent follow up to last week’s discussion.

    Here is a good article on how we ought to interpret the words of the Pope – in this case, through Mark’s link – even when not speaking ex cathedra:

    http://tinyurl.com/d3ypne

    It quotes Lumen Gentium, which should also be read, here:

    http://tinyurl.com/3wxff

    And finally for those who just want what I think are the highlights, my lil blurb here:

    http://tinyurl.com/celqhl

    To me what this debate seems to come down to, more and more, is whether or not we are free do do as we please where the law is silent.

    As I understand it, we are still to assent with religious and intellectual submission to the ordinary magisterium of the Church. Is that what is going on here? Is saying, “well I don’t see a rule against it, so we must be able to do it” really a proper way to inform one’s conscience?

    The manifest and obvious position of the Church is that torture is intrinsically evil. It would be unreasonable to assume that any future statement is going to significantly deviate from what has already been said.

  • G.R. Mead

    Veritatis Splendor says: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; …. ”

    If killing is not intrinscially evil, then neither is torture — in the context of a just war — if, and only if — the conditions making the war just – make the torture likewise justified in the specific context in which the act occurs. Yes, it is cruel — So is war — but there are just forms of cruelty that relate properly to truth and the dignity of persons. So held St. Thomas and St. Bellarmine. And, pray God, soon sainted John Paul does not contradict them. Else by the statement of “homicide” as intrinsically evil, the just war doctrine is utterly undone — but of course, “just war” remains the teaching of the Church.

    And just-so with the objections to torture as a blanket prohibition, without due consideration of the causes of war that may legitimately impel their deliberate and considered employment. The Geneva Convention is NOT the teaching of Church — but of the prudence and charity of honorable combatants — and not all combatants fall within the conditions of this quite generous presumption on the field of combat — especially those who expressly make no discrimination in the minimal matter of charity toward non-combatants.

    “[M]utilation, physical and mental torture, and attempts to coerce the spirit” are a list of things of like kind. Mutilation and its placement here with the other items in the list frame s whoel concept of permanent derangement, whether physical, mental or spirtual. Among other things, procedures such as the waterboard have not (from personal experience), and do not work such permanent or durable mutilations or derangements of the body, the mind or the spirit.

    Note that it says nothing about “coercing the will.” Coercing the spirit would be to impel sin and corruption of the spirit toward willing commission of sin. Wars are won in the will. Wars are ended because the killing of the enemy coerces his will to submit rather than to continue fighting — it does not coerce his spirit to become evil, to abandon charity and to desire the commission of sin. To the contrary the abandonment of an unjust war is an act of charity or repentance (presuming, of course, that we are engaged in a just war ourselves).

    So coercing the will of the enemy to speak a truth that he keeps only to will the death of those who may be saved by speaking it, is itself a continuing act of war — and inconsistent with the proper parole of the honorable prisoner — to make no war until he should honorably escape. Just war teaching applies to the means of coercion of the will to reveal that truth — indeed coercion deliberately, proportionately and soberly even, if necessary to the brink of or unto death — a clean whole death, appropriate to the field of battle, which is where the participants find themselves — with the truth being the weapon in play.

    Thus, only most simplistic and untutored, or hearts so gentle as to be utterly unsuited to judge in the ethics of violent encounter would conclude that torture (or things short of a proper definition of “torture,” such as the waterboard) CAN NEVER justly be used to compel the truth which will aid the saving of lives from someone who is not entitled to the truth that he holds in the hope of their deaths. To say that the employment of such methods WAS NOT or OUGHT NOT have been justified by the circumstances under current discussion is a prudential argument — not a argument as to the intrinsic evil of the act — and thus deference to the civil power is proper in such a case.

  • Okie

    Mr. Shea,

    What do you say against Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Bellarmine? If they are wrong, then how? If the previous magesterium failed in what it taught, then in what way?

    I still have not heard you give a definition of what constitutes torture. In what does “violating the human dignity” of a person through “physical and mental torture” consist of? You simply dismiss this question as conservatives trying to get “as close as possible” to torture. The real question is what is the difference between torture and punishment. I still stick to the explanation I gave on your last article.

  • Mark Shea

    Everybody keeps talking as though they are arguing with me and not with the obvious and plain language of JPII in Veritatis Splendor. The logic is typically “Since JPII’s language does not clearly specify what torture is, then his language means nothing we have to take seriously at all. I mean, the guy condemned subhuman living conditions and deportations. Those can be intrinsically immoral, so we don’t really have to bother with all that stuff about torture either. And that means torture is okay if we think we have sufficient justification for it.”

    To be clear, I grant Fr. Harrison’s argument as a hypothesis in order to show where the argument leads in a rapidly de-Christianizing culture. I do not grant his argument in reality. I think that when the Holy Father used the term “intrinsically immoral” to describe torture, he meant something, not nothing.

    The incredible thing, however, is that torture defenders routinely transform Fr. Harrison’s “There might be a scintilla of argument to suppose that torture could possibly be morally admissible in a fantastically remote and improbable situation” into carte blanche for the past six years of Bush Administration torture and abuse of prisoners. There seems to be a broad concensus that, if you can just show that there may be a small crack in the obvious and plain language of Gaudiem et Spes, Veritatis Splendor and the Catechism… well, then: they mean *nothing* so long as you can claim that torture was done because it might have somehow been claimed to have been done to “keep us safe”. Pope Benedict’s teaching the the prohibition on torture “may never be contravened” is simply ignored in favor of the remote speculation of Fr. Harrison.

    So, you get arguments like this:

    If killing is not intrinscially evil, then neither is torture — in the context of a just war — if, and only if — the conditions making the war just – make the torture likewise justified in the specific context in which the act occurs. Yes, it is cruel — So is war

    To which, again, the first obvious conclusion is “If you have “the slightest belief” (as Krauthammer puts it) that a child of some thug you can’t find has life-saving information, then torture her. War is hell and we need to do “morally poisonous” things (to quote Krauthammer again). Once again, we see the confusion of brutal pride with courage.

    Make no mistake: that’s what’s being argued here: Do grave evil that good may come of it–to the great shame and embarrassment of Holy Church, who says no such thing.

    As Tom Kreitzberg points out:

    To say, “I’d commit a terrible sin against a terrible sinner in order to save five million innocents,” is not to risk a slippery slope. It is to declare that any and every point on the slope — a sin of any gravity upon a person of any guilt for a good of any magnitude — is open for negotiation.

    And it’s not God we’re negotiating with.

  • Steve Berg

    The picture at the top of this fine essay is instructive. My surmise is that it dates from the time of the Philippine Insurrection, one of the earlier American Imperial wars. This is of some import to Catholics, as one of the reasons given by President McKinley for conquering the islands was to Christianize them. Of course, there were baptisms and confirmations there before they were celebrated at Plimoth, but that is another matter. Instead, I will posit a link between guerrilla wars and torture. When faced with overwhelming military force, people will properly choose guerrilla methods. We did that against the British back in the late 18th Century, but had to use more traditional siege techniques with a lot of French help there at Yorktown. In the Philippines, torture was used to elicit information about upcoming attacks. The same thing was done in Vietnam, though there most of the torturing that I heard about was done by the ARVNs. So, it would seem that we face guerrilla tactics, and counter them with intelligence gathering techniques when we seek to conquer foreign countries for whatever reason. Now, I will ask the more knowledgeable people on this board a question. Is conquering a foreign country a just war? If Aquinas approves torture, under what conditions does he do so? How does he relate torture to just war?

    My guess is that the ticking time bomb torture scenario is a red herring, intended to ignore the real problems encountered in unjust wars of foreign conquest.

  • Joe H

    What is it about paragraph 2298 of the Catechism you don’t agree with/understand?

    Even if it doesn’t cover the ‘ticking time bomb’ debate, it makes clear that the use of torture as understood by Aquinas is simply no longer in effect.

    2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

  • Mark P. Shea

    What do you say against Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Bellarmine? If they are wrong, then how? If the previous magesterium failed in what it taught, then in what way?

    I say that pitting the opinions of theologians against the developed teaching of the Church is unwise. Just as I would not take Thomas as the last word on the falsehood of the Immaculate Conception, nor Bellarmine’s views on geocentrism as the end of the story on Catholic views of cosmology. That’s what a Magisterium is for, to help us distinguish authentic developments of the Tradition. I don’t believe in the theory that there are two Churches, pre- and post-Vatican II. Nor do I believe that every prudential judgment and policy of the Church is covered by infallibility, such that a development of teaching which says “Torture is contrary to the dignity of the human person” means that the Church erred in its doctrinal teaching in the past.

    So, for instance, I don’t think that Lateran IV’s demand that Jews be forbidden to be allowed out in public during the Triduum means that Nostra Aetate is in error for describing persecution of Jews as “foreign to the mind of Christ.”

    As to the rest of your question post, Okie, what I recommend is that you go and read carefully a document from the USCCB which is directly addressed to this matter. It’s called “Torture is a Moral Issue” give excellent guidance on the sensible way Catholics who wish to think with the Church can begin to ponder this matter. You can find it here:

    http://tiny.cc/1GSBI

    And now, I gotta go. The Mary trilogy is out and I have to get it mailed!

  • Okie

    …and when magesterium in the form of past opinions of theologians who have been acknowledged by authorities of the Church as correct seems to contradict it, there seems to be more going on. At least, Catholics can openly discuss what it means to take such a drastic measure as throwing out Aquinas and Bellarmine, and furthermore the practices of many (good) Catholic Monarchs and the many (good) Catholic clergy that supported them. I would have to ask, but I do not think a Catechism per se is seen as promulgated law (the Tridentine Catechism is different I think, but I am not sure, because it derives from the Cannons of Trent). I think you have a better argument coming from the Papal Encyclicals, but even those may not necessarily constitute an infallible teaching (they MAY, as in Pius IX and the Immaculate Conception…well wait, that was a Papal Bull…). In other words, they can be wrong on matters attendent to prudence, or could simply apply a principle that cannot be applied in the present times (see most of what Leo XIII ends up saying about forms of government).

    So again, what this boils down to is that even if someone grants (like myself, a thousand times, all to the “deaf eyes” if you will of Mr. Shea) that whatever torture is, it is an intrinsic evil, in the light of past tradition, which I do not think we can throw out so easily simlpy by mentioning the ’83 Catechism, there is some deeper questions we have to ask. I know there has been much equivocation on this issue…I agree that you cannot reason from “war is cruelty” to “all cruel things are okay in certain circumstances.”

    However, I will make the same accusation I did last time: you only talk to the people whose points are easy to refute. The harder question is still this: how can it be okay for legitimate authorities punish people and for them to wage wars that are just, which means they are a GOOD AUTHORITIES ARE OBLIGATED BY DUTY TO COMMENCE, and then also on the same token not be able to torture people. Clearly, we believe there is a way for this to happen. The quesiton then is how. HOW is legitimate war making and punishment different from torture. If you merely respond “respecting human dignity” vs. not, the question still is in play. What does that mean? What does it mean we can kill people, and even should, when it comes to the administration of justice, but that we should not do these certain acts called torture? I know there is a difference, even if it is hard to come by. I want to know what you think the difference is, but you merely evade my questions by sophistically bunching me in with “torture defenders.” Please, argue with me, don’t merely call me names…

  • Okie

    sorry, you did respond, but i was writing while you did…let me read what you said…

  • Michael Hebert

    I agree that torture is wrong, and you can see by the arguments of its proponents how wrong it is. Thomas More, the commenter above, starts out arguing that Thomas Aquinas and St. Bellarmine supported torture, which I doubt is true but can’t prove because the link he provides to the Aquinas quote doesn’t work. As for St. Bellarmine, I can’t find a quote, so I can’t tell what his name is doing there.

    Then he veers off into spanking, slavery, burning at the stake, abortion, and finally voting rights. Huh?

    In philosophy I was taught to always doubt an argument that consists of a lot of little arguments. When you don’t have a knockdown argument, you pile up a stack of rickety ones.

    Torture doesn’t work. There is no evidence that it does. Further, if terrorists know we will torture them they will adapt to this reality by refusing to be caught. You can always commit suicide before you are apprehended.

    One of the reasons the military opposes torture is because it fears the techniques we dish out will be used on us. And also because enemies, if they know they may be tortured, will fight to the death rather than surrender. This leads to vastly higher casualties on both sides.

    I don’t see where the “war is heck” argument finds traction. The point of the Geneva Conventions, and JPII’s arguments, is that war is bad, lets not make it worse by adding torture to the mix. War without torture is better than war with torture. That seems about as plain as an argument can get.

    And of course, what is to stop a person being tortured from lying? If a person will say anything to stop the pain, anything needn’t be the truth.

    But more to the point — morally, if you say torture is acceptable in certain circumstances, you are saying that torture is a judgment call. There is a word for this — it is called moral relativism. I thought wrong was wrong and it didn’t matter what time of day. If that is not true, as Mark Shea says, what isn’t open for negotiation?

    I especially don’t see what abortion has to do with it. Why is it that, because Obama is pro-choice, we should let the torturers go? I suppose we ought to stop writing parking tickets, and collecting taxes, and prosecuting grand theft auto as long as there is a single abortion in this country.

    That is the problem with the pro-torture argument. Once you make it, everything unravels. If you can torture sometimes, you can abort sometimes, and murder sometimes, and fornicate sometimes — the list never ends.

  • Thomas More

    The ban on Jews in public places has nothing to do with the points I made. The point is specious, it is a red herring.

    I pointed to the interpretation of Sriptual and Moral Law by two Doctors of the Universal Church. You have yet to address why they are wrong or how precisely the Chruch developed against them. I am not arguing that the Church has forbidden the use of torture for the reasons listed in the Catechism, but that does not mean they have been declared intrinsic moral evils. After all, the death penalty was “banned” as a pastoral matter by JPII, but never declared and intrinsically evil despite the fact that it is against human life. Additionally, the out of context quote you use from B16 re prohibition on torture never being contravened is in reference to punishment not self defense, read the whole address. Therefore, the Catechism list still stands.

    Plus you continue to evade the following: (1) Is deportation intrinsically evil; (2) Is spanking instrinsically evil since it is a coercion of the will of the child; (3) Is forced trash pick up by criminals and the 13th Amendment of the Consitution instrinsically evil since they both are slavery implementing;(4) do you consider Barack Obama to be a greater proponent of torture than George W. Bush; and (5) Another pope, Pope Leo X declared that it was a heresy to say that burning people at the stake was against the Holy Spirit, is burning at the stake torture? If so, why does this not require interpretation of later authoritative statements by the Church. If not, how is waterboarding torture?

    Finally, did you or did you not give the impression during the election that it was morally permissible NOT to vote for president despite CCC 2240?

    I think you need to answer these questions to be taken seriously on this “torture” issue. What say you?

  • Thomas More

    http://tinyurl.com/c7foxl (Roman 13 commentaries)

    http://tinyurl.com/d6wuuw (Summa)

    St. Robert Bellarmine is out of print, but in De Laicis, Ch. 14 if you can find it.

  • Okie

    First of all, the USCCB article, like many of their documents, is lacking, to say the least. And you don’t have to be some craven dissenter from the Church to make this point. Just as many people have criticized the USCCB reference guide on the election (many Bishops have done so), I would have to level similar claims at this document. It is a good reference source…it does site many of the relevent documents pertaining to this issue. But to the level of the question I am asking about, it resorts to platitudes at best. Bishops need to be saying “this and not this,” as for instance the good Bishop John Fisher did during his trying times. I thank you for another resource to read, but beyond the most basic “beginning” to thinking of these matters.

    As to your first point, I don’t see what I am doing as “pitting” past opinions against “developed” magesterium. If anything, you need to be careful of how “evolutionary” you take magesterial teachings to be…not all new declarations invalidate what was said before. Old laws are only contravened when new laws explicitly contravene them…otherwise, they stay in force. I think tradition works in a similar way, especially since we say the Church infallibly cannot lead its sheep astray. So my point is not to say “Thomas and Bellarmine are cooler than the magesterium,” my point is that on matters of Justice and Authority, the Magesterium of the Church has sided with them before. If you want me to cull up Papal documents that do so, I guess I can when I find the time, but the very mention of Just War in the USCCB document you pointed me to proves my point at least about Thomas.

    So my further point is that we should not go against them without good…and here is what is missing from both your argument and the USCCB document, DETAILED reasons why. We need to be specific. Catholicism has the best philosophical tradition on the planet…WHY are we worried to get scholastic on such an important issue as if that means we are okay with torture? Why not write a Summa about it instead of the emotive paternalism of the USCCB document? (I’m sorry, but asking me to think back to how I felt during 9/11 is not what is needed here…we need philosophical certainty…souls depend on it). So I am asking for one of the most basic philosophical practices to occur: we need to make a distinction. What is just punishment and what is torture. The paragraphs that seem to try and hit on this from the USCCB document are as follows:

    “The 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture defines torture as

  • Okie

    I think the best definition comes from the Pope above, that torture is:

    ‘Means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners’

    But it still leaves the question of what types of punishment do and which ones do not debase human dignity. I have made my argument before that I think it has to do with punishments that respect the rationality of the person in question. That means that they must be granted the ability to defend themselves of any accusation before they are punished (whether this demands a course in the state of war is a valid question), and that they must know their punishment ahead of time (that is, law must be promulgated to allow someone to reasonably respond, ie by complying with it, or by not complying with it and facing the consequences). I think the same procedure can be followed in interogation: I think you can reasonably tell someone that you know has information (such as a commanding officer that is captured, or the 2nd in command of a terrorist organization) that they must come forth with information they have, or otherwise they will be convicted of accomplancy to a crime and/or conspiracy to commit a crime, and that the punishment for doing so the first time as an enemy combatant of the U.S. is ‘blank,’ the second offense is ‘blank,’ etc. etc. We can discuss the reasonable severity of the punishments, but I do not see how this infringes on their dignity. I also do not see how many of the punishments deemed reasonable by the Church in the past infringe the dignity of others as long as they follow a similar structure. A Just War is a good, and the punishment of criminals is a good. Torture must be something else merely than force used against criminals, and that is what the question is.

  • G.R. Mead

    If killing is not intrinscially evil, then neither is torture — in the context of a just war — if, and only if — the conditions making the war just – make the torture likewise justified in the specific context in which the act occurs. Yes, it is cruel — So is war

  • Okie

    I’m reading more an more of these comments, and Mr. Shea, you are quite emmotional about this. You just explode at people who want clarifications. Did someone waterboard you in college or something? Your emotive explosions at legitimate questions is ridiculous…

  • Mark P. Shea

    GR:

    Sorry for messing up your tidy hypothetical scenario. But you know, sometimes there is not a perfect “guilt to intelligence valus” ratio.

    The child is the only person knows where the bomb that will destroy NYC is (her terrorist father whispered the information to her as he died and swore her to secrecy till she could get the info to his masters in the terror network). I very much doubt that Charles Krauthammer would call her a non combatant, especially with those five million live in the balance, GR. Also, she’s sitting there chanting “Allahu Ackbar” and “Death to America” because she learned that from infancy and has said it all her seven years.

    And since, as you helpfully explain, waterboarding is not even torture (indeed, *nothing* Bush ordered was torture), then are you going to tell me that you would sit there and *not* subject the girl to simulated drowning, freezing cold, walling, and all the rest of the menu of euphemisisms for torture? Charles Krauthammer says if you have “the slightest belief” it would save innocent lives, you have a moral obligation to to do it. Indeed, he recommends “hanging by their thumbs”.

    Argue for consequentialism and you argue for this.

  • Okie

    the comments I am refering to are here:

    http://tinyurl.com/djxte4

  • Okie

    -Dr. Feser says he is begging for light from the Church’s teachers. They offer it. If, like you, he now objects that the light offered is unacceptable since it has not been prefaced with “Simon Peter says” then I have to conclude that the burning need for the Church to give guidance in this matter is not all that burning after all.’ [quote from Mark Shea]

    Man are you a nasty piece of work. I think I’m done trying to have a discussion with you, civil or otherwise, thank you very much.

    Posted by Edward Feser

    -Why not actually just argue with the man instead of treating him like a dumb ape? Maybe you are degrading OUR human dignity!

  • Thomas More

    What say you? You continue to avoid the questions put to you. You do not seem interested in dialogue. What’s the deal?

    See my questions in the earlier post!

  • Okie

    Just a note to everyone, even if I don’t agree with him all the way (especially his new “just shut up” argument), Zippy over at “What’s Wrong with the world” is 1 billion times more charitable at entertaining us “poor saps” with a true beginning of diferentiating between torture and punishment. I even agree with him that we do not need a hard and fast “positivist definition,” but only that since we do punish evil and don’t want to torture, that we have beginnings of reasonable discussions. here is an example:

    “One of my proposed definitions of torture – again, I think the positivist search for a comprehensive and bulletproof one is wrongheaded, but I’ve played along for many years now because people often need to talk things out – was to suggest that inflicting severe suffering on a person as nothing but a means to an end is always morally wrong, no matter how important the end or how bad the person. I myself can talk about problems with this suggestion, but one of them is most decidedly not that there can be concomitant good effects when inflicting punishment, because I specifically formulated it as nothing but. Another more heuristic formulation was that when punishing and at the same time getting a fungible commodity like information from the punished, it is not a licit punishment unless we would inflict more or less the same punishment anyway even if we had no hope of extracting the fungible commodity. The primary aim of punishment (goes the proposal, which again is not something I own as a completed positivist definition) is justice: the correction of the person -qua- person. Secondary benefits are licit to the extent those secondary benefits (like deterrence) are accidental to the infliction of suffering. Lots of discussion ensued, with no clear resolution but many good thoughts from many people.
    So two things:

    1) My positivist/complete abstract definition isn’t compact, because I don’t have one that I’ve signed up to at all; and

    2) Even what I proposed for the sake of discussion was somewhat more subtle than characterized here.

    posted by Zippy”

    -Mr. Shea, why you have to be so dismissive of people’s questions and try to psychologize the good intentions of certain people is beyond me…just because there are some wackos out there doesn’t mean all of us with questions are brutal barbarians…

  • Okie

    Just one more from the other site. Read the rest yourself with the link above:
    But here is another point worth making: If one is going to cite e.g. papal speeches (as opposed to encyclicals or other offical documents), pamphlets issued by the bureaucracy of a national bishop’s conference, etc., then surely he has to take papal bulls and the like pretty seriously. That the bulls in question might be old is irrelevant, since Catholicism is not about what’s current, but about what’s true, and what’s consistent with tradition. Progressives give the present a privileged position, but Catholciism doesn’t. My point isn’t that the Magisterium cannot clarify past statements or correct non-infallible ones; of course it can. The point is just that, just as we cannot glibly dismiss current documents of the sort I cited, neither can we glibly dismiss older documents. I know you agree with this, Zippy, but it seems to me worth emphasizing.

    Now, that is a point about documents and statements, past or present, of a relatively low level of authority. How much more does it apply to documents of a very high level of authority (e.g. encyclicals, decrees of Church councils, papal condemnations of heresy, and above all Scripture)? But notice that this latter sort of source, and in particular Scripture, is what I have been focusing on. It is one thing to ridicule an appeal to some medieval bull as somehoe posing a crisis for Catholic doctrine. But one cannot so easily ridicule an appeal to Scripture. (And Lydia, it isn’t just Sirach that affirms the legitimacy in principle of severe corporal punishment. As Fr. Harrison notes, it is also the Mosaic law that does so, and it is only with violence to the text that one can deny that even the NT allows that someone can merit such punishment, even though the accent is of course far more on mercy.) If it seems that there is a conflict between Scripture and e.g. Veritatis Splendor, then that is very serious indeed. No responsible Catholic can just wave away the question. I don’t for a moment believe that there really is a conflict, but to explain why there isn’t requires getting clearer on exactly what “torture” is, when the infliction of severe bodily pain counts as torture, when such punishment is intrinsically wrong vs. only contingently wrong, etc. And that is why people like Harrison, Akin, and myself keep insisting that these questions need to be addressed in detail. It has nothing whatsoever to do with nit-picking, a refusal to see the obvious, etc.

    Perhaps you will agree with that much. I think it worth emphasizing, though, because there are some people with a reputation for orthodoxy who have contributed to the Catholic debate over torture, and also to the debate over capital punishment, who seem to me to be extremely glib indeed when dealing with documents of the high level of authority I refer to. Their zeal for that they take to be a “deeper” insight into Catholic morality (inspired by the “new natural law” theory) has led them in effect to put their own novel moral theories above the authority of Scripture, past popes, etc. They jump through logical hoops to reconcile their extreme conclusions (e.g. that capital punishment is inherently and always wrong) with traditional Catholic teaching. Indeed, their position logically entails that traditional Catholic teaching — even the Bible itself — are just wrong, and sometimes even cite the purported trajectory of JPII’s “development” of doctrine in their defense. (As if it did honor to a pope to characterize him as taking a position which entails that Scripture and tradition are wrong!)…
    Please consider, then, Zippy, that there is a very real danger on your side of this issue of failing to do justice to the Magisterium, just as you think there is a danger on my side of it of doing so. I am not accusing you of this sort of error. Not at all. My point is just that the concern of many people on my side is precisely to avoid doctrinal or moral error, and in particular to avoid the sort of glib dismissal of tradition that some (not all, some) on the softer, anti-capital punishment, “anti-torture” side have been guilty of. Our concern about people on the other side doing violence to Catholic doctrine is a real one, not merely hypothetical.

    Posted by Edward Feser

  • Mark Shea

    I pointed you to church teaching on the matter. You don’t seem to be interested. Do you actually want to understand Church teaching or do you merely want to argue with me?

  • Okie

    …and it doesn’t answer the questions I have. I believe torture is intrinsically evil. I also believe legitimate authorities have the duty to punish evil. I think it makes sense for Catholic minds to think deeply what the distinction between the two consists of. If we do not want to give a “positivist definition” of torture, of which I understand why we would not, it would do us well to be specific at least on what seperates just punishment from torture, what areas of human dignity are liable to be impunged in the carrying out of just punishment, etc. These are legitimate things that Catholics have debated and should continue to debate. However, what we get instead is characterizations from both sides. Look, if the two men listed below feel the same way about arguing with you, maybe I should cease and desist as well (I would hope insidecatholic.com would do the same):

    Ed writes to Mark:

    The reason is that I really do think that you “know not what you do.” Judging from this and other exchanges I’ve seen, you really, honestly, do not seem to be aware how unfair and needlessly offensive you are.
    So, I forgive you. But for the same reason, I just don’t see much point in trying to have a discussion with you. The fact that you seriously continue to think that I and others haven’t answered, or even tried to answer, your points is one good piece of evidence that there’s no point. Why continue when the evidence shows you’re just going to continue ignoring, ridiculing, caricaturing, making unfounded accusations, etc. and then expressing shock when someone objects to this?

    Sorry.

    Ed is spot on here. The main reason for my own self-imposed detachment from this conversation–found on this entry and elsewhere–is Shea’s apparent inability to entertain two possibilities: (1) that one can honestly disagree with him while attempting to be true to Church doctrine, and (2) that queries about definitions and distinctions are not Jesuitical inventions of the inauthentic sadist employed to excuse evil, but rather, serious attempts to advance the common good.

    Posted by Francis J. Beckwith

  • Thomas More

    Mr. Shea what say you? You claim to use a list in Gadium et Spes as the basis of your argument but you refuse to answer the questions I put forth to you based on this list. Are you interested in Church teaching or simply making Republicans look bad?

  • LexEtLibertas

    Mark Shea makes the error that the developed teaching of the church always and necessarily trumps the ordinary and universal magisterium of previous centuries. This is not only the case. Particularly when there’s no question of a dogmatic pronouncement, the Church does not bind Catholics to a blind “presentism,” whereby what comes later is always and everywhere true.

    Sorry, Mark, you lose. The Scriptures and the Catholic Tradition are against you here. What we SHOULD BE doing is trying to reconcile the handful of non-dogmatic “anti-torture” statements with the previous Magisterium, as Fr Harrison himself has attempted.

    Applying an ultramontanist Pope-as-Pharaoh hermeneutic of discontinuity just isn’t Catholic.

  • Matthew in Fairfax

    Thomas, you can find the answers to at least some of your questions by looking to the guidance of the Pope and our bishops. For instance, here are some resources pertaining to your question,

  • Austin

    As a former Marine Officer [how many of you other guys have evern worn a helmet?], I can certainly envision circumstances where it would be necessary to “rough up” a detainee to obtain information that is needed to save lives, and not just the “ticking bomb” scenario [which is very rare], but to inform us where an ambush or string of IED’s is placed, but torture should be the exception, not the rule, and even the exception makes me sick. I am not a theologian, so quoting Doctors of the Church from centuries ago is not my forte. I’ll take my marching orders from Pope JP II and Pope Benedict, thank you.
    Note to Thomas More, et al: you guys seem like armchair warriors who know all about war, handling POW’s etc, but have never actually done it yourselves. I always laugh at people who play paintball and who think it is the real deal. It is not. If you’ve ever seen a man shot through the chest, spurting blood with every heartbeat, all that Hollywood crap goes out the window. Dredging up quotes from centuries ago is pure crap and something that pencil necked geek who never served or even fired a weapon would do. Note to Mark Shea: yes, you are a bit “emotional” but you are more on target than these armchair warriors who seem to think they can deal with issues such as torture with obscure quotes.

  • Joe H

    What exactly are we supposed to do here?

    First we hear there is ambiguity in the teachings of the Church regarding torture.

    So we point out what the Church has taught about torture for at least the last three or four decades.

    Now we hear that the Catechism, the repeated statements of two Popes, the opinion of Vatican officials and the USCCB adds up to practically nothing because 700 years ago torture was alright. This passes itself off as reverence for tradition, in spite of the fact that the Church today in the Catechism has explicitly sought to distance herself from that “tradition”.

    Progressives give the present a privileged position, but Catholciism doesn’t.

    Progressives indeed give present circumstances a privileged position in that they sometimes wish to pressure the Church into making changes to suit modern circumstances. But “Catholicism” has to include what the Church teaches today, and has taught consistently throughout this entire modern era.

    This isn’t like some other issue, such as the debate over women priests, where the Church has consistently said “no” in spite of pressure from the outside.

    This is an issue where the Church for some time now has made her mind clear, through the Pontiffs, Vatican officials, and the bishops. Pending any future official statement or teaching, this ‘ordinary magisterium’ must be accorded far more weight than speculative musings and historical fact-finding missions. This is not “Pope as Pharaoh”, this is the consistent teaching of Church authorities at the highest levels over a relatively long period of time.

    Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

    Finally, I wonder, when will the stalwart defenders of the torture ‘tradition’ apply that same rigor to socio-economics?

  • Thomas More

    Thanks Matthew I will look over those carefully, thought the criticism seems to be of disproportionate deportation not deportation itself, which is my point, interpretation is need of the list.

    The other point is that to know the validity of Mark Shea’s arguement we need to know if he thinks everything else on the list in literal terms is always evil or if other things need interpretation in which case his appeal to the list vis a vis torture falls apart.

    So once again, Mark, what say you?

  • Mark

    Cardinal Arinze was asked, “Should Catholic legislators who support legal abortion ‘be refused’ Communion?”

    The Cardinal elicited laughter when he rejoined, “I ask you, do you really need a Cardinal from the Vatican to find the answer?”

    He quipped, “Are there no children from First Communion to whom you can pose the question and receive the answer?”

    So Joe, taking an innocent man by force out of his home and :

    - Locking him in a cage like a wild animal for 20 years
    - stealing his relationship with his wife
    - stealing his relationships with his children
    - stealing his relationship with his parents
    - stealing his relationship with his brothers, sisters and friends
    - stealing his job and his career
    - stealing his freedom
    - crushing his self esteem
    - putting him in an institution where beatings and rapes are common
    - causing his children to doubt his character
    - dealing with his wife now sleeping with another man

    To paraphrase Cardinal Arinze … do you really need a Cardinal from the Vatican to tell you that this man has experienced torture?

    Our Faith does not abuse reason. To say that a man wrongly imprisoned for 20 years does not experience torture but pouring water on a known terrorist’s head for 30 seconds with a doctor present does, completely lacks prudence and discernment.

  • will o’d

    Mark cannot engage in argument on several issues:

    1. Jimmy Akin and Father Harrison or down-the-line orthodox Catholics. They are professional moral thinkers who don’t fall into left/right, Republican/Democrat fault lines.
    2. Like Jimmy and Fr. H, most regular readers of this blog agree with 99% of what Mark says. They just think through the issue and see it differently in one circumstance, an exception, just like an exception to the prohibiton to stealing being taking a loaf of bread to feed your starving family or committing a mutilation (amputation) to save a life.
    3. The Pharisees wouldn’t condone Jesus healing a paralytic on the Sabbath. Mark won’t condone the application of pain to an evil man to compel him to give information to save an innocent life. That’s why some call him the “Torture Pharisee”
    4. I for one agree that torture should be illegal for pragmatic reasons, even though I can construct a scenario where it would be moral.

  • Casey Khan

    “Are you interested in Church teaching or simply making Republicans look bad?”

    And now we see the ultimate sticking point, it’s not about the Truth, but partisan hackery. Ha ha ha ha.

    Austin says “but torture should be the exception, not the rule, and even the exception makes me sick.”

    You’re on the right track sir. However, I think we can defeat an enemy without resorting to torture. Torture constricts the mind, and reduces our ability to find creative ways to fight and fight honorably, without losing our souls. As an NCO in your unit, I’d strenuously advise against any torture in the unit, since I believe it would undermine the two primary objectives of a Marine Corps unit, mission accomplishment and troop welfare (not to forget the moral law of the Church). Further, since I’m no pascifist, nor strictly anti-death penalty, if torture was used in some kind of “Sgt. Barnes” manner, I’d call for the proper use of the side-arm to execute the perpetrator of such an act contrary to the moral law. It is in the field, when men start acting like animals, that officers are called on to execute justice, and do so blamelessly as elaborated in Romans 13.

    Death before dishonor, sir. And to torture is to dishonor. It is conduct unbecoming of a Marine, and most of all it is conduct unbecoming of a slave of Christ. Semper Fidelis.

  • G. R Mead

    GR:Sorry for messing up your tidy hypothetical scenario. But you know, sometimes there is not a perfect “guilt to intelligence valus” ratio.

    The child is the only person knows where the bomb that will destroy NYC is (her terrorist father whispered the information to her as he died and swore her to secrecy till she could get the info to his masters in the terror network). I very much doubt that Charles Krauthammer would call her a non combatant, especially with those five million live in the balance, GR. Also, she’s sitting there chanting “Allahu Ackbar” and “Death to America” because she learned that from infancy and has said it all her seven years. … Argue for consequentialism and you argue for this.

    Dr. Krauthammer and I disagree, then. “Kill them all, the Lord will know his own,” was bad doctrine even when it was practiced. Such a child is not a combatant and your proposal is a plain violation of just war doctrine that cannot be defended, and I don’t defend it.

    The fact that you cannot see the difference is the problem. Despite the ad hominem — I am NOT a consequentialist. NO amount of lives potentially saved warrant intentionally harming a hair on her innocent head. Regardless of her religious indoctrination — she is not a combatant, she has not entered the fray, and unless someone made her a instrument of war by strapping munitions to her (sadly, a real circumstance), she is not a legitimate target.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is another matter. Don’t mix up different moral cases; it makes your point overbroad and weak — he declares his guilt, and revels in it.

  • frank sales

    What I don’t get about Mark is that he keeps comparing anyone who agrees with Jimmy Akin on this issue with a “pro choice Catholic”. The obvious objection is that the typical prochoice Catholic disagrees with Church doctrine on a whole host of issues. Those who agree with Jimmy Akin on torture and post on these blogs are overwhelmingly orthodox Catholics who take all the food the cafeteria serves — birth control, premarital sex, preferential treatment for the poor etc. etc. We have conformed our consciences to the teachings of the Church and believe we are doing so on this issue.

  • will o’d

    I think The Father of Lies would take much more delight in the snuffing out of a million lives in an act of terrorism than he would in an interrogation session of waterboarding KSM, with no permanent harm being caused.

  • Joe H

    Your argument is unhinged from Catholic teaching and reality.

    I have already pointed out numerous times what the Church teaches about prison, and you have ignored it every time.

    In your increasingly desperate attempts to legitimize torture you are making a mockery of what the Church teaches and what the Pope has said about the role of judicial and penal institutions.

    Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266).

    http://tiny.cc/qyy75

    Until you explain why anyone ought to listen to you instead of the Catechism and Pope Benedict, I am done with this debate.

  • Guardian

    Okie & Thomas More,

    I demand an answer to my question.

    What if your Torturer feels it necessary to torture in order to save the lives of hundreds, thousands, millions, billions or even trillions of people and there really is no “Ticking Time Bomb”? Should the Torturer be punished? What should be his/her punishment? What should be the punishment for all those who tortured over the last six years and did not stop a ticking time bomb?

    You guys keep hounding Mark for an answer to your questions, so I guess I will demand one from you.

    Your whole argument appears to be part of the Protestant Heresy that occurs so regularly in this country. “I can interpret documents, laws and actions in any way I want and you can’t prove me wrong.” Without Catholicism there is no accountability. After the fact, throughout this whole sordid mess, the justifiers have told us a changing litany of why they did what they did. There is no guideline for their actions beforehand, but then they justify themselves afterward. They use one rationale, it is disputed and found lacking, then they come back with another rationale. They can say and do whatever they want and twist anyone’s words—whether a Doctor of the Church, a heralded Saint, a recent Pope, a long ago Pope or any number of magesterium documents, Cathecism teachings, etc. into whatever they want.

    Why do you guys believe in torture? Did you believe in torture back in 1980? 1997? or was it since 9/11? What would have changed in the Church’s teaching since those dates? Were you advocating torture before 9/11? Were you advocating “harsh interrogation techniques” before this issue was brought to light? What exactly was your position before this happened? What documents can you produce that shows the Church’s teaching on proper interrogation techniques? Where is your “proof” that Jesus would approve of a government that wages unjust wars and tortures those caught in its path? What are some techniques of interrogation that can be used that are approved by the Church?

    Let’s look into the future now. What guidelines should be used from now on? Just write the guidelines to be used in treating prisoners of war or enemy combatants or poor saps or whatever term you will use for those people and show the Church teachings that go along with your guidelines.

  • JC

    Haven’t followed all the discussion so far, but a few brief responses:

    1. The problem with the “ticking time bomb” scenario is that a fictional action hero *knows* something bad is going to happen, because he’s a fictional actoin hero. In real life, we never know what the future holds. That’s the whole point: “We suspect there’s a terror plot; we suspect you have information. We’re going to beat it out of you.” What if there really *is* no terror plot? What if something else will happen to prevent it.
    The “ticking time bomb” scenario is a sin against the virtue of Hope. A Christian should say, “I trust God to pull through and help me if I give my little bit by doing what is right in spite of immense temptation.”

    2. OTOH, while I don’t disagree with the intent, I would argue, Mark, that the language of JPII is *not* “plain.” That is the fundamental problem here. The Church since Vatican II, and JPII’s writing in particular, are not known for “plain” language.

    Look what’s listed on the intrinsic evils:
    “degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons”
    Technically, this is how every corporation and government agency treats its workers. This is, in the list, equated with torture, if all items on the list are to be read as equal.

    At least Pius IX had the decency to break his syllabus of errors up into separate chunks.

    Thus, while I completely agree that torture is wrong, I completely disagree that the Church (recently, at least) has taught this clearly. The confusion comes from the very fact that the relevent documents are worded very poorly.

  • Thomas More

    I don’t need to answer any hypothetical until we get some ground rules. Which we don’t have yet becuase Mark has not even given the slightest inclination as to whether he thinks everything else listed on the list is an intrinsic evil, slavery, deportation, anything that coerces the will, etc.

    Let’s deal with the facts, like what does Gadium et Spes mean, before the hypothetical. Plus an attack was stopped by waterboarding. Also, since they were lawful authority and there was reason to believe that the evildoer had actionable information and was committing a terrible act of aggression by remaining silent, no punishment should be inflicted on the “torturers.” Though I find it really ironic that you are demanding punishment, i.e. coercion of the will, of torturers to get them to stop torturing. I have a question for you Guardian, why are you defending Mark’s lack of willingness to answer the most basic questions? Also, do you think that there should be criminal punishments for the real torture president Barack Obama who is responsible for the torture of innocent children (no need for an elaborate and fake Mr. Shea hypo where one day the Bush administration logic might allow the torture of one kid speculation here, President Obama is acutally arguing for, funding and supporting a torture regime that tortures millions of innocent children a year and have yet to hear a pip from you people who are supposedly so opposed to torture!)?

    Also to Austin. Thank you for your service. You are indeed right that I am a “pencil-neck” scholar. But three points. Your name calling means nothings as a matter of reality. St. Thomas Aquinas never fought in a war either yet his opinions are greatly respected and he reasoned that maiming is permissible by lawful authority, and by your reasoning he is also a so-called pencil neck. And, lastly, in a civilian run representative republic, us civilians actually get to call the shots and vote for civilian leaders who decide when to go to war, it is not a requisite to be a veteran to have a valid opinion that must be respected.

  • Mark

    “Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church”

    I agree 100% with this statement Joe. My point was that “wrongly” imprisoning a man for 20 years (and all the suffering that accompanies it) rises to the level of torture.

    Unless you can provide a statement from a Pope which directly states that arbitrary or wrongful imprisonment is not a form of torture, I will remain comfortable in paraphrasing Cardinal Arinze … we do not need affirmation from the Vatican for everything that is obvious even to children.

    If the answer to every question was available in books, there would be no need for discernment my friend.

  • Joe H

    Not everything that is wrong, is torture.

    It is wrong to arbitrary imprison an innocent man. That doesn’t make it torture.

    It isn’t wrong when it is an honest mistake – knowledge is required for culpability.

    “we do not need affirmation from the Vatican for everything that is obvious even to children”

    No kidding. It is obvious, even to children capable of reading, that the Catholic Church does not condone torture under any circumstances, and probably never will.

    Then again, only a petulant child would argue, “mommy didn’t say I couldn’t punch you in the arm, she just said I couldn’t hit you.”

  • Mark

    To me, this rises to the level of torture.

    Beijing, China, Apr 28, 2005 / 12:00 am (CNA).

    - “The Cardinal Kung Foundation released a statement saying that seven priests of the underground Catholic Church in China have been detained following the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The priests were detained Wednesday at an unauthorized retreat led by Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo in China’s northern city of Jinzhou.

    The Chinese government only allows state-sanctioned Catholic worship and forbids loyalty to the Pope and the Vatican.

    Reportedly, the government had warned Bishop Jia not to conduct any religious activities while John Paul II lay on his deathbed or during the instillation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Cardinal Kung Foundation also noted that the bishop had been under police surveillance for much of the past month.

    The Foundation identified the detained priests as, Wang Dingshan, Li Qiang, Liu Wenyuan, Zhang Qingcai, Li Suchuan, Pei Zhenping and Yin Zhengsong.

    Bishop Jia, who has refused to affiliate himself with the communist-controlled state Catholic Church for years, has been detained and harassed by the Chinese government numerous times.”

    If you disagree, would you please explain why?

  • Thomas More

    Not only Fr. Harrison of the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico.

    But the impressive Fr. Sirico of the Acton Institute at his monthly appearance on EWTN the World Over at the end of April stated that waterboard is NOT torture and that aggressive interrogation of evildoers is not instrinsically evil, but a prudential matter like just war. Oh and for those of you like Austin to who it matters Fr. Sircico is a former Navy Seal who was waterboarded as part of his training.

    It’s not looking good for Mr. Shea and his followers.

  • Thomas More
  • Mark

    Barack Obama, child torturer

    Wow, a little reality. Waterboarding 3 Muslim terrorists over a 5 year period while more than 3500 babies are aborted every day, reduces waterboarding to the level of … complete insignificance … for those of us who are not moral simpletons.

    Please move on to a different political football, this one has become boring.

  • Okie

    I think its funny how much the accusations wafted my way prove how little close reading is being done. I have never said torture is ever justified…it is not. I havnt mentioned it in this post, but if you read Shea’s other post, I actually think waterboarding is torture, and give a reason why I think so. My point is, beyond Shea being incredibly uncharitable and irrational in this debate, is that legitimate authorities are obligated to punish evil. This includes using force. I want to know what philosophical foundation we have for making this distinction. As has been documented by many others, even the current Magisterium (yes, even JPII) admits that legitimate authority can reasonably execute criminals in good faith, and wage just wars. If these are true, and much of tradition says it is legitimate to harm evil doers as a just punishment, AND it is the case that we cannot torture, its reasonable to ask what the difference is. I make this point more extensively in Shea’s last post.

    So gaurdian, as to your off base questions, yes, I believe that torturers can and should be punished, even with force, as long as it is a legitimate authority. As for what the punishment should be, I’m not sure to be honest.your accusation that I use protestant logic is quite absurd: I simply think that we can reconcile the Churches teaching with its tradition. I figured that was rather Catholic actually. As far as silly allegations that I believe in torture and unjust war, you clearly havnt read what I wrote. I didn’t support the Iraq war, or water boarding the terrorists. I do think governments should punish criminals for the sake of the criminals soul and that God gives them the sword to met out justice. I don’t see how this opposes St. Paul or St. Peter when they say similar things. As far as what we should do in the future, I’d love to discuss that, but some peole refuse to argue, and make bald face assertions instead…

  • Joe H

    Mark,

    It’s wrong to unjustly imprison a man. Who is arguing for that? But torture consists of inflicting severe physical or psychological pain in a prolonged and systematic way. A regular prison term carried out within the guidelines established by the Church does not do that. Punching a man isn’t torture – waterboarding him one time may not be torture – but punching a man 100 times or waterboarding him 100 times is torture.

    And, we aren’t talking about 3 Muslim terrorists. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and who knows how many other secret prisons were also hosting torture. Anyone who believes that this systematic torture was entirely carried out on the initiative of low-level troops is a) naive and b) not aware of a new Senate report that actually concludes the opposite.

  • JC

    Thomas More,

    If two priests with political agendas a magisterium make, then I take it you bow to everything Frs. Richard McBrien and Thomas Reese agree on?

    To Mark, Joe H., etc., I just thought of another permutation of this discussion, in terms of interpretation of the Church’s teachings.

    Put simply, how many of those are “absolute” statements?

    Like, the Holy Father says, “Murder is intrinsically evil.” OK. But if I kill a man in self-defense, that is not intrinsically evil. That is actually a moral obligation in some situations.

    If I have the right to defend myself by lodging a steak knife in an intruder’s carotid, do I not also have the right to defend myself by getting a garden hose and spraying water in his face or by beating him with a baseball bat, but not killing him?

    What if I grab a hot poker out of the fireplace and chase him out of the house with it?

  • Thomas More

    Abu Ghraib was not policy but even if it was President Obama is the current torture in chief. Promoting financially, morally and legally a system of child torture that torture and kills 50 million innocent children a year. It is an absolute farce of justice to have a child torturer try to bring up the prior administration on “torture” charges.

  • Joe H

    Your argument is morally irrelevant and factually questionable.

    On the facts:

    “Abu Ghraib was not policy”

    That remains to be seen. I think it is quite ridiculous to assume that the official version of the story – that a mere corporal and his barely literate side-kick – were the ‘masterminds’ of a torture campaign in Abu Ghraib, especially when similar techniques were used at Guantanamo.

    There is a new 232 page report on torture which I plan on reading as soon as I have a chance. Here, however, is a highlight:

    Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the senate armed services committee, which ordered the inquiry, said today: “The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots.” The report shows a paper trail going from the then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to Guant

  • Joe H

    Murder is not killing.

    And, I don’t believe you have a legal or moral right to do more than what is necessary to defend yourself from an attacker.

    Meaning, if you can disable him without killing him and you don’t, you can be legally and morally culpable. Certainly it would never extend to torture.

  • Andy

    If I have the right to defend myself by lodging a steak knife in an intruder’s carotid, do I not also have the right to defend myself by getting a garden hose and spraying water in his face or by beating him with a baseball bat, but not killing him?

    What if I grab a hot poker out of the fireplace and chase him out of the house with it?

    All of those things sound like legitimate self-defense to me, though I’m no attorney. If you’re trying to compare them to what’s happening to people captured in the GWOT, it’s not a valid comparison (and I’m not sure you’re making that comparison).

    A more apt comparison would be if you knocked out the intruder with your hot poker, tied him up, and then started spraying water from the hose in his face. It’s not like victims of torture can just leave any time they want. They are completely at the mercy of their captors, who are morally obligated to treat them with dignity.

  • Mr. B

    I’m sorry if these points were made elsewhere but there was too much to sort through.
    Clearly with what is torture we are dealing with a developing area in the Church and to a large degree prudential judgment is at play on the part of the pope and bishops.
    These are the bishops who allowed their priests to molest children.
    This is Pope JP II who allowed the bishops who did these crimes to retire in comfort and relative ease or even remain in office. (See Cardinals Law & Mahony)
    These are the bishops who by an overwhelming super majority continue to allow abortion politicians to go to Holy Communion.
    Is there any wonder then that Catholics are puzzled when there is such an uproar on the part of the hierarchy over whether or not certain interrogation techniques used on obvious criminals were torture?
    Where is the hard action and real choices within areas fully within their jurisdiction and the whole of Church teaching is certain rather than were it is agreeably still being worked out?

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Abortion is many cases is the torture then murder of the child. Included in this post is a description from Stenberg v. Carhart, it is a procedure that was left intact and legal in America after the passage of the federal partial birth abortion ban.

    Obama has supported morally, legally and financially this method of killing babies and therefore under the logic of you people blaming bush for the waterboarding and under catholic moral teaching is morally culpable for each of the millions of child dismemberments that happen in this country and thanks to rescinding the Mexico City policy around the world.

    You have been exposed, showing that you do not consider all people equal, but that the life of a handful of adult terrorists, is of greater value that millions of the unborn.

    “”The primary form of abortion used at or after 16 weeks

  • Thomas More

    1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

    - by participating directly and voluntarily in them;

    - by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;

    - by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;

    - by protecting evil-doers.

  • Thomas More

    Sorry guys. Little sleep and too many Thomases!

  • Ender

    I was checking out one of the earlier references to a statement by Aquinas when I came across this:

    Hence just as by public authority a person is lawfully deprived of life altogether on account of certain more heinous sins, so is he deprived of a member on account of certain lesser sins. (ST II/II 65,1)

    What is intriguing here is that St. Thomas clearly believes that execution is a more serious punishment than the amputation of some part of ones body. If a state has the right to apply the more serious punishment (which clearly the Church allows) then does it not also have the right to apply the less serious punishment as well?

  • Mr Flapatap

    The first commenter mentioned that KSM had been waterboarded 160 times and that is misleading. Water was poured 160 times during less than 10 sessions. Now, I have never been waterboarded nor have seen it performed to make a judgement on that particular procedure but I understand that being subjected to it is part of our military’s survival training. Still that does not mean much in this debate.

    I agree that torture is intrensically evil and I don’t belive that we can wiggle our way around to justify it. However, placing a caterpillar in someone’s cell or feeding them a diet of bland food (people at Healthy Choice and many in the medical profession are going to hell!) does not seem torture to me.

  • Kaboom

    Obama does not abort babies. Your neighbor does. Obama did not make abortion legal. A Supreme Court that had the issue forced before it by radical feminists did. Obama is not the dictator of America. He was elected by a solid majority of your fellow citizens. And most abortions are not torture – they are murder. — Joe H

    Maybe you were tired. You might want to rewrite that. You lost all credibility on that one. You look like a partisan Obama hack.

  • JC

    Meaning, if you can disable him without killing him and you don’t, you can be legally and morally culpable.

    Morally, that’s true. Legally, one is safer killing someone in self-defense, because the assailant can sue.

    Certainly it would never extend to torture.

    But doesn’t that circle back to “what constitutes torture?”

    Like, if I spray a hose in a guy’s face in self-defense, that could be the physical equivalent of the action of waterboarding.

    But that’s not considered “torture”. I think the key factors in torture are intent and duration.

  • Joe H

    “You have been exposed, showing that you do not consider all people equal, but that the life of a handful of adult terrorists, is of greater value that millions of the unborn.”

    This says a heck of a lot more about you than it does about me.

  • FUS Alumn

    Obama does not abort babies. Your neighbor does. Obama did not make abortion legal. A Supreme Court that had the issue forced before it by radical feminists did. Obama is not the dictator of America. He was elected by a solid majority of your fellow citizens. And most abortions are not torture – they are murder. — Joe H

    Maybe you were tired. You might want to rewrite that. You lost all credibility on that one. You look like a partisan Obama hack.

    Maybe you were tired. Maybe you don’t read very well. Everything he said was correct. Obama didn’t start abortion (though he spreads it). And most people love abortion, which is why the majority of people in polls support it, and keep voting in pro-abortionists. And finally, abortion IS murder. What’s wrong with you???

  • Thomas More

    Really? That is your only comeback?

    Until you ask for the criminal prosecution of the current torture president, Barack Obama, child torturer. And a Nuremberg for all his supporters who have helped him implement his child torture policies I cannot take you seriously and neither should anyone else.

    You would put the physical discomfort of adult terrorist above the millions of innocent children who are brutally tortured under this regime and the politicans and citizens who support it morally, legally and financially. You have no ability to discern the quality of evil or proportionality. Unless of course you start with the premise that unborn life is worth less than born life, which is the only way in which your calculus works.

    I tell you what. If the Supreme Court decided that terrorists should not be labeled enemy combatants, but fetuses and the President, rather than have his army waterboard terrorists instead gave money to a private enterprise like Planned Parenthood to deal with the “terrorist, read birth control, problem” as it saw fit knowing full well that the fetuses (a.k.a. terrorists) would be dismembered until they died, and if the President paid for the dismemberments, morally and politically encouraged the dismemberment of the fetuses (remember these are terrorists with a new name), promised to appoint judges that would continue to label grown humans as fetuses that can be dismembered and paid to spread this doctrine abroad and then followed it up by stating that he was going to extend the rationale to all people the government or individuals found inconvient in their lives regardless of guilty or innocence would you call that President a Torture President? IF so you must hold the same for a president who would do this to real fetuses the unborn. If not, you are not genuine in your complaints about the pouring of water over guilty terrorists’ heads.

    Admit that Barack Obama is the real torture president or if you don’t like that phrase becuase it is meant to imply that waterboarding is not torture, admit that Barack Obama is a child torture and then I’ll begin to take you seriously that you think Bush is a terrorist torturer.

  • Thomas More
  • Administrator

    A reminder to all to get back to the issues and away from personalities. Comments that violate our rules will get removed, and the commenters banned.

  • Thomas More

    Thanks for the reminder Administrator.

    It is not my intention to attack personalities. I’m trying to drive a point home about the arguements proffered by those who wish to criminalize water boarding and hold those who did it criminally responsible.

    There is no logical consistency unless those calling for the prosecution of Bush administration officials demand the same of Obama and the entire Democrate Party leadership and their supporters who have expressly and explicitly called for the continued moral, legal, political and financial support of child torture.

    The points I made were regading the weakness of the argument and the gross inconsistency in the approach to the topics. The inconsistency is so stark as to severly weaken the credibilty of the opposing point of views ARGUMENT. It also highlights from an objective point of view that the value of the unborn must be less than an adult becuase the one president who supports and sanctions the torture and murder of millions of unborn is not labeled a torturer and criminal but the one who sanctioned the waterboarding of (lets give an arbitrarly high and probably false number) thousands of terrorist or accused terrorist is called a criminal.

    Again, like St. Thomas More who demolished the logic of those who took the oath at his trial. I do not judge the internal motivations of the persons making these illogical arguments. I do not know why objectively they have entered into a calculus which undermines the value of unborn life. But they have entered into such a calculus nevertheless.

    Again thanks for the bell-ring.

  • Sue Sims

    “Torture doesn’t work. There is no evidence that it does.” Dangerous argument: first, it’s untrue (read the accounts of the interrogations of Catholic priests in Elizabethan and Jacobean England – some, including St Edmund Campion, did give away information when on the rack); and secondly, it’s like the contraceptive argument (“There’s no 100% reliable contraception, therefore one shouldn’t use it.”). The argument from results always means that, if the results change – if it can be shown that torture does produce information, or that a completely reliable contraceptive is developed – we have no response.

    Ultimately, these questions have to be looked at from the viewpoint of objective morality, and not whether things ‘work’. If torture, abortion, contraception, euthanasia – whatever is under discussion – are wrong, then they’re always wrong, whatever the results.

  • Karl

    But Thomas, you would give the Church a “BYE” on unjust divorce and annulments? These are not worse than mere torture? Or are they torture as well as murder, when the unjustly divorce dies, albeit later, from the consequences?

    Should not then both clergy and canonists involved be prosecuted for that torture and delayed nurder? Not even when the marriage is found to be valid and the divorce was encouraged to pursue nullity?

    Et tu, Sue?

    Certainly the clergy and canonists involved should be punished to the most sever of standards possible when they have “presumed the validity” of said marriage, but MURDERED it by REFUSING TO DO THEIR DAMN INVESTIGATION WITHOUT REQUIRING A DIVORCE!

    This is not torture? NOT!

  • Kaboom
  • Thomas More

    Karl it sounds like you have had a painful anullment experience or something.

    I hope the pain will heal. But what you are talking about is completely off topic. Plus I think the gratuituous dig at the Church for preceived wrongdoings by certain clergy is unwarranted and also off topic to the philosophical questioned posed: (1) Is torture instrinsically evil? (2) Is waterboarding torture?; (3) Should the past administration be criminally prosecuted for waterboarding; (4) If so, does not logic dictate that the current administration must also be tried for crimes against humanity for the current child torture regime they implement and support and (5) Does not the lack of a call for such a criminal prosecution of the current administration highlight, objectively, that those who argue for the criminal prosecution of the Bush administration value adult life less than unborn life, contrary to Church teaching, regardless of the subjective motivations for engaging in such a calculus?

    I’m sure there are others but those seem to be the common threads of thought.

  • Thomas More

    Actually the majority of Americans do support waterboarding as well as a majority of Church going Catholics. Additionally, waterboarding preexisted Bush. Therefore, under the logic of the argument offered by JoeH, Bush is not guilty of waterboarding.

  • Joe H

    Two things.

    1. “Joe H is saying abortion is NOT torture. Why not ask the little souls in heaven if they were tortured before they were murdered?”

    Why does saying that something isn’t torture diminish it’s evil?

    Would I be insensitive, for instance, if I pointed out that the man who assassinated JKF only killed him, but didn’t torture him?

    Perhaps abortion can be classified as torture – but it still doesn’t make Obama ‘the torture president’.

    We live in a culture of death. The majority of Americans are to blame for that. We live in a democracy and the people elected Obama. Blame the founding fathers for that. But don’t blame me.

    2. “I’m not on his side re: selective outrage. Too many have real hatred and contempt for Bush.”

    My outrage is not, and never has been selective. I have been published on this website as an opponent of abortion, I have spoken out it against it many times. I am completely pro-life.

    Furthermore, I never mentioned Bush. I stated in another discussion here that prosecuting Bush or anyone else from his administration is nowhere near the top of my priority list.

    My concern is with otherwise good people bending over backwards to justify evil.

    It is irrational and unreasonable for you or anyone else to demand that I preface every argument I make with a list of all the other things I am outraged with so as not to appear to be “selective”. Sans such a list, you ought not assume what outrages me, and what doesn’t.

  • Kaboom
  • Rob H

    And we’re not even talking about crushing testicles, of course. We aren’t barbarians.

    Well put, Mark.[smiley=laugh]

  • Mark

    Just wondering if the people at Auschwitz or in the Gulag ever looked at each other and said “hey, look on the bright side, it could be worse, at least they aren’t waterboarding us”

  • Thomas More

    JoeH you say criminal prosecution of the Bush administration is not high on your list but it is on your list.

    Is prosecution of Obama and the Obama administration for child torture anywhere on your list?

    And if neither is a big enough deal to pursue, and the current president has claimed he will not pursue any of the techniques described in the “torture” memos, then why are we talking about waterboarding still. The issue is moot. The current instrinic evil being pursued by this administration is child torture. If you want to focus on immediate and pressing needs as you claim then this should be your focues.

    Plus, no need to preface your argument with everything you are against but child torture is part of the torture debate and with respect to otherwise good people justifying evil action. I’m hearing a lot of pluralistic democracy, majority rules, just accept it type arguments comming from you regarding Obama’s child torture regime. That is my point precisely. To discuss this issue honestly we need to confront child torture. It is occuring right now and supported by the current administration. If you are unable to admit that, I’m not sure how one begins to hold waterboarding to be torture or how one begins to hold the previous administration responsible for promoting an intrinsic evil if one is incapable of holding the current administration for being personally responsible for child torture and murder.

    Please explain without: (1) majority rules; (2) Obama didn’t invent abortion, becuase neither did Bush invent waterboarding; or (3) hey we live in a culture of death so we have to accept evil people in office so long as they don’t pour water on people’s heads type arguments.

    Thank you.

  • Kaboom

    Administrator,

    I didn’t realize I was getting personal and I hadn’t read your warning. I will agree to your rules and moderate my speech. Thank you.

  • Thomas More

    “Perhaps abortion can be classified as torture – but it still doesn’t make Obama ‘the torture president’.” JoeH

    JoeH: (1) Despite the above statement can you say with certainty that waterboarding is torture? Or does that need a perhaps as well; and (2) Do you consider Bush to be a torture president?

    Do you want to modify the perhaps, at least with respect to any abortion that happens after 12 weeks when the baby has body parts and nerve cells we know off that are either scrambled like in a wood chipper or are dismembered as the baby gets older in the womb, or in many countries where we now fund abortion under Obama where the baby has its head crushed and hollowed out by scissors and a vacuum?

    Thanks

  • Phillip

    Here’s a paper that says that current laws governing interrogation(with the exception of waterboarding) are not all that different from pre 9/11 laws.

    Go at it legal scholars:

    http://tinyurl.com/cmsz87

  • Joe H

    1) I’ve said a dozen times now – practically anything can be torture depending on how many times it is done and the way in which it is done, such as punching or kicking. The question is not so much ‘is water boarding’ torture, but ‘was water boarding employed as torture’?

    And it isn’t even about water boarding exclusively – the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that all of the torture, including sexual humiliation and other grave offenses against human dignity (putting a man on a leash and making him perform dog tricks, for instance), was approved or at least allowed by Rumsfeld.

    The report makes clear that what was authorized were techniques originally used to prepare certain US special forces for what they might face against an enemy that did not abide by Geneva Conventions or any humane standards – that this preparation was understood to be dangerous and potentially damaging psychologically, in the long term. There was a trained staff of psychologists on hand to assist those undergoing the training and soldiers could quit at any time. Everyone knew that this was essentially torture.

    2) “Do you consider Bush to be a torture president?”

    What does that even mean? If it means, do I think Bush was looking for ways to torture people, the answer is yes – that is what the Senate report shows. It all began with a memo from his office.

    If it means, do I think Bush was this terrible human being and that we shouldn’t rest until he is tried and convicted for war crimes, the answer is no. I hold Bush in no greater or lesser contempt than any other president, including Obama. They’re all guilty of serious crimes in the pursuit of imperial power, offenses against moral truth and human dignity clearly condemned by the social teaching of the Church.

    If it were practically possible to hold the administration to account, I would support it. But I don’t support a crusade for retribution.

    Finally, I’m going to say this one more time – I believe torture is a systematic and prolong infliction of serious physical or psychological pain. Without diminishing the depravity of abortion even a tiny bit, I cannot conclude that the typical surgical abortion constitutes torture.

    But it is totally irrelevant either way. For surely murder and torture aren’t THAT far apart on the scale of depravity and evil. There is no need to argue that abortion is torture in order to argue that it is indeed a heinous crime.

    Moreover, the specifics of abortion have absolutely nothing to do with the morality of torture. It is amazing to me that you pride yourself as a champion of logic, even going so far as to compare yourself to the real Thomas More, when your entire line of argumentation is nothing but a big, fat, smelly red herring.

  • Phillip

    “I’ve said a dozen times now – practically anything can be torture depending on how many times it is done and the way in which it is done, such as punching or kicking.”

    Even discussing this over and over again?[smiley=wink]

  • Joe H

    You said it, Phillip!

  • Mark

    “practically anything can be torture depending on how many times it is done and the way in which it is done…” – Joe

    Except locking innocent priests in cages like wild animals hundreds of times.

  • Joe S

    I pointed to the interpretation of Sriptual and Moral Law by two Doctors of the Universal Church. You have yet to address why they are wrong or how precisely the Chruch developed against them.

    The opinions of Church Doctors are subordinate to Church Teaching–Aquinas said so in the Summa–the Church has clearly stated against torture.

    I am not arguing that the Church has forbidden the use of torture for the reasons listed in the Catechism, but that does not mean they have been declared intrinsic moral evils…. Therefore, the Catechism list still stands.

    The Catechism is only a synopsis of Church teaching, it won’t have every minutae. Saying “the Catechism list still stands” is meaningless.

    Plus you continue to evade the following: (1) Is deportation intrinsically evil; (2) Is spanking instrinsically evil since it is a coercion of the will of the child; (3) Is forced trash pick up by criminals and the 13th Amendment of the Consitution instrinsically evil since they both are slavery implementing;(4) do you consider Barack Obama to be a greater proponent of torture than George W. Bush; and (5) Another pope, Pope Leo X declared that it was a heresy to say that burning people at the stake was against the Holy Spirit, is burning at the stake torture? If so, why does this not require interpretation of later authoritative statements by the Church.

    1. Depends on whom and why. For criminals, no. For Native Americans (if hypothetically someone in gov’t decided to do so), yes.

    2. Actually, if done excessively, it’s abuse. Why stop at spanking, why not include a stern tone when correcting the child as a form of “coercion of will”. I doubt if the Church would sanction a parent for correction.

    3. Slavery is against innocent people, typically. This is called punishment for criminals. They are not equivalent.

    4. How is this relevant, other than political baiting?

    5. Popes have also called the heliocentric universe heresy as well. Pope Leo X also didn’t declare this ex cathedra.

    If not, how is waterboarding torture?

    Regardless, it is torture. You need only read the psychological effects of it, including PTSD.

    I think you need to answer these questions to be taken seriously on this “torture” issue. What say you?

    I say you are not Bill O’Reilly.

    Oh and for those of you like Austin to who it matters Fr. Sircico is a former Navy Seal who was waterboarded as part of his training.

    Since it is a part of training, it probably doesn’t reach the level of waterboarding that was used by the CIA. Also, Seals are way more physically and psychologically equipped to withstand it than normal people. That’s why they are called Special Forces (Operations).

  • Thomas More

    If torture is instrinsically evil it cannot be justified on the grounds that the SEAL is more fit than you or I to endure it.

    You state that you doubt that the Church will sanction parental correction on what basis? Oh that’s right interpretation of the list!

    With respect to slavery, you interpreted the term in the Gadium et Spes list to only apply to slavery of the innocent not the guilty, why cannot the same be said for other items on the list like torture?

    With respect to Pope Leo X, guess what Veritas Splendor was not ex cathedra either if you want to play that game.

    Finally, I’m not engaged in political baiting. Those who continue to focus on torture as being a bush administration issue are. They keep talking about torture in the past when the gravest form of torture, the torture of innocent children is part of the current president’s platform. I think a little consistency is needed. Instead, JoeH accuses me of introducing a big smelly red hearing and he claims that the dismemberment of children to the point of death has NOTHING to do with the morality of torture? This leaves me scratching my head. This is the definition of immoral torture! Even the author of the “torture” memos agreed that dismemberment is torture. Yet JoeH cannot seem to declare it torture. Obama has always endorsed and now as president actually uses his power to implement child dismemberment, aka torture, of millions of children at home and abroad, if those of you who protest against waterboarding are incapable of acknowledging this I do not see how your arguments claiming torture to be an intrinsic moral evil or that waterboarding is torture make any sense.

  • Eric Bohn

    (And Lydia, it isn’t just Sirach that affirms the legitimacy in principle of severe corporal punishment. As Fr. Harrison notes, it is also the Mosaic law that does so, and it is only with violence to the text that one can deny that even the NT allows that someone can merit such punishment,

    “It is better that one man be tortured (as long as he doesn’t die) than for the whole nation to perish.”

    Is that violent enough for you? I’m pretty sure even a small child could figure out what the lesson here is. Astonishingly, that lesson seems to be lost on most grown ups. Moreover, some people simply can’t be taught.

    Really, what debate do people see here?

  • R.C.

    This discussion has gone on for some time, even without the previous thread. With the previous thread, it’s longer; with other earlier discussions, longer still.

    But I’m getting lost in the details, trying to follow the individual threads of argument, and their applicability to different points.

    REQUEST: Can the active participants give, each of them, a recap stating their own view, and what (so far as they understand it) are the chief challenges proposed by others to this view? (Without saying why he regards those challenges unconvincing, please, for brevity’s sake?)

    I can’t ask for only one recap; if Mark Shea proffers it, Thomas More will dispute it. If Okie proffers it, Joe H will dispute it.

    Ergo, everybody should give his own recap, if he cares to continue the debate.

    I apologize if it’s an onerous request. But the confusion is more so.

  • R.C.

    My “recap” view (see my earlier request) is as follows:

    (1.) I believe torture is not 100% certain to be the wrong moral choice in all conceivable circumstances. I am persuaded of this by various arguments showing such a view to be contrary to other church teachings, and to scripture; and also by certain extreme hypothetical scenarios.

    (2.) I believe torture is 100% certain to be the wrong moral choice in normal circumstances, even normal wartime circumstances.

    (3.) I believe the circumstances which allow torture to be morally correct are so extremely rare that U.S. law should not allow it, ever. If a person tortures, he should fear prosecution; if it turns out that he did it in one of the crazy rare situations where it should be done, jury nullification or lenient sentencing is the correct remedy.

    (4.) I believe “ticking bomb” scenarios aren’t worth worrying about for practical or law-writing purposes (see item 3, above), but that a hypothetical extreme case (e.g. a bomb which will exterminate all human life) is useful in this debate for another reason; namely, because it demonstrates cases where torture would be correct, thus disproving the “intrinsic evil” of torture.

    (5.) I believe that statements of the “intrinsic evil” of torture made in church teachings are (a.) carefully worded to not mention gathering of intel in wartime, and (b.) using the word “intrinsic” in a slightly different way, similar to how the Church might call pain or war itself an “intrinsic evil.” The stronger Church statements are those stating that it is never justified in criminal procedures to coerce confessions or obtain information for trial — but that’s not what we’re discussing here.

    I therefore hold that torture is “intrinsically evil” in the sense the Church teaches, but not “intrinsically evil” in the more plain, obvious way that I would naturally use the term. (In my usage, “intrinsically evil” means always wrong, regardless of any conceivable circumstance, no matter how unlikely or horrifying.)

    (6.) I believe that the vast majority of U.S. interrogation tactics used against unlawful enemy combatants in recent years do not qualify as torture, but that waterboarding is borderline, and the repeat waterboarding it took to extract operational intel from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed almost certainly crosses the line. (The “183 times” is misleading, by-the-by…but still.)

    (7.) All the same, I think that the minimum circumstances which would truly justify waterboarding are less extreme than the minimum circumstances which would truly justify, say, vivisection as a torture. Similarly, I think that the minimum circumstances which justify waterboarding are more extreme than those which justify playing a Britney Spears song at the detainee a hundred times. (Tho’ that’s a close one….)

    (8.) I believe that the view I have described above is not consequentialist in the sense that the Church condemns.

  • R.C.

    Known potential flaws in my view (expressed in the “recap,” above:

    (1.) If the various arguments showing the “torture always wrong” view to be contrary to other Church teachings (e.g. Just War) and to Scripture are somehow flawed, then I might be wrong about Item 1.

    And if the Church infallibly defines torture as wrong under all conceivable circumstances, including wild hypothetical ones, then I’m wrong about Item 1.

    (2.) I’m certain I’m correct about Item 2.

    (3.) There may be legal reasons I’m wrong to lean on jury nullification or lenient sentencing as a remedy rather than on exceptions written into law. But if not, then the only way I’m wrong about that is if the situations where torture is justified are less rare than I think they are.

    By analogy, I think we who want to outlaw abortion are willing to allow an exception for tubal ectopic pregnancies. We don’t need to rely on nullification in such circumstances because (a.) if we did, doctors would be unwilling to take the risk, even to save a life; and, (b.) such cases are medically well-defined and not uncommon.

    It is because torture is poorly-defined, and the circumstances to justify it unpredictable and impossible to define in advance, that such an approach is unworkable for torture, and I rely on nullification instead of exceptions written into law.

    (4.) I am only wrong about Item 4 if no hypothetical case, no matter how extreme, can actually justify torture. So: If the “ticking bomb” will exterminate all life on earth if it goes off, and we know the terrorist has the location, and we know there’s no other way to find it, and he’s held out against all other forms of interrogation…if it’s still wrong to torture under those circumstances, then I’m wrong about Item 4.

    But if those (wild, silly) circumstances do justify torture, then we have all just agreed that there are circumstances which can justify it. After that, we’re just debating about where to draw the line.

    (5.) If it can be shown that the Church’s use of “intrinsic evil” really does mean “wrong under all conceivable circumstances including wild implausible apocalyptic scenarios,” then I am wrong about Item 5 (and all the others).

    (6.) I may be wrong to think that waterboarding straddles the line between torture and not-torture, in the eyes of God.

    But I don’t know how this could be demonstrated. I’m unaware of any revelation which tells us God’s definition of the term. Without such revelation, it’s your arbitrary definition against mine, and if you regard “stress positions” for more than 10 hours as “torture,” and I say the line is 20 hours, I don’t know who could decide between us.

    (7.) I don’t see any way I could be wrong in saying that waterboarding is less extreme than vivisection, and (somewhat) more extreme than listening to repeat playbacks of “Oops I Did It Again.” The larger point is that, even within the categories of “torture” and “not-torture,” there’s a continuum of more and less extreme forms of interrogation, and that the more extreme it is, the more extreme are the circumstances that are sufficient to justify it. I don’t know of any argument against this notion.

    (8.) Maybe my view is “consequentialist” in the sense that the Church condemns. If it is, I am wrong.

    Those are the attack-points for my previously-expressed views, so far as I’m aware.

  • thomas more

    To hard to do in light of my schedule re the rest of my work day for me to do today. Please see some lengthy posts on my blog The Fire at firstbringthemreason.blogspot.com for a recap of my general thoughts on this matter. The only other thing I’d add is that the gadium et spes list needs interpretation and that the non ex cathedra use of gadium et spes by jp2 in veritas slpendor needs interpretation and elaboration in the context of other papal statement, church doctors and the catechism produced by jp2 that lists particular circumstances in which torture is immoral and the catechism unlike other sins never states that torture is an intrinsic evil. My blog also address some other people’s arguments. Sorry for the bad text this is from a blackberry.

  • Guardian

    Thomas More,

    I’ve read your problems with our current President. I agree with you that his position and policies on abortion are evil. That’s why I can’t vote for National ticket Democrats. Abortion is a very torturous murder of an innocent. I don’t see anybody on this forum debating that. Abortion is intrinsically evil according to moral law, yet it is legal according to the U.S. Government.

    You’ve taken the position that what our former President did may not be torture and may not be immoral according to Catholic teachings. However, according to the laws and treaties signed by the U.S. Government, torture is illegal.

    This is the conundrum that all Catholics have to consider when/if voting for Democrats or Republicans. You seem to be of the opinion that Republicans represent either Goodness or the lesser of two evils. I think voting for the lesser of two evils isn’t a good use of support. I view abortion as the most important issue to not vote Democratic and I view this whole war-mongering/torture issue as a reason to not vote Republican. I can’t imagine having to give a reason why I would give my approval to any kind of evil.

    Why do you seem to support the past administration/political party? Are you aware that the past party in power is the reason that we have the stain of abortion in this country? 6 rep. appointees and 1 dem. appointee voted for abortion. 1 from each party dissented. The republicans had six years of total control of Government and did not rid this country of that evil. That may be a far worse sin than the torture issue, but the torture issue is being debated. I understand your anger at the current political party and I shudder to think about the evils of abortion and other violations of morality to come. So I ask you, why didn’t the past administration get rid of abortion? Is it because they aren’t really against it, but like to use it an issue to ensure the “Christian” vote? This same party that won’t get rid of abortion decides to imprison countless people for years without a trial and is accused of torture.

    Just once, I would like to see our elected leaders who violate the law, whether it is Moral Law or Government Law, be held accountable. Just once I would like our country to debate or even vote on Abortion, War, Torture, Unbridled Government Power, etc. You know what will happen eventually, don’t you? Regardless of how much evidence is presented against the Bush Administration for criminal activity, they will never be charged, much less convicted. They will be excused by the other party due to complicitous relations and both will agree to let bygones be bygones and get about the “business of running America”. They will continue to divide us and get us outraged at each other, laughing all the while. Meanwhile abortion will continue and war will continue and foreigners will be put in American prisons and deemed guilty of crimes without ever having the rights “endowed by our Creator” to protect them. No, the knaves will be too busy looking at each other as the enemy to be bothered by this.

    No, we Catholics will have to put up or shut up in a country founded on the Protestant Heresy and that falls deeper and deeper into Moral Relativism and Modernism. If Catholics can’t agree on how to treat Human Beings from the moment of conception to the moment of death and all the evils in between, how can we expect the Protestants to see the light?

  • Mark

    “If Catholics can’t agree on how to treat Human Beings from the moment of conception …” – Guardian

    The Life at Conception Act currently has 113 cosponsors. 111 are Republicans and 2 are Democrats.

    If you do not subscribe to this avenue which might eliminate abortion in America, I’d be interested in hearing your solution.

  • Joe H

    RC,

    I’m with you until 5a.

    There is no evidence that any Church statements made on torture are ‘carefully worded’. If we’re going to try and infer that intent from the language, then surely we must also be able to infer the exact opposite from two statements JP II made in May and June of 2004 – as Abu Ghraib was making international headlines – denouncing once again the use of torture, and expressing solidarity with the International Day Against Torture of that year, which was specifically aimed at torture in US military prisons. See my Vox Nova post “More Holes in the Apologia for Torture” for the details if you like.

    I also disagree with your point 6, because if you read about the details of some of the abuse – especially the psycho-sexual humiliation tailor-made to break Arab Muslim men – we can’t fail to conclude that grave offenses against human dignity were a routine matter in US interrogation centers. And there was no ticking time bomb in the vast majority, or I daresay, any of these cases.

    Moreover, the recent Senate report of the Armed Services Committee confirms that the torture and abuse of detaniees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere were both sanctioned by Rumsfeld, or at the very least, implied.

  • Joe H

    (4.) I believe “ticking bomb” scenarios aren’t worth worrying about for practical or law-writing purposes (see item 3, above), but that a hypothetical extreme case (e.g. a bomb which will exterminate all human life) is useful in this debate for another reason; namely, because it demonstrates cases where torture would be correct, thus disproving the “intrinsic evil” of torture.

    But a hypothetical extreme case can be applied to anything. What if a terrorist ordered you to perform an abortion or he would set off his doomsday device? Would that remove the intrinsic evil of abortion?

    Replace the word ‘abortion’ with any other crime or sin, rinse and repeat, and we have effectively done away with the entire concept of intrinsic evil.

    This cannot be the answer. But I’m still with your earlier points. We might do it anyway to save the world, and God, if he so chooses, and if our intention is pure, may pardon us. We cannot know.

  • thomas more

    Guardian;

    The catechism requires that we exercise our right to vote and votimg for a lesser evil is not so much voting for a lesser evil but stopping a greater one.

    Also, I would take issue with your warmonger characterization of Bush plus war a prudential judgement.

    Also, you cite international law but could you point to me what treaty al qaeda or the taliban signed that entitles it to protection? Only countries have rights to enforce treaties under international public law. Plus if any country were foolish enough to claim responsibility for these people the still would not have treaty protection since by targeting civilians and not fighting in uniform they violated the rules of war. Another principle of international public law is that once the first party breaches a treaty the other party is not obliged to follow it.

    Lastly there is proportionality. Even if I were to grant you that pouring water on a terrorist head was torture and equally bad to dismembering and torturing innocemt babies, 50 million babies a tortured and killed every year around the world in an effort supported by the democrat party and barack obama, the bush war in iraq and subsequent treatment of terrorist doesn’t even come close in immediacy, scale or justice.

  • Joe H

    Even if I were to grant you that pouring water on a terrorist head was torture and equally bad to dismembering and torturing innocemt babies

    No one has ever made this point.

  • Mark

    Joe, by your own admission, you would consider waterboarding one terrorist who has admitted to decapitating a civilian and has information about a 9-11 type attack on Los Angeles a greater offense than the arbitrary imprisonment of every Catholic priest on the planet.

    You might want to rethink your black and white position on “torture”

    Also, RC led by example and listed points where his view could be “attacked” but you did not … just wondering why?

  • Joe H

    Mark,

    It’s a shame you still haven’t returned planet Earth’s calls.

    You made a convoluted argument, and then made it even more wild and unreasonable before shoving it into my mouth, and this now an admission?

    Now I understand how dictatorships work. Thank you for reducing my faith in humanity a notch.

    You and Thomas should go into the red herring business – you’d be millionaires after one argument with me. I would naturally demand a share of the profits.

    Now that I’m done being as sarcastic as I can without crossing the line into uncharitable offense, we can try this one more time.

    Even if I actually did believe that “the arbitrary imprisonment of every Catholic priest on the planet” was “better than torture” – to be honest I’ve never had to confront such a bizarre and senseless comparison in my life – it would do nothing to diminish the moral argument against torture.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Thanks for the reply, friend.

    Re: Item 4: My argument about the Church teaching being “carefully worded” not to mention “battlefield intel to save lives” scenarios comes from an interaction with you in another thread, actually. You gave a list of many quotes from encyclicals, speeches, and so on. I went through them and showed — pretty convincingly I think — that each one specifically forbade torture to gather evidence for trial or information to further criminal prosecution or confessions.

    The exception was the USCCB statement, half of which was the USCCB’s judgment on whether torture works (not relevant). The other half was on-topic. My argument 5a, therefore, requires that this part of the USCCB statement be regarded as containing a slight error, in so far as it taught that torture could never, ever be the correct option under any circumstances, as opposed to teaching that it could only be correct under unimaginably unlikely circumstances which had not yet in fact occurred.

    It disturbs me to regard a statement by the USCCB on faith and morals as containing any error, however small — and well it should!

    But I am forced to that by my conclusions in other parts of the argument: For if I say the USCCB is 100% correct in that statement, it seems to me they’re contradicting other areas of Scripture and Church Teaching, some of which are either infallible or else far more strongly and directly worded. Those can’t be wrong, so I choose the alternative.

    Re: Item 4 (and Item 5b), you say:

    …a hypothetical extreme case can be applied to anything. What if a terrorist ordered you to perform an abortion or he would set off his doomsday device? Would that remove the intrinsic evil of abortion?

    That’s exactly my point. According to ONE definition of “intrinsic evil,” it would mean abortion is not intrinsically evil.

    But I believe the Church is correct to teach that both torture, and abortion, are “intrinsically evil.” Therefore I must assume the Church is using ANOTHER definition of “intrinsic evil.”

    The FIRST definition of “intrinsic evil” is the one which states, “This act can never be done, under any circumstances, no matter how remote or extreme, EVER: No matter what alternative is imagined, doing this act would always be the less-moral of the two alternatives.”

    The SECOND one, which I believe the Church actually intends, I cannot state so precisely. I suspect it’s some combination of “This act is always a great evil, even when it’s the lesser of two evils”; and “This act is such a great evil that the instances where it’s the lesser evil are vanishingly, fantastically small and remote — too rare to bother mentioning, though we might someday get around to defining it if we decide it’s necessary.”

    Again, the reason I can’t conclude that the Church is using the FIRST definition to say that torture is “intrinsically evil” is because, if they are, I can’t see how they wouldn’t be greatly in error, both by contradicting Scripture and their own teachings, and by giving absurd answers to the hypothetical “human extinction ticking bomb scenario.” Because I exclude the notion they could be teaching great error on faith and morals, I must conclude they’re using the SECOND definition of “intrinsic evil.”

    Either that, or I’m confused about some deeper issue which is utterly invisible to me. That’s always possible. One of the reasons I went out of my way to bluntly declare my views in this thread is to allow anyone who can prove I’m overlooking something the opportunity to correct me.

    …continued…

  • Mark

    “Even if I actually did believe that “the arbitrary imprisonment of every Catholic priest on the planet” was “better than torture”

    It’s a very simple question Joe … do you?

  • R.C.

    …continuing…

    Re: Item 6:
    When I stated, “I believe that the vast majority of U.S. interrogation tactics used against unlawful enemy combatants in recent years do not qualify as torture…” you replied,

    I also disagree with your point 6, because if you read about the details of some of the abuse – especially the psycho-sexual humiliation…

    Hmm, you have a point, there. I was thinking more about the list of Guantanamo procedures, such as the “tell them a non-stinging insect will sting them” and the “shove them into a (padded) wall (wearing neck protection).” I wasn’t thinking of the Abu Ghraib stuff.

    Then again…I wasn’t thinking of the Abu Ghraib stuff because (a.) I was talking about what would qualify as “torture,” and (b.) I was thinking about normative stuff, where soldiers were following “procedure as ordered.”

    The Abu Ghraib nude pyramid crap was obviously an offense against human dignity, and wrong for that reason, among others. But I don’t think of it as having been “normative procedure as ordered”; nor do I think of it as being “torture,” a word which for me connotes actual physical pain, rather than embarrassment and humiliation.

    But if one regards it to fall under the definition of “torture,” and if it was ordered, then my point 6 would be wrong. I’m just iffy about those “ifs.”

  • Joe H

    Regarding the statements of the Popes:

    I am curious as to what you think of JP II’s 2004 statements condemning torture as the Abu Ghraib scandal was unfolding. I did not include those in our previous exchange because I wasn’t aware of them then.

    I think we should assume that the Pope knew what was going on, and knew what he was doing when he expressed solidarity with a worldwide movement condemning torture in US military prisons.

    Granted, this still doesn’t quite yet touch the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario. But it gets us a little closer, I think.

    As for the confusion, I hear you. I’m not 100% on all of this myself. I’m leaning towards the second understanding of intrinsic evil you put forward, myself. It does appear more reasonable.

    But in the event that it really is the first definition, we are still looking at the rare situation where we do an evil thing and hope that God pardons us.

    Regarding point 6, the sexual stuff went on at Gitmo too. And I think it does constitute psychological torture, in that it was repeated, it was prolonged, it was systematic, specifically designed to inflict mental and even moral anguish. To take only one example, testing the sexual morality of male prisoners by having scantly clad female officers tease them – not necessarily because they thought they could arouse these men, but because in Muslim society it is very taboo, dishonorable even, to have any sort of contact or relations of this sort with a woman who is not your wife. It should be here as well, but, hey, its the America we live in.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Re: Item 6, was there other torture, apart from waterboarding:
    Fair enough. I don’t want to get sidetracked by what I think isn’t critical to the discussion, so let me grant for the sake of argument that the other psychological stuff, for an Arab Muslim, constituted torture.

    My main point in Item 6, which I should have stated better anyhow, was to state that I thought — in fact, felt may be a better word than thought — waterboarding to be borderline — so borderline that only a few instances might not qualify, but many repeated instances as with KSM would.

    This is to further lead to an observation of the difficulty of drawing the line at any hard-and-fast point. Again, if I say “10 hours of stress position is not torture, but 11 hours is,” and you say, “11 hours is not, but 12 is,” to what authority can we appeal to justify our arbitrary dividing lines.

    Coupled with Item 7, in which I articulated a spectrum of horrific torture (vivisection) to less-horrific (repeat waterboarding) to still less-horrific (repeat Britney Spears playback), the implication is that wherever we decide to draw the arbitrary line for what we call “torture,” it remains true that some things (endless Britney) can be justified under plausibly common circumstances, whereas others require progressively rarer and rarer circumstances, and eventually reach levels of rarity which are too implausible to bother with, and might just as well be outlawed outright.

  • Joe H

    As far as I can tell, then we are pretty much in agreement.

    There really is no authority we can appeal to, which is why I think we have to try a qualitative approach. We need to look at what happened, or what specifically is being proposed.

    After all, if we agree that torture (or approximations of torture) ought to be a very rare thing if it is ever going to be used at all, then it seems reasonable that each individual case could be looked at independently and deliberated upon. That sort of thing only becomes a problem when something is commonly accepted and widespread, like the desire to get an abortion. If we managed to outlaw, for instance, the 99% of abortions that have nothing to do with rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, I would be willing to support some kind of tribunal or inquiry into cases falling under that remaining 1%.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Glad to hear we have some common ground on this topic.

    Now, as a matter of what constitutes “fair play” when debating this topic, I wonder if you’ll agree with the following:

    How to debate:

    Since the correct meaning of the term “intrinsically evil” does not categorically prohibit instances where torture may be the lesser of two evils — and therefore become the morally obligatory for a person wanting to do the right (or, the least-wrong) thing…

    (1.) It is either imprecise or disingenuous to argue against those who defend the use of torture “because the circumstances justify it” by saying that (a.) torture is “intrinsically evil” and therefore never justified; or, (b.) that such a view is consequentialist, and therefore condemned by the Church.

    (2.) It is more correct to instead argue that, although the Church’s use of the phrase “intrinsically evil” does allow for torture being the least-wrong option in extremely rare circumstances, those circumstances have never been met in the current conflict. The defenders of contemporary torture (or even of the more strenuous end of the spectrum of “enhanced interrogation”) are not definitionally wrong, but they are setting the threshold far too low.

    Now, to support argument (2.), one need not just express it as an opinion. One can refer to the words and tone of statements and documents from Churchmen to argue that, if the threshold were supposed to be as low as the torture apologists argue, then it wouldn’t make sense for so many in the Church to be saying (a.) what they say, and (b.) how they say it.

    I realize that relying on (2.) instead of (1.) to refute those who argue for the rectitude of waterboarding is inconvenient to those who want to put the debate to bed quickly.

    For it’s always easier to say, “You’re wrong because there’s no conceivable occasion when you could be right,” than to say, “You’re wrong on this occasion…” and then have to go through the arduous process of establishing guidelines and rules of thumb which allow us to distinguish one occasion from another.

    Still, I think its the more fair and honest way to argue the topic.

    Agree? Disagree?

  • Guardian

    I reference Pres. Bush as a warmonger because of the documents written up by the neoconservatives on http://www.newamericancentury.org website. On it are the position papers going back to 1997 about war strategy/policy worldwide and specifically the Middle East and Iraq. The rationales for attacking Iraq are many and were put into practice after 9/11. President Bush’s closest advisors; Cheney, Rumsfeld, brother Jeb and many others are all signatories. The 9/11 commission report and President Bush himself stated that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, yet that is where we went.

    The Founding Documents of the United States: Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution/Bill of Rights set up a judicial system that affords all people the right to a trial and all of the established rights. Of course you or others will argue against that, but those arguments have only taken place since 9/11 and War in Iraq. (This is the Protestant Heresy of changing Tradition/precedent/interpretations as we go. I also reference this because you have found 2 documented sources from 2000 years of history to support your contention on torture.) Many of the Prisoners taken during this War were arrested after paid informants gave the U.S. authorities information. Many of those paid informants lied in order to get money, get even with an enemy, etc. Most of the Prisoners were released with no charges against them. Have any of these prisoners been charged and convicted? Have we found any needles in the haystack? Many of the Prisoners have told their story of false imprisonment and torture.

    Proportionality isn’t presenting two evils with a false choice. People can be opposed to abortion and opposed to torture. If punishment were given to those who tortured, those who killed and those who tortured and killed, there should be an increase in punishment given. However, punishment should be inflicted on all three classes of people. History has shown this to be true. Japanese soldiers were executed for performing “water torture” on U.S. soldiers.

    Now you are telling us that we should excuse torture because we really, really needed to do it for the betterment of society, etc. etc. Now we are on the slippery slope that abortion was on—don’t punish, betterment of society, really good reason for having done it, excuse it, make it legal, expand its appllication. Do we now want to do the same with those who torture?

    The Republicans gave us abortion and the Democrats expanded on it. The Republicans are giving us torture. Are the Democrats going to expand on that as well? Shouldn’t we punish the transgressors now instead of allowing these techniques to be prescribed into law and expanded onto “terrorists”? I’m sure you’ve read of the current watch list of potential terrorists, is torture really a technique we want our government to have? The next thing you know, we’ll have speeders pulled over and tortured. Or Tasered “in the name of the law”. What type of people will gravitate to jobs that allow government officials to “protect us” in those ways?

    Again I ask you, going into the future—What guidelines, backed up by Church teachings, should be used for those suspected of terrorism? If we don’t have specific guidelines, then anything is possible.

  • Okie

    I didn’t realize things were still rolling. I’ll try to be very brief, becuase I think my point is actually rather small. If torture is always wrong (which Papal documents/catechisms/etc calling it a “intrinsically evil act”), but on the other hand, we know from tradition and Magisterial documents that Legitimate Authorities have not only the right, but the obligation to punish evil, including using forth and even death, then what is it that distinguishes torture from punishment. Shea interpreted me as saying this because I ‘want to get as close to torture as possible,’ which I never said. I then was accused of acting of pitting ‘old’ theologians against current Popes, etc. Dr. Feser was sort of accused of the same thing over at “What is wrong with the world” blog by Shea. My point (I think along with Dr. Feser) is that as good Catholics, we know the tradition and current rulings don’t contradict. We cannot act like the Church ever “over rules” old declarations…and if we aren’t careful with this torture discussion, losers like Richard McBrian will say “see, we changed on torture, lets change on birth control/womynpriest/abortion etc.”

    So again, I ask a very simple question, what is it about torture that makes it torture, and thus intrinsically evil, as opposed to punishment by a legitimate authority, which is not evil AT ALL, but a good. I further point out that responding “maintaining human dignity” is not an answer, because people obviously have different opinions of what that consists off (ie, some people might say, “hey, torture’s fine,” but some people in this debate obviously are against torture but do not think waterboarding is torture, which means they think it doesn’t violate their human dignity, so this is something we need to answer).

    although I don’t think we need or can ever get a lock down mathmateical proof-like answer, I think we can look for the first principles of differentiation in this debate. My argument is somewhat Thomistic: human dignity is rooted in our use of reason. Therefore, torture is the use of physical or mental torment/pain/affliction that turns the body into an instrument utilized against the rational soul of an individual that makes them respond/act in an automatic, sub-human way. I don’t think terms of “permanance” can fall into this, because the death penalty is obviously “permanent,” but can be legitimately carried out by proper authorities. I think it has to do with instrumentalizing the human body against the rational human soul to make a person act beneath the level of the human person, ie, coercion to the point that it does not go against, but obliterates, free will. Look, like I have said above, I think you can tell someone before hand that if they do not tell you what they know (if you know they know something, ie, they are a commander, etc.), then you will inflict “x” punishment on them. I even think “x” punishment can be harsh, and increase in harshness with each refusal. But in this way, you maintain that the person rationally chooses to suffer the punishment, and not as an automaton. Look, if a person is willing to die for his cause rather than speak, even in war, you have allowed him to keep his dignity, and his allies will celbrate him as a man of fortitude, even in death. If, however, you use physical and mental tricks of torment to make him auto-respond, he has no choice in the matter.

    This, of course, still has to be applied. Is waterboarding simply a harsh punishment, or is it used to sublimate the human will? I think it probably is the later, the way it is used, and therefore is illegal. This is the type of thing I was asking for, and instead, I was accused by Shea and then by Guardian for being a Bush lackey or something. As I answered Guardian, I never voted for Bush, I was against the war, and I was against the torture memos. I am in no way a republican lackey…if anything, I’m against democracy in general, and think that most of Church teachings on social/authority issues would work better in a monarchy, even a non-Catholic one…

  • Gideon Ertner

    Not time to go through this absurdly long list of posts. But Mark Shea seems to utilise some highly disingenious argumentation in this piece. To wit, he dismisses the scenario where there exists “a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous “ticking bomb” scenario)” as a “fantasy” possible only “in a purely abstract world”.

    This is most certainly not the case. This example is not only extremely likely, it is actually precisely such a case which has in fact happened and which has led us to have this debate in the first place. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad was known to be a major operative in the Al-Qaeda network, and under torture (yes, waterboarding is a form of torture since it is demonstrated to often cause lasting psychological damage) revealed information which caused the unravelling of several terrorist cells planning to launch major terror attacks.

    Please, Mark Shea, this debate is important. Employing derisive rhetoric and obscuring facts is very unhelpful.

    And you have still not offered a definition of what torture is and is not, nor any indication of what premises such a definition should be based on. You say that you point to the Magisterium. Well, to my knowledge it is only in very recent times that the Magisterium has publicly (yet non-infallibly) denounced torture, and Veritatis Splendor, which you cite, does not present any definition of it. I suggest that if you want to be regarded as a serious moral theologian you should start discoursing as one.

  • Joe H

    I applaud your sense of fair play, RC. I find it inspirational, in fact, no joke intended.

    I hope I’ve never come across as unfair during this debate. I can’t say every thing in every post, but I have tried to cover as much ground as possible.

    I’m not yet willing to say that extreme scenarios “justify torture” – what I’m willing to say is, “God, in his infinite mercy, may pardon an evil act if the circumstances are great enough”.

    This is what I want to say, at least, until I can be sure what exactly the Church means by “intrinsically evil”. Please understand, I am willing to amend it.

    Here is what I offer to the ‘torture defenders’ – I understand and sympathize with the impulse to torture when the circumstances seem to warrant it. If I could save someone I loved by doing it, or even a stranger, there’s a good chance I would do it. But that wouldn’t make it right.

    I am trying, as a Christian and a Catholic, to come to grips with the fallen nature of man, including my own, in a universe where there exists objective moral laws – the opposite of what I used to believe, for years, that man was perfectible and there was no such thing as moral law.

    God’s moral law is absolute but his mercy and forgiveness are infinite. In the end I believe our hearts will be judged. But I don’t have this desire to morally legitimize everything I do, or to argue that because it’s what I think ought to be done for the greater good, it becomes good. To me, that is an offense against the truth.

  • Kaboom

    Joe H,

    I apologize for slamming you in a post that the Administrator deleted. You showed humility and honesty that I haven’t seen much from those who argue against torture. I withdraw my view on your credibility.

  • Joe H

    Thanks. Apology accepted smilies/smiley.gif

  • Richard A

    What I haven’t seen yet is an answer to two questions posited early in the discussion above.

    1) Ender wondered (post #2) “if you concede this point (above) doesn’t it mean that torture cannot be intrinsically evil?” Doesn’t it?

    2) “Thomas More” wondered (post #3)about spanking. I wonder about it, too. Does the Church condemn corporal punishment? I have, in my life, wilfully inflicted pain upon a few small children for the purposes of a) instilling fear (of myself and the child’s mother), b) punishment for wrongdoing and c) to coerce the will (a practice also known as compelling obedience). Does the Church say I was wrong to do so? Reasons a) and b) are cited in the Catechism as insufficient reasons to allow ‘torture’. Was what I did to those children ‘intrinsically evil’?

    Some Ohio kid several years ago got himself into the news because he was apprehended while vacationing in Singapore with his family for vandalizing several cars and was going to be administered 15 whacks with a cane pole for it. Is it unjust of Singapore to impose that as a penalty for vandalism? Does the Catholic Church teach that Singapore is in violation of natural morality for imposing such a penalty?

    It was still common, when I was in high school, for teachers (usually male, I can’t speak to what was the norm in the girls’ gym classes) to paddle the behinds of some unruly students who violated known rules of conduct at the school. Neither I nor my peers, nor even most of the recipients of said paddling thought the practice unjust. Not that I take my teenage thinking as the last word in justice, but my parents also had no problem with it. Did the Church? Does the Church have a problem with corporal punishment today?

    My brother came home from gym class one day with the interesting story about a classmate who had mouthed off to the gym teacher and decided to ameliorate the severity of the expected paddling by standing erect just before the paddle smacked him. As a consequence, it caught him straight across the back of both thighs, without even the flimsy fabric of the gym shorts to cushion the blow. It hurt just to hear the story.

    I never got the paddle myself, nor have I ever been waterboarded, so I could be mistaken about this, but I suspect that the smart alec high school kid in my brother’s gym class experienced more intense pain because of that paddling than waterboarding causes. So, what makes the one just good old corporal punishment and the other “torture”? The duration of the pain, rather than its intensity? The (mistaken) sense that one is going die because of it? The fact that one is a prisoner of war instead of a smart-mouth teenager?

    You tell me “torture” is immoral, and OK, I believe you. What is it? How can I tell torture from something else that looks a lot like it, and isn’t?

  • Fr. Joseph

    I read that they waterboarded this Sheik Khalid guy something like 160 times.

    It was three times. The water was poured about 180 times.

    I have seen waterboarding, but not experienced it. If I had the opportunity, I would be waterboarded, so as to make a judgment. What I understand is that it does not inflict physical pain, but because of the combination of being tied down, blindfolded, and horizontal (which causes carbon dioxide to remain in the lungs), it triggers fear of drowning and a physical reflex. (Try inhaling the carbon dioxide from a plastic bottle that has just been emptied of soda. It is not the least bit painful, but it’s impossible to do it.)

    Until recently, I have ignored as much of this debate as possible, because most of it has been wretchedly dishonest. Most of it has consisted of pro-abortion politicians’ screeching about supposed “tortures,” only one of which they named, and none of which they described.

    Only recently have the details of these “tortures” been released, and my impression is that they prove that no torture has occurred. I am still inclined to discount the possibility of any honest public discussion so long as the U.S. government is in the hands of people who manifestly hate God, human life, the U.S. Consitution, Western Civilization, and human liberty. As long as one side of the “debate” is populated by such people, debate is impossible.

    And “torture” is now high on the list of those “seamless-garment-issues” that all just happen to be just a teeny bit more important than abortion at election time.

  • Thomas More

    I totally agree Fr. Joseph.

    Convenient that every elecction there always seems to be some issue that becomes more important than the torture and murder of 42 million children worldwide every year which the Democrat Party and politicians like Obama have dedicated themselves to supporting.

  • Guardian

    Hatred of Democrats makes many swoon over the Republican party, but the Republicans followed through on very few promises on their way to power. They have proven themselves hypocrites on their principles. The Republicans had 6 years of total control of Government, yet did not get rid of abortion. Their party’s Presidents appointed 6 of the 7 justices who legalized Abortion. They have been in control of the Supreme Court for over 35 years.

    Thinking that Republicans will do anything other than talk a good Christian game is foolhardy. Stop supporting both of the major parties. All you do is give them legitimacy to continue passing laws and policies that make this country a “culture of death”.

  • R.C.

    Friends,

    We all acknowledge at the outset that even if every accusation of immoral policies leveled against the Bush Administration were true — heck, even if non-policy shenanigans like those at Abu Ghraib had been policy! — the objective harms done by the Bush Administration would be undetectably small when compared to the harms caused by legalized abortion.

    If anyone questions this, consider the following:

    An Exaggerated Case

    Let us first exaggerate the Guantanamo procedures by several orders of magnitude, and pretend that all of the 800 or so occupants at Guantanamo had been waterboarded once every day, for thirty minutes straight, for a whole year. And let us further pretend that half of the prisoners in Guantanamo were perfectly innocent, and had been mistakenly captured.

    And let us pretend that if abortion were illegal, it would cut the actual number of abortions by only half.

    Now do the math: The waterboarding as described above would amount to about 300,000 instances of terrifying someone for a half-hour…and, as a further pretense, 150,000 of those were of innocent persons.

    The legality of abortion, as described above, would account for 500,000 innocent deaths per year. (Again, assuming that half of them would still occur if it were outlawed, an absurdly high figure.)

    So there you have it, folks: Even if we exaggerate the harms of Guantanamo by a factor of tens of thousands, and even if we underestimate the harms of legalized abortion to some arbitrary large degree, we’re still comparing 150,000 terrifying experiences over seven years, with 500,000 murders of innocent babies, each year, for thirty-six years.

    The Reality

    And of course the reality is nowhere near so bad, with respect to the Bush Administration, and is rather worse, with respect to the legality of abortion.

    I deliberately chose, above, to compare unrealistic numbers, so that no one could say I was fudging the facts in order to make an invidious comparison.

    But more realistic numbers would be something like: 4 or 5 instances of terrifying two confessed planners of premeditated murder (producing intel which itself may have saved innocent lives), compared against 900,000 murders of innocent babies, each year, for thirty-six years.

    Seen that way, the two are incomparable. It is like comparing a paper cut to a decapitation.

    Still Okay To Debate It

    Does that mean we shouldn’t discuss it? That we shouldn’t, perhaps, advocate changes to the laws to forbid waterboarding?

    No, it doesn’t: Just because one isn’t having a heart-attack right now doesn’t mean it’s okay to ignore that cholesterol problem. It’s just fine to have the discussion we’re having.

    But let’s keep it in perspective. Some Catholics express an outrage at the Bush Administration over its Orwellian use of “enhanced interrogation” which is out-of-proportion to that they express about legalized abortion.

    Keeping It Real

    Given the relative magnitude of the harms involved, if one thinks that the Bush Administration’s behavior justifies ongoing red-faced spitting outrage, why then…the proportional reaction to legalized abortion would be to take up arms to overthrow the U.S. government.

    Those are the inescapable conclusions of comparing the (comparatively) meager harms of “enhanced interrogation” with the (vastly worse) harms of legal abortion.

    If one thinks that civil war is an excessive, unjustified, over-the-top reaction to legal abortion (and I certainly think it’s over-the-top!) then one should proportionally regard the red-faced outrage at Bush as over-the-top, too.

    Otherwise, we waste all our strongest invective on those who give us paper cuts, and leave none for the man with the guillotine.

  • R.C.

    Guardian:

    Everybody knows why Republicans didn’t outlaw abortion. It’s quite simple: They lacked the votes to do it.

    Grand Illusion

    There’s this prevalent misunderstanding among Catholics — I blame public schooling — that, just because Bush was a Republican and there was a six-year Republican majority in Congress, therefore, Bush was an absolute monarch for those six years and could have enacted any policy he wished!

    Which is pure poppycock.

    Not Enough Votes

    The reality is that, despite the occasional existence of Republican majorities, there has not been a pro-life majority in Congress at any time in the last thirty years, except maybe after the ’94 G.O.P. takeover…during which time, of course, Clinton was President. So during that time, even if the pro-lifers had a majority, they didn’t have enough votes to override a Clinton veto.

    Since Roe v. Wade was decided, there has never once been a functionally pro-life government, even when there was a Republican majority, because Republican majorities have always been slim (say, 5 seats in the Senate, 20 seats in the House) and the number of pro-choice, blue-state Republicans has always been larger than that margin (say, 8 seats in the Senate, 25 seats in the House). These folks would always vote with the Democrats on life issues.

    And you can’t pass legislation if you don’t have the votes.

    The reason that abortion wasn’t outlawed five years ago wasn’t because Bush wouldn’t have liked to do so. His consistent record of nominating pro-life justices (all of them Catholics!) demonstrates plenty of intent.

    The reason is that the votes weren’t there, plain and simple.

    Don’t Get Me Wrong…

    Are pro-life Republican politicians therefore perfect friends of the pro-life movement?

    Why, no. They’re often cowardly, or make exceptions that Church teaching doesn’t make (y’know, rape and incest, that kind of thing). And those of them in blue states downplay their pro-life position in order to get re-elected.

    But lets keep the criticism in perspective. Catholic pro-lifers are willing to stand outside abortion clinics side-by-side with, say, Southern Baptist pro-lifers, aren’t they? Despite the whacko ecclesiology, the teetotaling and grape-juice communion, and what all?

    The pro-life movement’s alliance with that large majority of Republican leaders who are pro-life is like that. He who ditches these allies as “good for nothing” does just as well to tell the Southern Baptists to not bother to show up outside the clinic.

    The culture of death is all too pleased to see the children of God form a circular firing squad.

  • Guardian

    R.C.,

    Could you give me information on Bills that were debated/voted on outlawing abortion? Can you give me the date that an Amendment outlawing abortion was introduced/debated? Can you tell me when the leaders of the party decided to bring the abortion issue to the table and spend time discussing it? Can you tell me what cases were taken to the Supreme Court that would allow them to outlaw abortion?

    A bill doesn’t have to be guaranteed passage in order to be debated. It’s because the Republicans never seemed to attempt to steer the national conversation toward the abortion issue except during election time that the party lost the respect of many pro-lifers. Many anti-abortion voters felt betrayed by the Republican talking point that never was seriously discussed. For many people, the only reason that they voted for Republicans was because of the abortion issue. If Democrats were against abortion, how much support would Republicans get based on their other policies? Remember, before abortion most Catholics voted Democratic.

    The country is a lot further away from ending abortion now than they were in 2000-2006, but we only need to give them “one more chance” right? It seems that the Republican party is filled with excuse after excuse whenever they fail. I guess if Congress would have given President Bush a simple “Resolution to end Abortion” (as they did for Iraq War), then he could have ended it all by himself. No? You can’t subvert the Constitution or the Rule of Law except to declare war. Maybe he could have used a signing statement to impose his will? Maybe he could have had his lawyers write memoes saying that the President has power to end abortion?

    Is there any reason to support Republicans other than “lesser of two evils”?

  • R.C.

    Guardian,

    No, I can’t give you a list of bills: They’re few and far between, and those proposed usually never made it out of committee. (I could find a list of amendments, but that’s the best I could dig up.)

    But my earlier argument stands, because your statement that “A bill doesn’t have to be guaranteed passage in order to be debated,” while technically true, gets the political calculus bass-ackwards.

    It’s a sad fact of life that one arrives in D.C. with a certain amount of momentum determined largely by the friendliness of press coverage, the margin by which you won your particular race, and the margin by which your party holds a majority. That momentum is increased by your success in getting whatever you label as your highest-priority items passed. It is depleted by any failures to pass high-priority items.

    Take the Social Security Reform push by G.W.Bush, or the “HillaryCare” push by Clinton. Both failed; and in both cases, it took some time for the respective agendas of each president to “recover.” When you “look weak,” nobody returns your calls.

    It is not, therefore, a neutral act to make a big push for the passage of a bill you know ahead of time won’t pass. And in the face of a national media (especially the D.C. press corps) that’s resoundingly against passage of any portion of a pro-life agenda, a Republican congressman knows that failures in this area are more likely to torpedo his ability to pass other items on his agenda than failures in nearly any other.

    Weird and abstract and nonsensical? Sure. But it’s how D.C. works (ask a pol, or someone who works with them). It’s like that in a lot of state houses, too.

    When I vote for a pro-life Republican, I’m voting to influence bills in a pro-life direction as much as possible. But I’m also voting to reduce taxes, reduce welfare dependency, increase privatization, increase school choice, restrict government to its constitutionally-enumerated powers, and as a firewall against the redefining of marriage, the nationalization of the market for medical care, the export of contraception and abortion as foreign policy, and so on.

    If all a politician did was focus on outlawing abortion, and as a consequence never achieved any of the other stuff, I’d be elated…if he succeeded. Otherwise, I’d be justly peeved. I send my representative to D.C. to get stuff done implementing my agenda, and if he has no way to implement my most-important item, then he’d better try to implement my second-most-important, and my third.

    It seems to me that you’re peeved, Guardian, but for reasons that aren’t just. Or at least, they aren’t proportional. You sound more irritated at the person who’s a friend 75% of the time, than you do at the guy who’s a foe 100% of the time…and your justification for giving your friend the finger is that he can’t muster the remaining 25%.

    That’s electoral math…of a sort. But it doesn’t add up, in my book.

  • R.C.

    Guardian:

    As a follow-up, let me address this item:

    I guess if Congress would have given President Bush a simple “Resolution to end Abortion” (as they did for Iraq War), then he could have ended it all by himself. No? You can’t subvert the Constitution or the Rule of Law except to declare war. Maybe he could have used a signing statement to impose his will? Maybe he could have had his lawyers write memoes saying that the President has power to end abortion?

    Now, you have to really read a lot of legislative history to know this, but this isn’t just comparing apples to oranges; it’s comparing apples to Svart

  • Joe H

    RC,

    There is a lot more than the legalization of torture that add up to make the Bush administration “as bad as” the Democrats, if that is the game one is trying to play (it isn’t my game).

    First, no set of facts or arguments is ever going to convince me, the majority of Americans, or the majority of the people on this planet that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a legitimate enterprise – no “the world is better off without Saddam” argument, etc.

    Numbers don’t make right, I realize, for the majority of people also think abortion ought to be legal. But with one Pope openly opposed to the war and another not so enthusiastic about it, I think I’m on reasonable Catholic ground myself.

    The Bush administration and the ideologues at PNAC brought us a 21st century version of preemptive warfare, a crime for which Nazi leaders were tried and executed at Nuremberg. Of course, conservative and right-leaning Americans don’t believe the supposedly “far left” estimates of total civilian deaths caused by the occupation, but suffice to say, its a lot of people blown to bits.

    We could add any number of things to the list – economic policies which cause great harm to other countries resulting in deaths, pollution that ultimately results in deaths, etc. There are dozens of polices apart from and in addition to torture that a person could compile against the Bush administration.

    Secondly, my problem with political approaches to the abortion issue is that the rhetoric never matches the excuses people make for failing to stop it.

    Think of this way: allowing abortion, being for legal abortion, as many Democrats are, they are also routinely accused of being as bad or worse than Nazis by pro-life Christians, of being just horrible, despicable people.

    And yet Republicans, who in practice have done very little to stop abortion, who certainly haven’t said “these are human beings dying by the millions, lets mobilize in the streets and shut these death factories down” – which to me is the only response that makes the tone of the rhetoric honest instead of a mere political weapon – why, they’re just fine, because, in the end, they’re against it.

    Being mildly opposed to abortion, being willing to wait patiently for four decades for a political solution, a democratic or ‘Constitutional’ solution, is certainly one way to approach it and there are good reasons for it. Being willing to say, ‘I am opposed to abortion, but ultimately the people must decide through their votes if the unborn should be included in the human community and protected by the same laws everyone else is’, it is practical, prudent, and shows a healthy respect for our institutions of government.

    It doesn’t warrant apocalyptic, blood-curdling, screeching about the unholy evils of the Democratic Party and the blood of millions of innocent babies. An evil as great as is often attributed to the Democratic Party would demand action far beyond what has taken place so far, far beyond respect for the political institutions of the country – and it without it would only reveal that a person, seeing a great evil, did next to nothing to stop it. All of the voting and even grass roots activism; no one would limit themselves to that if it were five year olds being taken to clinics every day and murdered. Or would we?

    My point here isn’t to say people shouldn’t do these things, but to say, instead, that they should change their rhetoric. And as far as this discussion goes, it also means that even if the Democrats are ‘more evil’ than the Republicans because of their support for abortion, it can be that much more evil.

  • Joe H

    As for “Maybe he could have had his lawyers write memoes [sic] saying that the President has power to end abortion?” …come now.

    Sure, he could do that. He could say that the sole legislative and judiciary powers of the government of the United States rested only in the pen of the president, and only in his favorite ink-pen, and only on Saturdays, if he liked…until he got removed from office. (More likely on an argument of mental incapacitation, than impeachment.)

    I think that is precisely what should be done, actually. And I don’t see why you need to make it look foolish by situating it with a bunch of other absurdities.

    I am philosophically pro-life – I believe the right to life, for the unborn as well as everyone else, exists prior to society and that government’s first duty towards it is to protect it.

    I believe no vote or judicial decision at any level can ever strip away this right, and any attempt to do so is automatically invalid by our conception of natural rights or natural law.

    And I would therefore support, 100%, an executive decree banning abortion in all 50 states in perpetuity. On this issue alone, of course, for all it would be doing is restoring a right that cannot be subject to a vote, ever, whether among nine people on the Supreme Court or 100 million people in the states.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    And I would therefore support, 100%, an executive decree banning abortion in all 50 states in perpetuity.

    Wow. I certainly wouldn’t — and you know how I view abortion!

    I would much sooner support overthrow of the U.S. government in order to outlaw abortion. (Which I also don’t support, so you Secret Service folk, don’t come a knockin’.)

    The reason is that sovereignty is granted by God to individuals in the form of stewardship, which is the source of human dignity.

    Human individuals then, as an act of solidarity, delegate to their government a large portion of their God-given right to self-defense. (Which is why government is the sole entity in a society, apart from the individual defending innocent life in the gravest extreme, with authority to use force to achieve its ends.) Government is, then, the servant of the people, its authority delegated to it by its masters, the people.

    Now it is very much in accord with that reality for the people to rescind that delegation of authority. This is why the American Declaration of Independence was valid: “When in the course of human events….”

    It is not, however, in accord with that reality for one of the servants of the people to say to the people, “Hey, y’know that power you delegated exclusively to someone other than me? I’m going to start exercising it, even though you granted me no authority to do so. In fact, I’m going to exercise it in a way that all the institutions you set up to prevent me from being a tyrant, are disemboweled. How ya’ like them apples?”

    That’s what your recommendation would have the president do.

    So again: I’d sooner see the people form an entirely different government — which is within the natural order — than have a single individual create a tyrannical precedent which entirely transformed the nature of our existing government. Even for a good cause.

    That way, Tolkien would tell you, lies the abuse of the power of the ring. “Do not tempt me!” says Gandalf. “I would wish to use this ring for good. But through me, it would work great evil.”

    No. No tyranny, not even to end abortion.

    Or if you prefer, take it from St. Thomas More:

    Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

    Sir Thomas: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

    Roper: “Why, yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

    Sir Thomas: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it, Roper!–do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

  • R.C.

    …continued…

    I believe no vote or judicial decision at any level can ever strip away this right, and any attempt to do so is automatically invalid by our conception of natural rights or natural law.

    Of course. That’s certainly correct.

    But there are more and less dangerous ways to ensure the defense of the natural rights of individuals. Welcoming presidential autocracy is one of the most dangerous.

    As for the Democrats vs. Republicans thing? (Sorry, I’m responding to your notes in something like reverse order.)

    Well, for me, the Iraq war’s so close to a 50%/50% proposition that I call it a wash. And in every other area, I can’t think of a single realm of policy in which I don’t prefer the Republicans to the Democrats. Not environment, not assistance to the poor, not unions, not the economy, not budget deficits, not business regulation, not health care, not diplomacy, not national security, not treatment of minorities, not one: I’d mark the Republicans at least slightly superior in every area I can think of.

    There are some areas where I vastly prefer Libertarians or Constitution Party to Republicans, however.

    And some where I prefer some non-existent party to any of the above; that is to say, where I don’t think anybody’s proposing the correct policy.

    But the Democrats, on my list, consistently score right above the Socialists, Greens, Aryan Nation, and such.

    In particular I fear what happens to the poor because of Democrat policy. Republican policy is sometimes only slightly less bad. But exercising my preferential option for the poor is one reason why I may never vote for a Democrat again, unless their approach entirely reverses. (I have voted for exactly one: Zell Miller. Which as Democrats go is a bit like voting for Joe Lieberman, and then some.)

    So I doubt you and I will find common ground in that area, Joe. You and I disagree on practical policy, and our party preferences reflect that.

    But that should explain my feeling that there’s no comparison between Republicans and Democrats. If one confines it to a direct comparison of “enhanced interrogation” versus “pro choice” (to use a pair of Orwellian terms), then of course there’s no comparison, as I illustrated above. But when one broadens it to all policies, in my opinion, there still aren’t any net pluses to counteract the Democrat minuses.

    I tell you all this because you bring it up. It’s not strictly pertinent to the topic.

    But my intent in comparing the Catholic outrage over waterboarding with the not-much-greater outrage over abortion was not to argue for Republicans over Democrats (or Constitution party over either, for that matter).

    It was just to say: Let’s be more proportional in our outrage. If waterboarding makes steam shoot out our ears, abortion ought to have us grabbing shotguns and pitchforks! But if we don’t think abortion merits force, why, then, proportionally, our fury about waterboarding should be somewhat more subdued.

  • Joe H

    I don’t think the Thomas More logic applies here.

    It seems to me that the Supreme Court cut down the law not to get at the Devil but to allow him easy access. said…

    Re-establishing the right to life cannot amount to tyranny because the right to life is, along with the right to property (unless we mix the two together with the doctrine of self-ownership, something I don’t do), the foundation of all other rights and the source of all social obligations.

    Tyranny already exists, in other words. It exists for the millions of unborn children, who are essentially the chattel property of their mothers. If their lives are as valuable as ours, equal to ours, then we can conclude nothing else. Restoring the right to life only resets the proper boundaries of human behavior in a civilized society, and anyone who rebels against this right order and calls it ‘tyranny’ is a Satanist.

    That is what I believe in principle.

    In the real world we are forced to deal with, abortion is ultimately a cultural problem and legal abortion ultimately reflects a cultural majority, if not a consensus. Abortion is not imposed from above but insisted upon from below. So the chances of what I want to happen, actually happening, are pretty slim. I fully understand that. So I do favor a grassroots approach.

    I favor making more pro-life Dems, which I think will be possible giving the party’s changing demographics, the eclipse of the boomers (no offense if you are one, but good riddance to those in the political establishment), and the appearance of a multicultural, multiracial generation that is less consumed by neurotic privileged white liberal guilt.

    But because I believe the origin of abortion is the evil in the human heart, along with a host of historical and social factors I outlined in the last article I had published here, and not government policy, I can’t blame a man (Obama) or a party (the Democrats) for it.

    I can blame them for making a bad thing worse, and I do. On balance, though, the Republicans easily match this evil through imperialism. Forcing through the doctrine of preemptive warfare has already cost a million Iraqi lives and may well cost millions of more lives if the doctrine is invoked again to invade another country. How many millions need to die in an unjust war before it is “just as bad” as abortion?

    Moreover, responsibility for unjust wars does fall pretty much squarely on the shoulders of government – even the troops are just following orders. The responsibility for abortion is spread out among tens of millions of people. Republicans are more responsible for Iraqi deaths than Democrats are for the deaths of the unborn.

    As for levels of outrage:

    “Let’s be more proportional in our outrage. If waterboarding makes steam shoot out our ears, abortion ought to have us grabbing shotguns and pitchforks! But if we don’t think abortion merits force, why, then, proportionally, our fury about waterboarding should be somewhat more subdued.”

    Well, I agree with that. I can’t speak for Mark Shea or anyone else, but I think my ‘outrage’, if it can be called such, is that people who ought to know better are losing their moral compass over this issue. To me that is almost a bigger problem than the torture itself.

  • Mark

    “But because I believe the origin of abortion is the evil in the human heart” – Joe

    When I tried to make this point a couple of weeks ago, you and Tim mocked me by reducing my point to merely claiming “It’s the devil, It’s the devil!”

    “How many millions need to die in an unjust war before it is “just as bad” as abortion?” – Joe

    Ah, a pro-Democrat/anti-Republican statement masquerading as a legitimate question … on behalf of liberal college professors everywhere, well done.

    Joe, the majority of Democrats supported the war, while the majority of Republicans have not and do not support abortion. Therefore your attempt to make this a political black and white / Demorat and Republican comparison is flawed.

    You are correct that the Democrats did not invent abortion but you neglect the fact that the Republicans did not invent war (even unjust war, for the sake of argument/which I do not accept)

    As Christians, we know that every single life has equal and infinite value, therefore objectively it would probably be accurate to claim that those dreaded Republicans would have to “kill” approx. 4000 innocent people every day for 35 or so years… or around 50 million people. Where do we stand in Iraq? Just wondering if you are going to include the innocent people that Barack Obama and the Dems have been killing recently in Afghanistan?

    One more quick point. I noticed that you did not answer my previous question. Kind of ironic how a guy who can write thousands of words every week has trouble typing a simple yes or no… don’t you think?

    The fact that you made your position so absolute …
    - Torture is ALWAYS wrong
    - Waterboarding is ALWAYS torture
    - Arbitrary imprisonment is NEVER torture

    … puts you in the position to have to conclude, Joe, that even the arbitrary imprisonment of every Catholic priest in the world does not rise to the offense of waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

    Our great Faith does not abuse reason and I believe that you did not answer the question because you know in your heart which act would be a greater offense to God.

    Passion does not provide a license to misrepresent the Wisdom and Prudence of the Church in order to justify a political argument.

    One sincere quick aside … Joe, I know you truly despise abortion as much as I do but I’m curious how you reconcile your neo-socialist values with the fact that socialist countries have been the greatest promoters of the evil of abortion (Russia and China)?

    Have a great weekend.

  • Joe H

    I’m trying to decide if you’re trying to bait me with cynical questions or if, somewhere, you have some sincere desire to understand what I am talking about. Since I can’t hear the tone of your voice or observe the expression on your face, I’m going make a charitable assumption for now.

    “When I tried to make this point a couple of weeks ago, you and Tim mocked me by reducing my point to merely claiming “It’s the devil, It’s the devil!””

    I said no such thing. Here you are equating what Tim said with what “Tim and I said.” And no one mocked you – Tim made some reasonable points. All I would argue is that social and cultural factors, such as those that were the focus of my article, can make it harder or easier for evil to succeed. Pius XI was arguing it as well.

    “Joe, the majority of Democrats supported the war, while the majority of Republicans have not and do not support abortion. Therefore your attempt to make this a political black and white / Demorat and Republican comparison is flawed.”

    A Republican administration formulating imperial plans with a cabal of neoconservative intellectuals come up with the plan for it. More Republicans supported the war than Democrats. More Democrats withdrew their support as it became obvious that there were no WMD and no 9/11 connection, instead of continuing on with more phony premises such as “it was for democracy”.

    Furthermore, you can’t have it both ways. All Republican supporters of the war wanted to do during its worst phases was blame Democrats for not supporting it, politicians, voters and all. Now you tell me, does that show that Democratic support for the war dried up after hawkish Dems like the Clintons finally admitted the whole thing was a mistake, or does it show that Republicans are a bunch of shameless liars, attacking people who supported their beloved enterprise for partisan political reasons?

    “but you neglect the fact that the Republicans did not invent war”

    They reinvented and then embraced the concept of preemptive warfare for the United States in the 21st century. People want to prosecute Bush for torture when he should have already been prosecuted as a war criminal for waging an unprovoked war of imperial aggression.

    “Just wondering if you are going to include the innocent people that Barack Obama and the Dems have been killing recently in Afghanistan?”

    Sure – but the blame still falls on those who launched the war of aggression.

    I didn’t answer your last question because it was ridiculous. I don’t want to waste the mental energy dealing with it.

    As for your characterization of my position on torture, read my exchange with RC.

    As for your last question – I am not a “neo-socialist”, much less a Bolshevik or a Maoist. I am a Distributist, I believe private property is a necessary prerequisite of most other rights and civil liberties. How many communists and socialists believe that? I just don’t think it should all be concentrated in a few hands, and neither does the Church. Distributism is a fully Catholic doctrine whose core principles have been endorsed by Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, JP II and I’m sure Pope Benedict. So, please, stop lumping me and them in with dictatorial atheistic regimes.

  • Thomas More

    Hi JoeH,

    Interesting question you pose. The answer would be more than the 42 million innocent souls that are killed by abortion every year by abortion.

    When war gets that bad, then it will equally the genocide that is abortion which this country under Obama and his Secretary of State, Clinton, now fully fund and support legally and morally here and abroad.

    Of course the fact that you have to ask the question implies that you are unsure whether the value of an unborn life is equal to that of a human who is out of the womb. Think about it.

    Finally, you defamatorily claim, without one piece of evidence that Bush and the Republicans had imperial designs on another country. Watch it. You should not make accusations of motivation that you have no evidence of.

    Obama on the other hand has publically declared that he thinks child torture is a good constitutional right that must be encouraged, funded and maintained as well as the Democrat Party Platform.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    You know I respect you, friend, tho’ our views differ. And I don’t poke too hard at the areas where they differ, because it’s hard for a person to feel respect from someone when the only things that person ever brings up are your mutual disagreements!

    But I have to second Thomas More’s comment. It undermines your credibility to accuse Bush of invading Iraq to build an empire. It crosses the line from rhetorical overstatement to silly. Nor does it help, to call him a “war criminal” on that basis.

    (Or any other, in my view…but “imperial aggression” is the basis you advanced so it’s the one I’m pooh-poohing here. I won’t rule out the notion that you may have some other logical rationale for taking Bush to Nuremberg to be hanged; you might surprise me by coming out with something I found persuasive. But I’m as yet unaware of any such thing.)

    Even the term “unprovoked” is off. As you know, there was no armistice in the Gulf War, but rather a conditional cease-fire Hussein agreed to in order to save his regime, and then repeatedly violated. (The ultimate consequences of the violations were rather delayed, but he couldn’t say he had no reason to expect them.)

    Then there was the nature of the particular violations: Support for terror organizations, misleading the WMD inspectors so that every intelligence outfit in the world concluded he had operational WMD programs of some kind, developing prohibited-range delivery systems, and so on.

    Then there was the incipient end of the inspections regime itself, as French and Russian and German support waned (we’ll assume that the money to influential politicians in those countries via the Oil For Food program was coincidental). And the regrets of the free world that the cease-fire hadn’t been terminated right away, when Saddam gassed and butchered the Kurds and Shia by the thousands.

    And of course the incessant belligerent trash-talking from Saddam, year after year, and the potshots at American aircraft in the no-fly zone, the foiled assassination attempt on Bush 41…all got kinda old, as well.

    In short, the term you’re looking for is “insufficiently provoked to be kosher under the Just War Doctrine.” Put it that way, and you have a plausible case to make. But “unprovoked” — making it sound like the G.W.B. decided one day to invade Bermuda — is false.

    But that’s not so great an error. The use of the word “imperial” is where you went most wrong, here. Imperial ambitions sent Saddam into Kuwait and nearly into Saudi Arabia; but no American wants Iraq for a state, and would rather not have it as a protectorate, and would far rather buy its oil, than have the hassle of capturing it (as the whole invasion demonstrates).

    As a remedy, I give you President Reagan at the site of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, France, on the 40th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, noting how American forces were in the habit of arriving at need, liberating an occupied ally, and then leaving when no longer needed:

    The only territories we hold are memorials, like this one, and the graveyards where our heroes rest.

    Just so.

  • Joe H

    R.C.,

    I’m not going to debate the legitimacy of the Iraq war. It’s not really my intention.

    But your view of imperialism and American benevolence – and I say this even as I respect your reasonable and informed views on practically every other issue – is simply naive.

    “It undermines your credibility to accuse Bush of invading Iraq to build an empire.”

    It really undermines yours if you are denying the influence of the Project for a New American Century on the policies of the Bush administration. They weren’t a social club, they were a think-tank comprised of the administrations leading officials ultimately responsible for planning the invasion of Iraq.

    Imperialism is not about annexing territory anymore. Mostly it is about financial and economic power. In the case of Iraq, however, and its worth nothing to point out the first Gulf War as some sort of legitimate pretext for many reasons, it was an opportunity to take control of the world’s second largest oil reserves. Not necessarily to exploit it for money – no one ever argued that the oil would find its way to US consumers – but more importantly to keep it out of the hands of geopolitical rivals such as Germany and France, Russian and China, all of whom were negotiating deals with Saddam to exploit Iraq’s oil resources, and the latter had begun conducting his business in Euros.

    This isn’t just some far left fantasy, its acknowledged by real conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, and millions of other people who know the history of US involvement in Iraq – the US brought Saddam Hussein to power originally through the CIA, supported his Satanic regime in its war against Iran by helping it develop chemical and biological weapons, assured Saddam through its diplomats that it would look the other way if he annexed Kuwait, and then used the opportunity to invade to satisfy the ambitions of the military industrial complex. Why? Because it was the perfect combination of a state that had been weakened by a decade of constant warfare, led by a man who would command no sympathy on the world stage, sitting on top of the world’s second largest oil reserve. It was too good to pass up.

    Democrats and Republicans are complicit in this evil. There were never any WMDs and Bush made a big joke out of it, insulting the people who died in Iraq on both sides by doing a little comedy routine. Didn’t you see that?

    http://tiny.cc/zSsdA

    The joke’s on you too.

    Bush and his neocon ideologues resurrected the idea of preemptive warfare – the idea that the US has a right to attack anyone it deems a possible threat, on the basis of whatever criteria it chooses. As we know from the PNAC documents it can include even nations that could pose an economic threat.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    I may very well be na

  • Mark

    “I’m trying to decide if you’re trying to bait me with cynical questions…”

    No, I’m not. I save that for sites which include folks who promote America, Israel and the Catholic Church as the three greatest evils in the History of the world…. they are so much fun when they get into their “9-11 was an inside job” theories.

    “A Republican administration formulating imperial plans with a cabal of neoconservative intellectuals come up with the plan for …”

    I had hoped that this kind of radical left wing demagoguery was beneath you. Virtually every political leader in the world believed that Sadam had WMD. The odds that he moved them to Syria are much better than the entire world being wrong.

    “…but the blame still falls on those who launched the war of aggression”

    Wow, the “but mom, he started it” defense. Sorry Joe, if person A shoots and kills two people in a crowded mall and then hands the gun to person B who then shoots and kills three more people, do you really think the Judge is going to hold person A accountable for all five deaths and let person B walk?

    “I didn’t answer your last question because it was ridiculous.”

    It was extreme but not ridiculous. Absolutists almost always paint themselves into a corner too small for logical extapolation to survive.

    The real point I was trying to make was that the first thirty or so Popes of the Church were martyred. Though we enjoy extremely comfortable lifestyles compared to 99.99% of those who came before us, it is not outside the realm of possibility that our Holy Father could be treated as a military combatant again some time in the future. So my question to you is this: Which event do you believe would be a greater offense to God, the kidnapping and imprisonment of Pope Benedict by Muslim terrorists or the waterboarding of Khaled Shaikh Mohammad because we know he has information which can save thousands of innocent lives?

    “As for your last question – I am not a “neo-socialist”, much less a Bolshevik or a Maoist. I am a Distributist”

    I’m sorry if the term socialist offends you Joe, that is not my intention. As I understand it, distribution is consistent with the Church’s teaching on personal Charity. I have no problem with that. Where it all falls apart in my humble opinion is when government gets involved. Until further notification, Distribution + Government = Socialism … unless you can point me to an example of a country implementing this theory which can support your ideal. Practical application is always more important to me than theories.

  • Joe H

    Mark,

    PNAC is real, the affiliation that many administration officials had with it is real, its documents outlining and justifying American imperialism in the 21st century are real. It has nothing to do with the left or the right – as much as I disagree with Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan on some economic issues, I’d stand with them on this matter. You can hardly call them ‘far left’ or even soft left.

    As for economics, you make two false assumptions.

    The first is that an economic system must be associated with a national policy. Economic systems can exist anywhere – within countries, within regions, between countries, etc.

    Second, the assumption that there is no practical example. Show me a practical application of the so-called “free market” and I’ll find a way to buy you lunch. It never existed, it doesn’t exist now, and it never will exist.

    In the 20th century there has only been state-capitalism, command economy (communism), and third way alternatives existing in pockets throughout the globe, whether in places like India or places like Spain, where the world’s largest and most successful cooperative enterprise exists.

    There are thousands of workers cooperatives all over the world. There are no “free markets”. If practicality is what you want, then distributism beats the free market, which is only ever a theoretical model. If you want more details, read my blog post here:

    http://tiny.cc/9HTjc

    Finally, I repeat, once again, that what offense is “greater” is entirely irrelevant. If torture is wrong, then it is wrong no matter much more wrong something else is.

  • Joe H

    R.C.,

    I am not talking about anything remotely resembling “chip dumping”.

    First, it is worth noting that Popes such as John XXIII in his encyclical Mater et Magistra noted that imperialism and colonialism can continue in new forms, under different guises – and that it was still wrong, still immoral.

    Secondly, the United States, under the pretext of fighting the Cold War, manipulated and subverted governments, some of which were democratically elected, in the pursuit of geopolitical power.

    Thirdly, through its controlling interest in the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and other such organizations, the US and its European allies continue to use economic pressure and blackmail to shape the domestic policies of dozens of third world countries.

    These are imperial policies. Call it “neo-imperialism” if you must, but the bottom line is the same – a powerful nation, or in many cases, a cartel of nations, dominates the political and economic course of smaller, less powerful nations. Boots on the ground are optional.

    That said, the classical definition of imperialism that you offered is exactly what the neocons and Bush did to Iraq. There were no WMDs, and it is simply false to claim that every world leader believed that there were.

    Every world leader outside of the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” wanted to abide by the UN regulations that the US unilaterally disposed of in the pursuit of the illegal war. Every world leader outside of this coalition believed that the invasion was unjustifiable, reckless, and dangerous. Every person with eyes to see saw it for what it was – a power grab, an attempt to assert control over a vital economic resource as one part of an overall strategy to maintain sole superpower status – a status that for decades has been slowly slipping away as other countries began their full recoveries from the horrors of WWII, such as Japan and Western Europe, and now especially China.

    The people who ran this country for eight years belonged to a political think tank that stated these objectives in plain terms for anyone to read. The documents were written before they were in power, and it would be foolish to believe that once in power, they didn’t pursue their stated objectives.

  • Thomas More

    First of all, your conspiratorial statements are so clearly biased I’ll have to ignore the Iraq War stuff. As for support of evil regimes, you might want to think about the fact that ever single European country that opposed our Iraq effort was taking money under the table from Sadaam in the Oil for Food Scandal and that the freedom loving former soviet block countries joined us. Plus, we actually followed international law and after the expiration of UN Security Council resolution authority we signed a security agreement with the country of Iraq. Wow, sounds pretty imperialist to me.

    But to the main point. You said this: “Finally, I repeat, once again, that what offense is “greater” is entirely irrelevant. If torture is wrong, then it is wrong no matter much more wrong something else is.” This is wrong as a matter of the moral law. JPII said that in voting we must chose the lesser of the two evils, and Archbishop Burke reinforced this teaching at the national catholic prayer breakfast. Distributive justice demands that we use our limited resources to stop the greater evils first, which includes the wholesale slaughter and torture of 42 million children worldwide a year. To imply that proportionality of the evils and the harm does not matter violates Catholic teaching and the natural law, just read Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.

    You may now resume your Oliver Stone version of history. TM out.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    I am not talking about anything remotely resembling “chip dumping.”

    That was just by way of analogy; I was saying that such a thing was no more a literal “flood” than the invasion of Iraq was literal “imperialism.” I should probably have selected an analogy not involving international relations so as to make that more clear, or perhaps just skipped the analogy.

    First, it is worth noting that Popes such as John XXIII in his encyclical Mater et Magistra noted that imperialism and colonialism can continue in new forms, under different guises – and that it was still wrong, still immoral.

    Of course! But as I said before, plenty of things which are bad, unfair, unjust, nasty doin’s, or whatever, are not “imperialism” per se, let alone “war crimes.” If they’re wrong, they ought to be stopped short…but unlike war crimes, that “short stop” need not come at the end of a “long drop.”

    Now, I guess you could argue that this passage in the encyclical was intended to formally define the Church’s understanding of the word “imperialism” in such a way as to declare the U.S. presence in Japan in the late 40′s to be the same kind of thing as the Japanese presence in Nanking in the late 30′s or the Soviet presence in Hungary in the late 50′s.

    In that case, what I just said (saying that they’re different things, and only one of them deserves the term “imperialism”) would contradicts that teaching. (But I think that would be nearly as extravagant a reading of the text as those name-it-and-claim-it preachers who expound on John 14:13).

    Secondly, the United States, under the pretext of fighting the Cold War, manipulated and subverted governments, some of which were democratically elected, in the pursuit of geopolitical power. Thirdly, through its controlling interest in the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and other such organizations, the US and its European allies continue to use economic pressure and blackmail to shape the domestic policies of dozens of third world countries.

    Yes. A very worthy pretext! …but in some of those cases, it shouldn’t have done that.

    Are you under the impression the U.S. categorically should not ever have done any of the above? (Double Effect counts in international relations, too, and I’ll bet some of the instances you’re citing in your second and third categories include items about which not only I, but the smarter of the citizens of the countries involved, would say, “Yeah, but thank God the U.S. did that, because, consider the alternative.”)

    These are imperial policies. Call it “neo-imperialism” if you must, but the bottom line is the same – a powerful nation, or in many cases, a cartel of nations, dominates the political and economic course of smaller, less powerful nations. Boots on the ground are optional.

    You see, for me, they make a critical difference. If I think my country is getting shafted in trade negotiations, I’ll be vexed. When I happen to think about it.

    But I shall feel very differently, if I cannot elect my own leaders because a foreign power denies me that right, and if the occupier installs leaders who aren’t even beholden to me as a voter because I lack franchise, and if the personal freedoms I exercise in my daily life are more restricted than they would have otherwise been, and if all my property and the wealth of my nation was taken for the benefit foreigners, and if dissent on my part gets me shot or jailed or means reprisals against my family, and if every minute of every day I live in fear of a muzzle-flash from the rifles of foreign troops.

    Inability to vote for one’s own leaders makes a difference. Curtailed liberties and repression of dissent make a difference. Theft of one’s property makes a difference. Boots and guns make a difference.

    And even intended and actual outcome make a difference. We had “boots on the ground” in Japan in the late 40′s. But I ask you, did the Japanese of the late 50′s look back on that period the same way that the (remaining) people of Nanking in the late 40′s looked back on the Japanese “boots on the ground” in the late 30′s? Do the Japanese look back on the U.S. presence the way that Hungarians and Poles look back on the Soviet presence?

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    …continuing…

    That said, the classical definition of imperialism that you offered is exactly what the neocons and Bush did to Iraq. There were no WMDs, and it is simply false to claim that every world leader believed that there were.

    I think every statement in this quote is wrong.

    (a.) The intent was to do in Iraq what was done in Japan and Germany. If Japan and Germany, circa 1960, were not our imperial vassals, then neither will Iraq be, circa 2018.

    And note that it is our intent that they not be. One could never argue that the Soviets dearly hoped that by the turn of the millennium, Poland and Hungary would be equal partners and friendly powers interacting on the world stage with autonomy.

    But that is exactly what the U.S. achieved with Germany and Japan, and what we hope to achieve with Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that no difference at all? Would the Hungarians and Poles think it makes no difference?

    (b.) There were no WMD stockpiles, only reconstitutable programs awaiting the (imminent) collapse of the inspection regime. But who knew? So far as we are aware, Saddam tricked U.S., German, Israeli, French, and British intelligence services into thinking he had something somewhere…otherwise why play cat-and-mouse with the inspectors for so long?

    And of course he’d had, and used, chemical weapons previously. It’s not like it would have been out-of-character!

    But it was a bluff. He wanted his neighbors to think he had them, to maintain his “tough hombre” image, while hoping the major powers thought he didn’t, and didn’t end the ceasefire.

    Turns out that play was too clever by half, and the major powers wound up thinking the same thing his neighbors thought, and one of those major powers was ticked-off enough about it to end the ceasefire. Whoops.

    Now from a P.R. point-of-view, it was a Bush administration error to play up the WMD item, as if it were the sole or main justification. Remember that list of about eighteen items in the state-of-the-union address? WMD was one. But it was probably thought to be a safe justification, ’cause everybody knew he had them. John Kerry knew. The Clintons knew. Ted Kennedy knew. (They’re all on record speechifying about it.)

    Every world leader outside of the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” wanted to abide by the UN regulations that the US unilaterally disposed of in the pursuit of the illegal war.

    Illegal under what (U.S.) law?

    And, just who else was to enforce the ceasefire agreement terms laid out in resolutions 686, 687, 688, 986, and 1441? What good is a conditional ceasefire without conditions?

    Every person with eyes to see saw it for what it was – a power grab, an attempt to assert control over a vital economic resource as one part of an overall strategy to maintain sole superpower status.

    Sorry, but I regard that as tantamount to saying, “Every person with eyes to see saw the lunar landing for what it was – a propaganda stunt probably produced in Hollywood.”

    Or perhaps it’s not so much conspiracy-theorizing as it is projection. For had the Russians or Chinese done it, I suspect it would have been closer to what you say. So it’s only natural for folks who lived through the Cultural Revolution or under the thumb of the KGB, that they should view it in that way.

    But Joe, you live here. What’s your excuse?

    Sorry. That’s too strong. You and I see eye-to-eye on other items and I don’t intend any disrespect.

    But I just don’t think you and I will see any rapprochement on this topic; there’s way too much daylight between our worldviews, and especially how we ascribe motives to the decisions made between 2001 and 2003.

  • Joe H

    You might try understanding the point before you comment.

    What we have an obligation to address first is a separate issue from the intrinsic morality of an act. Because a situation might require that one thing be addressed before the other, doesn’t mean that the other is objectively or inherently good or “not evil”.

    Secondly, Mark’s scenario is preposterous. We are not and never will be faced with such a choice.

    Thirdly, if you want to stay blind, stay blind. I’ll pray that God shines the light of wisdom on you.

  • Joe H

    You’re right. We won’t see eye to eye on this.

    But I do want to say that this is not a “conspiracy theory”. If it is, it’s the most poorly concealed conspiracy in history. It’s simply what happened, and the people who planned and carried out the invasion admitted it. Read their documents.

  • Mark

    “Mark’s scenario is preposterous. We are not and never will be faced with such a choice.” – Joe

    Well Joe, you must have a crystal ball. Do you know for a fact that the Holy Father will never be a target? Do you not remember Mehmet Ali Agca and the “work” he did for the Soviets?

    I’ll simplify this so as to make my position perfectly clear:

    - I do not believe that waterboarding rises to the level of torture.

    - I believe that America uses waterboarding precisely because we do not torture. I’ve come to this conclusion after listening to Fr. Sirico on EWTN and having several open minded discussions with close friends who are Marine recruiters, DEA agents and former military.

    - I believe that people who obsess over waterboarding are doing so for political expedience… when looking at the big picture, it is a very insignificant issue.

    - I believe that arbitrary and false imprisonment rises to the level of torture.

    - I believe that the imprisonment of an innocent Priest (and this is not a preposterous scenario since it happens often in China alone) is a far greater offense to God than waterboarding a known terrorist for vital information which can save innocent lives.

    Now, if you conclude “sure, imprisonment of innocent Priests is bad, but it isn’t torture” I suggest you rethink your priorities or come up with a word that means “worse than torture but not torture”

    Now, I will be a gentleman and allow you the last word.

    Thanks Joe.

  • Joe H

    Mark,

    I’ve made it clear a few times by now that I think many things can be torture if it is used in a certain way.

    I’ll say again, that whether or not waterboarding is torture or not is not the issue – was it used as torture? The answer is yes. Read the report of the Senate Armed Services Committee – Rumsfeld was clearly looking for ways to apply techniques developed to train US soldiers to withstand torture from regimes not abiding by the Geneva Conventions to detainees in US military prisons. This is documented fact. Guantanamo and Abu Ghriab tortured prisoners as a matter of policy.

    Frankly I am not obsessed with what happened to one man, wrong though I think it was. I don’t think many of us are. But it makes for a nice strawman doesn’t it?

    Finally, I still have no idea why arbitrary imprisonments carried out by another country have any relevance in this debate whatsoever. The issue is torture.

  • Joe S

    If torture is instrinsically evil it cannot be justified on the grounds that the SEAL is more fit than you or I to endure it.

    Torture is intrinsically evil. Is waterboarding the SEAL actually “torture”? I’m sure that there are limits to how it’s applied to the SEAL? You can torture someone by tickling them as well, is that torture?

    You state that you doubt that the Church will sanction parental correction on what basis? Oh that’s right interpretation of the list!

    Is common sense enough of a basis? I also pointed out that when done excessively, it’s abuse. As with my reply to your comments about the SEAL, sometimes torture can be determined by degree.

    With respect to slavery, you interpreted the term in the Gadium et Spes list to only apply to slavery of the innocent not the guilty, why cannot the same be said for other items on the list like torture?

    When you torture someone, how do you know they are truly guilty, or that they have valid info in the first place?

    With respect to Pope Leo X, guess what Veritas Splendor was not ex cathedra either if you want to play that game.

    Are you trying to place Veritatis Splendor, a document that defines a teaching on morals, on the same level as a thoroughly barbaric way of executing someone? Declaring a method of executing heretics (or any criminal) not a heresy is not within the scope of Catholic teaching, because the Church is not (nor should it ever have been) in the business of executing anyone.

    Finally, I’m not engaged in political baiting. Those who continue to focus on torture as being a bush administration issue are. They keep talking about torture in the past when the gravest form of torture, the torture of innocent children is part of the current president’s platform. I think a little consistency is needed.
    Instead, JoeH accuses me of introducing a big smelly red hearing and he claims that the dismemberment of children to the point of death has NOTHING to do with the morality of torture? This leaves me scratching my head. This is the definition of immoral torture! Even the author of the “torture” memos agreed that dismemberment is torture. Yet JoeH cannot seem to declare it torture. Obama has always endorsed and now as president actually uses his power to implement child dismemberment, aka torture, of millions of children at home and abroad, if those of you who protest against waterboarding are incapable of acknowledging this I do not see how your arguments claiming torture to be an intrinsic moral evil or that waterboarding is torture make any sense.

    Abortion isn’t torture as much as it is simply cruel, barbaric murder. However, you are right about JoeH being wrong. Both torture and abortion are crimes against the dignity of the person. Therefore, the teachings against abortion and the teaching against torture have the same theological basis. In light of this, both presidents support immoral practices.

  • Joe

    You can torture someone by tickling them as well, is that torture?

    I meant to ask, “Is ticking torture if not done excessively?”

    My point is that waterboarding the SEAL, if not done excessively is a way to perhaps toughen them up. Basically, some things could be torture if done excessively enough. Sorry for not being more clear.

  • Thomas More

    Excuse me JoeS. But do you mean to tell me that your interpretation of Catholic moral theology is that: (1) waterboarding is torture; (2) we can waterboard SEALs, innocent men, who are only guilty of wanting to defend our country, to “toughen them up”; and (3) we cannot waterboard already toughened up, terrorists thugs (who have been lawfully declared as such under the rules of war, Article III and the courts it creates are not required as a matter of morals or law), who have put into place plans to kill Americans for the self defense of innocent people? It makes no sense!

    And yes I think the Papal Bull that declared Martin Luther a heretic is equivalent to a non-ex cathedra teaching letter from another Pope. They are both define a teaching on morals. Pope Leo X defined what moral teachings of Luther are wrong and Pope John Paul II defined the basics of moral philosophy and gave what he thought were good examples of intrinsic evils. But if you are in the mood to accept Lutheranism, reject Leo X’s letter. Otherwise, you cannot accept one letter and reject the other simply because you do not like the contents.

    Lastly, you never answered the question, is the Thirteenth Amendment instrinsically immoral? And common sense or not, interpreting spanking (non abusive) out of anything that coerces the will requires just that “interpretation” and not a literalist reading of the list in Gadium et Spes.

    Thanks

  • Joe S

    I’m afraid you’re calling me on things that I didn’t say. But I’ll try to address everything.

    Excuse me JoeS. But do you mean to tell me that your interpretation of Catholic moral theology is that: (1) waterboarding is torture;

    It is torture. It does damage. I suppose the fact that it causes psychiatric damage slipped your mind.

    (2) we can waterboard SEALs, innocent men, who are only guilty of wanting to defend our country, to “toughen them up”; and

    They volunteer to be SEALs, firstly. Secondly, I’m sure it isn’t done to the extent that we did it to terrorist suspects. It’s probably the equivalent of exposing troops to tear gas. I don’t know much about it, I only assume it’s to toughen them up. I am questioning whether it’s done to the extent to which it is applied to suspects.

    (3) we cannot waterboard already toughened up, terrorists thugs (who have been lawfully declared as such under the rules of war, Article III and the courts it creates are not required as a matter of morals or law), who have put into place plans to kill Americans for the self defense of innocent people? It makes no sense!

    In your mind, in terms of degree, you’re saying this:

    waterboarding SEALs = waterboarding terrorists

    I’m arguing that since it is part of a SEAL’s training, in terms of degree:

    waterboarding SEALs != waterboarding terrorists

    waterboarding SEALs < waterboarding terrorists

    I doubt if we waterboarded any of our SEALs 183 times. So your sense of proportion seems a little off.

    And yes I think the Papal Bull that declared Martin Luther a heretic is equivalent to a non-ex cathedra teaching letter from another Pope. They are both define a teaching on morals. Pope Leo X defined what moral teachings of Luther are wrong and Pope John Paul II defined the basics of moral philosophy and gave what he thought were good examples of intrinsic evils. But if you are in the mood to accept Lutheranism, reject Leo X’s letter. Otherwise, you cannot accept one letter and reject the other simply because you do not like the contents.

    Now I’m confused. You mentioned that Pope Leo X declared it a heresy that it isn’t moral to burn heretics at the stake. If this statement was made in the papal bull you mention, then it is still outside the scope of Church teaching–the Church is not in the business of executing people. You can accept that Martin Luther is a heretic, but still reject that it is heresy to believe that it isn’t moral to burn heretics at the stake.

    If a pope from the past wrote a papal bull declaring the heliocentric solar system heresy, but also stated that abortion was immoral (in the same letter, so we’re clear), what would be the most sensible thing for us today, living in our heliocentric solar system?

    Lastly, you never answered the question, is the Thirteenth Amendment instrinsically immoral? And common sense or not, interpreting spanking (non abusive) out of anything that coerces the will requires just that “interpretation” and not a literalist reading of the list in Gadium et Spes.

    I’m fairly sure I already addressed this, but no, the 13th amendment is not intrinsically immoral. I don’t understand the point: slavery is immoral. But any just punishment is just that: just. This is a flimsy argument you are making. It’s just like when you tried to argue that forcing inmates to do garbage pickup, and arguing that it’s a form of slavery. It’s punishment. This still doesn’t help you in your argument. The only link I can see between what you’re arguing here and about torture, is you’re quibbling. That doesn’t help your case.

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