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Erin on Moral Clarity and Torture

This is Matt: We here at CMR have been huge fans of Erin Manning who blogs over at And Sometimes Tea. And so we wanted to have Erin write over here once a week for the next month as a guest blogger. I think CMR could use some female perspective - other than Patrick's. So enjoy Erin's post. Heeeeeeerrrre's Erin!!!!!!!

When Matt and Patrick honored me last week with their invitation to write a few blog posts for them this month, I was glad to accept, and grateful for the opportunity. I'm still glad and grateful, but what I have to write about this week is a bit more serious in tone than what I'd anticipated writing about when this guest-posting privilege started.

A couple of years ago, I started noticing all the discussions about the morality of torture that were cropping up in the Catholic blogosphere. As a conservative and someone who voted for GOP candidates more often than not (though I'd had a few forays into the fun of voting for independents), I hadn't really given much thought to the issue. Sure, torture was immoral; and torture was defined loosely in my mind as "Really really bad stuff that does permanent physical damage to people, but only if it's being done to innocent people by bad guys." Since Americans weren't bad guys, terrorists weren't innocent, and waterboarding didn't leave permanent damage (well, not most of the time, anyway; I was unaware then that it could actually kill people, which is pretty permanent by anybody's definition) I wasn't too interested in the debate.

Or I thought I wasn't. But it seemed like "my side" was taking a beating, if you'll forgive the metaphor. So I started entering in the combox discussions, wondering how we could define torture, doubting that the Church really meant enhanced interrogation when she said that torture was evil, and generally acting as though moral clarity on this issue was a practical impossibility.

The story of how that changed and I came to realize that I was out of line with Church teaching is really the story of how better-informed Catholics (one in particular) didn't give up trying to show me how wrong I was. Eventually the light dawned, and I realized that I was trying to make the teaching fit various political ideas I had, instead of seeking the truth as a starting point. And I realized, too, how right these guys had been: I really was trying to bend Church teaching to my notions, instead of sincerely trying to understand.

I wrote about those things on my blog, and from time to time would address the issue of torture from my new-found understanding that the Church says torture is evil, that this includes things we try to dismiss euphemistically as "enhanced interrogation," that there is no "good guys exemption" to allow us to torture prisoners, and that there's also no "Jack Bauer ticking-time-bomb exemption" which somehow transforms torture into a good and noble act if we can just concoct a wildly unlikely-enough scenario to justify its use. I even, about a year ago, stuck a little picture on my blog sidebar which read "Coalition for Clarity/Because Torture is Intrinsically Evil." But that was all I did.

Until last week.

It started with a question from a reader. What was the Coalition for Clarity? she asked. Was there an actual group of Catholic bloggers opposed to torture?

Good question--so I wrote a blog post about it. There should be such a group, I said.

And the response was overwhelming. I had emails and comments and post links from Catholics saying, in essence, "Sign me up." But there wasn't anywhere to sign them up; the group was still fictional. I had written the blog post sort of hoping some qualified person would realize that such a group was needed and would create one--but it dawned on me that I shouldn't be asking others to do something I wasn't willing to do myself.

So I started a blog called Coalition for Clarity. Meanwhile Tom McDonald and Sean Dailey had had the idea to start up a Facebook page with that title, too (to which they graciously added me once I broke down and signed up for a Facebook account). And considering this whole thing has only been going on since Wednesday of last week, the response continues to be amazing.

Now, maybe you're a bit like I used to be. You haven't given the issue of torture much thought, or you've let partisan beliefs set the tone for what you think of the idea. Maybe you've even, as I (to my shame) used to do, thought of the Church's teaching that torture is evil as one of those nice ivory-tower things--sure, in a perfect world, torture might be evil, but if national security demands it here and now in our fallen world, well then, etc. If that describes how you think about torture, may I respectfully suggest you consider giving it a bit more thought? Perhaps delving into the Catechism's mention of torture, or reading through some key sections of Veritatis Splendor, or seeking out other sources of Church teaching on the topic? I hadn't yet done even that much when I used to insist that whatever torture was, the things Americans were doing or asking to do couldn't possibly be included.

Or maybe you're the opposite--you're someone who has been teaching and writing against torture since before many Americans even realized that it was being done. Maybe you're wondering why an upstart with no moral theology training or background is even involved in this effort (and nobody wonders that more than I do, believe me). If that's you, won't you consider becoming a contributor to the Coalition for Clarity blog?

I think we have a unique opportunity as Catholics to stand up now, before we reach a situation where one political party is enthusiastically pro-torture and the other is "Personally opposed, but..." on the issue, and be clear about the fact that the Church teaches that torture is evil. But we can't do that unless our fellow Catholics know what the Church teaches. Right now, according to this Pew Forum survey, 51% of Catholics surveyed believed that torture was "often justified" or "sometimes justified" if it was being used to get information from suspected terrorists--and the question asked used the word "torture," not "enhanced interrogation" or any other euphemism. A response like that shows that when it comes to torture, many of us Catholics could use a little moral clarity.

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167 comments:

Carol said...

"51% of Catholics"? C'mon the majority of Catholics are not Catholics and think they are so that doesn't hold too much water for me. I couldn't help it. I just had to point that out. Carry on...

P. Button said...

Though I wonder if torture might be justified in some cases, I submit to the wisdom of the Church. Just as we remind liberal Catholics to be obedient to the Church's teaching on abortion, so must we be obedient to the Church's teaching on torture.

Jay Anderson said...

Matt said: I think CMR could use some female perspective - other than Patrick's."

LOL! Brothers are great.

Anonymous said...

Torture is evil. Waterboarding is not torture. End of issue.

SarahL said...

Thank you for this. Like you, I hadn't given it much thought until recently. As Catholics, though, we don't have the luxury of remaining in ignorance as to the Church's teaching on any matter of faith and morals. Looks like I have some homework to do.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Erin-- one question I've always had (and I'm posting it over here instead of on your blog so the whole CMR crowd can get involved...:) ):

Why does the Church treat torture so differently from the Death penalty? The Church seems to recognize the death penalty as licit in places where local infrastructure can't handle imprisonment (can't see how it could EVER be allowed in modern US, though, but that's another discussion.)

So why is torture-in-a-Jack-Bauer-situation absolutely forbidden while the death penalty is not? Does it have something to do with goals (breaking the prisoner's will, versus punishing him and hopefully leading him to repent?)?

Jay Anderson said...

I'm sure this is going to come off much stronger than I intend, but I believe it is something that needs to be said.

I oppose torture - including such so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" as waterboarding - under ANY circumstances (ticking time bomb included). While I have not been as outspoken on the issue as Mark Shea, I have put my anti-torture views front and center on several occasions. For example, when Catholics Against Rudy was in its early stages, I argued strongly that Giuliani's torture stance should be front and center in our campaign to illustrate where his public record fell short of Catholic teaching. Also, when Sam Brownback failed to speak out strongly against waterboarding during one of the GOP presidential debates, I publicly withdrew my support from him. Mark Shea even highlighted my letter to Brownback at his own blog.

So, I'll put my anti-torture bona fides up against anyone's, including Mark Shea's. And if anyone - on the basis of what I am about to write - wishes to dismiss me as part of the so-called "rubber-hose right" or a member of the "vast neo-con project" or a "Republicath" (I am a member of no poltical party) or any other epithet to imply that I am somehow more loyal to some political agenda than I am to the Church's social teaching, then you're barking up the wrong tree.

That said, I am reluctant to join anything billing itself as the "Coalition for Clarity" for a number of reasons: (1) I am uncomfortable with the whole "Coalition for Fog"/"Coalition for Charity" dicotomy since I have faithful Catholic friends (Shea would label them "Faithful Conservative Catholics[TM]") who oppose torture, yet who have been unfairly accused of being for "fog" in the torture debates; (2) I'm not so sure that "clarity" is actually being sought, but rather see the effort as something more along the lines of "we're not like the the people who Shea has labeled as being 'for fog'"; and (3) nothing about the name overtly or otherwise indicates exactly what it is the group stands for.

So, I beg your indulgence while I offer this humble suggestion. How about you drop the cute euphemism, which is really nothing more than a play on Mark's overly theatrical name calling, and adopt a straightforward name that says what you REALLY mean and what you REALLY stand for? Something like ... I don't know ... "Catholics Against Torture"?

That is, unless the REAL purpose of the group REALLY IS to show that you're not associated with people that Mark likes to call names.

Karen LH said...

I'd second Jay's suggestion for a name change. I agree with Mark's views on torture, but the way he's conducted himself in the discussion has really left a bad taste in my mouth. I would join a group named "Catholics Against Torture", but not one named "Coalition for Clarity".

Anonymous said...

I tried to debate this issue and was treated in a vicious way. Mark kicked me off his blog, called me names, and never actually engaged the issues. If we treated a terrorist the way he treated me he would complain that it was torture. Is waterboarding actually torture? Each side assumes it is or isn't. But it isn't clear. Also there is a sense that this is used as a way to bash Bush and the GOP rather then it being a moral issue. There is no effort to address torture of US soldiers and civilians at the hands of the terrorists. Only one group seems to be able to claim protection. As a veteran I find that offensive. I find the lack of charity and clarity on this issue is troubling.

Jay Anderson said...

Waterboarding is most definitely torture. It is clear.

Chip said...

I am not sure I agree with the last post, in that I am not sure there are many people (sane ones, at least) who still care to bash the Bush administration. Not only doesn't doing so accomplish anything, but it would have to be hard to get many people to care about Bush anymore (and I say that as someone who believes his conduct in office will be vindicated, and he will be viewed eventually as one of our better Presidents on balance).

Here's *my* problem with the Coalition for Clarity. If the clarity we are seeking is a precise (or at least workable) definition of torture, then I am all for clarifying that. After all, I believe that most of what was inflicted on our soldiers and airmen in Vietnamese prison camps falls outside the pale. On the other hand, if loud music is torture, then I tortured my father and mother throughout the 70's and into the 80's. Or if not heating or cooling a cell or other confinement facility to the same level as the barracks of those providing security is torture, then I am not sure I can buy in.

There is no lack of clarity for those of us faithful Catholics (including some clergy, such as meself) on the subject of torture. Torture is intrinsically evil. End of story.

The lack of clarity comes in, as I commented on some other blog last week when the Coalition for Clarity was announced, when one tries to define torture. To use a lame parallel example, if the Church declares "Cha-Cha" as intrinsically evil, it would be danged wise of us all to ensure we no what "Cha-Cha" entails, so that we can avoid it! I challenge anyone to come up with a simple definition of torture that does not require any qualification at all, and that simultaneously passes the "makes sense" test. You have GOT to define your terms better than just "I know it when I see it".

So...help me out. Define it, so that I may condemn it as intrinsically evil. (Otherwise, you are going to have the same problem as we have in judging the morality or justice of a particular war: The actor gets to be the decider. George Bush had to decide if war on Iraq was justified; while your opinion and mine is interesting, it has absolutely no bearing on the morality of the decision. George, and God, will have to work that out at his particular judgment. Your opinion doesn't matter!)

So...definitions, anyone?

Red Cardigan said...

Jay, I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

Here's the thing, though: if someone wants to start a companion group called "Catholics against Torture," I'd be all for that, and would link to it from the Coalition blog page etc. But "Catholics against Torture" would be three things, I think, that the Coalition for Clarity isn't trying to be:

1. A group whose main goals/aims are directed outward at everyone, not inward at our fellow Catholics;
2. A group whose goals/aims would be mainly political;
3. A group where there would (at least theoretically) be plenty of room for Catholics who say, "Why, sure, I'm against torture! But waterboarding, cold cells, sleep deprivation and other enhanced interrogation tactics aren't torture..." etc.

The Coalition for Clarity's goals/aims, as I see them, are the following:
1. To provide information including links etc. regarding the Church's teachings on torture and discussions of those teachings, for those Catholics who may not have considered the issue deeply;
2. To reach those Catholics who presently reject the Church's teaching against torture (and btw, that 51% number overwhelmingly includes regular church attendees--in fact, regardles of denomination, the Christians who are most likely to favor torture are those who attend church services regularly;
3. To raise awareness among people generally (Catholics and others) that to be pro-torture/pro-"enhanced interrogation" isn't really a position that is consistent with Catholic teaching.

That said, I'd be thrilled if someone started a "Catholics against Torture" group. The more voices are heard on this issue, the better chance we have to fight against the acceptance of torture as a casualty of modern warfare or some such thing.

Patrick Archbold said...

We here at CMR have not waded into this discussion much. We will be doing so in the near future.

One of the main reasons we haven't discussed it much is because it rarely is an actual discussion. Rather it is usually confined to name calling and holier than thou demagoguery.

As a Catholic I am against torture. Fine. How does that help? What is sorely needed is a practical discussion on the limits of coercion in such cases.

Many of the most active voices in this discussion are the least interested in truth preferring vague Catholic litmus tests over actual definition and argumentation.

I am grateful for Erin's post because there is much with I agree as I do with what Jay had to say.

There are others with different views on where the line should be drawn, but it serves no one to be reduced to hurling catchy but meaningless epithets.

I want to hear what they have to say even if I don't agree. To that end, we will be trying to engage in this debate here in the near future and hope it will be fruitful.

All name callers will be tortured.

Matthew said...

I think one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is how torture DOES NOT rise to level of abortion, in terms of how evil it is.

Jay Anderson said...

Erin,

Whether or not it's "Catholics Against Torture", "Catholic Social Teaching Against Torture", or something completely different, I still think the current moniker carries too much baggage and, for that reason, is not something in which I care to participate.

And let's be honest: "clarity" is not being sought. I, for one, agree with Mark Shea and Tom Kreitzberg and others that it is a dangerous game of brinkmanship once you start trying to draw hard lines. I don't think we want to play the game of "How much can I get away with in getting this prisoner to talk before I'm guilty of torture?" any more than Mark does. But to just leave it at that without acknowledging that some additional guidance might be helpful (without continually referring people to the Army Field Manual - what if the Army Field Manual suddenly adopted morally offensive techniques?), or to merely thump Veritatis Splendor even louder in response to questioning, or to dismiss questioners as politically tainted or insufficiently Catholic (and I freely acknowledge that many of those asking questions are not necessarily acting with the purest of motives; others truly are trying to find the truth of what the Church teaches) is NOT "clarifying" ANYTHING.

Look, I'm on your side here. If the name doesn't sit well with me, then perhaps something isn't quite right. Just my opinion, of course.

But, sorry, I'm not interested in anything calling itself the "Coalition for Clarity".

Anonymous said...

This can be a touchy subject, especially if we don't have a clear definition of torture to work from. We are a military household, but we are Catholic first. I would say, as a Catholic I am with the Church and find the use of torture to be immoral. Whereas I disagree with many folks that water boarding falls under the definition of torture. My husband has been water boarded, as part of his training. He does not call water boarding torture. It's frightening, yes, but not torture.

Normally I post here using my name, but for the sake of this discussion and for the protection of my family, I will post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Waterboarding, cold cells, sleep deprivation and loud music are NOT torture, by UN definition, see below. We do them as part of US troop training and NO ONE says we torture our OWN troops / US citizens.

Here's a Reuters from March 2008 that a proposed law making waterboarding (the most problematic item) illegal was vetoed. It WAS LEGAL!

Torture is evil. No one questions this. But what is torture? Not having cable TV? Rough sheets? Lots of ham, pork chops and bacon? Barney songs over and over? Pink uniforms?

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN08379875
UN approved December 1984 - United Nations Convention Against, Article 1.1
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Implementation of the Convention Against Torture (8 CFR sec. 1208.18), that are the actual rules enacted pursuant to America's criminal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 (U.S.C. = United States Code). The first 6 sections convey the heart of the issue: (1) torture is the intentional infliction of severe pain & suffering for such purposes as extracting confessions; (2) torture does not include lesser forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treat; (3) torture does not include pain inflicted incidental to lawful sanctions, including the death penalty; (4) torture entails threatened or actual prolonged physical or mental harm; (5) torture covers acts "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain & suffering"--the result must be actually intended; (6) torture can only be conducted upon someone in the offender's physical custody or control--battlefield combat doesn't apply.

Anonymous said...

I think the last few posts are instructive. We don't have a definition that we all agree on. Some argue waterboarding is torture and others just as vehemently say it isn't. I once worked in prison. We had offenders who were in isolation and they called it torture. However, these offenders were violent psychopaths who would kill and rape (sometimes in that order) other offenders. Didn't the other offenders have the right to not be subject to predators in their midst? We HAD to keep these men in isolation for the protection of the innocent...well less guilty offenders. Was this torture? Or would it be torture to let them out to prey on the weak? We should be against torture, but we should also begin to clarify what it is and to what level of sin it might arise in extreme situations. For example if there was a ticking bomb and a terrified soldier tortured a terrorist to disable the bomb is that a mortal sin since he was acting out of extreme fear? These are issues that should be discussed and debated, not shut down or shouted down by Mark.

Early Riser said...

I think if anyone is in doubt, they should subject themselves to waterboarding to see if it is indeed torture. I think that would summarily put the issue to rest in their minds.

Deirdre - to answer your question, the reason torture is "right out" as the Monty Python monk says, while the death penalty is needed in some situations has to do with the arbitor and the "end-game" so to speak. For someone to receive the death penalty, there are a number of factors and absolutes that should be addressed (the crime itself, the potential to repeat it, the impact on society and numbers of potential victims should it be repeated etc). In the question of torture, there are simply no absolutes; does the person actually have intel? is the intel useful? is the person willing under any circumstance to actually give the intel? And most importantly, does the person conducting the torture REALLY have the qualifications to conduct the session and ensure the safety of the person under torture (i.e. that this person will not be "accidentally" killed).

During torture sessions, the entire scene boils down to the "gut feeling" of the interrogator(s). There is no arbitor, no societal approval or consensus, no due process or assurances of any sort. No one can "guarantee" that the person will survive torture. I hope this makes sense here. It's a bit difficult to formulate in a com-box.

Jay Anderson said...

I'm still mystified by the claim that waterboarding is not torture. Shouldn't we at least be able to agree that any physical coercion of a prisoner beyond what is necessary to restrain or move said prisoner is off limits? Interrogation should involve asking questions, not exerting physical pressure.

I mean, that seems like the sort of basic and obvious definition of torture (at least obvious to me): you can't coerce answers from a prisoner by physically violating that person's bodily integrity.

Maybe I'm naive.

Red Cardigan said...

Well, Jay, the waterboarding issue is one of the many areas where what is need is, forgive me, clarity. Hence the name. It's not about being cute--it's about addressing the real problem, which is, to me, that so many Catholics (and I was one of them myself!) seem so unclear about what constitutes torture.

As to the points raised by the Anonymous poster at 3:22, I think the question of intent is the important one. If a prisoner is being isolated for the safety of other prisoners, clearly that's not torture, just as keeping a concussion victim awake and talking is not the same as sleep deprivation intended to cause suffering and eventual physical collapse. If the prison's heating system fails and cells are cold, that's not torture, even if there are no spare blankets to hand out. If you put a prisoner nearly naked into a 35 degree cell to see how long he can stand it before he'll tell you what you want to know, then you intend to hurt him and coerce his will by the means of the suffering.

We get this in other contexts, don't we? If a parent sends a child to bed without supper as a necessary punishment, that's parental discipline. But if a parent withholds a meal from a diabetic child who must eat, solely because the parent thrives on rushing the child to the hospital for medical "emergencies," that's both child abuse and a dangerous psychological problem on the part of the parent.

There are millions of possible examples, but the question that to me needs to be asked more often than it is is this: Does the person intend to torture, that is, to use "...physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred..." as the Catechism puts it? Since I see the seeking of information about terror activities as one kind of extracting of confessions, then those things which use physical or moral violence to achieve this object qualify as torture.

Is waterboarding "physical violence?" Sure it is. Being strapped down while somebody forcibly pours enough water into your nose and mouth to make your body think it is drowning is nothing if not violent. So waterboarding is torture.

Anonymous said...

Waterboarding is very uncomfortable, very unpleasant. That does not equate with torture. Waterboarding is not torture. Read what John Woo has stated about how waterboarding allowed detained terrorists to say they had given resistance before divulging information that U.S. intelligence services used to thwart attacks. There were/are no permanent or severe painful feelings associated with waterboarding.

Anonymous said...

Red said "If a prisoner is being isolated for the safety of other prisoners, clearly that's not torture."

But when you isolate them for the safety of innocents it is torture? Yeah, that makes sense.

Brian Walden said...

The Catechism states: "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."

The death penalty is physical violence that punishes the guilty, but it's a magisterial teaching that a legitimate authority has recourse to it's use. Obviously the Church teaches proper use of the death penalty (or just war, legitimate self defense, etc) is not moral violence, but unless physical violence means something other than harm to the body, how is it not physical violence? Surely something has been lost in pithiness of that sentence from the Catechism. Is the issue justice? Justice sometimes requires the physical violence of the death penalty - hence it isn't torture?

I'm willing to call waterboarding someone who hasn't been found guilty as an interrogation technique morally wrong. But what about someone who has been found guilty? Say someone convicted of of kidnapping a child where the child hasn't been found. Could justice ever allow waterboarding, which causes extreme discomfort and fear but no actual damage when properly administered, be used in such a situation. I'm pretty sure the constitution would not allow this, but in a hypothetical situtation where it wasn't prohibited by positive law could it be permitted by moral law?

WingletDriver said...

I have some simple questions for those who consider waterboarding torture because they equate it with illicit physical violence:

Is it O.K. to spank a child?

Is it O.K. for the police to arrest anybody at all?

Is it O.K. for a government to collect taxes with the understood penalty for tax evasion being incarceration (except if you're Tim Geitner)?

Is it O.K. to keep the knickerbomber in custody, guarded by armed men who will impose physical violence to ensure his incarceration?

Anonymous said...

There is no effort to address torture of US soldiers and civilians at the hands of the terrorists.

Mostly because we do not control the terrorists. If we did control, then damn sure we would address it. It is presumed that we do control our own forces.

Waterboarding, cold cells, sleep deprivation and loud music are NOT torture, by UN definition, see below. We do them as part of US troop training and NO ONE says we torture our OWN troops / US citizens.

So if our enemies did it to one of us to get us to confess to crimes against Islam or whatever, it would not be torture. I guess there's no difference between doing something with someone's consent as part of training and doing something without someone's consent for your own purposes - no difference between consensual sex and rape, huh?

Anonymous said...

Surely something has been lost in pithiness of that sentence from the Catechism. Is the issue justice? Justice sometimes requires the physical violence of the death penalty - hence it isn't torture?

The death penalty can devolve into a form of torture if done without respecting the dignity of the person - it then goes beyond mere justice. For example, rather than lethal injection with a drug that is painless, or using a quick method where pain is minimized as much as possible, say the executioner decides to drag the person's body naked through the town streets until dead - that would be torture. The action chosen is no longer meant to meet the needs of justice by forfeiture of life, but to inflict pain and anguish beyond the means necessary and avaliable. In short, to torture. Even in its teachings on the death penalty, the Church has not taught that any means of execution are proper.

Anonymous said...

One of the other key elements (which is at the root of many sins) is using the person as a means to an end and not respecting that person as an end in himself. I think that is where the CCC is going with "contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." Torture is intended to render the subject of the action incapable of resisting, thereby incapable of willing, and merely using this person as an object to obtain information - no longer a human being.

Anonymous said...

Not to be overly simplistic, but our three year old son believes taking a bath is torture. We have to get physical with him even to get him in the water. He also believes he's going to drown when we wash his hair. No matter how much we reassure him he is not going to drown, he still reacts as if he is drowning, and believe me, we are VERY gentle with him.

Obviously, this in not torture, just because he says it is. Who then gets to decide what constitutes actual torture?

Anonymous said...

"there's also no 'Jack Bauer ticking-time-bomb exemption' which somehow transforms torture into a good and noble act if we can just concoct a wildly unlikely-enough scenario to justify its use."

So, if a missile is approaching the earth that will destroy the entire planet and we know that waterboarding someone to give us a code to divert the missile will save everyone, the Church will tell us not to waterboard the person?

In other words, we know 100% that there are only two outcomes: 1) the planet is destroyed 2) we waterboard and save everyone.

And the Church chooses #1?

That sounds silly. Could someone explain this please, or supply a reference to a Catholic document providing an explanation?

Early Riser said...

Anonymous @ 4:12 do you know how many people have died during Waterboarding? How many people would you say need to die during the practice to make it constitute torture to you?

Mark said...

Supposing I am a Catholic who has not thought too deeply about this subject. A quick scan through the comments and I don't see a single reference to anything authoritatively Catholic on the subject; only opionion. Unfortunate.

Here's something for consideration, which I've extracted from Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Aug-Sep 2009. in the interest of brevity I've left out the civil side of Father's answer.

-------------------------------------

Question: We are clearly at war with an enemy who repeatedly says they will and do want to kill us. If we can defend ourselves by killing the enemy can we also torture our enemy to protect ourselves?

Answer: There is a long and complicated history surrounding the attitude of the Church concerning the moral nature of torture. Torture can be used in punishment for a crime or as a means of obtaining a confession or other testimony, as is the case in information in war. This question addresses the second problem.

[...]

In the question of war, the issue becomes a little more complicated. Martial law affects the object of the act because one is repelling an unjust aggressor. Still, one must remember that one of the conditions for a just war is that
the means for prosecuting it must be according to human nature. The normal rules of evidence are suspended sometimes in cases of obvious and urgent necessity. There must be proportionate reason for doing this. If the danger is great enough and one has an almost certain knowledge that a terrorist possesses knowledge which might save millions, some form of chemical inducement might be used. Still, physical torture which would lead to maiming or permanent damage to the body would not seem indicated. The same would be true of psychological torture which permanently affected the soul. It seems a moot point whether practices like water boarding fall under the category of torture as it has always been understood. Loud music and sleepless nights would not, as these do not involve permanent injury to the body or the psyche.

Fr. Brian Mullady O.P., Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Aug-Sep 2009. Father writes the regular “Questions Answered” column in HPR.

Red Cardigan said...

Anon at 6:31, here's how I'd answer that:

If you give your son a bath because he is dirty and needs one, that is not torture no matter how much he objects to the process.

If your son just had a bath half an hour ago and is perfectly clean, but you start running the bath water in the tub and threatening to hold him against his will in the water until he 'fesses up to breaking the cookie jar--torture.

Now, when a terrorist is strapped down so that sufficient quantities of water may be forced down his nose and throat to make him experience the symptoms of drowning, nobody's pretending that his face is merely dirty, or that they have only solicitous care for his cleanliness, not a vested interest in the whereabouts of the cookie jar.

Subvet said...

So lets see if I understand this properly.

If the torture and death of a child would help bring about world peace, it's not to be done.

However if removing the fingernails from a felon would rescue that same child, it's also not to be done.

This is the "morality" I'd expect from a tree!

Red Cardigan said...

Anon at 6:43, suppose that the same missile is headed toward earth and in order to get the code to stop it, we have to shoot a room full of the terrorist's family members--because we already tried waterboarding and it didn't work, but if we start shooting his relatives one at a time beginning with his two-year-old son, we're pretty sure he'll crack before we get to his wife.

Surely the Church wouldn't say that was wrong, would she? Not if the whole *world* was going to die otherwise--that would just be silly!

Or--maybe not, because maybe the morality of some actions doesn't depend on circumstances. Torture is that kind of action, and I agree with Jay Anderson that waterboarding is torture.

Kiran said...

Subvet, our morality does derive from a tree...

One thing I'd like to see is similar moves regarding illegal immigrants. It just might be an Australian thing that illegal immigrants are (by any definition of the word) tortured, but everywhere, it seems to me, they are treated as less than human.

Red Cardigan said...

Mark, interesting article. You're right in that thus far we've mostly been sharing opinions, but here's a few you might consider:

"...I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances...”" Pope Benedict XVI

"Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." (CCC 2297)

An article from Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete:

http://www.ilsussidiario.net/articolo.aspx?articolo=19407

Anonymous said...

Red - if the options are the death of one two year old or the death of the entire human race (including the two year old), and you choose the latter - then yes, I still say that sounds silly.

WingletDriver said...

Red Cardigan:
"Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." (CCC 2297)

The US did not use waterboarding or other coercive tactics "to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred." It was used to gather actionable intelligence to prevent further terrorist attacks. Neither military tribunals nor the current process of trying terrorists in federal courts were established when these methods were being employed (Bush had planned on holding them as unlawful combatants). Thus, the Catechism does not condemn what the CIA did.

Anonymous said...

So if I put a prisoner in isolation to protect other prisoners that is okay? Yet, he would argue that it is torture. He would argue that there is sensory deprivation, social isolation, and that it leads to mental breakdown. So Mark Shea would say we have to put him in general population. Yet once there he immediately begins his predation. He chooses a weak prisoner and you can guess the rest. By allowing him to do that then we are torturing the weaker prisoners. Either way someone is getting "tortured."

These are the dilemmas that need to be discussed and guys like Shea won't do it. Instead they condemn instantly and silence any questions. I am pleased we are debating these issues. That is how we hone Catholic teaching and determine the truth. I doubt anyone supports torture here, but we certainly differ on what constitutes it.

Red Cardigan said...

I highly doubt Mark Shea would argue any such thing.

Look: there are many legitimate reasons to put a prisoner in isolation. Prison officials deal with those reasons all the time.

But if you're putting a suspected terrorist who has not been charged nor convicted of any crime alone in a pitch-black cell kept at 35 degrees and periodically turning on a siren so he can't fall asleep *because* you think he has information and you want that information, then yes, that's torture--because that's what you are intending to do. You're treating him like an object to be used, not a human being. No matter how reprehensible we find such people we're not entitled to disregard their humanity and use them as instruments of our will.

Tom said...

If you're wondering why Mark Shea often sounds intemperate on this topic, six years of anonymous commenters twisting "treat prisoners humanely" into "Mark Shea says you can't segregate dangerous prisoners" will try the patience of the most phlegmatic.

Brian Walden said...

Red Cardigan said,

"If your son just had a bath half an hour ago and is perfectly clean, but you start running the bath water in the tub and threatening to hold him against his will in the water until he 'fesses up to breaking the cookie jar--torture."

Oh come on, running the bath is not torture. That's insanity. You're basically saying that making the kid do something he doesn't like as a punishment is a form of torture. You have no due process with your parents, if they decide you're guilty, you're guilty. So if the cookie jar is broken, and the parents want to teach the kid to confess when he does something wrong, they have every right to stick him in the bath or send him to his room or whatever reasonable punishment they feel is necessary.

So my question from before - If someone is guilty, we have the right and duty to subject them to things that under normal conditions would violate their human dignity (imprisonment or even capital punishment). So is there ever a time when justice requires drugging a convicted criminal or waterboarding or some treatment that violates a person's free will be does no lasting damage? The example I gave earlier was a convicted kidnapper where the child he convicted hasn't been found.

Jay Anderson said...

With all due respect, Tom, the language and the tone of the torture debate wasn't any less intemperate 6 years ago than it is today.

I've been at St. Blog's now since 2004, 1 of those years as a lurker and commenter, and 5 of them as a blogger, and one of the more depressing aspects of the whole thing is that absolutely NOTHING is different today than it was 6 years ago with respect to the manner in which torture is "discussed".

Anonymous said...

The US did not use waterboarding or other coercive tactics "to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred.

Ahem.

Tom said...

With all due respect, Tom, the language and the tone of the torture debate wasn't any less intemperate 6 years ago than it is today.

True enough. Six minutes of that sort of twisting will try the patience of most bloggers.

Now extend it unendingly.

I'm not saying it justifies anything, just that it might explain some things to people who haven't followed the debate for even six minutes.

Blackrep said...

The term "human dignity" is bandied about much and explained never, nor are the things that might violate it ever specified. No wonder everyone is confused.

What is merely unplesant to a tough-dude Marine will always be "torture" to a red-sweatered, cat-beshouldered blogger-lady. This we all can agree on.

With regard to the lack of change Jay bemoans, we should be very glad for it. Because of the waterboard, you'll sleep peacefully in your beds, living to type another day and form coalitions to your heart's content. But, just realize that freedoms are assured by one man sticking a sword into another. We do not live in the beatific vision, so let's not pretend we are, or we will be the perpetual slaves of those who will always fight dirtier than the "catechism" of the day allows.

Mark P. Shea said...

So, if a missile is approaching the earth that will destroy the entire planet and we know that waterboarding someone to give us a code to divert the missile will save everyone, the Church will tell us not to waterboard the person?

Remember: it is the torture advocate who is the realist. Torture opponents live in cloud cuckoo land.

Red - if the options are the death of one two year old or the death of the entire human race (including the two year old), and you choose the latter - then yes, I still say that sounds silly.

Now we're getting at the heart of the cowardice and evil inherent in this defense of grave and intrinsic sin. The statement above is this year's winner of the Caiaphas Award (Inscription: "It is better for one man to die than that the whole nation should perish.")

News flash: Sitting around concocting moral justifications for murdering a two year old so you can save your miserable skin is not "realistic moral thinking". It is fantasy in the service of cowardice. But it points to the real danger of the torture ethos: namely, that it's quite true (as totalitarian regimes know) that when you want to compel people to do what you want, it's much easier to achieve that by torturing their loved ones than by torturing them.

Once you've gone there, however, you can forget living in a free and ordered society. And you can forget heaven if you don't repent of having supported it or, God have mercy on you, ordered it or implement it.

Red Cardigan said...

Brian Walden, the anonymous person who used the example said his/her son hates and fears the bath to the point of screaming; my point is that if a parent were to capitalize on that fact and use the threat of a bath to force a confession it would be, at the least, extremely questionable parenting.

Children may not have due process rights against their parents, but parents aren't entitled to carry out capital punishment against their children, either. There are limits to parental authority.

And there are limits to state authority, limits that have to do with basic human rights. Of course, "basic human rights" can presumably join "human dignity" and "torture" as terms we just can't define, no matter how diligently we try, so we ought to just give up and use people as objects, because God will understand, etc.

Mark P. Shea said...

So Mark Shea would say we have to put him in general population.

Would I? I didn't know that! And here I thought I would say no such ridiculous thing! Can you tell what color shirt I'm wearing right now too?

Anonymous said...

Red, ask him and see how long it takes for him to ban you. I disagree, for starters "suspected" terrorist? When you catch the guy on the battlefield he isn't a suspect. Is what you suggest torture or simply annoying him enough to give information?

Tom, I was reasonable, but he treated my questioning of his position as rank heresy. He acted like some fundamentalists do on their websites. That is why his position is so weak, he won't allow any discussion.

Mark Shea, I bet it is hard for you right now. You can't ban those who actually give coherent arguments. You just call them cowards and evil. Calling people names is not an argument. I do note that you don't deny you would put an offender like that back in general population. If you do then you torture the other offenders. If you don't then you torture the poor psychopath. What a dilemma. Don't you wish you could ban me now and avoid having to think? That's what you did before.

Tom said...

I do note that you don't deny you would put an offender like that back in general population.

Sure he did: "And here I thought I would say no such ridiculous thing!"

Mark P. Shea said...

I disagree, for starters "suspected" terrorist?

You mean like Maher Arar, a perfectly innocent Canadian national we renditioned for ten months of torture in Syria? He was "suspected". He was also, as it happens, completely innocent. I mean "exonerated and paid $10 million in 'We really screwed up when we handed you over to the US for renditioning' money by the Canuck gov't" innocent. That's the thing about torture: you do it in order to find out if the person you are torturing is guilty.

Mark Shea, I bet it is hard for you right now. You can't ban those who actually give coherent arguments.

On the contrary, I'm delighted not to have the headache, though I feel bad for the Archbolds.

You just call them cowards and evil.

Yeah, I do have the notion that people who sit around fantasizing about murdering two year olds are evil cowards. If you think you need to construct a syllogism to arrive at that conclusion, knock yourself out. If you think (as you seem to) that fantasizing about murdering two year olds is a "coherent argument" then God help you.

I do note that you don't deny you would put an offender like that back in general population.

What part of "I would say no such ridiculous thing!" did you fail to grasp?

Anonymous said...

I'm another person Mark Shea got thinking on this subject. The lightbulb went off over my head when he turned the question around -- something along the lines of: "Instead of asking 'What may we do *to* our brother,' we should ask, 'What must we do *for* our brother.'" (poor, incoherent paraphrase)

But, Dear Lord! How can we, as Catholics, justify the deliberate harm of another human when he is completely in our power? What information could possibly be worth the destruction of our own soul?

--freddy

Anonymous said...

Mark Shea, so you would torture an offender by placing him an isolation cell, deprive him of virtually all human contact including with family, restrict the types of food he receives, and not allow him outdoor exercise, they don't see trees or grass, and all of this for years at a time. That is what happens in ad seg. Many argue that this is torture and far worse then 30 seconds of waterboarding, just ask Amnesty International. It causes both physical and psychological problems. The isolation is painful and drives some into further insanity. Cell extractions can be very violent and necessary when an offender acts out. So Mark, I guess you DO support torture. Thanks for the clarification. I expect you do get headaches when you are forced to go beyond the name calling.

Tom said...

I put the question to each of you: How many comments like the above anonymous one of 4:03 pm could you endure -- not should, but actually could -- every time you mentioned a subject you consider important, without it affecting how you respond to the next one?

Mark Shea said...

I would keep him away from the general population if he poses an ongoing threat to human life. This seems rather commonsensical. As to denying him exercise, dietary stuff and so forth, I don't see why this is necessary, though circumstances might require it depending on the facilities and so forth. And, of course, if the prisoner gives convincing proof that he no longer poses a threat to human life, then I'd take him out of isolation.

Is this really that complicated?

Mark said...

Red,

Thank you!

I read the article by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete you recommended. A slightly different conclusion is reached by Fr. Harrison in this article:

TORTURE AND CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AS A PROBLEM IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY
by Brian W. Harrison, THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

in terms of the question at hand, Fr Harrison ends with:

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.

I'm inclined to agree with Fr. Harrison that the absolutist position, while permissible, is not held with absolute certainty.

Brian Walden said...

Ok, can someone help set my thinking straight.

While the question of whether waterboarding falls under the traditional definition of torture may be a gray area, I'm convinced it would be immoral to use it on someone who's not guilty.

The question I'm not clear about it is whether it can ever be used on someone who is guilty (by trial or court marshal or whatever).

I tried to pick what sounded to me to be a reasonable example that may in fact happen occasionally - A kidnapper is convicted but the child hasn't been found (she could be alive in someone else's custody or dead). Certainly in this situation justice requires imprisoning this person even though it would be immoral to do so for an innocent person. And there may even be times when justice calls for capital punishment - say if he continues commit crimes even while in prison. So in such a situation, if there is no positive law against it, would it ever be morally acceptable to drug or waterboard (or some other technique that doesn't actually harm him) the convicted criminal to find out where the child is?

I'm not looking for loopholes, I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind the moral law. Justice sometimes requires imprisoning someone against their will and sometimes even requires taking their life. Can it ever require temporary inhibiting their free will and why or why not? What's the substantial difference between the two?

Mark P. Shea said...

Jay:

I have faithful Catholic friends (Shea would label them "Faithful Conservative Catholics[TM]") who oppose torture, yet who have been unfairly accused of being for "fog" in the torture debates

I appreciate your forthright opposition to torture and your refusal to play definitional games with stuff like waterboarding. So first: thank you. You are a regrettably rare voice of reason on this subject.

With respect to your friends, I don't even know who you mean. So I'm skeptical that I accuse them of anything. As I have repeatedly made clear, I have no trouble with people who, first coming to the discussion, have the usual questions and confusions that surround the subject. What's torture? Don't we have all sorts of legit forms of coercion? etc. etc. A learning curve has to start somewhere and I have no objection to that. It's just that, as you note, there are *some* people who are still--after six long years--doggedly pretending that

a) there is no workable definition of torture;
b) despite this, we can know for absolute certain that waterboarding, despite being condemned by American legal and military tradition and International Law, is most certainly *not* torture;
c) no other forms of torture have been authorized by our gov't;
d) chanting "only three high value targets" can cause a hundred dead detainees and guy like Maher Arar to vanish;
e) waving away definition after definition as worthless and unworkable while providing none of their own constitute "serious moral thinking"
f) approaching Veritatis Splendor and Dignitatis Humanae determined to find as many conceivable loopholes as possible to the obvious and plain meaning of the text and;
g) never answering these question

all while spewing denunciations of torture opponents as "torture Pharisees" suggests that these are people who are not arguing in good faith and are not mere babes in the woods, stumbling on the debate for the first time and just, gosh darn it, trying to find answers. It is *these* people--alone--whom I mock as "Faithful Conservative Catholics". People who, after six long years of opportunities to get a clue, still insist they have no idea what torture is while being absolutely certain they know what it isn't. People who, after six long years, utter the inane suggestion that, because their dad sent them to bed without supper once and they thought that we torture, we therefore are powerless to know whether this is really torture.

I figure six years is long enough to be confused about whether having to take a bath really drains the word "torture" of all meaning. If your friends are not among the people whose minds are, for six years, perpetually shrouded in complete agnosticism about whether the term "torture" has any actual referent in the real world then I have no problem with them. If, like Victor Morton, the founder of the Coalition for Fog, they are the sort of moral idiot who says (and I quote) ""The word "torture" is a classic example of what Ayn Rand called an "anticoncept" -- meaning a term with no specific referent, except the speaker's disapproval." then I don't see what unfair about the accusation of making the case for fog.

But, as I say, I don't know who your friends are, so I'm skeptical I've accused them of anything.

Christopher said...

Well, you've continually accused me of it and I agree 100% with Jay Anderson above and not one of the items you enumerated in a-g above. (Though I have no idea what you mean in d) And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

Blackrep said...

Dude! You just mocked people's status as "Faithful Conservative Catholics" because you don't agree on this issue? Pull up, man.

Anonymous said...

Mark Shea, so then this torture is justified if he is an ongoing threat? And if circumstances require the other tortures then that is okay too? As for "convincing proof", well most psychopaths will have some problems providing that so they spend their whole lives under these conditions. It isn't complicated at all. You just provided justification for what most human rights groups consider torture. Thank you. The same reasoning can be used to justify waterboarding, which many argue is not torture. I guess you are not as cut and dried on this as you claim. You have cleared the fog and we can now say that Mark Shea does approve of torture sometimes.

Paul said...

I've got a question. If anyone takes up the challenge, it'll derail the current discussion a bit, but I'm really interested in seeing what people--esp. Mark Shea--have to say about it.

The claim is made that the Catholic Church is against torture (without, as we've seen, exactly specifying what "torture" is).

Very well. Here's the question (and before anyone accuses me of being a Templar nut for bringing this up--I'm a medieval historian who specializes in these guys, and I'm not a "Templar nut"):

In the early 14th century, King Philip the Fair arrested (and tortured) the Templars in France. Pope Clement V instructed King Edward III of England to arrest the English Templars, which he did, rather reluctantly. But he couldn't get them to confess to any wrongdoing.

Pope Clement then instructed King Edward to have the Templars tortured (and by torture, I don't mean practices that do not do permanent harm, like the much-maligned waterboarding--I mean REAL torture, that maims and can even kill). Even more reluctantly, Edward complied again.

So: was the Church wrong when it mandated that Edward torture the Templars, or is it wrong now, when it supposedly a position opposing torture? (And of course I'm only picking one instance in which the Church sanctioned torture in the past--there are very many more that could be cited.)

It would seem to me that one needs to proceed very carefully here, unless one is not worried about preserving the historic continuity of the faith...in which case one would hardly be Catholic, would one?

This is especially true when we are trying to impose what appears to be politically-correct sensitivities. It is one thing to say "we, today, feel repulsion at torture." OK, fine. But it's another to say "Catholics must all oppose torture."

Because if you make that last statement, then the medieval historian in me is going to reply, "Really? At what point did the rules for Catholics change? And why?"

Or am I just missing something obvious here?

Christopher said...

"Or am I just missing something obvious here?"

You're just missing something...

Namely, that what individuals (even Popes) may have DONE in the past, does not equate with what the Church taught about morality either then or now.

matthew archbold said...

Paul, even Pope's sin. They are human too. That a Pope may sin does not change the teaching of the Church.

Paul said...

Yes, Matthew, I know popes can sin. I teach about Alexander VI, for example....

So are you saying that the Catholic Church's active acceptance of torture for a thousand years or more was sinful?

Again, it seems to me that one wants to be very careful about making that statement....

Kiran said...

Paul, of course, Pope Clement was wrong, all the more so because subsequent research has tended to take the point of view that the templar confessions are worthless. I mean, if I was (which I never would) arguing for the legitimacy of torture, the templars wouldn't be the example I would choose. Just as Pope Honorious was wrong in advocating (in a non-magisterial document) monergism, just as the acceptance of the Donation of Constantine, or the extremely thin exegesis of the two swords to justify the idea that the Pope, of his very nature, has secular power, or the dodge by which Archbishops and the Pope himself (if memory serves) could carry and use maces, while being forbidden to shed blood, or the licencing of usury to Jews while it was forbidden to Christians, or the endorsement of forced baptisms of Jews, or the expulsion of the Jews, or the frequent variance in application of consanguinity laws to nobles when they wanted to change husband or wife, and so on, are each wrong in part or in whole, and in part or in whole can be ascribed to one or the other of the Popes. In those cases, it is not that the Church in the past was wrong, but simply that non-magisterially speaking, the Pope erred. There is nothing saying that the Pope cannot err in a prudential decision.

There are four other things that need to be said about torture. Firstly, the information thus extracted, as the templar case proves, is often unreliable. Secondly, torture violates the "innocent until proven guilty" principle. Thirdly, torture violates conscience. Fourthly, torture damages the person inflicting the torture, as well as the person being tortured.

For all of these reasons, I would simply deny that one can approve of torture and be a faithful conservative Catholic, just as I would deny that one can approve of usury or contraception and be faithful conservative Catholics. I see no need to "pull up". That said part of the point of this is "Faithful Conservative Catholic" as a moniker is not very useful. It can degenerate into self-righteousness.

Kiran said...

I should also point out that some of the above (two swords, usury for Jews, consanguinity laws) was accepted throughout the Middle Ages, before and beyond...

Paul said...

Kiran, you are correct that the information extracted by torture was, in the case of the Templars, unreliable. Torture does not work in determining what a person does or does not believe--history makes that clear.

However, it can be quite effective in forcing someone to confess whether or not he has, for example, left a bomb in a grade school.

Also: "innocent until proven guilty" is an article of American constitutional government, not the Catholic faith--make what you want of that, but we shouldn't confuse the two.

You and I can agree, I think, that that the Church was generally mistaken to think that torture was useful as a device for enforcing belief.

Where we apparently diverge is in thinking a) that torture is objectively and always sinful, and that b) it was sinful of the churchmen in question (again, by no means just Clement V) to employ it.

I repeat: making a judgment that a practice, accepted by the Catholic faith for a thousand years or more, is always and inevitably morally wrong, is a very dangerous thing to do. It would be much safer to say that such and such "seems mistaken," than to take such an extreme position. This is similar to the mistake made by those who insist that pacificism is the only Christian position. It is not (and the two issues are related). And it seems clear that Christians may disagree on what constitutes torture, and on what are acceptable uses of it.

But if we begin to say that this or that longterm position of the Catholic Church was sinful, then where does that stop? What will we then say to the Dominican nun who claims that the Church's opposition to abortion is sinful, and escorts young women past pro-life protestors?

Yes, I know--there's an answer for that. But we need to be careful not to make that answer unnecessarily difficult to give. This is thin ice we are venturing onto, and caution and respect for history would be wise.

Miss Wordsmith said...

I think it would be useful to have the passage from the Catechism that has occasioned this debate:

"Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."

It seems to me that people are trying to make this rather enigmatic statement (note, for example, the line about "innocent persons") say more than it really says. This would require interpretation, to say the least, and I plan to contact a priest friend who is a moral theologian--and entirely orthodox--to see what he has to say about it.

It also seems to me that this instruction about torture has much wider applications that need not necessarily be confined to deciding what ought to be done to manifestly guilty persons. I have known couples, for example, who spent their married lives torturing each other, at least by the definition given above. That doesn't make it right, I hasten to add, but only to point out that other facets of the statement are worthy of consideration.

I also think it's worth remembering that certain aspects of the moral law are de fide--that which must be believed if one calls one's self Catholic--and others, at least with regard to their applications, are not so clearly defined. In a document sent to Cardinal McCarrick in 2004, then-Cardinal Ratzinger had this to say: "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

With reference to what someone has posted above about the issue's remaining open for discussion, judging from the wording of the statement in the catechism, and taking into account what Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Holy Father (long life to him!), wrote about grave and weighty matters of a similar import, it very much looks to me as if the matter is open to interpretation and discussion.

WingletDriver said...

Hey Red Cardigan:

Maybe you missed it but,

The US did not use waterboarding or other coercive tactics "to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred." It was used to gather actionable intelligence to prevent further terrorist attacks. Neither military tribunals nor the current process of trying terrorists in federal courts were established when these methods were being employed (Bush had planned on holding them as unlawful combatants). Thus, the Catechism does not condemn what the CIA did.

Mark P. Shea said...

Anonymous:

Your game is silly. Putting somebody in solitary when they constitute a threat to life and limb is not torture. All the garnish you add in order to make it as horrible as possible (no exercise, no sight of the outdoors, no contact with family, diet) is all unnecessary. Enjoy your game of gotcha with the Mark Shea living in your imagination.

Christopher:

I don't know who you are as I have several Christophers reading. If the shoe of my description fits, wear it. If not then I'm not sure what you are talking about.

Paul:

Yes. The pope was wrong to order torture. Being Pope does not confer either impeccability or infallibility in juridical acts.

Tom said...

Miss Wordsmith:

You quote from the paragraph in the Catechism that covers the following issues related to respect for bodily integrity, which itself is a subcategory of respect for human dignity: kidnapping; hostage taking; terrorism; torture; amputations; mutilations; and sterilizations. Amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations are issues unto themselves; they are not presented in the Catechism as specific instances of torture.

Paul:

The Catechism states, in the paragraph after the one Miss Wordsmith quotes from:

"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."

WingletDriver:

True, the Catechism doesn't mention "gather actionable intelligence" as a reason to torture. Neither does it mention "win a bet," "satisfy curiosity," or "gain experience for a screenplay you're writing."

It does, however, mention that torture is "neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person."

All:

If this is too much logic chopping, let me quote from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults:

"Direct killing of the innocent, torture, and rape are examples of acts that are always wrong."

Paul said...

Mark: you're missing my point, which was only using Clement V as an example.

As I said to Matthew: yes, I'm quite well aware that popes can do wrong. Remember, I'm a medieval and early modern historian, so that didn't--couldn't--escape me.

But the Catholic Church for centuries has accepted torture as morally permissible in certain circumstances. My question was: where, when and how did that suddenly change, and why?

And my caution was: be careful about departing from the consensus of the Catholic faith. It violates the Vincentian canon (yes, I know, that's not quite the Last Word, but it's very wise counsel), and it puts us in a very perilous position. It makes it very hard to use the argument "the Church has never accepted this" when we are, for example, defending marriage.

And by the way, while I'm fairly sure the Templars were innocent of the charges against them, I am not nearly so sure that Clement did wrong by ordering the torture. He was in a very tight spot, and was trying to defend the liberty of the Church. It's easy to criticize him, and you and Kiran have done. But I don't think the issue was nearly as simple as most people think it was, and I think he may very well have made the best of a very bad situation.

I could elaborate if you want me to, but I doubt if this is the place for it, and I doubt if you want me to, either. :)

Let me say it again: caution, people, caution. And let's avoid presentism, which is the assumption that our own sensitivities naturally ought to supersede those of our ancestors.


Tom: same question as I put to Mark: since the Catholic Church over time accepted torture as tolerable in certain circumstances, when, where, and how did that change?--and if the position could change once, what's to stop it from changing back again?


These questions are not as simple as some people would like them to look.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, Erin, I did read the post and all of the comments, here and at CFC. Still thinking, not convinced yet. But I said I would be open minded and follow the debate.

-Andrew (can't figure out how to sign in and comment other than anonymously...)

Tom said...

Paul:

Even by Internet standards, I don't know enough history or theology to answer your questions. Fr. Harrison's widely-quoted article, linked above, includes a historical survey of statements about torture by theologians, popes, councils -- and of course Holy Scripture.

I don't know that I'd call it presentism, though, to observe that the Church teaches us that all torture is always evil, and to have faith that the Church's teaching is true.

Zippy said...

The US did not use waterboarding or other coercive tactics "to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred."

You must have missed the reply above, so here it is again: this is in fact false, to the best of my knowledge. One of the things waterboarded out of KSM by the CIA was a confession to the murder of Daniel Pearl. That puts it beyond the pale no matter how one tortures the words of the Magisterium.

And Paul's concerns (as well as Fr. Harrison's essay) have been addressed many times, in many places; here, for example.

Kiran said...

Paul (I am a medieval historian as well by the way ) I simply can't see how what happened with the Templars could be used as a positive example of anything, let alone the legitimacy of using torture. Clement V might or might not be excusable. That is not the point. The point is that whether, objectively speaking, it was wrong of him to do so.

Nor did American law invent, or even presume it was inventing, the presumption of innocence. It was already present as early as the twelfth century. Indeed, the twelfth century assumption (based on somewhat dubious ideas admittedly) is that rules of procedure are of supreme importance, and prior to the claims of positive law. Indeed, the connection between due process and the prohibition against torture is a genuinely medieval development. Many thirteenth and fourteenth century legal codes prohibit torture (which also means that the actual prevalence of torture in the Middle Ages is overestimated). But notice one more thing: In other words the tradition against torture is older and more venerable than the tradition in its favor. It is even a medieval tradition, insofar as the Medieval jurists codified an attitude that was present amongst the early Fathers. See for instance Augustine's City of God (Book XIX, Chapter 6). Pope Nicholas I, writing in the 9th century, is clearly opposed to it, and regards it as unchristian, echoing Augustine's words in Ch. 86 of his letter to the Bulgars. So, the burden of proof as to the legitimacy of torture is quite firmly in the court of those who are for it.

Well, let me ask you then. Since the "Catholic Church" has accepted dissolution of marriage, forced baptism, the expulsion of Jews, that Our Lady was not immaculately conceived, that heretics may be rebaptized, that religious life constituted a sacrament, that annihilationism was a legitimate mode of conceiving of the Eucharistic presence, that a heretical Pope was no longer a Christian, that usury was allowed for Jews, and so on. Of course, it is not the "Catholic Church" that held to these points of view, regardless of how long the views have been held, but the people who belonged to it. Some of these points quite exactly parallel what happened with torture: Effectively, Churchmen conformed to the society around them. That is neither unusual, nor inconceivable.

"Quod semper" etc... applies not to decisions of prudence, but to dogmatic points.

Kiran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kiran said...

The "question" in the above sentence was supposed to be "since when did these matters change?" and my source for asserting that torture was not as common in the Middle Ages as presumed is Kenneth Pennington's Kenneth Pennington's The Prince and the Law.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

"True, the Catechism doesn't mention "gather actionable intelligence" as a reason to torture. Neither does it mention 'win a bet,' 'satisfy curiosity,' or 'gain experience for a screenplay you're writing.'"

Perhaps it is lost on you that the ridiculous examples you cite are not typical reasons people would use torture. Therefore, we may grant the authors of the Catechism a break for their shortsightedness. However, gathering intelligence is a traditional reason to use coercive measures and yet they didn't list it. If coercive measures are always wrong, I'm sure they'd have qualm about saying it.

Zippy,

Actually I didn't miss it. However, please refer to the source linked in the blog you cited. I found that one much more interesting. The abcnews blog never makes the accusation that the CIA waterboarded KSM to obtain a confession. In fact, the story clearly states that his confession came while just sitting at a table. The "moralist" who wrote the story you cited obviously can't read. Furthermore, he can't reason because the intent of the CIA was to gather intelligence not a confession. At the time they were using coercive means, there was no plan on ever trying KSM or the other two high value detainees in a court.

Tom said...

WingletDriver,

Your interpretation of CCC 2297 is that, if there is a typical reason people would use torture that does not appear in the list, then that reason is not contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

Your interpretation is wrong.

An authoritative interpretation may be found in e.g. the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which I quoted above.

Zippy said...

In fact, the story clearly states that his confession came while just sitting at a table [... immediately after being waterboarded, with the threat of more waterboarding hanging over his head].

Yeah, exactly.

Anonymous said...

Mark Shea, I worked as a CO in prison. What I described happens in every state in the nation. I have seen it myself. You have heard of Supermax prisons? The conditions I used are real life methods used to coerce prisoners and isolate the predators. It is no game. I am just applying what you say in a real world situation. AI and other human rights organizations have condemned this as torture.

YOU have stated that it is acceptable to torture prisoners in this way in order to protect other prisoners life and limb. The same reasoning can be applied to waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques. In other words you have undercut your own argument using the logic of those you deride. How ironic. I believe that this is why you banned me from your site. Once you are forced to go beyond name calling you find the issue is much more complex then it seems. Hence your attempts to avoid clear definitions and any real debate on the topic. I guess it gives you a headache. But I am satisfied that, even if you don't, others have gotten the point. To be honest I didn't think it would be this easy. I didn't even have to torture you to get you to accept torture in certain circumstances. Not much of a faithful conservative Catholic are you? Check and mate.

Zippy said...

... to torture prisoners in this way ...

Blocking a person from doing harm is not even remotely the same kind of thing as torturing a person to force him to divulge information.

It is trivially easy to see that "forcing a prisoner to X" is a categorically different kind of thing from "preventing a prisoner from doing Y". Though torture apologetics does tend to depend on conflating them.

(None of which is in any way to excuse the conditions in modern prisons, which are unquestionably morally abhorrent with things like gang rape etc used as implied threats, etc).

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

This is the paragraph in question.

"He was sitting across the table from his interrogator, and he just blurted out, 'I killed Daniel Pearl. I killed him Hahal (slit his throat in a ritual fashion).' There was no water-boarding, no belly slapping; just two guys sitting across the table having a cup of tea."

Nowhere does it say or imply it was IMMEDIATELY after waterboarding. Besides adding to the facts and ignoring the great big "THERE WAS NO WATER-BOARDING" sign, you can't seem to grasp the salient point. Waterboarding was used to gather intelligence, not confessions. The Bush administration had no intention of trying any of these guys in a court.

Anonymous said...

Zippy, so torture is okay if it is for the protection of other prisoners? To block him from doing harm? See where this is going? Either you have to argue that this isn't torture or that it is and is moral. Which is it?

Tom said...

YOU have stated that it is acceptable to torture prisoners in this way in order to protect other prisoners life and limb.

On the contrary, he has stated that it is "unnecessary."

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

"An authoritative interpretation may be found in e.g. the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which I quoted above." Sorry to rain on your parade, but without a definition of torture we must read it is the light of the CCC, which states when torture may not be used. I can assume the USCC for Adults is not at odds with the universal Church.

What I find funny though is that I READ the exact wording of the CCC and left out my own interpretation. You, on the other hand, took it upon yourself to add to it.

zippy said...

Zippy, so torture is okay if it is for the protection of other prisoners? To block him from doing harm?

Keeping someone locked up to block him from doing harm is not torture, except in the torture-excuser's playbook.

Besides adding to the facts and ignoring the great big "THERE WAS NO WATER-BOARDING" sign, ...

Well, I've tried a couple of times to help you with your reading comprehension, apparently with no luck. Everything KSM divulged to his interrogators - including his confession to the murder of Daniel Pearl, which was one of the things tortured out of him - technically took place "after" being waterboarded, if we insist on Clintonian parsing of the tense of the word "is", I mean "after".

Tom said...

Sorry to rain on your parade, but without a definition of torture we must read it is the light of the CCC, which states when torture may not be used.

How many times, in how many places, in how many ways, do bishops, Popes, and Ecumenical Councils have to tell you that TORTURE IS ALWAYS WRONG for you to understand that your strained interpretation of one sentence of the Catechism does not trump the bishops, Popes, and Ecumenical Councils -- or, for that matter, the other statements on torture in the Catechism?

What I find funny though is that I READ the exact wording of the CCC and left out my own interpretation.

On the contrary, you wrote, "Therefore, we may grant the authors of the Catechism a break for their shortsightedness. However, gathering intelligence is a traditional reason to use coercive measures and yet they didn't list it. If coercive measures are always wrong, I'm sure they'd have qualm about saying it."

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

From your own writing, you stated this confession came "immediately after being waterboarded, with the threat of more waterboarding hanging over his head." But gosh, that's not what the article said. What's your Clintonian parsing for the word immediately?

Zippy said...

I can assume the USCC for Adults is not at odds with the universal Church.

What, oh what, could Pope Benedict possibly mean when he says 'I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances"'

Is there really no "interpretation", among adults, Catholics even, in concluding that the Catechism's prohibition of torture means that torture is OK in circumstances not specifically mentioned? Really? Despite all the other places the Church makes clear that the prohibition against torture is absolute?

Zippy said...

But gosh, that's not what the article said.

But gosh, the article said:

"It was an extraordinary amount of time for him to hold out," one former CIA officer told ABCNews.com. "A red-headed female supervisor was in the room when he was being water-boarded. It was humiliating to him. So he held out."

"Then he started talking, and he never stopped," this former officer said. KSM was never water-boarded again, and in hours and hours of conversation with his interrogators, often over a cup of tea, he poured out his soul and the murderous deeds he committed.


Golly gee willikers, what, oh what, could that mean? It is so baffling, and maybe if I shout "THE ARTICLE DOESN"T SAY IMMEDIATELY!" loud enough and often enough maybe I can keep everyone else as baffled as I am, and nobody will notice that what I am shouting is completely irrelevant.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

Here's the funny thing about your argument. You work from an a priori assumption that coercive methods of gathering intelligence are torture but are unable to back it up with any sort of authoritative definition of torture. My contention is that the CCC lists the occassions when coercive methods and punishments go beyong legitimacy and become torture.

We must look at the method and intent of every act to determine if it is moral. The CCC is looking at the intent behind harsh treatment and listing when the intent is morally impermissable. Putting somebody in prison (method) is permissable if it protects society (intent). Imprisoning somebody to force a confession is not. Scolding a disobedient child to correct their behavior is permissable. Yelling at a kid to scare them is not. Same methods, different intents.

The CCC didn't just say that treating people harshly is always morally wrong because this would very quickly devolve into anarchy. What law can be upheld without the threat of punishment? That threat of punishment and the actual meting out of sentences to lawbreakers is coercive and can be morally licit.

We can also agree that war, generally speaking, is a very bad thing. I'd hope that we can also agree that the Church has always supported the notion of a just war. Likewise, killing is generally wrong. But killing to defend the innocent when there is no alternative may be morally licit.

Your argument fails because the first premise is wrong; "using coercive and harsh methods to gather intelligence and prevent attacks is always torture" simply is not true. The CIA did not use any method that caused any lasting physical or psychological damage (method) and they didn't use coercive methods just to scare KSM (intent).

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

I'd like to once again point out that it was you who added the word immediately. Is it your reading comprehension or writing that sucks?

Second, I doubt the accuracy of the article that is being cited. The source said that KSM was never waterboarded again. Then at the bottom of the article, revealed that he was waterboarded 183 times. That's a pretty big error for someone with firsthand knowledge.

Most important, mr.-reading-comprehension, the purpose of waterboarding was not to extract a confession. Maybe you can focus a little.

Tom said...

Your argument fails because the first premise is wrong; "using coercive and harsh methods to gather intelligence and prevent attacks is always torture" simply is not true.

I don't recall ever using the premise, "Using coercive and harsh methods to gather intelligence and prevent attacks is always torture." I certainly haven't used it in this discussion.

Can you refer me to where I used it?

If you do that, then I'll quote the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope Benedict XVI has declared in a motu proprio "is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church," stating that "torture" -- not "torture for these purposes only," but "torture" as such -- is contrary to respect for the bodily integrity of the human person.

Zippy said...

I'd like to once again point out that it was you who added the word immediately. Is it your reading comprehension or writing that sucks.

Neither, as far as I can tell, though each reader will have to make his own determination. Sure, I said "immediately" in my blog comment and the article said "So he held out. [new paragraph] Then he started talking, and he never stopped, ..."

As I conceded, the precision of my paraphrase does (metaphorically) depend on the meaning of the word "is". That you still can't seem to grasp the complete irrelevance of the quibble over the word "immediate" though is something for which I don't have a cure, I'm afraid.

...the purpose of waterboarding was not to extract a confession...

Right. It was just to get him to "[pour] out his soul and the murderous deeds he committed."

zippy said...

In the interest of fair play and full disclosure, someone just showed me this.

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

I applaud you for citing the last article. I'm not trying to gloat, but do you concede that the purpose of waterboarding was to gather intelligence not a confession?

zippy said...

...but do you concede that the purpose of waterboarding was to gather intelligence not a confession?

I think the putative distinction is specious, as I blogged back in July 2008.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

"torture" -- not "torture for these purposes only," but "torture" as such

OK. So, where is the definition of what constitutes torture. I asserted that coercive methods do not necessarily rise to the level of torture. That both method and intention must be taken into account before one can label anything torture. We waterboard our own troops as a way to train them for possible captivity. This certainly isn't torture. Putting a person in prison for breaking the law is different from putting dissidents in prison because you don't agree with them; although the method is the same, they are certainly morally different.

I asserted that the CCC was distinguishing the intent as a way to identify when coercion becomes torture.

"Torture WHICH uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."

The term "which" immediately after "Torture" indicates that the author intended to define the term. If the author was trying to state that there are different types of torture (some morally illicit and some licit), he should have written "Torture that . . . ."

zippy said...

I asserted that the CCC was distinguishing the intent as a way to identify when coercion becomes torture...

That simply cannot be the case if torture is intrinsically immoral, since intrinsically immoral acts are '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 exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object"'.

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

"I think the putative distinction is specious . . . ." But apparently there is a distinction in the CCC. You're certainly entitled to your opinion and to the media to express it. But it can't be supported by the CCC.

Sadly, this is actually a very important discussion (and I admit most people here argue in good faith), but the Democrat party in its utter hatred of Bush and the CIA distorted any real public moral discussion. I find it very strange that no official in the Vatican actually said that waterboarding KSM was wrong. I remember Cardinal Laghi and various others expressing their opinions on the Iraq War. But they were strangely quiet on this.

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

Please read my discussion on the difference between "that" and "which." Either the writers of the CCC were illiterate or they were defining what torture was.

Tom said...

I asserted that ... both method and intention must be taken into account before one can label anything torture.

According to your assertion, we can't label flaying the skin off the back of a prisoner "torture" until we take intention into account. This is untenable.

I asserted that the CCC was distinguishing the intent as a way to identify when coercion becomes torture.

What is the basis of this assertion? The CCC doesn't mention coercion anywhere in the entire article on the Fifth Commandment.

The term "which" immediately after "Torture" indicates that the author intended to define the term. If the author was trying to state that there are different types of torture (some morally illicit and some licit), he should have written "Torture that...."

I've thought of that argument, too. There are several problem with it. Among them: First, what we have is an English translation of the Latin. Second, we don't know whether the English translator followed the same "that/which" distinction you propose. Third, we do know that the English translator did not put a comma before "which," as he should have done if he believed the sentence defined the term "torture." Fourth, as I demonstrated above with what you called "ridiculous examples," even if we were to take those words as a definition of "torture," it is an atrocious definition, which leaves us with no more basis for excepting "interrogation" than "winning a bet."

Tom said...

Let me amend myself:

It is an atrocious definition if it is meant to be used to formally determine whether an act is torture.

It's a perfectly adequate description of what torture is, particularly given that it was written at a time when it was unthinkable that the morality of torture would be publicly defended by people not immediately and universally dismissed as cranks.

Mark said...

Zippy wrote:

And Paul's concerns (as well as Fr. Harrison's essay) have been addressed many times, in many places; here, for example.

I recognize that this issue has been hashed and rehashed, but each time a new venue is opened in order to address it, you will have newcomers to the fray who need to catch up!

The very disagreement displayed with much passion here demonstrates to me that Fr. Harrison is most likely correct that the verdict of the magisterium still has not been rendered in an absolute manner. On the other hand, I think it is also true that today the Church says NO in rather clear, unmistakable terms. With the willing submission of faith I can accept that, and seek understanding.

Now, if only this nation would stop torturing and murdering the preborn, I'd have a little more sympathy for the enemies of our faith who howl about torture while demanding an increase in dead babies. so I'll continue to support banning torture and execution of all humans. (KISS)

Fray Torquemada,
ora pro nobis!

zippy said...

The very disagreement displayed with much passion here demonstrates to me that Fr. Harrison is most likely correct that the verdict of the magisterium still has not been rendered in an absolute manner.

Disagreement here carries no epistemological water, as far as I can tell. I can spend all day on ProgCath web sites and journals experiencing passionate disagreement about abortion, contraception, homosex etc. They can offer up far more clerics and theologians than just one obscure priest with an anti-JPII agenda, and arguments certainly no more manifestly unsound than the ones offered here in support of torture.

Mere disagreement, passionate or not, advanced in good faith or not, doesn't objectively cast any doubt whatsoever on what the Church actually teaches about those subjects; any more than the fact that the political Right has embraced torture, thereby creating an affinity for dissent on torture among political conservatives, casts any doubt on what the Church teaches on that subject.

Anonymous said...

A compromise is in order. No more waterboarding under any circumstances. Instead recreate Zippy as an ELIZA program and equip every CIA interogator with it. I can guarantee that KSM, Osama and Mutallib would be crying for momma.

Ivan

Guest #2 said...

I was appalled by the comments of the anonymous former commanding officer of a prison, so I just want to make a couple of quick comments and get out.

John Paul II linked the scene of Last Judgment with respect for the dignity of all persons, including those in prison, in an address at Eucharistic celebration at the Giudecca Island Women's Prison:

“4. I am here in your prison, and together we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus. I ask you to discover in your isolation his presence, to be convinced that he is with you, with each of you.

I was … in prison,’ he says.

Jesus is on the side of man. He came into the world to be on the side of man. To be especially on the side of the man who suffers.

To fix our gaze on Jesus means to discover oneself. This discovery is very important. It allows them at the one time to discover themselves, to reaffirm their own humanity, their own worth, their own dignity as a person.

Man can never be deprived of that dignity, nor be depriving of it. Precisely because of that Christ wants to be close to every human person. In particular he is close to those people whose dignity is threatened.” Etc. June 17, 1985.

And His Message for the Jubilee in Prisons:
“5. If the Great Jubilee is a chance for those in prison to reflect upon their situation, the same may be said of civil society as a whole, which every day has to come to grips with the reality of crime. It can be said of the authorities who have to maintain public order and promote the common good, and of those in the legal profession, who ought to reflect on the meaning of inflicting punishment and suggest better proposals for society to aim at.”

You can’t read these addresses of his and come away with a “what can I get away with” brand of Catholicism. “How can we treat prisoner humanely?” is what I come away with. And especially those who can influence the conditions inside a prison need to be aware that if they ask themselves the wrong question, they’ll come up with the wrong answer.

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

The term "which" immediately after "Torture" indicates that the author intended to define the term. If the author was trying to state that there are different types of torture (some morally illicit and some licit), he should have written "Torture that . . . ."

The question is whether the 'which' clause is a restrictive relative or a non-restrictive relative. As the Catechism concludes that the reason torture is wrong is that it is:

contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity

Thus the normal reading of this is that torture is wrong. It is not arguable that torture for purposes other than:

to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred

is no longer contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Human dignity and the respect due persons are absolutes, not relatives. Nothing can remove these. Thus, for example, killing a man in self-defence is not permitted because the man no longer is worthy of respect, but because he is in fact acting against my own dignity.

jj

Mark P. Shea said...

Anonymous:

I'm not sure which anonymous I'm talking to here (so many brave anonymous torture defenders here).

To the anonymous guy equating solitary confinement with torture. The logic of your argument seems to go one of two routes. You either sincerely believe the rubbish you are spouting about how solitary confinement in order to block killers from killing again is really and truly torture (and therefore regard yourself as complicit in realio-trulio torture) or (which is much more likely) you no more regard solitary for the sake of protecting people from a killer as torture than I do. If the former, then you are either burdened with guilt for telling the Church to get stuffed or, you have seared your conscience and are determined to tell the Church to get stuffed. If that's the case, then there's hardly much point in continuing the discussion.

If the latter and, like me, you are merely playing rhetorical gotcha games then, well, there's still not much point in continuing, is there?

Anyway, it's been fun. I'm in Sydney now and need rest.

Oh, and if you are also the Anonymous who was fantasizing about how it is better to murder a two year old than that the whole planet should perish, I recommend this>

Mark P. Shea said...

Ha! That's what I get for typing so fast. The line above should read:

If the latter and, like me, you don't believe in the slightest that segregating dangerous prisoners is torture, then you are merely playing rhetorical gotcha games and, well, there's still not much point in continuing, is there?

But here's the thing: whether you believe it or not, I don't believe it.

In order to play the game of gotcha and win the beer, you have to actually, you know, show that I think something is torture and then, you know, show that I think it's still okay.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

Just because you don't like the definition doesn't make it inadequate. The authors of CCC were certainly aware that harsh methods are employed to defend the innocent in just war, incarcerate dangerous criminals and terrorists, and gather intelligence. Yet they chose not to include these in their list.

The authors of CCC were also aware that no morally sane person could justify rape in any circumstance. Yet there is a prohibition against rape. This undercuts your point about them not accounting for cranks.

Might I remind you that this was the proof that Red Cardigan offered to show that coercive interrogations were torture, but the clear English reading does not support it.

John Thayer Jensen,

The lack of a comma before "which" leads us to believe that everything after the "which" is essential. If they had placed the comma before "which," it would be considered parenthetical (non-essential). But they didn't. I will assume the translators know English and meant it how they wrote it.

Anonymous said...

Wusses...

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

The lack of a comma before "which" leads us to believe that everything after the "which" is essential

But complete? Is there, do you think, and implied "for other grave reasons, torture may be used?"

Or is the fact that the reason given against torture - i.e. the dignity of the person, rather than the seriousness of the person - sufficient to consider this an exhaustive list of those things that exclude torture?

I'm afraid it seems to me you are grasping at straws. But what do I know?

jj

Tom said...

Just because you don't like the definition doesn't make it inadequate.

Absolutely! What makes the definition inadequate is its inadequacy, which can be demonstrating without speculating on the editorial decisions of the authors.

By the way and for what it's worth, the Latin typica editio includes the comma:

Cruciatus, qui physica vel morali utitur violentia ad confessiones extorquendas, ad culpabiles puniendos, ad adversarios terrendos, ad odium satiandum, observantiae personae et dignitati humanae est contrarius.

WingletDriver said...

Is there, do you think, and implied "for other grave reasons, torture may be used?"

I think that the authors intended to define torture and differentiate it from some of the things that have been argued about in this blog. E.g., is solitary confinement necessarily torture? Giving baths to screaming children? Waterboarding our own soldiers as training?

If they had written "Torture that . . ." instead of "which," I would say that there is some morally licit forms of torture implied. If they had written, "Torture, which . . .,"I would say that it is a non-exhaustive list because it would be parenthetical. But they wrote, "Torture which. . . ." So, this is essential information that focuses on the intention of the person committing the coercive or harsh act. Why did they do that?

Having said that, I still think it is far from clear that the CCC supports the notion that you cannot use harsh or coercive methods to gather intelligence and save innocent lives.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

"What makes the definition inadequate is its inadequacy, which can be demonstrating without speculating on the editorial decisions of the authors." Well said! Now tell Red Cardigan and all those other Catholics on this blog to stop using the Catechism.

". . . the Latin typica editio includes the comma." And Latin has different grammar rules than English. The term "qui" is a relative pronoun, which means that the information is still essential.

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

I think that the authors intended to define torture and differentiate it from some of the things that have been argued about in this blog

I'm really puzzled here. How does the statement in the Catechism define torture, other than calling it physica vel morali ... violentia - physical or moral violence?

I thought we were talking about whether there were times torture was allowed; not what it was.

jj

WingletDriver said...

John Thayer Jensen,

Is all violence immoral? Is it all torture?

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

Is all violence immoral? Is it all torture?

No, and I see your point. But you said the statement in the Catechism was supposed to define torture. It defines torture as physical or moral violence.

Then perhaps you are saying that it is defining torture as physical and moral violence when used for the purposes listed. If that is what you mean, then either:

1) the list of purposes is exhaustive. Other physical or moral violence is ok.

2) it is not exhaustive and intends to include, for instance, the extraction of war intelligence under the rubric of 'causing fear.'

I assume you embrace 1) above. But in that case... well, in that case, we are given pretty much a free ride for other purposes of inflicting physical and moral violence on persons.

Which seems pretty strange to me, since, as I have said, the justification given for the prohibition against torture is the dignity of the victim. Why that dignity is not to be respected if he has military secrets is not clear to me.

jj

Tom said...

Now tell Red Cardigan and all those other Catholics on this blog to stop using the Catechism.

Why? Whether the Catechism offers a definition of torture is a separate question from whether waterboarding prisoners is torture.

As for the grammatical questions, I think you're assuming too much. At the very least, I know of no meaningful distinction in meaning between "that" and "which" at the head of a restrictive clause, so I don't think you should assume the Catechism translators share your position.

WingletDriver said...

John Thayer Jensen,

"Why that dignity is not to be respected if he has military secrets is not clear to me." Why then is the dignity of criminals violated? Is this a violation of catholic teaching?

". . . well, in that case, we are given pretty much a free ride for other purposes of inflicting physical and moral violence on persons." We certainly are not and I've nowhere implied that.

Please remember, Tom, that this was the proof offered by some that the Catholic church categorically condemns waterboarding. They are reading into it what isn't there. And if, as Tom has said, that the definition is atrocious, we are then given free rein to amend anything within it under the rubric of its inadequacy. E.g., "Gosh, I don't like the stricture against abortion, but that part of the Catechism is inadequate . . . ."

Is the Catechism fully exhaustive? Absolutely not. However, one can't use it as proof of Catholic teaching based on something that is clearly not written within it.

Tom,

"Why?" You're the one saying the Catechism is inadequate because it doesn't mold to your thoughts.

As for the grammatical question, there is a distinction between "which" and "that." They are generally not interchangeable except in colloquial English. I don't believe the authors meant the CCC to be colloquial. Furthermore, I believe they knew the distinction between the two and used the proper term.

Miss Wordsmith said...

Thanks to Tom for posting the second paragraph in the Catechism from the passage on torture. While it may be true, as Tom says, that “amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations are issues unto themselves; they are not presented in the Catechism as specific instances of torture,” the fact remains that all are discussed together as concerns about respect for the body. And, while it is always useful to have entire passages of the original source (I didn’t find it when I searched, as I found the first paragraph via word search on the Vatican Web site), I don’t think the entire section invalidates anyone’s point that governments may use “uncomfortable techniques” to extract intelligence from terrorists. It seems to me that much of the discussion here has arisen because there is no solid definition of torture, and the Catechism doesn’t help on this point.

As an analogy, we’re not supposed to murder one another. Ever. And particularly we’re not supposed to kill the innocent. But the Church has always maintained that one can defend one’s self—to the point of killing, which is then not regarded as murder--whether personally or nationally. Defending one’s country from terrorists and extracting information from them via such techniques as waterboarding seems to me to come under the category of legitimate defense. Again, if you’re going to apply the words of church officials to these rather important situations, you need to have a working definition of torture. The application of unpleasant force to one’s physique is not always “torture.”

I also disagree that it is “logic chopping,” as Tom calls it, to read the text carefully—to see what it says and does not say--and try to discern how it applies to us. Here’s one example: I have noticed that many passages in the Catechism, when referring to matters such as abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual practice, include some form of the word “grave” in the discussion—all three are “gravely” contrary to natural law or human dignity, etc. I have not asked a theologian about this, but I would suppose the word “grave” to contain theological content here—as in for a sin to be mortal, one condition is that the matter must be “grave.” I don’t think it’s “logic chopping” to notice those nuances and derive meaning from them.

The thing that bothers me the most about this discussion? That the “Coalition for Clarity” is only muddying the waters by making a huge issue out of something that, while important, is nowhere near as serious as abortion in terms of one’s actions in the voting booth. In election after election, we watch Catholics wiggle and squirm in order to vote for liberals—they try to find ways around the abortion issue. Here’s another way for them: “Well, Jones is for waterboarding, and the bishops have said that we can vote for candidates if there are other serious issues….” Never mind that Jones is strongly pro-life--or even much more inclined that way than his opponent.

Tom said...

And if, as Tom has said, that the definition is atrocious, we are then given free rein to amend anything within it under the rubric of its inadequacy.

I have not said "the definition is atrocious."

I have said it's not a definition, because it makes an atrocious definition. It also makes an atrocious egg salad recipe. That's okay, though, because it's neither a definition nor an egg salad recipe.

Furthermore, I believe they knew the distinction between the two and used the proper term.

What is your distinction, and why do you believe the translators knew it and considered it to be "proper"?

Note that in the Latin the relative clause is set off with commas. Is there anyone here who took a class from Fr. Foster who can say whether that's significant?

In any case, I think you're arguing against yourself, since if the clause is meant as a definition, then it's non-restrictive, and the meaning of the sentence is, "Torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."

Tom said...

You're the one saying the Catechism is inadequate because it doesn't mold to your thoughts.

Absolutely not true!

I am saying the Catechism cannot be adequately molded to your thoughts.

zippy said...

The thing that bothers me the most about this discussion? That the “Coalition for Clarity” is only muddying the waters by making a huge issue out of something that, while important, is nowhere near as serious as abortion in terms of one’s actions in the voting booth. In election after election, we watch Catholics wiggle and squirm in order to vote for liberals—they try to find ways around the abortion issue. Here’s another way for them: “Well, Jones is for waterboarding, and the bishops have said that we can vote for candidates if there are other serious issues….” Never mind that Jones is strongly pro-life--or even much more inclined that way than his opponent.

It seems to me that this represents an attempt at blame shifting. If pro-abort leftists have gotten tactical political mileage out of Republican embrace of a manifest wickedness, that is primarily because of the Republican embrace of manifest wickedness. If you want to fix the problem, you need to fix the problem: you need to get Republicans to repent of their embrace of the manifest wickedness of torture. That, it seems to me, is precisely what the Coalition for Clarity represents.

Sure, pro-aborts are (qua pro-aborts) vile, despicable, evil, disgusting slaves to the purposes of Satan. That is a given. Part (a small part) of what disgusts me so much about the Republican/Republicatholic embrace of torture (and preemptive war, for that matter) is that that embrace has handed these moral talking points to the political Left on a silver platter. The political Left is despicable in its pseudo-sacramental embrace of grave wickedness. But saying "they were worse than us" isn't going to get you into Heaven, nor even build long term this-worldly advantages.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

If the authors and translators wrote, "Torture that . . . .," they would have implied that torture is fine is some circumstances. I.e., since "that" is always restrictive, they would only have been referring to the types of torture prohibited but not the types not listed. They didn't write "that" (thank goodness) and I certainly don't believe they meant torture was ok in some circumstances.

If they had written, "Torture, which . . . .," they would be indicating that the information after "which" is parenthetical or non-essential and can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence. They didn't.

By writing "Torture which" (without the comma) they are indicating that the information following "which" is both non-restrictive (proper use of "which") and essential (no comma). If it's non-restrictive it doesn't imply there are licit reasons for torture, which is probably why they avoided "that." However, the phrasing after "which" is also essential to the meaning of the sentence. You can argue that the translator was trying to be colloquial, but I don't know anybody who'd buy that.

Let's get back to the point, though. If you are using this paragraph from the CCC to "prove" waterboarding is wrong, you've got some issues with the wording. You have to a priori define waterboarding as torture to make it fit. But if you predetermine that waterboarding is torture, you only set up a circular argument. You and Nancy Pelosi may very well believe waterboarding to gather intel is torture, but you certainly can't use paragraph 2297 for support. I believe in the ordinary infallibility or the Church, but not the blog. I also don't believe the "stuff Tom adds to the clear wording of the Catechism" is worthy of consideration as Catholic dogma.

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

Why then is the dignity of criminals violated? Is this a violation of catholic teaching?

The dignity of criminals - or terrorists - is not violated by punishing them. Their dignity is upheld by treating them as they really are.

When a man is subject to capital punishment, for example, he should be treated with dignity; given the opportunity to confess his sins; and then executed.

He should not be mocked, tormented, or otherwise made less than a man - a man who has, indeed, forfeited his right to life - but a man nonetheless.

Using coercion to extract intelligence is not itself against the dignity of the man; submitting him to degrading treatment, appealing not to his will and intellect, but to his emotions (threatening him with mock-death, for instance, by the use of waterboarding), is degrading.

If I, a man in authority, have certain knowledge of the guilt of a prisoner, I may well tell him that if he will not give me the intelligence, he will be killed. This is to treat him as he really is - a man. If I torture him, either he responds with human dignity and refuses to give me what I want - in which case I have degraded myself - or he submits, not for right reasons, but for wrong - in which case I have degraded myself and him.

WingletDriver said...

John Thayer Jensen,

". . . appealing not to his will and intellect, but to his emotions . . . ." Are a person's emotions less than intellect? I would say that both the intellect and emotions are subject to one's will, but neither is greater or lesser than the other. In fact, I'd say that the entire thread of this argument is based upon emotions more than intellect. Why should I treat another with dignity if I am in power?

Although your argument is well taken, I'd still point back to my original argument that paragraph 2297 is insufficient proof that coercive methods (including waterboarding) are always considered torture. I'd welcome another authoritative Catholic source that states that we cannot use coercive means to gather intelligence.

I do realize there is a limit to the type and frequency of these methods, but I'm not the one arguing the CCC 2297 specifically condemns all methods or intentions of harsh treatment.

Tom said...

Defending one’s country from terrorists and extracting information from them via such techniques as waterboarding seems to me to come under the category of legitimate defense.

As I wrote above, I agree that the question of whether torture is always evil is different from the question of whether waterboarding a prisoner is torture.

And, for that matter, they're both different from the question of whether waterboarding a prisoner is always evil.

The Church -- i.e., Vatican II, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, catechetical documents of the universal Church, the local catechism of the United States, the USCCB -- unambiguously teaches that torture is always evil.

If we can get agreement from everyone that this is true, I'd count that as a success.

I also disagree that it is “logic chopping,” as Tom calls it, to read the text carefully—to see what it says and does not say--and try to discern how it applies to us.

I don't call it "logic chopping" to read the text carefully. I call it logic chopping to read into the text far more formality and precision than the text can support.

That the “Coalition for Clarity” is only muddying the waters by making a huge issue out of something that, while important, is nowhere near as serious as abortion in terms of one’s actions in the voting booth.

I do not think clarifying Church teaching muddies Church teaching. Nor do I think there is virtue in voting without a well-formed conscience.

Tom said...

By writing "Torture which" (without the comma) they are indicating that the information following "which" is both non-restrictive (proper use of "which") and essential (no comma).

Can you quote a style guide that makes your distinction between "restrictive" and "non-restrictive and essential"?

If you are using this paragraph from the CCC to "prove" waterboarding is wrong, you've got some issues with the wording.

I agree. My question to you is, when have I ever attempted to prove waterboarding is wrong using only a single sentence from the CCC?

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

Are a person's emotions less than intellect?

Yes. Emotions are the driving force. The intellect sees the good; the will chooses it. The emotions give us the energy to accomplish what we have willed.

Emotions must not be first or second. They are at the service of the intellect-guided will.

Miss Wordsmith said...

I STRONGLY urge everyone who hasn't done so to read the article by Fr. Harrison--URL is already given somewhere above, but I'll repost it here: http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html. It demonstrates the kind of carefully reasoned theological and historical approach that has been missing from much of this debate.

Paul said...

I have lectures to prepare and a conference paper that urgently needs revision, so pleasant as this little quarrel as been, this will have to be my last post on it. Because of limits on space, I'll break it into several parts.

Some remarks to previous posters:

Tom, 1/28, 10:55 PM: you are a rare bird indeed--an internet poster who admits he lacks the background knowledge to reply to a query! A truly righteous man.... My compliments. (And just to be clear, no sarcasm intended--most people lack your modesty, and it's refreshing.)

Kiran, 1/28, 11:28 PM: your blogger profile says you are a student (since you say you're 29, I'll assume you mean grad student), and it implies that you specialize in medieval music. That's not the same thing as being a practicing historian, and it may explain the difference in our approaches to handling historical sources and situations. I say this not to launch an ad hominem attack, but to point out that you are coming from a different starting point that I (and not quite the one you claim to be coming from). But you know best whether you have a right to the description.

To continue, Kiran: you seem to imply that an action might be excusable, though morally wrong. I disagree. If it's morally wrong, it's not excusable. If it's excusable, then it's not absolutely morally wrong. To say otherwise would be to argue that it is sometimes acceptable to do moral wrong, and it's not. This is a mistake that some on the Left have made with regard to Just War Theory--arguing that while violence is always morally wrong, it's occasionally necessary.

But wrong is never necessary, which is why the Just War tradition really teaches that some violence is morally praiseworthy (I could cite a lot of authorities here, including Augustine, who is often misunderstood and misquoted, and Bernard of Clairvaux, but I don't have time).

Kiran, the "Catholic Church" did not widely accept any of the things you cite--but it did widely accept the use of torture, across time and space. You are not handling either the sources or the events with much sensitivity or insight, I'm afraid.

In the case of the Templars: there were, indeed, objections raised to torture at the time. For example, torture, and confessions extracted by it, were prohibited by church councils in Italy--and rightly so, because what the torture was designed to extract was a confession of guilt in belief or past action, and again, torture isn't effective in those cases.

But that's not the question. Nor is the question "was it prudential or useful"--in the case of the Templars, I don't think it was.

The question is: was Clement V _morally wrong_ to mandate it--that is, was he committing a sin to do so.

Kiran and those like him seem to think he was. I don't. I also think this is precisely the sort of prudential decision which the Catholic tradition in general reserves to rulers (whether secular or ecclesiastical) on the spot. And quite rightly so.

Paul said...

This debate is one that only relatively safe people, blogging from the security and comfort of home, can afford. I'm afraid it's also marked by a persistent inability on the part of some people to distinguish between a) innocent or possibly innocent people vs. known terrorists or other offenders (i.e., between the innocent and the guilty), and also between b) torture to obtain information on plots or traps set for innocent people, vs. torture to induce someone to say he believes, or did, a certain thing.

The innocent have rights that the guilty have forfeited. That is a fundamental moral truth.

Torture to extract information about a plot can work, whereas torture to extract information about beliefs or past offenses manifestly does not work.

And if one cares about protecting the innocent, then torture to extract information, like killing in war, will sometimes, regrettably, be necessary if we are to do our duty.

I wish matters were otherwise. I am repelled and grieved by by the misery of war and torture alike. But that has nothing to do with the facts.

Protecting the innocent is a more compelling moral necessity than protecting the guilty. Failure to understand that is a failure to understand our duty to our fellow Man at one of its most fundamental levels.

Zippy, 1/29, 11:10: the Church has not, in fact, made a universal, unanimous prohibition of torture in all times and in all places, so your argument is simply mistaken. Go back to the Vincentian canon: Catholic Christians determine truth by comparing a given opinion to Christian teaching across time and space: "that which has been believed always, in all places, by all." Your statement does not stand up to that test.

Tom said...

Fr. Harrison's carefully reasoned theological and historical approach reaches conclusions that are contrary to the clear teaching of the Church that torture is always evil.

Paul said...

As for people who rely on the argument that torture impinges on the dignity or the "bodily integrity" of the person in question, and also potentially causes damage to the torturer himself: so it does. The same argument could be applied to battlefield killing (ever hear of PTSD, for example?), and could be used to outlaw all warfare, but historically, the Catholic Church has not done that. Christianity is not a pacifist religion (though a lot of people seem to forget that).

To say that it is acceptable to kill an enemy soldier--or terrorist--in order to prevent an attack on one's homeland, but not acceptable to pour some water up his nose in order to prevent that same attack, is to reduce oneself to incoherence and ridiculousness, and to reveal that one understands little or nothing of the nature of reality, or of one's duty to one's fellow Man.

My work is calling me ever more persistently, so I'm going to have to stop. But let me end with a few quotations from St. Ambrose' _De officiis_, a marvellous work of clear common sense, written by a man who had experience as a Roman provincial governor before being made archbishop of Milan, and a work which has suffered from unjustified neglect (perhaps because it is not friendly to many of the politically correct sensitivities of the present age). There are two translations available, one in Schaff's Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, v. 10, the other a more recent translation by Ivor Davidson for Oxford. In it, Ambrose spends a good bit of time discussing moral virtues, including Courage, Prudence, and Fortitude.

I:xxvii:128: "It is ingrained in all living creatures, first of all, to preserve their own safety, to guard against what is harmful, to strive for what is advantageous." This, Ambrose says, is a mark of the virtue of Prudence, and he links Prudence and Courage together in I:xxvii:129: "For courage, which in war preserves one's country from the barbarians, or at home defends the weak, or comrades from robbers, is full of justice...."

I:xxxvi:179: "The glory of fortitude, therefore, does not rest only on the strength of one's body or of one's arms, but rather on the courage of the mind. Nor is the law of courage exercised in causing, but in driving away all harm. HE WHO DOES NOT KEEP HARM OFF HIS FRIEND, IF HE CAN, IS AS MUCH IN FAULT AS HE WHO CAUSES IS [emphasis mine]. Wherefore holy Moses gave this as first proof of his fortitude in war. For when he saw an Hebrew receiving hard treatment at the hands of an Egyptian, he defended him, and laid low the Egyptian and hid him in the sand."

Let me sign off by repeating:

HE WHO DOES NOT KEEP HARM OFF HIS FRIEND, IF HE CAN, IS AS MUCH IN FAULT AS HE WHO CAUSES IT.

This applies very much to torturing the person who intends the harm, distasteful though the idea may be (and to me, it certainly is distasteful).

It's been an interesting discussion. Best wishes to all.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

"Can you quote a style guide that makes your distinction between 'restrictive' and 'non-restrictive and essential'?

"One key proviso: though you can use which instead of that in restrictive clauses, you can’t do so the other way round: non-restrictive clauses ought always to start with which. Also, you can’t change the punctuation rules; it is particularly important to watch this point if you decide to use which in a restrictive clause, as otherwise your poor reader has no clue at all how you intend the sentence to be read. Here is a rather artificial example to make the point:
The cup which he stepped on is in the bin.
The cup, which he stepped on, is in the bin.

In the first, you’re being told about a specific cup with the special property that it is the one he stepped on; in the second, the fact that he stepped on it is an ancillary bit of information. My view is that punctuation is more important than choice of pronoun in such situations." - from the same citation you gave above.

"[W]hen have I ever attempted to prove waterboarding is wrong using only a single sentence from the CCC?"

You jumped into my criticism of Red Cardigan's use of CCC 2297. I pointed out that it does not apply in this case. I'm not sure why you attempted to enter the argument. As I've said before, I'm also open to other authoritative statements.

Miss Wordsmith said...

A la Tom's comment, here is Fr. Harrison's concluding paragraph:

"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."

His conclusion is that no definitive conclusion has been reached about certain circumstances and certain levels of inflicting physical pain. I would think twice before I accused Fr. Harrison of promoting viewpoints contrary to the teachings of the Church.

Tom said...

Paul:

I don't think you are correctly invoking the Vincentian Canon. Neither "torture is always evil" nor "torture is not always evil" has been believed everywhere, always and by all. This does raise significant historical and theological questions, but they are distinct from the question of whether the Church teaches that torture is always evil.

Also, your use of St. Ambrose begs the question. You cannot do evil. Whether torture is evil is the question.

WingletDriver:

The passage you quote distinguished "restrictive" and "non-restrictive." It doesn't mention a "non-restrictive and essential" case, does it? As far as I can tell, you use "non-restrictive and essential" in the same way everyone else uses "restrictive." Can you give an example of something that is "non-restrictive and essential" but not "restrictive"?

MissWordsmith:

Fr. Harrison's conclusion is that "the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances... remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians."

The Catholic Church teaches that torture is always wrong.

Zippy said...

Since Fr. Harrison is being held up as an authority here, it seems to me that people have a right to know just what sort of authority he represents. He stated, for example, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II's funeral, that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was a liberal and a weak reed:

Ratzinger himself is a weak reed to lean upon. His track record shows clear liberal tendencies in some areas, and he has at times seemingly caved under pressure from other liberals. I'm afraid I must agree entirely. (For instance, with all due respect to His Eminence, my own honest opinion is that he is too skeptical when it comes to the historical reliability of Scripture, and not skeptical enough when it comes to the theory of evolution.) But I respond to the objection with Peter's question to Jesus at Capernaum: "To whom shall we go?"

As I mentioned before, if I wanted to provide a bibliography of priests, Catholic theologians, Catholic journals, etc which provide dissenting arguments about homosex, abortion, etc; well, unfortunately, that could very easily be done. That pro-torture Catholics can find one priest who writes dissenting opinions about torture -- probably at least in part because of his anti-presentist agenda -- is hardly surprising.

The extent to which Republican-first-Catholic-second torture apologists have attached themselves to Fr. "Ratzinger is a weak reed" Harrison as an authority figure is itself rather telling, it seems to me.

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

Your citation refers to it as "an ancillary bit of information." You're being obtuse.

Also from your citation: "[T]he writer is giving additional information about a house he’s describing; the clause which is painted pink is here parenthetical — the writer is saying “by the way, the house is painted pink” as an additional bit of information that’s NOT ESSENTIAL to the meaning and could be taken out." If you're going to cite something, please read it first.

"Can you give an example of something that is "non-restrictive and essential" but not "restrictive"?" Truly, you're being obtuse. Anything that is non-restrictive is, by definition, not restrictive.

Tom said...

If you're going to cite something, please read it first.

Excellent advice.

Above you wrote, "By writing 'Torture which' (without the comma) they are indicating that the information following 'which' is ... non-restrictive...."

My citation says "you can use which instead of that in restrictive clauses," and that "you will be justly criticised if you leave out the commas" in a non-restrictive clause.

So I ask again: Can you quote a style guide that agrees that using a "which" without the comma is non-restrictive?

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

The comma is used to indicate whether the information is essential or ancillary, not restrictive. Please read your reference again. Please, please take that excellent advice I gave you.

"My citation says "you can use which instead of that in restrictive clauses. . . ." You're running into a bigger problem if you think that 2297 is using a restrictive clause. If it is restrictive, then it clearly implies that certain tortures may be used in some situations. This would undercut your entire argument and put the USCC for Adults in direct opposition to the CCC.

Because you seem intent on parsing grammar, I assume you agree that there is nothing authoritative from the Church banning harsh interrogation methods.

zippy said...

Because you seem intent on parsing grammar...

That is rich. A license to commit water torture on prisoners is inferred by careful (perhaps "tendentious" might be a better descriptor) logic chopping of a particular snippet from the Catechism, ignoring all the other things the Church is constantly teaching on the subject, and when Tom points out that the logic chopping doesn't even work, he gets tarred with being "intent on parsing grammar".

I suggest considering who is in danger of burning in Hell for eternity if the focus on grammar doesn't work out precisely as that interlocutor suggests. That might be a hint about whose argument depends on the intent focus on very specific grammar and application of the Catechism as if it were (unlike any other Magisterial document, well, ever) written as a specification of what torture is and is not in a formal language.

WingletDriver said...

Zippy,

Yawn. Did you anything intelligent to say or are you still making up stuff that you think should be in the Catechism?

WingletDriver said...

Should have been "Did you say anything intelligent . . . ."

Please, Zippy provide any reference that says that gathering intelligence via coercive means is intrinsically evil. Look at the clear wording of CCC 2297.

zippy said...

Did you anything intelligent to say...

The thing I had to say in my last comment (whether it was intelligent or not is left as an exercise to the reader), to spell it out, is that it is ridiculous of you to accuse Tom of being "intent on parsing grammar" when it is your arguments, not his, which depend on tendentious parsing of the specific grammar of a specific sentence in the Catechism, not to mention ignoring the entire context of what the Church teaches on the subject in the rest of the Catechism and elsewhere.

zippy said...

... provide any reference that says that gathering intelligence via coercive means is intrinsically evil.

Why would I provide a reference for a premise I don't hold?

The syllogism is straightforward. Torture is always immoral. Waterboarding a prisoner is always torture. End of discussion.

I could have a similar discussion about abortion. Abortion is always immoral. Suctioning a living child out of her mother's womb is always abortion. End of discussion.

Now, on the latter discussion, pro-aborts will inevitably raise the issue of ectopic pregnancies, salpingostomy, salpingectomy, etc. They will endlessly attempt to destroy and deny that the category "abortion" is clear. But at the end of the day, they are full of it: it isn't really about difficult or obscure cases, it is about obscuring all cases.

Same thing here. Water torture has been considered torture by humanity for thousands of years. It is only since 2001 that many Catholics on the right have become suddenly so baffled by the supposed difficulty of referring to water torture as torture. But this isn't about difficult or obscure cases, any more than the abortion discussion is about the difficult or obscure cases. It is about trying to reject the demands of the moral law, because for various reasons people want to reject those demands.

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

The comma is used to indicate whether the information is essential or ancillary, not restrictive

Hmm... I had thought that 'essential' and 'restrictive' pretty much covered the same thing. If the conditions named are only essential but not restrictive, then surely they may be allowed to imply others (such as the extraction of intelligence) that are not mentioned?

jj

Kiran said...

Another point worth making is that torture isn't a conservative thing, either. I am thinking of Burke's clear stance that a society is measured on the basis of how it treats its most despised.

WingletDriver said...

John Thayer Jensen,

Essential and restrictive may be synonymous when you consider that a restrictive clause is essential in understanding how the noun is modified. But if you consider the "which" to lead a non-restrictive clause, you run into the problem that the CCC clearly implies that certain tortures may be used. Is this your argument?

A sentence can be understood with or without a non-restricitve clause. But it can contain be essential or non-essential information. If I said, "The house, which is pink, is for sale," to someone who has been looking to buy a pink house, I've used a non-restrictive clause to pass on important information. If the "which" leads a non-restrictive clause in CCC, there is no implication that certain acceptable forms of torture exist.

Zippy,

You have once again defined a priori waterboarding as torture. This is not a logical argument. Please provide a reference that establishes this. Once again, I do not believe in the infallibility of the blog. I notice that abortion is directly condemned in the CCC (although not in the same sloppy wording you use). So just point me to the passage on water torture. Or is this the infallible Zippy's opinion?

I also noted earlier that many Vatican officials did not hesitate to criticize Bush on Iraq, but they were all very silent on waterboarding. So, Zippy, scream and cry all you want. Write your own cheeto-stained Catechism. However, your "arguments" carry more weight in Catholic circles when they have Catholic references.

Zippy said...

So just point me to the passage on water torture.

I notice that torture is directly condemned not just in the CCC but in many places. I also notice that suction aspiration is not defined as abortion in the CCC. Just point me to the passage on suction aspiration. Sure, the Church condemns abortion as always wrong; but where oh where does the Vatican define suction aspiration as abortion?

It is so baffling.

Tom said...

The comma is used to indicate whether the information is essential or ancillary, not restrictive.

Restrictive implies essential, non-restrictive implies ancillary.

If I had realized you didn't know that, I would have asked the question differently.

You're running into a bigger problem if you think that 2297 is using a restrictive clause.

In standard English, a non-restrictive clause is always set off by commas.

The clause in the sentence at issue is not set off by commas.

Therefore, either the clause in the sentence at issue is a restrictive clause, or the sentence is not written in standard English.

If the clause is restrictive, we nevertheless find a categorical condemnation of all torture elsewhere in authoritative Catholic teaching.

If the sentence is not written in standard English, then you have no basis for assuming the translators used the same non-standard English you use.

In my judgment, the sentence is not written in standard English.

I assume you agree that there is nothing authoritative from the Church banning harsh interrogation methods.

As far as I know, the Church doesn't treat "harsh interrogation methods" as a moral category of acts.

And as far as I know, the fact that the use of cold rooms and waterboarding on prisoners is objectively evil has been left as an exercise to the faithful Catholic (though they might save some work by peeking at what the Catholic bishops have been saying to the U.S. government).

WingletDriver said...

Tom,

Is it your contention that the CCC was translated into non-standard English? If that's the case, we can make the words mean whatever we want and it serves as a poor reference. Which brings me back to my point to Red Cardigan that you cannot use 2297 as proof that waterboarding to get intelligence is always wrong.

"If the clause is restrictive, we nevertheless find a categorical condemnation of all torture elsewhere in authoritative Catholic teaching." Please provide the reference from authoritatve Catholic teacing that defines coercive interrogation as torture. It should be very simple if it has been so well established.

Tom said...

Is it your contention that the CCC was translated into non-standard English?

Yes.

It is also your contention, although you don't seem to have yet realized that your grammatical fabrication --

By writing "Torture which" (without the comma) they are indicating that the information following "which" is both non-restrictive (proper use of "which") and essential (no comma).

-- is non-standard English.

"If the clause is restrictive, we nevertheless find a categorical condemnation of all torture elsewhere in authoritative Catholic teaching." Please provide the reference from authoritatve Catholic teacing that defines coercive interrogation as torture.

If I tell you six times that I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture, will you take notice? How about eight times?

I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture. I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture.

John Thayer Jensen said...

WingletDriver:

A sentence can be understood with or without a non-restricitve clause. But it can contain be essential or non-essential information. If I said, "The house, which is pink, is for sale," to someone who has been looking to buy a pink house, I've used a non-restrictive clause to pass on important information. If the "which" leads a non-restrictive clause in CCC, there is no implication that certain acceptable forms of torture exist.

OK, understood - but then I thought you were contending that 2297 meant that certain acceptable forms of torture do exist and that you were arguing that from the grammar of the English translation.

Oh, well, I think I have beaten this horse as dead as it can be. My mind hasn't been changed. I am quite sure that, for instance, waterboarding when applied to the unwilling to force some response (that is, excluding, for example, waterboarding American troops to strengthen them against it; conceivably also excluding the use of it as a punishment) is torture, and that (2) all forms of torture as coercion are always wrong.

But having slept through last night (I live in New Zealand) and seeing this thread still going on, I am happy to succumb to this particular form of torture by agreeing to stop posting :-)

WingletDriver said...

Tom:
"I am not arguing that the Church defines coercive interrogation as torture."
Do you have a point then? My point to Red Cardigan has been all along that CCC 2297 does not condemn what the CIA did. Really, what's your point?

John Thayer Jensen,
. . . but then I thought you were contending that 2297 meant that certain acceptable forms of torture do exist and that you were arguing that from the grammar of the English translation." I was arguing that if it is a restrictive clause, the authors would be implying that torture is acceptable in some circumstances. I don't believe that.

Your opinion that waterboarding constitutes torture cannot be supported by CCC 2297. That doesn't mean it's wrong. But once again, we originally got on this track because I pointed out to Red Cardigan that CCC 2297 didn't apply to what the CIA did.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Sigh - I promised to stop, didn't I? :-)

WingletDriver:

Your opinion that waterboarding constitutes torture cannot be supported by CCC 2297

Begging the question. The question is not whether 2297 forbids waterboarding per se nor whether 2297 condemns what the CIA did if what the CIA did is not torture. The two separate questions are:

1) Does 2297 condemn torture, even for gathering critical intelligence?

2) Is waterboarding torture?

My understanding is that 1) is answered by 'yes,' and that 2) is also answered by 'yes.' It would be absurd to suppose that 2297 defines whether waterboarding is torture; it does not mention waterboarding, nor any other form of torture.

jj

Red Cardigan said...

If anyone is still interested in the question of "that" vs. "which" and the absence of a comma, I've put a post up here:

http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/2010/01/torturing-grammar.html

in which someone with considerable skill in Latin discusses the official Latin of the Catechism, and shows that there is a discrepancy with the English version.

Tom said...

Really, what's your point?

The Church teaches that all torture is always evil.

Along the way, I have also pointed out that:

* you are wrong in your grammatical arguments
* you are wrong in your conclusion about the implication of the English translation being non-standard
* you are wrong in implying that the Catechism offers a formal definition of torture
* you introduced a non sequitur by pointing out that the intention with which the U.S. waterboarded prisoners is not explicitly mentioned in the Catechism

Kiran said...

Also, in reference to the Catechism, surely in a matter of the morals, it must be interpreted not as legislation (There seems to be a thread of fundamentalist voluntarism - where is THAT in the Catechism - running through some of the posts above), but as recognition and clarification of something humanly recognizable as sinful.

Torture is humanly recognizable as sinful, as violating human dignity. Thus, torturing the Catechism aside, one can conclude that torture is wrong.

Anonymous said...

HE WHO DOES NOT KEEP HARM OFF HIS FRIEND, IF HE CAN, IS AS MUCH IN FAULT AS HE WHO CAUSES IT.

Interesting - but would Ambrose agree that if you could keep harm off your friend by denying Christ, that it would be appropriate to do so? I doubt it. So this quote does not provide much guidance to whether it is appropriate to use torture to keep your frined from harm.

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