Saturday, May 3, 2014

You Can't Be Both: Thougts on Certain Catholics Supporting Use of Torture

On  Facebook, there's an argument on a couple of dueling Catholic articles on Waterboarding and torture (a subject that I explored a few years back and concluded that unless the Church rules otherwise, my conscience tells me I must view Waterboarding as torture -- and thus something that may never be done).

What troubles me is the fact that those Catholics who support the use of Waterboarding as an interrogation technique, seem not to care whether or not it is torture as long as it is used for a good end (defense of America), and accuse those who oppose Waterboarding as sympathizing with terrorists.

I'll let readers study my other article for the reasons I oppose Waterboarding, using this article to explore the dangerous position some of its proponents hold.

The first thing to consider is this: According to Catholic teaching, "One may never do evil so that good may result from it." (CCC# 1789).

So logically we can say:
■ One may never do [evil] so that good may result from it.
■ The Church declares [X] is evil.
■ Therefore One may never do [X] so that good may result from it.

Now while a non Catholic will not recognize the authority of the Church (and thus need to be convinced by other explanations), the Catholic who would be faithful does need to recognize that the formal teaching of the Church is binding on them. So, when the Catholic Church defines something as intrinsically (always without exception for circumstances) evil, no Catholic can justify it as good.

So, what does the Catholic Church have to say about torture?  It says in CCC 2297:

"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."

In 2298, it goes on to say:

"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."

So, torture is contrary to the respect required due human dignity and the Church acknowledges that those within the Church who used torture in the past were wrong to do so -- which excludes appeals to the past to justify it.

So with our above argument as a framework, we can say:

■ One may never do [evil] so that good may result from it.
■ The Church declares [Torture] is [evil].
■ Therefore One may never do [Torture] so that good may result from it.

The result of this is it doesn't matter what the good is we are trying to bring about or the evil is we are trying to avoid, we MAY NOT use an evil means to accomplish this goal.

So, when it comes to Catholics supporting torture, one has to recognize this:

One can be a good Catholic or one can be a supporter of torture.

But you can't be both.

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