Saturday, January 21, 2006

Is it a Mortal Sin to Torture Captured Terrorists?

Maybe there's some other provision I missed, but this is the closest thing I could find on the subject from the Catechism:

Paragraph 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.

I don't know about you, and I'm certainly no theologian, but it just isn't clear to me from this language that the Church regards torture as being intrinsically evil. Indeed, it could even be argued that the Church perceives the commission of torture as being the equivalent of intentionally hurting someone's feelings. It' not nice, but it's hardly a mortal sin. Muddling the picture even more is the fact that this Catechism provision is written within the context of kidnapping, hostage taking, and terrorism, which are all expressly said to be either immoral and gravely unjust. So even if one were to assume that torture is gravely immoral, it appears to only be so in limited circumstances.

Any thoughts?

Update: From Paragraph 80 of Veritatis Splendor:

The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such [intrinsically evil] acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator".

Now, it should be noted that the Second Vatican Council never actually called torture intrinsically evil. I also wonder whether John Paul II correctly used the above quote from Guadiam et Spes given that deportation is among the items listed. Surely, there are circumstances when deporting someone is justified.
Jimmy Carter: American Embrassment

The Great Terrorist Enabler strikes again.

Speaking of the devil, I just started reading Steven Hayward's fairly recent political biographyof America's worst ex-President.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Triumph of Catholicism, but not the Catholic Church, in America

An insightful analysis by Joseph Bottum at The Weekly Standard on the significance of Sam Alito's ascendency to the SCOTUS. (link via Amy Welborn)

This may be the best time in American history to be a Catholic, and it may also be the worst: a moment of triumph after 200 years of outsiderness, and an occasion of mockery and shame. It is an era in which a surprisingly large portion of the nation's serious moral analysis seems to derive from Catholic sources. But it is also a day in which Monsignor Eugene Clark--an influential activist and Fulton J. Sheen's successor as rector of New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral--can be named an adulterer in a divorce petition and photographed checking into a hotel with his hot-panted secretary, to the weeks-long titillation of New York's tabloids: "Beauty and the Priest," ran the headline in the Daily News. Catholicism is the most visible public philosophy in America, and the Catholic Church is a national joke.

That's not necessarily a contradiction. Indeed, there might even be a connection between the rising rhetorical influence of Catholicism and the declining political influence of the Church. Since its founding, the United States has always had a source of moral vocabulary and feeling that stands at least a little apart from the marketplace and the polling booth--from both the economics of capitalism and the politics of democracy that otherwise dominate the nation. For much of American history, that source was the moral sense shared by the various Protestant denominations, and it influenced everything from the Revolution to the civil-rights movement.

Somewhere in the last 50 years, however, the mainline Protestant churches went into catastrophic decline. The reasons are complex, but the result is clear. By the 1970s, a hole had opened at the center of American public life, and into that vacuum were pulled two groups that had always before stood on the outside, looking in: Catholics and evangelicals.

Their meeting produced one of the least likely alliances in the nation's history, and it can be parsed in dozens of different ways. "Evangelicals supply the political energy, Catholics the intellectual heft," the New Republic claimed this month as it attempted to explain the Catholic ascendancy on the Supreme Court. That explanation is, as Christianity Today replied, mostly just a condescending update of the Washington Post's old insistence that evangelicals are "poor, uneducated, and easy to command." But the New Republic was at least right that the rhetorical resources of Catholicism--its ability to take a moral impulse born from religion and channel it into a more general public vocabulary and philosophical analysis--have come to dominate conservative discussions of everything from natural-law accounts of abortion to just-war theory.