Torture: Another Issue On Which Catholics Ignore Church Teaching

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that those without religion were the only group in which a majority believes that torture is never justified. White evangelicals, not-evangelical Protestants and Catholics all believe it was justified by over 60%.

atheists and torture

About 65% of American Catholics believe torture to be justified, but the Catholic Church itself takes a very strong stand against torture. Here’s the US Conference of Catholic Bishops resource page on torture, which links to church documents calling torture an “intrinsic evil” and to many letters the bishops have written to government officials protesting the use of torture. Which makes it yet another on which American Catholics disagree strongly with their own church.

In fact, most American Catholics believe very little of what the church teaches on a wide range of subjects: divorce, birth control, transubstantiation and now torture as well. Why do they still consider themselves Catholics, then? Tradition, of course. And because church membership operates as a tribal marker. I’m sure there are other factors as well.

"Yep. Principally raking in a nice fat paycheck for hauling the party line."

Surprise! Hannity Backed Off His Backing ..."
"That should surprise absolutely nobody whatsoever. The man's got about as much spine as one ..."

Surprise! Hannity Backed Off His Backing ..."
"Not quite. It's only Illuminati when the hurricanes hit upper-middle-class right-wing white people. If the ..."

Taylor: The Illuminati Sent the Hurricanes ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John Pieret

    I’m sure there are other factors as well.

    Peer/family pressure and inertia (you have always gone to church so why stop now?). An hour a week is little enough to pay for family peace and standing in a community.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    FIFY:

    but the modern-day Catholic Church itself takes a very strong stand against torture.

    The Holy Roman Catholic Church has some experience on the issue of torture, and to call it intrinsically evil is to say that the Holy Roman Catholic Church, in the past, engaged in intrinsic evil.

  • chilidog99

    Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.

  • savoy47

    They know firsthand that torture, at least the fear of being tortured works because they live in fear of hell and their god day in and day out.

  • syskill

    Link to the poll?

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    . . .the Catholic Church itself takes a very strong stand against torture. Here’s the US Conference of Catholic Bishops resource page on torture, which links to church documents calling torture an “intrinsic evil” and to many letters the bishops have written to government officials protesting the use of torture. Which makes it yet another on which American Catholics disagree strongly with their own church.

    Ed, your wildly wrong here. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church supports torture. Like nearly all Christian groups, they falsely claim a laudable position on a particular topic while actually and effectively supporting a competing position.

    If the Catholic hierarchy actually opposed torture, we’d see that hierarchy acting in the manner they do when it comes to abortion and contraception rights, gay marriage, and their misogynistic policies.

    Yes, there are positions where Catholic congregants ignore their hierarchy, but in the case of torture, the hierarchy and congregants are in a very successful alliance. Catholics are a strong component of the population that’s allowed the Bush Administration to avoid prosecution. This is no different than conservative Christians very successful opposition to helping the unfortunate while claiming their standard is to treat the least of us as God.

    If Christians opposed torture, then the relevant actors within the Bush Administration would have been prosecuted; with many convictions by the mid-2000s.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Look, sometimes you have to torture, on account of the Ticking Time Bomb scenario. And a bunch of times you have to torture to make sure it’s not that scenario.

  • John Pieret

    Modus:

    Look, sometimes you have to torture, on account of the Ticking Time Bomb scenario. And a bunch of times you have to torture to make sure it’s not that scenario.

    “Sometimes you have to torture because you are all hot and sweaty and need a release.” – Marquis de Sade

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    @Michael Heath:

    If the Catholic hierarchy actually opposed torture, we’d see that hierarchy acting in the manner they do when it comes to abortion and contraception rights, gay marriage, and their misogynistic policies.

    You’re conflating torture with oppression, sacrifice and suffering. Deliberate infliction of severe pain is the point of torture. Much as I abhor the Catholic church positions on s-s marriage, contraception and abortion, these policies aren’t about deliberately inflicting pain on people.

    This particular expression of your anger at religious institutions and their oppressive policies, while understandable, obscures a solid point that Ed is making here. Just as a majority of Catholics oppose Church teachings in a number of areas related to personal freedoms, a majority are also in opposition to Church teachings on torture, though I’d draw a further distinction.

    I suspect that those who support oppressive Church teachings on sexuality are more likely to oppose the Church teachings on torture, though I’ve read a few conservative Catholics come down on the side of the hierarchy regarding torture. On the other hand, I think that Catholics who oppose Church teachings on sexuality and gender roles are more likely to support Church opposition to torture. Obviously, the correspondence isn’t 1 to 1. I’m just talking about greater and lesser likelihood of supporting particular baskets of Catholic Church teachings. The bundles of preferences have more to do with liberal and conservative social-political identity than with religious identity.

  • thebookofdave

    I was just trying to find out what people think about torture. I certainly didn’t expect a kind of…Gods dammit, chilidog99! Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to lead with the punch line?

  • Michael Heath

    Dr. X,

    I fairly confident you missed the criticism I directed at Ed. Ed compared the hierarchy’s written opposition to torture to their congregants’ support of torture. He then claimed this is just like the hierarchy taking one position where congregants effectively ignore their own hierarchy in practice, e.g., the hierarchy’s anti-birth control position while Catholics practice birth control similar to the population as a whole. I suspect socio-economic factors would play a better predictive role regarding birth control practices.

    But here’s why that comparison is wrong when it comes to torture. The hierarchy’s written opposition to torture is not their effective position. Their effective position is in support of torture, the very same as the majority of their congregants. So there is no effective difference between these two Catholic groups.

    If the hierarchy were actually opposed to torture, the hierarchy would be applying the same political pressure to politicians and in their churches they do when it comes to the policies where they really meant it, such as discriminating against women and gay people.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Jesus, the single most obvious and iconic symbol of the cat lick religion is a guy BEING TORTURED to death! They have these realistically painted effigies with nails through the hands and feet with red blood dripping down right there in front while they kneel before it and pray to it.

    I don’t buy it. The fact is, the rest of the world stopped letting them torture people who defied them, so NOW they are against it. Does anyone believe for a minute that if the pope got control like they once had, that they would not revert?

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    In fact, most American Catholics believe very little of what the church teaches on a wide range of subjects: divorce, birth control, transubstantiation and now torture as well. Why do they still consider themselves Catholics, then? Tradition, of course.

    Well I think the psychology of this seeming paradox is more complicated than that, and I don’t think people who grew up as Protestants get it. There are several facets to a person thinking of themselves as Catholic while opposing Church teachings that aren’t part of Protestant “Christan” identity. For a long time, Catholics existed very much within their own culture with a set of shared experiences that separated Catholics from Protestants who often had strong anti-Catholic sentiments. In that sense, familiar traditions were a factor, but it was more than that.

    Catholicism was more distinctly an identity defined by your baptism, beginning even before the cultural inculcation of Catholic identity commenced. It was psychologically akin to an ethnicity. There was a common expression we all heard: “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. “You couldn’t undo it, they told us. And it wasn’t a choice. There was no accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and savior or being reborn. That language was totally alien to Catholics. You were Catholic because you were baptized Catholic, which usually occurred within a very short time of your birth.

    Even if you were excommunicated, you were still regarded as a Catholic. A hellbound Catholic, but a Catholic. There actually is a procedure of separation that I only learned about as an adult and very few people know about it or bother with it. You have to petition the local bishop and submit to certain requirements to not be Catholic in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Well, even if you know about it, who’s going bother? I don’t consider myself Catholic, but as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, I’m still a Catholic and I’m on their books.

    It’s all part of an attitude that makes many Catholics feel as if their Catholicism is an identity rather than a choice. In a sense, the Catholic cultural immersion subsequent to infant baptism is like the cultural side of the ethnicity you were born with. You can reject every cultural facet of your ethnicity, and still feel like your ethnicity is a primary fact.

    Then, in addition being assigned an identity as a Catholic during infancy, the moral teachings can add to the sense of immutability of Catholic identity. One bedrock moral principle that Catholics were long taught was in constant tension with the authoritarian side of the Catholic church. Believe me, we hashed this out with our conservative nuns when I was a kid and ultimately, they taught us about the supremacy of the individual conscience. There are various ways the Catholic Church parses the notion of conscience and moral responsibility, but I can say that for me, when I was growing up, they imparted the idea that I must ultimately obey my own conscience even if it conflicts with what the Catholic teaches. I know that seems contrary to the way the hierarchy talks, but that was the moral principle they imparted. Conscience was a big part of our moral education. Google conscience catholic catechism and I’m sure you’ll find something on it.

    So early on, despite the authoritarian pressures of teachers and hierarchy, I also felt I had permission if not an obligation to disagree when my own conscience was at odds with the official teachings. This, by the way, is where many priests and nuns who oppose Church teachings are coming from. It’s this idea of the primacy of individual conscience.

    And while most younger people who consider themselves Catholic haven’t gone to Catholic school, I think their Catholic parents have imparted many of these attitudes. They baptize their kids as infants, and tell them they’re Catholic by baptism, and many convey to their kids that they can disagree with the teachings. That doesn’t mean they don’t think it’s a good idea to go to church, go to communion and pray. In their minds, the disagreement doesn’t separate them from Catholic identity or participation in Catholic rites, regardless of what the church might otherwise say. There is always conscience to fall back on.

    I’m not advocating or justifying, just explaining that it’s more complicated than the word tradition might imply and that those not raised in the Catholic Church, especially the older American version of the Catholic Church, might not appreciate the bases for maintaining Catholic identity while disagreeing with official Catholic teachings.

  • anubisprime

    Dr X @ 9

    Much as I abhor the Catholic church positions on s-s marriage, contraception and abortion, these policies aren’t about deliberately inflicting pain on people.

    Yes, that would be a Katolik’ preferred spin on the damage they inflict, but the fact is those policies do deliberately inflict pain , misery and confusion, is blithely ignored and minimized by the movers and shakers in the doctrine.

    They know very well the pain they cause, but how else do you have decent morals for breakfast without cracking a few eggs…

    It is fairly ironic that Malleus Maleficarum was written and produced by two loyal sons of the RC church which enthusiastically welcomed the treatise at first, it eventually fell out of favor as criticism mounted from the secular and the financiers as the inherent logical fallacies became crystal clear, but it took several years of torture and chaos before it was actually discarded it as a manual presumably to keep some sections of society they depended on sweet…it was quickly adopted by the Protestants though, they seemingly had neither the wit nor will to regurgitate their sadistic fantasies in print.

    But they tried to hide behind secular authority, blaming them for the executions and torture pretending innocence and good christian ethics.

    That was when the witch burnings really flourished.

    So the main xtian religions are much of a muchness when it comes to inflicting pain either mentally or physically…they have little to no qualms about the business, and the kicker is they still have not learnt, about those pesky qualms…and so it goes!

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    anubisprime “So the main xtian religions are much of a muchness when it comes to inflicting pain either mentally or physically…they have little to no qualms about the business, and the kicker is they still have not learnt, about those pesky qualms…and so it goes!”

    I wonder why that one isn’t more popular. There are some wonderful passages in the the Bible’s Book of Qualms.

  • anubisprime

    There are some wonderful passages in the the Bible’s Book of Qualms

    As usual Modus has wacked the nail on the head..

    Qualms in the bible?, well if it ain’t in there it ain’t shit, apparently, and few if any of the fans can be bothered manufacturing or quote mining something in the bible to pretend qualms are lurking in there in any shape or form, what the fuck does a xtian need qualms for anyway, …on the contrary so it is more a feature and not a bug….

    If the numbnuts used the bible to support slavery and even hint it is still permissible in this day and age, which some apparently do, then there is obviously no room in the text for any altruistic tendencies at all, let alone empathy and certainly let alone pesky qualms.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty — Survivor

    @Michael Heath:

    If the Catholic hierarchy actually opposed torture, we’d see that hierarchy acting in the manner they do when it comes to abortion and contraception rights, gay marriage, and their misogynistic policies.

    You’re conflating torture with oppression, sacrifice and suffering. Deliberate infliction of severe pain is the point of torture. Much as I abhor the Catholic church positions on s-s marriage, contraception and abortion, these policies aren’t about deliberately inflicting pain on people.

    It’s cute how you think those positions are neither deliberate nor that they inflict pain! It’s really cute!

    BUT IT’S WRONG.

    One might argue it’s more about control than inflicting pain, but you’re ignoring the fact that, as with all abusers (individual or organizational), the means of control and the very intent to gain and maintain that control over the victims causes irreparable harm.

  • Michael Heath

    WMD Kitty,

    I didn’t write what you object to above and misquote me as writing. Instead Dr. X wrote that.

    I too strongly disagree with Dr. X’s factual assertion that you quote above and then falsely attribute to me, though I didn’t address my objection in my response to his post.

    So I’d appreciate a retraction.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty — Survivor

    Um, dude, go back and re-read for comprehension.

    I included his blockquote of your post, for context, nested in my blockquote of his post, and my post was, in fact, directed at Dr. X.

    I was agreeing with you.

    So no, I will not retract my post based on your misreading.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I think WMDKitty was pointing out my ignorance, not yours Michael.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Ah yes, I see WMDKitty was talking to me. Yes, it’s cute the way I do that.

  • kraut

    ” but the Catholic Church itself takes a very strong stand against torture ”

    As long it is done by someone other not under their authority. As an ex catholic I do not think the church would not go back to the age of inquisition if they ever would regain a power they once had. It is all situational for the unholy sea.

  • tfkreference

    Great pun in your last two words, kraut, though it’s really too poetic for a pun – would allegory be a better word?

  • Michael Heath

    WMD Kitty,

    I understood the intention of your original comment post and saw how you nested his quote below mine. I never raised this issue with you so I’m not sure why even bring it up. Instead my objection was that your Dr. X quote failed to attribute that quote to him. Instead the only attribution for what you quoted from the both of us mistakenly references only me rather than correctly attributing Dr. X’s quote to him.

    It’s bad form to quote someone and not reference who you are quoting. It’s especially bad form when you put that quote beneath other quotes and reference one commenter while failing to reference the second commenter.

    If I didn’t find Dr. X’s statement that you quote so objectionable, I wouldn’t have raised your failure to attribute that statement to him instead of to me.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Michael, I was thinking this over and must agree that you’re right. The Senate committee investigating CIA torture of prisoners totally missed the boat. While simulated drowning, chaining people to walls, having them stand on broken feet and leaving them naked on concrete floors to die of hypothermia was awful, they completely left out the excruciating suffering of the prisoners who were denied access to birth control and same-sex marriage. The denial of those freedoms were, effectively, just like deliberate repeated, simulated drowning. I’m sure the prisoners agree.

  • Nick Gotts

    Dr. X@25,

    Ho, ho, very satirical. But the denial of access to abortion, contraception, and marriage to the person you love can and do all cause terrible suffering. Whether that’s the intent is probably neither here nor there to most of the sufferers from these vile Catholic doctrines.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Nick,

    I wasn’t being satirical. I’m agreeing with Michael. My notion of torture was much too narrow. In fact, I was thinking about something Dennis Prager once wrote about all the tortured men whose wives turn them down for sex. I mean, it isn’t that they intend to inflict pain on their husbands, but the suffering is very real, so effectively, they’re wives are torturing them.

    In my work through a program for torture survivors here in Chicago, I’ve seen people who fit the old narrow definition of torture, I’ve seen the devastating psychological and effects. I’ve also seen patients in practice who grew up when abortion and birth control were illegal. And, of course, I’ve seen many gay men and a few lesbians that weren’t permitted to marry in Illinois until just this past June. I’d never made the connection between their suffering and the suffering of people I’ve seen in the torture survivors program, but I hope you’ll forgive me because none of the victims of this broader definition of torture ever remotely conveyed the degree of suffering experienced by victims of political torture or torture at the hands of a domestic (family torturer). But now I see, it’s exactly the same because internet umbrage.

  • Nick Gotts

    Dr X,

    You’re an idiot. What about the women who die in agony because they are denied abortion? Those who have to carry their rapist’s child? What about gay people denied the right to visit their dying partners in hospital, because they couldn’t marry them, they don’t count as “next of kin”, and those who do exclude them. Just because you haven’t encountered them, you think they don’t exist? You compare their suffering to being denied sex by your wife. Fuck you.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Nick Gotts “Whether that’s the intent is probably neither here nor there to most of the sufferers from these vile Catholic doctrines.”

    That falls under the Catholic Principle of Double Effect. So it’s fine.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    You’re an idiot. What about the women who die in agony because they are denied abortion?

    You bring up the exceptional cases to define the entire effect. Let me tell you, every single person who is waterboarded suffers horribly. Every One Of Them. They all suffer terribly because the intention is to make the victim of waterboarding suffer excruciating pain and distress. It’s carried out in a way to inflict brutal suffering each and every time. That is the purpose. And that is torture.

    Every goddamned bad experience could be declared torture if you can find an incidental, unintended bad effect that some people experience. My brother got run down by a car when he darted out into the street for ice cream. Ice cream sellers are torturers.

    A billion people or so have been raised as Catholics, subjected Catholic teachings. If you think they’re all torture victims, then virtually everyone on the planet is a torture victim. What a ridiculous dilution of a real phenomenon that represents a hell that you can’t even imagine.

    I don’t know what your background is Nick. Michael grew up fundie Christian IIRC. I know he certainly doesn’t know a damned thing about the experience of growing up in the thick of the Catholic Church, in the old urban ethnic Catholicism that was still using Latin in my early childhood. It was a time when Catholic families routinely had 5, 6, 7 kids and sometimes more. I know this much: some angry former fundie knows nothing about what it was like and has nothing to teach me about the subjective experience of living with Catholic teachings. And it’s fucking idiotic to equate it with torture. Probably close a billion people who were raised Catholic, including those like me who rejected it, will tell you that equating it with what happened at CIA black sites, or under Hitler or Stalin or under anyone of a number of present day Muslim regimes an idiotic insult to real victims of torture.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Dr X “My brother got run down by a car when he darted out into the street for ice cream. Ice cream sellers are torturers.”

    To be fair…

  • Anri

    Of course the Catholics support torture, so long as god’s doing it.

    What the hell do you think Hell is, anyway?

    Presumably, the idea is that torture is a terrible, immoral, unjustifiably evil thing unless the one doing it is good.

    Then it’s moral justice of absolute perfection.

  • Nick Gotts

    You bring up the exceptional cases to define the entire effect. – Dr. X

    How many women do you think have died in agony because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception and abortion? How many people have contracted AIDS because of the former? The total will be far greater than those tortured by the CIA – which was the comparison in question. That you know how weak your position is, is clear from the way Hitler and Stalin have suddenly popped up in your last comment. As for idiotic insults to those who have undergone terrible suffering: even if I tried I couldn’t come up with anything to match your stupid and offensive comparion of the victims of Catholic policies to men denied sex by their wives.

  • Nick Gotts

    It was a time when Catholic families routinely had 5, 6, 7 kids and sometimes more.

    Another huge group of victims of evil Catholic policies: the children born into families unable to care for them adequately. In poorer countries, many of these children would die of malnutrition, or the diseases that prey on those weakened by it. And maybe you should reflect on whether your own background might possibly have some influence on your judgements in this area. You say you’ve rejected Catholicism, and I don’t doubt you’ve abandoned thereligious beliefs, but you’re pretty damn keen to defend it.

  • Michael Heath

    Dr. X @ 25 writes:

    Michael, I was thinking this over and must agree that you’re right. The Senate committee investigating CIA torture of prisoners totally missed the boat. While simulated drowning, chaining people to walls, having them stand on broken feet and leaving them naked on concrete floors to die of hypothermia was awful, they completely left out the excruciating suffering of the prisoners who were denied access to birth control and same-sex marriage. The denial of those freedoms were, effectively, just like deliberate repeated, simulated drowning. I’m sure the prisoners agree.

    Dr. X @ 27 writes:

    I’ve seen many gay men and a few lesbians that weren’t permitted to marry in Illinois until just this past June. I’d never made the connection between their suffering and the suffering of people I’ve seen in the torture survivors program, but I hope you’ll forgive me because none of the victims of this broader definition of torture ever remotely conveyed the degree of suffering experienced by victims of political torture or torture at the hands of a domestic (family torturer). But now I see, it’s exactly the same because internet umbrage.

    I pointed out that Ed’s wrong when he claims the Catholic hierarchy is against torture simply because they wrote their claimed opposition down. So that means Ed’s also wrong that’s another example where Catholics ignore their hierarchy’s position. I never argued that Catholic discrimination against certain groups is just as bad as their supporting torture.

    Your posts in this thread are not characteristic of the quality of your prior posts in prior threads. What’s up with that?

  • Michael Heath

    Dr. X @ 30 writes:

    Michael grew up fundie Christian IIRC. I know he certainly doesn’t know a damned thing about the experience of growing up in the thick of the Catholic Church, in the old urban ethnic Catholicism that was still using Latin in my early childhood. It was a time when Catholic families routinely had 5, 6, 7 kids and sometimes more. I know this much: some angry former fundie knows nothing about what it was like and has nothing to teach me about the subjective experience of living with Catholic teachings. And it’s fucking idiotic to equate it with torture.

    Except I never equated anything to torture. I was instead pointing out that Ed’s analogy doesn’t work because Catholics are not in disagreement with their church regarding torture.

    You’ve went off the rails in this thread Dr. X; taking on a fight with me that exists only in your own mind. You also attempt to minimize me and my argument by claiming it comes from my being “some angry former fundie”.

    First off, the fundie doctrinal efforts never took. So I was never a fundie, only raised in that environment. And if you think my argument is irrational due to my upbringing, then I suggest quoting what I wrote that’s irrational and pointing out why that’s true. I currently see only a dispassionate critique.

    Your posts on this thread are not characteristic of the quality of your prior posts. The last time Ed called me out for a really bad comment post was a couple of years ago when I was sick in bed with the flu. I hope there’s some explanation for your posts here that makes your posts here the exception for you as well.

  • Nick Gotts

    Michael Heath@36,

    My #33 might be read as accepting that you had equated results of Catholic teaching with torture. I’m well aware that you did no such thing, and apologise for the clumsiness which could suggest otherwise.