Kevin O’Brien…

struggles with living in a Church where so many Catholic still waste so much time on trying to figure out how close they can get to torturing people instead of trying to figure out how to treat prisoners humanely and get the intel we need.

It’s astonishing to hear “prolife” Christians, who worship a torture victim, still straining credulity to come up with rationalizations for tiptoeing as close as possible to committing sins worthy of the everlasting fires of hell. It comes back, once again, to the divide in moral theology between those whose underlying question is “How can we do what is right with as little violence as possible?” and those who ask (whether they realize it or not) “When do we *get* to inflict violence?”

One of the marks of deep corruption in the discussion, as Kevin notes, is the perpetual insistence on seeking a “definition” of torture while simultaneously insisting that no definition can ever be found or ever be adequate, leaving the Pusher for Mortal Sin free to test the boundaries and see how far we can go in the infliction of suffering. Such Definition Games were a staple of the torture arguments over the past decade and were aptly summed up by Tom Kreitzberg as “making the case for fog“. Indeed, the persistent advocates for the use of torture sneeringly took the mantle Coalition for Fog to themselves.

It’s not really super-complicated: Don’t ask “How close can I get to mortal sin?” Ask “How do I obey Jesus and act like a saint?” Easy to understand. Hard to do.

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  • Dave G.

    Don’t ask “How close can I get to mortal sin?”

    Technically, it’s “how close can I get to sin in general” that I shouldn’t ask.

  • capaxdei

    Today’s first reading tells the story of the Council of Jerusalem. Read narrowly, we might draw from it a message of hope: on at least one contentious matter, clear Church teaching has been composed and accepted. More broadly, we might draw a message of patience: two thousand years later, the Church is still wrestling with questions of inculturation, yet She slogs on along the way.

  • KM

    An excellent article! Thank you! The opening lines are so classic and true.

    • KM

      This is an excellent essay explaining Imago Dei and human dignity, and how it should prevent all Christians from rationalizing torture and other evils. I’m definitely bookmarking this.