Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin

Pope Francis says that torture is a mortal sin.

For those who might be confused, a mortal sin is a willfully committed transgression against the law of God that deprives the soul of divine grace. In other words, a mortal sin can send you to hell.

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The UN and the Vatican: Politicizing Torture to Defend Abortion

The Vatican went before the UN Convention on Torture to answer questions about the clergy child abuse scandal and Church teachings on abortion and homosexuality, not as a church, but as a government.

In addition to raising the preposterous idea that Church teaching on abortion is torture of women, the Convention also raised the issue of the practice of transferring child abusing priests from one parish to another.

I am guessing that the Convention’s position on the Vatican and child sexual abuse is based on the contention that sexual child abuse, when it is allowed by a governmental body, is a form of government-sanctioned torture. I may be giving them more credit than they deserve, but that’s the only hook I can see on which they could hang these charges.

I don’t know how they get to their other positions that the Church should change its teachings abortion and homosexuality because they are torture. There is no basis for such claims. I think that these idiotic charges reveal the real motivations behind this line of attack against the Catholic Church.

The Vatican’s position regarding the charges concerning the child sexual abuse scandal is that it did not, as a city state, have governing control of the child-abusing priests around the world who perpetrated these crimes. The Vatican says that the abusers were under the laws and governance of the countries in which they resided.

This is true in a legal sense; in a moral sense, not so much.

The Vatican itself is a city state, and as such can be called to account as a government. However, the Catholic Church, whose head resides in the Vatican, is a church and not a government. That’s a complicated situation which can — and obviously does — lead to all sorts of political gamesmanship.

As a Catholic, I do not think of myself as a citizen of the Vatican. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church, with the emphasis on Church. 

The Roman Catholic Church is called to a much higher purpose, and is required to behave in an entirely different manner, than any government. It makes claims for itself that go far beyond governance. The leaders of our Church ask for a level of compliance and respect from the laity that good governmental leaders do not ask and bad governmental leaders cannot get.

To be blunt about it, if you are going to go around saying that you speak for Christ, you have a responsibility to not behave like the sons of Satan.

I think that trying to claim that the Church committed torture in the sexual abuse scandal as defined by the Convention on Torture is a callous political ruse. The fact that the Convention added the additional charge that the Church’s teachings on abortion and homosexuality are a form of torture makes that clear.

I think this ruse is designed to lessen the Church’s moral teaching authority on issues such as the sanctity of human life and marriage.

As a tactical action in the culture wars, it is a strong move. The Church’s power, such as it is, comes directly from its moral and prophetic voice.

The clergy sexual abuse of children scandal degrades that moral and prophetic voice in a way that the Church’s enemies, with all their attacks and criticisms, never could. It is a forceful weapon in the hands of those who want to destroy the persuasive power of the Catholic Church’s moral voice. That is why people who hate the Church’s teachings in certain areas seem to delight in talking about the scandal.

They constantly seek new ways to raise that clear failure of Christian discipleship on the part of so many Church leaders and keep it before the public eye because it damages the Church’s claim to holiness.

The sexual abuse of children by predatory adults is widespread in this world. There appears to be certain industries and organizations which routinely cover up for abusers. For instance, the entertainment industry deserves a good looking over in this regard.

Focusing on the Catholic Church to the exclusion of other offenders is not only dishonest, it enables these other predators to continue harming children.

Limiting public outrage about the sexual abuse of children to anger at the Catholic Church does not serve children well. It allows abusers in every other walk of life to keep on abusing. But, even though it does not serve children well, it does serve a political purpose. The purpose is to provide a platform for taking aim at the Church’s teachings that the attackers disagree with.

By using a Convention against torture that the Vatican signed to attack the Church, the enemies of the Church’s teachings in areas such as abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and questions of economic exploitation weaken the Church’s voice against those things.

I think that is what this whole line of attack is about. In truth, torture is a narrow word that does not lend itself to this kind of politicized use. That is why the word has such historic power. The Convention is broadening the definition of torture beyond its original meaning to raise these charges.

By doing that, it cheapens the moral prohibitions against torture. By callously using torture as a misplaced and politicized gotcha attack instrument, the Convention weakens the very thing it is designed to strengthen, which is the international effort to end the use of torture.

I have strong feelings about the use of torture, based on actual knowledge of torture and contact with victims of torture. I have equally strong feelings about diluting the meaning of the word torture so that it becomes useless. I think this kind of political gamesmanship — which is really about abortion, gay marriage, economic exploitation, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, etc — enables torturers and lets them continue.

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We’re Going to Need a New Word

Gen Michael Hayden at NSLJ Symposium

Michael Hayden, former head of CIA and NSA. Source: Wikipedia

We’re going to have to find another word.

That’s what happens when organized groups with an agenda do their lying thing and massage, twist and shave the meaning of a word that evokes powerful emotions into a meaningless, politicized hulk of its former self.

Words have power to evoke emotion and, with some words, outrage. Somewhere back in the first half of the twentieth century the big-time government monsters among us figured this out. Instead of accepting the plain meaning of plain words and changing their behavior, they set out, first to find substitute words that would blur the emotional response to their reactions, and then to batter the meaning of existing words into dust.

Thus, mass murder became a “final solution” which morphed into “ethnic cleansing,” while slavery and brainwashing were called “re-education.” Killing a baby was labeled a “choice” and then a “termination.” In this century, we have been treated to the spectacle of torture being called “enhanced interrogation.”

It’s all the same lie, the same manipulation, the same evil.

This manipulation of words is a separate and additional evil from the acts that it attempts to gloss over. It is an act of aggression, aimed, not at the victims of whatever it is trying to cover up, but at the sanity of society as a whole. If our words become politicized gibberish, our thinking becomes muddled and gibbering along with them.

The precise and honest use of language is the essential tool for precise and honest thinking. What the spinmeisters are doing by butchering our language is destroying the ability to think clearly of the citizens of our nation and our world.

Torture is the “final solution/re-education/choice” of the first decade of the 21st century. The deliberate destruction of our public sensitivity to torture through the use of lies and ridiculous parsing has led to the destruction of the meaning of the word itself. We have arrived at the it-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is- is point with torture.

We are faced with having to find a new word, even as the old one continues to be twisted, narrowed and broadened into utter meaninglessness.

What began as the American experiment in justifying torture to a population that had long prided itself on how well it treated its prisoners has morphed into the use of the word to label criminal malfeasance and taking positions on social issues that one finds disagreeable as torture.

On the one hand, we have our CIA and neo-con enthusiasts going around seriously trying to claim that water boarding a helpless prisoner is not torture because it doesn’t break bones and rupture internal organs. On the other hand, we have the totalitarian nitwits of the abortion-at-any-cost crowd at the United Nations trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is the killing of an innocent child.

Top that off with a conjoined United Nations attempt to claim that the Church’s admitted malfeasance in the area of child sexual abuse by priests is somehow or other torture, and you’ve got a word that no longer means much of anything.

Did the Catholic Church torture children by transferring sexual predator priests from one parish to another? No. The Church made a hash of its own moral authority and violated everything it stands for. The Church violated civil laws and its own teachings.

Is the Catholic Church the only institution with a history of allowing sexual predators to flourish in its midst? No. Virtually every institution that I know of has done this, which would make the UN’s new definition of torture ubiquitous rather than specific. What is different about the Church as opposed to other institutions is not a matter of law. It is a matter of outrage.

The Church betrayed Christ by transferring those priests. Every bishop who did this put clericalism and the good old boy buddy system ahead of his call to be a shepherd. Every bishop who did this betrayed his calling and his Lord; his Church and its people. These bishops behaved like corporate CEOs instead of priests, and that is the outrage and betrayal of their actions.

This was not torture. As evil as torture is, this was something far worse. It was a betrayal of Christ crucified among us by the men who have vowed to represent Him in this world.

This mis-use of the word torture to try to advance political and social agendas is a specific evil all of its own. Torture as a word is becoming another meaningless victim of our desire to to do evil and not be called evil for having done it.

Destroying a word as important as torture has ramifications that go far beyond linguistics. It means destroying an idea, maiming our moral understandings and weakening our ability to think rationally.

Torture is never acceptable. Torture is an intrinsic evil. I’m going to write about this in more detail, but the American experiment in thought control via the many lies and verbal shape shiftings surrounding our use of torture against prisoners since 9/11 is an evil that is separate and distinct from the evil of torture itself.

If we are outraged by the United Nations propaganda attack of trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is a sin — and we should be outraged — we have only ourselves to blame. We, the United States of America, are the ones who have destroyed the meaning of the word in order to obfuscate our own actions.

This brainwashing of the public mind by insisting that torture means something other than what it means has side effects. Evil doesn’t just stake its claim in our societies and content itself with that one spot. It is a kudzu vine that takes root and grows outward, overtaking and smothering our moral sensibilities.

The evil of lying to and brainwashing the public to accept torture by narrowing the meaning of the word into preposterous meaningless has a flip side. We are seeing that flip side at the United Nations. If a word can be narrowed into meaninglessness, the same word can also be expanded into meaninglessness.

People with agendas can use the residual emotion the word still evokes. They use this residual emotion to justify political attacks by linking the word to actions where it does not apply and than claiming a faux moral outrage against organizations, actions and even ideas they dislike.

The Church did not commit torture when it betrayed Our Lord by transferring abusing priests. That is not what the word means. The claims that the Church is today committing torture against women by teaching that abortion is a grave sin, are too stupid to try to answer. It is obvious propaganda. It demands that the public acquiesce in its own brainwashing.

But the basis for making such claims lies in the torture to which the word torture has been subjected in recent years by the social and cultural brainwashers of our own government.

The great sin — and I use that moral word deliberately — is the lie and violation of human thought that is propaganda and brainwashing by the callous mis-labeling and mis-use of powerful words. This is done first to lie to whole populations of people about matters of terrible import, and then, in its ultimate application, to get them to lie to themselves about the same things.

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Gobsmacked by Sarah Palin

Deacon Greg has the story. 

Evidently, former Governor Sarah Palin made the statement in a speech at the national NRA convention that if she was president, “water boarding would be how we baptize terrorists.”

She went on in this speech to indulge in a string of name-calling; talking about “intolerant, anti freedom leftist liberals” and “clownish, Kumbaya-humming, fairytale-inhabiting Democrats.”

How are these comments offensive? Let me count the ways.

First, aside from the issue of using torture against our enemies, baptism is a sacrament. It is the sacrament of initiation into life as a Christian. It washes away our sins. We were directly commanded by Our Lord “to go to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

What was former Governor Palin thinking, to use this wonderful sacrament of forgiveness, healing and salvation as a one-off in a speech dedicated to hate, violence and the torture of human beings?

Second, the name-calling ugliness about “liberals” and Democrats is the kind of nonsense that has led us to the pass we now inhabit in our society and our government. Our elected officials in Congress have given up their responsibilities to govern this country in order to indulge in partisan eye-jabbing of one another. This language — which comes from both sides — feeds this hatred.

It is simply unacceptable for a person who has held the high office of governor of one of these 50 states and who was the nominee for Vice President of the United States of America of one of our two major political parties to talk trashy hatred like this. She makes herself look like a performer in a sideshow instead of a serious woman who wants to act in accordance with the common good.

A few months ago, I wrote a couple of posts decrying the filthy, misogynist and downright OCD attacks on former Governor Palin by MSNBC. I do not take back one word of what I wrote.

I do not agree with every policy idea that Governor Palin has, but no one should be subjected to the attacks against their good name and humanity that MSNBC was launching against her.

Now, I am in the position of making a public statement criticizing the over-the-top language coming from the former Governor herself.

I do not know if former Governor Palin wants to be taken seriously as a politician, author or commenter, but if she does, she really should re-consider these shoot-from-the-hip statements. She has been strong in her witness to her Christian faith, yet she denigrates the sacrament of baptism to make a cutesy comment supporting torture. Instead of talking about issues, she simply comes out with a string of attack-adjectives aimed at those she disagrees with.

I’m not doubting her Christian faith. I’m not even debating her positions on issues.

I am just saying that these comments are offensive on many levels. They do not give reasons or talk about ideas or even tell us what Governor Palin’s positions on issues might be. They certainly do not explain why her beliefs are worthwhile or something anyone else should adopt.

Just letting fly with a string of expletives is not discussion. By the same token, brandishing a string of attack adjectives and cutesy comments is not taking a position. It is hate mongering.

I like to see women in government do a good job. I don’t care which party they are in, I want them to succeed. I am not offended when people have ideas that differ from mine.

I’m honestly not offended by this very offensive use of the precious sacrament of baptism to make an ugly point in an overall ugly speech.

I’m gobsmacked by the stupidity of it.

Governor Palin needs to stop caricaturizing herself. How is this kind of red-meat speech-making stupid and destructive? Again, let me count the ways.

At Gethsemane

 

Gethsemane is far more than the physical garden where Jesus prayed the night He was taken.

Gethsemane is a place in the human heart, a destination we all reach. Some of us will go there many times in our lives.

Gethsemane is what I call The Alone. It is that stripped-bare moment when the pretenses and self lies that sustain us in our illusion of invincibility and significance are taken from us. Gethsemane is the realization that we are alone in a way that the glad-handing niceties of human interaction hide from us.

Emotions such as loneliness and even despair are trivialities when contrasted with the stark solitary helplessness of The Alone. It is a stunning thing to look into the eyes of another human being and see satan looking back at you. It is a soul-scouring reality to face the insignificance we really are to other people.

That is Gethsemane, and it is what Jesus faced for you. And for me.

Can you not wait with me one hour? He asked the disciples, and the question vibrates with the isolating aloneness that prompted it.

He had to face the awfulness of what was coming without human succor or understanding. When they came, when Judas struck Him to the heart with a kiss of betrayal, when He looked into the pitiless eyes of Satan, staring at him from another human face, He was alone.

That was Christ’s Gethsemane. Our Gethsemane, even though it will differ, is in some ways like it.

My friend Linda Caswell is director of All Things New, a ministry that shelters and redeems women who have been trafficked and prostituted. These women know The Alone, not as an event or passage, but as the whole of their lives. They have inhabited The Alone the way you and I inhabit our jobs, families and lives, because it has been their lives.

Most of these women have had very few positive contacts with people of faith. They avoid churches because the men who have bought them are also in the churches. Their only safety is in Jesus, but they do not understand that at first.

When Linda shows them the movie that Mel Gibson made, The Passion of the Christ, it inevitably breaks through the hard shell of their defenses. Women who do not understand the Gospels as anything but a lie told by lying liars who buy and sell them break down and sob uncontrollably when they see Jesus humiliated, beaten, tortured and disregarded.

This Jesus, the One who prayed “let this cup pass” in Gethsemane, they understand. And by the miracle of the grace of the cross, they believe that this Jesus understands them.

Their lives, which have been an unending Gethsemane, open to this Brother God who was beaten, tortured, humiliated and disregarded as they have been.

Because He understands. Because He does not disregard them. Because He is the only One who can go with them into The Alone of their personal Gethsemanes.

Jesus Christ suffered for us to redeem us from our sins, from the things we’ve done. He also suffered to redeem us from the things that have been done to us. In this cruel world, the things that are done to us can cut deeper and leave us less able to see the Divine than our sins.

We put people outside the bright circles of acceptability that we draw around ourselves and those we deem worthy. We cast them into the hell of unending Gethsemane where no one keeps vigil with them and no one cares that they are alone.

Only Jesus, Who has been there, can penetrate The Alone of our lives. He is the One, the only One, who can draw people back from the man-made abyss of life lived in The Alone where we cast so many of the people that He died to save.

It is important to remember this at all times, but especially today when we re-enact the Last Supper. Jesus was becoming Christ on this night when He gave us the Eucharist and the servant priesthood. He was teaching us how to love with a love that passes all human understanding and how to live the life of the Kingdom in this world. He was showing us that even in our Gethsemane, even in the deepest pit of The Alone, we are never alone, for He is always there.

And he will keep watch with us, not just for an hour, but for the whole of this life and into the one beyond.

 

The CIA Lied to Congress Repeatedly About the Use of Torture

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The CIA lied to Congress and the American people about the brutal interrogation methods it used during the Bush administration.

The agency lied about the severity of the torture it inflicted on detainees, as well as the quality of information that these methods garnered.

Why?

Why would the CIA want to torture people, even if it wasn’t effective? The answer to that probably goes back decades and is intertwined with areas of activity that our government has engaged in that the American people know very little about.

Something as monstrous as the government-sanctioned use of torture doesn’t spring fully grown from the head of the government Zeus. It grows through long years of mortal compromises, piled one on top the other. One of the many disturbing things about all this is that only the lowest level people involved have ever, or will probably ever, be brought to anything resembling justice.

From The Washington Post:

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.

I Am a Feminist and I Have a Wish List for Pope Francis

Kathy Schiffer, who writes at Seasons of Grace, published a post today about one feminist’s list of things she’d like to see Pope Francis do.

Kathy does a fine job of critiquing this To Do List — which was written by Angela Bonavoglia — from the viewpoint of a faithful Catholic.

Predictably, there was not one thing on this list that would help, or that even addresses, the real problems that endemic misogyny foists on real woman in the real world.

The list was all about demands that the Catholic Church change its hierarchy, appoint a woman cardinal and, oh yes, do away with the celibate priesthood. There was a call to “leave behind the Virgin Birth,” and the predictable demand that the Church get its head right about abortion and contraception.

The only thing on the list that I agree with is that the Vatican should have women on the panels when it discusses women. That’s what you might call a no-brainer. I’ll go a step further and say that the Church should have women on its advisory panels on most topics. We are, after all, half the human race.

I am aware that virtually all of today’s “official” feminists do not consider me much of a woman, much less a feminist, due to my support for the sanctity of human life. Abortion has become the qualifier for what is a feminist in their minds. This is a tragedy, both for feminism and for the women of the world who are in such desperate need of a movement that will speak for them and to them.

The author of the Pope Francis To Do List left out the two fundamental human rights that are denied women in every corner of this globe. She didn’t mention the basic and absolutely essential right to life for female babies and little girls. She also ignored the human right of all people — including women — to live without fear of being bought, sold, raped, beaten, tortured or murdered.

Think about this for a minute.

Girls right here in America are regularly cautioned not to drink from open containers at parties for fear their drink might be drugged and they will end up gang raped by the men at the party. Girls in college dorms are cautioned about this before going to fraternity parties. These fraternities and their behavior are that well known. But the college administration does nothing about it except to caution the girls to be careful.

Here’s a thought Mr or Ms College President: If you can’t trust a fraternity not to drug and gang rape their guests, maybe you should close the fraternity.

Women all over the world know that they cannot go outside alone in certain areas, that they may not wear certain types of clothes, all for fear of violent attack.

Certain cultures here in America and whole cultures elsewhere tolerate husbands who routinely rape their wives, because she “belongs to him.”

Women are bought and sold like chattel on on-line porn sites, on the streets and byways, and in the offices of medical doctors. Egg harvesters run ads on college campuses to entice young girls to endanger their lives and their future fertility by allowing their bodies to be brutalized by massive doses of hormones, then subjected to totally unnecessary surgeries in order to harvest eggs. Women are used in an international surrogacy industry that leaves many of them, especially in other countries, dead.

Women and children of both sexes are trafficked all over the globe in an international sex trafficking industry. This industry could not exist without men who are willing to buy women and children and use them as if they were things.

Sex tourism is a major contributor to the economies of a number of small countries, including island nations in the Caribbean. Again, this could not happen without customers who come from more affluent places to buy human beings and use them without regard for their humanity.

This leads me to an admission.

I have a wish list for Pope Francis of my own.

It’s the same wish list I’ve had for every pope since I converted to Catholicism. It will be my wish list until I either go home to the Lord, or a pope finally grants it.

I want to see a full-scale Encyclical condemning the wholesale, endemic and historic violence against women that is the shame of the human race. I have written previous popes letters, asking them to do this. I haven’t written Pope Francis about it yet, but I must. I will.

I can not describe what such an encyclical would mean to the women of the world. It is so needed — and so long overdue.

As for the feminist woman and her list of things she wants Pope Francis to do, my advice is for her to stop making her feminism about her grudge fights with the Church and start making it about the needs of women who are faced with virulent, degrading and often fatal misogyny.

From Me to Pope Francis: Remember the Ladies

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“Remember the ladies.”

Abigail Adams to her husband John

Abigail Adams spoke up for women at America’s founding. “Remember the ladies,” she wrote her husband, John Adams. “Be more generous to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of your husbands.”

Women suffrage voters

Unfortunately, John didn’t listen to his wife, such notions being “too radical” for a nation founded on the equality of all men. About a hundred years later, the men of that time didn’t listen to the women who had fought gallantly in the abolitionist cause, either. “It is the black man’s time,” they said, when the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were drafted. In essence they advised the women who had sacrificed so much to end slavery to, as women are often told, “wait your turn.” Subsequent Supreme Court rulings specifically said that the amendment did not include women.

Adams’ plea to her husband notwithstanding, it took 170 years of marches, speeches, arrests, forced feedings, mob attacks and an entire, separate, Constitutional Amendment to give half the people in this country the simple right to vote.

My grandmother, who was born on the Kansas prairie in 1886, was 34 years old before she had the legal right to vote.

6 Suffragist Picketing 4

Even today, women are bought and sold like chattel. They are sexualized, degraded and trivialized in our media and even by some “civil rights” commenters. Women are raped, beaten, tortured and murdered at high rates all over the world, including right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We accept this as natural and the way things are. Half the people in this country are told to be careful what they drink when they go to parties because it might be drugged and they could end up being gang raped for fun by the men at the party. Half the people of this country are told to go out in pairs at night for their own protection.

We make the sadistic rape and torture of women into our entertainment. How many millions of men support an on-line porn industry that pumps these hideous images of women being used, abused, beaten, raped and reduced to things into their homes so they can be titillated by it?

And yet,

And predictably,

The press buried the Holy Father’s statements about women. After all, gay is soooo much more important.

I’m not going to quote the Holy Father’s comments except to say that he didn’t open any new theological ground. You can hear what he said without any filters from me here.

Personally, I want to see the Church begin to preach and teach that violence against women is a sin with the same vigor that it preaches and teaches that abortion is a sin, and for the same reasons. Whenever any group of people is singled out for violence, abuse and murder, that is a deep social sin. We have laws against killing women, while we have laws allowing the murder of the unborn. But in actual practice we live in a world where violence against women is our entertainment.

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I once helped organize a meeting of the various heads of Oklahoma’s denominations in an attempt to get them to acknowledge the seriousness and the evil of violence against women. The response was heartwarming, but, the fire went out after the meeting was over. My personal reason for doing this was simply because I had been sitting in pews for decades and I had never once heard a single sermon or homily in which anyone said that rape is a sin.

All I know is that I’ve worked decades of my life on this one issue, both as a lawmaker and as a private citizen, and it seems that violence against women is worse now than ever.

We’ve had talks on this blog about papal encyclicals we’d like to see. I’ll add my hope to the list. It would mean more than anything to me if the Holy Father would write an encyclical condemning the endemic, worldwide and historic violence against women for the great evil that it is.


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