Santorum, Torture and Selective Catholicism

Santorum, Torture and Selective Catholicism February 24, 2012

Here’s another example of how Rick Santorum picks and chooses which parts of Catholic doctrine he accepts and which he doesn’t. In May of last year, he came out in support of waterboarding and other forms of torture and said that John McCain just didn’t understand how well they worked.

In a radio interview, Mr. Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania and a Republican presidential candidate, disputed Mr. McCain’s contention that “enhanced interrogation” techniques like waterboarding did not lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“This idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works,” Mr. Santorum said of his former colleague, Mr. McCain. “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information.”

Mr. McCain doesn’t understand how “enhanced interrogation” works? Perhaps Mr. Santorum forgot part of Mr. McCain’s biography: He was the subject of nearly five years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese.

And he gave false information because of that torture. McCain knows exactly what torture results in. But Andrew Sullivan points out that the Catholic catechism explicitly condemns torture in all forms:

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…

Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions.

On the other hand, perhaps Santorum is being a consistent Catholic here — consistent in declaring one thing and doing another. The victims of Torquemada could be forgiven for laughing at the condemnation of torture by the One True Church.


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