Since you’ve been so persistent on the question of torture, I’m curious whether you’ve been hearing the same odd argument that is turning up in many of the critical emails that I’ve received.
Literally dozens of people have written to tell me that the Church condemns torture when it is used to extract a confession, but not when it’s used to gain information. I’m having trouble taking that argument seriously; I don’t understand how a reasonable intelligent person could find a morally significant distinction there. Have you been getting that argument too, or is it something peculiar to my readers?
When the Church is clearly teaching something that people Catholics desperately wish to avoid, the general method for ignoring bloody obvious Church teaching is to find a theologian somewhere who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear, and then raise him to the status of the Magisterium, despite the fact that he literally stands in complete isolation from the rest of the Church’s witness. We saw this with the exaltation of people like Charles Curran and Hans Kung with lefties on their beloved Pelvic Issues.
Now the Torture Defending Right is doing the same thing. The theologian in this case, is Fr. Brian Harrison. In addition to rushing to defend Bob Sungenis from his bishop’s censure of his loony antisemitism) Fr. Harrison also immediately set to work devising a defense for the use of torture in interrogation so hair-splitting and tendentious that only a dedicated torture defender could take it as gospel: see here and here
Tom Kreitzberg sums things up perfectly in his excellent rebuttal of this desperate attempt to find wiggle room for torture when he describes it as precisely the sort of logic chopping that gives Roman Catholic theology a bad name http://disputations.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.html#116248044980889857 It’s this piece that is the source of the ridiculous arguments you are hearing. And despite the fact that Fr. Harrisoh stands absolutely and totally alone in the theological community and without one single shred of support from any bishop in the whole wide world, he has been treated as an alternate Magisterium on this question by Catholic torture defenders for years.
Benedict’s statement, for those who don’t know, is this: “I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances.”
I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture – not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding “the present status quaestionis” on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.
You should point your readers to those facts at every opportunity. I wish Fr. Harrison would take these writings down and not leave them up for torture defenders to keep referring to as some kind of magisterial proof for their position.
Thanks for fighting the good fight. The cheering for mortal sin by “prolife” “faithful” Catholics is an ugly stain on the Church’s witness. That it still continues at this late date, after the release of the Senate Report, is even more appalling. There’s no sense left in it, other than the insane “sense” of needing to go on justifying evil lest one have to admit one was obviously wrong. It’s People of the Lie stuff at this stage. That’s why the focus is now on a) appealing to naked liars like Dick “The Ends Justify the Means” Cheney as “proof” that “it worked”; b) refusal to acknowledge that the ends do not justify the means whether it worked or not; c) refusa to acknowledge that the Report documents that it did not, in fact, work and did, in fact, harm intel-gathering; d)endless quibbling about waterboarding as though all the other horrors in the Senate Report never happened; e) genetic fallacy lies which try to argue that the Democratic authorship of the report somehow make the copiously documented fact in the report go away; and f) (with Catholic Torture Defenders) absurd hair-splitting appeals to the now-disowned-by-the-author claim that the use of torture in interrogation might be legitimate.
It is long past time for Catholics to demonstrate some courage and stop trying to defend this miserable stain on the US and the American Catholic Church’s members who have fought so hard to defend it. When “prolife” people are going to the mat to defend anal rape, freezing an innocent man to death, forcing people to stand on broken feet in stress positions, standing on a man’s broken leg, and threatening to murder children and cut the throats of innocent women, the “prolife” movement can well and truly be termed a thing so perverted that its witness is dead till it renounces such prostitution for the sake of worldly power.
May our tortured Lord forgive us our cowardice and may the Holy Innocents pray for us that we be consistent in our prolife witness and abandon this horrendous failure to be fully prolife.