What Torture Broke Was Us: An Examination of Conscience for American Catholic Torture Defenders

What Torture Broke Was Us: An Examination of Conscience for American Catholic Torture Defenders December 11, 2014

Now that the Torture Report is out and we are discovering that the lies we listened to for so long (We only waterboarded three high value targets! We had to do it to save lives!  Valuable intel!  Are you telling me that some filthy terrorist is more important than an unborn baby in your sick twisted liberal mind?) are all exposed as appalling lies, it’s important to do an examination of conscience.  Why?  Because we Catholics consistently supported torture in larger percentages then the average American population.  And the more we self-described as “faithful conservative” and “prolife” the more likely we were to do so.  God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us. (Romans 2:24)

The ugly fact is that in our fear and rage, we became the thing we hate.

  • We defended the torture of innocents (indeed people who were on our side).
  • We defended standing on the broken legs of prisoners (something out of a Gestapo or SS scene in a movie).
  • We defended drowning.
  • We defended dungeons and putting prisoners at the mercy of interrogators known to be psychologically unstable and having a history of violence.
  • We defended forcing prisoners with broken feet to stand in stress positions.
  • We defended non-stop torture for days and weeks.
  • We defended 180 hours of sleep deprivation.
  • We defended “forced rectal feeding” (aka “anal rape and humiliation”) that consisted of ramming hummus up the anuses of helpless prisoners.
  • We defended refusal to treat bullet wounds and neglect leading to the loss of eyes.
  • We defended dragging shackled, naked prisoners around around blindfold and beating them.
  • We defended keeping prisoners in total darkness with only a bucket for their waste.
  • We defended a system that had no clear idea who it was imprisoning and torturing.
  • We defended a system that derived no  intelligence to stop terrorist attacks, and that used gruesome torture to get information we could have obtained by conventional means, while generating lots of false intel from prisoners who said anything to make the pain stop.  That false intel meant millions spent on wild goose chases.
  • We defended a system that got its torture techniques from the Commies we used to fight, not imitate.
  • We defended a system that mainly served to enrich contractors and shrinks who told it what it wanted to hear.
  • We defended a system that lied to its own superiors.
  • We–WE PROLIFERS–cheered for a system that “threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’ In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.

Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.

  • We defended sexual assaults on prisoners by interrogators.

And all the while we did it, we offered an immense menu of Ticking Time bomb scenarios, garbage sophistries, and “what if?” fantasies about bombs under orphanages, all carefully designed to distract us from the reality of what we were defending by reinforcing our fear and rage.  We told ourselves we were fighting an inhuman enemy that justified using any means necessary.  And we became the monsters we feared.

But most appalling of all, “prolife” people continually and consistently used the unborn as human shields for all this by ringing the changes on some form of “You expect me to care about what happens to some terrorist when millions of babies are being aborted?”–as though the dignity of unborn human life and the dignity of a prisoner’s life are opposites (and as though the fact that they are torture victims *proves* that they deserve to be tortured).

One of the most appalling (and hopeful) moments in the Torture Report, overlooked in all the other gruesome details, is that members of the CIA themselves wept at what they witnessed.  Some members of the CIA left the agency because they knew that these things were war crimes and gross mortal sins.  How can it possibly be that we Catholics refused to see that?

The effect of our embrace of torture, as is invariably the case with mortal sin, is what Uncle Screwtape tells us: “To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return-that is what really gladdens our Father’s heart.”  Our bargain gave us even less than nothing.  Not only did it yield no significant intel we could not have gotten by legitimate means: it turned us into creatures who applauded the horrors above while having the hubris to call ourselves “prolife” and “real Catholics” in contradistinction to “cafeteria Catholycs”.  In breaking prisoners, we only succeeding in breaking ourselves.  And tragically, many Catholics are continuing to defend the indefensible and to double down on the now completely exploded lies and fallacies upon which they have relied for so long.  That is the road to hell.

The good news is:  This is Advent and the healing mercy of God is available to us.  God does not desire our destruction for our sins, but our repentance, healing, and glorification.  If at some point you bought into this system of lies and defended it, God is rich in mercy and pardon and will surely forgive.  *That* is the main takeaway from this whole sick and sorry episode in our history.  Meanwhile, the body of Christ is one and so those who know and profess the truth of the Church’s teaching have no right to sit in judgment of those who still cling to the lie.  Rather, our duty is prayer, fasting, and penance till the Church is cleansed of this stain once and for all.

Why do I say that?  Because the temptation to violent and cruel retaliation is as keenly felt by me as by anybody. There but for the grace of God go I. People think I have opposed torture because I think I’m so above it all.  Dead wrong.  I have opposed torture because I felt and feel keenly the attraction of it when I read about some vile monster in the news.  The One Ring calls to me as much as to anybody.  I’m no saint.

For he says,
“At the acceptable time I have listened to you,
and helped you on the day of salvation.”
Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Co 6:2).

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