Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin

Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin June 24, 2014

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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35 responses to “Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin”

  1. Yes. But even in Catholic circles, there are very strong disagreements about what torture is/isn’t. I can already hear the battle cry now from both sides. There is a point where you need an independent body looking and judging something. That is all I am going to say as most in the Church will not touch the specifics with a 10 ft pole.

  2. I think he’s incorrect…. and I had the Jesuits for 8 years and I was on the Dean’s list of wanted men and graduated magna cum louder than anyone else in the locker room. What if a murderous pedophile was caught by police but would not reveal the whereabouts of a child that he had kidnapped which child was slowly losing blood. The Pope is saying that the child should die rather than we cause pain …not damage….pain to the pedophile. He is really citing Vatican II which called torture “shameful” and “Splendor of the Truth” which called it intrinsically evil. But “Splendor of the Truth” sect.80 also called slavery an intrinsic evil and that goes against Leviticus 25:44-46 in which God gives chattel, perpetual slavery to the Jews over foreigners. Torture may well be supported by Proverbs 20:30…” Evil is cleansed away by bloody lashes and a scourging to the inmost being.”
    Proverbs 26:3 says ” A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of fools”.
    If it were my Cordelia bleeding to death somewhere, I’d want the cops to apply what the Church applied in its ecclesiastical courts for centuries…the new Catholic Encyclopedia called it light torture…see it in your public library.

  3. So … you want to give the police the right to beat information out of people? Are you sure about that Bill?

  4. How does the Holy Father define torture? Is incarceration torture? Is handcuffing torture? Is anything against a person’s will torture? Just asking.

  5. Not really. A definition of torture is critical to conversation. I agree with the Holy Father that clear torture is a sin, even a mortal sin, though I don’t have any insight as to the distinction between mortal and venial sins. But there are things people do in the apprehension and restraint of criminals and enemy combatants that is not always copasetic and could be construed as torture. There is persistent and muscular (for lack of a better word) interrogation processes that go on. Are soldiers and police officers risking their souls in carrying out their jobs?

  6. Maybe you can define mortal sin in practical terms and then we can assess the definition of torture. I am a faithful Catholic, but I have never found the description of mortal sin to be anything but ultimately highly subjective. Given the eternal consequences it seems like it ought to be a lot more clear-cut. To the scrupulous, everything is a mortal sin. To those lacking conscience, nothing is. One of my many struggles…

  7. I don’t think quoting the OC Jewish laws makes much sense for a New Covenant Christian. But I have no qualms with forcing information in such cases, if it works. Lot’s of people say it doesn’t but I know it would work on me. However, if I was protecting my child I know I could resist torture much longer. Hard to say what to think on the topic. An Al-qaeda zealot likely isn’t going to act the same way as a pedophile hiding a child, so it’s back to the question of effectiveness.

  8. You guys are serious? Your argument is that torture is ok since nobody can figure out what torture is?

    Isn’t that kind of like the bishops who didn’t know that adults having sex with children was wrong? Or the abortionist who tells us that “it’s complicated?” Or John Wayne Gacy claiming that he never killed anybody; he just took out the trash.

    If you can’t figure out that burning people with cigarettes, locking them in tiny boxes, repeatedly raping them, including raping them with objects and animals, tying them down and water boarding them and other fine things is torture, then, I guess the whole discussion is hopeless.

    But, if that’s true, then why would your opinions about any other moral issues matter? I mean, if you can’t get this figured out, what CAN you figure out?

  9. Manny, are you challenging the Holy Father, or are you trying to define what he said so that things you support are ok? This isn’t a court of law, you know. In the final analysis, what the Holy Father instructs about mortal sin is about you and whether or not you want to go to heaven.

  10. Note: Comments that attempt to challenge the teaching authority of the pope as the Vicar of Christ will be deleted. Insults to the pope will ALWAYS be deleted.

    Additional Note: What’s wrong with you people?

  11. I’m not trying to be cute here, nor do I refute the Pope. But both Manny and I have said definitions are lacking.

  12. I agree that from a legal — I’m talking about civil conduct here — standpoint we need definitions. The primary reason for this is that our government is so insistent on pushing the envelope in abrogating what this country has stood for for 200 years by using torture.

    I don’t know exactly what the catechism says on the subject of torture. I read the whole book years ago, but I don’t remember this one.

    I do, however, know that the arguments in favor of torture that I’ve read (not here) are both specious and deliberate obfuscations for the weak-minded and morally flexible. A lot of them revolve around the “what is torture?” nonsense.

    I feel strongly that that line of thinking is just the same as the when is life viable argument used by the pro aborts. It’s the same tactic. Exactly the same.

    This whole issue gets me revved. I apologize if I was too harsh.

  13. I’m going to add here that to me at least, torture is a mortal sin on its face. If torture is not a mortal sin, then God is the devil. The fact that it is has been used in the past does not even apply to that. To work in support of torture is to work in support of mortal sin and to make yourself part of that sin.

    I know quite a bit about mortal sin, having committed grievous ones in my past. I also know about helping other people commit mortal sins, having done that as well.

    I have known without doubt since I was 17 years old that torture is a mortal sin. It shatters people like a glass. I believe to my core that supporting torture is a sin as black as supporting abortion. I mean that. That’s why I’m coming on so strong here. It’s not about politics. It’s about the fact that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and about committing sins that separate us from God … for all eternity if they are not repented.

    The comments that challenged the teaching authority of the pope — as opposed to just discussing it with a desire to understand, even if that means disagreeing — were deleted, btw. It’s not you or Manny.

  14. Ok. But why, exactly do you need to bump up against these fine lines? I mean, are you seriously planning to … say … burn someone with a cigarette once if it’s not a mortal sin but not burn them twice if twice qualifies as a mortal sin?

    Do you honestly think that’s how God judges these things?

    Pope Francis is talking about sin, as in getting in bad with God. When he says something is a mortal sin, he is telling us that we can go to hell for doing it. So, why are we looking for the fine lines that tell us how far we can go in hurting people before we pitch forward and send ourselves to hell?

    The fine line is the evil in our own hearts. That’s why someone who accidentally sets a house on fire may not have sinned at all, even if someone dies in that fire. While another person who just poked someone with a pin has committed a sin if they did it deliberately with the intention to harm them.

    There are all sorts of ins and outs in the human heart, and because of that only God can judge us with absolute justness.

    However, and I repeat, when the Pope says something is a mortal sin, then that’s the end of the discussion about whether or not it is a sin. You can go looking for fine lines about when it switches from a venial, to a seriously venial to a mortal sin, but you are treading dangerously — for your own soul — to do so.

    We can’t parse God with legalisms the way we do other people. This is exactly what the pro aborts have tried to do. It works in the political arena. Not when we stand before our Maker and give an account of our days.

  15. I never said torture was ok, and I don’t think Mrshopey did either. In fact I said just the opposite in my other comment. The issue is, what constitutes torture can be vague.

  16. I’m not challenging the notion that performing torture is a mortal sin. Sure pulling someone’s teeth out to get information is clearly a sin. But there are lines before such an act that may or may not be construed as torture. The Holy Father is vague, and I’m not the only one here who sees that.

  17. I agree. One of my struggles too. I’ve actually had two different priests tell me differently on whether something was a mortal sin or not.

  18. So Rebecca, what’s the point of Pope Francis telling us torture is a mortal sin? That’s like stating the obvious. No one in the world would say that cutting off people’s fingers to get information would not send you to hell. If the Pope is going to bring up a point, he ought to be specific, otherwise it comes across as a platitude. In fact that’s what this is, a platitude.

  19. OK, I have no idea what the deleted comments you’re referring to are. ON, MrsH, and I are not challenging the point that torture is a mortal sin.

  20. I deleted the post you replied to based on your explanations above that posted afterwards.

    But I do want to reply to your question about fine lines. It’s not that I want to torture anyone. It’s that fine lines matter in real life policy setting and obviously to the Church as well, i.e., venial vs mortal sin. Declaring torture a mortal sin without defining the lines isn’t particularly helpful to anyone.

    I think defining torture involves more than simply creating a list of unacceptable actions. I think it involves the setting, motives, intentions, scale, duration, etc. Those are the moral elements that I think a Pope would be especially qualified in helping the world to define.

    I do not hold to the idea that all lies are sins, yet many moral theologians do. By the same token, I don’t hold to the idea that all applied pain is torture but some do (where would that leave us on surgery performed on young children?). Where the Pope stands along the continuum is an open question.

  21. That’s a good point. Thank you for sticking in there to make it.

    (I never thought you wanted t torture people. As I said, I have a tough time with this who issue and sometimes express myself to strongly. )

  22. No problem. I’ve been reading you long enough to respect you and always give you the benefit of the doubt even when I challenge you.

  23. To be overly technical, when an act is called “a mortal sin,” what really is meant is that the act is “grave matter.” The intentions and freedom to commit a mortal sin are subjective (insofar as they are interior to the person, the subject, who is acting); but the act itself, the grave matter, is objective.

    So: torture is always everywhere wrong, no matter who does it.

    A particular person in a particular situation may have greater or lesser culpability (guilt or responsibility) for that sin. But the act itself remains sinful, harmful, and wrong, no matter what the person’s intentions, knowledge, or freedom may be.

  24. But objectively defining grave matter is just one of the problems. The Catechism states that grave matter involves the sins that Jesus called out for the rich young man as those he needs to follow to have eternal life (Mt 19:18-19), including that we shall not steal and not bear false witness. All of those commandments which the Church has objectively identified as grave matter have a continuum of ways they can be broken, and not all of them constitute mortal sin. I’m not going to hell because I made up a lie to keep from telling a truth that would needlessly hurt another. I’m not going to hell because I took paper clips and post-its from work. Like I said, I struggle sometimes.

  25. I retract my assertion that this was a platitude. I was thinking of this earlier after I wrote that last comment. The Holy Father was not writing out an extended document, but made a statement that was akin to a homily. One can’t expect the details that I was after in a homily. That was unfair to the Holy Father.

  26. Yes, but there’s a world of ways to see torture. But ok, perhaps I’ve made too much of this. The Holy Father was not in a position to be precise.

  27. I, at least, was not offended as I understand this is a hot-button topic. Nevertheless, even issues like this need to be considered rationally. Emotionalism helps no-one.

    Yes, I fully agree torture is an intrinsic evil. We still need a solid definition of what torture is and whether or not a specific thing counts as torture. Here’s why:
    1) To shut down whining ‘What’s the definition of “is”?’ arguments trying to hide that something is torture.
    2)To shut down whining ‘What’s the definition of “is”?’ arguments trying to hide that something is NOT torture (because, no joke, I have seen people trying to argue that verbal interrogations consisting only of yelling loudly and harshly at someone counts as torture).
    3) To help people (especially, for instance, people whose job includes conducting interrogations) honestly worried about whether or not something is torturous.

    As such, ‘What counts as torture?’ is an argument that needs to be held. People who respond to that question with accusations of torture-apology are either letting their emotions prevent them from considering the issue or are pushing a political agenda.