Deal Hudson and Torture

Deal Hudson and Torture April 24, 2009

Rob Vischer of Mirror of Justice reports the following purported statement from Deal Hudson:

“In addressing “torture,” Hudson put it in the context of the “just war” philosophy.

Hudson: As with just war theory, there must be a clear threat; there must be reasonable chance for success; there must be a reasonable use of force (in the case [of torture] death or impairment should never be the result), and the consequences should not cause greater harm.

Hudson further explained to me that “the precise issue is whether or not the state can inflict suffering in order to protect the common good.  If we say ‘yes,’ the circumstances have to be tightly prescribed. 

If this is true, and Hudson did indeed make this argument, then it has grave implications. He has fallen into the consequentialist trap, when the Church has unambiguously declared torture to be an intrinsically evil act, regardless of intent or circumstance. The analogy with just war teaching is off.  The reason one cannot say upfront that all war is intrinsically evil is that some wars may be justified by circumstances. It so happens that these circumstances are more narrowly circumscribed that many Catholic war defenders are willing to admit, but the door is still open, even if slightly. It’s the same with the death penalty, but here the opening is so narrow that no case in the modern world would realistically make it through. But the door is firmly closed against torture. As an intrinsically evil act, you do not need to move onto the next phase of the moral calculus and ask about consequences. It is for this reason that a particular directly-procured abortion could not be justified by any appeal to circumstances, such as the woman’s health, material circumstances etc.

I wonder if Hudson is aware how serious this is. If he is thinking along these lines, then he is standing resolutely against the magisterium on a non-negotiable matter. Ironically, Hudson has been out in front demanding sanctions against those who publicly support abortion from receiving the Eucharist. And yet, if you interpret the appropriate canon in this manner– as I have argued before— than Hudson’s own manifest support for an intrinsically evil policy on this scale would also be grounds for banning him from communion. Not that I support that, mind you, but let’s please be consistent.

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