Quote of the week

Quote of the week May 21, 2009

“The prohibition against killing persons is the limit situation in ethics… If we violate this principle, we violate the moral order and the claims that personal reality make on us. This is not to say that torture, brainwashing, and slavery are less evil. It is to say that such cruelty partakes in the fundamental depersonalization of which intentional killing is the prime, irreversible example. An ethics of radical personalism yields to the exceptionless moral principle that personal life must not be negated — because in doing so, the foundation of moral experience itself is rejected.”

(John Kavanaugh, SJ, Who Count As Persons?: Human Identity and the Ethics of Killing, p. 120)

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  • But torture is less evil than murder.

  • But torture is less evil than murder.

  • digbydolben

    No, actually, I’m not sure that it is. Read this:

    http://trueslant.com/jefftietz/2009/05/21/think-you-know-how-bad-gitmo-really-was-a-teenage-detainees-story-part-i/

    …and then tell me how something that makes its victims WISH for death is worse than killing them outright. Torture often kills what’s WITHIN a man before it kills his body.

    And, honestly, I’m convinced that the people sometimes writing here to mitigate the seriousness of “torture” in order to justify their exclusive focus on abortion are actually doing great DAMAGE to the pro-life cause. Every time they open their mouths, they bolster Obama’s apparent resolution to ignore the great moral-political questions that abortion raises.

  • digbydolben

    No, actually, I’m not sure that it is. Read this:

    http://trueslant.com/jefftietz/2009/05/21/think-you-know-how-bad-gitmo-really-was-a-teenage-detainees-story-part-i/

    …and then tell me how something that makes its victims WISH for death is worse than killing them outright. Torture often kills what’s WITHIN a man before it kills his body.

    And, honestly, I’m convinced that the people sometimes writing here to mitigate the seriousness of “torture” in order to justify their exclusive focus on abortion are actually doing great DAMAGE to the pro-life cause. Every time they open their mouths, they bolster Obama’s apparent resolution to ignore the great moral-political questions that abortion raises.

  • David Nickol

    Isn’t this holding up life (physiological life) as the highest good? Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    Digby is obviously right, and Zach is wrong. I am not quite sure how you can rank such great evils as murder and torture, but however you rank them in the abstract, certainly in individual cases torturing someone could be more evil than killing him. Torture isn’t merely inflicting pain on the body. It’s ultimately aimed at the mind, and one could say the soul. Killing someone’s soul is worse thank killing someone’s body.

  • David Nickol

    Isn’t this holding up life (physiological life) as the highest good? Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    Digby is obviously right, and Zach is wrong. I am not quite sure how you can rank such great evils as murder and torture, but however you rank them in the abstract, certainly in individual cases torturing someone could be more evil than killing him. Torture isn’t merely inflicting pain on the body. It’s ultimately aimed at the mind, and one could say the soul. Killing someone’s soul is worse thank killing someone’s body.

  • Killing someone’s soul is worse thank killing someone’s body.

    Agreed, David – and I think this is what is wrong with the US prison-industrial complex.

  • Killing someone’s soul is worse thank killing someone’s body.

    Agreed, David – and I think this is what is wrong with the US prison-industrial complex.

  • David, Matt —

    Could either of you elaborate on what it means to kill someone’s soul?

  • David, Matt —

    Could either of you elaborate on what it means to kill someone’s soul?

  • phosphorious

    Could either of you elaborate on what it means to kill someone’s soul?

    I take it you have some skeptical/materialist refutation in mind, but the phrase “killing someone’s soul” does not necessarily imply dualism. And I think that what digbydolben said sums it up nicely: to make someone wish they were dead.

  • phosphorious

    Could either of you elaborate on what it means to kill someone’s soul?

    I take it you have some skeptical/materialist refutation in mind, but the phrase “killing someone’s soul” does not necessarily imply dualism. And I think that what digbydolben said sums it up nicely: to make someone wish they were dead.

  • Isn’t this holding up life (physiological life) as the highest good? Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    No, I don’t think it is. He is simply saying that intentional killing is the line we may never cross, not making a statement about martyrdom which is what Jesus was referring to.

  • david

    Michael:

    A bit off of the topic, but does pacifism allow for ever taking a human life? I’ll spare you the hypotheticals, but Catholic doctrine allows for the taking of life in certain situations. Is pacifism contrary?

  • Gerald – good question.

    I guess I would respond by pointing out that every man has his breaking point; people pushed beyond endurance would rather do anything, even die, than continue in suffering; pushing someone beyond that point is what I would describe as soul-killing (for the tormentor as much as the tormented, come to think of it.)

    That said, I do see a problem with calling this “soul-killing” for the tormented, from a Catholic perspective, in that that phrase is often used to describe the consequences of mortal sin, which is beyond the power of anyone to impose on another. For the tormentor, however, it definitely could fit.