Friday, January 29, 2010

Parsing the Catechism

Tom at Disputations has some ideas for those who read the Catechism definition and say, "Oh, but it doesn't say we can't torture to gain intelligence!" Excerpt:

For years, people have been interpreting that one statement in CCC 2297 --
Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.
-- as implying that torture for reasons other than those listed -- in particular, for interrogation of someone assumed to have information that can save lives -- might not be contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

As it stands, it's a mighty sketchy interpretation. It asserts that there's nothing objectively or circumstantially contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity to torture a prisoner. All you need is a good enough reason. (And what do you know? The reason people today might want to torture prisoners just happens to be a good reason! These interpreters will, though, stipulate that other reasons -- to save face after you were double-dog dared to torture the prisoner, say, or to get someone who loves the victim to talk -- are immoral.)

I haven't seen anyone even try to explain why it's contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity to torture a murderer, but not contrary to those things to torture a would-be murderer. The problem here is that torture isn't evil because it's icky, in which case it wouldn't be evil when not torturing would be ickier. Torture is evil, according to the Catechism, because it's contrary to respect for the person of the victim, and the respect due the person of the victim doesn't change based on what you want to get out of torturing him.*

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Read the whole thing here.

1 comment:

  1. I would think that "interrogation to save lives" falls under the category of "to extract confession". We tend to tend to the letter, rather than the spirit of the law, so to speak.

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