Friday, February 26, 2010

Catholic vs. Catholic on torture

Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times has an interesting piece today looking at Marc Thiessen's views on torture--and the views of his Catholic opponents:

While Mr. Thiessen points out that the church does not forbid specific acts, his antagonists say the church’s guidelines are hardly nebulous. The blogger Andrew Sullivan has noted that the Catechism condemns “torture which uses physical or moral violence.”

The philosopher Christopher O. Tollefsen, in an essay attacking Mr. Thiessen’s views in the online magazine Public Discourse, points to the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. There, Pope John Paul II wrote that there are acts that “are always seriously wrong by reason of their object,” including “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity.”

The belief that waterboarding is morally or physically violent seems to unite all the writers who have criticized Mr. Thiessen, a group that includes the conservative blogger Conor Friedersdorf; Mark Shea, who edits the Web portal Catholic Exchange; and Joe Carter, who blogs for First Things, a magazine popular with conservative Catholics. [All links in original--E.M.]

It's interesting to see that the debate over Marc Thiessen's views is spreading beyond the Catholic blogosphere. The deficiencies in Thiessen's arguments, and most particularly his misreading of the principle of double effect and the Just War theory, need to be made visible. While in some senses this may simply seem like yet another internal Catholic debate, this goes beyond the typical "Catholic vs. Catholic" framework; to the extent that Catholics and others are influenced by Thiessen's claims that "enhanced interrogation" is perfectly aligned with Catholic moral teaching, those claims must be addressed.

1 comment:

  1. Yes - Joe Carter is a Baptist, I think. This is a matter for all men of good will - not just Catholics or even just Christians.