As with every other matter, the Church's teaching on torture is based on the commandment of our Lord, Jesus Christ. My favorite statement of the command is in the Gospel according to St. John: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another."
But today, as I'm reading through our comments, I keep thinking of the scene in the Gospel according to St. Luke in which the young student of the law questioned our Lord. Jesus turned the question back on him, and he replied ... well, I'll let the text speak for itself:
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"
He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."
Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
We know the story so well that we tend to forget what it says. When asked for an example of the love which he commands us, our Lord gives us a story of enemies. When asked to define "neighbor," Jesus does not tell us who we have to treat well, but rather what we have to do to be worthy of the title "neighbor": we must treat others with mercy.
It saddens me that we are so bound by fear - and remember, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4.18) - that we cannot ask how we can love our enemies. Rather than asking, how far can we go in torturing terrorists, why don't we ask, What does it mean to love terrorists?
It obviously does not mean to agree with them, or to hand our lives or our country over to them. But I think it does mean that we recognize that they are people, just as we are.
I think it means that, when we capture them on a battlefield or in the act of committing a crime, we look for what they are trying to accomplish and what they want. This is not so that we can just give them whatever they want; but rather so that we can understand the object of their attacks on us, and take action ourselves either to stop those attacks or to defend ourselves more effectively.
I think it means actually entering into relationship with them, as individuals and as members of a culture, a people. In other words, seeing them as something more than simply a threat.
This will take time. It will mean that we will have to look at the world through a different lens than we're used to. It will mean that we will have to accept that we may be wrong in some places.
But it will also mean that we will actually move toward genuine peace. It will mean that the security we gain is true and lasting security. It will mean that we can grow in trust, instead of only growing in fear.