"...I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances...”" Pope Benedict XVI
In the political climate in which we find ourselves at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Catholics are grappling with confusing messages as to the morality of torture. Lost in political and often partisan debates is the clear voice of the Church, who has called torture evil, and who teaches with conviction the truth that a captured enemy combatant, political prisoner, or other opponent does not lose his human dignity or his right to humane treatment.
The contributors and members of the Coalition for Clarity believe with the Church that torture is intrinsically evil, a violation of our Christian duty to treat all men as our neighbors and of their right to be treated humanely and with dignity regardless of their status. We hope by discussing this issue and providing links to resources supporting Church teaching that this blog will help to bring clarity to the issue of torture and to our duty as members of God's family to oppose its use in all circumstances.
Because we seek the clarity of Church teaching on all issues, we also hope to discuss and reflect on any issue pertaining to human life and dignity, but especially those issues where the possibility that the Church's teaching is not being presented clearly exists.
It is one thing to repeatedly ask what torture is in order to get at the truth. It is quite another to repeatedly ask what it is in order to obfuscate the truth.
Sean P. Dailey
The Catechism on Torture
"2297Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. 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. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."
Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature "incapable of being ordered" to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed "intrinsically evil" (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object". The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; 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, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator".
"For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."