Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Father Brian Harrison's clarification

On Mark Shea's blog, a rather extraordinary missive has been posted--a clarification from Father Brian Harrison as to his opinions on the torture issue. Excerpt:
The central point of my present statement is as follows. A friend has pointed out to me today that in a speech of 6 September 2007 on Catholic prisons ministry, Pope Benedict XVI personally endorsed a statement against torture found in the 2005 Vatican Compendium of the Church's Social Teaching. Citing article 404 of this document, the Holy Father said, "In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture 'cannot be contravened under any circumstances'".

In my 2005 Living Tradition article on the development of Church teaching regarding torture and corporal punishment (cf. www.rtforum/lt/lt118.html) I had cited and discussed, in my section A13 and footnote 27, this article 404 of the Compendium, which is a publication of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. I pointed out then that this and other statements authored by the Commission itself - as distinct from the statements of Popes and Councils which it cites abundantly throughout the Compendium - does not possess magisterial authority; for the various Vatican commissions, unlike the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are not in themselves arms of the Church's magisterium (teaching authority).

However, having now become aware that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father's judgement on this matter, and so would not defend any proposal, under any circumstances, to use torture for any purpose whatsoever - not even to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists.
You'll have to go and read the whole thing; Father Harrison believes that the question as to whether waterboarding is torture is still an open one, and says that it is unjust to accuse Marc Thiessen of consequentialism (while pointing out that Thiessen makes some particular errors in his arguments).

There is much to say about Father Harrison's statement, but as he's addressed his letter to Mark Shea, and Mark is presently unable because of other obligations to make a thorough reply, I will refrain from commenting at the present time.

1 comment:

  1. RE: On Dissent

    For the past 45-years we have heard our American Catholic intellectuals publicly dissent from Church teachings on, among other things, the humane treatment of prisoners, just war, artificial contraception, abortion, sodomy, divorce and remarriage and the liturgy. The justification for public dissent from Church teaching is that the particular teaching is not infallible and open to debate. The timing of the public dissent from Church teaching is usually linked to the announced policy, program or political plank of a wing of either the Democratic or Republican Party for an upcoming election.

    Not every American Catholic is an intellectual with a degree in theology. What is the humble Catholic in the pews (who votes) to do? If the humble Catholic dares to dissent from the dissenters then the humble Catholic finds himself described by the dissenters as Un-Christian, uncharitable, rigid, homophobic, anti-woman, racist and (worse of all) a fan of the evil New York Yankees. If, on the other hand, the humble Catholic remains silent in the face of dissent then the question is raised "why do we need a Pope; or a Council or Bishops?"

    After all most Christians do not listen to Popes, Councils and Bishops anyway. Why should we humble American Catholics listen to them?

    The Servant of God Dorothy Day, normally associated with the American Catholic Left in many minds, used to express concern regarding something called "Americanism". In 1899 Pope Leo XIII wrote a letter to the American Bishops wherein he taught about a heresy he titled "Americanism" in which American Catholics surrendered points of Catholic morals and doctrine in order to better fit in with the larger society. Reportedly the American Bishops denied there was any Americanism in the American Catholic Church and circled filed Leo's letter. Then, when Leo's successor Benedict XV asked the American Bishops to do everything they could to keep the USA out of WW I, the American Bishops formed a Board (the forerunner to the USCCB) to facilitate our entry into war.No Americanism here.

    Our hope is in Christ. He left us His Vicar on Earth and the successors to the Apostles. When Pope and Council teach us that not only is something intrinsically evil and prohibited (inhumane treatment of prisoners or abortion) but that we have to take positive steps to deal with the evil (humane treatment of prisoners and adoption) it seems to me we should focus on the positive teaching (humane treatment of prisoners and adoption) rather than publicly questioning the infallibility of the prohibition (inhumane treatment and abortion).

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford