Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tom asks a good question

In a comment, Tom (of Disputations fame) asks:
Let me ask a question, one that is a genuine question and not a rhetorical one, and also a question I think the Coalition for Clarity should have an answer to:

How do we discuss torture with someone who thinks opposing torture makes you a left-wing kook?

I'm not asking how we debate such a person. To win a debate, all we need to do is make sure he states his opinion clearly.

I'm asking how we engage him in a way that we may together arrive at the truth, to use an expression I like.

In other words, Tom is asking how we can achieve the clarity of communication, the genuine connection, that this blog has set as its goal.

He points out a specific obstacle a little further down in the conversation:
So maybe a sub-question is, how do we get someone who thinks opposing torture makes you a left-wing kook to understand that people can and do oppose both torture and abortion? As Scott's comment most recently demonstrates, it's not enough to point out to such a person that he is wrong on the facts.

I think this question deserves a post of its own. And perhaps it can develop into a practical discussion of strategies to promote real awareness, and hopefully real change, in the social and political environment that is so hostile to Catholic moral teaching and to the dignity of the human person.

Just to start off with, maybe, I'd invite commentators such as @jasper, @love the girls, @greta, to describe what exactly the foundations are for their approach to Catholic moral teaching.

And, since I don't believe in asking of another what I'm unwilling to do myself, here is my answer:

As far as I see it, the foundation of all Catholic teaching is Jesus Christ himself. In terms of morality, we are to follow him, meaning to imitate his way of life. He has described his way of life to us in his "new" commandment, to love one another as he has loved us.

From this is derived our goals as individuals to convey the love of Christ to all who we meet, whether by doing good for them directly or by calling them to repentance so that they become able to receive the love of God.

Moreover, even the powers and goals of the State are founded in the command of love. The State cannot make one person love one another, but it can remove obstacles to love (and, since they are related to love, all the other virtues), as well as establish obstacles to vice and sin, and punish those who harm society. The State has the power and the authority to defend the community against aggression in order to preserve the community's ability to follow Christ.

In short, as far as I see it, all Catholic moral teaching is rooted in our Lord's command to love as he has loved us.

Okay, your turn.


  1. "As far as I see it, the foundation of all Catholic teaching is Jesus Christ himself. In terms of morality, we are to follow him, meaning to imitate his way of life. He has described his way of life to us in his "new" commandment, to love one another as he has loved us."

    Thats correct. I agree with you, torture is wrong. I've given up defending waterborading. God Bless. btw: I don't really think you're kooks..

  2. I think part of the problem in condemning, from a Catholic standpoint, torture as used by the U.S. government is that it raises a practical problem for Catholics: what do we do about it? I used to be somewhat resistant to criticisms of the Bush administration's anti-terrorist activities because I was sympathetic a) to the overall campaign against terrorism and b) to the Republican Party's somewhat-better-than-the-Democratic-Party's stance on abortion. I did not like criticism of Bush and the Republicans because I thought the alternative (the Democrats) was just as bad, if not worse, and I did not see what I could do about the various abuses of the anti-terrorist campaign.

    Now, I am much more receptive to condemnations of torture, but I remain a bit perplexed about how someone opposed to both abortion, torture, and absolute pacifism is supposed to take practical political steps in the United States in 2010.

    I suspect at least some critics of the Coalition for Clarity feel the same way, and I think some kind of practical political strategy for pro-life/pro-just war/anti-torture advocates is necessary if we are to persuade the critics.

  3. RE: Name Calling

    Ronald Regan was once a democrat. George Washington once hoped for a King's Commission. Some so called "neo-conservatives" were, allegedly, once followers of a Marxist gentleman by the name of Trotsky. the young Hillary Clinton was a "Goldwater Girl". I, in my naive and innocent youth, occasionally rooted for the evil New York Yankees.

    Political labels are quite often meaningless.

    Lately we are even hearing apologists for torture, rosy cheeked men and women of letters, calling hoary, old military veterans extreme pacifists for their opposition to torture.

    We should not worry about responding to name calling. We should , instead, focus on being followers of Jesus Christ. (And water board every captured New York Yankee we can get our hands on.)

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  4. @Richard -

    I am glad to see you have converted from the evil lies of the Yankees to the glorious truth of Anti-Yankeeism!

  5. @John -

    I agree that we face some serious challenges in the practical and political arenas. But one part of struggle is to reach a level of agreement on what we are willing to tolerate and what we are willing to take a stand on.

    For me, I think that I cannot take a practical stand on the evil of abortion and the dignity of marriage if I do not at least take a principled stand on the evil of torture and the necessity of justice in war.

  6. Robert--

    I agree with you 100%. I also believe in taking a stand on all these issues--abortion, the dignity of marriage, torture, justice in war, and others. On the level of principle, I am able to do so without a problem; how to translate principle into practical politics is what perplexes me, and, I suspect, others.

    I should stress that I am raising this problem not to challenge the Coalition for Clarity's mission, which I whole-heartedly support, but because I am genuinely uncertain about how to uphold certain Catholic principles in public life without compromising others. This uncertainty might be one reason that some find it hard to embrace the Coalition's mission.