Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Matters of human life and dignity

When this blog was first established, there were some people not associated with it who commented that they thought the title of the blog was unfortunate. Wouldn't "Catholics against Torture" or some similar name be better?

I didn't think so, for two reasons. First, I think that Catholics are morally obligated to oppose torture. Granted, the arguments are usually about what exactly constitutes torture, and whether so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques qualify as torture, and how close to that line called "torture" we can get before we've violated the moral law, etc.--but there have been some Catholics who have responded to survey questions etc. claiming to be in favor of torture, not of any of the supposed gray areas.

So "Catholics against Torture" would be a name rather like "Catholics against Abortion" or "Catholics against Adultery;" there's a sort of, if you'll forgive the colloquialism, "Well, duh..." factor to those kinds of names.

But the second reason I didn't want to go with a name like "Catholics against Torture" was that I realized that the torture issue has a tendency to wax and wane in the public eye, so to speak; I fully expect it to be spoken about quite a bit in the lead-up to the November elections, for instance, but just now it does not seem to be a burning topic of conversation.

And, let's face it: torture is not the only issue on which clarity in light of Church teaching is a good thing to try to achieve.

Take, for instance, the present furor surrounding the new Arizona immigration law. On the one hand, some Catholics (like this one) applaud the law. On the other, several Catholic bishops are denouncing the law. How should a Catholic approach the issue of immigration? How do we read CCC 2241, and how do we apply it in practical reality?

I'm going to be writing about this in the near future, and my co-blogger, Robert King, will also be tackling some issues like this one, issues which impact matters of life and human dignity and on which we, as Catholics, seek moral clarity, with reference to the teaching and guidance of the Church. I have amended the blog's statement of purpose to reflect that we will be discussing issues other than torture, though the blog's main reason to exist is still to provide a place for Catholics to discuss the torture issue whenever that issue becomes prominent.

1 comment:

  1. I think this needs to be read in light of this natural right not being an absolute right. Many rights in CST are limited in one way or another. Thus while there is a right to private property, there are limits on property rights (taxes come quickly to mind.) That not everyone can immigrate to a country who wants to is evidenced by the fact that CST also teaches that the state has a right to set limits on immigration.

    Now if the Federal Govt. said that there could be no immigration to the US, one could say that the law would be contrary to CST. But that is not the case. US law allows legal immigration of 700 - 900K per year. It is estimated that legal immigration in the 1990s surpassed the levels of the last previous peak of legal immigration from 1901 to 1910. During that time period nearly 9 million legal immigrants were allowed into the United States. From the period of 1968 to 1993, it is estimated that 16.7 million immigrants entered the country legally. Of these 16.7 million legal immigrants, nearly 85% were from developing countries. This percentage is composed of nearly 50% legal immigrants that came from the Caribbean and Latin America and about a third that came from Asia. Given this data, I think there is much to be said that current US policy is consistent with CST.

    This of course requires a distinction between legal and illegal immigration. One that is frequently lost in the debate as if there is necessarily an equivalence between the two. To perhaps dispense with that distinction, one can consider the CCC quote's final part:

    "Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens."

    Illegal immigrants already have failed to "...obey the laws" of their host country. Perhaps arguments can be made for justifying such but I haven't seen them. This particularly, as in this situation, that Mexico has been quite negligent in fostering an enconomic/social environment that is producing such immigration.

    I think this will ultimately be, as CST also teaches, an area that Catholics in good faith can disagree. Perhaps even with charity.