Friday, May 14, 2010

Reflections on the fifth commandment

It occurred to me as I was reading the conversation going on between a couple of commenters in this thread that it might be a good idea to have a little discussion about the fifth commandment as it relates to matters like torture and similar human life/human dignity issues.

The principle "It is always wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being," is often cited; I think it sums up the fifth commandment rather nicely, at least as regards being able to determine why certain things are wrong. For example, both abortion and euthanasia are always wrong because in both the life of an innocent human being is directly and intentionally taken--but if an ectopic pregnancy must be removed, or if an elderly person undergoes surgery which unfortunately fails to provide healing but instead hastens death, in neither case is the death of the innocent person directly intended.

But an additional point is provided in CCC 2269, under the discussion of homicide: "The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person's death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger."

So, how is it possible that the Catechism spells out so clearly that it is always wrong directly or indirectly to take the life of an innocent human being--and yet the Catechism allows for the possibility that a person may kill another in various circumstances without incurring any moral penalty?

The key word in the discussion of both direct and intentional killing and and indirect, intentional killing is, I believe, the word "innocent." There is no circumstance where it might be morally permissible to kill, or to allow to die through indirect action willed toward the person's death, an innocent human being.

In the situation where a person is an aggressor, threatening the life of another, the principle of self-defense may permit the use of lethal force to stop the aggressor. The Catechism puts it this way:
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not." (65)

Then in the discussion about war (in which the "just war" doctrine's principles are restated) and in the discussion about the death penalty, these issues, too, are framed as matters of self-defense, where the "self" in question includes one's nation in the event of war, or of society as a whole in the event that society can't defend the innocent without executing the criminal.

I find this interesting, because not only is the word "innocent" important, but so is the word "intentional." In other words, one may defend oneself (and by extension one's country and one's society) from unjust aggressors using force up to and including lethal force, but only, it would appear, because the principle of double-effect applies, in that the killing of the aggressor is the unintentional, secondary effect and the preservation of innocent life is the primary one.

But because we are talking about a double-effect scenario, it follows that not only may the death of the aggressor not be sought for its own sake, nor desired as the outcome, nor held to be a good, but also that the death of the aggressor is not morally permissible in circumstances where a lesser restraint against him which does not cause his death is possible. What does that mean?

For starters, it would mean that something like this would be completely impossible from a moral perspective. Anwar Al-Awlaki may be plotting against the United States, and there may be a completely legitimate need to stop him from doing this. But plotting acts of aggression and actively carrying out such acts are two different things; it may be necessary to shoot a terrorist who is attempting to walk into a crowded restaurant while wearing a bomb because he is actively attempting to kill innocent people, but it would not be necessary to place snipers on the roof of the terrorist's apartment building because intelligence suggests that he might be considering such an act. There are plenty of ways to stop him from carrying out his planned attack without necessitating his death, and the moral law is clear: when non-lethal means of self-defense remain an option, the defender has an obligation to make use of those means before resorting to lethal ones, which must be considered a last resort.

It is true that in many self-defense scenarios, a person seeking to preserve his life may not have the ability to assess the situation calmly and correctly before using lethal means. This is true in home-invasion situations, on the battlefield, and in other situations where it simply isn't possible to tell whether non-lethal means will work to stop the aggressor before resorting to potentially lethal ones. But no one has the right to seek to kill an aggressor intentionally--and the duty to assess the situation and come up with non-lethal means to stop the aggression grows the further removed from a direct attack the situation becomes.

I bring up all of this because it is sometimes said, "We have the right to kill someone in self-defense. If we can kill him, we can certainly torture him for the same reason." But as the Catechism makes clear, we do not have a right to kill anyone, in self-defense or otherwise. We have the right to protect ourselves from an aggressor, up to and including the use of lethal force. But it is protection, not the death of the aggressor, which is willed; the death of the aggressor is the unintended and undesired consequence in this double-effect case.

And there is no possible way that it can become morally right to torture someone on the grounds of self-defense, because torture is always a direct and intentional act. Attempts to frame the use of torture in double-effect terms will always fail, because the protection of the innocent does not permit the defender to inflict pain and suffering, directly and intentionally, on the human being who is not actively threatening him but is instead wholly in his power and at his mercy.

42 comments:

  1. Red, arguing from the standpoint of double effect is not appropriate, because we are dealing not with two individuals, but the State and individuals. The State has authority over individuals in society to keep the moral order. This is why the State can put to death under Capital punishment and an individual cannot intend to kill. Big difference. You have to make distinctions here between authorities. The State therefore has the right and duty to protect citizens as well as maintain the moral order. So if the State for example has a known criminal in custody whom the officers know just stole a vehicle with a baby inside of it, and the refuses to tell them where the car is after he abandoned is, the State has the authority to use coercive means to stop that violent act that he put into play by his criminal action. This is not falling under the law of double effect, it is falling under the authority of the State to keep the moral order and protect innocent life. Double effect only comes into play if an unintended outcome like a person killing an unjust aggressor unintentionally while trying to stop the attack.

    Again, when the State executes a violent criminal, it does not do it under the law of double effect. It does under its authority to punish and keep the moral order. As far as the example you used in the post with the drone killing the guy, if he was not carrying out an immediate attack on someone then the attack would not be justified.

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  2. Red Cardigan,

    Are you aware that Aquinas would disagree with you concerning, as Matt pointed out, that the State can intend the death of another, and therefore the principle of double effect does not apply?

    I would find you having a hard time laying out in logical order how the death penalty administered by the State is not intended. Those who have tried to make the case in this regard have ultimately condemned the death penalty (read: Christian Brugger). However, they have not been faithful to the Natural Law as espoused by Aquinas.

    It seems to me that Matt is arguing from this standpoint. I read him as stating that torture, when certain strict conditions are met, can be morally administered by those who have authority over the community.

    At this point, terminology must be defined so that we're not talking past one another.

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  3. Matthew and Alexander, at this point I'm arguing solely from the Catechism; I'm not denying that there are other bases for Catholic arguments, but just trying to find a common starting point.

    The Catechism says this about the death penalty:

    (2267) "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68 "

    I would argue that given this framework--e.g., that the death penalty is to be used as "...the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor..." then we aren't really treating the State any differently than we are treating individuals. What the State intends is the defense of human life. What the State accepts is the death of the aggressor--but only under those circumstances where non-lethal means will not produce the effect of protecting human life. To say that the State *intends* the death of the aggressor is to ignore the framework of the Catechism, is it not?

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  4. Red,

    Are you espousing the position that an act is to be condemned as torture when that act of physical/mental coercion violates the integrity of the human person, that is, their dignity?

    Would you agree that not all acts of physical/mental coercion are considered to be torture?

    It seems to me that Matt is also making the point that not all torture violates human dignity. In this sense, the concept of human dignity (which you need to elaborate on) is not static. It is in some sense circumstantial due to just cause. For instance, wouldn't imprisonment of an innocent individual violate his dignity because it is unjust? What do you think?

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  5. First off, you are simply arguing from authority, and not elaborating on the principles at hand. What are the rights and obligations of the State?

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  6. I should have stated that you are arguing from appeal to authority. It is my position that you have not placed what the authority is saying in proper context, which should be done by first reasoning through the principles at play.

    Again, does the State have rights and obligations which an individual does not possess?

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  7. Defending others is only one part of the State's right and duty. The other is to keep the moral order. So the State does not exact the death penalty for the sole purpose of keeping others safe. It does so to keep the moral order which includes retributive punishment.

    For example, Saint Thomas says,
    The fact that the evil ones, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement.


    They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so obstinate that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from malice, it is possible to make a quite probable judgment that they would never come away from evil.”

    (Summa contra gentiles, Book III, chapter 146)

    So my point is, the death penalty is not done from under the law of double effect. It is done for the intended end of exacting punishment, keeping the moral order as well as defending the innocent people in society. It is also done with one authority being placed above another. This makes it much different than two individuals in society. I think this is where modern philosophy has gotten away from the basic core principles of Thomistic reasoning. I think this is where we end up talking past each other. It is my argument then, that the State can under certain circumstances use physical or mental coercion to defend innocent human life as a means of self defense to the innocent party who has been unjustly attacked. Under this explanation, and by my own understanding of these basic moral principles held for ages in the Catholic Church, I do not believe the Church has taught against this.

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  8. Roy Rogers vs. Jack Bauer

    Back in the Dark Ages we had a weekly TV show featuring a cowboy hero called Roy Rogers. Roy may have had a six shooter but he seldom used it. He saved the farm but not the world. His bad guys were bad but still human. Roy reflected the values of middle America. As young paratroopers we did not have to be told that torture was wrong and that we, the good guys, did not torture.

    And then Jack came along. Jack saved the world every week. He killed many very bad, bad guys. In fact Jack's bad guys were so bad that they were not really human. And because Jack was saving the world every week from these very bad, bad guys he was entitled, indeed required, to torture them. And now our VA (like its Israeli counter part) finds itself treating veterans who had aided the torture of human beings and are now suffering from PTSD.

    The world has indeed changed.

    How did Jack replace Roy as an icon of American culture? Why did our culture embrace the cowardly acts of torture and preventative war (now it its 10th year)? Was it from the dehumanizing after shock of MAD, or Roe v Wade or the Holocaust or the Gulag; or perhaps all of the above?

    The answer of course is Original Sin. We live in a fallen world. We loose our way. We trust in ourselves and not in God. The only effective response to Original Sin is grace and in specific Saints.

    Recently the Holy Father, like his predecessor John Paul the Great, called for Saints. WE should heed his call.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  9. Please Red, if anyone is going to have a meaningful discussion here you need to ask Richard to leave. No one has even mentioned Jack Bauer or 24 in any of the posts on this blog that I have been on except for him. Using Red Herring arguments like this is childish. Someone trying to paint anyone who wants to discuss this issue as a Jack Bauer supporter is simply not a rational person. Going further I will not address anything Richard has to say. At this point I am not even sure if it is an adult who is writing this stuff or his 10 year kid who gets on his dad's computer. Please, I am trying to have a rational, charitable discussion here, and it was going fairly well until this guy showed up. Thanks in advance Red.

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  10. Mr. Belisario:

    "At this point I am not even sure if it is an adult who is writing this stuff or his 10 year kid who gets on his dad's computer."

    Have you been talking to my wife again?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  11. I agree with Matt. Unless Richard wants to refrain from silly fallacious straw men arguments, there is no need to interact with him. We should all be able to contribute something reasonable to the discussion. Anytime someone jumps on here and labels another a heretic, and misrepresents their position via mock, ridicule, and superficially creating positions the other does not hold, the discussion rapidly becomes tiring. I for one do not have time to continuously go back and set the record straight for someone who manifestly isn't concerned with my actual position.

    I'm sure Richard has some great contributions, but he needs to show some restraint and intellectual honesty.

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  12. 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.

    This would require a special gift of mindreading which I do not claim to possess.

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  13. Mr. Alexander:

    "Anytime someone jumps on here and labels another a heretic"

    And who have I labeled a heretic?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  14. The persistent, stubborn and public denial of a moral teaching of the Catholic Church by a Catholic is heresy.

    St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas"

    Baptized and confirmed Christians are indeed authorized and required to defend the faith against heresy.

    For a Catholic to stubbornly, persistently and publicly deny a teaching of the Church on faith or morals is for that Catholic to leave full communion with the Vicar of Christ and to sink into the terrible state of heresy.

    Well it is pretty confusing try to figure out who is the Catholic Champion and what he or she is championing. It is certainly not Catholic Orthodoxy.

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  15. This topic elicits various conflicting responses from me. On the one hand, I strongly sympathize with the conclusions Red Cardigan is arguing for, namely, that torture and extra-judicial killings are wrong and should be opposed. I also agree that the Catechism should be a guide for Catholics on these questions.

    On the other hand, I agree with Matthew and Alexander that the Church's (qualified) endorsement of the death penalty cannot be explained by applying the principle of double effect. Capital punishment is intended to kill a human being: that is its essential purpose.

    To argue that the aim of capital punishment is to protect human life from an aggressor and the aggressor's death is a regrettable side effect of that protection seems essentially the same as the argument Marc Thiessen apparently made that torture can be justified under the principle of double effect: the aim of torture is to protect human life from a terrorist and the pain inflicted on the terrorist is a incidental effect. This is misleading, of course, because inflicting pain is an essential part of torture just as causing death is an essential part of capital punishment.

    I would therefore conclude that Church teaching is not that killing is justified only according to the principle of double effect, but that killing is justified in other contexts as well. The Catechism passages on these topics should be interpreted in the same way, I think.

    This does not mean, however, that because capital punishment is sometimes justified, then torture also sometimes justified. My thinking on this subject is, I admit, still developing; nevertheless, I think the difficulty with torture is that it dehumanizes its victim in a way that even capital punishment does not.

    Perhaps I am naive, but I can imagine killing someone in a way that still respects that person's human dignity; to inflict so much pain on another person so that s/he will tell you anything you want or do anything you want seems to strip away all respect for another's dignity. This might be why one is justified and the other not. Still, I welcome guidance from wiser commentators.

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  16. Fathers and Honor

    I reflect that in a single life time American culture has gone from rejecting torture and preventative war to embracing these evils. How could this have happened so quickly? From 1901 to 2001 our government, as policy, did not torture Huns, Japs, Krauts and Commies; and we won WW I, WW II and the Cold War. Then, suddenly, we are invading counties who pose no threat to us and we are kidnapping and torturing their citizens. Indeed the only two times that our government has embraced torture as policy (The PI Insurrection and GWOT) our military effectiveness was questionable and the victims were Muslims (and in the PI Catholics).

    The paratroopers I served with, who viewed torture as Un-American and "sick" were definitely from the wrong side of the track. Many were teenagers, many had not finished high school and all of us enjoyed a good fight. But almost all had also grown up with their fathers. Fathers impart to their sons a sense of right and wrong - a sense of honor. An American soldier in my day would not torture a prisoner simply because it was dishonorbale.

    Later in life, serving on a police special response team, I noticed a dearth of fathers. There was no one to impart to boys and young men a sense of right and wrong, a sense of "honor". There had bee na sea change in our culture.

    In 2001 when President Bush the Younger authorized the CIA to torture prisoners it had to go out and hire two shrinks (at a $1,000.00 a day each) to devise a torture program to train our government torturers because no one at the CIA knew how. When we look at the men who advised President Bush to put official government torturers on the payroll we see men who had never gone into harms way for the USA. Men who had spent their lives as academics, policy wonks and bureaucrats. Where had the Lees and Pattons gone?

    I suspect that the lack of fathers in our society, the loss of fatherhood and a sense of right and wrong and honor has led to an emasculation of America. (We can see this most clearly perhaps in our un-gallant treatment of women.) The loss of our national manhood has opened the door to cruelty.

    Perhaps this is why we cheer when Jack Bauer tortures the evil Muslim on the TV screen instead of turning our heads away in disgust?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  17. Mr. Alexander:

    Again I ask who did I name as a heretic?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  18. Mr. John:

    "Still, I welcome guidance from wiser commentators."

    The wisest commentators out there are the Council Fathers and the Vicars of Christ, who guided by the Holy Spirit, taught the universal faithful that torture and preventative war are intrinsically evil, that prisoners are to be treated humanely and that the death penalty can be only used used certain and rare conditions.

    For a Catholic it is all really pretty simple to figure out once we listen to the Holy Spirit.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  19. Richard,

    You are intellectually dishonest. If you find it appropriate to make the implication that Matt is a heretic (as evidenced by what I have quoted above, including: Well it is pretty confusing try to figure out who is the Catholic Champion and what he or she is championing. It is certainly not Catholic Orthodoxy). I will not respond to you any further until you admit the obvious.

    John,

    I do not think that the argument for proportioned physical coercion is dependent upon the prinicple of double effect, but that such means falls within the purview of the proper authority.

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  20. Mr. Alexander:

    "You are intellectually dishonest."

    Well, then, thank Good I am not an intellectual!

    "If you find it appropriate to make the implication that Matt is a heretic"

    I named no one as a heretic. You, the intellectual, have brought up someone's name.

    "as evidenced by what I have quoted above"

    Your quotes appear to be taken from four different posts, also taken out of context and strung together in order to prove I know what. I imagine this is some intellectual exercise. But it makes me very glad that I am a knuckle dragger.

    "Well it is pretty confusing try to figure out who is the Catholic Champion and what he or she is championing. It is certainly not Catholic Orthodoxy"

    If you, the intellectual, had deigned to read the thread then you would know that the party who claims to own the blog titled "Catholic Champion" states that he is not the Catholic Champion. So what is your point?

    "I will not respond to you any further until you admit the obvious."

    Promise? Please?

    BTW a heretic is not a Catholic who merely happens to disagree with or to be untaught in a particular point of Catholic faith and morals; but, rather a heretic is a Catholic who clearly knows and understands what the Church teaches on a particular point of faith and morals; and who publicly, stubbornly and persistently then rejects that teaching.

    Which is why I am very careful not to put someone's name in the same sentence with the word "heretic" - unlike yourself.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  21. Hi John, thanks for your thoughts. I think the problem today is that we think that everything fits into a nice little box where something is either right or wrong. Now before I go further do not misunderstand me. There are certain things when they are defined clearly that are always wrong. The killing of an innocent human being for example or acts that contradict the natural law like homosexuality, contraception etc. These are very clear, they have clear definitions and the Church has used its own definitions and teachings to these as being irreformable and definitive many times over.

    The problem with the issue of torture is that for one, so far the Church herself has used only a limited definition which follows along the lines of the Geneva convention and is always mentioned in the context of violating human dignity. We run into a second problem with defining human dignity. I have read as many documents that I can find on this definition of "human dignity" and none are very clear working definitions. It usually falls into the working definition that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and so we must respect human beings on common ground that we would treat God, or something close to the same respect that we have for God, or the image of God in human beings. This however is not a sound working definition.

    For one, we would never punish God or put him in solitary confinement, or exact capital punishment on God. We would not inflict any kind of pain on God, or His image. So there are certainly limits to applying the image of God to human beings.

    It appears to me that where the human dignity is violated is not only in the means, but the intention. For example, hitting someone in vengeance with a 2x4 on the head would be a violation of the moral law, and could be aligned with violating someone's dignity. Hitting them with a 2x4 however when they are making an unjust attack on you is not a violation. Physical violence itself is not an intrinsic evil.

    Also, if a private citizen tried to punish a guilty criminal on his own and hang him in his backyard, that would be a violation. However, if the State hangs Saddam Hussein for example, that would not be a violation of his dignity. It would be the State's right, and duty to do so to keep the moral order.

    I think that the same applies to using physical or mental coercion. Soldiers beating prisoners in a military prison for mockery or vengeance is immoral and would violate that dignity. However the police who have an apprehended criminal on video stealing a car with an infant it who will not tell them where the abandoned vehicle is after he is caught could be subject to first mental and the physical coercion to save the infant who is still being unjustly attacked by the apprehended criminal's action which he put into play. This in my opinion would not violate his dignity any more than stopping the guy with the 2x4.

    Finally I think that when the Popes have spoken about this issue it has been in light of these types of torture that occur today, such as beating prisoners for no reason, or vengeance or to humiliate them, or to try and gain intelligence by 3rd parties who may or may not know something ,etc. All of this would be immoral. But one aspect has not been addressed and that is torture (Physical or mental coercion) used on a known criminals who are actively setting their will to take innocent life. Again we need to recognize these distinctions of authority, guilt, and proper proportion. I hope this helps in explaining my position.

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  22. I wanted to elaborate on what I mean when I referred to the Popes and what they have spoken about in reference to torture. For example Pope Benedict XVI's statement in 2007 is often quoted as, "...I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances...” However if you actually look at the context it reads,

    "Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances”

    So clearly the Pope here is talking about punishment and correction which specifically deals with violating human dignity. If we read carefully, we see two important words commonly left out of the quote, "In this regard", which deals with acts that violate human dignity, not all acts. In my opinion, this is just one example of taking a quote too far implying that he meant all acts of physical or mental coercion.

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  23. I'm not certain, on pondering this further, that double-effect applies to capital punishment the way it does to self-defense. But that raises another question: why does the Catechism frame capital punishment as an extension of the self-defense principle, not as a matter of "just punishment" or the rights of the State to hold the power of life and death over its citizens, or some similar thing?

    This is especially clear when we read the various "conditions" imposed before the State can apply capital punishment (e.g., that guilt must be clearly established, that non-lethal means are always to be used unless the State is unable to protect the innocent without recourse to lethal ones, etc.). I realize that one can appeal to Aquinas or Thomas for a different framing of this question, but isn't that just a different sort of appeal to authority?

    As regards the torture question, I don't think you can read Benedict XVI as saying, "Well, of course you're going to violate the prisoner's human dignity, and therefore waterboarding is probably fine but cutting off limbs is verboten." That seems like wishful thinking on the part of those who don't really believe the Church is against torture at all, though I wouldn't accuse anyone here of thinking that (but there are such people).

    To respond directly to something Matthew said: you wrote, "Finally I think that when the Popes have spoken about this issue it has been in light of these types of torture that occur today, such as beating prisoners for no reason, or vengeance or to humiliate them, or to try and gain intelligence by 3rd parties who may or may not know something ,etc. All of this would be immoral. But one aspect has not been addressed and that is torture (Physical or mental coercion) used on a known criminals who are actively setting their will to take innocent life."

    The problem is that the category, "...known criminals who are actively setting their will to take innocent life..." does not exist in the moral or legal realm. Until *proof* of guilt can be established, such people are merely *suspected* of belonging to that category. Without proper investigation etc. there is no way to have any moral certainty that the man one is about to torture is, indeed, from this category, or is instead from a different category (e.g., a 3rd party or lesser 'agent' who doesn't really know anything, a 'ringer' who unfortunately happens to resemble the criminal, or a totally innocent person who has been wrongfully assumed to be part of a terrorist cell). Since there is NO way it can ever be morally acceptable to torture the innocent, and since there is no way without a proper legal investigation to determine guilt, how can torture possible be moral?

    To look at this as a self-defense scenario, it's all the difference between a man shooting an armed aggressor who invades his home in the dead of night and threatens his wife, and a man who drives through a bad neighborhood shooting people randomly because they are the sort of person who might invade his home. Even if one of them actually has made plans to invade his home, there is no provision in the moral law for preemptive self-defense.

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  24. The Catholic Church's "position" on torture:

    * Love thy enemy

    * Treat prisoners humanely

    * Torture is intrinsically evil.

    * the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances.

    The US Government's "position" on torture:

    * Torture is counterproductive as an interrogation tool.

    * Torture ruins the subject for proper intelligence exploration.

    * Torture is in violation of both federal statute and international treaty

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  25. Hi Red thanks for your thoughts. You wrote, "Since there is NO way it can ever be morally acceptable to torture the innocent, and since there is no way without a proper legal investigation to determine guilt, how can torture possible be moral?"

    It is always up to the proper authorities present at the time of an actual incident to determine probable guilt for the present situation at hand. Obviously we cannot set a jury on site to determine by a collective process whether or not a person is guilty per court of law. Police officers make these types of judgments all of the time when apprehending suspects by force who may not be proven guilty for the actual crime later. It is therefore up the authorities at the time of an incident to determine a course of action at the time of an unjust attack. For example, in the case I used above, the authorities of the State had an actual video of the guy on a tape which they had quick access to, to determine that the guy was beyond a reasonable doubt the one who stole the car with the abandoned infant in it baking in 95 degree heat in the abandoned car in the summer time that he had stolen. The police therefore had the authority to determine probable guilt in order to; 1. forcefully apprehend the criminal, and then 2. determine a course of action as to how to coerce the criminal into telling them where the car was with the baking kid inside of it that he left to die. So there is sound reasonable evidence that guy is guilty, so the police can determine a coercive course of action to apprehend the guy and to coerce him into telling them where the kid is that he left to die. I do not see anything unusual about this.

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  26. As far as the Catechism goes it does not cover everything in detail pertaining to each topic covered in it. In fact in the beginning of the Catechism it tells us it is only meant to supplement previous catechisms and documents, and not meant to replace them. It only glosses over the death penalty. But for the sake of argument lets look at the Catechism closer, and I think we will see that the punishment aspect of the death penalty is not absent.

    2266
    "The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense."

    This is under the section on the death penalty, before it gets to the part on human dignity in 2267. The Catechism then goes on to talk about protecting others in society, but we cannot forget the other principle of actually exacting a retributive punishment or penalty fit to each crime stated before it. Both principles are addressed, only one is elaborated on.

    Now if we look to the prior Catechism of Trent we see that the other aspect is elaborated on in more detail.

    "There are some exceptions to the extent of this prohibition to killing. The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment, such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the state is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent life (The Fifth Commandment, 4).

    Here we see very clearly the Church was not making a case for the death penalty from the law of double effect, or for the sole purpose of protecting others. It is also used for just retributive just punishment. When we study these points we have to synthesize the many documents and statements made by the Church and not just focus on one or another. This is the problem today with those who want to absolutely do away with the death penalty. They only look at one part of the teaching, and ignore the rest of it. I am not saying that you Red are intentionally doing this, but there are many out there who run off with one quote and think it says everything there is to be said on a particular topic or teaching.

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  27. RE: A little more clarity from the Catholic Church regarding the intrinsic evil called torture

    COMPENDIUM
    OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE
    OF THE CHURCH

    From the Vatican, 29 June 2004

    “In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: “Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim”.[830] International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances”

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  28. I also think it is worth noting while we are talking about the death penalty, to look at some of what Fr. John Hardon compiled regarding the two different components in which the death penalty is justified. He refers to documents by Pope Piux XII.

    "In the twentieth century, Pope Pius XII provided a full doctrinal defense of capital punishment. Speaking to Catholic jurists, he explained what the Church teaches about the authority of the State to punish crimes, even with the death penalty.

    The Church holds that there are two reasons for inflicting punishment, namely "medicinal" and "vindictive." The medicinal purpose is to prevent the criminal from repeating his crime, and to protect society from his criminal behavior. The vindicative is to expiate for the wrong-doing perpetrated by the criminal. Thus reparation is made to an offended God, and the disorder caused by the crime is expiated.

    Equally important is the Pope's insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity. Why? Because the Church's teaching on "the coercive power of legitimate human authority" is based on "the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine." It is wrong, therefore "to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances." On the contrary, they have "a general and abiding validity." (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2).

    Certainly Christianity, like Christ, is to be merciful. Certainly Christians are to be kind and forgiving. But Christ is God. He is, indeed loving and in fact is love. But He is also just. As a just God, He has a right to authorize civil authority to inflict capital punishment."

    Hopefully that helps to clear up that part of the discussion.

    Link here.
    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=5805&CFID=36628728&CFTOKEN=79621529

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  29. If you don't mind I want to take a look at an interesting definition that Pope John Paul II writes in Veritatis Slendor that in my opinion, and other Catholics, is not very clear taken at face value. He defines the following act as being "intrinsically evil."

    "physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit"

    If the Pope is was saying that we cannot under any circumstances coerce someone by physical or mental means then we are in huge trouble. This cannot be an all encompassing definition. We coerce people all of the time by physical and mental means. Notice he does not say only torture, but he also says "and attempts to coerce the spirit." Well, if we cannot coerce anyone for any reason then we cannot stop an unjust attack period. Then the State cannot put someone to death, period. The State cannot carry out sever prison sentences and imprison someone period. These are all either mental or physical means to coerce someone's will or spirit. They are all done to coerce people in one form or another, and inflict a physical or mental aggression upon people. Either John Paul II's definition of this is not clear, or he had something specific in mind to which he personally defined as torture or coercion of the spirit, or we take it at face value and do away with all physical and mental coercion, which is obviously not a tenable argument. I will continue to examine all of the documents pertaining to torture and write up something more concrete. There certainly needs to be clarity on this issue, but it is going to take some serious work to examine this on serious level beyond the one line quotes.

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  30. More clarity from the Catholic Church regarding the intrinsic evil called torture:

    Veritatis splendor
    Ioannes Paulus PP. II
    1993 08 06

    80. 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".131 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".132

    For the intellectual the great seduction of heresy is its appeal to his pride. Heresy encourages the intellectual to think that he is smarter than anyone else to include Pope, Bishop and Council. Eventually the intellectual assumes the mantle of Pope, Council and Bishop. Finally he starts to excommunicates anyone who dares to disagree with him.

    Let us all cling to the bark of Peter.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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  31. Re: On Torture, Heresy and the Catechism

    Catholic Catechism: 2089:

    "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same".

    As evidenced by No. 80 from Veritatis Splendor it is a truth of the Catholic faith that torture is intrinsically evil. However the Catholic torture advocates claim that the teaching found in VS is not infallible. What does the Catechism say about infallibility?

    No. 892: "Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it."

    The question now before us is whether the Church's teaching that heresy is intrinsically evil is something we must believe with "religious assent" or "assent of faith"? If we must believe with "the assent of faith" then denial of this teaching is indeed heresy.

    This is a question that any Catholic who publicly, persistently and stubbornly advocates torture must ask himself: "am I descending into heresy?"

    Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict taught us:

    "I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances".

    May Our Lady, Scourge of Heretics, pray for us.

    Richard W Comerford

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  32. The question one must ask is whether or not the Pope was teaching as an extension of the Universal and Ordinary Magisterial teaching on the matter, and we must ask exactly he was defining. These matters are left to people who actually read more than part of one sentence on the subject and then pontificate as if they have authority to do so. One must also ask why someone must cut off the entire beginning of a sentence when they quote someone, so people will not understand the entire context of it. In fact when someone doesn't even have the have the decency to quote it correctly with "..." in front of it to let readers know it is not even a complete sentence, then we have to ask what type of an agenda such a person is pushing. For those who are not sure how to quote the Pope in context let me give you an example,

    "Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances”

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  33. Matthew, check the sidebar of this blog. The ellipses are there, and have been from the beginning. Your willingness to assume bad faith is telling.

    Besides, how does the pope's first part contradict the second? It's not as though he's saying, "Oh, by the way, sometimes public authorities can inflict the pain, terror and suffering of drowning on prisoners so long as the drowning isn't fatal and there's really important information at stake...but in this regard, etc."

    In other words, I don't think Benedict is saying what you think he's saying.

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  34. Catholicism is not Gnosticism

    "Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266). At the same time, they are to aid in rebuilding “social relationships disrupted by the criminal act committed” (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 403). By their very nature, therefore, these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders, facilitating their transition from despair to hope and from unreliability to dependability. When conditions within jails and prisons are not conducive to the process of regaining a sense of a worth and accepting its related duties, these institutions fail to achieve one of their essential ends. Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances” (Ibid., 404)."

    In so far that Catholicism is not a Gnostic religion with hidden meanings to teachings known only to a few it should be clear that Benedict, the Vicar of Christ, while recognizing the duty of Judaical and penal authorities to protect society prohibits their use of torture in pursuing those that duties.

    May Our Lady, Scourge of Heretics, pray for us.

    Richard W Comerford

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  35. Red, if you read I was not referring to the side bar, I was referring to Richard's quote, see above.

    May Our Lady pray for those who accuse fellow Catholics unjustly of heresy.

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  36. Finally the definition that JPII gave is not adequate since mental and physical coercion of the spirit cannot be intrinsically evil, it is impossible. It is up to you people who are speaking now as an authority for JPII and his intentions, to reconcile his definition given with what he had in mind for torture.

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  37. Matthew, I realize that you were referring to Richard's quote. However, the fact that the quote appears on the blog in the form which you demand weakens your assumption that anti-torture Catholics are somehow misrepresenting the pope's words, and you know it.

    Frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of your tone, here. It is not up to Catholics who are against torture to parse every word that Catholic popes from Pope Nicholas I to the present Pope Benedict XVI have written condemning it, in such a way as to make it morally licit to waterboard, beat, freeze, starve, sleep-deprive, or otherwise abuse prisoners. I think it's up to you to show how such actions are in concert with Our Lord's command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

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  38. "the definition that JPII gave is not adequate since mental and physical coercion of the spirit cannot be intrinsically evil, it is impossible"

    Well the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council think it is quite possible.

    The Second Vatican Council

    1965

    "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".132

    By what authority do the Catholic torture advocates defy Popes and Council - sola scriptura?

    Our Lady, Scourge of heretics, pray for us.

    Richard W Comerford

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  39. Nothing New With Vatican II

    On November 13, 866, Pope St. Nicholas wrote in Ad Consulta Vestra:

    "If a [supposed] thief or bandit is apprehended and denies the charges against him, you tell me your custom is for a judge to beat him with blows to the head and tear the sides of his body with other sharp iron goads until he confesses the truth. Such a procedure is totally unacceptable under both divine and human law (quam rem nec divina lex nec humana prorsus admittit), since a confession should be spontaneous, not forced. It should be proffered voluntarily, not violently extorted."

    Our Lady, Scourge of heretics, pray for us.

    Richard W Comerford

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  40. Red wrote,
    "Matthew, I realize that you were referring to Richard's quote. However, the fact that the quote appears on the blog in the form which you demand weakens your assumption that anti-torture Catholics are somehow misrepresenting the pope's words, and you know it."

    First of all it is not wise to presume to tell me what my intentions are without knowing them. It is apparent that I addressed Richard. It doesn't matter where else the quote is posted online. When you are addressing an argument and you use a quote from a Pope in which other people are going to read then you need to quote it correctly.

    Red wrote,
    "Frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of your tone, here. It is not up to Catholics who are against torture to parse every word that Catholic popes from Pope Nicholas I to the present Pope Benedict XVI have written condemning it, in such a way as to make it morally licit to waterboard, beat, freeze, starve, sleep-deprive, or otherwise abuse prisoners. I think it's up to you to show how such actions are in concert with Our Lord's command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us."

    I am not sure what you mean about tone. Frankly I wish you would actually address the actual argument I presented and not misrepresent what I do and do not endorse. Where did I endorse any of the actions you listed above Red? I find it quite alarming that the only thing you two can do here is present logical fallacies like Red Herrings and Straw Men rather than actually addressing the arguments I made. Even Richard is making up arguments that I never made and he is quoting Pope St. Nicholas above which doesn't even address any arguments I have presented anywhere. I never argued in favor for trying to force a confession from anyone. When you two want to rationally discuss the actual argument presented, then let me know.

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  41. All right, Matthew. So tell me: when *do* you think it is morally licit to torture someone? How do you square your ideas with what the Church teaches via the ordinary magisterium (e.g., through the Catechism and other sources) which declares torture to be morally evil?

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  42. RE: Why torture?

    Jack Bauer and the Catholic torture advocates apparently base their support for torture on the supposition that it purportedly "works" as an interrogation tool. However I do not know of a single intelligence service in the world that trains its officers to believe that torture "works" as an interrogation tool.

    In 2006 the Department of Defense studied this matter and found "that there is simply no scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness".

    The study is found here:

    http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf

    The findings of the above study helped form FM 34-52 which is not the standard for all US Government Agencies. This current standard is the same one the USA had from 1901 to 2001 and we prevailed in WWI, WWII and the Cold War. We are now in our 10th year of fighting the Pushtuns in Afghan and Pakistan.

    In view of the clear and constant condemnations of torture by Popes and Councils coupled with the belief of the intelligence professionals that torture simply does not "work" it is irrational for a Catholic to publicly advocate torture.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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