Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pro-torture people: post your best pro-torture argument here

Okay, so apparently some of the people who think that the Church is wrong about torture and that torture ought to remain a morally legitimate option for the State to use feel as though their arguments have not been addressed. I'm opening this thread for pro-torture people to put their best arguments forward in answer to the following question:

The Catholic Church teaches, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the following:
"2297 Kidnapping 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."
If you believe that the use of torture by the State is not gravely evil, but instead, a property of the State's authority to defend its citizens, to punish the guilty, etc., how do you read the Catechism passage above, and other, similar Church statements, and how does the notion that torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity fit with your view that torture nonetheless remains a morally valid option to be used by State authorities?

As arguments are posted, I will do my best to collect from the best responses by Zippy, Mark Shea, and others that address each argument. In the event that someone proposes a truly innovative and new argument, I will highlight that argument and ask for responses from Coalition members.

110 comments:

  1. This is not so much a defense of torture, but a defense of what some consider to be torture, but which I do not.

    Torture is by nature the causing of a man to become irrational by means of violence. That doesn't mean that lesser forms of coercive violence could not also be immoral given the particular circumstance, but that those other acts of coercive violence are specifically not torture.

    With violence understood to be any act of physical or mental trauma. Thus any act from banishment of a man to sitting in a corner for a child would be mental violence, or any act from flogging of a man to spanking of a child would be physical violence. With it understood that those acts in particular are performed to coerce.

    With that said, I propose that a man can be violently coerced short of causing him to become irrational with the coercion relative to the circumstance.

    Thus the infamous ticking time bomb can be found and diffused by coercing the man who planted it relative to the gravity of the foreseen damage it would cause if not diffused as long as the coercion does not specifically become an act of torture.

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  2. Loaded questions. Too fallacious to engage. You should think about revising them.

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  3. All right, here's a simpler one for you, Alexander: Do you think torture is morally acceptable? Why?

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  4. Love the girls, I'd suggest reading this for starters:

    http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2010/02/defining-torture-part-xxxviii.html

    Zippy has a lot of good material on his site, by the way.

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  5. Red Cardigan,

    I've read it, boring, long winded and not to the point.

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  6. Love the girls, I thought that Zippy's working definition was similar to yours; he used the term "psychological disintegration" instead of "irrational by means of violence" but the idea was somewhat similar.

    Here's the problem with what you wrote: how do we determine that the coercion being used in the TTB scenario does not rise to the level of torture? Doesn't the pain tolerance of the victim play a huge role here (as well as his acting ability, etc.) in showing us when he reaches the point where we're making him irrational because of the pain? Moreover, can't we only know we've crossed that line into torture *after* we've crossed it?

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  7. btw, I was glad to see his attempting to look at the subject, but psychological disintegration means what?

    Sometimes specific differences can be rather straight forward. Feeling a girl up is not fornication which is specifically intercourse. That doesn't mean that feeling a girl up and whatever else are not likewise wrong given the circumstance, but that they are specifically not fornication. Torture is the same. It's not open ended.

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  8. Red Cardigan writes : "how do we determine that the coercion being used in the TTB scenario does not rise to the level of torture?"

    That's a practical problem, but we can say this much, we can err to our own advantage while taking reasonable precautions to ensure the act is within the proper limits.

    Red Cardigan writes : "can't we only know we've crossed that line into torture *after* we've crossed it?"

    Yes. But that doesn't mean that we can't act just because we can't with certitude know each practical limit. We are only required to act within our competence, and to act competently.

    ____________

    btw, I linked to the specific article by zippy after I posted, and was referring to his over all body of work on the subject.

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  9. Well, we are required to act within our competence, but we're also required to avoid the near occasion of sin.

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that coercion right up to the border of torture is moral, but torture is a mortal sin. Could we ignore the gravity of the sin of torture as we progressed closer and closer to that mark? Or would continuing to inflict physical or mental pain on a person in our control (but intending to stop before we reached actual torture) be allowing ourselves to be in the proximate occasion of serious sin?

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  10. 1. We need a working definition of what constitutes the immoral act of torture. If you cannot give a definition of what the actual act is, then it cannot be intrinsically evil.

    Example- Murder is intrinsically evil- Definition- Murder is defined as the unjust, intentional taking of an innocent human life. Therefore the act of murder, the unjust, intentional taking of an innocent human life, is intrinsically evil.

    2. Torture is intrinsically evil- Definition?

    Until this problem can be addressed you have no argument despite what you quote from the Catechism, because it doesn't define the act either. It only gives a couple of examples like trying to illicit a confession, which we all know is immoral. It also does not clearly define what "punishing the guilty" is in its example, and that in and of itslef cannot be intrinsically evil otherwise no Death Penalty, period! The Death Penalty is a physical and mental violence that is used for punishment, plain and simple. It is a punishment exacted by the State which involves physical and moral violence to the person. The Catechism says, "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty,..." It has to be either wrong, or is an incomplete explanation.

    You have to reconcile the example given in the Catechism condemning all physical and moral acts of violence used to punish the guilty with the State's uncontested right to being able to inflict the Death Penalty as a just means of punishment. When you figure those two questions out, let me know.

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  11. Red Cardigan writes : "Well, we are required to act within our competence, but we're also required to avoid the near occasion of sin. . . "

    What limits do are set visible boundaries, so that we can prudently stay away from them as best we can.

    Your example is what should be done when it's difficult to avoid those boundaries. What we do know is that we can err to our own advantage while doing our best to stay away from that boundary. This method respects all parties concerned while recognizing the gravity of what is taking place.

    just for the record, I do not actually trust our government to act prudently, or act competently, or act reasonably, but that is not to say that prudent and competent men could not be found.

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  12. Matthew Bellisario writes : "If you cannot give a definition of what the actual act is, then it cannot be intrinsically evil"

    The problem with issues like torture or modesty and the like is how we come to know the nature of an object. How do we know modesty when their isn't a cultural norm to abstract? But yet we do have a sense of it, and know it sufficiently to converse on the subject. Even if those conversations consist primarily of attempting to establish some norm according to that elusive nature.

    A priest I knew once defined modesty as being slightly more modest than the cultural norm. Now that isn't definition of the nature, nor is it helpful as a cultural norm, but it is a good working definition for a particular person in our society to live by.

    That same priest once commented that dating is an occasion of sin, but some occasions simply cannot be avoided, only prudently observed.

    Perhaps something along that line of reasoning would be helpful to you. It wont satisfy those with platonic certitude that this or that is without question torture, when the object they speak of is without doubt questionable to a reasonable man, but you might be able to live with it, which is easy enough to do since while we do need to dress in society, we don't need to coerce except where we are well safe within the limits, with those limits of coercion rather knowable.

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  13. clarificatio : I use modesty cultural norm a bit loosely there. Being slightly more modest than the cultural norm is simply to be more modest than what is typical, which isn't a norm, but it does suffice to ensure that one is not an occasion of sin.

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  14. You have to reconcile the example given in the Catechism condemning all physical and moral acts of violence used to punish the guilty with the State's uncontested right to being able to inflict the Death Penalty as a just means of punishment.

    Shorter Matthew Bellisario: I assert that the Catechism is self-contradictory, therefore I can ignore it. Followed by the endless "definition, definition, definition" mantra.

    At least I understand the (astonishingly vacuous) argument now, I think.

    Matthew:
    Hopefully you realize that as a Catholic, it is your responsibility to make sense out of what the Magisterium is teaching you, not to make nonsense out of it so that you can ignore it.

    I said it in the other thread, and I'll say it again here: if the Church's teaching that torture is intrinsically immoral creates problems for you given your approach to the subject matter, it is time to take a hard look at your approach to the subject matter. That doesn't mean you have to sign up to everything I say on the subject, or even much of anything that I say on the subject, of course. But it does mean that whatever you are doing, you need to change it.

    In general, for Catholics, if the conclusion arising from your methodology is that the Magisterium is spouting nonsense that is a reductio of your methodology.

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  15. ltg:

    The "psychological disintegration" term comes from Christopher Tollefsen. I do think that torture refers to behaviors producing intentional suffering which in the ordinary course of things tends to produce psychological disintegration in the victim, much as (say) contraception refers to sexual acts modified in such a way that in the ordinary course of things fertility tends to be artificially blocked by the nature of the modified act. (In neither case does it have to always succeed in order to be that species of act though).

    I also agree with you that defining such things in an explicit positivistic enough way to satisfy everyone is, like with pornography and modesty and other particular subjects, nigh impossible.

    Where I tend to disagree with you is when you start saying things like we have the right to err on the side of our own safety, etc. I don't think (for example) it is morally licit to "err on the side of our own safety" in how we treat prisoners when it comes to sexual humiliation, where (say) interrogating Muslim men naked in front of women might be more likely to make them talk. The whole idea of this as a line which we ought to be able to approach as closely as possible without crossing over, and hey, if we cross it over we made a wee error in prudence, is I think wrongheaded. The Catechism seems to support my understanding, since it very clearly states a positive obligation to treat prisoners humanely, not merely to avoid torturing them.

    Matthew's notion that any of this precludes executing the guilty is bizarre and wrongheaded, though a lot of people seem to fall into the same erroneous way of thinking. It has been addressed lots of times though.

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  16. zippy writes : "In general, for Catholics, if the conclusion arising from your methodology is that the Magisterium is spouting nonsense that is a reductio of your methodology."

    Exactly. A principle often ignored on any number of theological issues in favor of what they think have greater certitude of.

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  17. Zippy,

    Erring to our own advantage assumes rational men acting decently. Which would likewise include men who recognize the gravity of their actions and would do their best not to err.

    When St. Thomas writes that we can err to our advantage in self defense, it is not a window of opportunity to take it to the limit, but to understand where culpability lies.

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  18. Erring to our own advantage assumes rational men acting decently.

    OK, but that also seems to assume the avoidance of intrinsically immoral acts, since presumably by definition rational men acting decently will avoid intrinsically immoral acts and even proximity thereto. So I'm not sure it gets us much of anywhere on the torture issue, as long as we take Magisterial statements that torture is intrinsically immoral seriously.

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  19. We know what irrationality is, just as we know that the specific difference of man is rationality.

    For instance, the causing of oneself to become irrational, by getting drunk and the like, are mortally sinful acts specifically because they are the cause of irrationality.

    Psychological disintegration on the other hand may be an attempt at a better working definition in the field for setting limits, or it may be a good place to start for coming to know the nature of the object, but neither speak directly to the nature of the object in question which does need to be understood as best possible for setting those limits.

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  20. zippy writes : "So I'm not sure it gets us much of anywhere on the torture issue, as long as we take Magisterial statements that torture is intrinsically immoral seriously."

    Just because beyond the limit is an intrinsic evil doesn't mean that we cannot act. Just as we set guidelines of what can and cannot be done with pregnancy where ectopic pregnancies can be operated on, so likewise could similar guidelines be set.

    With abortion being a useful guideline itself because we can see even with something as clear as abortion that there's a desire to go beyond the limit by those who are caught up in the moment of a particular extreme case.

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  21. With abortion being a useful guideline itself because we can see even with something as clear as abortion that there's a desire to go beyond the limit by those who are caught up in the moment of a particular extreme case.

    Well, again, I think there are problems in thinking about intrinsically immoral acts as a "limit" at some end of a continuum. An intrinsically immoral act is essentially different from an act, neutral in itself, chosen under a rubric of prudence.

    In any case though I certainly don't object to theologizing on the subject matter of torture in general, as many have done on abortion. The things I object to specifically are already well documented.

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  22. zippy writes : "I think there are problems in thinking about intrinsically immoral acts as a "limit" at some end of a continuum."

    But yet that is not an imprecise way to look at them. A substantial change from this to that is marked by a limit. When continuously adding water to wine there is a substantial change where the wine ceases to to exist as wine and becomes water. As said previously, the point isn't to add as much water as possible, but to recognize what that limit is, and to practically avoid as best possible changing the wine into water.

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  23. Matthew Bellisario

    1. We need a working definition of what constitutes the immoral act of torture.

    Although Zippy (and Mark and Sean and others) have already answered this objection, I will refer you to our sidebar, where you will find (among other things) the U.N.'s definition of torture. That seems a good enough working definition for me. It definitely falls under the prohibitions of Vatican 2, JP2, CCC, and Ben16.

    What is insufficient about this as a working definition, in your eyes? Do you have a better definition (or even a way to arrive at a better definition) to suggest?

    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.

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  24. ltg -

    I agree that there are situations which are difficult to discern.

    I'm not familiar with the passage where Thomas allows "erring on the side of safety/advantage." Can you point me in the right direction?

    That said, our goal is not to see just how far we can go before it really really really becomes torture, but rather to strive for sanctity and good in all our actions.

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  25. Are you people dense or something? I am sorry but all your rude condescending attitudes here are unbelievable, and I for one are tired of them. No one here has shown any ability to look at morality with any Thomistic understanding. Read the UN definition. It is not tenable to hold to it as a strict definition of torture and still be able to hold to defined Catholic principles regarding the State and its authority to justly punish violent criminals. You have simply defined yourself out of Catholicism.

    Look at the definition..
    ""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...punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed,.." Again how do you reconcile this with the State's authority to use retributive punishment? No wonder why so many of you ignorantly oppose the Death Penalty as if it is intrinsically evil. It is because you have no ability to reason anything through using rational moral principles. If torture is intrinsically evil and it is defined by this UN convention and it is the accepted authoritative definition, then you cannot punish anyone with any severe physical or mental suffering or pain.

    What is severe? The guy in solitary confinement , or the guy serving a life sentence in prison doesn't suffer mentally? The whole point of retributive punishment is to punish criminals using proportionate means to pay back society for crimes committed against it, and to keep the moral order. This entails some sort of physical and mental suffering, many times extreme mental or physical suffering.

    Is severe physical pain defined as coming to the point of the loss of consciousness or loss of reason? Of course you cannot inflict pain to the point of the loss of reason, otherwise the very reason for the coercion is lost. Is the guy who is going to be executed going to suffer in an extreme physical or mental way? Yes, so if you want to hold to this definition as being the authoritative one, you have some serious explaining to do. The State would not be able to exercise its right and obligation to retributive punishment, which is absolute and given through the natural law and upheld dogmatically by the Church. Your definition given by the UN absolutely spits in the face of the Church's defined teaching on morality and the authority of the State to just retributive punishment if you take it word for word.

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  26. Your precious UN also officially opposes the Death Penalty too. Are you going to hold that as authoritative as well?

    “Based on the principle of respect for the right to life, however, the United Nations remains opposed to capital punishment, even in the case of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

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  27. Matthew, please moderate your tone. I've called out others for being uncivil to you; you need to be civil as well.

    I would ask you to read this post of Mark Shea's on the question of the definition of torture:

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/2009/05/definition-game.html

    I would specifically point to his quotation from another writer who, using Catholic teaching, defines torture thus:

    "[T]he Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

    1. violation of human dignity in the form of
    2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
    3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
    4. against that person’s will.

    These are the essential features of torture, and any material action with this form is torture. And it does not take any meticulous reasoning to figure out which material acts bear this essential form.

    Church sources: Veritatis Splendor 80, Gaudium et spes 27."

    I predict that you will reject even *this* as a working definition of torture, because I predict that your default position is that the Church is wrong, torture isn't evil, and the State has the right to beat the crap out of Muslim terrorists--but I could be wrong.

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  28. First of all you also have to define what the violation of human dignity is. Using the definitions you provided you have defined yourselves out of Catholic dogmatic teaching concerning the State's right and obligation to retributive punishment.

    “I predict that you will reject even *this* as a working definition of torture, because I predict that your default position is that the Church is wrong, torture isn't evil, and the State has the right to beat the crap out of Muslim terrorists--but I could be wrong.”

    I never said the Church was wrong, I am saying that you are misrepresenting Church teaching, making it say something it does not.

    As far as Mark Shea is concerned, he has shown no ability whatsoever to reason this moral issue through using Thomistic principles, which by the way, is the preferred method used by the Church for defining dogmatic statements, of which none have been given concerning the issue of torture. Shea's post was nothing but ad-hominems and the appealing to authorities like the Army Field Manual, which do not hold sway over Catholic dogmatic definition or teaching.

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  29. Also, which definition are you going to use? Mark Shea's or the UN's? You cannot jump around from one to the other. This shows how bad your position is if you cannot even settle one definition. Now you have to go to Mark Shea? What, was the UN's not sufficient?

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  30. Robert,

    "it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense." Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.
    II II Q.64 A.7

    __________

    Robert writes : Our goal....."

    I have answered this objection in multiple ways already. It is also not to the point except as a practical matter because any action assumes competency. Just as it would not be a valid objection for not practicing any art.

    And more precisely, our goal is to act in self defense according to established norms that satisfy what is needed to be satisfied.

    When a man is put in a position of requiring immediate action of self defense, to have someone on the roof calling down that he must be careful to strive for sanctity is to trivialize the situation and is lacking in seriousness.

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  31. Matthew, is there a reason you feel the need to be insulting and dismissive toward people who have been nothing but patient with you?

    I offered the definition of torture from Mark's blog because I think it's a good *working* definition. Others have offered the UN definition because they think it's a good *working* definition. That is, recognizing that the Catholic Church has not offered, and possibly might never offer a single, definitive, exhaustive definition of torture to go along with her absolute condemnation of it as morally evil, we put forth definitions that we think can be worked with as we try to discuss this issue.

    Now, you don't think these definitions are valid; in fact, you don't think that the Church says that torture is evil, apparently. Okay--if you think torture is morally valid as a property of the State's right to defend people, then you must have *some* idea yourself as to what it is. So--define it for us, please, in your Thomistic sense: what is torture, Matthew?

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  32. Wait a minute, you have used two definitions which directly contradict Catholic dogmatic teaching on the State's right and obligation to carry out just retributive punishment, and you have completely dodged that fact. First you wanted to use the UN, then when I showed you how that definition contradicts Catholic teaching regarding the natural law and the State, then you changed your definition to one that was made up and put together by Mark Shea. That one also fails the test concerning retributive punishment.

    I am going to do this one more time for you to show you why the UN definition that you yourselves first used is contradictory to Catholic dogmatic teaching.

    The UN definition says, "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...punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed,.."

    So you need to tell me why it is intrinsically evil to use severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, to punish a criminal for an extreme criminal act he committed unjustly against innocent people? The Catholic Church says dogmatically that the Death Penalty is not intrinsically evil, it says that the State can use extreme punishment on the guilty for retribution for the crimes they committed, and that the punishment can fit the crime. Extreme crimes sometimes call for extreme punishments like Capital Punishment, which would completely contradict your UN definition. Either you are going to go by the exact definition that you quoted as authoritative or you are not. If you do then tell me how it does not contradict dogmatic Catholic teaching on this matter concerning just retributive punishment.

    What we are seeing is that you have yet to define what the actual act of torture is concerning what the Church is trying to tell us. Going by the commonly used examples, it seems to pertain to the unjust abuse of prisoners and the unjust extraction of information from people who are not known to be guilty, and unjust crimes of war, etc. You see the word unjust coming up a lot, no? There is a reason for that. It seems that the use of the "torture" in Catholic documents does not apply to the State's right to defend innocent life from guilty assailants by means of physical and moral violence, and it does not apply to its exacting of just retributive punishment by the same means, otherwise as I said earlier, no Death Penalty. And we can see why these theologians today are gravitating towards that exact position. It is because they have lost all sense of Thomistic reasoning. So either you have to use another definition for the word "torture", than the two you provided from the UN and Mark Shea, or torture is not intrinsically evil. It is either one or the other. Either give me another definition that does not contradict other Catholic dogmatic teaching, or change your definition. Which one is it going to be?

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  33. If Matthew keeps repeating "Thomistic" enough times maybe even he will start to get the impression that he isn't blowing smoke.

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  34. Your continued rudeness astonishes me, Matthew, but I'm not giving up on you yet.

    You demand that I either give you another definition or change the one I offered (which admittedly is a *working* definition, though from a Catholic perspective). I will do neither; instead, I will demand that you do two things: one, define your terms, and two, deal with the definition I actually offered, instead of the UN definition, because that one is already making an attempt to work through a Catholic understanding of this issue.

    Let's repeat:

    "[T]he Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

    1. violation of human dignity in the form of
    2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
    3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
    4. against that person’s will.

    These are the essential features of torture, and any material action with this form is torture. And it does not take any meticulous reasoning to figure out which material acts bear this essential form.

    Church sources: Veritatis Splendor 80, Gaudium et spes 27."

    Now, please note that all FOUR conditions need to be satisfied in order for an act to be torture. Screaming that a person who is about to be justly and lawfully and morally executed will experiences some physical or mental/moral pain, or that his execution is against his will, etc. doesn't cut it, Matthew: how is the person being used as a means to an end?

    Answer: he isn't. It would not be lawful to execute someone because he posed some potential future threat to society, after all--he is being executed because he is guilty of a crime, has been justly charged and condemned, and the lawful authority has made the determination that the State's right to defend itself extends to killing this particular criminal.

    It would be vastly different if the lawful authority stood beside the prisoner's IV and said, "You know, if you'll tell us who your partner in the terror attack was and where we might find him, I might not put the lethal drug in here..." At that point, the person's human dignity is being violated precisely BECAUSE he is being used as a means to an end--it is always a violation of a person's human dignity to treat him as an object.

    The State does have the right to execute criminals. The State does have the right to incarcerate criminals. The State does not have the right to torture criminals, prisoners, or anybody else, for that matter--because the State does not have the right to treat human beings like objects.

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  35. "Your continued rudeness astonishes me, Matthew, but I'm not giving up on you yet."

    Rude? I have simply demonstrated that the UN definition that you guys gave is not a plausible working definition.

    "instead of the UN definition, because that one is already making an attempt to work through a Catholic understanding of this issue."

    The UN definition has nothing to do with an official Catholic definition or understanding. Now we are at least getting somewhere. Hopefully you see that the UN definition does not hold up under scrutiny to Catholic dogma. Now lets move on to your second choice definition. This is like playing a shell game of "move the definition when it doesn't work."

    Second definition-
    1. violation of human dignity in the form of
    2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
    3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
    4. against that person’s will.

    Red says, "Now, please note that all FOUR conditions need to be satisfied in order for an act to be torture. Screaming that a person who is about to be justly and lawfully and morally executed will experiences some physical or mental/moral pain, or that his execution is against his will, etc. doesn't cut it, Matthew: how is the person being used as a means to an end?"

    OK it is simple, the means to the end is the restoration of the moral order and the just retribution paid to society by the just punishment enacted by the State. All four conditions are met, by your use of them anyways. I however do not think that anyone's human dignity is destroyed because of it.

    1. violation of human dignity in the form of
    2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to

    The Qualifying act= The State puts a guy in the electric chair to intentionally to kill him ,

    3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end

    The Qualifying means = Restoring the moral order, exacting retributive punishment and the prevention of future heinous crimes.

    4. against that person’s will.=

    The Qualifying act= The guy in the electric chair is there against his will. All the criterion have been met, except that the guy's human dignity was not violated. But according to you it has since the other 3 conditions that follow qualify the first part of violating someone's human dignity.

    I will continue..

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  36. Red continues, "Answer: he isn't. It would not be lawful to execute someone because he posed some potential future threat to society, after all--he is being executed because he is guilty of a crime, has been justly charged and condemned, and the lawful authority has made the determination that the State's right to defend itself extends to killing this particular criminal."

    You are really getting beat up here Red, I feel bad, but lets move on. Hopefully you and others will learn something. Lets look at the contradiction that you have made in the one paragraph above. Look closely now...you wrote, "It would not be lawful to execute someone because he posed some potential future threat to society.." OK you say that the State cannot execute someone because of their potential threat here, and then you completely contradict yourself here when you wrote, "the lawful authority has made the determination that the State's right to defend itself.." In order for the State to put someone to death to defend itself it would have to be protecting itself from future aggression in this case, otherwise it would fall into the actual act of self defense where a present aggression is taking place. So you say that the State cannot do it, and then you say the State determined to do it to defend itslef. A clear contradiction.

    Red writes, "At that point, the person's human dignity is being violated precisely BECAUSE he is being used as a means to an end"

    Again when the State exacts the Death Penalty it does so to exact retributive punishment, which you seem to keep ignoring, as well as to keep the moral order, which would be carrying out an act in which the person is being used as means to an end, which would primarily be to pay retribution, to restore the moral order, and to prevent future crimes. The State can do those things for those reasons, you are wrong. The State cannot unjustly inflict physical or moral violence on someone, that is another matter. So far your second definition has also failed the Catholic litmus test.



    Perhaps Aquinas will shed some light on this.

    "By sinning man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from the dignity of his manhood, in so far as he is naturally free, and exists for himself, and he falls into the slavish state of the beasts, by being disposed of according as he is useful to others. This is expressed in Psalm 48:21: "Man, when he was in honor, did not understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them," and Proverbs 11:29: "The fool shall serve the wise." Hence, although it be evil in itself to kill a man so long as he preserve his dignity, yet it may be good to kill a man who has sinned, even as it is to kill a beast. For a bad man is worse than a beast, and is more harmful, as the Philosopher states (Polit. i, 1 and Ethic. vii, 6). ST, II-II, q. 64,a. , ad 3"

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  37. Matthew, executing a person is not using him as a means to an end. I appreciate the fine sophistry of your argument, but the State's right to punish does not depend on whether, in fact, the moral order is restored or not by means of a single execution. If it did, then I think you'd have to prove that each and every execution really did somehow manage to restore the moral order before you could proceed; further, you'd pretty much have to execute everybody who committed any crime, or else the moral order might not be restored.

    As for accusing me of playing "move the definition," well, that's pretty rich, coming from you. You're the one playing the game here, and the game is: "I think torture is moral, and because I wish to approve of it, I will reject what the Catechism is saying and insist that the State does, indeed, have the right to torture; however, I refuse to define torture, and refuse to accept anyone's definition of it."

    Finally, you totally missed my point when I said it wouldn't be lawful to execute somebody based on a supposed future threat to society, but it IS moral to execute a CONVICTED CRIMINAL on those grounds. What part of "we can't just round up people who we think are likely to become murderers someday and shoot them all" didn't you get? I guess I'll have to simplify my language, as it's clear you're overlooking what I'm actually, you know, writing.

    It is never moral for the State to torture somebody. It is moral for the State to execute a criminal who has been lawfully convicted of a serious crime, provided his execution is necessary to protect society. The Catechism reminds us, however, that the execution of criminals should be rare. Nowhere does it state that we should execute criminals as the means to the end of restoring the moral order in a way that denies their humanity and treats them as objects (e.g., let's see, we've executed all the murderers, but now the moral order may still not be restored, so let's start executing the kidnappers next, etc.).

    I probably won't get back out here this evening, but by all means, continue to fill up the comboxes with your apologia for torture, and why you think good Christians ought to beat the hell out of prisoners for their own good.

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  38. Red writes, "Matthew, executing a person is not using him as a means to an end. I appreciate the fine sophistry of your argument, but the State's right to punish does not depend on whether, in fact, the moral order is restored or not by means of a single execution. If it did, then I think you'd have to prove that each and every execution really did somehow manage to restore the moral order before you could proceed; further, you'd pretty much have to execute everybody who committed any crime, or else the moral order might not be restored."

    You are wrong Red. The end intended is to exact retributive punishment, and to restore the moral order that the particular person has disrupted. That is a fact that you cannot get around. No sophistry there just plain use of reason. You seem to not understand what the moral order is. It does not mean that no other crime will ever occur. It is particular to the individual and the order that the guilty person has disrupted through his or her crime. The end intended is for the State to restore the moral order lost by the person's particular crime against society. I am not sure how your are understanding the phrase, but this is what it means.

    Aquinas says, “On the contrary, Punishment is due to sin. But every sin is voluntary according to Augustine (De Lib. Arb. iii; Retract. i). Therefore vengeance should be taken only on those who have deserved it voluntarily.
    I answer that, Punishment may be considered in two ways. First, under the aspect of punishment, and in this way punishment is not due save for sin, because by means of punishment the equality of justice is restored, in so far as he who by sinning has exceeded in following his own will suffers something that is contrary to this will....


    "As for accusing me of playing "move the definition," well, that's pretty rich, coming from you. You're the one playing the game here, and the game is: "I think torture is moral, and because I wish to approve of it, I will reject what the Catechism is saying and insist that the State does, indeed, have the right to torture; however, I refuse to define torture, and refuse to accept anyone's definition of it.""

    Again Red, you are the one giving the definitions of which you have yet to answer for. Both definitions given are not a sound definitions in and of themselves and they contradict other defined Catholic teaching regarding the State and its right and obligations to keep the moral order and exact just retributive punishment. For example, the State could deem it necessary to use whipping as a punishment for certain crimes. This would also fit your second definition. It would be intentional physical violence done against someone’s will for the sake of just retributive punishment, and to restore the order that was lost due to his crime.

    "Finally, you totally missed my point when I said it wouldn't be lawful to execute somebody based on a supposed future threat to society, but it IS moral to execute a CONVICTED CRIMINAL on those grounds. What part of "we can't just round up people who we think are likely to become murderers someday and shoot them all" didn't you get?"


    I guess I did miss it. First of all I never said anything of the sort in regards to killing everyone who may be a threat. Perhaps we misunderstood each other there. I was talking about the execution of the Death Penalty being used on a guilty person to keep the moral order and to prevent them from committing future crimes. The State can use Capital Punishment to try and prevent further unjust acts of aggression of a particular person.

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  39. "It is never moral for the State to torture somebody."

    Define torture. Again your definitions are conflicting at this point. The State can as we have seen, use physical and moral violence on guilty criminals for retributive punishment, plain and simple. It does so to reach an end, the restoration of the moral order by exacting just punishment, by using those physical or mental means of violence. That fits your requirements that you gave in your second definition. By its very definition, retributive punishment is a means to bringing about justice and restoring the oral order lost by an unjust action.

    Perhaps Steven Long’s explanation will help. “It is after all fairly clear that killing is per se ordered to suppressing violent enemies either internal or external, and that it is also per se ordered to punishment (the deprivation of a good of nature contrary of the will of the one punished for the sake of vindicating a transcendent norm of justice) since life is a great good, its deprivation tends to be contrary to the will of the person who is killed, and such grave penalty is of its nature proportionate to grave crime.”
     
    Steven A. Long The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act. pg 59 footnote 9


    "I probably won't get back out here this evening, but by all means, continue to fill up the comboxes with your apologia for torture, and why you think good Christians ought to beat the hell out of prisoners for their own good. "

    Nice job on constructing a straw man Red. I have stuck to my points without resorting to any ad-hominems or straw men fallacies. Why do you accuse me of being rude when you are now falsely accusing me of supporting something that I never said? When did I ever said anything about abusing prisoners and "beating the hell out them?" I know it can be frustrating when you cannot defend your own position in sound manner. No need to go off accusing me of something I never subscribed to. I already stated it is unlawful to abuse prisoners.

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  40. Just so that I am very clear on the fact that the State is using a means to come to an end in regards to the just punishment of criminals, I offer you Fr. William Saunders' explanation, just so you do think I am trying to hoodwink you with "sophistry."

    "As a form retribution, punishment restores the order of justice which the criminal violated. For example, if a criminal steals something, restitution must be made, such as the return of the stolen property. The criminal may also be deprived of certain freedoms through, for instance, incarceration or fines. Just retribution heals the injury caused by the crime." February 23, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald.

    Thus punishment is exacted as a means to an end. The end is the restoration of the moral order, or restoring the order of justice.

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  41. I think the Cathecism does a good job on definition. For example, the on for terrorism is pretty clear.

    "Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity." We all agree that Terrorism is gravely disordered and evil and those who use it as part of their daily life and as part of their so called religion are therefore the lowest form of human life. Unlike a soldier who wears a uniform and fights for a country and under their leadership, the terrorist exists simply to kill innocent people to make a point and instill fear. The muslim faith has jihad or terrorism as part of its core belief with rewards to those who do this evil. However, the point of this post is to set out a defense of those who try to stop this grave evil by extracting information to save lives from these pukes. So lets look at the second defintion of torture..

    "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." Many of the those who are against any form of Enhanced interrogation techniques use this definition to show the Catholic Church as against these efforts. Your question calls for a response or defense so I will ask you where the definition in the Cathecism applies to this effort? It does not say that this technique is wrong if it is used to save lives of innocent people.

    If our only aim was to take the person to court and we were extracting a confession, I would agree it is wrong.

    If we were doing it to punish the guilty, once again we are in agreement on it being wrong.

    If we were doing it to frighten opponents, once again we are in agreement on it being wrong.

    If we were doing it to satisfy hatred, again agreement on it being wrong.

    What is left out in the definition is that if enhanced interrogation techniques are used to gain information to save lives of innocent people it must be seen by the Church as OK. I would like to see where somewhere in the Cathechism or in cannon law the church has said it is not OK to extract information to save innocent lives.

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  42. Matthew, *punishment* may be exacted as a means to an end. The *person* is not treated as a means to an end. That is the quintessential difference between legitimate punishment of whatever type and torture. Torture always uses the *person* as a means to an end, whether that end is sadism or cruelty, interrogation or information, or any such thing.

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  43. Green, did you even read the last 40 posts?

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  44. "Matthew, *punishment* may be exacted as a means to an end. The *person* is not treated as a means to an end. That is the quintessential difference between legitimate punishment of whatever type and torture. Torture always uses the *person* as a means to an end, whether that end is sadism or cruelty, interrogation or information, or any such thing."

    The person is being treated the same in both instances when it comes to the physical and metal violence being used to obtain an end, whether it be for trying to get information unjustly from a person or for the purpose of punishing them to restore the moral order. They are both being done to reach an objective end, just different ends. One is a just use of physical and mental violence by the State the other is unjust. But both are done to the person for the sake of reaching a final end. The person is being physically or mentally coerced, one for a just reason, the other unjust. This is why it is so important to define things well and not assume that all physical and mental violence is intrinsically evil.

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  45. Green writes :"What is left out in the definition is that if enhanced interrogation techniques are used to gain information to save lives of innocent people it must be seen by the Church as OK."

    The purpose for the list is not unlike a comment on abortion which proscribes abortion to save the life of the mother. The purpose is not to say when abortions can occur, but to clarify that it cannot occur even in these most extreme circumstances where its most difficult to know that it cannot occur.

    That said, that doesn't mean that relatively extreme methods of coercion to save innocent lives cannot be used, but that those methods cannot be torture, and secondly, that those methods must likewise recognize the dignity of the man who is being coerced.

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  46. Again I think that by strict definition abortion can never be justified because it involves the direct taking of an innocent life, which can never be justified. Hence when a fallopian tube is removed with the innocent life inside of it, it is not directly taking an innocent life and is therefore not defined as an abortion. The human life dies as a result of double effect by another direct act which did not directly kill the innocent life. I don't have the time to continue with this discussion any longer. I kindly refer you to listen to the Sapientis Institute MP3 downloads which explain this stuff better than I can, and it is done by a Thomstic scholar who is completely in line with Church teaching.

    Unfortunately most theologians in the Church today are not well versed in Thomistic reasoning and as a result their writings are often ambiguous and need further defining. Unfortunately we have every Tom, Dick and Harry setting themselves up as authorities on subjects such as this one who are not qualified to do so. You cannot set up a Coalition against something you don't even know how to define or argue for in a rational manner. I mean we have the head person of this "Coalition" who doesn't even understand what the principle of the law of double effect is, and tried to tell me that the Death Penalty fell into that category. Several people had to correct her on another post, and yet she thinks she has the authority to start a "Coalition" on the subject? Those commenting who are also apart of the "Coalition" do little better and all resort to ad-hominem fallacies, and when you point them out you are the one being rude, not them.

    As far as the Catechism goes and other statements made by the Church concerning the immorality of torture, I do think the Church has defined certain things that cannot be done which it considers to be torture. Things like trying to gain a confession, the unjust physical and mental abuse of prisoners, trying to get information from people who may or may not have it for reasons that are not putting innocents in immediate danger, etc. But there are situations where the State can use proportionate physical or moral violence in a just manner up to a certain point, when it is done for the self defense of innocent human lives or for the carrying out of just retributive punishment on the guilty. These basic rights and obligations of the State are rooted in the natural law and therefore can never be abrogated under any prohibition against torture, despite the ignorant application of ambiguous definitions that are being applied to such situations by people who don't know what they are talking about. The Church has not defined those cases as falling into its definition of torture, and therefore they can still be argued for without contradicting current or past Church documents. That is my position until the Magisterium actually clarifies the matter further with some sort of dogmatic statement.

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  47. Even if the Magisterium had not been clear that torture is intrinsically immoral, which it has, the Holy See has condemned the argument from the silence of the Holy See. See Anscombe's citation of Denzinger on the point, for example.

    One thing that is decidedly non-Thomistic about Matthew's whole approach to this subject is his efforts to discount and obfuscate the explicit teaching of the Magisterium.

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  48. Again Zippy, nice ad-hominem. I have not obfuscated anything and you are anything but an expert to proclaim such a thing. If this is how you proclaim to have refuted everyone who has challenged your warped view on the mater then I feel sorry for you. Logical fallacies do not win debates.

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  49. zippy writes : "Even if the Magisterium had not been clear that torture is intrinsically immoral"

    This has always struck me as the most troubling because an intrinsically immoral act should be immediately knowable by the natural law.

    For instance. Murder is immediately knowable, while what is more remote are the circumstances such as are abortions murder.

    Perhaps the first way around the difficulty is that torture is used equivocally, and that torture per se,(i.e. the causing of a man to become irrational), was always recognized as intrinsically immoral.

    The second is that the torture as intrinsically immoral is immediately knowable with torture being remote not unlike abortion is remote within the category of murder. So that the clarity is not due to its not being intrinsically immoral but due to circumstance. It would explain why so much effort is spent on attempting to understand the nature of torture according to circumstance.

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  50. clarification because I should have read and edited my post before posting it. : Torture per se is not immediately knowable because it is remote according to circumstance, while the category it falls under is immediately knowable.

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  51. ltg:
    This has always struck me as the most troubling because an intrinsically immoral act should be immediately knowable by the natural law.

    That intuition is apparently false though, since - just as an example - it is not immediately transparent to everyone that (say) salpingostomy is intrinsically immoral, that salpingectomy isn't, and that the principle of double effect applies to the latter but not the former. (Indeed, it is not even entirely clear that this is true, let alone perspicuous).

    Some individual cases - burning a prisoner with cigarrettes for kicks, say - are perspicuous; some aren't as perspicuous. This is true of all categories of intrinsically immoral acts. (That makes me wonder what the "salpingostomy is perspicuously an intrinsically immoral abortion" crowd has to say about a proposed order to shoot down Flight 93).

    More generally speaking, the standard "if it isn't immediately perspicuous to me, it isn't true" is a very Protestant (a certain kind of Protestant, with Lollard DNA) standard.

    Matthew:
    Part of the reason I blog and comment under the clown-name "Zippy" is to make it crystal clear to everyone that my arguments ought to be evaluated on their merits. I specifically avoid the sort of thing you see so often on the Internet, where (say) some random combox critter attempts to puff up the authority of his pronouncements by attaching authoritative labels - "Thomist", say - to his personal views.

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  52. Zippy says, "Part of the reason I blog and comment under the clown-name "Zippy" is to make it crystal clear to everyone that my arguments ought to be evaluated on their merits."

    I answer, what arguments? The ad-hominem litany you have manged to thread together here? I ma sorry that doesn't qualify.

    Zippy, "I specifically avoid the sort of thing you see so often on the Internet, where (say) some random combox critter attempts to puff up the authority of his pronouncements"

    You are the one's here making yourselves the authority by setting up your fallacious "Coalition." Who is the one "puffing" himself up here, not I.

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  53. I don't think the term "ad hominem" means what you think it means, Matthew.

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  54. zippy writes : "That intuition is apparently false though, since - just as an example . . ."

    I'm not sure what you mean by perspicuous. But I will attempt a reply.

    The intuition, (i.e. the natural law and our capacity to know it) is correct, and as your examples also point toward what is less knowable is less knowable because of remoteness.

    Zippy writes : "More generally speaking, the standard "if it isn't immediately perspicuous to me, it isn't true" is a very Protestant (a certain kind of Protestant, with Lollard DNA) standard."

    That would fit with the protestant understanding of knowledge being somehow infused into each man, as opposed to a Catholic understanding which is that knowledge comes through the senses.

    What I also attempt to avoid along with the protestant gnosticism is the current liberal catholic version of gnosticism which considers our modern eyesight superior to those who came before us. Which is why we need to understand how torture was considered in the past, because we can be quite certain that they were at least equal to us in recognizing intrinsic evils.

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  55. which considers our modern eyesight superior to those who came before us. Which is why we need to understand how torture was considered in the past, because we can be quite certain that they were at least equal to us in recognizing intrinsic evils.

    We have access to hundreds or thousands of authoritative Magisterial documents that someone in (say) the Middle Ages did not have access to, because they didn't exist. Therefore we are in fact in a better position to evaluate the question than they were.

    Furthermore, this has always been true in the Church: truth may be timeless, but the Magisterium regularly releases additional authoritative statements making the truth about particular subjects more explicit. This is the "development of doctrine" which tends to give folks with certain kinds of traddish sensibilities hives; but it is an undeniable ecclesiological and historical fact.

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  56. I should note also that, because we are in fact, undeniably, in a better position to evaluate the specific question than a Catholic in the Middle Ages - because we have a far larger canon of explicit authoritative Magisterial material on the subject to draw upon - we also bear greater responsibility for getting it right. That doesn't mean that torture was "more OK" in the Middle Ages and is "less OK" now, of course. It just means that with more explicit knowledge and guidance from the Magisterium comes greater responsibility.

    There are, of course, people who will resist this not because of the specific subject matter of torture, but because of the fact that most (though not all) of the Magisterial statements on the subject are of relatively recent vintage. That has resulted in a rather comical (at least to me) de facto alliance between some traddish types (a prominent one of whom publicly called Cardinal Ratzinger a "weak reed" when he was a candidate for Pope) and political neoconservatives, at least when it comes to the particular subject.

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  57. zippy,

    That would not be liberal catholic gnosticism, but a simple progression of knowledge.

    What I was referring to was a preference for the present over the past where the greater precision of the present is not relevant.

    Precision is a means of overcoming that which is remote according to the senses, or that which is remote according to philosophical or theological understanding.

    Precision is relative to the science under investigation so that St. Augustine would not have been in as good a position to understand abortion because of lack of precision, but would have been just as capable of recognizing the nature of torture.

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  58. Matthew -

    I'm fine with tossing the U.N. definition of torture. It has its problems. But it is, in fact, a working definition that the United States has itself ratified and assented to.

    Still, we're looking at this from a Catholic perspective, and it's true that the U.N. definition does not approach matters from a Catholic point of view. Fine.

    Red provided a working definition, based on magisterial documents, from a Catholic perspective. Again you rejected this definition as somehow unworkable. I have to admit, I don't see the logic in your argument: it seems to me that you are equivocating on the ideas of "means" and "ends". But I'll accept for the moment that there could be problems with the definition. After all, a finite human being made it up. I'm sure we can improve upon it.

    So I will return to my original request: if you don't like the definitions which have been offered, please provide your own. Or at least provide some sense of what would be an acceptable definition in your eyes.

    Or do you simply mean to say that "torture" all sound and fury, signifying nothing?

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  59. ltg:
    So in your opinion if the Magisterium teaches something it hasn't taught before which doesn't - like torture doesn't, in your view - match this precision theory of yours, that new teaching is, what? Invalid?

    How is this anything other than excuse-making for discounting the Magisterium's fairly recent categorical condemnations of torture as intrinsically immoral?

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  60. P.S. Matthew, where do you find that the State has an obligation to exact retributive justice?

    Again, I'm still reading through my Thomas, but my impression was that the power of the State to enforce justice is strictly limited. For example, it is not the State's obligation to punish any and every sin.

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  61. zippy,

    It's not a precision theory but a short hand explanation of how men move from better known by man to better known by nature and how that applies to the particular circumstance.

    zippy writes : "excuse making"??

    Comments like this cause me to wonder if anything I write is actually understood. I know my writing can lack clarity, but yikes.

    The entire point is to pull together the various teachings into a cohesive whole in such a way that there isn't contradiction. A method which doesn't exclude by unifies, and unifies without denying that which is taught.

    What is looked for is an understanding which fits with past and present Church teaching, is sufficiently narrow enough to avoid objections which can't be answered while answering every objection according to the specific difference.

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  62. Hi Robert. I am not saying that the definition that the Catechism gives in unworkable from the context it is working within, it is unworkable for the way it is being presented here on this blog. It appears that the Catechism is using the term torture in a limited fashion pertaining to the unjust use of physical and mental violence towards people. The problem is that it is somewhat ambiguous and you to be careful what you assume from the text.

    As far as the State's obligation to exact retributive punishment, it lies in the natural law and the State's obligation to keep the moral order. Of course the State tries to exact the punishment as best it can based on the crimes committed. Since it is impossible to repress all vices, the State decides how and when to exercise its authority to repress such actions based on the common good of society. But, if the State seldom exercised its obligation to do exact retributive punishment, there would be chaos.

    The natural law can never change nor the principles that derive from it.

    St. Thomas says, "The natural law dates from the creation of the rational creature. It does not vary according to time, but remains unchangeable."

    As far as retributive legal justice goes it is extremely important and of the highest virtues a society can have.

    St. Thomas says, "If we speak of legal justice, it is evident that it stands foremost among all the moral virtues, for as much as the common good transcends the individual good of one person. On this sense the Philosopher declares (Ethic. v, 1) that "the most excellent of the virtues would seem to be justice, and more glorious than either the evening or the morning star."

    Hopefully this helps in understanding my position.

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  63. ltg:
    Doubtless there are communication issues here, because I just don't see how you are reaching the conclusion that (e.g.) Augustine would have been in as good a position as we are to understand moral doctrine with respect to torture in particular. We have quite a few authoritative Magisterial pronouncements available to us that he did not have. In fact there are very few doctrinal Magisterial statements on the subject prior to Vatican II. Prior to recent times, ordinary Catholics might be forgiven for being waffly on a subject about which the Magisterium had been deafeningly silent. Now, not so much.

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  64. Matthew -

    The natural law can never change nor the principles that derive from it.

    Granted. However, our understanding of the natural law can change - for the better, I hope, (though this crosses a little over into Zippy's and LTG's discussion.)

    Meanwhile, I'm not sure that "retributive justice" has a place in the natural law with regard to States. Here's Thomas (ST II-II q61 a4):

    Hence retaliation is in accordance with commutative justice: but there is no place for it in distributive justice, because in distributive justice we do not consider the equality between thing and thing or between passion and action (whence the expression 'contrapassum'), but according to proportion between things and persons

    It is distributive justice that is the proper arena of the State, so it seems that Thomas did not see any obligation for the State to impose retaliation, which is as close as I could find to "retribution" in my quick glance through the Summa.

    You also say:
    But, if the State seldom exercised its obligation to do exact retributive punishment, there would be chaos.

    Do you have any historical examples? I don't know any State which has maintained perfect order; nor do I know any in which the cause of chaos was particularly the lack of the State exacting "retributive justice." But if you have examples, I'd be glad to hear them.

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  65. Re: the "definition" of torture.

    I think "description" would be a better term for CCC 2297. This is a teaching document, after all, not a legal one.

    That said, I think you are finding a degree of ambiguity which is not present. Note this discussion of the literal meaning of the passage. The Catechism clearly is providing examples of torture, assuming that any reasonable person will understand what torture is without an exacting definition.

    So, when you say:
    I am not saying that the definition that the Catechism gives in unworkable from the context it is working within, it is unworkable for the way it is being presented here on this blog.

    I'm just not clear on what you're getting at. The way the CCC's teaching is presented on this blog, at least as far as my own intentions go, has been to say, "The Catechism says torture is bad." We have also drawn on various other documents (Gaudium et Spes, Veritatis Splendor, a speech by Pope Benedict, etc.) to support and extend this statement.

    Red has cobbled together as strict a definition as she could muster from these disparate and not-always-legislative documents. I'll repeat it again, in case you've forgotten:

    1. Violation of human dignity in the form of...
    2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to...
    3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
    4. against that person’s will.

    Again, it seems to me that your only objection is an equivocation about the terms "means" and "end". Is that correct?

    Can we attempt to address this objection, or are you opposed to any attempts to formulate a definition of torture?

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  66. zippy writes : "I just don't see how you are reaching the conclusion that (e.g.) Augustine would have been in as good a position as we are to understand moral doctrine with respect to torture in particular."

    Let's say the issue wasn't torture, but shooting and eating children under the age of reason, would St. Augustine have been in as good a position?

    Yes, he would be, because any future magisterial pronouncement would not add additional clarity to what can be known without it because the subject matter is sufficiently immediately knowable.

    And if a dispute arose because some denied personhood to those under the age of reason so that a magisterial pronouncement was made to clarify, that would not effect St. Augustine's capacity, but would only effect those who were in some manner incapable of seeing.

    Now if the specific difference of torture is irrationality caused by violence, then that was just as clearly knowable to St. Augustine to be an evil as the catechism pronouncement "no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being" is clearly knowable to us today.

    The catechism doesn't add additional clarity to what can be clearly known without it. The same with irrationality.

    What would have been remote and thus not immediately knowable would have been some aspect of torture the causes it to not be understood as being a cause of irrationality, or that the irrationality was in some manner justified as accidental. Thus the lack of precision if you will is not due to the nature of the act, but due to some type of accompanying circumstance.

    Which in turn brings me back to my original comment on this subject.

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  67. ltg:
    Dunno what that gets you. If the subject was the Iron Maiden rather than torture generally, we might expect it's moral wrongness to be more obvious. So what?

    I'm sorry, but to me it looks like you are just resisting the conclusion that we have better and more certain knowledge of the subject now because we have more authoritative Magisterial statements to work with. But the conclusion is true, so whatever epistemic theory you are advancing has to adapt to that conclusion.

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  68. Robert says, "It is distributive justice that is the proper arena of the State, so it seems that Thomas did not see any obligation for the State to impose retaliation, which is as close as I could find to "retribution" in my quick glance through the Summa."

    You seem to be confused here Robert. Do you understand what retributive justice is and where that falls in Aquinas' classification of justice? We are not talking about retaliation between two people as you quoted here. We are talking about enforcing the justice in a society by laws which by their nature coerce the will to conform to some sort of virtue, which falls under legal justice.

    Aquinas like Aristotle uses two broad categories of justice and then breaks them down further. You really need to do research and investigate before you quote something out of context.

    (1) legal (or general) and particular justice, and (2) commutative and distributive justice.

    By its very nature the laws of man are retributive in nature when they are enforced under legal justice. Which is again why some physical and mental coercion of men is always justified. As I stated earlier, it can be done for just retributive punishment and for self defense. You are you fellow bloggers here are trying to tell me that physical and mental coercion cannot be done for these reasons, and I can prove that the natural law says we can, up to a certain point and in proportion of course. Those two reasons, again are just retributive punishment and for self defense, the State can use physical and mental coercion or violence against a person's will in these cases. I do not see where the Catechism or any Church document classifies either as torture, like you are doing here.

    Aquinas.."Secondly, a man is said to be subject to a law as the coerced is subject to the coercer. In this way the virtuous and righteous are not subject to the law, but only the wicked. Because coercion and violence are contrary to the will: but the will of the good is in harmony with the law, whereas the will of the wicked is discordant from it. Wherefore in this sense the good are not subject to the law, but only the wicked.

    Reply to Objection 1. This argument is true of subjection by way of coercion: for, in this way, "the law is not made for the just men": because "they are a law to themselves," since they "show the work of the law written in their hearts," as the Apostle says (Romans 2:14-15). Consequently the law does not enforce itself upon them as it does on the wicked.

    Finally Aquinas recognizes that the natural law calls for force and fear to coerce people to cease doing evil in order that peace and virtue may be kept among human society.

    "it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. Now this kind of training, which compels through fear of punishment, is the discipline of laws. Therefore in order that man might have peace and virtue, it was necessary for laws to be framed.."(ST, I-II, 95.1)

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  69. You and your fellow bloggers here are trying to tell me that physical and mental coercion cannot be done for [retributive justice and self defense]

    I don't understand the point of continuously repeating straw men. Seriously. Is it that you think that if you repeat the lie enough times other people will start to believe it?

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  70. zippy writes : "to me it looks like you are just resisting the conclusion that we have better and more certain knowledge"

    Given how little is said on a subject that can be viewed incorrectly as a radical departure from the past, what is needed is to explain how it is not a radical departure but in keeping with past understanding and is a development of what was previously known.

    How are contradictory appearances reconciled?

    That is not resistance, but an attempt at understanding as the Church traditionally understands. An understanding which doesn't dismiss but attempts a full understanding. As opposed to the liberal gnostic method of dismissing the unenlightened savages of the past who couldn't help their ignorant selves.

    Which is why it appears that reconciliation appears to be either in an equivocation or in some type of accompanying remoteness. Or some combination of both.

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  71. Matthew -

    Why do you bring up "coercion"? This is neither a part of Red's definition nor of the CCC's description. I think Zippy's right to call it a straw man.

    I'll grant that some have included or even based their notion of torture on coercion, but I think your points are valid: the State certainly has the authority to coerce in some ways and to some degrees. That's why I've never myself bought into those definitions. I think they're based on a false notion of the human person as essentially a Nietzschean Will, rather than a Thomistic notion of an embodied Intellect.

    Okay, enough said on that.

    I'll repeat my question: is my understanding of your objection to the proposed definition accurate? Do you have another proposal for a definition? Do you have a way forward for this discussion?

    Or, do you intend your demand for a definition as a demonstration that no definition is possible, that "torture" is a word without definitive content?

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  73. ltg:
    How are contradictory appearances [in Magisterial statements] reconciled?

    You haven't shown any contrary appearances in Magisterial statements as far as I have been able to tell, though. Perhaps if you were to quote one authoritative Magisterial statement and then the other authoritative Magisterial statement that you think is in conflict with it, that would help the rest of us understand what it is you find so baffling.

    I'll point out though that even if there is a legitimate apparent conflict between Magisterial statements, your complaint is with the Magisterium not with any of the bloggers and commenters here who don't perceive the conflicts you perceive.

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  74. Zippy writes : "How are contradictory appearances [in Magisterial statements] reconciled?"

    That is not what I wrote, or intended. Pope Innocient IV's Ad extrpanda is an apparent contradiction. How is it reconciled with recent Church teaching? How is the entire history of use of 'torture' reconciled because that entire history for the most part does appear to contradict what has recently been written on it.

    Apparent contradictions are not uncommon. For instance, a fair amount of recent empirical data appears to contradict Church teaching on substantial change as expressed in transubstantiation, how are they reconciled? Pulling out Trent and bludgeoning the mechanists doesn't explain the apparent contradictions, what Trent does is set the boundaries of where mechanism is intrinsically in error, same with the recent documents, they set the boundaries for exploration of solving the apparent contradiction currently under investigation.

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  75. Robert says, "I think Zippy's right to call it a straw man."

    Really, referring to JPII's definition is referring to a straw man? "...physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit..." You have that quoted on this website as part of your argument against torture, and it is partially defined as this by JPII. Of course coercion is part of it, anyone knows that physical and mental violence is usually done for the purpose of coercion.

    Robert says, "I'll grant that some have included or even based their notion of torture on coercion, but I think your points are valid: the State certainly has the authority to coerce in some ways and to some degrees. That's why I've never myself bought into those definitions. I think they're based on a false notion of the human person as essentially a Nietzschean Will, rather than a Thomistic notion of an embodied Intellect."

    So Robert, you do not buy into JPII's definition?

    Robert says, "Or, do you intend your demand for a definition as a demonstration that no definition is possible, that "torture" is a word without definitive content?"

    Of course I think a definition is possible. I already gave you a couple of them back many posts ago. It deals with just and unjust acts. It would be something like,

    "Torture is the unjust use of extreme mental or physical violence which degrades the human person. Examples of this would be the use of physical and mental violence against prisoners when the end is not justified, for reasons such as revenge, humiliation or to extract information from someone when their probable guilt to immediate threats to innocent human life are not at stake. This would not include proportionate means of physical and mental violence done by the State for the just purposes of self defense or for exacting retributive punishment, including Capital Punishment. Even the just use of physical and moral violence would be limited to the proportion of the crime committed in the classification of the State's right and obligation to keep the moral order and to exact retributive punishment. In the case of the State' right to protect innocents in the act of self defense, actions such as amputating limbs or taking the violence past the rational faculties can never be done."

    I am sure it can be improved upon, and an expert in Thomistics would probably find a hole in it, but I would start with something like that.

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  76. Matthew, I'm not going to be able to be out here much today, but I just wanted to point one thing out: in your definition, torture is not an act, but is defined by circumstances alone. Essentially you are saying that an act is torture if it is being done unjustly, but is not torture so long as it is just to do it.

    That seems a bit circular to me...

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  77. Ad extrpanda is an apparent contradiction.

    I've read Ad Extirpanda in its entiriety, and I think there is far less to the apparent contradiction than meets the eye. Since this is the 'canonical' example of apparent contradiction, the example everyone seems to cite when looking for one, what that says to me is that the case for an apparent contradiction is very weak.

    Still, even granting it, the Magisterium actually answered your next question explicitly:

    How is it [the Church's juridical involvement with torture in the past] reconciled with recent Church teaching?

    I'll quote the Magisterium of the Church's answer to that question:

    2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

    Once a Catholic is aware that the Magisterium has addressed this question directly in this manner, it seems to me that that closes the question.

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  78. zippy,

    Thanks for the discussion. The objections were useful for me getting a better understanding of the subject.

    While it has only mild interest to me, Ad Extirpanda was mentioned because you asked for some type of similar document, I would not have cited it otherwise. It's the cultural history behind it which interests me, and how that can be reconciled with current understanding.

    There's all the difference in the world between knowing the answer and understanding the answer. Knowing the answer doesn't close the question but gives guidance to delving into the question for a better understanding of the answer.

    Is contraception wrong? Yes. but why? The answering of the why will also pull in far more people than simply telling them it's wrong, especially because they want the answer to be No. Torture is not so different, lots of people obviously likewise what the answer to be No. You need to move them according to how they see the world to accept the Yes.

    In Christ,
    Thanks again for the discussion.

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  79. ltg:

    Is contraception wrong? Yes. but why? The answering of the why will also pull in far more people than simply telling them it's wrong, especially because they want the answer to be No. Torture is not so different, lots of people obviously likewise what the answer to be No. You need to move them according to how they see the world to accept the Yes.

    Well, I've never been accused of being very ecumenical or a particularly good apologist.

    Still, I'd say that these both work together. Often enough I think Catholics - at least those genuinely striving to be faithful - accept the what and have to work toward the why. Indeed, that is a large part of what the Magisterium does when it comes to moral doctrines: we know we have to accept the what, even if we don't fully understand why, and work toward fully grasping the why. I've been down that road a number of times myself.

    On the other hand, you are surely correct that it works the other way too sometimes: we work toward the whats through the whys.

    Thanks for the discussion and Pax.

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  80. Matthew -

    Coercion is not itself sufficient to define torture, or to stand as the basis for an argument against torture. That doesn't mean that coercion can have no part in torture.

    The primary instances of torture that this blog exists to highlight - that is, in the "enhanced" interrogation of prisoners by U.S. agents - often seeks an excuse in saying that it "saves lives." That is, it is to coerce unwilling prisoners to divulge information about terrorist plots.

    The problems with this reasoning are many, and I won't go into them here. My point right now is simply to say that coercion and torture often go hand in hand, even if coercion is not the basis for a definition of torture.

    So, I don't disagree with JP2. I note that he includes the conjunction "and" between "torture" and "coercion." This indicates to me that he recognizes these as distinct ideas that often coincide in fact.

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  81. Matthew & Red -

    Re: Matthew's definition of torture

    Not sure I entirely agree with you, Red, on the circularity of Matthew's definition. All our definitions have to rely on some underlying concepts. "Justice" is clearly the keynote of Matthew's, just as "human dignity" is the keynote of the four-point definition you supplied.

    I actually think Matthew's definition is not bad as a working definition. I agree it could be improved, but I'll have to save my suggestions for later when I've given it more thought.

    There are two questions, seems to me, that require clarification. First, a philosophical question: how do we determine what is "unjust" or "contrary to human dignity" in difficult or borderline cases?

    Second, a practical question: why do so many people, especially so many Catholics, insist that waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogations qualify as difficult or borderline cases? Except for the circumstance that is the U.S.A. doing it to "enemies," I think any reasonable person would take one glance and recognize these as clear cases of torture.

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  82. Hi Robert. In regards to waterboarding, I would have to say that it would depend on whether or not it was done for a just cause or an unjust cause. For instance, you could not waterboard someone because you think a guy may have some information that may help you in the future on some terrorist attack that may or may not take place. That would be unjust. I believe the State could do it to attempt to stop an immediate unjust attack on innocent lives. For instance, I think it would be just to use it on a man to get information from, who is known to be martially and formally co-operating in a series of terrorist attacks that are actually underway, posing an immediate threat to innocent lives. This would be in my opinion, an act of self defense on behalf of the State. The only way I could be wrong on this is if indeed it could be proven that waterboarding caused mental or physical violence past one's rational faculties, then I would have to recant. But as I understand it at this point, it does not do so. That is my thought on that subject. There is no question as to whether or not it is a drastic form of physical and mental coercion. I think the matter is whether or not it is done for just reasons or not.

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  83. Typo above, "who is known to be "materially" and formally co-operating in a series of terrorist attacks

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  84. Robert, where I have problems with Matthew's definition is that he seems to define "unjust" as "any time torture is not permitted by circumstances," with the "just" use of torture fitting scenarios like the ones he describes above.

    Thus, as I said, it's not the acts that are torture according to Matthew, but the circumstances surrounding the acts that make one act torture and the other something that is not-torture.

    So, according to Matthew's definition, waterboarding a suspected terrorist who is not known to have any life-saving information would be torture, but waterboarding a *known* terrorist who knows where the Ticking Time Bomb is and how to disarm it when hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of dying would be a just act carried out by a legitimate state authority and therefore perfectly consistent with Christian morality. Of course, if waterboarding the known terrorist doesn't work, and the people are still at risk, how far can the authority go? Can the terrorist be beaten? Placed on the rack? Put in an Iron Maiden? Have his fingernails or toenails removed? How far can the state go, if it has the authority to torture (or, that is, to perform acts that would be torture if the victim didn't justly deserve it for some compelling reason)?

    To say this is problematic, given the recent statements of the Church on the evil of torture, is an understatement.

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  85. Once again, no where I have seen a single document from the Vatican stating that waterboarding is indeed torture ...

    Appeal to finer detail (or Magisterial positivism). (Your whole approach is Argument #1 on this list, probably the most common and most commonly refuted argument that waterboarding isn't torture.)

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  86. I would have to say that [whether waterboarding is torture] would depend on whether or not it was done for a just cause or an unjust cause.

    Does contraception become not-contraception depending on whether or not it is done with a just cause?

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  87. Red says, "how far can the authority go? Can the terrorist be beaten? Placed on the rack? Put in an Iron Maiden? Have his fingernails or toenails removed."

    In my definition I said that you cannot remove body parts, and that the violence cannot extend beyond one's rational faculties. Those are the parameters that my definition provides.

    Contraception is the intentional disruption of the procreative aspect of the conjugal act when the conjugal act is done by two consenting people, which can never be done intentionally by a direct act. But even with contraception, there is one circumstance where it could be used, that is the impending rape of women, a long as the contraceptive cannot induce an abortion.

    For instance, nuns in an african village that are constantly being sexually assaulted by forces in the area could morally use a form of contraceptive to stop fertilization by rape. It is considered self defense by traditional moral theologians, and the Church has determined that it can be done for this reason.

    Physical and mental violence is not in an of itself immoral, it is only immoral when it is done for unjust reasons, or when it is done to the point of permanent mutilation or extended past the rational faculties. One act directly violates morality when it is executed during the conjugal act when it is done willingly, making it immoral all of the time in that normal circumstance, the other act depends on how and when it is being done all of the time. There is no way to define all acts of physical and moral violence as being evil all of the time, thats the point. You have to define parameters in this case, otherwise you violate other principles of the natural law. That has been my consistent argument, and even in the case of contraception there is an exception, and it depends on circumstance. SO even that comparison doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

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  88. But even with contraception, there is one circumstance where it could be used, that is the impending rape of women, a long as the contraceptive cannot induce an abortion.

    That states the case ambiguously. A contracepted sexual act is a sexual act, and a rape victim is not choosing a sexual act at all. If someone else waterboards a prisoner, or waterboards me, then I haven't committed an act of torture, obviously.

    Red is right about the question-begging nature of defining torture as unjust coercion. If that is what defines torture, then a concrete act can go from being torture to not torture based solely on the fact that the victim has it coming to him. That obviously doesn't work, though, since the Church expressly forbids torture as punishment of the guilty.

    I do think there is something to the business about rational faculties; in fact I proposed a definition some time ago based on a similar concept. Any act which deliberately inflicts suffering of the sort which is capable of getting a man to betray his conscience is torture. Waterboarding prisoners is always that kind of act: indeed, that is the whole point of it, to get immediate answers to urgent questions without waiting for the prisoner's pesky conscience to reform.

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  89. I see your point, Red (and Zippy).

    Matthew, your example shows exactly why Red and Zippy and others object to your definition.

    I had taken "beyond rational faculties" to mean "beyond reasonable actions" on the part of the interrogator. That is, I was taking it to refer to the rationality (and therefore the morality) of the interrogator's acts.

    It is clear from your example that you mean it to refer to pushing the prisoner beyond the use of his rational faculties, to the extent that (as Zippy points out) he is incapable of following his conscience.

    I think this approach is particularly vulnerable to consequentialism. "Well, we waterboarded so-and-so, but he didn't go stark raving mad or betray his baby daughter and her kitten, so it can't have been torture."

    Red is right to keep the focus on the act itself. "Torture" does not refer to the effect on the prisoner, but to the act of the interrogator.

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  90. Zipp says, "That states the case ambiguously"

    There is nothing ambiguous about it, there is a sexual act happening where one is trying to prevent the procreative end of the act from happening, it is done in this case however as an act of self defense. Have any of you even read books like "Right ad Reason" or any Thomistic books on morality? It appears not.

    Robert says, "Matthew, your example shows exactly why Red and Zippy and others object to your definition."

    They object, but their objections are not based on any sound moral principles. They are like parrots trying trying to rattle off Catechism quotes and quotes from Pope without actually investigating the principles they are basing their teachings off of. Just like parrots they rattle off words, but like a parrot they have no idea what they are saying.

    Robert says "I had taken "beyond rational faculties" to mean "beyond reasonable actions" on the part of the interrogator."

    How did you manage that? Anyone with any common sense knows that I was talking about the physical or mental act of violence being taken beyond one's rational faculty.

    Robert says,"I think this approach is particularly vulnerable to consequentialism. "

    No it is not. You are trying to tell me that circumstances have no bearing on whether or not certain acts are moral or immoral? You have to be out of your tree if you object to that, and you are no where even close to the realm Thomistic moral philosophy if you do not distinguish between these things.

    I tried to leave many posts ago because it was apparent that you people have no idea what in the world you are talking about. I thought there was hope that you might actually listen and do some research so that you might actually learn something, but it appears that you people have too much invested in attacking people all over the internet that do not agree with your interpretations of the documents pertaining to this subject. Have fun with your torture awareness month, in which you still have no idea as what you are making people aware of.

    Robert says, "Torture" does not refer to the effect on the prisoner, but to the act of the interrogator."

    Once again learn basic moral principles before you go shooting your mouth off. You already have made several mistakes including misquoting Aquinas regarding types of justice, now you are proving you have no idea what the basic principles are for defining moral and immoral acts. I will say this before I go, none of you have any business running a blog like this, acting as if you all are an authority on this subject. Red still doesn't have a clue as to how and when double effect comes into play in acts of morality. She had to be corrected on this concerning the death penalty, and yet she is going to run a blog on morality? You have to kidding me. Please, for the sake of not looking like idiots, you need to either close up shop here, or learn what you are talking about.

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  91. Matthew -

    First, I don't believe any of us ever claimed to be experts. Since when did you have to be an expert to blog?

    My goal always was discussion and dialogue. I've found I have much to learn, but I also know I have some things to offer as well.

    For example, when I was taking Fundamental Moral Theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, based on the teachings of St. Thomas, one of the main points they drilled into our heads was that morality always regards the acts of an agent, not the effects on others. Circumstances can affect culpability, but not the basic moral status of the act itself. What determines the morality of the act is the nature of the act, not the circumstances in which it is taken.

    Now, perhaps you are confusing circumstances with intention. Intention, being part of the nature of an act, can affect the moral status of an act. However, even intention cannot make a bad act to be good; it can only make a good act to be bad.

    As to my "misquoting" Thomas, I ask you to show where I have done so. I'm guessing that you refer to my questioning of "retributive" justice as part of natural law. Your reply did nothing to change my interpretation. I have yet to find the notion of "retributive" justice in Thomas - though, not being either an expert or a professional, I have not managed to read absolutely every one of his works on the subject of justice.

    Even granting a role of "retributive" justice to the State, I fail to see how that justifies torturing prisoners.

    I realize that the comments box on a blog is hardly the ideal environment for structured debate, but I see everybody here trying to argue through this in good faith. It does no good to accuse others of bad faith when what really is going on is a conflict of interpretations. Rather, can we work toward clarity, so that at least we can understand why we disagree with one another?

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  92. What Robert said.

    And Matthew, if you're going to keep bringing up that death penalty thing, you could at least be honest about it. I merely wondered, given the specific way the Catechism discusses the death penalty, whether or not some extension of the idea of self-defense applied to the death penalty. Zippy and others set me straight on that, and I'm happy to accept their superior knowledge of the subject.

    By the way, in all your talk about the death penalty, you still haven't discussed the State's obligation as per the Catechism to avoid the death penalty when it's not necessary: "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."

    Do you agree with this, from the Catechism? Or do you think the State's obligation to restore the moral order places a positive obligation on the State to execute prisoners regardless of the State's ability to protect citizens from the aggressor via non-lethal means?

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  93. Have any of you even read books like "Right ad Reason" or any Thomistic books on morality? It appears not. ... They object, but their objections are not based on any sound moral principles. They are like parrots trying trying to rattle off Catechism quotes and quotes from Pope without actually investigating the principles they are basing their teachings off of. Just like parrots they rattle off words, but like a parrot they have no idea what they are saying. ... Once again learn basic moral principles before you go shooting your mouth off. ... Red still doesn't have a clue as to how and when double effect comes into play in acts of morality. ... Please, for the sake of not looking like idiots, you need to either close up shop here, or learn what you are talking about.

    What a funny little raging creampuff you are, Matthew. I don't know which is more amusing -- how obvious it is that you are a noob on the subject, or the "Hammer of St. Thomas" puffery with which you present your own opinions. You are certainly breaking new ground in the "methinks doth protest too much" category of rhetoric, past the elastic region of polemic and into the plastic region of self-parody.

    As for myself, five or six years ago a professor of moral theology at a Catholic university publicly accused me of knowing what I am talking about on the subject. Every now and then someone accuses me of being a "Thomistic scholar" or some such.

    Those charges are, of course, baseless. I am just some guy, and none of my opinions should be adopted either in part or in total without careful vetting. It is true that I have read some number of books on the subject, and been involved in many discussions and projects in moral theology over the years; but the significance of these things must not be exaggerated. The only reason to adopt any (partial or entire) opinions of mine for one's own is because, after careful thought and due diligence, one has come to believe that they are true.

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  94. Well Zippy, for all of the reading you have done, why do you not understand basic moral principles? If you think you are prepared to debate me in a formal written debate on the subject, let me know. We will see who the cream puff is.

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  95. You just can't help yourself, can you?

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  96. Well, if you know so much you should be willing to debate me in a formal written setting. After all, if your position is so sound then it should be a slam dunk right? That goes for anyone on this little team for the "Coalition", if you think you are right and your position is foolproof, then put your money where your mouth is. I have a written debate format that I have used before, all we have to do is agree on the terms of the debate.

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  97. Golly, Matthew, you are right, in fact everyone should invest lots and lots of time in you, because you are the ordained Hammer of St. Thomas, and not a trollish combox noob or anything.

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  98. Well here the guy calling me a cream puff is afraid to put his money where his mouth is. The debate will prove who the "noob" is. You seem to be investing time here, why not formalize it and see how it holds up under formal scrutiny? But I think we all know that a guy who first off is afraid to use his real name is not going to put up. He would rather sling out ad-hominem attacks, like calling people cream puffs rather than actually debate a topic.

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  99. I'll see you on the playground after third period.

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  100. Smart choice. Avoid the "noob" and decide not to debate the subject of which you are so sure of.

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  101. Golly, that's right, I've been avoiding tough-minded debate on torture for over half a decade. And I never address any of the substantive points of debate. Everyone knows it. Why change that now?

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  102. Zippy, don't descend to his level, please. Your skill for satire has better uses.

    Matthew, if you want to talk about moral principles, then let's talk. I'm not clear what yours are or where they come from - except that you claim they are Thomistic. But your arguments are not familiar to me from any of the Thomas or Thomistic commentators I've read.

    For the record, my favorite go-to guys on Thomas and his morality are Servais Pinckaers, OP - The Sources of Christian Ethics; and Josef Pieper's essays on the four Cardinal Virtues and the three Theological Virtues. They focus on individual morality more than public morality, but they both discuss the virtue of Justice in detail, including its public dimension. I have only recently become interested in the public and political aspect of morality, so I remain under-read in that category. I'm currently looking through Thomas' De Regno as well as reviewing the treatise on law in the Summa.

    Now you know where I'm coming from. As I said, I'm not sure where you're coming from. It's clear that your interpretation of Thomas differs wildly from the ones I'm familiar with; but that's not unexpected because, as I said, I'm no expert. I expect there's much you can teach me.

    At the same time, I'm no dummy, either. Please don't treat me like one. And please remember that your branch of the Thomistic tradition is hardly the only one.

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  103. Sorry for amusing myself at the expense of forum decorum, Robert.

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  104. Zippy - no worries on my part. I just keep thinking of Matt. 7:6.

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  105. Matthew, you are rapidly wearing out your welcome here. If you want to host a debate, I suggest you start on on your own blog. Lay out your terms in exquisite detail, then write out your entire argument, and allow anyone who wants to do so to challenge you on any of your points.

    In the meantime, most of us here are still convinced that the Church, via the ordinary Magisterium, is saying that torture is evil. We have shown documents and writings including the Catechism and papal writings to support the notion that the Church considers torture to be evil. We have discussed ancient Church prohibitions on torture, including those articulated by Pope Nicholas I. We have considered what Christ's call for mercy means, and have pondered the awful responsibility we have to see Him in the faces of all of our fellow men, without exception.

    I am sorry that you disagree that torture is evil. I don't at all accept your notion that because the State has the right to execute people, the State must also have the right to inflict severe pain and suffering on them if the State knows for a fact that they have life-saving information (because aside from the moral principles at stake, that hypothetical is patently ridiculous) in order to force them to divulge that information. You have not answered any questions about how far the State may go if "mild" tortures like waterboarding or sleep deprivation fail to produce the required information--is anything short of killing allowed, since the State has the right to kill prisoners via the death penalty any time the State decides there's sufficient reason to do so, according to you?

    I realize that in your own mind you are qualified on Thomistic grounds to overrule the Catechism, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and anyone else who quibbles with your idea that torture is perfectly legitimate for the State to use under properly just circumstances.

    I do have to wonder how you would view such a torture session, though--ought a Catholic priest to be present, as prior to execution, to bless the proceedings, sprinkle some holy water on the waterboard, and lead those gathered for the torture session in prayer that the intractable will of the prisoner be broken? Perhaps the names of those holy martyrs who endured torture before their martyrdoms should be invoked, lest the officers of the State be motivated in their hearts by cruelty or hatred? I mean, if torture is not evil, at least not in the scenarios you envision, then it ought to proceed with the full blessing and even participation of the Church, right?

    In any case, as you believe torture is something good (when carried out by the State in some circumstances, anyway) and most of us here believe it to be evil, and as neither of our sides is likely to change that opinion (I'm certainly not going to suddenly decide it's a moral good to drown a person repeatedly, $15 Thomism class or not), I think perhaps you are wasting your time here. While we do certainly welcome those who disagree, at this point it's clear that you have no intention of considering seriously anything the Church has written in the last twenty or thirty years on the subject of torture, let alone the opinions of bloggers for whom you have repeatedly showed that you have nothing but contempt.

    Robert has posted a very irenic, kindly post to you. I truly hope you are interested enough in actual discussion (as opposed to supercilious lecturing of people who don't measure up to you) to respond to him in the same spirit.

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  106. Red says, "In any case, as you believe torture is something good.."

    Where did I say that? Why are you misrepresenting what I wrote? The whole point of the discussion is the fact that we do not agree what constitutes torture. You are engaging in a dishonest act here in saying that I love and approve of torture. I do not appreciate you misrepresenting my position. I gave you a clear definition of what I believed constituted torture, as I believe the Church has explained it, and I explained why I thought it was immoral as I defined it. Please, if you cannot state my position as I presented it then drop it, because you are really starting to tick me off now.

    "Red says, "at this point it's clear that you have no intention of considering seriously anything the Church has written in the last twenty or thirty years on the subject of torture"

    That it another lie, since I did address what has been written, I just refuse to accept your interpretation of what you think the documents mean. Again a parrot can rattle off Scripture verses, it doesn't mean they understand what they are saying, or what the verse means.

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  107. Matthew, you've said earlier that you aren't sure whether a) torture is evil, but inflicting some types of pain and suffering on some people by the State isn't torture, or b) whether the infliction of pain and suffering is, generally, torture, but the State is permitted to do this. I wasn't aware that you'd rejected "b" and are arguing for "a."

    That said, if we agree that torture is evil, what exactly are we arguing about? If the sum total of your argument is that specific things (e.g. waterboarding) constitute a kind of nebulous suffering that is somehow a species of act we should call "not-torture" then the level of contempt you seem to have for the people who post here is truly puzzling--as essentially you're agreeing with our main point (torture is evil) but quibbling over specifics (e.g., is waterboarding "torture" or "not-torture"?).

    I think that waterboarding is torture, that torture is evil, and that the State's right to execute some prisoners does not translate into permission for the State to torture anybody. At this point, I'm truly confused about which of these three points you disagree with:

    --waterboarding is torture,

    --torture is evil,

    --the State's right to punish prisoners up to the death penalty does not allow the State to torture prisoners, any more than it would allow the State to rape, mutilate, or otherwise torment them.

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  108. Again Red, you simply cannot grasp simple moral concepts. My argument has been that not all physical and mental violence qualifies as torture, and I do not believe the Catechism or any Church document defines torture as you define it on this blog. An act can only be torture when it crosses 2 boundaries so to speak. Physical and mental violence becomes torture when the pain inflicted on someone who cannot defend themselves passes their use of reason done under any circumstance-(not including the execution of the death penalty because the intended end is death), or when any unjust physical or moral violence is done to someone when they cannot defend themselves.

    The Church has not ruled against the use of physical or mental violence used against someone who cannot defend themselves when they are guilty of a present ongoing crime against innocent people (and they are materially and formally co-operating in the crime) which the State is obligated to defend against, and therefore the Church has not said that the State acting in self defense of its citizens is actually committing an act of torture. Yet you continue to say that it does.

    This is the last time I am going to explain this to you.

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  109. Matthew -

    This is the first time I have seen your argument stated so clearly. I too have not understood what you were saying until this point. So please, do not treat Red as if she were an idiot; she most certainly is not. It is simply that we have been talking past one another.

    So, to make sure I understand you clearly, you are saying that:

    A) Torture, as you define it, is indeed evil.

    B) Acts of violence by the State against criminals, i.e. persons "guilty of a present ongoing crime against innocent people (and they are materially and formally co-operating in the crime)," is never torture unless it pushes the prisoner beyond the use of reason.

    Is this correct?

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  110. One more thing: I have posted a sort of "continuation" post here. It will make things a little easier than scrolling through 100+ comments.

    Please consider posting your replies there. Thanks!

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