Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Torture

I've tried wading into some of the discussion about Torture, primarily in Catholic Blogs where the argument has raged. There are questions to be answered: Does the Church teach that torture is intrinsically evil? Seemingly yes, from Veritatis Splendor, which, in turn, cites Gaudiam et Spes.

What does the Church mean by torture (or torments)? Is there a reasonably clear line that helps us decide what treatments to condemn and which to tolerate? The answer seems to be no.

My intuition remains that water-boarding is a form of torture and therefore to be rejected. But how the relatively recent movement of the Magisterium to reject torture helps in specific cases isn't at all clear to me. So in the process of trying to digest the various arguments here is another take on the problem:

Disproportionate infliction of pain:

In a discussion on a Catholic and Enjoying It! post on the ongoing defense of the Bush Administration's policy of torturing prisoners, I was invited to address the position staked out by Jimmy Akin in a series of posts back in 2006.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Disputations.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Just To Muddy the Waters a Bit

Here is a more specifically theological look at the nature of intrinsic evil and how that might apply to torture:

JIMMY AKIN.ORG: Intrinsic Evil:

According to CCC 1755, "A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together." If any of these three is lacking, the act will be evil.

Read the whole thing.

(Via JImmy

Torture Discussion


“Is Torture One of the Church’s Non-Negotiables?”:

That is the question posed by my friend Deal Hudson.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Southern Appeal.)

Friday, April 24, 2009


First off, torture is something evil, which we must not do nor condone:

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2297

So now the question is: how do we recognize torture? Are there some things that are torture under some circumstances but not under others? Specifically, are there circumstances under which water-boarding is not torture?

Keep in mind that a fundamental principle of Catholic theology (and classical philosophy) is that you may not do evil in order to achieve some good end. The good ends do not justify the evil means. So arguing that water-boarding has been effective and saved potentially thousands of lives does not justify it. If it's evil, it's evil.

So is water-boarding torture? Intuitively that seems obvious. It is using physical and moral violence to wrench information from an unwilling prisoner.

Is it always torture? Are there circumstances under which its moral? Say, you only do it once. Or there's a million lives at stake (a al 24). To which I respond, how many times do you have to use a thumb-screw for it to be torture? If it's just as effective as water-boarding and cheaper, why not use thumbscrews?

These are just my tentative thoughts on the subject. Here are some more erudite sources for your consideration:

A Word on Torture:

For now, go read Philip Zelikow at Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog, and Conor at The American Scene. For later, further comment from me. I suppose I can mention here that since I’m on record as saying that one dunk at the waterboard is not torture, whereas three dunks is, I judge 130+ dunks clearly to be torture, regardless of whether the issue is whether we ought to torture or not.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Postmodern Conservative.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Week

has been a time of convalescence for me, so far. I started sneezing a week ago Monday in the Quirinale Gardens (the greyed in pathways between Via 20 Settembre and Via Piacenza). No, not the fabulous ones, open to the public rarely, if ever. Rather, a small public park, just a couple of blocks away from the Quatro Fontane.

The cold (I assumed it was an allergy, given the Spring blossoms that were everywhere around me) settled in my chest after the marathon flight home, but didn't seem so bad. So as of Easter I believed I would be back at work on Tuesday as per my schedule. But Monday it turned into a low-grade fever and general weakness. So today will be sick-day number two and decision day.

Either I go to work tomorrow morning and tough it out, which is my preference. Or I go see the doctor and see if this is something to be concerned about. I don't remember seeing this frailty being written up in the brochure about old age. I've been sold a bill of goods. Who do I sue?

Monday, April 13, 2009

We Have to Shout "The Sky is Falling"

or no one will listen to us. Oh dear, my what is this really about flag just flipped up, big time:

More Evidence That Global Warming “Science” is Politics:

The New York Times Magazine ran a story a few weeks ago on a global warming skeptic named Freemon Dyson, entitled “The Civil Heretic.” The current edition’s letters to the editor on the story are all opposed to Dyson’s views, ...[b]ut one letter stood out in its clear admission that the “science” of global warming is not science as much as politics. From the letter by Monika Kopacz, a Ph.D. candidate in applied mathematics and atmospheric sciences, Harvard University:

...The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’—and readers’—attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty. [emphasis added]

Read the whole thing.

(Via First Things.)

The Truth Is What We Say It Is

What a prescription for unhappiness and frustration. So we turn to George Orwell for the quote of the day:

We Choose to Side With the Pope:

“In a time of universal deceit,” wrote George Orwell, “telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” That was confirmed by Pope Benedict’s recent comment about controlling AIDS in Africa—namely, that condom distribution worsens the epidemic.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Catholic Exchange.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Never Complain

unless you've got a solution ready. The annual influx of poorly catechized candidates and catechumens results in a significant loss as the weeks and months roll by after Easter. Many of these wonderful people stop practising the Faith after entering the Church. So, what are the problems and what are the solutions?

5 Reasons People Don’t Stick | The Blog That's All About R.C.I.A.:

Here, we’ll highlight 5 reasons new Catholics stop practicing the Faith soon after they’re received into the Church through the RCIA process. It’s a sad reality, but it happens more often than we would like to think it does. But have no fear! There are solutions to these 5 reasons and these fixes are given under each reason.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Via Media.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Catholic Lectures Pope

LCD Catechesis is undoubtedly the method used to bring this man into the Faith. Whoever was in charge of his RCIA process should be in sackcloth and ashes right now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Pastoral Approach to Dissent

Sighs are one of my characteristic signs: opportunities missed, misunderstandings, difficulties unresolved. The memory of my three-year experience with RCIA process still brings me to sighs from time to time. The earnest, decent members of the team were scandalized by my repeated requests for a more complete exposition of the Catholic Faith, in particular both the sex and gender issues that are so controversial and of the Church's own self-understanding as to her role and authority as the Teacher anointed by Christ Himself.

Some of the issues that many Candidates and Catechumens, as well as the Team Members themselves, did not want to discuss: abortion, contraception, homosexuality, authority, infallibility, catechism, dissent and obedience. One rationale offered, when push came to shove, was that many, if not most, "Catholics"disagreed with the Church on these issues. My only retort was: Is there anything in any Church Document to indicate that one or more of these teachings is optional? The other argument was 'We are not catechists'. I would then point out that the Archdiocese encouraged to us to take their course, upon completion of which we received an "RCIA Catechist" certificate. Our discussions didn't progress much beyond this.

So this document (I've added an updated version) is a lovely example of a rational and pastoral approach to the see-no-evil, teach-the-minimum approach to faith formation.

Thanks to Catholic Culture for the link.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Arrivederci, Roma

Sorry for the lack of posting. We have been travelling busily each and every day, here and there, in Rome. Tomorrow we return to the real world. The wife is more than ready, but I'm a little blue about leaving Roma behind.

The unexpected whiff of Wisteria in bloom; little fountains and piazzas around every corner; so much History the Romans don't bother to label most of it; But all good things must come to an end.

We saw the reliquary of Saint Peter under the main altar of Saint Peter's after touring the ruins of the necropolis beneath that. We celebrated Mass with Pope Benedict twice; once on the anniversary of John Paul II's death and again on Palm Sunday. We saw all the churches on my "must" list, including Santa Maria in Trestevere, Santa Maria della Vittoria (with Bernini's "Ecstasy of Saint Teresa"), the Gesu, Santa Croce in Gerusaleme, and many others. We prayed up a storm for all concerned.

Spring in Rome: it doesn't get much better than this. Wish you were here. Wish I didn't have to leave. Ciao!