Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Being a Faithful Catholic in America: Part VII - Torture

[This is part VII of a series: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI.]

After a long hiatus, I have finally completed Part VII of our series examining the Catholic position on issues relevant to American citizens and the upcoming elections. Thus far we have spoken of the universal call to holiness, which forbids any sort of “cafeteria Catholicism,” and demands that we all play our faith in Christ and membership in the Church before and above and in the center of our citizenship in America and our allegiance to any particular political party. Keeping the universal call to holiness, to sainthood, in mind we have considered the consistent ethic of life, which states that because all human beings are sons of daughters of God, all human life must be respected from conception to natural death and everywhere in between. Thus we have considered the problems with inherently evil acts or attitudes such as racism, immigration discrimination, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research. We have concluded on all of the above issues that the Church strictly forbids them. We are not, under any circumstances to support such practices or to support a political candidate because he/she proposes an approach to those issues which contradicts the consistent ethic of life and the dignity of the human person.

This part of our series will examine the Church teaching on torture. Torture has become a very hot issue of late, because Pres. Bush and the military have condoned torture and have used it to interrogate prisoners of war and terrorists. The argument for torture basically relies on fear. It claims that because this prisoner has information that could help us prevent future (terrorist) attacks, and thus save lives, we have an obligation to torture this prisoner until he/she gives us the information we need to save American lives. The president and those who support torture are clearly relying on an “ends justify the means” logic here. In other words, because the end result of torture is to save American lives, possibly even millions of lives, we are allowed to treat this prisoner in horrible, grotesque, and de-humanizing ways. This logic is clearly NOT Catholic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “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… It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.”(CCC 2297-2298).

The US Bishops in their document Faithful Citizenship write, “direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.” (article 23). Our Bishops continue teaching, “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism.” (article 88).

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church adds on to this: “In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: “Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim.” (404)

We can clearly say that the Church teaches that torture is an inherently evil act. It is always wrong and is contrary to Jesus’ command to love our enemies. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI says that ““the prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstance.”

We must not promote, condone, accept, or tolerate the torture of any human beings. As Catholic-Christians we are called to stand up for all who are mistreated, even our enemies. Our country has stepped onto slippery slope of war-time immorality by using torture. Let us conclude with a strong statement by our bishops on the issue:

“Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved-policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished values. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now-without exceptions.”

No comments: