Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

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Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915 — the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” — in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated — to my recollection — with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)

That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding — most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil” — does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock — the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States). [Note: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a newcomer to the debate, has likewise made it known in the comments of this post where he stands on the matter].

Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.

With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.

There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.

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  1. I’ve been participating in the comments over on that thread, even though I strongly disagree w/ most of the commentary that appears on Vox Nova. In this case, Morning’s Minion is right, and I’ve told him as much. However, I’m not sure if he means what he says in terms of supporting the denial of communion to all who publicly dissent from key Catholic teachings on intrinsic evils, so perhaps I’m seen there as simply calling his bluff.

    I’m a tremendous supporter of EWTN, Mother Angelica, and the apostolates of the Franciscan friars, the Sisters, etc. there in Birmingham, and as such, it saddens me deeply to see Raymond Arroyo and some of his guests making excuses for torture. I’ve heard Thiessen on several different conservative radio and TV programs, and I know he’s hawking his new book, so I put zero confidence in his interpretation of Catholic teaching on the matter of torture. However, Fr. Sirico and Arroyo need to be far less cavalier about the torture issue in their presentation of it, even if they genuinely have doubts about whether waterboarding constitutes torture, which I believe they do. They need to recognize and state publicly that this is not an area where Catholic moral theology has stated in black-and-white terms that waterboarding is NOT torture, because it simply hasn’t been considered with such specificity yet.

    Christopher, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the Holy Father and others within the Magisterium must weigh in on this issue with clarity and efficiency (much like others have said on that Vox Nova thread), and it will put the matter to rest for a large majority of Catholics. As for MM’s suggestion that priests invoke current Canon law to withhold communion from dissenters on this issue, I support it, as long as it is also used in ALL areas where influential public Catholics dissent from clear Catholic teaching.

  2. I have to wonder how the Battle of Tours in 732 or the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, both of which were fought against Islamic fascists, were ever won with this kind of attitude in the Church.

  3. Denying communion to those who support the use of torture in certain circumstances would mean denying it to most of the popes who lived between circa 750 AD to 1871 AD. It is not politic perhaps to bring this up, but the attitude of the Church to the use of torture by lawful authority, either Church or State, did a 180 in the last century from previous praxis and teaching of the Church for a millennium.

  4. Doesn’t anybody realize that there is a difference between the dismemberment and torturous murder of an innocent unborn baby, and the interrogation of a fanatical Jihaddist determined to maime and murder?

    There is no equivalency between the infanticide of the innocent unborn and the interrogation of the guilty Islamic fascist. None. Zero.

    But liberals just don’t get that.

  5. I know MM is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, but I suspect his post is more about calling the bluff of denial-of-Communion Catholics. It will be interesting if he gets the moral consistency he’s seeking. If not, it’s a loss for the hard line bishops.

  6. Paul

    It has nothing to do with “liberal” or “conservative.” It has to do with the fact that the Church has been guided to see torture as an intrinsic evil and a “non-negotiable.” And the killing and torture of innocents, which happens in war, is as evil as the killing and torture of innocents in the womb. Which is something many people like you forget — innocents destroyed are innocents destroyed.

  7. Thank you, Henry. I’m as conservative as anyone and I’m disgusted that “conservativism” is being co-opted by the armchair Jack Bauers of the world. Since when is torture something the “good guys” do?

    Since when did “love thy neighbor” change to “except if they MIGHT have some useful information.. in that case, waterboard the shit out of them!”

    This is just more ammunition for the pro-choice Catholic excuse makers on the left.

  8. I am not sure at all that we are at a point in the debate that it would lawful or right to deny communion to people that support waterboarding.

    Though people like to say it’s settled in fact there are some huge questions left and more questions on what torture is and what it is not. I am afraid a vote of the internet population is not going to do it. By design and as a general manner those Canon that punish are to be read narrowly.

    A denial of communion is a severe sanction and in a important debate that is in it infancy seems to be for the purpose of shutting up debate.

    TO the above parties that are mentioned I am pretty confident that they will heed the decree of their local Bishop on this matter unlike sadly many pro-abortion poltiticians

  9. “There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.”

    This could be perhaps that there are issues as to torture and enchanced interrogation that has not been dealt with and perhaps the Church recognizes has to be debated

  10. Paul,

    Perhaps you were confused by the fact that both Christians and Muslims were involved, but Tours and Lepanto were battles, not interrogations. No one has attempted to argue that battles, when necessary, cannot be fought. And I think one would have to be rather deceived to claim that Tours and Lepanto were unnecessary.

  11. On the topic in question: it seems fairly clear to me that MM is not actually calling for people to defend waterboarding to be denied communion, he’s calling for pro-abortion Catholics _not_ to be denied communion. For some time now he’s been accusing pro-lifers of seeking to politicize the Eucharist by supporting the denial of communion to pro-abortion politicians. It’s an argument from absurdity combined with some tu toque.

    In this regard, it seems to me that the argument lacks some crucial context. When bishops have, in rare circumstances, denied abortion to notorious abortion supporters, it has been after long years of the Church clearly denying that one may, as a Catholic, support legal abortion. It has also been after the individual politician is warned by the bishop that he/she must change his views lest he be denied communion. The denial of communion is, at that point, a response to repeated and stubborn refusal to accept correction.

    So in this case, an obvious first step (assuming that the Church does in fact consider the positions being taken by these people to be totally unacceptable) would be for some bishops to step forward, make it clear that these positions are morally unacceptable, and advise people that they must cease making these arguments lest they find themselves divided from the Church.

    As Chris says, this is clearly a potential teaching moment. I don’t myself agree with the arguments that folks like Thiessien are making — though I’m not ready to say with confidence that it’s impossible for Catholics to make such arguments in good conscience. (After all, there are arguments which I disagree with, such as that a majority Catholic state should not allow the open practice of dissenting religions, which Catholics are indeed allowed to make. Not all conclusions on important matters are handed to us on a silver platter in Catholicism, despite some of the accusations of our separated brethren.)

    What MM does not seem fully cognizant of, unless I’m much misreading his intention with his post, is that there is a difference in Church discipline on these two issues in that the Church has already made it clear that it considers dissent on the question of legal abortion to be something which, in notorious cases, can and should be disciplined through denial of communion. He may not like that, but there it is. It is not yet, however, clear whether the topic of waterboarding is something over which the Church considers it appropriate to ban people from communion for dissent. Certainly, the bishops could decide to make not advocating this a matter of obedience, as a few Southern bishops made complying with their orders to desegregate Catholic schools a matter of obedience, but this has not actually happened up until this point, and so I’m not clear how one gets to demand that they do so as a matter of consistency unless one imagines that one is in a better position to set Church teaching and discipline than the bishops themselves.

  12. Really? He’s certainly accused pro-lifers of using communion as a cudgel and those bishops who have denied communion to pro-abortion politicians as being political hacks.

    Wouldn’t that seem to imply that he doesn’t think people should be denied communion for supporting legal abortion?

    (My apologies, though, I appear to have mistakenly thought a comment was made by Henry that was my by someone else. I’ll make the correction.)

  13. As far as I can see, we already have perfectly consistent application of Canon 915. It is virtually never applied.

    The bishops have consistently condemned both torture and abortion, and have done precious little against Catholic public figures who advocate either.

    There is, of course, the little matter that torture is illegal and abortion is a right, and the attendant fact that 1.5 million abortions are performed in the U.S. each year, while comparatively very few (if any) prisoners are tortured (depending on your definition of what exactly constitutes torture, a question which MM settled long ago, but which much of the rest of the country is still debating).

    The simple fact remains that, over at VN, not only torture but SUVs, poverty, and _every other issue_ trumps abortion when it comes time to take action, with the result that no positive action can ever be taken. And that’s why life is too short to read Vox Nova.

  14. DC

    You are confusing so many issues, which is the problem. For example, the desire to say “anyone who voted for Obama is pro-abortion and therefore should be denied communion” is wrong, and yet that is the kind of cudgel many who call themselves pro-life have tried to use. There is a big difference between denying communion to people who really are pro-abortion than denying people who cooperate with the American political system and vote for someone despite their abortion stand. But he is also pointing out that the canon law being used can be applied to all kinds of moral outrages, and yet the same people are not interested in applying it universally. That is not the same as your claim.

  15. Henry,

    I think you may be equivocating. One may directly kill an innocent in war. But this may also be an example of double effect where one can anticipate that innocents may be killed while justly stopping an aggressor. Thus the first would be immoral but the second would be licit given proportionate reasons. Abortion never is licit.

  16. “How about this question. Is any use of force licit in interrogation?”

    Those are questions that must be asked as well as other components of enhanced interrogation.

    That is one reason why I think there is not a lot of basis in denying communion to people where the issues are in such flux. There is going to have be a serious moral debate on many issues.

    When does discomfort become torture? I have seen torture defined as to the extreme of burning hot coals to the other extreme that 24 hours of sleep deprivation could be torture

  17. Right or wrong, I don’t expect the defense of torture to be widely held as cause for the denial of communion because, as Darwin and Christopher note, there hasn’t been a clear history of bishops loudly proclaiming that Catholics cannot in good conscience support torture. The current torture debate is fairly new. Perhaps a few decades down the road, when and if we have a long train of teaching moments to reference, we’ll see the canon law in question applied to advocates of torture. Nevertheless, Morning’s Minion has a valid point about its inconsistent application, even if his point has as of now heavier theoretical weight than practical weight.

  18. When does discomfort become torture?

    I wouldn’t distinguish discomfort from torture by reference to the degree of pain, which doesn’t get us very far, but by the intended effect of the pain/discomfort. Torture is the use of physical or mental pain to coerce the will to the point where the will itself is undermined and rendered powerless. This use of pain is different than the use of pain to motivate the will or persuade a prisoner to will what the interrogators want him to will.

  19. “For example, the desire to say “anyone who voted for Obama is pro-abortion and therefore should be denied communion” is wrong, and yet that is the kind of cudgel many who call themselves pro-life have tried to use.”

    I think that is a rather extreme postione and I ma not sure at all that many people who wish the Bishops to tough up on abortion for example would advocate that. I should be noted that when Kmiec was denied communion by one Priest there was quite a reaction from many Catholic pro-lifers on many fronts that said that was wrong.

    “But he is also pointing out that the canon law being used can be applied to all kinds of moral outrages, and yet the same people are not interested in applying it universally. That is not the same as your claim.”

    While this is a fine debating tactic but I am not sure it gets it very far. Painting a nightmare picture of the Canon Law Provison in dispute as running possibily amuck is quite different in wanting the Law to applied correctly.

  20. “How about this question. Is any use of force licit in interrogation?”

    My own view is absolutely not. Any physical coercion of a prisoner beyond what is necessary to restrain, confine, or move said prisoner should be off limits. Interrogation should involve asking questions, not exerting physical pressure.

    I mean, that seems like the sort of basic and obvious definition of torture (at least obvious to me): you can’t coerce answers from a prisoner by physically violating that person’s bodily integrity.

    Now, I am less certain about what psychological means may be brought to bear in getting answers from a prisoner. To the extent there is going to be any debate over appropriate interrogation techniques, in my view it should fall into the realm of which psychological techniques are appropriate. As a baseline, though, I think that any physical coercion is morally problematic.

  21. Karlson,

    You have advocated ignoring the abortion funding in the healthcare bill and have gone into full pro-life assualt since the bill now appears to be dead. Your protestations about pro-torture Catholics, regardless of their merits, are self serving.

    The real problem with the Vox Nova folks (MM, HK, MI) is that they have continued to ignore the pro-abortion zealotry that killed the healthcare bill. They are now lashing out in all directions. This pro-torture bashing is little more than fuming (regardless of the merits).

  22. In my answer above, I don’t mean to imply that torture is only physical and not psychological. Clearly, as Kyle points out, there is also psychological torture that can cause mental pain and anquish.

  23. Kyle,

    One question I have with that is there does not seem to be an absolute freedom of will to do whatever it wants. There are limits the state can place upon the will.

    That then leads back to my first question.

  24. “One question I have with that is there does not seem to be an absolute freedom of will to do whatever it wants. There are limits the state can place upon the will.

    That then leads back to my first question.”

    There is also a question of the difference between BREAKING THE WILL and Reforming the Will which I suppose are two differnt things

  25. One other thing should be noted here. A lot of people are not just engaging this with a poltical viewpoint which seems to a subtone of many of these debates as we are looking into motives

    For many of us there is a obligation to have a coherent view on this issue that takes in all scripture all Church tradition and all Church teaching. Not just what has been said in the last 100 years.

    It all has to fit together and it is a important task as we engage other Christians from other other faith communities and non Christians.

    The Church and scripture have never endorsed abortion. Scripture, tradition, and Church teaching is not so clear cut on all the aspects of the torture. enhanced interrogation debate where one could say it is so OBVIOUS.

    That has been one of the frustrating things about this debate is much of it is seen through a purely political lens.

    Why that might be great as we compare the various faults of the Bush and Obama administrations it is not very helpful when a Non Catholic confronts me with verses from Sirach or other teachings.

    It must fit all together some how.

  26. If it were up to MM, cap-and-trade opponents would incur latae sententiae excommunication.

    I agree that this is a teaching moment but I don’t think the bishops know what to teach.

    Bishop: Torture is evil.
    Congregant: What’s torture?
    Bishop: Sticking a baton up the ass would be torture.
    Congregant: Obviously but what about waterboarding?
    Bishop: [crickets chirp]

    Personally, I’d rule out all physical and psychological harm, beyond what is necessary to restrain, for a purpose extrinsic to the individual.

  27. I suspect the bishops will say that waterboarding is torture. They will of course need to have a strong, reasoned response to do so.

  28. I agree that anything causing psychological harm should be ruled out. But, in my view, there is more room for debating what causes psychological “harm” than there is when we’re talking about physical coercion.

    Here’s what I mean by psychological means of extracting information are less clear cut:

    * Is good-cop/bad-cop torture?
    * Is lying – for example, telling Prisoner B that Prisoner A has spilled the beans and fingered Prisoner B as the mastermind when Prisoner A has done nothing of the sort – torture? (Such a tactic may be morally problematic apart from the question of torture.)
    * What about other mind games that play on the emotions of the person being interrogated but that arguably don’t cause psychological harm?

    It could be that, in context, any or all of those may constitute torture. But that’s the point. In contrast to physical coercion, which, in my opinion, is ALWAYS torture, the examples above may or may not be torture depending on the circumstances.

  29. Phillip,

    The state can legitimately limit what one is able to will, but it may not licitly rob him of his core capacity to will. It may imprison a man, thereby preventing him from acting as free people do, but it may not render a man a mere puppet incapable of making moral decisions. The man tortured into action is a man made less than a man, a man rendered incapable of free choices, and therefore incapable of virtue. The sin of torture has much to do with pain, of course, but it has, in my opinion, more to do with what it does to the core personal selfhood of the one tortured. Torture uses pain to make a person act precisely not as a person, but as an instrument of the torturer.

  30. I suspect imprisoning does rob him of his will but not of his conscience. He may continue to believe what he wants but cannot act (will) it. For example an imprisoned murderer may continue to wish to kill another but cannot act on his conscience which tells him its okay.


  31. I think the way I’m using the word “will” is somewhat close to how you’re using the word “conscience.” I’m using “will” in reference to the power of the person to make free, moral decisions. An imprisoned man still has that power, even if he cannot exercise it toward the ends he wishes. He may not be able to will what he wants, but he can still will. The coerced person, however, can neither will what he wants to really will at all. He acts involuntarily.

  32. It seems the state does have the right to stop some consciences from acting as they will. From Dignitatis Humanae:

    “7. The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.

    Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

    These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.”

    It seems there can be restraint on conscience at some level.

  33. Equivalency bewteen abortion and torture?

    I don’t think there is necessarily an equivalence, nor that anyone is making such an equivalence. Both are evil, and intrinsically so. I do agree abortion is more evil in many respects, but that really doesn’t seem to be the point. Rape and adultery are both evil, and a strong argument can be made that rape is worse. That doesn’t lessen the evil of adultery one iota.

  34. Phillip,

    I read the passage you cite as saying the state can curtail freedom in the sense that it can prevent or prohibit a person from willing certain actions, but I don’t see that it anywhere says the state may render a person fundamentally incapable of willing or attack the power to will. The limits allowed to be placed by the state are limits on what can be willed, not on the power to will itself. I don’t see how the Church could ever advocate limits on the latter, for it would be advocating putting people into conditions that violate their core personhood by making them incapable not only of evil, but of real goodness as well.

  35. Again, limits on not so much as willed, but one in conscience can be held. We already acknowledge we can stop the will from acting.

  36. Philip

    Double-effect does not take place the way you think it does. There are many more rules to war than “it’s war” to justify double effect. And even then the evil is the same, the issue is not the evil, but the guilt.

    And this goes into Colin’s claim.

    Colin: many people have shown you that the claims are outright wrong about abortion in the health care bill. But let’s say more abortions will happen because people are given better health care. That IS double effect going on right there. Increase of health care is itself a good, and to intend that without intending more abortion, but having more abortion happen as a result, is exactly double effect.

  37. Henry,

    Perhaps. This is the way I understand it. Let’s say there is a tank that is a threat. There is also a civilian nearby. One can drop a bomb on the tank, anticipating that the civilian will be killed by the blast. What is directly intended is the destruction of a threat. What is not directly intended is the killing of a civilian. Nor does the destruction of the tank come as a result of the killing of the civilian Not direct killing so not morally illicit. That’s my understanding of double effect in war.

    This to contrast with dropping a bomb on civilians because they’re the damn enemy. Direct killing of innocents and thus immoral. In the same category as abortion.

  38. Kyle,

    Perhaps because I have worded poorly. It seems to me (and I could be incorrect) that what one reasons is a good is distinct from what one wills to do. It seems to be that the state may do a great many things to stop the will from acting. It seems the state may even drop a bomb on a tank that is unjustly invading one’s land. This with the implicit reality that one will kill the occupants of the tank who are willing it to invade. This in contrast to the assertion that the state may never force the conscience of a person.

    It seems the state can do a great many things to limit the will. The question is can the state do anything to limit the conscience and if so to what degree.

  39. A number of responses to the post and comments:

    (1) I actuallly agree that the Pelosi comparison was apt – in each case, a person self-identifying as a faithful Catholic, attempted to defend a position which simply cannot be defended.

    (2) Despite Christopher’s assertion to the contrary, there is no real debate about whether waterboarding constitutes torture. I would note that the arguments of the defenders – Hudson, Akin, Harrison – have little to do with specific techniques and more to do with consequentialist arguments about circumstances under which it might be licit. As for the technique itself, until Bush-Cheney, there was no doubt that this was torture, especially when done by the Khmer Rouge and the imperial Japanese. That tells me that the real defense is an exercise in pure consequentialism – it’s OK when America does it to “keep itself safe from terrorists”.

    (3) For Paul Primavera – “fascism” is a 20th century term that cannot be applied to the 8th or the 16th century. Even worse, “islamic fascism” is an offensive term much loved by American neocons who use it as pretext for war and torture.

    (4) Yes, the Church sinned in the past by supporting torture, largely because they embraced Roman law, and torture was part of the Roman law. But the catechism itself says very explicitly that this was wrong, and that torture (just like slavery) can never be defended.

    (5) I disagree with Darwin’s canonical distinction between abortion and torture. The issue pertains to those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.” There is a lot of consensus that publicly saying something opposed to Church teaching in scandalous manner could be grounds for denying communion. This would encompass defending something that is both extremely grave and intrinsically evil. Both torture and abortion would qualify – after all, they are both listed as among the grave sins in Gaudium Et Spes, and they both evil regardless of circumstance.

    (6) Following up on the last point, let me state for the record that I do not agree with Burke’s take on canon 915. And I am not saying this as an arrogant amateur – I’ve consulted some canonists I know who assure me that Burke’s interpretation is a distinct minority opinion. That makes sense to me. I think somebody who publicly states he is a faithful Catholic and says that abortion is a great social good, or that more women should be encouraged to abort might fall foul of this canon. Likewise, somebody who claims that torturing a prisoner is a great thing to do (Thiessen) might be implicated.

    (7) Prohibitions on receiving the Eucharist are as old as the Church. But I would have you call that some of the oldest debate centers on whether soldiers who participate in war should be permitted to partake – see St. Basil. Not that I am defending this today, but we need to be aware of the history. I’m not particularly interested in targeting individuals at the communion rails – I’m just dismayed by the silence of the episcopacy on this issue.

  40. Thank you for the dialogue, particularly Kyle. I am off to the mountains for the weekend. Hope to come back to continued genteel conversation.

  41. Henry,

    Is Pelosi wrong then when she reassures her abortion constituents that abortion funding IS part of the bill? Or is she lying to them?

    Your application of double effect is incorrect. Abortion funding does NOT have to be part of the bill. You are advocating the bill despite the funding of such. That isn’t double effect. That is material cooperation.

  42. Colin

    I believe she is lying — and I am no fan of Pelosi. She is a liar, and misrepresents things constantly for her own political gain. Or do you think she is telling the truth when she talks about Catholic understandings of abortion?

    And as has been shown on Vox Nova — there is no such funding in the bill itself.

    BTW, do you know double effect IS about cooperation? That is a part of the whole point. That one can promote something which is good despite unintended consequences from one’s support, even if the consequences are foreknown.

  43. Colin

    And this goes along with Cardinal Dulles who has even said similarly — you can support a good (X) despite abortion (of course within specific guidelines — but that’s been discussed on VN).

  44. Henry,

    Which is more likely:

    1. Pelosi is trying to smuggle in unpopular abortion funding (76% against last I checked) using an obtuse accounting scheme (Casey admendment). Upholding her commitment to abortion.

    2. Pelosi is lying to her constituents and betraying the “right to choose” push healthcare through.

    My money is one the first, esp since she didn’t support Stupak and the Dem leadership has been trying to get hiim to roll on the issue (rather than the other way around).

    Also, you application of double effect only applies if there is NO ALTERNATIVE. Abortion funding is not a necessary result of health care reform. Stupak proved that. If other Democrats would uphold life we might have a bill signed already.

  45. Colin, I’d love to see the evidence. Though many have compared the Nelson Amendment to the Capps accounting trick, as far as I can tell, there’s a very important difference. The Nelson Amendment requires enrollees to write two checks. That virtually ensures that nobody will choose to pay for abortion coverage. This is why pro-choice groups opposed it. But, I’d love to see evidence to the contrary (from a source other than Pelosi’s mouth).

  46. The one thing that remains missing in this discussion of theoreticals is a usable definition of “torture”. The good old, “I know it when I see it” that applied to pornography is not workable here.

    Why, would you ask?

    Well, thanks for asking!

    The problem from which most of this discussion suffers is actually two-fold: a lack of practical experience in even *imagining* the situational ethics (bad term, I know, but give me a minute) of a particular instance, combined with that very “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” mentality I dismissed above.

    Some things are easy to define as torture: cutting off fingers/toes; pushing bamboo shards under fingernails; cutting; testicular electrification; castration; murder of a comrade with a threat of one’s own murder; confinement to a space smaller than one’s own frame; burning; acid in the eyes; other disfiguring injuries inflicted for the purpose of coercion. All definitely torture; all specifically outside the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Land Warfare.

    But…is loud music? ( I would argue that it would depend on the genre.) Is sleep deprivation within reasonable limits? Is environmental manipulation? Withholding food (this one is a probable yes)? threatening? Intimating that someone has ratted the prisoner out? Not correcting a misimpression on the part of a prisoner that something bad has happened to a comrade, or is about to happen to them?

    Then…what about dripping water across the face of a person in a controlled manner, with medical assistance present, in order to evoke a visceral panic reaction on the part of the subject that is so unpleasant as to encourage the subject to avoid its repetition?

    I don’t know the answer.

    But I will say this: Unless you have had to manage the use of deadly force in some way, your ability to make a valid judgment may be impaired. Not that you’re a bad person, or you lack intelligence, or anything negative; you just may not have a frame of reference that allows you to validly evaluate the morality of a particular situation. Killing is objectively evil; murder is intrinsically evil..BUT: Some people just need killin’, as people in the South might say. And as unpleasant as it is to hear, it is unequivocally true. And it is up to the moral actor, IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT, to make the best judgment he or she can based on his or her training and experience, and then to pull the trigger (or not). And that moral actor must bear the consequences of that decision before God.

    So I guess I’m saying: If you haven’t had to think about killing another human being, you may not have enough information to really validly evaluate the morality of things that go on in war (past a certain point, and with obvious exceptions, like My Lai).

  47. Why is this such a tedious and ultimately meaningless argument? Because only 3 people were waterboarded. This is an issue that is being ginned up mostly by folks who hate Republicans and want desperately to change the debate from abortion.

  48. Austin Ruse,

    The argument is neither tedious nor meaningless and it pertains to more than just three individuals who were water-boarded. We have witnessed the systematization and legalization of coercive interrogation techniques, including torture, into official government policy. That fact alone should concern us. Perhaps even more disheartening, this policy has found justification among Catholics and others that bases its use on a materialistic and morally relativistic gospel of salvific violence. I’ve seen even otherwise pro-life Catholics argue that we must keep ourselves safe by any means necessary and that the end of keeping us safe justifies any means. To be sure, we’re not simply witnessing a debate among Catholics about what techniques qualify as torture. We’re seeing Catholics who typically decry moral relativism embrace morally relativistic arguments in the name of national security. That’s a problem.

  49. Except of course Kyle that the use of what is currently described as torture was routinely used by virtually all Western governments until the day before yesterday in historical terms. In the US the third degree was quite common in police work until the Sixties. The papal states had official torturers until the papal states were abolished in 1870. In a society which tolerates the destruction of human life to the tune of tens of millions a year in regard to abortion, I am curious about this new found sensitivity to torture in both the Church and Western countries at large. One may be against physical torture on prudential grounds as I am, and yet wonder if it is truly immoral for a cop for example to pummel a kidnapper in order to get a child back safe to her parents. A whole host of prudential reasons can be mustered as to why the cop should not do this, but I truly find it hard to understand why such an action would be immoral. Substitute a parent for the cop, and I think it would be immoral for the parent not to attempt to coerce the will of the kidnapper in order to rescue a son or daughter.

  50. Why is this such a tedious and ultimately meaningless argument? Because only 3 people were waterboarded.

    I quote from the above post:

    “Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining ‘the religious dimensions of the torture debate’ found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justifiable.”

    This is an issue that is being ginned up mostly by folks who hate Republicans and want desperately to change the debate from abortion.

    What a contemptible claim!

  51. Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children. This is a waste of time and i reiterate, an attempt by a small group who want to divert attention from a truly horrific situation. These guys also want us to believe that its ok to vote for someone like Obama, who opposes waterboarding 3 guys but supports the killing of unborn children, rather than one of those despicable conservatives who may favor waterboarding but opposes the deliberate killing of millions of unborn children. This is not a serious debate.

  52. There you go again, Austin. While you may have some success tarring me as one of those “folks who hate Republicans”, you most certainly cannot say the same for most of the commentors above who oppose torture. What I see is disgust with the conduct of evil by our political masters, no matter which secular ideology most appeals.

    You’ll get no argument that abortion is graver than torture. But you must also admit that the moral proximity, the formal cooperation in evil, of political leaders to each act of torture is much closer than the moral proximity of these same leaders to each incidence of abortion. Doesn’t that concern you?

    And what kind of argument are you making anyway? Rape is probably not as bad as murder. Does this mean we should turn a blind eye to rape? Is rape tedious?

    You would be more convincing if you argued that you supported your precious Republicans in spite of, not because of, or indifference to, their embrace of torturing people for consequentialist reasons.

    And this goes far beyond waterboarding, by the way. You take the Bush-Cheney techniques minus waterboarding and you have a very close approximiation to the approved techniques of the gestapo. But the gestapo didn’t really torture, did they? Or did they? Maybe they did, if you bring intent and circumstance into it. Oh wait, you can’t do that with intrinsically evil acts…

  53. Colin,

    You have been at this game for too long. It’s time to end it. Look at the Vox Nova threads on healthcare reform. Even better, read the bill.

    Here’s the deal. This reform does not support or push forward the abortion agenda. The reform relates to the expansion of private insurance. Many private insurance companies pay for abortion. Should they? Not if I had my way, but I don’t remember a pro-life organization making a priority of this one.

    The issue then, is now to minimize taxpayer funds from going to these private insurance companies that cover abortion. Stupak was ironclad – did the pro-life movement support the House bill with Stupak? No, they instead supported a pro-abortion pro-torture Senate candidate who opposed both the House and Senate bills.

    And yes, Stupak is better than Nelson, but not that much better. After all, Nelson would allow states to forbid abortion coverage, give people the option of an abortion-free plan, and shine attention on abortion coverage by separating payments (if you can’t see the value in forcing such attention, just ask the RNC). The pro-choicers hate it for a reason. Is it ideal? No. But it is the first ever federal attempt to address abortion coverage by private insurance companies. And I think people would most definitely start choosing plans without abortion, which will force insurance companies to drop coverage.

    I’ll leave you with an insightful point made by a commentor on Vox Nova. When Republicans implemented the Medicare Advantage program, involving direct subsidies from taxpayers to insurance companies, was abortion an issue? No, it was not. And yet, what is the difference? And don’t respond by saying Medicare does not cover abortion – the money is going to insurance companies that do fund abortion, and this money is fungible. And since the reform bill proposes to save money by eliminating Medicare Advantage, shouldn’t you be lauding them for distancing taxpayer funds from abortion?

    Oh, and by the way, the more recent Republican ideas on healthcare are not exactly unborn-friendly either. Granting tax credits makes it cheaper for people to purchase private plans with abortion. And allowing insurance plans to be sold across state lines without appropriate minimum standards would gut the Nelson provision allowing states to ban abortion coverage.

    What do I conclude? I conclude that many of those who scream about healthcare and abortion do not support this healthcare reform in the first place. They use the unborn on their behalf, but it is really their liberal principles that are offended. They object to forcing people to purchase health insurance, and especially to forcing the healthy to subsidize the sick, either directly through community rating, or indirectly through budgetary subsidies. This was really why they opposed reform, not abortion. Let’s end this charade here and now.

  54. Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children.

    No. Evil is not opposed to evil. All evil comes from the same source, and all evil will be sent back to that source, carrying along whoever clings to any part of it.

    Formal cooperation with evil is one way of clinging to evil, and there’s reason to believe that tens of millions of Catholics in the United States formally cooperate with the grave evil of torture.

  55. As Tom has aptly pointed out (I think, anyway) this is a both/and scenario. We must oppose both torture and abortion per Church teaching on each. This is hardly a mutually exclusive predicament.

    That being said, in a discussion on abortion and torture in the US, abortion is demonstrably the greater historical scandal. The blood on our hands from millions of children lost since Roe v Wade is in no small part the result of an enabling, ideologically-driven, morally pernicious, left-wing brand of Catholicism.

    No amount of moral calculus can be used to justify torture as if abortion is so heinous that everything the political-right does pales in comparison. Yet given the track record of the left it is understandable that such claims of the moral high ground are more about advancing the political football than about embracing Church teaching on this particular matter.

  56. If torture was actually an issue, then yes, we should oppose it. But to use it as a wedge to keep people from voting for the pro-life party, it is no more than Democratic trickery. The proposition is that there is some kind of equivalence between the murder of 50 million children and three men being waterboarded and therefore one may in good conscience vote for party that supports baby-killing (and by the way, the Party of Death also knew about waterboarding and did nothing).

  57. That would be the party that had this in its platform in 2008:

    “Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

    Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.

    We have made progress. The Supreme Court has upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. States are now permitted to extend health-care coverage to children before birth. And the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law; this law ensures that infants who are born alive during an abortion receive all treatment and care that is provided to all newborn infants and are not neglected and left to die. We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

    Respect for life requires efforts to include persons with disabilities in education, employment, the justice system, and civic participation. In keeping with that commitment, we oppose the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which endanger especially those on the margins of society. Because government should set a positive standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, we need to update the statutory authority for the AbilityOne program, the main avenue by which those productive members of our society can offer high quality services at the best possible value.”

    The pro-death party had this in its platform in 2008:

    “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

  58. So, the Constitution of the Soviet Union made Stalin good? The platform didn’t deal with the whole issue of life, and ignores the Gospel of Life. To be pro-life, as the Church speaks, is more than to be against abortion. And Austin shows what happens when people think that is all it is about — even being against abortion doesn’t have to be (Brown) as long as one is GOP! The shell game doesn’t work. The fact of the matter is that the actual policies of the Republicans have been anti-life, and have promoted the culture of death. The fact of the matter is that when people think “torture doesn’t matter” they have accepted the culture of death (if it doesn’t matter, than abortion, as torture, doesn’t matter). But it does matter. And any attempt to ignore it when it is an issue is an attempt to hide real anti-life policies.

    And here is a note for the sophists:

    Just because book X might be the most expensive book ever does not mean books A-W, when combined with Y and Z are less valuable than X.

  59. Karlson your never ending efforts to run interference for Obama and the party of abortion lend support to the argument that Mr. Ruse is making. This is on par with your ludicrous attempt last weekend to argue that Nixon was more pro-abortion than the patron saint of Vox Nova Obama. Stop beclowning yourself in your attempt to be a useful tool for people who are completely pro-abortion.

  60. Karlson your never ending efforts to run interference for Obama and the party of abortion lend support to the argument that Mr. Ruse is making.

    Yes, and it’s deucedly annoying, because the argument that Mr. Ruse is making is a “30% less evil than the other leading brand” whitewash of the Republican Party.

    As long as Catholics treat moral issues as though they were fundamentally political issues — as Austin does by claiming, in the teeth of the empirical evidence, that torture is not an issue — politicians will treat moral issues as Catholic vote-bait, and souls will be lost.

  61. One very big difference between the issue of banning Communion to pro-abortion politicians vs. banning Communion to “pro-torture” politicians is simply the fact that what constitutes torture may not be as clearly defined as what constitutes abortion.

    It’s pretty obvious what constitutes abortion (although, granted, some people have tried to redefine “conception” in a way that excludes certain forms of abortafacient contraception). And some practices are obviously torture (branding, whipping, racking, mutilation, sexual abuse, threatening to kill, rape or torture a loved one in one’s prescence. And I would, personally, include waterboarding in this definition). However, the danger is that certain persons of more liberal persuasion may attempt to expand the definition of torture to include just about anything that causes distress or places pressure on the person being interrogated. Next thing you know, they will be claiming that parents who spank their young children are guilty of child abuse… oh wait… but I digress.

    I do think the issue of whether the government should ever officially endorse certain “enhanced interrogation” practices as a matter of policy is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. It does have the potential for greater abuses. Remember, hard cases make bad law.

    However, in this particular case, it seems obvious to me that liberal Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians are just looking for a “gotcha” to use against those who advocate denial of Communion to such politicians.

  62. The Democrat party favors the deliberate killing of unborn children up to 50 million at this point. The Democrat Party has funded abortions overseas and is now attempting to coerce foreign countries to kill their own children. Besides working to protect the unborn child from abortion in this coutnry and around the world, the Republican party has supported billions of dollars in federal and local spending to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease in this country and around the world. The Republicans embrace the whole social justice agenda.

  63. Austin,

    If you want others to take the issue of abortion seriously, it helps not to belittle the significance of the issues they believe are important. You make opponents when you should be making allies.

    Moreover, your depiction of the reasons behind the opposition to torture doesn’t correspond to reality. Sure, you can find people opposed to torture who don’t think abortion is a big deal, but you can also find conservative Republicans who oppose both torture and abortion and are loudly outraged about both.

  64. Donald

    When will you stop lying about what the other person is doing? I am not pro-Obama. I didn’t vote for him. I said I could not support him in post after post. I’ve criticized him and continue to do so. But the problem is the criticism has to be valid ones. The fact that the issue over health care reform was not abortion but “socialism” shows the concern is not about life but sophistry and political rhetoric. The fact that I agree with the Church that health care reform is necessary allows me to see beyond the “socialism” card. But that it was “socialism” and not abortion which was the issue is obvious to anyone who can see the Republicans rejecting legislation which would have had greater limits on abortion funding than ever before — because of “socialism.” So defense of capitalism is more important to the “party of Life” than life. Sick. And this ruse is up. People see through it.

  65. Karlson I didn’t say you voted for Obama, unlike Matt Talbot, the Catholic Anarchist, MZ, and various other denizens of Vox Nova. What I do say is that you ceaselessly attempt to minimize the importance of the struggle against abortion in order to provide cover for the pro-abortion Democrat Party and to attack the Republican party, and you do so in a completely transparent manner.

  66. Donald,

    I would credit the influence of philosophical personalism on the development of Catholic moral thought for why the Church today opposes torture and coercion that destroys the will. For example, Catholic moral thought now includes the principle that the human person is an end in himself and shouldn’t be used as a mere means, a formula that originated with Kant and was developed by Catholic moral philosophers such as Pope John Paul II. This principle alone would prohibit torture and will-undermining coercion, for these actions reduce the person to a mere instrument.

  67. Kyle,

    I never did that. In fact, I claim the GOP is more social justice in orientation than the Dems because the GOP takes on the whole social justice agenda including protecting the unborn child from abortion. I also understand the Church teaches that abortion is the primary issue today. Not that the issues of poverty, hunger and disease and not important but that abortion is the preeminent human rights issue of our time. If you get that (abortion) wrong, as Bernardine himself said, then you undermine the whole social justice agenda.

  68. Kyle, the Catholic Church is both a divine and a human institution as we both know. As it proceeds through history it is both the guardian of the eternal truths of Christ and is buffeted by the intellectual currents popular at different points in history. Looking at the Church over 2000 years there have been many accretions on the Faith that at one time were confused with the gospels and have fallen away as time passes. One subject I have always found fascinating is how one discerns what is a mere accretion from a development of doctrine a la Cardinal Newman. In regard to the subject of torture was the prior praxis and teaching of the Church that torture was licit when used by lawful authority a mere accretion due to Roman law, etc, or is the accretion in modern times due to the personalism you mention and other secular developments? This is the aspect of the never ending debate in Saint Blog’s on torture that I find personally interesting, and one that is rarely addressed.

  69. Austin,

    In the comments above, you call concern about torture a waste of time, an unserious debate, and not really an issue. I’d call that belittling.

  70. Yes, it is a waste of time because it has only happened three times if you define waterboarding as torture. It is not an issue. It is a distraction by partisans who want to score points on the GOP.

    Kyle, you work on a vicious website that attacks anyone who disagrees with the VN party line. You cannot lecture me about working toward common ground. VN is not in the least concerned with common ground or reaching out or anything like it.

  71. Having said that, Kyle, i want to say this. You are one of the more fair contributors to that vicious awful site. You have always given me a fair shake.

  72. Donald,

    At least in regards to personalism, we can ask the simple question: Is it true? Can we show with arguments of reason that a person should not be used as a mere means? If we can, then we have a firm basis on which to reject torture, regardless of whether or not the Church has made any official declarations.

  73. Like most philosophical doctrines Kyle I think the answer to that question would include such phrases as “it depends”, “true here, not true there”, “now how would we interpret it in this situation”, etc. In regard to torture, I think perhaps even a more important cause of the shift in the teaching and praxis of the Church was that the popes ceased to be secular rulers of anything other than a postage stamp realm.

  74. Donald,

    I’ll grant that examining the veracity of personalism as a whole isn’t such a simple endeavor. However, the personalist principle about the human person being an end in himself is a pretty absolute principle. It’s either true in all cases or not true at all. If we can licitly use a person as a mere means even in one circumstance, then the whole principle falls apart. Therefore, I think we can assess the truth of that principle and, following that assessment, either have or not have grounds on which to reject torture in all cases.

  75. 8:17: The Democrat party…. The Democrat Party … the Republican party …. The Republicans….

    8:33: … the GOP … the Dems … the GOP….

    8:48: It is a distraction by partisans who want to score points on the GOP.

    Who’s the partisan wanting to score points?

  76. Kyle, let us say that you are a platoon commander in the Army. You are guarding a group of refugees. A bridge must be held against an advancing enemy force in order for the refugees and the remainder of the platoon to escape. You assign a squad to hold the bridge and to delay the enemy long enough so that the refugees and the rest of the platoon can get to safety. You look into the eyes of the squad members. They realize you have just sentenced them to death in order to save others. Under the doctrine of personalism as you understand it, is it morally licit for you to give this order?

  77. VN is not in the least concerned with common ground or reaching out or anything like it.

    It depends on the contributor. I think most people tend to define ‘common ground’, at least implicitly, as ‘moving away from your misconceived ideas about public life and adopting or accommodating mine.’ Witness Obama’s transparently silly calls for bipartisan solutions (so long as ‘bipartisan’ means 90% of what he wants and 10% of what the other party wants). This doesn’t mean that anyone is necessarily arguing in bad faith; just that people come to political discussions from very different places, so it actually is hard to find agreement on how to put into practice shared larger commitments to the common good.

    I don’t think we have a good reason to trust either party to oppose torture when they’re in power. Pelosi was fine with waterboarding until she had the opportunity to use it as a cudgel. I wouldn’t say that torture is a ‘distraction,’ though. It’s important to oppose it clearly and consistently, particularly from the point of view of a commitment to pro-life activity.

  78. Donald,

    Yes, as long as the squad isn’t being reduced to a mere means. Clearly they are being used as a means – a means to halt the enemy force and save the refugees – but the question is whether they are being used as a mere means. I would say they are not, as they are freely cooperating in that order. They understand their service may mean following such orders. And, of course, were they to follow the order, we would rightly recognize their actions as self-sacrifice. The fact that we would see their sacrifice as more than involuntarily following orders, but as a heroic act on their parts, shows us that, while they are following orders, they do so as whole persons. They are not mere instruments of the commander’s will.

  79. From your response Kyle I perhaps make the rash assumption that you have never been in the Army. The men in the squad could have any number of motivations and reactions but at that moment none of that matters. They have been ordered to hold that bridge whether they think it is a great order or a grave imposition on their personal freedom. At that moment they do not have a choice under military discipline not to obey. This is the type of gut wrenching decision that military leaders often have to make and with soldiers not at all eager, understandably, to give up their lives.

  80. “At that moment they do not have a choice under military discipline not to obey.” Unless they are Hitler’s soldiers, then they are told they have a conscience and should have known not to obey.

  81. Karlson, I will make the non-rash assumption that you know as much about the military as a pig knows about penance. Soldiers in the US military have an obligation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice not to to obey unlawful orders such as one to massacre prisoners for example. That does not allow them to refuse obedience to a lawful order because the lawful order might very well get them killed.

  82. Donald is correct as to his assessment of the realities surrounding his hypothetical.

    Also, I’ll just go ahead and weigh in on a few things.

    First, while waterboarding may have been confined to just a small handful of individuals, it happened a lot more than 3 times. The individuals in question were by all accounts repeatedly waterboarded.

    Second, the weight of Church teaching pretty plainly falls in favor of the position that torture is intrinsically evil. I have not found the arguments to the contrary made by various Catholic thinkers to be especially persuasive.

    Third, just because two things (i.e., torture and abortion) can both be intrinsically immoral does not mean they carry the same moral gravity.

    Fourth, while I accept Church teaching on torture, I admit I don’t fully understand it. While admittedly the hypothetical ticking bomb scenario may be implausible (I’m not sure), it does crystalize one’s thinking on the matter. For the record, if I thought the most efficacious way to save innocent lives was by torturing a person who I knew to a moral certainty was culpable in arranging their deaths and had information that could avoid those deaths I’d torture him — you bet. If God’s Church teaches otherwise I’ll take the consequences. I don’t believe God will damn me for such actions, and if a few centuries in Purgatory are the cost, so be it.

  83. Donald,

    My response wasn’t meant to explore the specific motivations and reactions of soldiers in that situation, as these would undoubtedly vary from soldier to soldier. Instead, I aimed in my response to illustrate a general situation of cooperation with that gut-wrenching order that doesn’t reduce the soldiers to mere instruments of their commander. Now, I could also imagine situations in which a commander uses those under his command as mere means to an end. In any case, my answer to your question remains the same. The personalist principle does not necessarily prohibit such orders.

  84. Donald

    When Hitler ordered his military to do things, it was “lawful.” Therefore, they had to obey? I thought the rule was that one is not to obey a positive law when it broke natural law, right? I guess that changes in the military. Of course, only for the victors.

    It used to be as you said, that all one did was “obey.” But then they were not considered guilty for obeying bad orders, only those who made the orders could be tried for war crimes.

    Things changed. Our understanding of morality became more sophisticated. We grew to understand the role of the conscience and its place in a person’s free will. We grew to understand the role of the person in decision making, and the place of subjective and objective guilt in the equation. Thus, the earlier “just obey” kind of response is no longer acceptable. It is rejected by the Church. It is rejected by the international community (hence war crimes trials like after WWII which said that obeying orders was not a good enough defense).

    Of course, while we have grown to appreciate this more in recent times, it really is not new. The first few centuries of the Church saw this as well. Soldiers who were Christian were given the lawful order to offer various sacrifices. They disobeyed. They were killed. Would you say they were in the wrong? Oh, I know. They didn’t have US laws. But they did have Roman ones, and they broke it.

    Of course I know the US situation. I also know that the rules as you proclaim, as if by saying that’s the rules that ends all discussion, are the rules the Church has spoken out against several times. It continues to speak out against them. It wants the soldiers not to be abused for disobeying orders which they view are immoral, whether or not the order is legal.

    Yes, I know the US wants to have its cake and eat it too. It will constantly say “obeying orders is not good enough an excuse” when dealing with the enemy. But I also know as you said they tell their soldiers that they don’t have such an option. “It’s only illegal orders you don’t have to obey.” Of course, what does that mean when the law is immoral? Again, when the positive law is immoral, it is no law.

    Thus, as with the Church I will say the soldier’s conscience is important and is not limited to “is it legal or not.” You can say otherwise and side with the nation-state as you want.

  85. Henry,
    You are missing the point. In Donald’s hypothetical the order to defend the bridge would not be a violation of natural law. I’m confident that if the order was instead to target innocents Donald would agree that the order could and should be disobeyed as unlawful even if lawful under positive law.

  86. Mike

    It is possible a soldier could think the order is to block aid to innocents, and so oppose it. There are many reasons why the orders could be made. Donald said it doesn’t matter, they have to obey. The point is — the orders to matter, the reason why they are asked to do it, still does not matter. The soldier still has a conscience. His own words said that “lawful orders” must be obeyed without question. The issue is that “lawful orders” can be immoral orders. And if a soldier has a good reason to believe it is, they must follow their conscience. Even things which appear innocent could end up not.

  87. “The point is — the orders to matter, the reason why they are asked to do it, still does not matter.”

    Should read — “The point is, the orders do matter, and the reason why they are asked to do it still matters.”

  88. Henry, I agree that one’s conscience is always paramount, and that a soldier does have a moral obligation to disobey an immoral order that is lawful under positive law. And I bet Don agrees with that as well, and he would likely add that the UCMJ makes a positive law versus natural law incongruity pretty unlikely, but to the extent it occurs I’m pretty certain he’d agree that natural law trumps. But Don’s hypo pretty clearly postulates an order that is lawful under both natural law and positive law, especially from the point of view of the soldiers receiving the order. His hypo was intended to test Kyle’s earlier proposition that related to the point of view of the one giving the order, which is not germane to the point you are trying to make.

  89. Karlson, this obtuse act of yours is tiresome. The soldiers had absolutely no right under military regulations to disobey the order given to them in my scenario even though they would probably all suspect that the order would cost them their lives. That is the military. Orders are obeyed even though the death of the ones carrying out the orders may be the result.

  90. Tom,

    I do not make a claim for common ground or bipartisanship. I also tend to disdain calls for dialogue since the left usually does not mean it. To them it usually means the left speaking to the further left, or the left hassling the bishop. Dialogue is one of the hypocrisies of the left.

    What I am is a little weary of the rather vicious holier-than-thou crowd trying to make folks guilty for voting for Bush and the GOP which is the subtext of any “debate” about torture, something the US does not do. It is a ruse, if you will, not a very clever ruse but a ruse nonetheless.

    By the way, the downstairs sitting room at the Papal Nunciature in Washington DC has ten pictures of George Bush — even now — and not a single one of that moral paragon Obama. Go figure that, Bush haters.

  91. Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children. This is a waste of time and I reiterate, an attempt by a small group who want to divert attention from a truly horrific situation.

    If you really believe that, I have a simple solution.

    (You might want to browse my archives a bit before accusing me of being an Obama supporter, by the way, or of being soft on abortion. And since my infamous nickname for the blog Vox Nova is “Debate Club at Auschwitz” — my reasons are also in the archive, and I continue to stand by them — you might want to do the stoppy-ready-thinky thing a bit before jumping to any conclusions).

  92. “The purpose of this distraction is to give aid and comfort to the party of death.”

    Ok, Austin — you’ve repeated this point ad nauseum, to the point where I’d suspect you were attempting to engage in distraction yourself.

    1) liberals may have any number of motivations for pressing the torture issue — I concur, that for many, it’s a convenient distraction from abortion and/or other policies of the Obama administration. That said, many conservative (and pro-life) voices are raised in response to the techniques employed by the Bush (and present) administrations.

    So, let’s bracket and forget about the ongoing AC+VN feud as best we can, and address the subject of this post.

    2) I would say that, while waterboarding is probably the most prominent example of what has been termed ‘extreme interrogation’, the subject of ‘torture’ is not confined to such, nor are incidents of detainee abuse confined to those which occurred at Abu Ghraib. Incidents continue to occur in both Iraq and Afghanistan See for example Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan – “comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002.”

    Practices which we might think of as fairly innocuous when presented on paper — sleep deprivation, raising/lowering the temperature, “stress positions”, and other techniques of “softening up” detainees for interrogation — have contributed to such deaths. Not all of these incidents can be dismissed as violations of the system in place, either — rather, the impression I get is that the system currently in place cultivates, and encourages, the abuse.

  93. I would take any report prepared by Human Rights First with a boulder of salt based upon its funding by George Soros and its hard Left orientation. Its founder Michael Posner now serves as head of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Human Rights First is tightly wired in with the Obama administration.

    Anyone involved in the murder of a detainee should be prosecuted. However, an axe-grinding report from an axe-grinding group leaves me unimpressed.

  94. Anyone involved in the murder of a detainee should be prosecuted.

    I think one consistent point that keeps arising is that prosecutions are few and far between.

    However, an axe-grinding report from an axe-grinding group leaves me unimpressed.

    Much like you and I would likely take offense if a liberal pre-emptively dismissed an investigative report because it came from a conservative think tank, the best course of action would be to read it, then embark on a factual analysis and rebuttal.

  95. If they had any real evidence Chris they could petition for prosecutions themselves by bringing the evidence they have compiled to the attention of the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.

    I have been involved in hundreds of felony cases as a defense attorney, and two cases as a special prosecutor, over the years. People shooting their mouths off about alleged crimes is one thing; actually proving the guilt of a defendant in court is another. I have seen plenty of cases that looked good for the prosecution fall apart when actual evidence had to be presented and witnesses were subject to cross-examination. I would think the Obama administration would be eager to prosecute these cases if they think they can prove them in court. Perhaps Mr. Posner can discuss this with his boss.

  96. I would also suggest that when a detainee dies in custody a convening authority should conduct an immediate investigation to see if courtmartial proceedings should be initiated. If civilians are involved, then a DOJ criminal investigation should be immediately implemented.

  97. I would also suggest that when a detainee dies in custody a convening authority should conduct an immediate investigation to see if courtmartial proceedings should be initiated. If civilians are involved, then a DOJ criminal investigation should be immediately implemented.

    Well, yes. I think it goes without saying that would be the wish of the authors of the report as well. Unfortunately, if their analysis is correct, that’s not happening — in fact, what the report alleges:

    Commanders have failed to report deaths of detainees in the custody of their command, reported the deaths only after a period of days and sometimes weeks, or actively interfered in efforts to pursue investigations;

    • Investigators have failed to interview key witnesses, collect useable evidence, or maintain evidence that could be used for any subsequent prosecution;

    • Record keeping has been inadequate, further undermining chances for effective investigation or appropriate prosecution;

    • Overlapping criminal and administrative investigations have compromised chances for accountability;

    • Overbroad classification of information and other investigation restrictions have left CIA and Special Forces essentially immune from accountability;

    • Agencies have failed to disclose critical information, including the cause or circumstance of death, in close to half the cases examined;

    • Effective punishment has been too little and too late.

  98. Criminal investigations are often incompently done Chris? Well that is certainly no news to me after my involvement with the end product of criminal investigations over the past 28 years. That actually is fairly par for the course in my experience. Conducting investigations in foreign nations, usually involving some witnesses who cannot speak English, is challenging and compounds the difficulty. That is why investigative teams that specialize in this area should be developed.

  99. Not quite the same concerns Chris. I want the guilty punished but I also want an adequate record so that politically motivated advocacy groups can’t make hay out of such deaths years after the fact. Perhaps also if we have good investigators maybe we would have them develop the sense not to prosecute troops for minor infractions. Case in point, the three Navy Seals who are being courtmartialed because one of them allegedly immediately after the capture of a terrorist gave him a fat lip. Maybe I’ll burn in Hell for saying this, but I think the Navy is over-reacting a wee bit. 🙂

  100. Zippy?

    I don’t even know who you are so you have me confused with someone else who accused you of something.

    About torture, i don’t know any Catholic who supports torture.

  101. About torture, i don’t know any Catholic who supports torture.

    I do. You, for example. Oh, your support hides behind euphemism and denial (the whole “waterboarding isn’t torture” canard); but as a substantive matter you defend actual acts of torture perpetrated by and admitted to by the Bush administration. Your euphemisms aren’t any more valid than “blob of tissue” euphemisms used by pro-aborts.

    Did you read the post I linked to? Given that you mean what you say — that you see this as a low priority issue which is a distraction from the far more important issue of legal abortion — I proposed a solution that would allow the issue to be defused, so we can get back to the higher priority.

  102. Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture. I don’t know of anyone in the Bush administration who has said they tortured. And even if waterboarding were torture, it happened to three guys. This is a meaningless argument when compared to the other things we are facing.

  103. Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture.

    And like I said, I do: you (among many others).

    This is a meaningless argument when compared to the other things we are facing.

    And again, if you really believe that I have a suggested solution.

  104. Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture.

    According to the Pew Research Center’s survey, which Christopher linked to in the post and which I referred to twice in response to your own comments, 71% of Americans, 73% of weekly churchgoers, and 78% of white non-Hispanic American Catholics think that torture can be justified.

    If you don’t know this, then you probably shouldn’t be making categorical statements about whether torture is an issue.

  105. Tom

    Of course, there is another issue, confusing quantity with quality. We can see the error of this argument by bringing up another intrinsic evil, one which is done far more than abortion in a year. Lying. Lying is rooted to the fall of humanity (the deception of Satan), lying leads to the death of multitudes, and lying of course, is done far more often than abortion in a year. So does that now make abortion no longer significant? Not at all. But if one follows the logic Austin is trying to give us, one would have to say abortion needs to move over until we stop lying.

  106. Well, of course, there are Catholics who support abortion, contraception, torture, etc. Lots of fake Catholics around. In fact, I personally know Catholics who support abortion and contraception. I have met Frances Kissling! But, except in the abstract (polls etc), I do not know any Catholic who supports torture. And if torture was a widespread problem I suspect there would be a reason to get all het up about it. As it is, it is a distraction of Dems to get drive a wedge through the pro-life movements.

  107. But, except in the abstract (polls etc), I do not know any Catholic who supports torture. And if torture was a widespread problem I suspect there would be a reason to get all het up about it. As it is, it is a distraction of Dems to get drive a wedge through the pro-life movements.

    I am embarrassed for you.

  108. Doing anything to a person against his/her will (with the exceptions of saving his/her life, and their having broken a law punishable by jail) is not in line with the Gospels and therefore is a sin. Torture. Seriously? Torture? It is wrong. Time to move on…

  109. Tom K,

    I suspect you are not embarrassed for me. Likely you are annoyed, angry, crossing your little arms and stomping your little foot on the floor. Who cares? Now, lets get back to the conversation.

  110. Gosh, no. I don’t live in a bubble. I live in a house in Arlington, VA and drive to work every day in Washington DC and work in public policy.

    The frustration of you fellas is noted by me, by all. Now, let’s get back to the conversation.

  111. Austin:

    Your “no Catholic I know supports torture,” in the face of evidence that 78% of white Catholics support torture, is so glaringly irrelevant, and glaringly improbable (in fact, I am morally certain it is false), that it really admits of no response other than silence.

    Your repeated insistence that it’s all a Democratic plot is uncomfortable in the way Captain Queeg’s muttering about strawberries.

    And it’s made all the worse because your inability to actually engage the issue you’ve been commenting on all weekend reflects on you professionally, in a way it wouldn’t for those of us who don’t work in public policy.

    So yes, I am genuinely embarrassed for you.

  112. Why would not knowing any Catholics who support torture be embarrassing? I wish I could say the same.

    P.S. Welcome back to blogging, Zippy.

  113. I guess, Tomkay and Zippy (!), that these are supposed to be conversation ending bon mot of the kind that passes for wit or something on blogs but I must confess, fellers, I am just not moved.

    The only Catholics who i know support torture are those in the abstract from this poll. I have not read the poll. I hvae not read the poll question. And, honestly, polling is notoriously unreliable in determining questions like this.

    I come back to my previous point, even if waterboarding was torture, lets say that it is, it does not amount to a hill of beans given that it happened to three terrorists, especially when compared to 50 million abortions. While this “conversation” has been going on there have been thousands more abortiohs and not a single waterboarding. This is a waste of time and a distraction being used by those who hate Republicans and are carrying water for the party of death.

  114. The reason I ask is they recently had Marc Thiessen on to promote his pro-waterboarding book. That suggests, to me at least, that the problem is bigger than you are making out.

  115. I guess, Tomkay and Zippy (!), that these are supposed to be conversation ending bon mot of the kind that passes for wit or something on blogs but I must confess, fellers, I am just not moved.

    Zippy can answer for himself, if he chooses. If I were attempting to be witty at your expense, it would come out as sarcasm.

    Even so, I suspect my attempts at sarcasm would do less damage to a conversation than your remaining in voluntary ignorance while dogmatically and repeatedly asserting claims that are empirically false.

  116. Did Thiessen say he supported torture on Raymond’s show? I know Marc. He is a faithful Catholic. He brought a Catholic priest into the White House every week for prayer and bible study. He said he supported torture?

  117. Did Thiessen say he supported torture on Raymond’s show?

    No. He said he supported waterboarding, which is torture.

  118. Let me ask anyone this.

    Torture is intrinsically evil. Right?
    Waterboarding is torture. Also right?
    Then waterboarding is intrinsically evil. Right?

  119. Let me also add that I’m a Republican. I voted for Bush (three times, actually), and I plan on voting for whoever the Republican nominee is in the next election. This isn’t about hating Republicans or wanting people to vote for Obama. It’s about organizations and people that I admire and respect hitching their wagon to something noxious and evil.

  120. “So what” is that there is no debate over torture but a debate over what is torture. Personally, i do not believe that loud music, extemes of heat and cold, etc are torture. Waterboarding? I am not sure. I knwo i will be mocked for this. Even so, i do not care. I am not so sure and my conscience is clear.

    To my question. Torture=intrinsic evil, waterboarding=torture, waterboarding=intrinsic evil. True or false?

  121. Austin,

    Okay, so you think waterboarding might be torture, and might not be. So, from your perspective, Thiessen might be supporting torture. So you can’t really say that you don’t know anyone who supports torture, just that you aren’t sure whether you do or not.

  122. OK. i know someone who may or may not support torture. Answer my question. Is waterboarding intrinsically evil.

  123. Waterboarding is one of many U.S. used torture techniques to which we non-Democrat Catholics are opposed, so our concern with the practice and policy of torture extends beyond a concern with the technique of waterboarding. Furthermore, we are troubled by the poor moral reasoning and misrepresentation of moral principles such as double effect by Catholics like Marc Thiessen and Raymond Arroyo. The problem we see isn’t just that Catholics disagree on what techniques qualify as torture; the problem is deeper than that. What troubles us more than disagreement over techniques is that Catholics claiming the mantle of orthodoxy have embraced moral relativism in the name of national security. These Catholics may continue to oppose abortion, but their moral thinking, the very moral thinking they use to argue against abortion, has been perverted. If these Catholics are not think right morally, then their moral positions on paramount issues (such as abortion) are at grave risk of collapse.

  124. To my question. Torture=intrinsic evil, waterboarding=torture, waterboarding=intrinsic evil. True or false?

    Depends on what you want to include as waterboarding. If you want to count the simulated waterboarding that goes on at the SERE, then not all waterboarding is torture. If you want to restrict the term to actual waterboarding, then I would say waterboarding does equal torture.

  125. I don’t see how they are being moral relativists. They do not believe that waterboarding or loud music or sleep deprivation are intrinsically evil. How is this moral relativism?

    Is waterboarding intrinsically evil?

  126. So, waterboarding is not intrinsically evil?

    If the term is restricted to actual waterboarding, then it is intrinsically evil. If the term is used in a broader sense so it includes simulated waterboarding (e.g. what goes on at the SERE), then it is not.

  127. Btw, I would hope, Austin, that you would concede that ” loud music, extemes of heat and cold, etc.” could be torture, you just don’t thing they would constitute torture in all cases. If so, then we are agreed, and the question becomes whether the actual use of loud music, hot and cold, etc. were torture.

  128. Loud music etc as used by the US military or intelligence officials would not be torture, that is correct. If someone is put in a deepfreeze and allowed to die, yes that woudl be torture. Waht we are talking about here is what the US military does.

  129. In SERE training they only simulate waterboarding? Are you sure?

    Sure. The whole program is designed to teach solders how to respond if they are tortured by the enemy.

  130. In SERE training they only simulate waterboarding?

    Yes, a prisoner is different from a trainee. Treating “waterboarding” as a physical act alone is like treating sex as a physical act alone, making no distinction between a wife and a hooker. This is moral theology 101.

    Mind you, I’m not fully convinced that waterboarding in SERE training is definitely morally licit. But that it is fundamentally different from waterboarding a prisoner is obvious to everyone who doesn’t desperately want it not to be obvious. The trainee knows that it is a finite training exercise done by people with his own best interests in mind. He has an out, he knows it won’t go on forever if he doesn’t betray his principles, etc.

    So yes, they are manifestly, obviously, radically different things, even though those fundamental and clear differences don’t mean that SERE training is morally licit.

  131. So, waterboarding is not intrinsically evil. This is what I suspected since i know at least one person, a woman, who was waterboarded and she does not believe she was tortured by her own government.

    Abortion is a little different than this. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

  132. Gents,

    I am stepping out to take my little family to see the Mr. Fox movie. i will check in in a few hours…

    Best to all,

  133. Perhaps an analogy would make my point clear. Suppose the SERE training includes a unit on how to respond to interrogation, and as a part of this training solders are locked in a room and a guy comes in and starts asking them questions. The question then arises: are these solders being interrogated? I can see people taking both sides of this question. Someone might say that this isn’t really interrogation but only a simulation, while someone else might claim that it doesn’t matter whether the interrogator was really trying to get information out of the solder or not, it still counts as interrogation. What you can’t do, however, is say that what happens to the solder wasn’t interrogation, therefore what goes on in police departments isn’t interrogation. To make that argument you have to equivocated on the meaning of the word “interrogation.”

    Similarly, you seem to want to argue that because waterboarding in the broad sense (which includes simulated waterboarding like at the SERE) isn’t torture, therefore waterboarding in the narrow sense (which does not include simulated waterboarding) isn’t torture either. But that’s a faulty inference, as it requires one to equivocate on the term “waterboarding.”

  134. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

    But just what is produred abortion, anyway? Salpingectomy, anyone? With a little salpingosomy on the side?

    Really, Austin, you have years of Internet discussions to catch up on before you can even begin to discuss this intelligently.

  135. SERE trainees are really waterboarded. They are strapped down, cloth over their faces, adn water poured over their mouths and noses. This is wateboarding that is done to enemy combatants. It is not simulated. It is real. But, its not torture.

    Now let me go to the movies!

  136. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evi.

    Yes, and adultery is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil. And torture is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil. And [insert all manner of different things] …


    Look, we all get it that the Thiessen argument hinges on the notion that strapping a prisoner to a board and repeatedly making him feel all the sensations of drowning until he coughs up information is “not torture”. What many of us don’t get is why anyone would think that that is a sane, let alone plausible, argument.

  137. Abortion is a little different than this. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

    If one wanted, one could play the same sort of game with abortion that you wish to play with torture. For example, spontaneous abortions aren’t intrinsically evil. Are spontaneous abortions abortions? Says so right on the label. Therefore, abortion isn’t intrinsically evil.

    I don’t say this is a good argument. In fact it is a very bad one. But it is the same sort of argument as the one people make with regard to torture and the SERE.

  138. We can do it another way, and see how his view leads to the acceptance of abortion, BA.

    Since killing is allowed in various situations, killing itself can be said not to be an intrinsic evil. Abortion is killing. Therefore abortion is not intrinsically evil. That is the kind of argument he is making. He is jumping around in categories like that when pressed to deal with the issue.

    And we could change it into an issue of just war, and two people just having different points of view as to what a war is and when it is just. Thus, some women who abort their babies think the babies are an invader into their body. They believe they have a right to protect themselves from the foreign invader, one who poses a health risk to them and might kill them if not taken out. This leads them to think it is a just war to remove the invader they didn’t welcome into their body, and to do so in a preemptive strike before it can harm her and her body.

    In saying this, I am not saying I think such women are right. In fact, I think they are wrong. Just as I think many people who are flippant on the issue of just war and think because people can have differing opinions it means any opinion is fine.

    Austin has, in many places, already pointed out how war is not an intrinsic evil, and so one can’t use that to morally judge someone if they engage a war you don’t think is just. He says the mere fact we can have a disagreement means one can just treat is as an insignificant issue. This is exactly the same view the woman who aborts her child in a “defensive posture” thinks with her abortion. She is the one who has the authority to determine her own body and what takes place in it, no one else. She has the moral right to defend herself the same way a president has in determining when to proclaim war in defense of the state. So following this kind of reasoning, the woman can even say “yes, abortion is an intrinsic evil, but killing an invader isn’t. I’m not having an abortion, I am destroying an invader. The two acts are similar, but because I proclaim my body as a body at war, it changes everything” Of course, again, she would be wrong. But this is the kind of argument being seen here in regards to torture. Sophistry.

    Torture is an intrinsic evil. The Catholic Church has defined torture. The use of waterboarding for interrogation falls under the mantle of torture. That is intrinsically evil. But other ways of such torture being done is also intrinsically evil. Even if, in other circumstances, the actions done outside of the torture might be similar and not torture.

    This sophistry has been mentioned to him before, and I’ve told him he needed to respond to it. He never did. He avoided it. I expect he knew his equivocation and sophistry was revealed, and it is why he ignored it and tried to deal with other things, hoping ignoring it would lead to people forgetting he had been called. But he had been called, and he folded.

  139. Austin

    You forget many details. The soldiers have a way out to have it stopped. The prisoners do not know if the person do it will stop. The soldiers know they are being trained to do something and there will be limits. The prisoner does not. The soldier knows it is with his will. The prisoner knows it is against his will.

    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.

  140. The relativism, Austin, is found in the justifications for torture and coercion built on the premise that the government should keep us safe by any means necessary or that whatever the government does to keep us safe is rendered good. Such justifications treat the realm of national security as a place in which the moral law doesn’t apply or in which the ends of safety and security establish moral legitimacy. If there are realms in which the moral law does not apply, then there is no absolute moral law that applies in all times, places, and circumstances, and morality, then, is relative.

  141. The intent of waterboarding as a training exercise isn’t to coerce and undermine the will of the one waterboarded, but to train him to withstand such coercion. It doesn’t reduce the trainee to a mere puppet of the one who waterboards. As Zippy points out, this difference from waterboarding as a coercive and torturous interrogation technique doesn’t necessarily mean that it is morally licit, but it is clearly a different act, morally speaking. We can therefore say that the interrogation technique of waterboarding is intrinsically evil without necessarily signifying that waterboarding as a training exercise is also intrinsically evil.

  142. First, Henry, don’t waste your breath. After getting so abused by you at Vox Nausea, i wont even read your posts let alone respond to them.

    Kyle, Thiessen et al dont make the argument that it is alright to torture to make us safe. He/they say waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture.
    Blackadder, spontaneous abortions are not acts of man. Procured abortions are. Waterboarding is.

  143. Austin

    Yes, I didn’t bow before you; you deemed it an abuse I didn’t just fawn over the fact a “professional pro-lifer” was on Vox Nova telling me I was a coward and not a man.

  144. Now let me ask you this, gents. If the US military in its training pulled out the fingernails of its soldiers or hooked their testicles up to car batteries, would this be torture, even if its training?

  145. When I was a child we used to do Chinese Water Torture on each other. One of would lay down and the other would drop a single drop of water on the other’s forehead repeatedly. It was voluntary, harmless, and not terribly uncomfortable. But it didn’t really take very long before you got up because somehow that little drop of water did begin to make you rather uncomfortable. It didn’t take much imagination even then to realize that if someone who was hostile to you, manhandled you and tied you down to the floor and started a water drip over you for hours or even days that it would no doubt be torturous. Waterboarding is far more uncomfortable and dangerous than the above example, but the similarity still exists about the nature of voluntarily submitting to it for whatever motive vs. having it forced on you.

  146. Thiessen et al dont make the argument that it is alright to torture to make us safe. He/they say waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture.

    Thiessen says waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture because they make us safe. He’s a consequentialist.

    I don’t think anyone is looking to condemn him as a wicked man who knowingly advocates wicked means. He simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about, beginning with what it means for something to be “wrong” morally (and the less said about the hash he makes out of the principle of double effect, the better).

  147. Tomkay,
    Marc does not say what you say he says. He says waterboarding is acceptable becuase it is NOT torture.

  148. The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government — whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community — has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

    After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”

    Nielsen’s experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan’s military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

    Even John McCain, whom Austin fawned over looking for good relations with a guy he thought would be president, after fawning over Bush, said the same:

    “There should be little doubt from American history that we consider that as torture otherwise we wouldn’t have tried and convicted Japanese for doing that same thing to Americans,” McCain said during a news conference.

  149. Austin

    You ignore the definition of torture. If you look to the definition, you will get an answer. People have already answered it by dealing with what is necessary for torture. They have also said, even if something is not torture, it doesn’t make the non-torture actions right.

  150. Tomkay

    You punk.

    Marc does not say what you say he says. He says waterboarding is acceptable becuase it is NOT torture.

    And he says it’s not torture because it keeps us safe.

  151. No, Tomkay, he says it is not torture. He also says it keeps us safe but he says its morally licit in and of itself.

  152. Thiessen may not be among those Catholics who say we should defend ourselves by “any means necessary,” but such Catholics are not few in number. Among Thiessen’s specific moral errors is his fundamental misunderstanding of the principle of double effect and his use of his erroneous idea of it to justify coercion. Even if he were correct about the morality of coercive techniques – he isn’t – he is still, with the help of EWTN, propagating poor moral reasoning and a false presentation of Christian moral principles.

  153. In what way is this waterboarding different than waterboarding of enemy combatants? Be specific.

    From the Department of Justice ’Certain Techniques’ memo of May 10, 2005 at page 41, footnote 51:

    The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator…applies large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique is different from the used in SERE training because it is ‘for real’ and is more poignant and convincing.

    [The CIA’s Office of Medical Services] contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologists/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant.

  154. It is an error of moral thinking that leads to an error in moral judgment. Furthermore, Thiessen’s faulty use of double effect can be used to justify a number of grave evils, a consequence I wrote about at Vox Nova. Its danger spreads beyond the torture debate.

  155. Where did that memo come from?

    About it. The memo says that waterboarding is not torture. It does say that someone at CIA said SERE waterboarding was different than interrogation waterboarding. The memo quotes someone saying the differences were so vast as to be completely different but then goes on to say the differences were chiefly in the amount of water used and that the later was more “poignant”.

    It is an interesting memo and i wonder where it came from. But it does not really change the underlying assertion that we waterboarded our own troops, leaving open the question of whether we torture our own troops.

  156. The other thing that strikes me about this memo is how very careful was the Bush administration on this and other questions related to the War on Terror. They wanted to get things exactly right. A friend of mine who was high up in CIA and DOD, and a faithful Catholic and a Democrat to boot, said there will be books written about the intense and precise moral calculations the Bush administration undertook on all aspects of the Iraq war and the War on Terror.

  157. Precise moral calculations — just wrong calculations. From the get go, the war was unjust. And the war was waged unjustly. And continues to this day to bring America into shame with all kinds of evil being employed for that war. What you call moral calculations others call “excuses.”

  158. …there will be books written about the intense and precise moral calculations the Bush administration undertook on all aspects of the Iraq war and the War on Terror.

    And there will be no shortage of faithful Catholics to write forewords to all of them, explaining why the Pope, though a dear old fellow, just doesn’t quite understand how morality works during wartime.

  159. Tomkay,

    I am certain there will be faithful Catholics who will write these books. The truth of how the administration came to its conclusions and prosecuted the war are far more interesting than mere cartoons. One of the bottom lines is that these were profoundly morally serious people.

  160. Two days (and nearing 200 comments) later and we’re still going strong!

    Morning Minion replies:

    Despite Christopher’s assertion to the contrary, there is no real debate about whether waterboarding constitutes torture.

    Like it or not, I do think there is a ‘debate’. Various Catholic apologists and pundits believe waterboarding may very well not be torture, and not intrinsically evil. Austin Ruse in the comments marshals the same tactics and arguments employed by others over the course of nearly half a decade of Catholics exchanges on this topic.

    – waterboarding as visited by SERE upon our own troops, or upon the Al Qaeda prisoners during interrogation, was, well, qualitatively different from the ‘waterboarding’ used by the Japanese and the Gestapo during World War II; by French during the Algerian war; by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, or, for that matter, by U.S. troops during the Vietnam war and a Texas sheriff upon a prisoner in 1983 (the latter two cases resulting in a court martial and dishonerable discharge from the Army, and a 10 year prison sentence, respectively).

    – waterboarding was used with a different motive in mind than that which is condemned, say, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“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.”) The United States, to quote the protest of one Catholic apologist, was done “to extract vital information from, say, a captured and self-confessed Al Qaeda operative whose secret plans may be the required key for saving hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives from his next projected terrorist attack.” Consequently, the Catechism‘s “failure to condemn torture for obtaining “information” look like a deliberate decision on the part of church authorities, rather than a mere oversight or coincidence.”

    – waterboarding is defensible under “Just War” criteria — This position is taken by several Catholic pundits (Deal Hudson, Fr. Robert Sirico and most recently Mark Thiessen on EWTN). Last year, a prominent advisor in the Reagan administration and popular evangelical Christian Gary Bauer employed the ‘just war’ criteria in defense of waterboarding as well.

    I’m not necessarily stating the above arguments are persuasive and hold water — but they are used just the same.

    Perhaps in much the same manner as a good number of ‘pro-choice Catholics’ have received a public response and authoritative correction by the Catholic bishops (locally and/or collectively), these kind of instances constitute opportune “teaching moments” where our Bishops might render the same service and clarity to the issue of torture.

  161. For those who just can’t get enough of torture threads, and I confess to a certain “car crash” sort of joy in reading them, here is a good one I stumbled upon from last year by Ed Fesser at What’s Wrong With the World.

    My congratulations to my friend and colleague Christopher in posting on this topic. As always, he is one of the most fair minded bloggers on Saint Blog’s on this and all other issues.

  162. Perhaps in much the same manner as a good number of ‘pro-choice Catholics’ have received a public response and authoritative correction by the Catholic bishops (locally and/or collectively), these kind of instances constitute opportune “teaching moments” where our Bishops might render the same service and clarity to the issue of torture.

    You may be asking too much. For example, I’m not aware of the bishops ever speaking out at the level of granularity to say “suction aspiration of alive fetus is abortion, and abortion is intrinsically immoral, therefore suction aspiration of a live fetus is intrinsically immoral”. Expecting a similiar syllogism: “waterboarding a prisoner is torture, torture is intrinsically immoral, therefore waterboarding a prisoner is intrinsically immoral” — is I think unrealistic, and would be, as far as I know, unprecedented.

    The only people who would claim not to know that suction aspiration of a live fetus is abortion – and there have been people who have made the “blob of tissue” gambit many times, indeed there is at least one regular commenter at Vox Nova who still makes that gambit — are people who don’t want it to be the case that abortion is intrinsically immoral.

    Same with waterboarding prisoners. If the Bishops spoke on that level of granularity, these people would find ways to poke holes in the more-granular description — despite, as Mark Shea has tirelessly pointed out, the additional positive command to treat prisoners humanely, and six years worth of other reasons which have been given again, and again, and again.

    I mean, people who think the Bishops haven’t spoken are just flat wrong.

  163. You may be asking too much.

    Zippy — I was hoping for something along the same lines of when over two dozen bishops analyzed and corrected the very specific, ‘granular’ arguments of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden on abortion in 2008, when they claimed on ‘Meet The Press’ to embrace ‘the Catholic position’ on the matter.

    The case of Mark Thiessen on EWTN, in my mind, constitutes just such an opportune case.

  164. Much as I would like to see Marc Thiessen censured directly in public by his bishop, he just isn’t as important as the Speaker of the House and the Vice President, so I doubt we’ll see it. Though I hope I’m wrong.

    Who is Thiessen’s bishop? Loverde in Arlington?

  165. And finally, it happened to only three guys and yet it has taken up so much time and commentboxes (oh the humanity).

    I would say there are too many people with too little to do with their Ph.D.s or who should be spending blogging time on their dissertations.

  166. “It happened to only three guys,” and therefore it’s not important. Seriously, the issue of quantity in an issue of morality indicates Austin’s lack of moral integrity. Which is why my point on lying is straight on the point — and why he will not deal with it or many other challenges offered to his position.

    Secondly, has it only happened to three guys? Doubtful. Don’t confuse “we admit to it happening to three guys” (which of course was denied originally and so Austin could have said, for a time, happened to no one) to “that’s all there is.” And do not believe it is merely the CIA who engages such practice.

  167. Austin:

    Just so you know, I’m a forty-something self-made multimillionaire and a staunch pro-lifer. I donate not insignificant amounts of money every year to Catholic causes. And you’ve accommplished something that that joke Vox Nova could never have accomplished: you’ve put C-FAM on the list of charities which will never get a red cent from me unless there are some serious public sackcloth and ashes from you on this issue.

    I mean, what are you thinking? Whatever private opinions you might have, dying in a ditch defending torture – torture! – is, as the kids say, nucking futs.

    But thanks for the advice on how to spend my time.

  168. I’m seriously tempted to the belief that the “Austin Ruse” in these threads is a sock puppet who set out with the purpose of “proving” Vox Nova right. Hopefully someone who knows the real Austin Ruse can alert him to the sock puppet and have his organizations publicly repudiate this amazing little thread.

  169. Zippy,

    We have 15,000 individual small check donors and don’t have to rely upon the whims of self important “self-made millionaires.” In fact, i do my best to stay away from self important “self made millionaires.” I have found their money is very expensive.

  170. Christopher:

    For what it’s worth, a while ago (a year? two years?), I sent an email to my Archbishop Wuerl’s press secretary asking whether he might have something to say about torture (his own email is not public, and I didn’t take the trouble to send him a letter (though I might yet)). She replied to the effect that, unless and until he had something in particular to add, he would let the Bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace take the lead, and she included a link to the “Torture is a Moral Issue” study guide. This, along with the various statements made by the chairman of the IJ&P committee, clearly consider waterboarding to be torture.

    When this was pointed out on Coalition for Clarity, an anonymous commenter said the (former) chairman was a known leftist, and he, the commenter, wouldn’t believe it until Archbishop Chaput weighed in.

    Abp. Chaput, as you may know, does have a public email. When I emailed him, explained the circumstances, and asked if he had any comment to make, he replied that people outside his diocese shouldn’t look to him, but should ask their own bishops for guidance on this (which is consistent with my own understanding of the office of bishop).

    From my perspective, then, I would say I have been given sufficient guidance from my own bishop. Moreover, while I by no means have my finger on the pulse of the American bench of bishops, I don’t expect them to say anything further about torture any time soon, barring something a lot more significant than anything Marc Thiessen could say to Raymond Arroyo.

  171. Glad to see this was genteel. I think waterboarding has been dropped from all but Navy training. This because the argument was that troops were being taught to resist a given technique. However, most military branches discovered that no one was able to resist waterboarding even in the allegedly mild SERE form.

    The Navy still likes it. Who said Marines were tough?

  172. “Who said Marines were tough?”

    As an ex-Army guy, I can attest that all Marines I encountered in service were quite eloquent as to how tough they were.

  173. My research director, a woman (White House Fellow, Commander in the Navy-retired, former professor of strategic planning at the Naval War College, volunteer in India with Mother Theresa), was waterboarded for SERE training and has concluded waterboarding is not torture. FWIW.

    Donald, thanks for the humor…

  174. Only three guys were subjected to coercion/torture? Last I checked, we knew of at least 100 people who had died as a result of our government’s use of coercion/torture.

  175. FWIW

    “I went through X in training, therefore anything like X used repeatedly in a open-ended fashion on prisoners to break their will and get them to cough up information is not torture” has to go down as one of the dumbest arguments ever. And given the dumb arguments one sees every day, that is saying something.

  176. My brother had pepper spray sprayed in his eyes as a police trainee. Does that mean that repeatedly spraying pepper spray into the eyes of prisoners until their wills break and they sing like canaries is “not torture”?

  177. Kyle,

    This is an easy one. If interrogators went beyond the law into torture, that should be condemned and even prosecuted.

  178. I know many folks have suggested that the definition of torture is an unimportant inquiry, and I disagree. But I do agree with Zippy that the waterboarding conducted by US authorities under the Bush Administration constituted torture under any reasonable definition. While these acts were apparently quite limited and perhaps even understandable, they were nonetheless immoral. As I’ve suggested before, there may be some hypothetical situation where torture is morally defensible (if so, Catholic teaching would seem to need further development), but in my view such a hypothetical would need at minimum to involve (i) specific imminant harm (urgent action is necessary), (ii) harm that is directed toward innocents (i.e., civilians rather than combatants), (iii) harm that is more serious than that caused by the torture, (iv) belief to a moral certainty that the subject is both complicit in the harm to be avoided and has the requisite knowledge to stop it, and (v) a good faith belief that no other options are as likely to be effective. By all accounts some of these criteria were not satisfied. While I do not view deliberately harming the guilty to save innocent lives to be morally equivalent to killing the innocent in order to preserve quality of life, the fact remains that what the Bush Administration did was objectively evil, and Catholics should admit it.
    I realize that Zippy will almost certainly assert that my hypothetical is malignant in that it ignores Catholic teaching, and he may be right. I’m not a student of moral theology, and will accept Church teaching even if I don’t fully understand it. That said, I’m pretty sure that if confronted with a real world circumstance with an innocent life at stake, I would beat the living hell out of pyschopath if necessary to secure the information necessary to save the innocent. I fully admit that this does not make it right.

  179. Kyle,

    I would even say it is possible to torture using waterboarding and if someone did so, they should be called to account. It sounds as if, from the Washingotn Post story you site to, that the use of “large amounts of water” was beyond guidelines and the law. It sounds like from that story that the proscribed form of waterboarding was similar to what was described in SERE training.

  180. What if the law (including legal memos by the OLC) governing interrogation policy gave legal legitimacy to immoral and historically illegal interrogation techniques?

  181. Austin is once again falling for the error that what is legal is what is moral. But this once again undermines his position on abortion (if he really holds to it as he claims). For all the abortionist has to say is “my method is legal.”

  182. And finally, it happened to only three guys and yet it has taken up so much time and commentboxes (oh the humanity).

    I would say there are too many people with too little to do with their Ph.D.s or who should be spending blogging time on their dissertations.

    You seem to be spending quite a lot of time on it yourself. I guess you have nothing better to do?

  183. Austin,

    In the more than half a decade of discussion we’ve had on this subject, one of many, many proposals was that a distinction between torture and punishment is that torture is, as far as the victim knows, open ended: it may go on forever, as far as he knows, until he breaks down and betrays his friends. Even the death penalty does not have that characteristic: the suffering implied in the death penalty is necessarily limited.

    And as it happens, that characteristic is a clear distinction – one of many – between SERE simulated waterboarding and actual waterboarding.

    Just FYI. But as I mentioned upthread, you have more than half a decade of discussion to catch up on, and you do yourself and your organization as disservice by wading in as a torture-apologist newbie like this.

  184. Acutally I think “simulated waterboarding” is a euphamism. As pointed out above, all services save the Navy stopped it in training as no one could be trained to resist it even as applied in training. Waterboarding is just plain painful even in training.

  185. Blackadder

    It is sad to me that he thinks even one is acceptable, let alone three, let alone how many really have been abused which we do not know. The problem is that this matters because by rejecting the stand on torture, as he does, and treating it as unimportant, he provides the means by which all other intrinsic evils, including abortion, can be “justified” (put in quotes because they cannot be). And that is what I’ve shown through a few examples, how his reasoning can be used by the abortionist in one way or another -from the “just war” theory of the woman being invaded by the child, to the “legally justified” theory he just provided now.

  186. Blackadder,

    We have been snowed in. Plus, i can multi-task.


    That these things have been discussed before, for six years?!, doesn’t mean that they have been settled. Quite clearly they have not been settled.

    I join in this debate because i am disgusted by how this debate is being used by GOP haters and pro-life haters to drive a wedge in the pro-life movements. I entered in here with that point and i remain on that point.

    The waterboarding of three men does not amount to a hill of beans when compared to the death of 50 million unborn children. yet this is the proposition of the GOP/pro-life haters. They want folks to think it is OK to vote for the party of death because Bush waterboarded three guys.

    Would that all of this good energy been spent for six years (six years!) on the question of baby killing and in recent months how Obama is the most pro-death president we hvae ever had. I wish this energy was spent on something real.

  187. We have been snowed in. Plus, i can multi-task.

    And you think these qualities are somehow unique to yourself?

  188. It is why i am on here right now and not two weeks ago and likley not next week…but who knows…

    Meow? Woof!

  189. I join in this debate because i am disgusted by how this debate is being used by GOP haters and pro-life haters to drive a wedge in the pro-life movements. I entered in here with that point and i remain on that point.

    Well, first, the folks you’ve been arguing with in this thread aren’t GOP haters or pro-life haters. As I mentioned before I am a Republican and am very pro-life.

    Second, aside from a few stray comments you haven’t spent your time arguing that the discussion over waterboarding is a distraction. Instead you’ve spent hours defending waterboarding.

  190. I doesn’t mean that they have been settled.

    Of course not, any more than one could claim that the abortion debate is “settled”. That is, there will always be dissenting Catholics who prostitute their faith to their political ideology, so no moral issue with political implications ever becomes “settled”.

    But you just have no idea how clueless your posts sound: how completely, naively unaware of the most basic arguments operating in the domain. Marc Thiessen is just as bad in his book, worse if anything, as I posted on recently, just on a particular passage from his book.

    And seriously, people like you really can make this go away — by getting on the right side of the moral issue.

    I agree that torture is a wedge driving apart the pro-life movement: a wedge created and driven in by the Bush adminstration, and exploited by the likes of MM (he is medium-bright but hackishly unprincipled, wielding principle as if it were a partisan weapon; Karlson, on the other hand, seems as sincere as the day is long, but the combination of faux-intellectual airs with his modest intelligence is cringeworthy. Kyle I have nothing but good things to say about, despite our occasional disagreements. Not that anyone asked).

  191. Zippy,

    Now that’s the way to convince me! I am a naive prostitute dissenter and i am never going to get any of your money! After six years, this is your argument?
    More than 50% of American Catholics actually support torture and these are your arguments to convince them? Typical self made millionaire. Agree with me or I will not give you my money and i will call you names. Nicely done.

    We do agree about the Vox Nausea crowd though, Zippy, and I like that.

  192. Waht i think is driving the GOP/Pro-life haters at Dotcommonweal, America and Vox Nausea is precisely that, a hatred of all things conservative. What drives this debate among this crowd is something else. i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn. I suspect there is an aspect of boredom. We have been fighting the prolife fight for many many years. I have been doing it full time for 13 years. Boredom and frustration leads folks to new fights or new aspects of old fights. I think the personhood fight is an aspect of boredom and frustration. I do not know, but i suspect similar boredom adn frustration is driving this torture debate among good people.

  193. i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn.


    You seem to have missed or ignored my previous comment:

    I would say that, while waterboarding is probably the most prominent example of what has been termed ‘extreme interrogation’, the subject of ‘torture’ is not confined to such, nor are incidents of detainee abuse confined to those which occurred at Abu Ghraib. Incidents continue to occur in both Iraq and Afghanistan See for example Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan – “comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002.” [See also Glenn Greenwald’s post, as Kyle pointed out].

    Practices which we might think of as fairly innocuous when presented on paper — sleep deprivation, raising/lowering the temperature, “stress positions”, and other techniques of “softening up” detainees for interrogation — have contributed to such deaths. Not all of these incidents can be dismissed as violations of the system in place, either — rather, the impression I get is that the system currently in place cultivates, and encourages, the abuse.

    Your “I don’t know if it’s intrinsically evil but even if it was, we only did it to three people — so it doesn’t matter” schtick is getting old.

  194. I think the report above refers not to the CIA program that was approved by the Bush administration where waterboarding occured. I think it refers to command problems that encouraged rogue actions by military personel that resulted in abusive actions.

  195. If these charges are true, who defends the deliberate killing of detainees? Or torturing them to death? Who has done that? As far as i can tell, no one. So, that is not really part of the debate. The only thing that is open for debate is whether the approved methods of enhanced interrogation are torture. As far as i can tell, only three men have been waterboarded. This debate is about that, three men who were waterboarded. My schtick is my schtick and i am schticking to it.

  196. Reading the report also, it seems a number of individuals reached back to what they learned in SERE training even though it was not approved for these detainees.

  197. Waht i think is driving the GOP/Pro-life haters at Dotcommonweal, America and Vox Nausea is precisely that, a hatred of all things conservative. What drives this debate among this crowd is something else. i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn.

    If you think that the issue is a distraction then why spend so much time defending waterboarding? Why does the head of the American Life League feel the need to weigh in on the torture issue? Why does EWTN feel the need to have guests on to offer pro-waterboarding arguments? If you think the whole issue is a big distraction, then it seems to me those are the people you should be upset with.

  198. We feel the need because the torture debate is giving aid and comfort to the party of death.

    If you think the debate aids the party of death, why participate in the debate? Is this really such a hard point to grasp?

    The odd thing about these comments is that they’ve largely come after Bush left office. Waterboarding is no longer practiced by the U.S. government, and Bush isn’t on the ballot, so if there was ever a time to argue that the issue was moot and a distraction, it would be now. Yet instead of continuing to remain silent as they did when it was actually a live issue, for some reason a lot of Catholic groups have decided that now is the time to start actively defending the Bush era practices. It makes no sense.

  199. Actually, i should say, i cannot comment for Ewtn or for Judy Brown. as for myself, i have commented for the reasons previously stated.

  200. I think it is like mine, a reaction against folks, like you, who insist upon giving aid and comfort to the party of death by continuing to harp on a nonissue but one that divides prolifers.

  201. I think it is like mine, a reaction against folks, like you, who insist upon giving aid and comfort to the party of death by continuing to harp on a nonissue but one that divides prolifers.

    As long as you continue to think that, you are going to perpetuate and aggravate the division. I’ve never seen someone hand Vox Nova – Vox-freaking Nova! – such a heaping helping of credibility on a silver platter.

  202. Zippy,

    YOu are in league with Vox freakin Nausea in continuing this stupid argument. While this argument has been going on today there have been exactly zero waterboardings and roughly 2000 abortions.

  203. Kyle, he makes reference to the reports of the organization Human Rights First. Human Rights First offers a total of 141 individuals who have died while in captivity. Since their total includes 38 individuals who were killed when a stray mortar hit a detention facility, I do not think they are inclined to lowball their figures. Human Rights First contends that a minimum of eight individuals have died ‘as a result of torture’, not the minimum of 100 individuals claimed by this dubious fellow Greenwald.

  204. Reading Christopher’s link, it seems those things reported involved actual beatings and severe physical injuries as such. A number involved were disciplined though perhaps not to the degree that they should have been. But again these abuses seem different from what was approved in CIA interrogation. Not that it makes the CIA methods licit. Just that comparing the two seems faulty.

  205. YOu are in league with Vox freakin Nausea in continuing this stupid argument.

    I see. If someone argues with you they are aiding the forces of death, but if you argue with them that’s fine and dandy.

    Frankly, if anyone in this thread is damaging the pro-life cause it would be you, both by claiming defense of waterboarding as a pro-life issue and by the juvenile manner with which you have conducted yourself.

  206. The ‘we should be talking about something other than this’ line of argument is one of the least effective rhetorical ploys I’ve come across. Whether it’s the classic lament that “if we spent half as much time helping the poor as we do talking about abortion, the world would be a much better place,” or Mr. Ruse’s odd suggestion above that we should not talk about torture because it harms pro-life efforts, ‘be quiet about that, it’s not my pet issue’ is hardly an effective response.

    Torture and abortion are both abuses of the human person; Catholics should uphold the dignity of the human person on both issues. It is true that some people instrumentalize shared moral commitments for partisan purposes, such that torture is opposed not so much for its own sake but as a club to attack conservative Catholics, or abortion is condemned primarily as a means to attack liberal Catholics. Nevertheless, it is ridiculous to suggest that torture isn’t worth discussing at all simply because it’s not as bad as abortion, much less that to do so harms pro-life efforts; are we to be silent on every other matter of public policy save abortion?

  207. John Henry:

    There are troubles large and small in this world and someone is obligated to take responsiblity for each and every one.

    That having been said, you have the ambiguities involved in the question of how detainees are properly treated, you have a good deal of chaff obscuring your view (see the recent controversy over Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s) and questions about the credibility of various parties, and you have the scale of the problem to the extent it is a problem. On the other hand, you have the quantum of verbiage devoted and the vehemence of of the discussions, which have included the most atrocious personal attacks on various parties. It leads one to believe that whatever it appears people are discussing, they are truly discussing something else.

  208. It leads one to believe that whatever it appears people are discussing, they are truly discussing something else.

    Well, yes. If we were confident that the three people waterboarded would be the last people ever waterboarded, and we were leaving it behind, then harping on it would indeed be counterproductive.

    What I see myself doing is ensuring that it ends there. And that it doesn’t open the door to other evils — will pro-life advocates be considered dangerous to the country?

    It is bigger than the three people; it’s about what kind of country we want to be; what kind of people we are. Are we the type of people who abandon are principles at the first threat?

  209. Blackadder,

    Your post is beneath you. I dont mind if people argue with me. My point is that the torture debate is being used those who care more about it than the lives of unborn children. They use the torture debate as a subtext to convince people that it is better to vote for the non-torturers (the Dems) even though the Dems favor baby killing than for them to vote for the pro-life party, which is the GOP. Based on a recent post at Zippy in which he attempts to destroy my organization and several families who rely on my group for their livelihood, I am convinced that even on this side of the debate, torture trumps the babies and that those who disagree must be destoyed.

    I am sorry if i have been immature. I am not aware of having been, but in the comboxes, it is a strange place adn folks say things they do not mean and it is hard to convey true feelings and intentions here. Have I been sarcastic? I dont think anymore than anyone else. Anyway, if i have offended you, i apologize.

    Let me make several points i have made at Zippy’s hate site.

    1) I speak here as an individual and not as the president of C-FAM. C-FAM does not take a position on torture except insofar as we are faithful Catholics loyal to the Holy Father and the Magisterium in all things proper to them.

    2) I assert the debate over torture is being used by some, not all, to harm the pro-life movement.

    3) I assert the debate over torture is about very little since it involved only 3 people who were waterboarded.

    4) I have further questioned, not asserted, that waterboarding may not be torture. In fact, on this blog I demonstrated very convincingly that waterboarding is not intrinsically evil since the US does a form of it to our own troops as a part of training.

    4) I asserted that waterboarding could be torture under certain circumstances.

    5) I positively said i reject all forms of torture including waterboarding that is used as torture.

    If anyone needs me to be any clearer than this, let me konw.

  210. But there is talking past one another. There have been 100 deaths of detainees. This of an estimated 80,000 detainees since 2001. Of these 32 were ruled homicide. Of these many (though not all) were court martialed or dealt with otherwise. The deaths reported suffered injuries which were not approved methods.

    But this gets presented as a sign of rampant torture.

  211. And I’ve met thousands of women in my life that I’m not married to.

    And if I slept with one, it would be presented as a sign that I’m an adulterer.

  212. Phillip,

    I contend there is not real debate over these things. If they happened, that is, if people were killed because of interrogation, this is a violation of human rights and should be punished. I dont knwo that even Marc Thiessen says its ok to kill someone during interrogation.

  213. Let me rephrase that. The 32 homicides are against the moral order and should be punished. There is no evidence presented that these were approved of nor that they were the result of officially sanctioned interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques are torture are what some question. But the report linked doesn’t prove there is rampant, govt. sponsered torture.

    Just as JohnMcG having sex with someone not his wife doesn’t prove that the govt. is sanctioning adultery.

  214. Well this torture thread is going the way most torture threads I’ve seen on Catholic sites. Endless posts by a few people and no one being convinced to alter their position one iota. I think perhaps the sterility of the debate is at base caused by the fact that some Catholics view torture in the same category as abortion and some do not. I am in the do not category. I am against physical torture as I’ve repeated ad nauseum in this endless futile debate over the past five years. However, I do not view torture as intrinsically evil, although it may well be evil depending on the circumstances, and I view it as a minor social ill at present compared to the mass slaughter of legalized abortion. Therefore, I simply can’t get worked up about it. Ban it, allow it under certain circumstances, allow it only under extreme cirumstances, it matters little to me one way or another. Obviously it excites some people greatly, but I am not in that category. There! My remarks should spark at least another 50 comments, but I will not be among them. The torture threads make amusing reading if one is interested in observing posturing, hair-splitting, avoidance of the argument your interlocutor is making, etc. I think they are rarely good for anything else productive.

  215. I guess i am not follwing you Phillip. If detainees have died in custody and it is shown that it happened as a result of interrogation, then culpability must be assessed and the guilty should be punished. Again, i dont know anyone who would disagree with that.

  216. Maybe this will help make my point. Some bishops have been pedophiliacs. Therefore the Church approves of pedophilia.

  217. Austin,

    I’m going to try and explain this one more time, as simply as possible. If you think the torture debate is a distraction, then DON’T GET INVOLVED IN THE DEBATE. You think that the issue doesn’t justify voting for Democrats over the GOP? Great. So do I. Making that argument doesn’t require you to defend waterboarding or other practices on the merits. When you start to do that, you have to expect that people who are opposed to waterboarding are going to respond. To accuse them of not really being pro-life when they do so it utterly hypocritical. What do you expect, for people who consider waterboarding a violation of human dignity to just sit silently while Judy Brown or Marc Thiessen or you or whoever make whatever pro-waterboarding statements? You clearly aren’t willing to abide by that standard, and it’s ridiculous for you to expect others to do so.

  218. Since it is their interest and their duty to see that relations be normal between the members of a given group – a family, a school, a firm, a community, a social class, a city, a state – their constant temptation is to impose by the use of force such normal relations as bear the appearance of Peace. The ambiguous character of the social life which follows is torture and corruption for human spirits. A life of pretence is the atmosphere resulting sometimes from an inglorious victory, at other times from an irrational despotism, from a coercive repression, or from a balance of permanently opposing forces which are usually on the increase as they wait for a violent outburst which by devastation of every sort shows how false was the Peace imposed only by superiority of power and force.

  219. Did the bishops hire lawyers to investigate whether there was wiggle room in Canon law to allow sex with minors?

    Have prominent Catholics responded to recent news events by saying that the Church’s rejection of pedophilia is making the Church less safe? Are retired bishops criticizing current bishops for this?

    Has there been a best-selling book making the case for pedophilia that was uncritically promoted in Catholic media?

  220. John,

    You know I am not saying that. I’m merely saying that using the above cited report to state that what was reported was govt. policy is false.

  221. Blackadder,

    Idont know if anyonehere works for a prolife group. I do. As someone who does this work, I am telling you this prolonged debate about how the GOP are torturers gives aid and comfort to those who want to kill babies. I have come into this debate to warn you that this could result in yet more proabortion people being elected to Congress and anohter term for Obama. This is why i have entered into this discussion. i regret digressing from my main point into an exploration of waterboarding, though i think we all benefited from some of the points raised there.

    Lstly, i am not aware of saying anyone is not prolife based on being against waterboarding. If i did, i retract it.

  222. Austin

    We get it. “Elect the GOP!” That’s your point. GOP this. GOP that. GOP. GOP. GOP. That’s your concern. Everything is for the sake of the GOP, and you are willing to undermine morality for the sake of the GOP. Moral questions and issues are insignificant to you. People dying are insignificant to you. GOP winning is all that counts. And this seems to explain why you confuse the GOP with the Catholic Church; how else can Bush be called a Catholic by you?! If you reject the moral absolutes, and say morality doesn’t matter, then you are indeed following consequential relativism for the sake of the party. And people see it here. Rock on, Austin. Rock on. (How did you like working for that pro-abortion Rolling Stone magazine, btw?)

  223. Look Austin, it really doesn’t matter that there are people who use the Bush policy regarding waterboarding to justify support of pro-aborts and other policies that go against pro-life policies. They are objectively correct to condemn torture and want our country to not participate in it. It’s okay to agree with them even if you disagree with the gravity or importance relative to abortion and other life issues.

    Frankly, if it’s not the torture issue there will be something else they will use to justify supporting the a pro-abort candidate. Why fall into that trap? Why excuse a grave injustice just because your political opponents do? Why not use your support of conventionally pro-life candidates to lead him/her to a more thorough and consistant pro-life position? Don’t be the mirror image of those whom you’re finding fault with.

  224. I will just reiterate to everyone here. I will not respond to anything Henry Karlson says. He has a totally free shot to say anything at all. I will not respond to him.

  225. Idont know if anyonehere works for a prolife group.

    Several of the commenters here either currently work for a pro-life group or have in the past, including myself.

    As someone who does this work, I am telling you this prolonged debate about how the GOP are torturers gives aid and comfort to those who want to kill babies. I have come into this debate to warn you that this could result in yet more proabortion people being elected to Congress and anohter term for Obama.

    You said earlier that you know Marc Thiessen. Have you ever made similar warnings to him? Because I guarantee you that by writing his book Thiessen has prolonged the torture debate several orders of magnitude more than anyone on this thread. In fact, if Thiessen gone on EWTN to argue in favor of waterboarding this thread wouldn’t even exist.

  226. I’m sure Austin is smart enough to know, by stating what he just said, he did respond to me. But of course, the problem for him is he acts like a typical bully. When the taunts don’t work, he has nothing left. But I will warn people: if you don’t want him pestering you at home, tell him now before he thinks you are fair game too.

  227. … in which he attempts to destroy my organization and several families who rely on my group for their livelihood,

    Austin, I’ll make you a friendly offer right now. I disagree with your characterization of my post — all I did was link to information you posted publicly on the Internet, and recommend that people read it, so that they will be fully informed. But I’ll happily remove the post if you’ll back off, go have a coffee or beer or whatever favorite adult you prefer, and seriously reconsider what you are doing. I think pro-life leaders like yourself have a huge potential to do great harm or great good in how you approach this particular problem. I think you maybe jumped in with both feet when you ought to have been more careful, and that you were probably goaded into a lot of this by the Leftists and liars at Vox Nova. (I can’t judge the discussions over there because I don’t read them any more).

    But any way, if you’ll just commit to go re-think the issue, pray on it, and discuss it with your Bishop before speaking publicly on it again, I’ll be more than happy to take the post down.

    You know what — to Hell with it. As a gesture of good faith, I’ll go take it down now anyway. But please, please do what I asked. You really want to be on the side of the angels on this one, or the stink of Hell is going to infect the other things you do. And that would be a terrific shame, for all of us.

  228. And, i want you to know that is darn nice of you, Zippy. I appreciate it. I take it as an act of very good faith.

  229. I submit that to call the Democratic Party “the party of death” and the Republican Party “the pro-life party” causes far graver injury to the cause of life than to insist that the Bush Administration approved of torture.

    Can the pro-life movement really succeed only if people stop telling the truth? Are professional anti-abortionists really insisting that voters be kept ignorant lest they not vote Republican?

  230. Rick Lugari @ 5:07 PM – “Why excuse a grave injustice just because your political opponents do? Why not use your support of conventionally pro-life candidates to lead him/her to a more thorough and consistant pro-life position?” – Thank you.

    Donald McClarey / Philip — I freely concede and acknowledge that the ‘100 detainee deaths under U.S. custody’ merit close scrutiny, and likewise believe one should be skeptical of cases in which, for example, every one of those cases are attributed to torture and interrogation. At the same time I don’t think they can be dismissed wholesale, either, as some here are inclined to do. Here are some other attempts to break down the list in question:

    Deaths of Detainees in the Custody of US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan From 2002 to 2005 (12/05/06) [free signup to access required]

    Medical Investigations of Homicides of Prisoners of War in Iraq and Afghanistan (07/05/05) [free signup to access required]

    And Philip — just to clarify where I stand:

    I understand that not everything that occurred happened with the authoritative sanction from the top. (I stand corrected if I gave that impression). I don’t necessarily buy into the liberal “torture narrative” either (the proposition that the Bush administration deliberately conspired to commit torture and demanded the legal sanction to do so. I find it more plausible that many of these officials did not want to commit torture, and — when approached for help on this matter by those conducting the actual interrogations — were thus motivated to ascertain those techniques which they deemed were “within the lines”.

    I’m not necessarily convinced they succeeded in doing so, but I believe they had honorable motives and did so in good faith.

    But — reading over the vast body of accounts and memos related to “enhanced interrogation” and detainee abuse, my sense is that even the lesser of the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques — “environmental manipulation”; “sleep deprivation/adjustment”; “stress positions”; “20-hour interrogations”, “controlled fear” — that were signed off and formally approved of, were a contributing factor. Moreover, that our present methods of implementing this incarceration and interrogation is grossly dysfunctional. (See “No Blood, No Foul”: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq. On paper it sounds as if such ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques were tightly regulated so as to prohibit any abuse; that such abuse would be easily recognized and quickly addressed — enough that our former President could say with a straight face and perhaps believe it himself: “we don’t torture.”
    When in reality, at least according to one soldier’s testimony:

    … And within a couple hours a team of two JAG officers, JAG lawyers, came and gave us a couple hours slide show on why this is necessary, why this is legal, they’re enemy combatants, they’re not POWs, and so we can do all this stuff to them and so forth. Yeah, they came the very same day. . . .Oh, it was very fast. We [laughing] it was like they were ready. I mean they had this two hour slide show all prepared, and they came in and gave it to us and they stopped interrogations for it. It was a PowerPoint. It was on a computer laptop. . . .

    Some of the slides were about the laws of war, the Geneva Convention, but it was kind of a starting-off point for them to kind of spout off, you know: why we don’t have to follow these Geneva Convention articles and so forth. Like, you know, inhumane and degrading treatment, well, this specifically relates to POWs, so we don’t have to do this. So basically, we can do inhumane and degrading treatment.

    And then they went on to the actual treatment itself, what we were doing, what we’d signed off on and those types of things: cold water and nudity, strobe lights, loud music-that’s not inhumane because they’re able to rebound from it. And they claim no lasting mental effects or physical marks or anything, or permanent damage of any kind, so it’s not inhumane. And then there was also [discussion about] degrading [treatment]. Like what’s more degrading than being thrown completely naked in the middle of a mud pile, with everybody looking at you and spraying water on you. . . .

    So while much of this is morally questionable, I agree with Philip that we have to rightly distinguish between those techniques which were “lawfully sanctioned” and signed off on by the Bush administration at the time (which may, nonetheless be gravely immoral and tantamount to torture); and other immoral abuses which occurred as a result of on-the-spot decisions by the parties themselves, not formally approved from the top.

    Donald / Austin

    Overall, it is disconcerting to me — as a self-identified ‘Catholic-conservative’ blogger since 2002 — that the predominant sources I have to turn to for investigations and reporting on this subject are leading liberal periodicals (New Yorker, New York Times, Mother Jones) or organizations (ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First). I’m well aware of the liberal bias that is present, and am mindful to read with a critical eye. I very much resent the fact that it’s chiefly liberals who are raising a storm over this — and that some seem to shrug it off with the “we only waterboarded 3 guys years ago, so what does it ultimately matter? it’s only a distraction and will ultimately prevent us from electing another Republican” attitude.

    This kind of behavior puts pro-lifers in a sorry light and simply gives ready ammunition to Vox Nova‘s stereotype of the hypocritical conservative.

    * * *

    Austin Ruse asserts: “If detainees have died in custody and it is shown that it happened as a result of interrogation, then culpability must be assessed and the guilty should be punished.”

    Well, yes. I think it can be said that everyone desires thus. But it is one thing to assert this, and another to read over the reporting on these incidents and to find just how rarely justice is actually achieved.

    Here are some resources that may help evaluate “enhanced interrogation” — again, with the disclaimer that these are typically understood to be ‘liberal’ sources. We have to read critically, but we can’t wantonly dismiss for that reason either.

    Documents Released Under FOIA relating to the treatment of prisoners in detention centers overseas. (A project of the ACLU).

    ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody International Committee of the Red Cross, Regional Delegation for United States and Canada, February 14, 2007

    The Torture Archive is an ongoing project of the National Security Archive, is assembling at a single location documents from wide-ranging sources on United States government policy toward rendition, detainees, interrogation, and torture. (In light of the criticisms of liberal bias that accompanies various portrayals of the cases, it may help here to refer to the primary documents).

    Torturing Democracy – A project of the National Security Archive.

    The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Meyer. Yes, it’s by a journalist for The New Yorker; but it is to date one of the best researched accounts of how we got to where we are today.

    Lastly, I would be less concerned about the fact that all of his happened “years ago”, and we shouldn’t have to worry about it (much less talk about it), if a Catholic author like Mark Thiessen wasn’t making the television talk-show circuit (both secular and religious), peddling his book lamenting the fact that waterboarding is now prohibited and the Obama administration had done away with the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program — and Catholics were still engaged in open debate on this topic as they have been for half a decade, both sides echoing by-now-familiar arguments.

    Indeed, the comments on this post validate my desire for some authoritative interjection on the part of the Bishops. (Not that I expect it will happen anytime soon).

    Thanks for your participation and commentary on this thread.

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