Torture Debate Golden Oldies

9-11 jumpers

With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, which does its mendacious best to blame the CIA for enhanced interrogation methods (torture) while giving Senate Democrats the Sergeant Schultz defense, I know nothing, nothing!, Mark Shea has decided to climb Mount Sinai again and damn every one who disagreed with him as to the inherent evil of torture:

Now that the Torture Report is out and we are discovering that the lies we listened to for so long (We only waterboarded three high value targets! We had to do it to save lives!  Valuable intel!  Are you telling me that some filthy terrorist is more important than an unborn baby in your sick twisted liberal mind?) are all exposed as appalling lies, it’s important to do an examination of conscience.  Why?  Because we Catholics consistently supported torture in larger percentages then the average American population.  And the more we self-described as “faithful conservative” and “prolife” the more likely we were to do so.  God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us. (Romans 2:24)

The ugly fact is that in our fear and rage, we became the thing we hate.

Go here to read the rest.  The comments are a hoot:

Mark Shea, do Catholics that respond to your articles ~really support torture? Where is the link to the ‘Torture Report’ as released by Senator Feinstein? There is a long list of events in your article that appear to be torture. – Are they all in the Feinstein report?

…The force feeding, of the prisoners through their anus, is referred to as torture. Does the Catholic Church, consider keeping someone alive, by force feeding, – torture? I read where the villains were refusing to eat and drink. Do Catholics approve of inaction, when someone is attempting suicide?

…Waterboarding has been used by members of the Catholic Church. It’s part of the historical record of the Spanish Inquisition. Is there a specific teaching about “The use of ~Waterboarding” as preformed by members of the Catholic Church, when they claimed to be acting on behalf of God, during an inquisition?
…Participating in Torture, through ‘thoughts, words, deeds, and inaction’ is objectively speaking, – a mortal sin.
…We as Catholics need to pray for the souls of the people that are involved in torture. ~Jesus Christ was tortured before he was crucified, which was a prolonged death of torture. As Catholics, we need to stop torturing Jesus Christ with our sins.


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    Yes. In fact, you support torture by lying that ramming food up a man’s ass is a life-saving measure and not torture. Enough of your bullshit. You are gone. Repent.

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      “ramming food up a man’s ass” Correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding is that Rectal Hydration was used on prisoners on hunger strikes.The method involved injecting fluid into the large intestine.In addition they included Ensure and pureed hummus,pasta and sauce, raisons and nuts. The key word being pureed.While I’m sure that Rectal Hydration is humiliating I doubt that is painful and therefore does not qualify as torture. Your quote at the top was a misrepresentation of what went on.If you’re going to fling accusations left and right you might want to be accurate in your depiction of events.


        1. The rectum isn’t great at absorbing nutrients. There’s a reason the rectum is the rectum, and not the mouth or the stomach.

        2. If it’s not painful, and it’s a way to get nutrients, why don’t you shove some hummus up your butt? You’re not going to do that because you do actually know that that’s not where food goes, and you’re just making stuff up to justify the CIA’s actions.

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          Large intestine not rectum.You also missed the word pureed.Nobody was shoving hummus up anyone’s butt.If you have to misrepresent what went on to make your point,maybe you don’t have a point.


            Fine, if it’s sooo painless and such a good way to get nutrients, shove pureed hummus all the way up your butt to the large intestine.

And the dialogue of the deaf continues for 319 comments.  To Shea of course torture has become the Original Sin and only truly evil people would ever advocate it.  However, the problem with this analysis is that being against torture in all circumstances is very much a product of the late 20th century.  Torture has been utilized by all civilizations since human history began.  It has frequently been condemned, and just as frequently resorted to.  The Church for over a thousand years utilized torture in judicial proceedings, the Popes as rulers of the Papal States having both official executioners and torturers. The US has been anomalous in usually banning torture by statute, although even here informal police beating of suspects during interrogation, known as “the third degree”, was not uncommon until the Sixties.

The sudden discovery in the pontificate of John Paul II that torture was intrinsically evil would have struck almost all of his predecessors as an absurdity.

We are all children of our times.  Since World War II there has been a great revulsion against the use of torture in the West, unless the torture is applied as a consequence of abortion.  I think this has largely come about due to a desire by most people in the West to pretend that history has stopped and we have turned the page on torture, war and capital punishment, unless an unborn child is under a death sentence called abortion.  Needless to say, this is a delusion, as events like 9-11 amply demonstrate.  When we feel under threat, torture of our enemies who wish to slay us and our kids doesn’t sound so bad.  When danger passes, back to the moral soapbox.

Of course even without physical torture being considered intrinsically evil, the application of physical torture in particular circumstances would frequently be evil. Additionally there are a whole host of prudential reasons to view the utility of physical torture skeptically. For example, while physical torture has elicited truthful information, there is also no denying that most people will say anything, true or false, to stop being tortured.

I personally draw the line at physical torture including water-boarding.   On the other hand I have no problem with psychological manipulation, sleeplessness, white noise and other non-physical means of coercion in order to get terrorists to talk.  However, to pretend that physical torture is some manifest evil on a par with abortion, is to reveal a shocking level of historical amnesia and to display the peculiar moral blindness of our times that is unable to make the most elementary of distinctions, say between an unborn child and a terrorist, that prior ages made with ease.

More to explorer


  1. Shea like many converts feels that all Papal moral dicta are infallible but that is contradicted by the Intro to Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, last par. of section 8 which says the ordinary papal magisterium is not irrevocable on morals.  
    Shea’s source for torture being intrinsically evil is “Splendor of the Truth” by St. John Paul II which in the same section 80 stated that slavery was an intrinic evil which is impossible because God affirmed it for the Jews over non Jews in a perpetual form in Leviticus 25:45.  Section 80 further states that deportation is an intrinsic evil which is deficient as a principle in that all men know it must have many qualifiers and thus Pope Benedict did not denounce Italy for deporting two muslim students back to North Africa who had planned on killing Benedict.
    Popes cannot rightly call intrinsic evil any action that had repeated support in Scripture….and coercion by fear of pain was used by Christ against the money changers and elsewhere…

    Proverbs 10:13
    Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

    Proverbs 19:29
    Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

    Proverbs 20:30 (nab)
    Evil is cleansed away by bloody lashes,
    and a scourging to the inmost being.

    ” He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area…”

    Torture could use pain rather than damage but must have several layers of government involved.  Drill into my teeth roots without anesthesia and I’ll watch three interviews by Piers Morgan and applaud him.

  2. *shrug* I ignore anybody that needs to lie to make their case. Especially if, when shown that something they’ve built a case off of isn’t so, they claim it wasn’t that important. (Thinking about all the times folks have said “X is torture, because it’s just like Y historical torture.” When given a from-the-time description of Y, and it’s shown that they’re at best slightly similar and function totally differently, the subject suddenly becomes something else.)

    Ugh. Just tiring.

  3. . Torture is usually defined in international law as:
    Yeah, Shea has his knickers all knotted about this like he did a few years back, but I’m not buying it now any more than I did then. He never wants to define terms, because he fears that a proper understanding of what torture *is* might pull the rug from under his histrionics.
    In international law, torture is defined as:

    any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a pu official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

    The Catholic Church has signed on to this definition when it became a signatory to the UN Convention on Torture, which adopts this definition.
    None of the enhanced methods used by the US inflict “severe” pain or suffering. At worst, they inflict a lot of discomfort and unpleasantness. But if the pain or suffering was “severe” I can’t imagine that our military would train by being subjected to these methods.
    Shea and others wringing their hands are just coddled moderns whose idea of severe pain apparently includes being made to stand up for a long time. Please.

  4. According to the report, sleep deprivation could last up to 100+ hours. You are saying that keeping someone awake (not clear if this also included “standing” for that long) for nearly five days straight is not severe? At what point, if any, would it be severe? You do understand the body requires sleep cycles to repair tissue damage and remove toxic waste, and lost sleep is not something that can really be made up for later? And, frankly, I don’t get the logic of “if we train for it then it can’t be severe”. If it was not severe, why would you need to train for it? You should just be able to handle it without training.

  5. And, frankly, I don’t get the logic of “if we train for it then it can’t be severe”. If it was not severe, why would you need to train for it? You should just be able to handle it without training.

    So… training is torture? I guess we should give up on training soldier or anybody else because then the nation is endorsing torture.

  6. William P Walsh,
    Yes….I often think the same thing…but maybe Christ was being hyperbolic:

    Luke 12:47New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

    47 “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely”.

  7. C matt, you might get a better result if your response didn’t involve dropping rather important words out of what you’re responding to; either you didn’t read it the first time, or you’re not willing to listen to what’s said– and in either case, it’s counter-productive to respond to your objections.

  8. There are several schools where you stay awake for 5 days, actually doing things. Heck, it’s not unheard of for people to party for days straight.

    Yeah, sleep deprivation sucks. Massively.
    “It sucks” does not equal “torture.”
    Neither does “it’s not healthy,” or “in some situations, can cause death.” (Peanut butter sandwiches can cause death in some situations.)

  9. Why do we believe ANYTHING that a report issued by liberal progressive Democrats says? They murder unborn babies. They sanctify the most heinous of immoral sexual behaviors as marriage. They steal from the public treasury. They restrict access to health care. They constrict the supply of available energy. The stupidify public education. Why put ANY faith in ANYTHING they say? Or is it perhaps that, since they torture and murder unborn babies, they truly know something about the subject of torture?

  10. Same way that my support of the validly Catholic meaning of Social Justice doesn’t require me to agree with the publicly used version of the term which means something entirely different (and generally antithetical) , the redefinition of “torture” does not magically change what I must think. Equivocation is a fallacy for a reason.

  11. At the risk of appearing callous, cruel, obstinate etc., I’ve always thought that our public policy position vis-a-vis, enhanced interrogation, torture, etc. ought to be twofold: 1) We will do whatever is necessary to protect the the lives and property of the citizens of the United States and our allies around the world. 2) The United States does not torture.

  12. I’m sorry that everyone is being legalistic and getting all yawny about this. Because the Democrats support abortion, they MUST be lying in this report? And we’re saying that the horrors described here were no different than Jesus and the moneychangers, and no different than what interrogators of the Catholic Church have historically done? Then I want to run screaming from Church.
    I read those comments which our host called “a hoot” and found most of them spot on
    This entire charade of calling these acts of torture by the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” shows what lengths people go to to hide what they do. That CIA officers, CAREER CIA officers, resigned is a huge tell. My gosh. Go to confession. I am unsubscribing immediately. If our host reacts like this to THIS, then I’m not interested in anything he has to say. And no, I’m not a convert. I’m a “conservative” (whatever that means anymore) and a cradle Catholic.

  13. “If our host reacts like this to THIS, then I’m not interested in anything he has to say. And no, I’m not a convert. I’m a “conservative” (whatever that means anymore) and a cradle Catholic.”

    We will soldier on somehow without you Pauline and your invaluable, one, count ’em, one comment.

  14. Did Pauline ever bother to read the minority report from the Republicans to which I posted a link above? Or did she just focus on the majority report by the baby-murdering, perversion-sanctifying Democrats because that report just happened to appeal to her world vision?

  15. Pauline1960,
    Bring the issue to your home rather than to the terrorism level. Imagine if you had a five year old son who was kidnapped by a sex pervert who was soon captured but your boy was still missing. I would want police to find out where is my boy. The pervert though refuses to say where your boy is but only that he is still alive but under some leaves in black bear territory. He then taunts the police and wants immunity for the location. I think the police should rip back one fingernail slowly and promise him all fingers and toes will be done until he tells where the boy is. Hence my citing of the old testament passages. Shea in rural Washington is far from NY harbor where I live and where close to 4000 people were slaughtered….and no such thing will happen in rural Washington. But Shea has a granddaughter and if she were kidnapped, Mark might very well convert to old testament realism if the captured sicko was hiding where his granddaughter was laying beneath leaves in black bear territory. Mark would be faced with admitting that it is the bible that is inerrant not the catechism which was written by men…none of whom for fifty years were heroes in the protection of Catholic boys from predators. I don’t go for critical security advice to those who have just failed in public at security….for half a century.

  16. pauline1960 on Saturday, December 13, A.D. 2014 at 7:59am (Edit)
    I’m sorry that everyone is being legalistic and getting all yawny about this. Because the Democrats support abortion, they MUST be lying in this report?

    You seem to have completely misunderstood the post, to the point of drawing an incoherent and unsupported conclusion about the logic involved.

    This entire charade of calling these acts of torture by the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” shows what lengths people go to to hide what they do.

    Circular logic to support an accusation of lying with no other support– both irrational and objectively something Catholics aren’t supposed to do.
    You are trying to skip the actual discussion, about if uncomfortable rooms and startling people amount to torture, and not only assume that they do but that those you disagree with AGREE that they do, and are trying to hide that via an euphemism. In the case of calling a developing human the “products of conception,” that is supported; in the case of calling unusual interrogation of suspects designed specifically to avoid harming them or even inflicting great pain, it is not supported.

  17. Bill B-
    I believe Shea’s billed as being in Seattle these days, same as me; although he is from Everett, and may still live there, I am unsure because it is NOT rural. I have a friend that lives in northern Tacoma who just says “Seattle,” and is in keeping with normal use.

    I disagree about the fingernails, but wouldn’t blink at using the actual techniques of enhanced interrogation.

    Dragging the abuse scandal in is cheap, irrelevant and a slander on those who compiled the CCC.

  18. “Imagine if you had a five year old son who was kidnapped by a sex pervert”

    The operative word here is “imagine”. A lot of the attempts to defend torture in the comboxes are rooted in imagination of a possible future or speculative scenario, rather than in actual experience. However, I would guess that 99.9 percent of the people commenting will never find themselves in a position where that scenario will become reality. In that sense, all their feelings, speculations, etc. about when torture is or is not justified are, ultimately, imaginary and will have little or no effect in the real world.

    Now, I’m not saying that the issue itself is imaginary or that it is of concern only to people who are directly involved (members of the military, CIA, Congress, etc.) Nor am I saying that the “what if” scenarios are of no value to those who have a bona fide duty to protect the public against future dangers (e.g. military, police, emergency responders).

    What I am saying is that when real people in the here and now are treating one another with contempt, calumny and rash judgement in the name of justice and compassion toward people they have never met, over events that happened many years ago and about which they know nothing other than what they have read in the media, something is wrong with this picture.

  19. Of course it could be more relevant.
    It could have the slightest thing to do with US policy, the definition of torture, or the exact definition and validity of that definition held by those who wrote the CCC.
    As it does not….

  20. Firstly I never commented on the US case at all and the moderator obviously thought my posts on torture in general…were indirectly relevant and he, not you, is the moderator here at this site.
    Well, let’s look at the Catechism definition of torture and see if it shares an underlying connection to the universal over softness by all magisterial clergy that was applied to clergy sex abusers for fifty years :
    ccc #2297… ” 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.”
    Not simply “permanently damaging physical violence” ( my theoretical definition for me) but all physical violence to frighten opponents is ruled out. As stated, it is radically permissive in favor of the criminal or terrorist which is exactly what happened with almost each sex abuser who were coddled in therapy rather than sent to jail including under the 1980 Archbishop Ratzinger in the case of Peter H. who offended again after Munich accepted him for therapy knowing that he had abused four young boys…but he abused again and was given parish assignment two weeks after the acceptance decision. If the subsequent victim were your son, I believe you would be enraged for years regardless of how you write in public now as a non victim of that case.
    That ccc #2297 makes Christ guilty of torture because it does not quantify physical violence in gradations …so it implies all. Christ used physical violence to ” frighten opponents”. It’s radical …ccc #2297 …because that’s what over simplifying does.
    So is Pope Benedict’s denouncing of Biblical massacres or herem as sins in Verbum Domini 42 radical also and so is his assertion there that “the prophets…challenged…all forms of violence..individual and communal”. They didn’t because God’s covenant promised them victory in battle if they obeyed his law in Leviticus 26:7…not to mention Elijah killing 552 idol worshippers and Samuel killing Agag etc ad infinitum. So there is an “almost pacifism” at the top of the Church that issues from a culture which also put children in jeopardy rather than punish evil doers with severity.

    The Church is responsible for what it actually writes…it doesn’t get credit for the makeup men from the apologetics world zooming in and telling us what was really meant.
    According to ccc #2297 as written, nothing can be done to the kidnapper who won’t tell us
    where the child is in bear territory….nothing even moral. Because all physical violence and all moral violence are ruled out, the cops can’t even pretend that they are going to remove his fingernails.

  21. Who is a moderator at this site has nothing to do with if your claim is relevant; yet another attempt to change the topic?
    It says “(dictionary definition: the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure) 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.”
    If it meant “all infliction of anything 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” then it would not have specified “torture.”

    Thus, the argument that you built by assuming they were defining torture is thus just as invalid as the ad hominem and unsupported claim about failure to do anything about child molestation.

    (EDIT to add a dropped word)

  22. . And a makeup person appears on cue and leaves multiple other points unaddressed. On the house shopping, ask how old the furnace is because replacing one including installation is $5800 and up but varying with size of house and quality level. If the furnace is twenty years old, it could be another bill unforeseen….watch age of such things. Water heaters last about ten years I think….they are roughly 1 K.

  23. And you know you re implying logically that the Church permits non violent, non fearful torture…..and that would be????…..Dean Martin reruns?

  24. I did not imply they were permitting any sort of torture. The passage is clearly saying that torture is not permitted.
    I pointed out that your reading that they were defining torture (rather than explaining why “the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure” is wrong) is incorrect.
    Given the other things accounted as “torture” in the report, Dean Martin reruns are probably a big risk due to insufficient cultural sensitivity.
    We have a Realtor with a good reputation, who has a go-to inspector, and we’ve also got all the VA rules making things difficult but at the same time protecting us from silly mistakes. It’s just a rather big leap.

  25. God be with ya….interest rates will rise late 2015 according to some in the stock market. This the sweet spot in that respect….and fuel prices will be down for awhile

  26. Shea should be writing for Mother Jones or The Nation. I wouldn’t mind his left-wing feaver swamp ranting so much if he didn’t then insist that if you didn’t agree wiith him on waterboarding then you have no moral basis for condemning Gosnell. If he represents mainstream Catholic moral thought, we are in deep trouble.

  27. Mark should be making a nice Christmas bonus from the looks of his site.

    BTW, here’s one of my favorite exchanges there. Reflects the lack of concern for the truth. Now I thought that was a Christian virtue:

    ” haven’t read the report. This from someone who has read some of it. (For whatever that’s worth.)
    • Reply•Share ›
    Rob B. Paul • 3 days ago
    I don’t want to post there, so I’ll post here.

    “Welcome to the Republican Party. Please be sure to check your God-given conscience at the door…”
    7 • Reply•Share ›
    Paul Rob B. • 2 days ago
    First, I am not a Republican.
    Second, my point is, that we need to look at the facts first before condemning. Wrongs were done, but I don’t think to the extent that Mark claims. This in turn might tone down the rhetoric.
    Bu perhaps my counter in keeping with your comment is “Welcome to Christianity, check you are arguing from the truth when entering the door.”

  28. Tito,
    You are correct. The man’s forte is a certain type of biblical commentary ( not all types ) but apparently it does not bring in enough income. I found one of his biblical commentaries to be top shelf. I find his controversies for click sake…to be a shrewd Irish jig in the pub which gets coins in the hat. Yet his real talent is way above that.

  29. Bill, I suspect the reason why his commentaries don’t bring in the moolah is that intelligent people see through the real Mark Shea (the pushy, arrogant, foul mouth, harassing bully) and don’t want anything to do with him. So, he has to appeal to the low IQ, low information types that dote on his every word at CAEI and other media outlets. And Bill, he doesn’t do a jig at an Irish pub for “coins in a hat”. He does the semi-annual Tin Cup Rattle. A jig in a pub would be more dignified than the shameless begging he does for extra money. At least he would be providing a service with a jig!

  30. Stephen,
    I’m pretty sure the Patheos Catholic bloggers get paid per click weekly…ergo Shea does not move on away from certain click getting topics like torture and lying

  31. I know about the pay per click Bill, but a large part of his income is from those shameless tin cup rattles too.

  32. Well, speaking of reading what is written, Foxfire, where did I say “or in some situations, it can cause death”? Frankly, I don’t know if it can or can’t, but I never wrote that.

  33. Still not showing an inclination to read what is actually there, C Matt; not only did I not claim you’d said it– rather obviously, I was offering some other possible metrics that people have applied to decide something is torture– but it was not even in the same post as the one where I was responding to you in as much as your argument, built on dropping a vital aspect of someone else’s comment, could be responded to.

    The post that you took to being a response to you was pointing out major issues with redefining torture.

    I guess I should have pointed out that equivocation is a fallacy a few more times.

  34. I expected this from Mark, but Simcha Fisher also wrote a column citing the Catechisms reasoning on torture. I’m a baby boomer and it seems that neither Mark or Simcha recall the brutal torture of our POWs in Bataan, North Korea or Vietnam. They have a right to their views, but again this report us hypocrisy as again abortion torture is ignored, and thus has been going on for a long time. To publicize this report now is hypocritical as it is a product of the Democratic Party. Diane Feinstein should recall the party’s platform in the last presidential election. It not only allowed but praised abortion, and many people in this party even endorse late term abortion, and if that’s not torture what is? Furthermore, the report is focused on events after 9/11. I wonder what mental torture these families are going through. Not a wod about that either.

  35. The principle of ends not justifying means is essential. The problem seems to be the definition of torture. I imagine that to reside somewhere between the naughty chair and the rack.

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