The Catholic members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the Office of International Justice and Peace of the USCCB have jointly produced a Catholic study guide on torture in PDF format called Torture is a moral issue. [Via Christopher at Catholics in the Public Square]
I do like the idea of a study guide format which has some strengths and might be a good format for some future documents. Though while I am glad they have addressed this important topic, I think they could have done it better.
It is a little too touchy-feely when presenting and asking questions such as asking you feel about something. For example: “Do you find it surprising or confusing that Pope John Paul II spoke about finding the face of Christ in every human face?” I don’t know about you but I find this neither surprising or confusing since it is part of the Gospel and has been constantly said throughout the history of the Church. “Whatever you do to the least of me, you do to me.” – is not exactly a secret.
I also found it odd that the United Nations and the Red Cross are referenced more than Church documents addressing torture. Much of the development of doctrine on torture is fairly recent and so you would think they would quote from Gaudium et Spes since it is one of the most important Magisterial statements on torture. They do quote from Gaudium et spes using a paragraph not as germane. The following is what they should have referenced:
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.
At least they correctly referenced Veritatis Splendor where it lists “physical and mental torture” as being intrinsically evil.
I also can’t say I was much impressed by the people they chose to quote in the document. People such as same-sex marriage defender Father Bryan Massingale. Surely their are some orthodox moral theologians they can quote from on the subject?
There are positives though such as starting directly on the question of the dignity of the human person. Yet even though in the summary of this section they write “The end does not justify the means” they never actually addressed this important aspect which really is what all torture apologists effectively deny. The section on loving our enemies is fairly good and is certainly a part of the dialogue about torture. I am reminded of St. Paul writing in the Book of Romans.
No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Those who justify torture get it backwards and want to eliminate the middle man of doing good and go straight to pouring burning coals on their heads.
This document is like most that come out of the USCCB in that they really need to be edited down since they become so muddled. Clear teaching on why torture is always in every circumstance intrinsically evil gets diffused when the document concentrates more on 9/11 and the war on terror than focusing on torture. Clarity is needed to help those who do not yet understand why torture can never be used and this document does not provide it.