Friday, January 13, 2006

Reader Torture comments

Several readers have commented on the president's consenting to Senator McCain's torture amendment. (See here.) In order to better understand the Catholic Church's stance on opposing torture here are some excerpts from Church documents (courtesy of Kevin Miller, HMS Blog):

From Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes (no. 27; cf. VS 80):

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself ..., whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as ... torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; ... 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.
From the Catechism, no. 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.
Note that the Catechism speaks of "violence," period - it doesn't say it has to be severe. Note also that while the Catechism might seem to leave open the use of violence to do things like extract information about ongoing plots, it has to be read in the context of GS, which rules out "torments" and "attempts to coerce the will," period.

From the new Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

404. ... In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: "Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim."830 International judicial instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances. Likewise ruled out is "the use of detention for the sole purpose of trying to obtain significant information for the trial."831 ...

830 John Paul II, Address to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva (15 June 1982), 5: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 26 July 1982, p. 3.
831 John Paul II, Address to the Italian Association of Judges (31 March 2000), 4: AAS 92 (2000), 633.
Hope this helps folks understand why I applauded the president's acceptance of the McCain amendment.


Blogger Tim Huegerich said...

I applaud you and the President for supporting the legislation.

However, have you seen the document the White House put out along with the signing that apparently indicated they did not consider themselves bound by it? Their reasoning is apparently the same Constitutional reasoning they say justifies breaking the law to authorize warrantless domestic wiretaps.

So I'm concerned about this document they put out that seems to amount to "crossing their fingers" while they agree to McCain's law. What do you think?

11:31 PM  
Blogger David said...


Nice to see a comment from you. I am bothered by the signing statement, yes. Let us pray that he or any future president has to go down the path of ignoring this law.

5:27 AM  
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