Losing your soul to help others

When Christ asked rhetorically “what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” the first image that suggests itself is the tyrant gathering all the goods of the world to himself by immoral means, or the person whose willing to sacrifice principle to gain wealth and power. But Christ is clearly condemning anyone who would sacrifice his soul for any good, which includes the safety and benefit of others. I was reminded of this when I read this quotation from Donald Rumsfeld:

“Anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques — let’s be blunt: waterboarding — did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn’t facing the truth,” former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that evening on Fox News’s Hannity program. “Three people were waterboarded by the CIA away from Guantanamo and then later brought to Guantanamo,” Rumsfeld continued. “The information that came from those individuals was critically important.”

Crucially important information. Great. All Rumsfeld had to do to get it was perform an operation (and involve others in it) that anyone could immediately spot as wicked and degrading to everyone involved if it were done to a farm animal, irrespective of any desirable outcome we might get from drowning an animal (like a pelt).

Moral autonomy and the absolute value of the individual can be misunderstood in a thousand different ways, but one way in which the individual really is absolute is in this: there is simply no outcome that justifies making oneself a monster. Anyone can see this about outcomes that are merely self- interested or carnal, but it’s just as true with ones that benefit others or are done for the good of the nation. This is the one sense in which we can never choose another good before our own good, even the good of a nation.

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23 Comments

  1. RP said,

    May 15, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Rational self-interest is, well, irrational. Both the Left and the Right have the hidden premise: this life only. Self-interest, to be truly rational, would have salvation and damnation as first priority in every consideration of well-being, whether political or personal.

  2. Paul Boire said,

    May 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for the good post. I also liked your earlier one on the nature of matter which I hope to get back to as time and my considerable wasting of it permits. The implications for capital punishment seem pretty clear. A defenceless man taken from a secure setting and exectuted while posing no immediate threat to anyone.

  3. thenyssan said,

    May 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    How does this work once you start comparing individual good to the common good? It seems like if you follow this line you’re developing here, then individual goods (or at least one, salvation) trumps the common good.

  4. thenyssan said,

    May 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Sorry, I definitely sent that before the thought was finished. Too many kids running around screaming in my house. I should have saved this for the quiet hour.

    Let me try to re-ask it to limit the damage of my above post. The superiority of the common good to individual goods is important for St. Thomas. Does this line you are developing challenge that schema, or is there a way to harmonize them?

  5. peeping thomist said,

    May 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t think there is any way that one can reconcile the modern Catholic argument against waterboarding and all the rest…semi-pacifism with much of Church history. However, we do evolve on things like this…as Remi Brague argues about marriage.

    I think the question is what you mean by knowing it when you see it. Most punishment (PUNISHMENT, not even the attempt to prevent the future death of innocents and protect the common good) of past ages could be put into this category. Public floggings, etc. Hell, spanking your kids could count here as well for most Americans when they see it, which is why parents get in trouble with the authorities whenever video surfaces. Or watching video of actual war, etc. Or seeing what St. Thomas More caused to be done to early protestant heretics, etc. I’m not aware of what the history of the Church stance has been on all these matters over time, but I get the impression that in the last century or so things have definitely developed (death penalty no longer required for those who attempt to kill the Pope, etc.)

    What if they whipped terrorists in the manner of a public flogging until they talked? If they deserved it anyway, why not put the punishment in service of preventing more death? Or have we completely put aside the older notion of punishment?

    Further, someone like me questions whether I would have the same reaction. It seems to me that the act might not be wicked at all. But obviously that doesn’t make it so.

    You very well could be right. But I think if so the argument is a development of doctrine, and as such not easily or completely reconcilable with history. I think the line above does ultimately have to challenge the schema of the middle ages, but again that might not be a bad thing. There probably was a sense in the past that individual souls were a part to the whole of the society/common good in an unhealthy way in the past.

    But this is all to go into a whole other topic when the point of the post is clearly true in general.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Vatican_City

    Also, I think Rumsfeld and co know that the argument justifying means with ends doesn’t ultimately work. But they are making clear to all those who said that “it didn’t work anyway” that it did, in fact, work and save lives. Again, they could still be horribly wrong.

    But does anyone really think that much in the way of past history and thought in the Church would condemn water boarding in this case so obviously? Maybe so.

    Maybe it is something we have always wrestled with…a sort of eternal battle:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Inquisition#Torture

  6. peeping thomist said,

    May 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Again, I think the point of the post holds but I am interested in the example given. Has this ever been repealed?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_exstirpanda

  7. peeping thomist said,

    May 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Perhaps over time the notion of due process has become the right and fitting way to do things, and obviously so. But obtaining confession from known criminals has usually been a pretty messy process throughout history, even within the western world…never mind trying to prevent future death of innocents from harm by the same. But then again, through much of western history women have been seen as slightly more than chattel and marriage has often been an economic contract and little else. But I would like to know more about how the church as dealt with such matters as waterboarding in the modern context over the years…other examples and a knowledge of the ups and downs over time would help.

  8. thenyssan said,

    May 16, 2011 at 3:56 am

    (I’m not advocating for torture below…just puzzling through the common good)

    It’s interesting: for Thomas, since the common good is of a higher kind, the administrator of it may do things that an individual may not. This seems to indicate that in some limited sense some of the things that would make an individual a moral monster do not make the administrator of the common good a moral monster.

    The modern view seems to be the reverse: precisely since the common good is held in common, it is of a lesser kind (because less unique?). Far from allowing for a different scope of action for the administrator, I think the modern view would place the administrator in a greater moral hazard and condemn him even more than it would an individual actor.

    I clearly haven’t thought this through very deeply but my sense is this: there’s still an important element of truth to Thomas’s view on the common good and so I’m not ready to sign on the dotted line with every modern exaltation of the individual. But it does raise certain problems (like the one above) that I just don’t understand.

  9. peeping thomist said,

    May 16, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Here’s an interesting article:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0028-4289.2006.00142.x/full

  10. peeping thomist said,

    May 16, 2011 at 8:11 am

    My impression from history is that virtually no one within the mainstream tradition of the Church would have had a problem with a nation repeatedly waterboarding KSM in the contexts and with the restrictions within which we did so, at least from the middle ages up until about a century ago. In fact, one has to explain away the allowing of torture in even more questionable circumstances that directly involve the Church itself. It is very hard to see, given the extreme to which the Church itself went (and even if they admitted that this was an extreme), how anyone would have had a significant problem with our waterboarding sessions. I think even asking the question would have been laughable in the middle ages, and I’m not enlightenment/protestant bigot.

    At least, I don’t see anyone knowledgeable on that history dealing with it in any significant way in the modern day torture debates. There is a lot of evasion, however, and a strange dearth of historical understanding.

    I’ll go further out on the limb, with full admission that I could be wrong about all of this. I suspect given what I do know that our change of heart on the issue has more to do with the sort of culture and governance we have developed over the last two centuries in America (albeit along lines influenced by Christianity) that has spread over the world in the last century in a significant way. Western democracies are the only place in which one finds such qualms again torture of this kind (let’s call it torture for the sake of whatever). And while those qualms have increased we are told that religious fervor has decreased (however, this may not be true).

    In any event, the irony to me is that the same intellectuals who castigate the USA on the grounds of the Catholic stance against torture…are probably standing more on ground arrived at by the very westernized democracies they love to criticize on so many levels. I don’t know of a strong anti-torture stance taken by the Church in such circumstances until recent times. I could be wrong, but it sure seems to me that if we find this sort of thing abhorrent we ought to thank the USofA and western democracies for getting us to that point in its embrace of human rights and its defense of the individual soul versus the abstract god of the common good so often bandied about and used to justify various atrocities (as opposed to the actual common good).

    Same thing with due process, etc. The Church didn’t push the ball forward on these matters as much as many commentators seem to want to make out. Rather, it seems that in the last century the Church came to acknowledge that western democracies (again, developed along Christian lines) had come to embrace some important political truths hitherto unknown or unembraced by the western world (at least since the middle ages).

    Almost makes one want to question a good deal of the other things that Catholic intellectuals criticize western democracy for, eh?

    I mean, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Church itself was engaged in extraordinary rendition of sorts…encouraging nation states for long periods of time to use the sword against heretics, etc. Then again, we used to be more familiar with killing farm animals as well, eh?

    I’d like the anti-torture crowd to explain the development here more clearly. I think there has been a development, and it is likely a good thing in many respects. And we don’t deal with the history of thought and action on this sort of thing at our peril.

  11. peeping thomist said,

    May 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    The catechism itself, I think, hints at my take above:

    “in times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors” (No. 2298).

    Essentially the reality of modern liberal democracies that intellectuals on the right and left love to critique in theory puts the lie that a lot of this sort of thing was ever necessary, despite the fact that the Church by its own admission rarely if ever spoke out against it. Yet one might wonder *to what extent* this is so. And even if it is so to the extent that those who oppose the waterboarding of KSM say, it begs plenty of questions along the lines of what nyssan says above.

    This is a vital matter. If we have arrived at new understandings of the proper role of government, we need to be clear about what they are and what they aren’t. I think the torture issue is another manifestation of this confusion, just as the understanding of rights, etc. We have changed our understanding, to be clear. And recently, too. And on account of the success of western democracies. So, again, you are right in general above. But it sure begs a lot of questions given the example..both as to what the new understanding is of the individual good to the common good and as to what we now think makes us monsters.

  12. May 17, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Hi Peeping Thomist.

    In response to your question about Ad Extripanda, this might prove helpful.
    http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2009/05/tale-of-two-documents-or-fallacy.html God love you.

  13. Gordie said,

    May 17, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Read Gil Bailie’s “Violence Unveiled:Humanity at the Crossroads”. I think his analysis of Girard’s distinction of Myth/archaic religion and the Gospel message will clarify our present dilemma when it comes to toture, war, and capital punishment. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of violence(notably sacred violnece” over “history”, which started with the Hebrews. The fact that moral arguments are made on behalf of victims(guilty or innocent) against any form of physical interrogation, when they would have been accepted without question even 50 years ago, is further proof of Girard’s theory on violence. I think we see the same thing happening with the assination of Osama Bin Laden. The fact that so many had to come out and defend the action as Moral is further proof that the distinction between “righteous” violence and “bad” violence is slipping away.

  14. peeping thomist said,

    May 17, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thanks Bobby. I understand now that in 1816, I believe, Ad E was repudiated in some way, or perhaps better said…the Church stopped telling political rulers they “must” treat heretics as they did criminals (obtaining confession via torture, albeit “without killing them or breaking their arms or legs.”)

    The blog post is interesting, but it does not really address my more general concerns about this issue. Zippy there treats Ad E as if it is some kind of “gotcha” argument used by torture defenders. Surely we might want to know, if the catechism itself repudiates centuries of Catholic action and/or thought, what are the principles on which we condemn torture and how do we define it now? The fact that the catechism repudiates hundreds of years of Church history is no doubt salutary on this score (and throughout this history there was no doubt a galaxy of efforts by the Church to moderate state sanctioned violence as well) but it begs a lot of questions as to the principles in play. The post above by the good Mr. Chastek also leaves these questions unanswered, as he says that we now recognize that such acts are “wicked and degrading.” The problem is, again, that we need to have a principle for such recognition, and the catechism itself points to the success of western democracies as evidence that this sort of thing isn’t needed for the sake of the common good anymore. Not a long line of Church teaching.

    In a society in which the Church was telling the state that they MUST torture heretics, water boarding a moral monster with thousands of deaths on his hands in order to obtain information to save more innocent life would have been a no brainer. It is a long, long, long way from the era of Ad E to then saying that the state cannot torture anyone, even the guilty for the sake of protecting innocent life, and defining torture in the broadest way possible and making this principle a sort of absolute moral teaching.

    Similarly with the death penalty. There is a long choo-choo train of material one can read on the death penalty. It is only on account of the success of western democracy that one can make the prudential case against it. But this is lost on most Catholics today. There is little understanding of the underlying justice of capital punishment. And this is a problem, because peace and prosperity won’t last forever (ironically, Catholic intellectuals love to decry western democracies and their faults and increasingly Christians blame this form of government rather than praise it) and if the western world becomes more like the rest of the globe…I don’t think many people will possess a principled understanding of these matters. And in the face of such pressure, feelings will swing quite the other way and passion will rule the day.

    So I wonder about all this in application to KSM, etc. It seems to me that the Church began to slip on these issues because after the fall of the Roman Empire it slowly became inextricably meshed into politics in an unhealthy way, like an obese or bed ridden person whose flesh is enmeshed into cloth, etc. At its best the Church tried to temper political regimes throughout western history, however, and in many respects this involved recognizing the political reality of the violence of human beings and the sort of natural justice that cries out for blood. The danger now, it seems to me, is that in our success at peace and prosperity we are losing the principles by which to distinguish what is permissible and what is not. This is a danger because Hobbes is half right, and the fall of man is real, and we are living in a fantasy as regards the savagery of mankind and what it takes to maintain peace. So when we are actually tested in a difficult moral situation where much more is on the line, I fear we will make the wrong choice because of a moral philosophy which is not based on principle: we will flip from semi-pacifism to outright aggression and revenge.

    Obviously, if the proponents of water boarding can’t make “but it feels right” arguments, neither can its opponents make “but it feels wrong” arguments. But this is not to disagree with the conclusion of the blog post’s argument: “there is simply no outcome that justifies making oneself a monster.” That is no doubt true. And it speak to the limits of the common good, which on one extreme is so often spoken of as some sort of trump card that allows everything…and ignores the sort of individual good that cannot be sacrificed.

    Thanks Gordie, that sounds interesting…if only because I am inclined to agree with the thesis from your description…

  15. peeping thomist said,

    May 17, 2011 at 10:08 am

    To further press the point: I bring up St. Thomas More in many rambling comments above because if it was not evident to him that imprisoning and burning heretics at the stake was wrong, it is very hard for me to see how he would think twice about water boarding KSM given what the English law was like for common criminals, never mind enemies without a home nation who slaughtered thousands of innocents and were actively trying to slaughter more. This does not mean that water boarding KSM is right any more that it means that burning heretics at the stake is right. And I don’t use the example to condemn St. Thomas More, either. And I don’t mean to get into “what if” historical hypotheticals…this is a way of calling into question our all too glib way of speaking about the torture issue.

    • Gordie said,

      May 17, 2011 at 11:16 am

      This is exactly Girard’s point about the Gospel message and it’s demythologizing effect. Revelation is an ongoing process and the “history” of Church proves it out, since we can look back at “history” and debate the morality of the actions/arguments of Thomas More.

  16. Martin T said,

    May 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    It took all of ten minutes to find a good quote from Mark Shea including the trademark backhanded slap at torture defenders. I intended to edit it but it’s too good in it’s completeness.

    One of the more tired attempts to justify torture has been the canard that “the Church used to approve of it, so that means the Church dogmatically declared it okay, so that means that when the Church says (today) that torture is intrinisically immoral it either does not mean that, or it is contradicting previous dogma”. The goal here, as ever, is not to think clearly, but to say any damned thing in order to justify *this* damned thing.

    Here’s the reality: the Church did indeed, a totally non-infallible prudential judgement, accept the common cultural assumption that torture was justifiable. It also accepted, at one time, the common cultural assumption that Slavery was the Way Things Are (and had been, literally since the dawn of human civilization).

    This means… absolutely nothing in terms of understanding how the Church insight into the nature and dignity of the human person has deepened. The time came where the Church came to see that slavery was incompatible with human dignity (indeed, the seeds of that are already in the letter to Philemon with Paul’s strong hint that Onesimus should be freed) and in the unforgettable condemnation of Babylon the Great in Revelation as the greedy merchants weep:
    “Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon! In one hour has thy judgment come.” And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

    There has always been an inner dynamic in Christianity that is fundamentally hostile to slavery, even when socio-economic forces revived it during the Renaissance after its long sleep in medieval Europe. And Christianity eventually killed it again–in Christian lands.

    In the same way, torture is as old as mankind and Christianity was born in world that accepted it. Indeed, it’s Lord is, after all, a torture victim. And for that reason, it has also always had an inner dynamic that is fundamentally hostile to torture even when the whole culture took it as a fact of life. Christians can never quite get away from the fact that their Lord was tortured and murdered for all the reasons given by ever regime as the legitimating claim for torture: he was dangerous to the peace of the state. It is better for one person to be tortured and murdered than for the whole people to suffer or die. He subverts the security of the state with radical claims. He claims to bring, not peace, but a sword. All this rhetoric is *always* trotted out to justify the abuse of the human person.

    Man, being fallen, often is deserving of such rhetoric. There *are* people who mean to harm the peace of the state. There are real enemies whose radical ideas intend evil. And yet, at the core of it, Christianity brings into the world the insistence that even the guilty and evil man is one for whom Christ died and the state does not having unlimited rights to cruelty merely because of this fact.

    The long and the short of it is that the Church (thank God) eventually concludes that it was *wrong* in its prudential judgements about the use of torture, just as it was wrong to acquiesce to the use of slaves. Now that this judgement has, so to speak ratcheted forward, it will never ratchet back. So attempt to overturn a development of doctrine in Veritatis Splendor 80 by appealing to past practice is much of a muchness with the attempt to say “Irenaeus never spoke of Jesus as “one in being with the Father” so we don’t have listen to the Council of Nicaea. Erroneous prudential judgements of our fathers do not trump the developed teaching of the Church.

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/2007_11_01_archive.html

  17. peeping thomist said,

    May 20, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Martin,

    In general you are probably right, but a few things.

    Our Lord was not tortured after murdering thousands of people because he was withholding information that the the lawful authorities had every right to know in order to save lives. No one was trying to coerce Him to tell us information so we could save lives from the death he was planning for all of us.

    Shea is absurd in his rhetoric…the whole point of bringing up centuries of past history is to try to understand the principle of the present. The Church hasn’t said a whole hell of a lot on that score that I am aware of, and it has made an enormous shift. So if you are actually engaged in political reality, you might have some questions. Questions, it seems to me, that Shea does not answer amidst all his bold claims and straw man creation.

    Slavery…it was always admitted on some level (Justinian’s Code is good for this) was against natural law or wrong but as I say above it was also seen as a sort of necessary evil that was better than slaughtering enemies in battles, etc. …and it does seem that torture may be understood along this vein, at least (in both cases) so long as we are still living in a safe western democracy. But torture is not quite as clear. The entire western world has abandoned it to obtain confession, of course, which was the main way it was used back then. And we have even abandoned punishing with pain. These are major leaps in human history. Thanks to a form of government that we all love to criticize. We don’t really use it at all except in extreme cases. Those cases are when someone we know to be guilty knows things that could save life on a large scale and won’t tell us what we need to know. And what we do to that person is limited in bodily harm. Severely limited as for as permanent damage. Multiple lawyers are involved. We instead make them feel as if they are dying without really hurting them. What we refer to as “torture” here is NOT what was going on in the medieval era, etc.

    “Now that this judgement has, so to speak ratcheted forward, it will never ratchet back.”

    My question is what we have ratcheted forward. I think in general you are right but what is the principle by which we judge something to be torture? There is such a thing as coercing people who have a duty to tell you something you have a right to do, and coercing them lawfully. You say “unlimited” rights to cruelty. What if they are limited? How should they be limited? What the devil is torture?

    This is where the confusion comes in. And I’ll be damned if the likes of Shea write that rule book. What is the principle by which we judge something torture? That goes to my original question to James above. It can’t be I know it when I see it.

    Is violence used rightly to be known as torture, or is there a side of this that is just? Slavery is wrong, but chain gangs aren’t slavery, correct? Neither is life in prison, right? Technically there would be nothing wrong with forcing a guilty man to spend his life in prison except when we tell him to work for the state, right? Now that appears to be slavery but it is not, right? It is permissible. In fact, it might even be salutary in the right circumstances.

    The principle can’t be any means of coercion. What if we put someone in jail until they decide to tell us what we want to know an then interrogate them over a period of decades like cops do…is that okay? What if we offer to lessen the punishment (life in prison instead of death) in exchange for information…is that okay? Or is that okay? I’m not sure what the principle is at all.

    Again, is public flogging not something we can ever do again? It used to be one of the most common forms of punishment, and the Son of God being scourged at the pillar notwithstanding. So one can easily see a scenario in which someone could be justly punished by a lawful regime by being whipped, no? Or is there a cruel and unusual punishment jurisprudence in the Catholic manuals now? You see what I mean? And what if we just said “Look, we will stop if you tell us what you need to know.” Punishment is in play here too, in a big way.

    How is a lot of this Shea business more than civilized sensibility provoked to outrage at the fact that at any time civilization could fall and we will all be plunged back into the darkness that lurks in the human heart? And then that sensibility grabs onto very broad statements the Church has made?

    Look, maybe it is that simple and all torture and anything that can be construed that way is wrong. But Veritas Splendor can easily be read as NOT referring to the sort of thing that happened to KSM.

  18. peeping thomist said,

    May 20, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Further, on slavery, it is abundantly obvious to me that the Church knew it was wrong all along. St. Paul was being prudent and working within the law of the land and what was needed. The history of slavery is a good deal more complicated than Shea makes out, and Justinian’s code acknolwedges it is a violation of natural law. St. Paul shows a great deal more prudence than Shea usually does.

    There is not a single argument in that comment laying out why torture is wrong, other than a quote from VP that seems to be clearly referring to what all Americans would perceive as torture and wrong. The stuff about Christ has no bearing on the question at all. And I mention slavery in my comments above…he begs the question on that score. He can’t give a principled answer as to at what point coercion becomes torture, I don’t think.

  19. thenyssan said,

    May 20, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Sigh. I knew your gusher of comments was going to bring this on, Peeping.

    Good luck to you (I mean that).

  20. peeping thomist said,

    May 20, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I just want some clear answers to these questions!

    1) I want someone to either explain how we know that Veritas Splendor and the catechism clearly prohibit what we did to KSM. This will require more than abstract leaps. It will take someone who can bridge the gaps and make this clear to me in straightforward, purposeful fashion, giving credence to and dealing with objections.

    2) I want someone to explain the history of the notion of torture in Church teaching over time in some general way that is plausible and shows they know what they are talking about…and then derive a principle from it that I can understand, and then apply that principle to what we did to KSM. Explain the development on the issue and what it means. Is torture in the case of KSM something like the death penalty, for instance, which involves prudential determinations? Or is it always wrong, as Shea and others try to say from VS? And if it is always wrong, what is it (see my slavery example above)?

    Shea is not that person. There is no argument in that comment. It involves at best two claims about the above points, neither of which is proven. I could be missing something, but I haven’t found answers to these questions yet. I have seen a lot of rhetoric that leans heavily on the spirit of the age (which, again, may be indeed be good) rather than on clear argumentation. I hope I’m not being stubborn. I just don’t readily see a convincing case that makes clear that what happened in KSM’s case was wrong.

    This was not torture in order to break the spirit of the person, nor was it inflicted as punishment, nor even to extract a confession, per se. He was made to feel pain without inflicting permanent injury on his body or mind because he would not tell us information that would save lives, information that we had a right to know and that he had a duty to tell us. This was done in the last resort and in concert with a variety of other measures all with the intent of getting him to tell us what he justly should tell us. An unrepentant, evil man without a country who has slain thousands of innocents in the most unjust and unwarranted manner possible and is actively plotting to slay thousands more doesn’t get the same treatment as other criminals. I fail to see how coercing him into telling the truth about his plans for violence and his fellow criminals using physical pain that will not cause permanent damage is necessarily a moral problem in this situation.

  21. peeping thomist said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

    “Respect for bodily integrity

    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.”

    What we did to KSM, even if falling under the definition of torture, was not for any of these reasons. We didn’t need a confession, for God’s sake. I don’t think we cared too much about about frightening our opponents…it was done in secret, and we haven’t done it to many terrorists, even…or satisfying hatred. We wanted him to tell us information for the sake of finding the rest of his murderous band and preventing future death, and so we made him feel pain as a last resort a bunch of times.

    Note WELL: this section is about bodily integrity. KSM’s body is fine. Reread the second sentence above. Note it applies only to “innocent persons”)

    “In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors. ”

    Thankfully, we don’t use torture to maintain law and order any more. We don’t use it in the way the medieval era did. We stopped doing that. We use it in very rare circumstances that I have repeatedly described above that do not fall into the usual ways in which it was traditionally used in common law and practice in the past. This passage also does not condemn the KSM situation in any way.

  22. peeping thomist said,

    May 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

    The following passage doesn’t forbid what happened to KSM any more than it forbids solitary confinement to try to get murderous prisoners to start changing their behavior for the better. If I claimed that solitary confinement was morally wrong, everywhere and always, based on this passage because it is clearly a torment of mind that intends to coerce the will…I might be making the same mistake as Shea. Or would I? In order to make that claim, a very real argument is needed that bridges a lot of gaps.

    “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.”


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