Saturday, May 02, 2009

Phantom Evil

Conservative blogger Kathy Shaidle recently described swine flu as the Loch Ness Monster of diseases. I'd similarly say the same thing about enhanced interrogation of terrorists, e.g., waterboarding, with respect to anti-"torture" moralists in the Catholic blogosphere.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Is Torture Always Evil to the Catholic Church?

Here is the sole entry that I can find in the Catechism that expressly says anything about torture:
2297 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.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that something like waterboarding is always torture, regardless of how it is administered (we, the U.S., apparently give prior assurrance to the person being waterboarded that he will not be allowed to drown, though he might feel that way).  Even with this presumption, I'm at a complete loss as to how the above from the Catechism is in any way run afoul or violated if the purpose of waterboarding a terrorist is to extract detailed information about an attack that said terrorist has threatened to be imminent, e.g., Khalid Shaikh Muhammed and the L.A. Library Tower.  Because we're talking about a future event that has been promised to occur, the information being sought from the terrorist cannot be logically regarded as a confession. 

Seems to me that Catholic opponents to interrogation by pain infliction are going to have to come up with a better argument than an assertion that the Church has declared torture to be an intrinsic evil, regardless of circumstance.  It just isn't true, as underscored by a plain reading of the above quoted passage from the Catechism. 

Update: Tom McKenna refutes the dubious claim that Pope John Paul II declared "torture" to be intrinsically evil in the encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stop the Bad Faith Argument

It's to be expected of the mindless Liberal Left, but I'm seeing far too many otherwise thoughtful conservatives, particularly those who are Catholic, haphazardly throwing around the word "torture" to describe CIA interrogation techniques, e.g., waterboarding, which entail an infliction of pain to the person being interrogated. Even more annoying is how these opponents to interrogation by pain infliction try to support their position by comparing it to the intrinisic evil of abortion.  

The ridiculousness of comparing an admittedly extreme interrogation technique like waterboarding to abortion is perfectly illustrated in this 2006 Catholic Answers piece by Fr. Brian Harrison. If waterboarding is morally comparable to anything, at least from the standpoint of the Catholic faith, it would be to something like capital punishment or the death penalty. Opponents to interrogation by pain infliction who throw around the "torture" label in a preemptive attempt to cut off debate would be well advised to remember this, lest they want to be regarded as making an unserious, bad faith argument.