28 February, 2010

Torture: Conservative and Liberal Catholics Agree!

Torture? Enhanced interrogation? Waterboarding? Most are by now familiar with the arguments over the legality of  these practices.  In a 26 February New york Times  article, Mark Oppenheimer discusses this issue again from a different perspective.

Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush was asked by the President to write a speech explaining the CIA's interrogation program. Although in writing that speech, Thiessen says he considered legal issues, the moral dimensions were not in the forefront of his mind.

However in his new book, Thiessen, a Roman Catholic himself, says that, "...waterboarding suspected terrorists was not only useful and desirable, but permitted by the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Oppenheimer proceeds to tell us that immediately Catholic bloggers and writers of both the left and right roundly ctiticized Theissen's argument. In light of the "Catholic Culture Wars" over such issues as liturgical "reform," gay marriage, etc., it is very telling that there still are core beliefs and issues upon which the right wing and left wing can agree.

Oppenheimer does a very good job summarizing the arguments over Theissen's claims. He also quotes or links to  authors on the left and right. Examples of the conservative authors are: Conor Friedersdorf, Marc Shea and Joe Carter. Examples of more liberal authors are: Christopher O. Toollefsen, Paul Baummann, Jean Elshtain., and the self-proclaimed "conservative," author who in this case said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns "...torture which uses physical or moral violence."

It appears that no well known Catholic theologian supports Theissen's argument. When asked which theologians supported him, Theissen mentioned the Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D, associate editor of Living Tradition. At the end of his 2005  twenty-page paper, Fr. Harrison said, "
My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians. (emphasis in the original).
Theissen's chosen supporter admits that torture in not affirmed by the magisterium. His statement that the issue is still open to discussion by theologians, does not give moral legitimacy to acting upon this opinion in light on nearly universal rejection of it by theologians and Pope John Paul II.

In the end it is good to see liberals and conservatives speak the same word on such a critical issue. We need to formulate questions that get beneath current divisions to a core that all can work from. This has been one example. Deo gratias.

1 comment:

  1. You're right, Seb. It's nice to know that some on both sides of the aisle (conservatives and liberals alike) can come together in agreement on something like this. I personally don't believe in torture of any kind; it's not supposed to be our way here in the U.S. I'm not setting our country as being any better than another [country] but I believe we need to take into consideration the intent (imo) of the values upon which this country was founded on back in the beginning. (Granted, everybody knows we have our own dark history. {sigh} Slavery, prohibition, wars that we had no business getting into, etc.) I just don't believe, if we're going to hold ourselves up as being the great nation we talk about being—that we ought to stoop to the levels of torture. That's just my opinion though; I know others will argue that we have to make difficult decisions during difficult times and that sometimes such actions are justified. ~Michael


Comments most welcome.