Monday, February 20, 2006

Tango-ing on Torture. Again

Man, does it ever stop?

How many more "Define torture" threads will plague C&EI? How many more Foolables for the current Powers-That-Be will continue to deploy the same cherry-picking-Catechism tactics that Foolables of the left do?

On the other hand, how many more sincere Fools will get swept way by other Fools' defense against the wolves-in-sheeps'-clothing, a.k.a. Foolables-for-the-Powers?

Once more, into the breach, then!

The Catholic Church has defined torture as an intrinsic evil. What does this mean? It means that torture is always and everywhere wrong and immoral no matter what. Murder, abortion, Euthanasia, rape, adultery and legion more are intrinsically evil acts.

How does the Church determine this? Well, to understand that, it helps to understand how the Church determines the morality of any act. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this concern as follows:
1750 The morality of human acts depends on:
- the object chosen;

- the end in view or the intention;

- the circumstances of the action.
The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.
The Church defines an object as the choice of action a person chooses to make. If such an act is objectively evil in and of itself, it is therefore intrinsically evil. For example, the object of rape is forced sexual intercourse. That object is evil irregardless of a rapist's intention or circumstances.

If the object of a particular act is morally acceptable, then a person must next consider intention. This would be the particular end in which a person commits an act to achieve. These may either be moral or immoral, too. If one commits a morally objective act for an immoral intention, that act will be immoral. For example, a driver may pass a slower driver on a highway as the law permits. If, however, that driver passes a slower driver with the intention of disrupting that other driver's experience i.e. road rage, then that action is immoral, even though it's objectively licit.

Once a person determines that both object and intention are good, then he considers circumstances. For example, A married couple may choose to participate in natural family planning with the intention of having children that they can best care for, given their circumstances. However, if their circumstances do not necessitate such a decision, then their morally objective following of NFP becomes an immoral act, despite their valid intention of "spacing" out their children.

Object, intention, circumstances. In plain English: means, ends, context.

Notice, however, that if an act is objectively immoral, no intention or circumstances makes it moral. No end justifies rape, murder, adultery or torture as a means. Again, consider what the Catechism says:
1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting "in order to be seen by men").

The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts - such as fornication - that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.
So, then: Where does the Catholic Church define torture as intrinsically evil? Well, there's the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium Et Spes:
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful 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 a supreme dishonor to the Creator. (emphasis mine)
Then there's the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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.
Then, there's Pope John Paul the Great's encyclical, Dives in Misericordia:
Man rightly fears falling victim to an oppression that will deprive him of his interior freedom, of the possibility of expressing the truth of which he is convinced, of the faith that he professes, of the ability to obey the voice of conscience that tells him the right path to follow. The technical means at the disposal of modern society conceal within themselves not only the possibility of self-destruction through military conflict, but also the possibility of a "peaceful" subjugation of individuals, of environments, of entire societies and of nations, that for one reason or another might prove inconvenient for those who possess the necessary means and are ready to use them without scruple. An instance is the continued existence of torture, systematically used by authority as a means of domination and political oppression and practiced by subordinates with impunity. (emphasis mine)
Think the Church has spoken clearly enough on the intrinsic evil of torture? I thought so!

The only thing left, then, is to oppose torture wherever and whenever it's practiced. However, some commentators throughout St. Blog's have taken up the following cry in the comboxes: "What is torture?"

Many of us answer this request with, "huh?"

Like one commentator over at Mark's said:
Torture is like jazz. You know the former when you see it, and you know the latter when you hear it.
Now, maybe that's not entirely fair. After all, some may honestly need a working definition, in order to oppose those Reasonable Orwellians that equate torture with Military dention of any prisoners...or worse!
I want a definition of torture for three reasons:
1. So that I may understand the teachings of the Church on the subject. This is my duty as a Catholic.

2. So that I may oppose torture whenever and wherever I see it. This I cannot do effectually if I fail to see torture when it occurs, or if I see torture when there is none. This is my duty as a man, a citizen, and a Christian.

3. So that I may defend my neighbour against false accusations of torture levied by malicious persons.
Well and good; unfortunately, not everyone has such pure motives for seeking a definition of torture:
Some people have genuine questions about what torture is and are asking to find out. I refer them to standard military procedures for handling prisoners. Others have insincere questions about what torture is and are asking to keep from finding out. Still others are not bothered by that question. Instead they say "the Church can be ignored because a) it used to condone torture, b) its definition of torture doesn't suit me, c) We're at War, dammit!, d) insert other excuse here. The key to all these latter positions is "The Church can be safely ignored." If you are not saying that then I have no quarrel with you. If you are saying that, then please be aware that you are not arguing with me or my interpretation, but with the teaching of the Church.
Well, at the risk of simply encouraging the latter inquisitors, let me offer my counsel to the former on what torture is.

Here's how defines torture:
tor·ture Audio pronunciation of "torture" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (tôrchr)
1. Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.
2. An instrument or a method for inflicting such pain.
2. Excruciating physical or mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.
3. Something causing severe pain or anguish.
tr.v. tor·tured, tor·tur·ing, tor·tures
1. To subject (a person or an animal) to torture.
2. To bring great physical or mental pain upon (another). See Synonyms at afflict.
3. To twist or turn abnormally; distort: torture a rule to make it fit a case.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin tortra, from Latin tortus, past participle of torqure, to twist. See terkw- in Indo-European Roots.]tortur·er n.

[Download Now or Buy the Book]
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

n 1: extreme mental distress [syn: anguish, torment] 2: unbearable physical pain [syn: torment] 3: intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain; "an agony of doubt"; "the torments of the damned" [syn: agony, torment] 4: the act of distorting something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean [syn: distortion, overrefinement, straining, twisting] 5: the act of torturing someone; "it required unnatural torturing to extract a confession" [syn: torturing] v 1: torment emotionally or mentally [syn: torment, excruciate, rack] 2: subject to torture; "The sinners will be tormented in Hell, according to the Bible" [syn: excruciate, torment]
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
The UN Convention against torture, to which the USA is a signatory, defines torture as:
any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
The United States Army Field Manuel 34-52 Intelligence Interrogation clearly indicates the following:
The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and noncoercive ruses used by the interrogator in questioning hesitant or uncooperative sources.

The psychological techniques and principles outlined should neither be confused with, nor construed to be synonymous with, unauthorized techniques such as brainwashing, mental torture, or any other form of mental coercion to include drugs. These techniques and principles are intended to serve as guides in obtaining the willing cooperation of a source. The absence of threats in interrogation is intentional, as their enforcement and use normally constitute violations of international law and may result in prosecution under the UCMJ.

Additionally, the inability to carry out a threat of violence or force renders an interrogator ineffective should the source challenge the threat. Consequently, from both legal and moral viewpoints, the restrictions established by international law, agreements, and customs render threats of force, violence, and deprivation useless as interrogation techniques. (emphasis mine)
Finally, there's the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which prohibits:
torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health (emphasis mine)
Let's sum it up, shall we:
1. An action's object, intention and circumstances must be good for that act to be good.

2. Any act that is objectively evil can never be good, regardless of anyone's intentions or circumstances.

3. Torture has been declared an intrinsic evil by at least three authoritative sources, including one encyclical by Pope John Paul the Great.

4. Dictionaries, US Army field manuels on intelligence interrogations, and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War provide plenty of relevent and accessible definitions as to what torture is.
Does anyone have any further questions? Then how about we finally agree that torture, as defined, is nothing any Fool, Catholic or otherwise, can support. Let's stop apologizing for it and pretending we're committed Christians. If we do, we're not. It's that simple.