Monday, October 22, 2007

Catholics Against Torture

As Andrew says, we've heard plenty from the left about why torture is a bad idea, but very little from the right. This post from "Catholic and Enjoying It" is therefore a welcome change, and really made me think about the issue in a new way. Here's a brief excerpt:

What lies at the heart of all consequentialist appeals to do grave evil for the greater good is, ultimately, a refusal to trust that God knows what he is talking about. It is the conviction that the Christian revelation is not an insight into the heart of reality, but a sort of idealistic dream that is fun to contemplate in quiet moments and maybe even an "inspiration" in a vague way, but is nonetheless something that hard thinkers and tough-minded men must sweep away when crunch time comes in favor of "realistic" solutions that require us to frankly embrace sin and evil if we hope to live or remain free. In this analysis, the functional belief of the Machiavellian realist is "You shall embrace evil, and evil shall make you free and keep you safe."

The argument of the Christian revelation is that this is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie from the pit of hell.

I remain confused as to why American Christianity and the Republican party have become synonymous on issues like torture, war, poverty, health care, and race relations. There is ample support for what Americans would consider liberal positions on these problems, and yet it is as if such a thing is unthinkable in the public discourse.

If I haven't made it clear on this blog before, I think torture is evil. I think it is wrong. I think it is useless, misguided, dangerous, and corrupting to the torturer. It is to be avoided at nearly all costs, and I am deeply appalled that our nation has joined the despicable ranks of those regimes that routinely employ it. I know there are those among the religious who feel the same way, and I am delighted that finally, at long last, their voices are getting heard.


Anonymous said...

American Catholicism has traditionally been identified with the left, not the right. Don't make the mistake of conflating them with the right wing branches of the fundamentalist Protestant sects.

American Catholics fought on the side of the Civil Right movement, are among the most active givers to charities in the world, and traditionally vote heavily in favor of the leftist and Democratic candidates.

So, unfortunately, we *still* haven't heard anything from the right about torture. I will continue to assume that silence equals assent.

Adam H said...

...traditionally vote heavily in favor of the leftist and Democratic candidates.

traditionally? i thought it was just for jfk. the pendulum has swung completely back the other way from what i've seen in my catholic upbringing, making the "left wing catholic" position quite a rarity. actually, i can only think of one family growing up of devout catholics whose parents voted for a democrat president. the pope still condemns gays and says that although aids is bad, condoms are worse. the church does not believe in the rule of secular law/government, as evidenced by their cover up-move-payoff strategy for the pedophile priests. if i recall, the church recently said something to the effect of "protestant churches can't call themselves churches", which is a pretty understandable statement since they still consider themselves the "one true church". this is not liberal, inclusive, or at all progressive.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to read what a bona fide Catholic site has to say about homosexuality. I visited this site,, a legitimate Catholic site, and found acceptance of people, not bashing them. Many denominations believe sex outside of marriage is a sin, and that is what I’ve discovered in the research I’ve done in this issue, both as a Catholic and as a person who steadfastly believes that most homosexuals are born this way – there is no condemnation at all. For a report on the Protestant issue, Fox News, a reputable source, had the following story:,2933,288841,00.html. While it sounds harsh, read all the way to the bottom for a more complete story. What I’ve learned as a reporter is sensational headlines sell and they’re not always factual. Reference “The Jena Six.” Reference Richard Jewell. People in Louisiana are all too familiar with the media blowing up something to sell their news. But when I look at what my fellow Catholics do, bad apples aside, they are the main ones supporting the county’s food and clothing pantry. Our priests are the chaplains for the police and fire departments, and our priests are the ones on call at the hospitals. And they pray and march for peace and equality side by side with people of all faiths. In fact, our priests politely declined membership in the local ministerial alliance because they would not allow Islams or Mormons to join. The Catholic Church did not speak out against the atrocities during World War II. However, Pope John Paul II spoke out vehemently against communism and torture during his tenure as the pontiff. I look at him as a holy man. I also have to side with my brother, Joey, who said that at the gates of heaven, they’re not going to ask for your identification card. As a reporter, I urge you to do as Jeff does here on his blog – dig deep for facts. (Sorry I don't know how to put in a hyperlink.) -- Denise

Anonymous said...


The tradition is changing, it is true. Younger Catholic voters are tending more towards the conservative side of the spectrum, often driven by divisive single-issue politics such as abortion.

Ironically, it was divisive single-issue politics such as the death penalty that used to send them to the liberal side.

If you're interested in recent trends, read more about it here.

Jeff Hebert said...

I don't have any data on how young Catholics are trending in terms of liberal vs. conservative, but Anonymous I have to point out that the article you link to was published in ... 1987. For those of you who, like me, are mathematically challenged, that was 20 years ago. I daresay a lot has changed in that time, not only among the Catholic laity but in American politics.

What data I am familiar with from more recent studies seems to indicate that young voters are turning increasingly away from the conservatism, specifically the kind of social conservative embodied by the Moral Majority and other evangelical groups.

As I said, I haven't delved into the Barna Group survey this data is taken from to see what is happening specifically with Catholic youth, but in any event, I'd not put much stock in a 20 year old opinion piece. The data's just not that applicable any more.

Anonymous said...

For the past 16 years, I've taught an eighth grade religious education class, something I truly enjoy and actually feel somewhat guilty because I enjoy hearing and dialoging with these young people about their views on life. I've seen a noticeable change in their outlook toward Catholicism and the world. I've asked basically the same questions over the years -- faith, dialogue, relationships with God, prejudice, hate, bigotry, etc. When I first started, the teens said there wasn't a smidge of prejudice in their schools -- no one picked on anyone else and their peers were accepting of all cultures and races. In the last five years, however, there's been a dramatic shift. Prejudice is rampant and the kids say it's getting worse and worse. In this age of tolerance, these teens live in a world where intolerance is growing. On the issue of Catholicism, the teens 15 years ago thought it was acceptable for priests to marry. In the last three or four years, there's been a radical shift -- they are adamantly opposed to priests marrying and they are actually leaning toward a more conservative approach to faith. Some of the evangelical churches, both conservative and non-denominational, can be dogmatic and perhaps that's what turns the kids off, as Jeff stated. It's not scientific, but young people change with the times, protesting as seems fit, accepting when necessary and marching in the streets when things are not fair in their minds. I wish I had more time to try and correlate what I've seen with societal and cultural changes, just as the Vietnam War spurred on a revolt against the conservative 1950's "Ike" years. Pope John Paul II had a special relationship with young people, and many teens searched out their religious beliefs because of him and Mother Theresa. If that search is still on-going would be interesting to know. Peace. Love -- Denise

Anonymous said...

I listened to a former military official on a local radio station last week. He was peddling a book he had written. For what it is worth, his point was that almost all professional interrogators agree on one point- physical torture doesn't work. Period. You can only get reliable information through dialogue and using reason. There is, however, extreme pressure on the interrogators to get quick results, and non-professionals, i.e., politicians, think the show 24 Hours has some basis in reality. In truth, he says, there are no magic tricks. It just doesn't happen that you need crucial information to stop doomsday or the bomb going off or whatever plot device the movies and TV shows portrays. The real world doesn't work that way. Reality in anti-terrorism is like most of our reality- a slow, tedious, methodical grind, day after day, with moments of revelation at the most unexpected times. To repeat, he very politely stated his perplex ion concerning how naive people in Washington are who watch the TV show 24 Hours, even reaching into the highest levels of government. It was a fascinating interview, and it sounded plausible. The keys to gaining information were an understanding of the person and their culture, and using that knowledge to your advantage.