Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Week - Something to Agree Upon

While Catholics disagree with the pro abortion and anti conscience positions of President Obama it cannot be said that we disagree with him on all life issues. For example Catholic teaching on war is very clear and he has agreed with us on this subject. Likewise this week’s hot topic, torture, is a practice firmly opposed by the Church as a violation of human dignity. The following sub paragraph from the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine (CCSD) uses a quote from John Paul II to oppose torture very emphatically.

“In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: ““Christ's disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer's victim””.[830] International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances.” (Paragraph 404 of CCSD)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) classifies torture as a violation of human dignity.

“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.” (Paragraph 2297 of CCC)

Any student of history will point out the use of torture by both civil and religious tribunals in the past. The Catechism bluntly addresses this fact and describes our current position on torture.

"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." (Paragraph 2298 of CCC)

We should be willing to admit that the President is, at least, on the same side of these life issues as the Church. I know some define life issues very narrowly, for example, as only pertaining to the lives of innocent humans. The Church has a more catholic view of life issues. Here is the life issue list from PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD (1964) which clearly includes torture.

"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." “(from Section 27)

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