An Exercise in Raw Judicial Power

Thursday, January 22, AD 2015

As we observe the sad forty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that overturned all state laws banning abortions and effectively served as a judicial death warrant for tens of millions of innocents, I think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the two dissenting Justices, Byron White, a Democrat, and William Rehnquist, a Republican.  Here are the texts of their dissents:

MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST joins, dissenting.

At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical adviser willing to undertake the procedure.

The Court, for the most part, sustains this position: during the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus; the Constitution, therefore, guarantees the right to an abortion as against any state law or policy seeking to protect the fetus from an abortion not prompted by more compelling reasons of the mother.

With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers [410 U.S. 222] and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally dissentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

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15 Responses to An Exercise in Raw Judicial Power

  • “pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother”
    Any law that allows an abortion to be performed to preserve the life or health of the mother will prove unworkable. This was the position in Scotland before the Abortion Act 1967.
    In practice,
    (1) an unqualified abortionist was always prosecuted
    (2) the Crown Office would not challenge the clinical judgment of a salaried consultant or registrar, still less a professor, in a public hospital performing an abortion on an NHS patient; gratuity was seen as a sufficient guarantee of good faith.
    (3) an abortion performed by a doctor in private practice would be investigated by senior practitioners, nominated by the Crown Office, with indications of good faith including consultation with colleagues, such as a general practitioner, a gynaecologist, a psychiatrist; admission to hospital or a recognised nursing home; observance of normal professional etiquette, such as a consultant being called in only by the patient’s general practitioner; reasonable fees being charged and the keeping of proper records.
    How doctors chose to interpret the law varied enormously. According to the Scotsman (23 December 1966), one pregnancy in 50 was terminated in Aberdeen, compared to one in 3,750 in Glasgow. The difference resulted from the rival interpretations and clinical practice of the two Regius Professors of Midwifery, Dugald Baird at the University of Aberdeen and Ian Donald at the University of Glasgow, both of whom voiced their rival views in public. What was abundantly clear is that the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office had no intention of testing the limits of the law in the courts.
    Many saw the 1967 act as clarifying, rather than changing, the law and introducing additional safeguards (two doctors, licensed facilities) rather than expanding it. Many Christians in both houses, voted for the bill, believing it provided the greatest measure of restriction and regulation that Parliament would approve.

  • This is appropriate here because the U. S. Catholic Conference needs to read it.
    .
    Jesus wept tears over Jerusalem. Jesus wept tears of Joy over the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Jesus wept tears of Joy for His Father.
    .
    THE NEW AGE, THE NEW SECULAR ORDER emblazon on the U.S. dollar is the Heavenly Jerusalem coming down from the sky. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Jesus wept tears of joy over the Heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven.
    .
    The righteous brother of the parable of the Prodigal Son refused to weep tears of joy at his father’s command to: ”Rejoice, your brother was dead but now he is alive.” Old righteous brother begrudged his father his tears of joy and his rejoicing and his father’s tears of joy and his father’s rejoicing. Righteous brother refused to bring gladness to his father’s heart. Even then, the father reminded the righteous son that “all that I have, is yours.”
    .
    Would it not have been great, if the righteous brother had brought his friends to the prodigal’s party to make merry with his father as is commanded in Deuteronomy 14: 22-29 about tithing: “and there before the Lord, your God, you shall partake of it and make merry with your family”? Instead he, (there is no other word, but the word I cannot write here) complained about not having enough, not enough heart to ask his father for his friends’ banquet, not enough heart to request to literally throw a party for his friends.
    .
    Deut.14: 28-29 continues, and this is particularly interesting because this passage impinges of the illegal alien. The words of God, Himself: “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all of the tithes of your produce for that year and deposit them in community store, that the Levite, who has no share in the heritage with you, and also the ALIEN, the orphan and the widow WHO BELONG to your community, may come and eat their fill; so that the Lord, your God may bless you in all you undertake.”
    .
    The individual conscience of the citizen CHOOSES to bring out his tithe, every third year, to donate to the community stores. Read food bank. It is not nice to fool Mother Nature, nor try to cheat God. The individual conscience of the man cannot cheat God without forfeiting his life and his immortal soul.
    Obama tries to square himself with God for abortion and legal sodomy by extorting tithe offerings from his fellow citizens without their valid consent or their willingness of conscience. He, then, donates his contraband to the poor, and blows his horn, adorns himself with crowns and gets the democratic party favors.
    .
    Getting back to the new Heavenly Jerusalem descending from God, (as Obama has tried to depict himself). cannot happen in the absence of Truth and Justice.
    .
    I was listening to Malachi Martin R.I.P. Malachi Martin was an exorcist for several decades. Martin said that coming into the presence of evil modifies the soul of even a good person. The soul of the evildoer is modified and the soul of the innocent person is modified. Martin called coming into the presence of an evildoer “dangerous”; an open door to Satan and Lucifer.
    .
    The government is demanding that the innocent proprietors of businesses suffer the entrance of evildoers into their midst as “the price of citizenship.” The state does not own the innocence, nor the soul, nor the sovereignty, nor the personhood, nor the informed consent, nor the CITIZENSHIP, nor the life of the citizen, any citizen.
    .
    For the state to impose regulations demanding that an innocent soul be “modified” by an evildoer is separation of church and state violated. The citizen constitutes and forms the government.
    .
    “Do not weep for me, but for your children”. If Jesus knew about the New World Order”, it was not new.
    .
    “A putative mother” is a very real mother, since the newly begotten child makes a mother of the woman. If the woman was not a mother, she would be a woman without a child. The woman hauled her child into court and demanded his extinction without “due process of law”, literally annihilating the Court.
    .
    The death of the mother is predicated on her imminent death, not a prognosis.
    .
    Snowflake babies, those frozen embryos adopted and gestated are citizens with sovereign personhood even as they are created and destroyed. Science, DNA, IVF and ABORTION, the destruction of humanity, have proven that a sovereign human being comes into existence at fertilization of the egg by human sperm. Enough with the ignorance, denial and tyranny.
    .
    I am sorry this is not better.

  • “I am sorry this is not better”.
    Your not in the position to apologize since your synopsis and arguments are clear and eloquent. You make sense Mary. Your pro-life efforts make a difference. Just consider the babies born that wouldn’t of had a chance if you and other lifers we’re not visible or present to these women who had a change of heart.

    One day in Gods glory, He might just open a book for you. Don’t be surprised if he shows these souls to you. Each and every one, given a chance for life.

  • MPS, your remarks are relevant exactly how?

  • Novus Ordo Seclorum= “A new order to/for the ages,” actually.

    It wouldn’t take much rewriting to apply White to the gay marriage case that will be before the court in a couple of months.

    I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers [410 U.S. 222] and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally dissentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

  • Ernst Schreiber: “Novus Ordo Seclorum= “A new order to/for the ages,” actually.”
    .and that would be to follow our conscience to vocation through freedom and the pursuit of Happiness.
    .
    I love Byron White. Byron White defended against Hugo Black the right to a relationship with almighty God in public square, prayer.
    .
    The one word I would change in his writing is the word: “constitutionally dissentitled.” to constitutionally disenfranchised. The word “disenfranchised” brings the weight of our civil rights to bear as “We, the people…” especially since the scientific proof of the newly begotten child as having constitutional civil rights to Life as our constitutional posterity from the very first moment of his existence.

  • The Supreme Court was as wrong in the Roe v Wade decision of the late 20th century as it was in the Dred Scott decision in the mid 19th century. When the issue is important, the Justices sitting on the bench render the most unjust decisions possible. They fail to realize in this life that the Supreme Justice is NOT a disinterested spectator in the events of human affairs, but they will find out in the next. Yesterday a black man was not a human being and today a baby is not a human being. God sees this. The first time He allowed a bloody civil war to punish us. What will He allow today?

  • Art Deco wrote, “your remarks are relevant exactly how?”
    As the dissenting justices both acknowledge abortion to be lawful in some circumstances, any attempt to restrict or regulate it wouldbe, in practice, have proved futile.
    Things would have been no different, if the majority had upheld the Texas statute, but subject to that limitation. The Scottish experience shows why.

  • Robert Bork wrote a devasting critique of the case in clear language,exposing it as a complete sham.His book should be required reading for anyone going to DC to march.

  • “Things would have been no different, if the majority had upheld the Texas statute,”

    Complete and total rubbish. The number of abortions exploded after Roe, the best estimates indicating a doubling in number.

    Additionally there is quite a difference between a country having a high murder rate and the same country legalizing murder.

  • The very nature of liberty requires a free people to allow and accept behavior from others that is both repugnant and benighted.

  • It does not require that people allow the destruction of innocent human life.

  • On the bright side, Roe v Wade was a 7-2 decision. Most decisions upholding abortion since then have been by the thinnest of margins, many only 5-4.

  • Denver, you are describing license, not liberty.

  • Denver: “The very nature of liberty requires a free people to allow and accept behavior from others that is both repugnant and benighted.”
    .
    Snowflake babies, eggs fertilized, frozen and gestated have grown into “people”. (44,000 in U.K.) You say “a free people” must be given due process of law. “a free people” ought not be murdered.

Why We’re Not Going Anywhere

Wednesday, November 14, AD 2012

Archdiocese launches Campaign for Religious Liberty

Let me explain, in as clear and precise terms as I can, why social conservatives are not going anywhere, nor should they go anywhere, but should remain right at the heart of the conservative movement and gain acceptance among libertarians as well, and should reject as the foolish garbage that it is all suggestions to the contrary.

First, our principles are not electoral losers. Leftists believe they are on “the right side of history”, comparing the campaign for “marriage equality” with every civil rights struggle of past eras. They believe that this fact is reflected in the way the youth vote splits and the purported reasons why. At the same time, they gloat and brag about the size of the Democratic share of the minority vote.

The merits of the “marriage equality” campaign don’t need to be discussed here. I’ve discussed them to death on this blog in previous posts. The fact remains that minorities are opposed to “marriage equality.” If Hispanics can be won over to the GOP on the immigration issue, it will put a stop to this “wrong side of history” nonsense for a generation. The uncomfortable alliance between racial minorities who hold socially conservative views and white liberals will finally be blown apart. Unlike them, when racial minorities finally do side with the GOP en masse, we won’t attribute white liberal hatred for them to “racism” (even though it sure looks like it sometimes). This is a battle of values, not skin colors, and a failure to see that is one of the reasons why the white liberal left will never win the future they mistakenly believe to be theirs.

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26 Responses to Why We’re Not Going Anywhere

  • This is a good post, Bonchamps. This is subject matter in which you are very knowledgeable and very articulate. Thank you.

  • I think this minorities are really social conservatives thing is bunk. When you have aroung 65 to 70% of black children in this country born to sinhle mothers, calling thme social conservatives is grossly ignorant at best. The situation with Hispanics is similar As Heather MacDonald points out:

    “I spoke last year with John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in southern California, about Hispanic politics. “What Republicans mean by ‘family values’ and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things,” he said. “We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people.”

    The idea of the “social issues” Hispanic voter is also a mirage. A majority of Hispanics now support gay marriage, a Pew Research Center poll from last month found. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate is 53 percent, about twice that of whites.”

    Now, this is not to say we should jettison social issues. Not at all. Anyone who even has a cursory knowledge of how economics and culture affect one another knows that it would drive the final nail in the GOP coffin if they further capitulated on this issue. After all, the left understands the connection very well, which is why their push for a nanny state has ahd a symbiotic connection with their push for “liberalization” of socila issues.

    As and far as the Akin and Murdoch situations are concerned, the biggest problems weren’t their gaffes but the way the republican party under the leadership of Mitt Romney this election cycle, threw them under the bus.

  • They still come out to vote against gay marriage and still oppose abortion. California Hispanics voted for Prop 8. I think the Church’s influence had a lot to do with this as well.

    Perhaps these positions alone are not sufficient to consider them reliable social conservatives, but it ought to be enough to consider them potential occasional allies. The point is simply that if the outstanding immigration issues are addressed (in a way that does not compromise border security), the real bunk will be found in the line that social issues are what harm the GOP. Hispanics may not be as solid on social conservatism as whites, but white social conservatism will not be a deal breaker for them as it is with white liberals – and really, white liberals alone. Black voters are even more socially conservative than Hispanics.

  • Oh, I do not think that social conservatism hurts the GOP either. In fact, as I said, to operate under that misconcption will be the death knell of the party. It’s just that this idea of minority social conservatism as a means to pander to them vis-avis social conservatism is non sense. What these pro-illegal immigration repulicans are trying to do, in effect, is sell them a knock off item when they can get the real thing at the same or even a cheaper price.

  • I think the Blacks and Hispanics who do vote Republican tend to do so mainly because of the social issues. I agree with Greg that this is overblown, but I do note that most elected officials who are Black or Hispanic and Republican tend to be quite solid on the social issues.

    If we can stop illegal immigration, a big if, I think the Hispanic population over time will trend Republican like most immigrant groups if they prosper. Blacks are a much greater problem for the Republicans making inroads but they are a shrinking section of the population, largely due to an atrociously high abortion rate, something that quite a few Black leaders used to be concerned with until quite recently in historical terms.

    One of the factors that may impact on Black allegiance to the Democrat party long term is the shrinking of Black urban centers in the North as Blacks move out to multi-racial suburbs and the South.

  • My point is simply that social issues aren’t a deal breaker for Hispanics. Neutralize the immigration issue and I guarantee you the Hispanic male vote and married vote will break for the GOP, and more women will come along as well. They don’t have to be hardcore social cons and we don’t have to pretend they will be.

    I’m not saying open the borders, either, by the way. But if we address the cartels as the national security menace they are, far beyond a normal criminal problem, we can come to some agreement on the situation within the US.

  • “I think the Blacks and Hispanics who do vote Republican tend to do so mainly because of the social issues.”

    I cdertainly blacks and Hispanics in the lower income brackets who vote republican do so mainly because of social issues. Whether or not this is true of blacks and Hipsanics in the upper income brackets do so I don’t know.

    Whether or not we can stop illegal immigration outright is, as Donald says, a big if. But we can secure the border to where we get it under control. Problem is, the federal government, regardless of party, lack the will to do so. To get a good insight into how bad the problem is, particularly in Arizona, I would urge readers to read Jan Brewer’s book, Scorpians for Breakfast. Then you will understand why I find Cardinal Dolan’s remarks so scandalous as well as the “orthodox” Catholic commentariat’s silence, let alone failure to denounce them.

  • Surely, a fundamental conservative ideal is free and consensual relations between individuals and groups, as expressed in the great Physiocrat principle, “trade knows no frontiers.”

    In other words, the free movement of labour and capital are the conservative default positions. Of course, restrictions can be justified in particular circumstances, but conservatives should never allow themselves to be misrepresented as the protectionist or anti-immigrant party.

  • In the words of the populist comic strip Pogo, “We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us.”

    “the problem is not with our values, but with their articulation.” That, right there, is the heart of the matter. Why was Reagan popular? He wasn’t nicknamed “The Great Communicator” for nothing!

    [Sidebar: I would ask Mr. Mockeridge to visit an urban church some Sunday morning if he believes that social conservatism is dead in that area. Would that some of the fervor found there could infuse our Catholic parishes!]

    It has to start in the primaries, where people will run who don’t give a rat’s patoot whether they win the nomination as long as they get the ideas out there, articulate, principled and clear.

    We must abandon the left’s “groupthink” politics (even as they are being used here) and formulate ideas and propositions, based on principle and character, that can be articulated in such a way as to appeal to individual people as individuals. The Left herds us into groups and then creates issues that put us into contention with each other: Classic “divide and conquer.” That tactic itself needs to be exposed and blared from the rooftops and when opposed, blared even louder. The evidence is damning and the counterpoint automatic.

    Just as a shift from peacetime to war can mean a wholesale change in leadership (remember Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short,) the key now is to identify and “hand out gold watches” to GOP establishment members who can’t get by their shopworn stereotypes and “Ken” doll notions. We did not ask for this war but it is here, “and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    All that need be done is what Bonchamps spells out in the last section. We need warriors who are fully aware of the enemy’s tactics and capabilities. The sine qua non of political candidacy should be an at-minimum-conversational familiarity with Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Clausewitz as well as Scripture. Drop the silver-spoon whitebreads and get some honest to gosh scrappers in there. Stick to policy but pull no punches. Stir up passions! Speak to the people as people and not demographics.

    Like all bullies, the Left is confident only when it thinks its target is cowed and suppliant. It is time to dispel this illusion.

  • Of course, restrictions can be justified in particular circumstances, but conservatives should never allow themselves to be misrepresented as the protectionist or anti-immigrant party.

    A country is not a hotel. The social and political disruption which would attend open borders would be a nightmare. There are two sorts of countries which can tolerate free immigration:

    1. Societies of migrants with a great deal of unsettled lands (with the proviso that it helps if the migration streams are not from irreconcilable groups).

    2. Countries which are unattractive in which to settle.

  • Art Deco

    In a world in which economic growth increasingly depends on the cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital and where the old barriers to such movement have been reduced or eliminated, as obstacles to progress, it is difficult to see why flows of labour should not yield similar benefits.

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  • In a world in which economic growth increasingly depends on the cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital and where the old barriers to such movement have been reduced or eliminated, as obstacles to progress, it is difficult to see why flows of labour should not yield similar benefits.

    The fundamental neoclassical theory predicts gains from trade in factors of production. Econometric analysis of the dimension of those gains reveals (with regard to trade in labor) the following:

    1. The gains are small
    2. They accrue predominantly to the immigrant populations themselves (the residual to the extant population amounting to around 0.1% of gross domestic product).
    3. The benefit to the extant population is crucially dependent on welfare policy.

    The main brain for this sort of empirical study in this country is George Borjas, who is not an advocate of unrestricted immigration.

    Also, the social and political challenges which derive from ‘diversity’ are not captured in economic statistics.

  • In discussing minorities and values voters, keep in mind that 73% of Catholic Latinos and 95% of black Protestants voted for Obama. They did this knowing, well some of them knew, Obama’s support of infanticide, abortion, gay marriage, anti-religious freedom and secular humanism. These groups may be values voters, but self-interests trump all other interests.

  • Kyle has a point, but it isn’t in self-interest to vote for a candidate who supports the murder of your unborn children. It isn’t in self-interest to vote for a candidate who supports curtailing your most cherished freedoms into the closet while parading filth out in public for your children to emulate. It isn’t in self-interest to vote for a candidate whose economic policies keep your people shackled to the public treasury instead of being able to stand up independently without government telling you what to do. Truthfully, I do not think that these people really know what their self-interests are. 🙁 I don’t mean to detract from Kyle’s point – they vote for what they think is in their self-interests, but not for what is really in their self-interests. And then we conservatives are called closed-minded, hateful, intolerant racists because we think its immoral to murder a black or Hispanic baby – or any baby for that matter.

  • “[Sidebar: I would ask Mr. Mockeridge to visit an urban church some Sunday morning if he believes that social conservatism is dead in that area. Would that some of the fervor found there could infuse our Catholic parishes!]”

    I’m not sure of what you mean by this question. But the fact of the matter is that Hispanics and blacks are not nearly as socially conservative as those who tell us we need to pander to them are. When you have up to 70% out of wedlock birthrate among blacks and 53% out of wedlock births among Hispanics, you cannot honestly claim that they are predominately socially conservative. Just because you attend Church doesn’t mean you are socially conservative. There are many regualarly mass attending Catholics are not social conservatives.

  • There’s a difference between being a social conservative and being a moral person. I wouldn’t use rates of sin to decide who is and isn’t a social con. If you read Charles Murray’s analysis of white America in “Coming Apart”, he reveals one of the paradoxes of our time: that the poor tend to claim social conservative values while not practicing them in real life, while the wealthy reject social conservative values while actually practicing them in life. He calls upon the new elite to preach what they practice for the benefit of society.

  • By “not practicing,” I would include voting as a practice that has not shown to follow social conservatism some are perceived to espouse. Voting and lifestyles are becoming bedmates. Voting is less driven by what we should do and more driven by what I want. It wasn’t always this way, but more of America is willing to go off the moral cliff. If America showed as much concern for the moral cliff as it does for a hyped up fiscal cliff, there would be no fiscal cliff. But worrying about social values is such a “what’s good for society, the country as a whole” issue. That can’t stand up to the self-interest draw of a fiscal cliff hot topic. That will affect my pocket book!

  • I’m sorry, Bonchamps, but this is not even remotely relavent to the issue at hand. If yu want to support this or that immigration policie, do it on the basis of its merits, not as a means to pander to a particular racial or ethnic group. To do so would kill the GOP.

  • “this is not even remotely relavent to the issue at hand. ”

    What are you talking about? This is my post. I made it the issue.

  • Blacks and Hispanics are much like the “Catholic” vote: an illusion.

    Some people are going to be socially biased against the GOP because they’ve been lied to, and some people just want handouts. It would be much more useful to start sorting people as “cultural democrats” vs “active democrats” and go after votes that way.

    We will not win over people who care more about sex and free money than principles; we already have the people who care more about not killing babies than free money and sex. We need to reach the people who voted for Obama because “that is what decent people do.”

  • Greg: “Then you will understand why I find Cardinal Dolan’s remarks so scandalous as well as the “orthodox” Catholic commentariat’s silence, let alone failure to denounce them.”

    100% with you there, bro. Dolan is, and has been, incompetent.

    Women on both sides detest him now. The left-leaning women despise him simply because he is a male, and see him as a male that wants to take away their freedom to choose. Faithful women on the right detest him because he has effectively (through is ineffectiveness) stripped us of our freedoms, soon right down to the freedom of a healthcare worker to not perform or assist in abortions and dispensing abortifacients.

    So yes, despise (God forgive me, but this man is not a good shepherd) is the proper word here. And I suspect Our Lady is not real happy with him either, and if Momma ain’t happy…

  • I am very disappointed in Cardinal Dolan and the majority of the USCCB. I had hoped. That his invitation of Obama to the Al Smith dinner was a backfire on Obama, but after seeing photos of him and Obama laughing it up, I was revolted.

  • Tonight’s reading assignment: Mt 9:10-13 or Mk 2:15-17

Obama’s Ideological Brinkmanship

Monday, April 23, AD 2012

We knew it would come to this, but we weren’t sure until when until the Obama administration announced the contraception mandate; even then, we weren’t sure when exactly it would be explicitly spelled out by the leadership of the Church. I am referring to the U.S. bishop’s recent statement declaring, among other things, the following:

It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.

It is essential to understand the distinction between conscientious objection and an unjust law. Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience—conscription being the most well-known example. An unjust law is “no law at all.” It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal. (Emphasis added)

In making this statement, the bishops have echoed Pope Leo XIII’s statement in his encyclical Libertas: “But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”

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28 Responses to Obama’s Ideological Brinkmanship

  • Thank you, Bonchamps! Shared on Facebook!

  • I believe it was Edmund Burke who said, “An unjust law is the worst form of tyranny.”

  • Too many Catholics have embraced a false notion of the relationship between religion and politics. Basing themselves on Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas, they have talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. “Under such circumstances, the supernatural is no longer properly speaking another order, something unprecedented, overwhelming and transfiguring” (Henri de Lubac)

    It was this that led Laberthonnière, a hundred years ago now, to accuse the Neo-Thomists of his day of ““a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”

    It led his friend and contemporary, Maurice Blondel, to insist that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    Jacques Maritain, too, declared that “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being. . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account”

    Unless we insist, in Blondel’s words, that we can “find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity,” we shall inevitable acquiesce in practice in the Liberal privatisation of religion.

  • Well, that’s all very interesting.

    How is it related to what I wrote?

    Not being sarcastic here; I’d really like to know.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: “a natural order” is inscribed in our Declaration of Independence: “the laws of nature and nature’s God”. To change our founding principles ratified 236 years ago, requires a change by two-thirds of the states agreeing to the change. It IS that simple. Joseph Suarez based on Saint Thomas Aquinas (saints are in heaven with God), Suarez says: “Human existence (from God) is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights” Human existence begins when two become one flesh and our Creator gives the child a sovereign personhood endowed with unalienable rights to life. Obamacare is one rung in the ladder of one world government under one world bank instead of under God, disallowing the soul of man, because the soul of man cries out to God to be heard and the soul of man will be heard. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Gorbachev, Putin, they can wait, there are many waitng in the shadows for the one world shadow government under the world bank to step center stage. They show the face of Dr. Jekyl. If they showed the face of Mr. Hyde, who would vote for them, or trust them. In God we trust, “our Creator”

  • “I was deeply disappointed with the bishop’s support for Obamacare, and I still reject the wholly prudential argument that a national healthcare scheme is required to secure some sort of “human right” for people in this country. I especially reject the notion that a militantly secular regime such as Obama’s could ever be entrusted to secure such a right. One can only hope that the lesson was learned, and that it is not too late.”

    Unfortunately I don’t think they will. Many are still bound by the current, disordered sense of social justice. It was this disordered sense of justice that brought about support for Obama’s health care reform.

  • Hilaire Belloc summed it up very well, when he said that “Catholic life is not normal to a society unless Catholic morals and doctrine be supreme therein. Unless the morals of the Faith appear fully in the laws of that society, unless it be the established and authoritative religion of that society, the Church is ill at ease… She proposes to take in men’s minds even more than the place taken by patriotism; to influence the whole of society, not a part of it, and to influence it even more thoroughly than a common language. Where She is confronted by any agency inimical to Her claim, though that agency be not directly hostile, She cannot but oppose it.”

    It is the failure to keep this truth before our minds and the acceptance of a compromise that proposed a government founded on merely natural principles and, guided by human reason, pursuing merely natural ends that has brought us to this pass.

    As for “Nature and Nature’s God,” Pascal warned us, “All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than nature, either find no light to satisfy them or come to devise a means of knowing and serving God without a mediator, thus falling into either atheism or deism, two things almost equally abhorrent to Christianity… They imagine that it simply consists in worshipping God considered to be great and mighty and eternal, which is properly speaking deism, almost as remote from the Christian religion as atheism.” This is the God of the Phiosophes, not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

  • Phillip: “I was deeply disappointed with the bishop’s support for Obamacare, and I still reject the wholly prudential argument that a national healthcare scheme is required to secure some sort of “human right” for people in this country. ” Healthcare is CHARITY, a voluntary virtue. One of man’s responses to the gift of Faith from God. CHARITY comes under the FREEDOM OF RELIGION First Amendment Freedom.
    Michael Paterson-Seymour: The Declaration of Independence is our founding principle to which all people must adhere or change with two-thirds of the states ratifying. This is Important because the atheists are telling us to go find two-thirds of the states to reratify the laws already in place such as the right to LIFE and that all men are created EQUAL. Founded on “Divine Providence” our country continues its being through virtue. Virtue is America’s lifeline. What Pascal said is happening right now, without Christ. Let me continue this. I am late for Mass.

  • Mary,

    The Declaration of Independence has NO legal standing whatsoever. Wile I agree that it contains the founding principles of the nation, and that this makes it in many respects as important if not MORE important than the Constitution, it is not itself law. It is not subject to any vote.

  • Michael,

    “It is the failure to keep this truth before our minds and the acceptance of a compromise that proposed a government founded on merely natural principles and, guided by human reason, pursuing merely natural ends that has brought us to this pass.”

    What failure? It was never done to begin with. This country was founded by Freemasons.

    “We” really had no role in this. It is the society that was given to us. And so to some extent we have to operate within its framework.

  • Beauchamps

    “What failure? It was never done to begin with. This country was founded by Freemasons.

    “We” really had no role in this. It is the society that was given to us. And so to some extent we have to operate within its framework.”

    It is one thing to accept the inevitable and to operate with the institutions one has, as Leo XIII exhorted French Catholics to do, when he called on them to “rally to the Republic,” explaining that a distinction must be drawn between the form of government, which ought to be accepted, and its laws which ought to be improved. It is another to treat the state’s rejection of “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ,” as Dignitatis Humanae puts it as somehow good or desirable in itself, as so many Catholics have done, and not only those on the Left.

  • “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”: Caesar belongs to God. Constituted through the sovereign personhood and unalienable rights of each and every created equal, endowed citizen, government is under God, born of the free will endowed by our Creator, Divine Justice, authentic authority, and humble service. Government does not create life, nor personhood, nor man. Government gives citizenship. Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, is perfect Charity. Jesus Christ as man loves. Jesus Christ as God is LOVE. The virtue of CHARITY as all virtues and vices is practiced through the consent and free will of the person. The virtue of charity is voluntary, that is, practiced through the free will and consent of man. Levying taxes to effect the virtue of charity without the free will and consent of the tax payers is extortion. The will of God expressed through the voice of the people is the duty of government. Obamacare, in the practice of the vices of abortion, contraception and euthanasia, violates the will of God, our Creator. Obamacare, in levying taxes without the will and consent of the people is extortion. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us and Christ took His life up again. In Christ, man has eternal life. Embraced, Jesus Christ is FREEDOM.
    In 2013, in Maryland, gay marriage becomes law. Who told governor O’Malley to deny the rational, immortal souls of the participants, of his constituents and of God? It was not God Who told O’Malley. God said: “Thou shall not lay with a man as with a woman” (biblical note to follow) God has become HATE SPEECH. For the common good? for our own good? REALLY? Government of the people, for the people and by the people has perished from the face of the earth.

  • Bonchamps: The Declaration of Independence was ratified by every state before the War for Independence. That makes the Declaration of Independence law. The Declaration of Indpendence was never nulled and void, or abrogated or unratified. In fact, the U.S. Constitution begins by saying: “in the twelveth year of our Independence…” sure sounds to me like the Founding Fathers built our country, our freedom and our independence on the Declaration of Independence as the absolute minimum. Please show me where our Independence as inscribed in our Declaration of Indpendence is proscribed and do not go with unjust law.

  • Bonchamps: Every man woman and child, there were three generations who fought for independence, who fought and died, died in vain, for a founding principle that no longer exists? The Declaration of Independence gave birth to America, July 4th 1776. The Statue of Liberty holds that Declaration in her left hand. The U.S. Constitution defines the government, not the nation. There would be no United States of America nation if the Declaration were not ratified (ratification is a vote by the people). July 4th is our nation, the United States of America’s birthday, unrepealed and unrepentant. The Declaration of Independence is our people. The U.S. Constitution is our government. Where were you when Obama, as sitting president, and on video, no less than three times, recited the Declaration of Independence omitting “our Creator”, as the endower of our omitted and neglected “unalienable rights” Oh, yes, The Declaration of Independence is very much alive and well, except in Obama’s regime.

  • WK Aiken: Headache. “WE”, the people and “WE” hold these truths to be self evident are the same “WE”. Government by the people prevails over government by the government. Put the Declaration of Independence on the ballot since Bonchamps thinks that it is not a law.

  • Mary,

    You are causing me a headache too.

    You’re entitled to your own opinion. You aren’t entitled to your own facts. The Declaration of Independence is very important philosophically. I think it should inform the laws of the nation. But it is not a legal document and it has no legal standing. That’s not my opinion, that’s not my preference, its just a fact.

    Stop arguing with me as if I am saying the Declaration is bad or something. Stop arguing like a nutjob. I love the Declaration of Independence. I think it is one of the most important documents in history. But I also recognize facts, truth, reality, etc. You should too.

  • ” It is another to treat the state’s rejection of “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ,” as Dignitatis Humanae puts it as somehow good or desirable in itself, as so many Catholics have done, and not only those on the Left.”

    Who did this? I guess that’s where I’m confused. Are you saying I did this?

    Personally, I think Dignitatis Humanae implies that the Church once engaged in systematic violations of “human rights”. There were Church councils that called for all Christian princes to suppress public Islamic worship on the sole grounds that it was offensive to God (not to preserve public order or anything like that).

    One of the reasons I am a “traditionalist” (I really dislike that term, btw) is that I don’t believe that yesterday’s moral “rights” can become today’s intrinsic wrongs, nor do I believe that new human rights can come into existence because popular opinion on various topics has changed.

    So you get no argument from me on this point. Leo XIII’s position in Libertas was more than sufficient – there was no need for DH. None at all. We tolerate certain evils for the sake of the public good. This is how we talk about and address the modern world, which imposes evil on us. But we don’t call good evil, or evil good.

  • Bonchamps

    “There were Church councils that called for all Christian princes to suppress public Islamic worship on the sole grounds that it was offensive to God (not to preserve public order or anything like that).”

    Dignitatis excludes coercion in matters of religion by the civil power, “dummodo iustus ordo publicus servetur” [Provided the just demands of public order are observed]

    “Public order” is a technical term in the Civilian or Roman Law tradition and is much wider than “keeping the peace” ; its nearest English equivalent is “public policy,” or “in the public interest.” Thus, the provision in the Code Civil on Respect for the Human Body, which declares (inter alia) that the human body, its parts and products cannot be the object of ownership – “Les dispositions du présent chapitre sont d’ordre public,” literally “The dispositions of the present chapter pertain to public order” appears in the official English translation (on the Legifrance website) as, “These provisions are mandatory.”

    National security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of health or morals all fall within the concept of “ordo publicus” and are regularly so described in legislation.

  • Michael…

    “Dignitatis excludes coercion in matters of religion by the civil power”

    I think that was my whole point. The Church used to insist upon just that kind of coercion. And I don’t have a problem with it. It wasn’t a sin that we had to atone for. It wasn’t a mistake that had to be corrected. It was a policy that simply no longer needed to be applied.

    As for the rest… ok? I mean, is there a point in there somewhere? That’s related to anything I said? Are we having a discussion or are you just talking with yourself?

    I’m seriously asking.

  • Without the Declaration of Independence there would be no “Law of the Land”. There is no either, or, but both. Clarification: The Declaration of Independence is our founding principle without which no one can be or become a citizen. The atheist says there is no God. God is existence. The atheist would annihilate himself if that were true, but the atheist needs God to annihilate himself.
    Jurisdiction over the newly begotten sovereign soul in the womb belongs to our founding principle: The Declaration of Independence. Jurisdiction over sovereign souls who are given birth belongs to the United States Constitution as the Law of the Land. The U.S. Constitution as the Law of the Land has no jurisdiction over the newly begotten soul in the womb, neither through abortion nor taxation, except to enforce our founding principles: that all men are created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. The right to privacy inheres in the Declaration of Independence, all or nothing at all. This is borne out in foreign individuals who come to America as diplomats, have diplomatic immunity, therefore, cannot be tried under the Law of the Land. Foreign criminals too, must be sent back. Only for laying in wait and killing a man (capital one premeditated homicide) must a man be put to death. Being unwanted is not a crime for execution, especially after being invited by the parents. (We are not Vlad the Impaler.) These persons must be treated with all courtesy through good will and good will is expected of them but they are not citizens. When the sovereign person enters the world through birth the United States acknowledges him with citizenship and he must keep the Law of the Land, according the our founding principle: The Declaration of Independence. Without The Declaration of Independence, our Constitution becomes whatever anybody says it is, subjective interpretation without any sovereign authority, except that which comes from the interpreter. The sovereign person in the womb who is about to be aborted is denied and cannot constitute our sovereign nation. It is the will of our Creator that any and all persons be created. The Declaration of Independence establishes our nation and the Law of the Land, that is why The Declaration of Independence is called our founding principle. Perhaps it is time to try the Declaration of Independence in court under the Law of the Land.

  • Bonchamps says:
    The Declaration of Independence has NO legal standing whatsoever. Wile I agree that it contains the founding principles of the nation, and that this makes it in many respects as important if not MORE important than the Constitution, it is not itself law. It is not subject to any vote.
    Bonchamps: I beg to differ with you and your interpretation of our founding principles.
    The Declaration of Independence, “We, hold these truths to be self-evident” defines a sovereign person as created equal and endowed with unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, an individual member of the species, Homo Sapiens, and as belonging to humanity as a human being composed of human body and metaphysical, rational, immortal soul. The Declaration of Independence secures the individual human being’s place among the nations of the world. The Declaration of Independence ought to be the marching orders for the United Nations. Alas and alack it is not.
    The Constitution for the United States of America defines the American citizen’s rights and privileges under the Supreme Law of the Land. These rights are inscribed in the Preamble: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Aborting our constitutional Posterity is not in the Law of the Land. Redefining the human person as having no soul to legalize abortion, or same sex union, or chattel of the state, is impossible and counter to constitutional law. Redefining the existence of God and the Supreme Sovereign Being as a servant of the people is neither constitutional nor predicated on Justice and independence. Disenfranchising the parishioners of the Catholic church of their right to engage in ministry, according to their rational conscience removes the path for any and all people, especially atheists to find a way into religion, (an individual’s personal and free will response to the gift of Faith from God), and the exercise of rational thought as expression of the rational soul and the freedom of suffrage, the vote. “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” There is no separation of the freedom of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. It is only when peoples start redefining the reality of our Creator and His persons, that men and government lose their meaning. As an aside: When in Roe v. Wade the woman wanted to kill her child, the child became a ward of the court, a ward of the court, the court allowed to be killed.

  • Mary,

    ” I beg to differ with you and your interpretation of our founding principles.”

    I have no different interpretation of our founding principles. This is why your comments are just disturbing to me. I am simply saying that the Declaration of Independence is not a legally-binding document. Show me the court case in which it has ever been invoked as such.

    The most important parts of the Declaration are summarized in the Bill of Rights. The protection of life, liberty and property is in the 5th amendment. The protection of our political rights in the 1st amendment. The protection of our legitimate privacy is in the 4th amendment (not the 9th amendment, as the Blackmum court fantasized). The right of people to determine their own destiny apart from a controlling centralized government is found in the 10th amendment.

    But the plain fact is that the Constitution is not a prefect document. That’s why I like anti-Federalists such as Robert Yeats. It was well understood by him and others that the Constitution may well provide us with a tyranny instead of freedom. And absolutely no one thought that the mere existence of the Declaration of Independence provided any sort of institutional guarantee that this wouldn’t happen. It has certainly INSPIRED people to challenge unjust laws, but it has never been cited in any court case I know of as a legal justification for overturning them. Show me where it has been.

  • And again, I am aware that its principles have often been cited. But never as “the letter of the law” – more like the “spirit.” And I would agree: the Declaration is like the soul to the body of the Constitution. But they aren’t identical in form or function.

    And bodies decay.

  • and in a very small voice, I say that the Person of God is the Person for Whom the Constitution was written.

  • “…and in a very small voice, I say that the Person of God is the Person for Whom the Constitution was written.”

    I don’t think the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence for that matter were written “for” God. But certainly their foundation and basis is God.

  • Paul W. Primavera: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were framed for the PERSON. Jesus Christ is both a human and a Divine PERSON. Pope John Paul II said that when one person’s rights are denied, all persons’ rights are denied. The Person of Jesus Christ is a citizen of the world, the Sovereign King. The Person of Jesus Christ is denied acknowledgement in the public square. This is contrary to all men being created equal. Christ in His human nature is a man with equal civil rights. As you know Jesus, in His human nature, life was taken from Him, His liberty was denied to Him, and of course He is being even now, forbidden to pursue His Happiness. This happens when Jesus’ name is forbidden in public. The Person of Jesus Christ had to be banned before God’s children could be murdered in the womb. It is the sovereign personhood of the newly begotten human being who’s soul is being torn from his body in abortion. We are all one in the mystical Body of Christ. If some in public office do not respect the PERSON of Jesus Christ, how can they respect any of us or themselves? The PERSON is WHO we are at our core. THE PERSON IS IMMUTABLE. The PERSON is a PERSON, is a PERSON ALWAYS.(from the work of Rev. James Lentini) The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are ratified for the PERSON, by the PERSON and through the PERSON. Thank you Paul W. Primavera for corresponding. I am learning the Ave Maria in Greek. WOW. I have tried Bonchamps patience, brother McClarey’s kindness and very much enjoy your friendship. One Hail Mary
    Av? Mar?a, gr?ti? pl?na,
    Dominus t?cum.
    Benedicta t? in mulieribus,
    et benedictus fr?ctus ventris tu?, I?sus.
    S?ncta Mar?a, M?ter De?,
    ?r? pr? n?b?s pecc?t?ribus,
    nunc et in h?r? mortis nostrae.
    ?m?n.
    Hail Mary, full of grace,
    the Lord is with thee;
    blessed art thou amongst women,
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners,
    now and at the hour of our death.
    Amen.
    And for good measure, the ancient Greek version as well (which reads a little differently) (hope the Greek letters come out OK):
    ??????? ???????, ?????, ???????????? ?????,
    ? ?????? ???? ???. ?????????? ?? ?? ???????,
    ??? ??????????? ? ?????? ??? ??????? ???,
    ??? ?????? ?????? ??? ????? ????.

  • Paul W Primavera says:
    “…and in a very small voice, I say that the Person of God is the Person for Whom the Constitution was written.”

    “I don’t think the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence for that matter were written “for” God. But certainly their foundation and basis is God.”
    The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were written for “THE PERSON OF GOD”, and “with” God, July 4th in the year of Our Lord, 1776.
    One nation under God means that the judges of the Supreme Court for the United States of America recognize and acknowledge that they are the personification of almighty God’s absolute and merciful Justice when they are called upon to be JUSTICE. The executive executes the Supreme Law of the Land UNDER GOD through the JUSTICES, the personification of God’s Justice, and the souls of his constituents. The Congress of all men speaks the will of the people. Only TRUTH will be spoken, only TRUTH will be heard or the Congress of all men will have betrayed the nation and committed perjury in the Court. This is possible, practical and privileged through the rational, immortal soul of each and every person, to be represented; his constituency to be acknowledged and to be accorded the endowed unalienable rights of the children of God, by the children of men.
    The atheist, secular humanist, heretic, fallen away from God repudiates his own human soul as having perfection in almighty God, and renders unto Caesar imperfection and more imperfection, denying the newly conceived (constitutional) posterity, created in original innocence, virginity and perfect charity, the only person deserving endowed, unalienable rights, the truth about their sovereign personhood, their constituency in establishing one nation UNDER GOD, and their adoption into the family of God.

War Crimes

Tuesday, August 10, AD 2010

As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, Richard Fernandez asks us to name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. (“Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.”)

Meanwhile, Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) thinks it’s past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan as victim every Aug. 6 and 9:

I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS  Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the  millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.

(HT: Bill Cork).

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97 Responses to War Crimes

  • Excellent post Christopher. Apparently Pius XII wasn’t as certain initially in his condemnation of the bombings as those members of Catholic blogdom in this country who engage in the self-flagellation ritual of spitting on the grave of Harry Truman in the annual August bomb follies. When the chief diplomat of the US mentioned an editorial of L Osservatore Romano that criticized the US for the bombings Pius responded that the editorial had not been authorized by him. I truly pray that those swift to condemn Truman never have to deal with making a decision that would kill hundreds of thousands, or likely kill millions if they do not make the decision. The cry of “consequentialism” is of course useful on Catholic blogs, and fairly useless when dealing with grim realities that constantly arise in war.

  • Sitting in Truman’s seat I may well have made the same decision. But I would not have tried to defend it before my Creator. The intrinsically evil nature of the act is not altered by either its good intentions or beneficial consequences. Some sins are simply more forgivable than others. While I’m willing to defend Truman I am unwilling to defend his decision, even though I certainly sympathize with his predicament. As wrong as his decision was, Truman is a far more morally sympathetic character than most of his vain and self-righteous critics.

  • Thanks for this post, Christopher. The last two paragraphs–yours and Michael’s–pretty well sum up where I am now.

    My sons and I visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force last month, and one of the exhibits is the original “Bockscar,” the B-29 which dropped “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. I posed my sons by a Spad XIII (the same model as flown by Eddie Rickenbacker) and by an F-86 Sabre (Korea). I refused to do the same with Bockscar. I explained to my oldest (I was trying to keep my youngest from touching every. single. aircraft. in the museum) what it was, and also said that it killed thousands of innocent people, and was dropped by a Catholic cathedral. If nothing else, I think he’ll remember that and understand the horrid complexity of war, even when the war itself is necessary.

  • It’s true that the Japanese army committed atrocities during WWII with a greater death toll than Hiroshima, but when was the last time you read an article trying to justify the Rape of Nanking?

  • I’m not sure what VDH’s point was about the Tokyo raids. Because we had done much worse, Hiroshima is not bad?

    The correct moral decision is clear enough. The fact it would be difficult to follow through on it is no real surprise. Doing the right thing is rarely easy.

    I have no desire to villify Truman for dropping the bomb; but I don’t consider him a hero either.

  • The firebombings of earlier in the war both in Europe and Japan were clearly nothing more than acts of terror deliberately calculated to demoralize civilians… and Dresden was a particularly horrific example of this barbarism (cf., http://www.rense.com/general19/flame.htm).

    “Bomber” Harris, the Brit commander behind Dresden and similar attacks, also memorialized in Britain by a statue in his honor, famously said he did “not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.”
    And,
    “the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.”

    And,
    “It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only extensions of this immoral military doctrine. The Brits, who during Germany’s V-2 campaign suffered a small fraction of the casualities they themselves would inflict on a supine German civilian population, should have known better.

    Truman should also have known better.

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotinally scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • I am not able to argue against any of the comments posted by Tom so I will not attempt it. To give the military the benefit of the doubt for their actions, many soldiers had to act on the notion “kill or be killed” – which is totally different than our plush civilian lives.

    Many soldiers did not know who they could trust and saw death because of it. Leaders tried to keep their soldiers alive. Many were battle weary from long months of fighting in extreme conditions. We take the emotional scars of these individuals for granted.

    This was war. We were attacked. Japan would not surrender and contiuned torturing people. Truman was obligated to defend this country and our allies and wanted to bring the troups home. I am not sure that we now are qualified to make a judgement statement such as “Truman should also have known better”.

    The dropping of these bombs was a tragic event. With the determination of Imperial Japan, what would have stopped them? Should we consider additional bombing raids that would have killed more people any less evil? Would sending our soldiers into certain-death situations be less evil since many were physically and emotionally drained? Are we supposed to consider self-defense and defense of others as evil?!

  • My opinion: liberal, left-wing catholics resurrect this uncharitable (“He who is without sin . . . , etc.) opinion each August in order (I think) to salve their consummate consciences for voting for abortion: because America Hiroshima is evil, don’t you know? But, it’s not evil to vote for abortion.

    BARF!

  • T. Shaw,

    Most, if not all of us who frequent here are adamantly opposed to abortion and I have never voted for anyone who supports the killing of the unborn (whether the candidate has a D or R after his name).

    This is not Vox Nova.

    But evil is evil, and wrong is wrong. I agree with the others that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were evils, as well as Dresden, etc. It should be no surprise that even generally good people can do evil things.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South:

    Quoth Sherman,
    “The Government of the United States has in North Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . . war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact…. We will . . . take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.”

    Not rebellious southern civilians alone were subject to this policy, but the Indians too:

    “It is one of those irreconcilable conflicts that will end only in one way, one or the other must be exterminated . . . . We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the extermination, men, women and children” … “The more Indians we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed next year… They all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.”

    There’s no ambiguity about it: deliberate targeting of non-combatants and their homes and property is flat out immoral. I hope The American Catholic continues to rank the noun above the adjective.

  • Of course, our national flirtation with war-crime-as-policy began with Lincoln, who unleashed Sherman on the civilian population of the South

    Er, no.

    That hypothesis would be news to the Iroquois, who referred to George Washington as the “burner of towns” for his dispatch of John Sullivan to root out the pro-British tribes in 1779. Sullivan performed his mission with gusto, obliterating at least 40 Iroquois villages.

    Washington was actually rather disappointed with the results, truth be told.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sullivan_Expedition

  • There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the use of the word “moral”. The Church quite clearly teaches that morality is a personal attribute. A nation, an institution, a group cannot sin. It has no soul, no free will.

    [Likewise, the Church did not commit the sexual. They were acts of individuals. And again the Church did not cover up the acts. Those were decisions by individual bishops].

    The question then becomes “whose was the sin?” Who should be put on trial?

    There is a great deal of the disingenuous in those who point to others as the sinners. It is just a tad too easy at a distance of 60 years. And there is a touch of discerning the mote in the eye of others.

    Should not those who so quick to condemn the bombings, to condemn the war, be willing to give up all the benefits they enjoy as a result of the war?

    It seems to me that we Americans did what amounts to acts of contrition by rebuilding Germany and Japan after the war, and ridding those countries of the brutal regimes which oppressed them.

  • I think that several of the comments here misunderstand the upshot of the original post. Is it possible to hold both that

    (1) the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and other bombings of non-combatants, both in WWII and after, is an intrinsically evil act

    and

    (2) the agents responsible for committing those acts were in all liklihood not possessed of a desire to commit an intrinsically evil act, but by a desire to do the best thing possible in a very bad set of circumstances.

    Sometimes holier-than-thou-types seem not to understand that holding (2) does not remove the force of (1) but, if anything, testifies even more strongly to how pervasive sin is in the world: sometimes what seems to be the very best thing to an already compromised ethical agent (and who is not already compromised) is intrinsically evil.

    I take it that there exists an analogy between Truman and his desicion and the sister in charge of medical ethics at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, who ordered the D&E on the woman who appeared to be dying from priaclampsia [sic?].

  • Of course then we would have the burning of Chambersburg by the Confederates after the citizenry were unable to come up with the monetary ransom requested by the boys in gray.

    http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1973/5/1973_5_36.shtml

    Then there is also the fact that the Confederate States decreed death for all former slaves in the Union Army and the officers who led them.

    “3. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.

    4. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy.”

    http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/pow.htm

    Neo-Confederate apologists for the Confederacy have a lot to explain when they want to take Lincoln to task for “total war”.

  • One element I would like to raise in this thread is the alternatives to what Truman did. The opponents of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also oppose the fire bombing of Japanese cities which was the only way to destroy from the air the spread out Japanese industries. Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender. Of course while this was still going on Japan would have still controlled a large part of Asia and continued to kill, on average, some 300,000 civilians each and every month. An invasion of the Home Islands would have led to a mammoth death toll of civilians. During the battle of Manila in March of 45 MacArthur restricted the use of artillery and air power in order to attempt to spare civilian casualties. Some 100,000 civilians died anyway, some deliberately slain by the Japanese, but most simply dying as a result of being caught in the cross fire of two armies battling in an urban area.

    So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do? (I do hope that no one brings up the truly fatuous idea of inviting the Japanese military to observe a test of the bomb. The Japanese didn’t surrender after Hiroshima. A test of a bomb would have had no impact upon the Japanese government.)

  • I understand that the bombing of Dresden was immoral. It was (as far as I know) a civilian, not a military, target. But does that distinction apply to Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The Japanese civilians were doing machine work in their houses; the families were trained for combat. Granted, they weren’t uniformed, and who knows if they would have resisted or surrendered, but I don’t see how they can be classified as non-military.

  • Oh – let me add, “unless I’m wrong”. I’m no ethicist or historian.

  • Hindsight may be 20/20, but war crimes are forever.

  • Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.

  • Actually Pinky Dresden was rather heavily involved in the German war effort. A good revisionist look at that bombing is linked to below:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dresden-Tuesday-February-13-1945/dp/0060006773

    In regard to what an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would have entailed the most recent study is linked below.

    “Giangreco, a longtime former editor for Military Review, synthesizes years of research in a definitive analysis of America’s motives for using atomic bombs against Japan in 1945. The nuclear bombing of Japan, he concludes, was undertaken in the context of Operation Downfall: a series of invasions of the Japanese islands American planners estimated would initially cause anywhere from a quarter-million to a million U.S. casualties, plus millions of Japanese. Giangreco presents the contexts of America’s growing war weariness and declining manpower resources. Above all, he demonstrates the Japanese militarists’ continuing belief that they could defeat the U.S. Japan had almost 13,000 planes available for suicide attacks, and plans for the defense of Kyushu, the U.S.’s initial invasion site, were elaborate and sophisticated, deploying over 900,000 men. Japanese and American documents presented here offer a chillingly clear-eyed picture of a battle of attrition so daunting that Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall considered using atomic and chemical weapons to support the operation. Faced with this conundrum, in Giangreco’s excellent examination, President Truman took what seemed the least worst option.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Pay-Operation-DOWNFALL-1945-1947/dp/1591143160/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281467655&sr=1-1

  • “Don, if I were Truman, I would not have insisted on unconditional surrender.”

    What terms would you have offered Japan restrainedradical? Here are the terms Truman offered.

    Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender
    Issued, at Potsdam, July 26, 1945

    “1.We-the President of the United States, the President of the National Government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agree that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

    2.The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and of China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan. This military power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the Allied Nations to prosecute the war against Japan until she ceases to resist.

    3.The result of the futile and senseless German resistance to the might of the aroused free peoples of the world stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of Japan. The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry and the method of life of the whole German people. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.

    4.The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

    5.Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay.

    6.There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

    7.Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.

    8.The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

    9.The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

    10.We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.

    11.Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.

    12.The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

    13.We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”

    http://www.ndl.go.jp/constitution/e/etc/c06.html

  • So, critics of Truman, you are in his shoes. What do you do?

    If I were Truman my priority would have been to end the war quickly so as to prevent Soviet entry into the war (the fact that the Allies actually encouraged Soviet entry is one of the more boneheaded moves in all of diplomatic history). If ending the war quickly meant accepting something less than unconditional surrender (say, by letting the Japanese keep their Emperor), then it would have been cheap at the price.

    If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu). That would have achieved the same effect as Hiroshima without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children.

  • Arguing from counterfactuals is rather unhelpful in this instance. Our knowledge of what *may* have happened, given a different decision, is so slight as to provide no reason for acting. This is, by the way, why moral absolutes are important for Catholic theology. One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.

  • “If you were going to use the atom bomb, I don’t see why you couldn’t have dropped it on a strictly military target (such as the troops at Kyushu).”

    The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    For example:
    “At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of considerable military significance. It contained the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Hata’s 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defence of all of southern Japan.”
    http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/travel/hiroshima_bombing.htm

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests. Japanese militarists laughed at such peace advocates and assumed that Japan could stop an American invasion and cause the US, sick of war and high casualties, to withdraw from most of Asia and the Pacific. A negotiated peace is a fantasy.

  • “One does not have to provide an (impossible) answer to McClarey’s question–it is all just speculation at this point, anyhow–in order to determine that Truman’s act was wrong.”

    Wrong. Catholic moral theology has never simply thrown up its hands in regard to the real world. If Truman hadn’t dropped the bombs there would have been consequences, almost certainly terrible consequences. Condemning Truman without owning up to those consequences and accepting them, is to pretend that we live in a pacifist dream world rather than a world where the leaders of nations sometimes have to make decisions that will end up killing lots of people no matter what they do or not do. Condemning is easy, thinking through the consequences of acting or not acting is much harder and less pleasant, but must be done if moral theology is to be something more than a bat to swing in Catholic comboxes.

  • The Japanese located their military units in urban areas in the Home Islands.

    To suggest that the bomb couldn’t have been dropped on a military target in Japan without resulting in 95% civilian casualties is just silly. Dropping the bomb on the assembled forces at Kyushu would have had the same effect as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but without the massive civilian loss of life.

    In regard to the Emperor, prior to Hiroshima, Japanese advocates of a negotiate piece assumed that such a peace would have to entail, at a minimum, no occupation of Japan, no dis-arming of Japan and Japan keeping some of its overseas conquests.

    I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.

  • “I would say these were the maximum expected demands, not the minimum. However, even if the above were what it would take to end the war without incinerating tens of thousands of women and children, I think Truman should have accepted them.”

    Which of our Asian allies would you have advised to “suck it up” BA and continue to live under the Rising Sun? How do you think the American people would have reacted to the idea that the nation that brought them Pearl Harbor was going to retain some foreign conquests, not be occupied, not be disarmed and probably be ready for another go at the US in twenty years. Your suggestion might fit some fantasy world. It certainly could not have been implemented by any US President in 1945.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

  • Donald,

    You’re right, I’m sure America never would have stood for China or Korea living under oppression.

    Actually the Chinese wanted to make peace with Japan at the beginning of 1945, but didn’t out of deference to America. The idea that Truman bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he was concerned about the plight of the Chinese is the real fantasy.

    And as far as I can tell you have no answer as to why the bomb couldn’t be dropped on the troops at Kyushu.

  • Oh, and BA, Hiroshima had 43,000 troops in it when the bomb was dropped.

    And how many were there in Nagasaki?

  • Good way of completely avoiding the question of which of our Asian allies you would have thrown to the wolves BA. The idea that such a thing would have been entertained by the US government is a tribute to the absurdity that usually surrounds the August Follies. In regard to China making a separate peace with Japan, unless you can cite chapter and verse, I will also assume that this is a fantasy of yours. The Japanese army had actually gone on the offensive in 44 and 45 in China and controlled a huge amount of China.

    http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/lantern/lantern050445.html

    There was zero prospect that Japan was going to willingly withdraw from China absent surrender by Japan. As a matter of fact, several overseas commanders after Japan surrendered contemplated carrying on a war.

    As to your odd assumption that there were large military units in Kyushu out in the open waiting to be bombed, the military units of Japan were subject to conventional bombing like everything else in Japan. They were dispersed, with most of them located in urban centers, as was the case in Hiroshima.

  • And how many were there in Nagasaki?

    I don’t know how many strictly military folks there were, but I know the Japanese lady at Sasebo’s indoc mentioned that it was their primary Navy shipyards. (Sasebo became the largest afterwards.)

  • Presumably they would also have opposed an air tight blockade of the Home Islands, probably going on for years, in order to starve Japan into surrender.

    One thing about the blockade – it takes a lot longer (as you admit, years) and it can be reveresed, as well as regulated to allow certain subsistence amounts in (and refugees out, if you are so inclined), and the repeated opportunity to surrender, change minds, etc. With the bomb, it’s all over in an instant, and there is no going back.

  • Mitsubishi shipyards, if anyone wants to research.

  • I don’t know that a blockade would have taken years. Like Britain, Japan was and remains a net food importer, and our submarine force was annihilating their merchant marine at will. I don’t think their navy would have been able to escort sufficient convoys to keep them going for very long.

    Then again, famine and the attendant diseases can’t be flipped off like a light switch, either. I can easily see the civilian death toll from a blockade leaping into the high hundred thousands, if not more than a million, in relatively short order, even given a surrender.

    And as to subsistence blockades–well, that certainly hasn’t hurt the Kim tyrants in North Korea. That ratchets down the likelihood of surrender, I think, and ups the likelihood of continuous conventional bombardment.

  • The famine would have hit in the Spring of 1946. MacArthur only avoided the famine historically with huge shipments of food that he insisted be sent to Japan from the US. Needless to say, sending food to Japan was not popular. MacArthur in response to opposition said that he was responsible for keeping the Japanese alive and that he would resign rather than allow mass starvation on his watch. It was Mac’s finest moment in my opinion.

    I have my doubts that even mass starvation would have caused the Japanese to capitulate, absent intervention by Hirohito, something he was unwilling to do until after Nagasaki.

  • FWIW, there was a similar discussion here on Kiwiblog.co.nz a few days ago.

    Most opinions were that “The Bomb” was the right decision under the circumstances, for all the reasons above mentioned.

    This will be debated for many years to come, by those who will moralize and condemn those who had this truly terrible decision to make, in the dispassionate comfort of their safe armchairs.

    Does the end justify the means? No.
    Was this means justified? If the END was to prevent the continued destruction of human life, and in bringing the war to an abrupt end, prevent the killing of many more millions than “The Bomb” would kill, then yes, the MEANS was justified.

  • The only non-negotiable I would insisted on would have been withdrawal from occupied lands. Some disarmament would probably have been necessary too. I may also have insisted on a reparations fund.

  • Intrinsically immorlal means can never be justified by good ends/consequences. Truman was wrong. But he was still a good man trying hard to do the right thing. This is not all that different from the Sister Margaret McBride, who when confronted with the choice of directly taking a life (via a direct abortion) versus allowing that same life and that of another (the mother) to die did what most sensible and well-intentioned people would do — choose to have one person to survive rather than none. Very understandable. But still very wrong.

  • After Nagasaki, Japan agreed to all terms except removal of the emperor. It was rejected and conventional bombing continued, killing thousands more.

  • Your understanding of those events is faulty restrainedradical. Here is actually what was said on August 12 by the Allies:

    “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms. …The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people”

    The Allies heard nothing from Japan on August 13, and ordered a resumption of bombing for August 14, previously halted by Truman, the date when Hirohito, finally, eight days after Hiroshima and five days after Nagasaki, addressed Japan and ordered the capitulation:

    “Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

    Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

    Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

    The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.”

    American bombing was halted after Hirohito’s address. Japanese units on the Asian mainland continued fighting for several days after Hirohito’s address.

  • Donald,

    You are misunderstanding my point–which is also the point of Catholic moral theology. To say that one need not provide answers to any of your multitudinous counterfactuals in order to determine that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was evil is just to say that the intentional killing of civilians is *intrinsically* evil. To say this, however, is not to say what you appear to think it says, that I–and the Church–are throwing up our hands with respect to “the real world.” Quite the contrary, the structure of reality, as revealed by Christ and his Church, is precisely what is being respected in the confident determination that some acts are so destructive of the imago dei that they can never, under any circumstances, be permitted–come what may. The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.

    From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    Now, you may disagree with the Christ and the Church’s teaching here–many do, Christians and non-Christians alike–but let us not be deceived by a sophistry which attempts to lessen the gravity of this evil act by appeal to a set of conjectures which remain just that, conjectures. From the perspective of Catholic moral theology, it is you, and not I, who are ignoring the “real world.”

  • Don, it’s not incumbent on one who is pointing out the immorality of intentional targeting of civilians to solve the problem of “what other course was there?”

    But the “other course” here would have been to continue the conventional war and perhaps pursuing something other than unconditional surrender.

    Oh, and with regard to the confederates, Bobby Lee in his forays north expressly forbade the type of tactics Sherman expressly adopted.

    Chambersburg should not have been burned, but by 1864 the Confederates were responding to Yankee war crimes, specifically in this case, Hunter’s devestation of civilian targets in the Shenandoah.

    Such is the logic of “total war”– it tends to suck in those who would otherwise not want to practice it.

  • One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc. For the Church, there are good things and bad things that accompany *any* political regime, and it is a dangerous, and finally idolatrous, mistake to believe that the defense of any particular civitas terrena–whether it be America in the 20th century, Rome in the 5th, or some future city–is worth the commission of an intrinsically evil act, which destroys one’s participation in the civitas dei.

    None of this entails pacifism. But it does entail our willingness to call a spade a spade.

  • From the perspective of Christian moral theology, it would have been better for Truman–and for any who were cooperators in this act–that the Japanese were militarily victorious than that he should have committed such an act. That is the hard truth.

    I’m not clear that “it would have been better” scenarios along these lines are all that useful. Frankly, from a perspective of Christian moral theology, it would be better if one no had earthly responsibilities for anyone else. Paul, after all, enjoins people not to even marry (and thus take on the responsibilities of a spouse) and for spouses to be celibate (and thus not take on the responsibilities of children) because earthly responsibilies tend to turn us away from true eternal priorities. And yet, we as Catholics also recognize that it is necessary that we as a human community have marriage, have children, have rulers and law, etc. Greater earthly responsibilities invariably distract people from their eternal destinations — something which I think Dante well summarizes the thinking of the Christian tradition on in Purgatorio. And yet, there is also a sense in which it is necessary that a portion of society make the sacrifice of focusing on earthly responsibility. Why?

    One other thing: from the perspective of the civitas dei, which is the perspective that all Christians are exhorted to conform themselves to, it matters very little who wins what wars, what kinds of polity we are subject to here below, etc.

    It seems to me that this misses an obvious issue, which is that the environment in which people find themselves often affects their ability to live in accordance with the the civitas dei. Look at conflicts such as the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War in which one side was actively invested in stamping out the Church and perverting the order of society. To be sure, such situations offer the opportunity for martyrdom, but for most they offer the opportunity for apostacy, collaboration and corruption. I’m reminded similarly of some of the pieces I’ve read about the archives which are now open in Germany of East German secret police files, where people were constantly encouraged to inform on each other and rewarded for betraying of friends and family. Surely such an environment is destructive to many souls.

    Without question each society presents its own temptations and corruptions, and if anything I lean heavily in the direction of Christians seeking the path to God in their own societies as they exist rather than embracing a revolutionary ethic of overturning the social order in order to make society “more holy”. And armed struggle has a tendency to corrupt all sides. But I can’t see that complete indifference is the right response either.

  • Darwin,

    I mean “would have been better” in the strict sense that it is always better not to commit an intrinsically evil act than to commit one. I do not mean to say, nor is it true that, marriage, law-making, etc. fall under the same category. I am assuming here a post-lapsarian condition.

    As for your second comment: fair enough. I am more Pascalian in my outlook than most, and I am well aware that certain regimes produce certain evils that are on first blush more destructive than the evils of other regimes. (I am not so certain, however, that collaboration, apostasy, etc. are not equally prevalent in the West. There are more lapsed Catholics in American than any other denomination, they say.) But would you at least acknowledge that if my position leads to a skeptical indifferentism, it is nonetheless within the bounds of orthodoxy, and in fact corresponds nearly exactly with Augustine’s own view, whereas the danger in becoming too tied up with the “justness” of a particular regime on earth leads rather quickly to unorthodoxy and idolatry: one excuses intrinsic evils committed by that regime in order to ensure its own continued existence, rather than admitting that such an act has been committed?

    I fear that I discern something of this in McClarey’s hand-waving about the behavior of the Allies–and America in particular–in WWII.

  • Like Darwin, I can’t go so far as to say that it matters little who wins wars… Certainly there are just wars, and WWII was one example. It’s the old Thomistic distinction between jus ad bellum, whether a war is just in the first place, and jus in bello, whether a war is conducted in accordance with moral principles.

    Collateral damage is inevitable in modern warfare, but where the Allies went wrong was in aping the evil done by the Axis powers, i.e., deliberately targeting civilians and non-military targets for the purpose of “demoralizing” the populace.

  • (I am being especially procrastinatory today.)

    Tom,

    First, I agree that yours is a perfectly viable interpretation of where the Allies went wrong in WWII. I agree with it, in fact, and, as I said, nothing in my own position commits one to pacifism.

    But I still think that it is *also* true that, at least according to Augustine and several other thinkers in the Augustinian tradition, it *still* makes little difference what regime a Christian lives under, for the reason that *every* regime is dominated by the libido dominandi, and so, from the perspective of the civitas dei, they are all equal.

    Thomas, and the Thomistic tradition more generally, has a less skeptical view. One that, I hasten to add, is perfectly legitimate. It seems to me that the Church, within the bounds of orthodoxy, allows for a range of opinion on this matter.

    I am not so much bothered by any disagreement here as I am by the hesitancy to call a spade a spade.

  • Don (Kiwi)

    You seem to contradict yourself. First, you say that the ends cannot justify the means, and then you do precisely that – you state the end of ending the war justified the means of dropping the bomb. Am I missing something?

  • “The intentional killing of innocents has always been regarded as such an act, and for good reason.”

    Actually it depends on how you define intentional. Papal armies in the Middle Ages routinely besieged cities, a normal military operation of the time. The cities would be caused to surrender usually through blockades that produced starvation, and, inevitably, disease would usually explode in the cities. If any pope ever breathed a word against sieges as a method of warfare, I am unaware of it. This is quite a bit more of a complicated area than it seems at first glance.

  • That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

  • c matt.

    Re-reading my comment, I appear to do as you say. However, in the context of what was occuring – a war costing huge casualties on both sides, a stark choice became presented. Do we continue as we are, and lose many millions of lives, or do we introduce a new stratagem, and save arguably millions of lives which would otherwise be lost? ( the other choice was, as Wj said earlier, to lie down and be conquered, which to me , would be unacceptable)
    I guess the choice was therefore, a lesser of two evils. No doubt it can be debated whether or not a less evil choice is the correct moral choice in view of the principle, that the end does not justify the means.
    Quite a connundrum, isn’t it?

  • All ends are achieved by a means.

    But the end does not (necessarily) justify the means.

    Some means are justifiable, others are not.

  • Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?

    I think you mean “are you denying that…has ALWAYS been regarded as an intrinsically evil act,” or “are you CLAIMING…has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act.”

    Perhaps a better tact might be to find out when it was first enumerated as an intrinsic evil?

    DonTK-
    I think the situation is significantly more complicated than folks are willing to consider– even with folks that I KNOW are honestly trying to just figure it out, there’s incredible simplification.

    Does it matter that there was warning given so the population had a chance to leave?
    Does it matter that military operations were moved into civilian areas, even into family dwellings?
    Does it matter that “aiming” with bombs in that day was more an art than a science?
    Do prior tactics of the Americans matter?
    Do prior tactics of the Allies matter?
    Does our responsibility to defend the innocent that WEREN’T in those cities matter?
    What effect does the (possible) Japanese military stopping civilians from evacuating have on the morality of it?
    How much information did they have about what was going on at ground level, and how much could they reasonably be expected to have?

    (stuff like this is probably why a lot of folks think morality should be restricted to philosophy, not the real world– it’s just not as simple IRL, even if it is still black and white)

    I know full well I don’t have nearly enough information to make an informed, binding judgement on these actions that happened before my parents were born. Luckily, I don’t have to; it’s useful to try to figure out, in case a similar case comes along, but it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not cut and dried.

  • “That papal armies acted or did not act in certain ways with or without the permission of popes is immaterial. Are you denying that the slaughter of innocents has not always been regarded as an intrinsically evil act?”

    I think the praxis of the Church is always of importance, especially when that praxis went on for centuries. I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.

    Let’s think this through. Hiroshima is bombed from the air, either fire bombed or nuked. Bad, intrinsically immoral. Hiroshima is taken by the US in a ground assault in the spring of 46 which, in a house to house fight against the Japanese Army, kills most of the civilian population, who are caught in the cross fire. Morally acceptable. I assume the difference is one of intention, but I find that argument weak. A military man would have to be brain dead not to realize that large scale combat in an urban area is going to kill huge numbers of civilians. If mass casualties are foreseeable in a ground assault, how does that materially differ from mass casualties caused by an air assault? The current Church stance may be an argument for pacifism, but I do not think it adequately addresses that other measures taken in military operations, presumably morally licit, may kill just as many civilians, if not more, than the measures condemned.

    I might also note that in the spiritual realm popes have been quite willing to take actions which have had adverse impacts on innocent parties. A good example would be the Interdict which prevented the dispensing of the sacraments in nations or regions. Imagine a pope saying that a dying innocent could not have the comfort of the Last Rites. However, it was done, and not infrequently, for reasons that the popes employing it deemed good and sufficient. The last use of the Interdict, in a fairly mild form, was by Saint Pius X in the early years of the last century. The idea that innocents have an all-embracing immunity is one that is popular in the Church today, but it is rather a novel one.

  • Now you are just obfuscating. For who would not agree with your following assertion? (I certainly don’t disagree with it.)

    “I am denying that the Church has condemned all military operations which, by their very nature, were bound to take quite a few innocent lives.”

    We don’t need to go through the motions of explaining how the doctrine of double effect applies in ius in bello scenarios on this blog. I’ll just take it for granted that most people reading here have a working knowledge about how unintentional though foreseen civilian casualties, for example, are a different kind of thing than INTENTIONALLY DECIMATING A CIVILIAN TARGET.

    Most ALL military operations involve the unfortunate killing of innocents, and if the Church is to have a doctrine of just war at all, which she most assuredly does, then it is basic to such a doctrine to differentiate foreseen but unintended evils from evils intentionally committed. So while, for example, the intentional slaughter of women and children has always been rightly condemned by the Church–which is not to say that she has not at times engaged in this practice against her better lights (thereby proving true what she has to say about sin)–the unfortunate killing of innocents as a result of some other strategy which does not *directly* target them is a more difficult scenario to parse. There is an entire casuitical literature on this and related topics. We all know all the moves here.

    What you are now doing, in fact, is redescribing the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as if this weren’t the intentional killing of civilians. But, on any plausible account of intentional acts (i.e. Thomas, Anscombe, Suarez, etc.), the bombing most clearly *was* an intentionally, and not merely foreseen, attack on noncombatants. Which is, as I said before, intrinsically evil.

    Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology. Which is it?

  • By the way, there is one other theological assumption in your response that I take issue with.

    1. The fact that the Church in the past–yea, even for centuries in the past–did or did not intentionally target or unjustly allow a disproportionate number of civilians to be killed in any of her wars is immaterial to the issue at hand. Why? That the Church acted one way or another in the past has, apart from her explicit teachings on doctrine and morals, no bearing on the normative status of that action. For centuries the Church abused the theology of indulgences; from this it does not follow that we, in the present, are supposed to be okay with the selling of indulgences on the grounds that the Church did it in the past. You are conflating two very different kinds of “tradition” and how they have normative bearing in Catholic theology.

    Of course, if you deny the distinction between an intended and a foreseen end, then you are a consequentialist. But if you are a consequentialist, then you have a problem with the decalogue. Do you have a problem with the decalogue?

  • I apologize for the somewhat heated and exasperated tone. If I had known that you denied the difference between an intended and foreseen end, I would have found your defense of the bombings much more intelligible–though not, I am afraid to say, any less repugnant.

  • “Either you do not understand or you do not agree with the distinction between foreseen and intended consequences–a distinction which is basic to Catholic moral theology.”

    My problem WJ is that what is considered as unforeseen in war in regard to civilian casualties is predictable as night follows day. Two corps battling each other in an urban area will produce large amounts of civilian deaths. A siege of a city will produce a large amount of civilian deaths. Foreseeability in this area seems like a very frail reed on which to make categorical distinctions. Because of the technology of the day, bombing an urban center in World War II was going to produce quite a few civilian casualties no matter what was done. My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths? Hiding behind foreseeability in this area strikes me as exalting form over substance.

  • No sweat WJ. This is an area which people get passionate about. I certainly am in that category.

  • Donald, I think this response of yours points the way toward a difficult and important issue in the theology of Just War. At least we are now down to brass tacks, as it were. I am enjoying this quite a bit. You write:

    “My point is that if it is intrinsically evil to ever intentionally engage in the targeting of civilian populations in war, why is it not intrinsically evil to engage in actions in war which, completely predictably, will lead to civilian deaths?”

    The short answer to this is that the intentional targeting of a civilian is murder, and murder is always wrong. Why is it wrong? Well, even Augustine, who was not, I have to admit, terribly worried about civilian casualties, views murder as the sort of action which destroys the imago dei in the soul of the person committing it. (Indeed, murder is like any violation of the decalogue in this respect.) So the intentional targeting of a civilian is wrong not *only* because of what happens to the civilian (as you point out, the civilian may well be killed unintentionally via another strategy) but also what happens to you.

    In the second case, the military commander is intending to engage a lawful combatant, and he foresees that as a result of his action some number of civilians will die. This is not *intrinsically* evil, first, because there are some circumstances in which it is permitted; in a less tautological sense, it is not *intrinscially* evil because the ACTION in question is not murder, but some other action describable in a different way, and so the commander in question is not deprived of grace.

    Of course, it way well be the case, at least according to Just War Theory, that at some point the unintended yet foreseen civilian casualties issuing from some or other military strategy outweigh the good that is to be rationally expected to result from that strategy, and in this case the unintended yet foreseen killing of civilians is evil, though not intrinsically so. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s skepticism as to whether any modern war can be “licit” (cf. interview with Zenit in March of 03 I believe) derives his beliefs that most contemporary wars cannot but fail to be just in their in bello execution. This is an important and complex issue, and it is not one about which I am certain.

    But can I ask a clarifying question? Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?

  • As a follow up: I am not a pacifist, but it has always seemed to me that one of the strongest arguments for pacifism from a strictly theological point of view has to do with the *near impossibility* of ensuring that even the most just war from a ius ad bellum perspective will be able to be fought successfully and justly in bello. Many of your examples seem to support this view. I guess one can go one of two ways here. One can view the near impossibility of ius in bello conduct to constitute a strong argument for a practical, if not principled, pacifism, or one can argue that the Church’s understanding of ius in bello conduct has to be changed or expanded or loosened in some way.

  • “Do you deny the difference between an intentional and a foreseen end per se, or only the validity of this difference as it applies to actions in war?”

    Depends entirely on how likely a foreseeable end is. An artillery barrage is made of a grove of trees. Tragically some lumberjacks are killed. Clearly different from intentionally targeting the lumberjacks.

    A division of enemy troops are in a city filled with civilians and intermingled with the civilians. The artillery unit is told to attack the enemy and civilian deaths results. I don’t view that much differently from intentionally targeting the civilians, since their deaths are entirely predictable. Of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians, they were merely in the way of accomplishing the goal of winning the war. This area is tricky and filled with moral land mines. Whenever double effect is trotted out, I listen very carefully, but am rarely convinced by it.

  • If you hold that “of course the artillery men didn’t want to kill the civilians,” then you hold that they didn’t intentionally kill them. It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?

    I wonder what you make of double effect as it applies to abortion. Do you see the moral difference, that is, between surgically removing a mother’s fallopian tubes, knowing that the child inside them will die as a result of this procedure necessary for saving the mother’s life, and flooding the fallopian tubes with chemicals intended to kill the child? (There are any number of other scenarios, which all share the same structure.)

    The reason I ask is that in both cases the death of the child is entirely foreseeable.
    and directly killing

  • “It seems to me that this is entirely different than the artillery unit intentionally targeting the civilians. Does it not seem so to you?”

    Only if intention governs all. In that case why do the airmen of the Enola Gay not get a pass since they most definitely were not intending to kill civilians but rather to convince Japan to surrender? How does this differ materially from the artillery men intending to win a battle in a city, not intending to kill civilians, but knowing that civilians will be killed in large numbers by their bombardment?

    Frankly in the abortion case where the child cannot survive I see no problem with the desperate necessity of removing the fallopian tubes in order to preserve the mother’s life since the child simply cannot survive in any case. I pray for the day when technology will eliminate this sad quandry.

  • The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act. You can’t for example, burn your neighbor’s house to the ground and then say that your “intention” in doing so was to stop him from playing loud music. No, pretty clearly you intended to burn his house down with the further end in mind of ceasing his loud music. But this further end in mind does not mean that in burning his house down you acted unintentionally. So with Truman. The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt. This further end–bringing the war to a speedy halt–does not evacuate the intentional structure of the prior act. If you don’t mind a recommendation here, I suggest you read Anscombe’s classic work “Intention.” She demonstrates all this quite persuasively.

    Indeed, in the latter case, the whole point is that the removal of the fallopian tubes is a *different* act than the direct killing of the child. Which is why it is licit.

  • The intention was clearly to kill large amounts of Japanese civilians with the further end of bringing the war to a speedy halt.

    I have to disagree on the “clearly” part of that — you do NOT warn people to leave and give them time if you are trying to kill large numbers of them.

  • “The answer to the first question is that you can’t separate intention from the object of the act.”

    Ah but that is where foreseeability rears its ugly head. The artillery men bombarding the city filled with enemy troops know that large numbers of civilians will be killed. As a matter of fact Hiroshima had 43,000 Japanese troops in it. Once again, I do not think this is simple at all.

  • What is often ignored by Catholics who spill ink on this issue ignore is 1) The pertinnent Catholic moral principles involved and 2) The actual circumstances within Truman made his decision.

    With respect to the use of atomic weapons, Catholic moral theologian Father Heribert Jone defined them this way:

    The fourth condition required for positing an action that has an evil effect that there be a sufficient reason, i.e., a proportionate resulting good, to permit the evil effect. The morality of using either the atomic or hydrogen bomb as a weapon of war is therefore, not a question of principle, which remains unchangeable, but a question of fact, and the fact questioned is whether there can be a military objective so vital to an enemy, the destruction of which would be a sufficient reason to permit the death of a vast number of civilians who at most contribute only remotely and indirectly to the war effort. We think this proportion can exist 1) because today’s concept of “total war” has greatly restricted the meaning of the term “non-combatant”; 2) because in modern warfare the conscription of industry, as well as manpower, greatly extends the effort on the home front; and 3) because it is difficult to set limits to the defense action of a people whose physical and even spiritual existence is threatened by a godless tyranny. Therefore, while use of atomic weapons must be greatly restricted to the destruction of military objectives, nevertheless, it may be justified without doing violence to the principle of a twofold effect. (Moral Theology #219 pp. 143-44 1961 Edition)

    Unfortunately, all of the of Catholic moral theologians and writers who condemn the bombings demonstrate no knowledge of the circumstances involved. The most horrendous and despicable example, in my view, is the recent piece written by well-known Catholic author and senior apologist at Catholic Answers Jimmy Akin.

    The objections these people raise is that the atomic bomb drops cannot be justified because they targeted innocent civilians. To be sure, there is no moral justification for deliberately killing innocent people regardless of how noble your end purpose is. The ends do not justify the means. You cannot do evil so that good can become of it. True enough.

    However, this was not the case with atomic bombings. In WWII Japan, the meaning of the term non-combatant was not only “greatly restricted” it was completely obliterated. William Manchester, in his biography of General Douglass Mac Arthur states:

    Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen, a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.” This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate,a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511)]

    The mass conscription of “all males ages fifteen and all females ages seventeen to forty-five” is practically the entire adult population. With this, the entire country of Japan became a large military base and no longer a civilian, but a military asset, and therefore, a legitimate military target.

    This idea that the bomb drops were a deliberate attack on innocents is flat out false.

    Furthermore, given the alternatives, either an invasion or blockade would have killed more Japanese, not to mention caused more than a million Amreican casualties in the case of an invasion, the most merciful thing Truman could have done was to drop the bombs. He most certainly could have justifiede it before his creator.

  • Donald,

    I have to get to bed–not a night person–so I’ll conclude by reiterating a distinction which you seem to deny (why? I can’t understand). There is a difference between the object of an intentional action and the foreseeable consequences that follow from that action. If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.

    Greg,

    I don’t understand you. Is your claim that there were NO innocent Japanese (as you argue in the first half of your longish post) or that there were in any case LESS (innocent) Japanese killed as a result of the bomb than through other means? If the first, then I don’t see why you mention the second; if the second, then everything I’ve already written here applies to that argument. (I don’t think you’ll get many people agreeing to your first claim, though.)

  • Greg.

    Very interesting, and confirms my thoughts and understanding of the situation.
    Thankyou.

  • Wj.

    If I burn my neighbour’s house down, there will be smoke………”

    INO, applying this thinking is obfuscation of conscience.
    You know that you wish to burn down his house and you know fires create smoke. You therefore cannot claim that the creation of smoke is non-culpable, while the burnng of the house is.

  • Just because an action is or may be the lesser of two evils (dropping the atom bomb vs. all out ground invasion of Japan) doesn’t make it good or justified, or a precedent to follow in the future. The lesser of two evils is still an evil. However, this being a fallen world, sometimes a lesser evil is the best we can do. Unfortunately, what often happens is that instead of simply making the least bad choice possible and asking God’s forgiveness for any sin involved, we try to paint that choice as being entirely good.

  • WJ:

    I did not say there were no innocent Japanese. What I said was that the line between combatant and non-combatant had been erased due to the mass civilian conscription and therefore we were not TARGETING innocents.

  • “If I burn my neighbor’s house down, there will be smoke. I foresee that the act of burning my neighbor’s house down will necessarily produce smoke, and yet the production of smoke is not my intent in burning his house down. My intent is simply: to burn his house down.”

    Your example WJ illustrates precisely where the diffculty in this area lies. Intention either always determines the morality of an action or it does not. I think neither at Hiroshima nor my artillery against a city example is the goal to kill civilians, rather the killing of civilians is a necessary part of the action being undertaken to reach another goal, winning a battle or a war. The difference you would raise between them is that the bomb was directed against civilians while the artillery men only kill civilians accidently. This distinction is of cold comfort morally I think when the deaths of the civilians from the use of the artillery are completely predictable and foreseeable. If the goal is allowed to make the action moral in the case of the artillery barrage, I am uncertain why the same logic is not applicable in the case of Hiroshima.

  • Going to have to agree with Greg M. that the notion of “civilian” took a rather major beating in this situation– probably why the Gen. Conv. spent so much time hammering out who is a civie and who isn’t.

    Is someone standing by the soldier and reloading a valid target?
    Are you not allowed to fire at a foxhole that’s trying to gun you down, because you can see they’ve got a red cross worker trying to patch them up?
    Can you destroy a yard full of military ships under construction or repair?
    Can you bomb the not-formally-military staffed bomb factory?
    If it’s required for someone to be a formal military to be a military target, how do you deal with informal attacks? (getting a bit to close to modern issues, so I’ll stop there)

  • Well, despite the best efforts of bombing apologists, we’re left at the end of the day with the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated, not because of their military value (which was slight and certainly less than many other potential targets), not because the civilians there were a threat (regimes like Japan’s always threaten that their civilians will rise up against any invader… they don’t), but because our bombing policy was, as I stated before, identical to “Bomber” Harris’ vision of demoralizing CIVILIAN populations.

    Thus, all this talk of Hiroshima’s bombing being justified either because of its military use or the ridiculous notion that the little old ladies and kids were armed threats to our forces, is bunk.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wiped out in order to terrorize the populace and thus break the will of the military to resist.

    That END was produced immediately by the MEANS of purposeful destruction of innocent lives, NOT as a by-product or collateral result of legitimate bombing. Why can’t folks here acknowledge simply what everyone, especially Truman, knew at the time– the bombings were done to terrify the Japs so completely at our ability to incinerate civilian centers that their military would capitulate?

  • I think the evidence supports Tom’s contention. And I think the application of Catholic teaching yields a rather clear cut answer. That said, his moral error notwithstanding, Truman is still a far mor sympathetic character than many of his self-righteous critics.

    A man might deliberately kill his comrade in arms if that comrade is dying and in agony. Such an act is murder and intrinsically evil. Yet, I would hardly make it my business to scold him. All sins are forgivable of course — but some certainly more than others. Truman’s act was not heroic; it was wrong; but it was certainly understandable and forgivable.

  • Tom, you’re entitled to your own view, but not your own facts, and what you’re claiming as “facts” are far from proven.

    Feel free to call me whatever you like– heaven knows I can’t stop you– but your OPINIONS of what was true are far from persuasive, and should not be stated as if they are objective reality.

    (On a side note, I’m so sick of being one of the folks who has to say “hold up a sec, we don’t actually KNOW X, or Y, and Z is totally wrong.” Even when I agree with a conclusion, or don’t disagree, it’s a bad idea to let incorrect claims stand.)

  • Foxfier:
    It is completely appropriate to bomb a bomb factory, even knowing that some civilians will likely be killed. That is because a bomb factory is a military target. An entire city is not.

  • Mike-
    Military bases are sometimes cities. (Zip code, hospital/power/stores/water, own police force, civilian families, schools, etc.)

    Military bases, since they are military bases, are military targets.

    Thus, it’s clear that entire cities CAN be a military target.

  • Fair enough I suppose, but are you seriously suggesting that H or N were military bases? If so, then no need for further discussion since we occupy different universes.

  • Mike-
    Not going to fight this, because– like I said way up above– I don’t think we have enough information to do a decent job of it.

    My rough limit is basic damage control on the BS I _know_ I’m going to have to deal with in the next five years, in the form of “X who is (or was) a Catholic said Y, so it must be true, defend it.” Generally in the middle of family reunions or parties with geek friends.

    If you can’t make your argument off of facts, why on earth are you trying to state it as fact? Just throw in an “I” here or there, maybe in conjunction with “think” or “reason” or “believe,” refer to sources for your claims and bada bing: no conflict.

    Shoot, you could even say “I don’t see how it could be justified to bomb an entire city, because cities are not military targets” and it’s no longer something I, or some poor idiot like me, will have to defend. It’s your educated belief from the facts as you know them and your understanding of Catholic teachings. (Anybody talking Catholic theology with a half-dozen highly intelligent folks who have little to no use for organized religion, let alone the Church, needs to have their head examined. No offense to the real Catholic apologists among us.)

  • Foxfier,

    It’s not exactly as if there is no considered stance on this issue by the overwhelmingly vast majority of bishops, theologians, popes, etc. over the past fifty years. The only people who pretend as though this is somehow a difficult question for the Church to address are a handful of American Catholics.

    It is much better to do as Donald does: reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly. It is no good pretending as though there is an epistemic difficulty here where there is not one.

  • Yay, appeal to authority, and total missing of the point.

    Have fun, I’m out.

  • “reject the reasoning of the Church forthrightly.”

    Questioning is not rejection, especially in an area such as this where we are not dealing with revealed truth, but rather the application of hair splitting logic.

  • (Same way I duck out when folks start bringing out “but all these guys say that the death penalty isn’t needed anymore! So I win!”)

  • Mike.

    Check the anecdotal historical evidence of who were in occupancy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the military operations and indusctrial complexes attached to those cities.

    One could arguably conclude they were military bases.

  • I’m out after this one as well.

    Don, I didn’t mean to be inflammatory. I take it that you do reject the distinction between foreeseable consequences and intended ends *in certain instances*; but perhaps you only question their analytic efficacy. Fair enough. I think your position commits you to consequentialism (or at least some kind of proportionalism, a la McBrien, et. al.), which I don’t think you want to be committed to, but that’s a different topic. It is an important conversation to have, though.

    Foxfier, I wasn’t so much “appealing to authority” as showing that what you take to be a difficult, perplexing, epistemically vague scenario appears only to be so for a subset of American Catholics and not for the universal Church as a whole. This is an empirical claim.

  • Don the Kiwi,
    Sorry about the oddly abbreviated post above. I am well aware that both H and N contained both military operations and industrial complexes attached to the war effort. Same for Chicago and Detroit. And targeting those operations and complexes would have been morally licit, even if done quite imperfectly. But that is not what happened, and the evidence is quite clear that Truman knew exactly what he was doing. As I said earlier, I don’t really blame him — even if I can safely conclude from my comfortable perch that he were morally wrong. But I refuse to reason backwards either. Just because I’m sympathetic, actually very sympathetic, to the consequences, does not mean that the means were morally acceptable. They weren’t. Pretty much all of us do bad things for good reasons, and that does not make us bad people — just sinners.

  • Fortunately we don’t have to speculate on why Truman chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whether it was because the cities were military targets.

    His own press release states that the Potsdam ultimatum was issued to Japan (calling for their unconditional surrender) “to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction.” NOT the Japanese military, NOT the Japanese industrial ability, but the Japanese people themselves.

    Besides, the US had already joined in the British practice of terror bombing by helping in the destruction of Dresden and by firebombing Tokyo, a practice which indiscriminately killed thousands of civilians.

    As Doolittle’s raid early in the war demonstrated, it was entirely possible to target industry and military targets without wiping out entire cities.

    We simply adopted the Brit practice of firebombing, and ultimtely, nuclear bombing, to demoralize the civilian populaces of our enemies, not to advance a military objective.

  • Actually Tom Truman referred to the “military base of Hiroshima” when he announced the Hiroshima bombing. You can say that was incorrect, but that is how Truman looked at it.

    The firebombing of the cities of Japan wasn’t undertaken for terror purposes, but because that was the only way to take out the Japanese industries that tended to be located within residential areas. Precision bombing of Japanese industries was attempted until around March of 45 and had proven completely ineffective.

  • The Doolittle raid was a propaganda operation in 42. 15 of the 16 B-25s were lost, along with 80 airmen. The damage to Japan was completely negligible. From a morale standpoint in the US it was a success. From a military standpoint it was a disaster.

    The technology of the day made precision bombing usually a wistful dream rather than a reality.

    “In practice, the Norden (bombsight) never managed to produce accuracies remotely like those of which it was theoretically capable. The Royal Air Force were the first to use the B-17 in combat, and reported extremely poor results, eventually converting their aircraft to other duties. USAAF anti-shipping operations in the Far East were likewise generally unsuccessful, and although there were numerous claims of sinkings, the only confirmed successful action was during the Battle of the Philippines when B-17s damaged two Japanese transports, the cruiser Naka, and the destroyer Murasame, and sank one minesweeper. However these successes were the exception to the rule; actions during the Battle of Coral Sea or Battle of Midway, for instance, were entirely unsuccessful. The USAAF eventually replaced all of their anti-shipping B-17s with other aircraft, and came to use the skip bombing technique in direct low-level attacks.

    In Europe the Norden likewise demonstrated a poor real-world accuracy. Bombing was computed by assessing the proportion of hits falling within 1,000 feet (300 m) and 2,000 feet (600 m) circles about an MPI (mean point of impact). To achieve a perfect strike, a bomber group would have to unload all its bombs within the 1,000 ft circle. By the spring of 1943 some impressive results were being recorded. Over Bremen-Vegesack on 19 March, for instance, the 303d Bombardment Group dropped 76 per cent of its load within the 1,000 ft ring. Under perfect conditions only 50 percent of American bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90 percent of bombs could miss their targets.[5][6][7] Nevertheless, many veteran B-17 and B-24 bombardiers swore by the Norden.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norden_bombsight

  • There is an ongoing myth that the British were primarily interested in terror bombing for the heck of it since they could not bloody the Germans in any other way. This is the received wisdom after Vonnegut and Irving. But it makes very little sense for the British to lose all those highly trained men of the Bomber Command (55,000 killed) and spend all that money to build a large strategic force merely to terrorise the Germans. The bombers were the British contribution to the continental war, as they lacked the ability to insert their forces into the field in a decisive ways. A much fairer assessment is provided in this book .

  • Harry S Truman was a 33° Freemason, an enemy of the Catholic Faith, which may be why Nagasaki, the center of Japanese Catholicism, was targetted. (More Catholics were killed on August 9th, 1945 than in four centuries of brutal persecution.)

    General Tomoyuki Yamashita was executed for the atrocities committed in the Battle of Manila (the “one case [in which] the event took place on American soil” mentioned in the post), despite the fact that said atrocities were committed by troops who had disobeyed his order to withdraw from the city to avoid civilian casualties.

The U.S. Bishops Dereliction of Duty

Monday, June 21, AD 2010

Michael Voris lays down the law on those bishops that refuse to be our shepherds.

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18 Responses to The U.S. Bishops Dereliction of Duty

  • This is shameful. I really expected better from American Catholic than this.

  • I agree with ctd. Many of the accusations are unfounded; disagreeing with the bishops approach or saying they could do more does not mean they should burn in hell. But the accusation that the bishops have mostly lost their faith is scandalous and outrageous, especially as he has not one iota of proof to back that claim other than his anger, fueled by his “stb” that the bishops aren’t doing what HE wants them to.

  • Michael Voris is 100% correct. The USCCB is infiltrated with liberalism and progressivism. Righteousness and holiness come FIRST before immigration reform, studies of Islamic holy writings (yup, that’s on the USCCB web site) and all the other social justice stuff.

    We cna expect MORE icelandic volcanoes, MORE Haitian earthquakes, MORE undersea oil geysers as long as we continue on this path of destruction.

    Repent for the King of God is at hand. That’s the message that the USCCB does NOT teach. Does NOT.

  • I’m so sick of our Bishops being attacked by those using such shameful language as Mr. Voris uses against succcessors of the Apostles. No matter what they do, they’re attacked from both the left and the right. Depending on who you’re listening to, they’re either doing too much or not doing enough.

    Our Bishops are not perfect, but they’re the shepherds that Christ and His Church have given us. We don’t have to agree with everything they say or do, but we do owe them basic respect and deference. Who the hell is Mr. Voris to preach to the Bishops about their being endangered of hell? And what world does Mr. Voris live in where the Bishops are avoiding controversy and are afraid to take a stand on issues? Has he been paying attention for the last year-and-a-half?

    Maybe someone should tell Mr. S.T.B. to S.T.F.U.

  • When the laity are demanding that bishops abandon the faith and embrace sodomy and heresy they are being “prophetic”

    when the laity point out that the bishops have abandoned the faith and embraced sodomy and heresy it’s time for the stupid laity to shut up already!

    Besides, how dare he use pre-Vatican II words like “hell”! My liberal pro-everything-democrat bishop said it doesn’t exist!

  • The scandal lies in either the bishops lack of fidelity or in your choosing to attack the messenger.

  • Tito:

    He doesn’t offer a shred of evidence, and he attacks ALL of the bishops. Even assuming he’s just talking about the USCCB, he doesn’t explain why he’s angry (other than not denying communion). Indeed, the Church has been improving lately-becoming more orthodox and more dedicated to traditional liturgy. The bishops also bravely stood against Obamacare. I really don’t why he’s so angry.

    So it’s not the messenger, it’s the fact the the message lacks substance and truth. Though I have to admit, the brilliant use of the random posting of words next to him really drove home his message for him /sarcasm. 😉

  • Michael,

    When the Bishops publicly excommunicate Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and all the other self-described Catholic politicians who make a mockery of the faith while supporting abortion and gay marriage, then we will know that change has come to the USCCB. The Bishops weren’t brave to oppose Obama care. They were forced into by circumstance. But if they risk losing tax-exempt status by putting apostate and heretical politicians on notice, then that will be cause for celebration.

  • Michael,

    you concede the point you are trying to make when you admit that bishops are becoming more orthodox, which requires that they were previously less than fully orthodox.

    I guess speaking truth to power and exercising the prophetic role of the laity is only allowed if one is seeking to make converts to sodomy, heresy, and modernism.

    It is increasingly clear that a great many of our bishops do not believe what the church believes.

  • a) There is no such thing as “the bishops”, there are bishops. Some of these bishops are simply amazing in their orthodoxy, courage, and pastoral understanding. Some are average. Some are poor. A few are bordering on heterodox.

    b) I’m not clear how one would say “It is increasingly clear that a great many of our bishops do not believe what the church believes.” First off, I’m aware of not generally issued teaching by the US bishops which is contrary to orthodoxy. Nor am I aware of some rising tide of heterodox statements coming out from bishops. If anything what’s noteable is that many of those who caused most embarrassment in the past are gone or going: Weakland was disgraced and resigned. Mahony is retiring shortly, etc.

    c) This frustration is most frequently voiced around political concerns, yet if anything the bishops have become noteably more politically independant in the last decade. The number of bishops who spoke out against Obama’s honorary degree from Notre Dame was noteable, as was the strength of the statements surrounding the health care bill. We’ve come along way from the Bernadine era of the USCCB, much less the Catholic ghetto, when many of the bishops were active agents within the Democratic Party framework.

  • He should have made some qualifying remarks, but I think he does describe the modal type in the American episcopacy.

  • Michael Voris continues his discussion here:

    But on the USCCB web site what do we see?

    New Website Highlights Catholic Church’s Significant Role in Immigration Debate for Almost a Century
    http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-091.shtml

    Regional Bishops Issue Joint Statement on Migration
    http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-118.shtml

    West Coast Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Compares Sacred, Pious Writings
    http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-109.shtml

    What about righteousness, holiness, repentance and conversion? What about Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah?

    Instead, we have a USCCB article entitled, “Pro-life Chair Voices ‘Grave Concern’ Over FDA Plan to Approve Abortion Drug for ‘Emergency Contraception’”

    http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-121.shtml

    Grave concern? That’s what the USCCB has? Grave concern? Whoopie-Doo! The bishops have grave concern!

    Let them do to the pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Catholic politicians – Dem or Repub – what St. Paul did to Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1st Timothy 1:19-20. Let them put their grave concern into action. Hand the apostates and heretics over to satan exactly as St. Paul did so that they can be taught a lesson. There is clear Scriptural precedence.

    PS, the overwhelming majority of such politicians are DEM, NOT Repub no matter how much some people here may dislike the Repubs. And that’s a fact.

    Another PS, vote Constitution Party. It’s platform is closest to Church teaching.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php

    This whole thing is so frustrating.

  • Michael D.,

    😉

    Everyone else,

    We all know what Michael Voris is saying and to whom.

    Maybe he could have chosen less harsh words, but the point was made.

  • Ezekiel:

    No. Holiness does not necessarily mean effective administration/leadership.

    For example, John Paul II was a very holy man and did many things well. But in regards to the Legion of Christ and the sex abuse scandal, he made many mistakes.

    Maybe the bishops have made many mistakes in the past in leading their flocks, but that doesn’t mean they’re morally corrupt. I’m not saying none of the bishops are heterodox, but if you’re going to make the claim you need to rely on more than broad generalizations and start showing some evidence and some numbers.

  • A bishop’s primary duty, his obligation to Christ and the Church, is to preach the Gospel. Additionally, he is the principle teacher within his diocese and has a duty to teach. “woe to me if I do nit preach the gospel”

    If by holiness you mean utter failure to fulfill their
    obligation to Christ and the Church then we are surely being led by the holiest bishops since Henry VIII required oaths.

    If you would like to start discussing the utter moral corruption of the USCCB or individual
    bishops we can do that. But, we need only
    look at the CCHD, Garvey’s appointment to CU, and Ted Kennedy’s canonization to know exactly where the wolves stand.

    Pope Benedict is indeed slowly improving the quality and orthodoxy of our bishops, thanks be to God, but we are talking about improving from having bishops who have been openly
    practicing homosexuals and conducting of pagan rites and worship of false gods in cathedrals.

  • Paul Primavera:

    New Website Highlights Catholic Church’s Significant Role in Immigration Debate for Almost a Century

    Regional Bishops Issue Joint Statement on Migration

    Are you contending that the condition of migrants is not a moral issue of concern to the Church? The Holy See would certainly disagree. Such a position would be inconsistent with the official teachings of the Church and Sacred Scripture. Moreover, one of the documents point out that the American bishops have been involved in the issue for “almost a century.” Their alleged heterodoxy, therefore, began long before any “modernist” episcopacies.

    West Coast Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Compares Sacred, Pious Writings

    John Paul II, again in official teachings, made it clear that ecumenical dialogue is a Catholic obligation, not just an academic endeavor. Your “proof” of bishop dereliction is actually proof of obedience to the Church.

    Instead, we have a USCCB article entitled, “Pro-life Chair Voices ‘Grave Concern’ Over FDA Plan to Approve Abortion Drug for ‘Emergency Contraception’”
    Grave concern? That’s what the USCCB has? Grave concern? Whoopie-Doo! The bishops have grave concern!

    So essentially your complaint comes down to a disagreement over a choice of words? The words seem appropriate considering the audience – public leaders, not Catholics, but why should that matter?

    These type of flimsy charges are not worthy of serious consideration, but are nevertheless disrespectful of our shepherds and harmful to the body of Christ.

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  • CTD & Jay,

    When the bishops begin behaving like Catholics and bishops then they probably will garner the respect they have lost due to their cowardliness.

    Of course if you want to continue to defend the indefensible so be it.

    But while crap like this:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/06/27/the-disgrace-of-cardinal-danneels-and-the-belgian-catholic-church/

    continues, then I won’t hesitate to point out facts that show the incompetence of some of our shepherds.

Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

Thursday, February 11, AD 2010

Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915 — the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” — in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated — to my recollection — with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)

That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding — most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil” — does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock — the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States). [Note: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a newcomer to the debate, has likewise made it known in the comments of this post where he stands on the matter].

Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.

With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.

There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.

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294 Responses to Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

  • I’ve been participating in the comments over on that thread, even though I strongly disagree w/ most of the commentary that appears on Vox Nova. In this case, Morning’s Minion is right, and I’ve told him as much. However, I’m not sure if he means what he says in terms of supporting the denial of communion to all who publicly dissent from key Catholic teachings on intrinsic evils, so perhaps I’m seen there as simply calling his bluff.

    I’m a tremendous supporter of EWTN, Mother Angelica, and the apostolates of the Franciscan friars, the Sisters, etc. there in Birmingham, and as such, it saddens me deeply to see Raymond Arroyo and some of his guests making excuses for torture. I’ve heard Thiessen on several different conservative radio and TV programs, and I know he’s hawking his new book, so I put zero confidence in his interpretation of Catholic teaching on the matter of torture. However, Fr. Sirico and Arroyo need to be far less cavalier about the torture issue in their presentation of it, even if they genuinely have doubts about whether waterboarding constitutes torture, which I believe they do. They need to recognize and state publicly that this is not an area where Catholic moral theology has stated in black-and-white terms that waterboarding is NOT torture, because it simply hasn’t been considered with such specificity yet.

    Christopher, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the Holy Father and others within the Magisterium must weigh in on this issue with clarity and efficiency (much like others have said on that Vox Nova thread), and it will put the matter to rest for a large majority of Catholics. As for MM’s suggestion that priests invoke current Canon law to withhold communion from dissenters on this issue, I support it, as long as it is also used in ALL areas where influential public Catholics dissent from clear Catholic teaching.

  • I have to wonder how the Battle of Tours in 732 or the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, both of which were fought against Islamic fascists, were ever won with this kind of attitude in the Church.

  • Denying communion to those who support the use of torture in certain circumstances would mean denying it to most of the popes who lived between circa 750 AD to 1871 AD. It is not politic perhaps to bring this up, but the attitude of the Church to the use of torture by lawful authority, either Church or State, did a 180 in the last century from previous praxis and teaching of the Church for a millennium.

  • Doesn’t anybody realize that there is a difference between the dismemberment and torturous murder of an innocent unborn baby, and the interrogation of a fanatical Jihaddist determined to maime and murder?

    There is no equivalency between the infanticide of the innocent unborn and the interrogation of the guilty Islamic fascist. None. Zero.

    But liberals just don’t get that.

  • I know MM is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, but I suspect his post is more about calling the bluff of denial-of-Communion Catholics. It will be interesting if he gets the moral consistency he’s seeking. If not, it’s a loss for the hard line bishops.

  • Paul

    It has nothing to do with “liberal” or “conservative.” It has to do with the fact that the Church has been guided to see torture as an intrinsic evil and a “non-negotiable.” And the killing and torture of innocents, which happens in war, is as evil as the killing and torture of innocents in the womb. Which is something many people like you forget — innocents destroyed are innocents destroyed.

  • Thank you, Henry. I’m as conservative as anyone and I’m disgusted that “conservativism” is being co-opted by the armchair Jack Bauers of the world. Since when is torture something the “good guys” do?

    Since when did “love thy neighbor” change to “except if they MIGHT have some useful information.. in that case, waterboard the shit out of them!”

    This is just more ammunition for the pro-choice Catholic excuse makers on the left.

  • I am not sure at all that we are at a point in the debate that it would lawful or right to deny communion to people that support waterboarding.

    Though people like to say it’s settled in fact there are some huge questions left and more questions on what torture is and what it is not. I am afraid a vote of the internet population is not going to do it. By design and as a general manner those Canon that punish are to be read narrowly.

    A denial of communion is a severe sanction and in a important debate that is in it infancy seems to be for the purpose of shutting up debate.

    TO the above parties that are mentioned I am pretty confident that they will heed the decree of their local Bishop on this matter unlike sadly many pro-abortion poltiticians

  • “There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.”

    This could be perhaps that there are issues as to torture and enchanced interrogation that has not been dealt with and perhaps the Church recognizes has to be debated

  • Paul,

    Perhaps you were confused by the fact that both Christians and Muslims were involved, but Tours and Lepanto were battles, not interrogations. No one has attempted to argue that battles, when necessary, cannot be fought. And I think one would have to be rather deceived to claim that Tours and Lepanto were unnecessary.

  • On the topic in question: it seems fairly clear to me that MM is not actually calling for people to defend waterboarding to be denied communion, he’s calling for pro-abortion Catholics _not_ to be denied communion. For some time now he’s been accusing pro-lifers of seeking to politicize the Eucharist by supporting the denial of communion to pro-abortion politicians. It’s an argument from absurdity combined with some tu toque.

    In this regard, it seems to me that the argument lacks some crucial context. When bishops have, in rare circumstances, denied abortion to notorious abortion supporters, it has been after long years of the Church clearly denying that one may, as a Catholic, support legal abortion. It has also been after the individual politician is warned by the bishop that he/she must change his views lest he be denied communion. The denial of communion is, at that point, a response to repeated and stubborn refusal to accept correction.

    So in this case, an obvious first step (assuming that the Church does in fact consider the positions being taken by these people to be totally unacceptable) would be for some bishops to step forward, make it clear that these positions are morally unacceptable, and advise people that they must cease making these arguments lest they find themselves divided from the Church.

    As Chris says, this is clearly a potential teaching moment. I don’t myself agree with the arguments that folks like Thiessien are making — though I’m not ready to say with confidence that it’s impossible for Catholics to make such arguments in good conscience. (After all, there are arguments which I disagree with, such as that a majority Catholic state should not allow the open practice of dissenting religions, which Catholics are indeed allowed to make. Not all conclusions on important matters are handed to us on a silver platter in Catholicism, despite some of the accusations of our separated brethren.)

    What MM does not seem fully cognizant of, unless I’m much misreading his intention with his post, is that there is a difference in Church discipline on these two issues in that the Church has already made it clear that it considers dissent on the question of legal abortion to be something which, in notorious cases, can and should be disciplined through denial of communion. He may not like that, but there it is. It is not yet, however, clear whether the topic of waterboarding is something over which the Church considers it appropriate to ban people from communion for dissent. Certainly, the bishops could decide to make not advocating this a matter of obedience, as a few Southern bishops made complying with their orders to desegregate Catholic schools a matter of obedience, but this has not actually happened up until this point, and so I’m not clear how one gets to demand that they do so as a matter of consistency unless one imagines that one is in a better position to set Church teaching and discipline than the bishops themselves.

  • “he’s calling for pro-abortion Catholics _not_ to be denied communion.”

    No he is not.

  • Really? He’s certainly accused pro-lifers of using communion as a cudgel and those bishops who have denied communion to pro-abortion politicians as being political hacks.

    Wouldn’t that seem to imply that he doesn’t think people should be denied communion for supporting legal abortion?

    (My apologies, though, I appear to have mistakenly thought a comment was made by Henry that was my by someone else. I’ll make the correction.)

  • As far as I can see, we already have perfectly consistent application of Canon 915. It is virtually never applied.

    The bishops have consistently condemned both torture and abortion, and have done precious little against Catholic public figures who advocate either.

    There is, of course, the little matter that torture is illegal and abortion is a right, and the attendant fact that 1.5 million abortions are performed in the U.S. each year, while comparatively very few (if any) prisoners are tortured (depending on your definition of what exactly constitutes torture, a question which MM settled long ago, but which much of the rest of the country is still debating).

    The simple fact remains that, over at VN, not only torture but SUVs, poverty, and _every other issue_ trumps abortion when it comes time to take action, with the result that no positive action can ever be taken. And that’s why life is too short to read Vox Nova.

  • DC

    You are confusing so many issues, which is the problem. For example, the desire to say “anyone who voted for Obama is pro-abortion and therefore should be denied communion” is wrong, and yet that is the kind of cudgel many who call themselves pro-life have tried to use. There is a big difference between denying communion to people who really are pro-abortion than denying people who cooperate with the American political system and vote for someone despite their abortion stand. But he is also pointing out that the canon law being used can be applied to all kinds of moral outrages, and yet the same people are not interested in applying it universally. That is not the same as your claim.

  • How about this question. Is any use of force licit in interrogation?

  • Henry,

    I think you may be equivocating. One may directly kill an innocent in war. But this may also be an example of double effect where one can anticipate that innocents may be killed while justly stopping an aggressor. Thus the first would be immoral but the second would be licit given proportionate reasons. Abortion never is licit.

  • “How about this question. Is any use of force licit in interrogation?”

    Those are questions that must be asked as well as other components of enhanced interrogation.

    That is one reason why I think there is not a lot of basis in denying communion to people where the issues are in such flux. There is going to have be a serious moral debate on many issues.

    When does discomfort become torture? I have seen torture defined as to the extreme of burning hot coals to the other extreme that 24 hours of sleep deprivation could be torture

  • Right or wrong, I don’t expect the defense of torture to be widely held as cause for the denial of communion because, as Darwin and Christopher note, there hasn’t been a clear history of bishops loudly proclaiming that Catholics cannot in good conscience support torture. The current torture debate is fairly new. Perhaps a few decades down the road, when and if we have a long train of teaching moments to reference, we’ll see the canon law in question applied to advocates of torture. Nevertheless, Morning’s Minion has a valid point about its inconsistent application, even if his point has as of now heavier theoretical weight than practical weight.

  • When does discomfort become torture?

    I wouldn’t distinguish discomfort from torture by reference to the degree of pain, which doesn’t get us very far, but by the intended effect of the pain/discomfort. Torture is the use of physical or mental pain to coerce the will to the point where the will itself is undermined and rendered powerless. This use of pain is different than the use of pain to motivate the will or persuade a prisoner to will what the interrogators want him to will.

  • “For example, the desire to say “anyone who voted for Obama is pro-abortion and therefore should be denied communion” is wrong, and yet that is the kind of cudgel many who call themselves pro-life have tried to use.”

    I think that is a rather extreme postione and I ma not sure at all that many people who wish the Bishops to tough up on abortion for example would advocate that. I should be noted that when Kmiec was denied communion by one Priest there was quite a reaction from many Catholic pro-lifers on many fronts that said that was wrong.

    “But he is also pointing out that the canon law being used can be applied to all kinds of moral outrages, and yet the same people are not interested in applying it universally. That is not the same as your claim.”

    While this is a fine debating tactic but I am not sure it gets it very far. Painting a nightmare picture of the Canon Law Provison in dispute as running possibily amuck is quite different in wanting the Law to applied correctly.

  • “How about this question. Is any use of force licit in interrogation?”

    My own view is absolutely not. Any physical coercion of a prisoner beyond what is necessary to restrain, confine, or move said prisoner should be off limits. Interrogation should involve asking questions, not exerting physical pressure.

    I mean, that seems like the sort of basic and obvious definition of torture (at least obvious to me): you can’t coerce answers from a prisoner by physically violating that person’s bodily integrity.

    Now, I am less certain about what psychological means may be brought to bear in getting answers from a prisoner. To the extent there is going to be any debate over appropriate interrogation techniques, in my view it should fall into the realm of which psychological techniques are appropriate. As a baseline, though, I think that any physical coercion is morally problematic.

  • Karlson,

    You have advocated ignoring the abortion funding in the healthcare bill and have gone into full pro-life assualt since the bill now appears to be dead. Your protestations about pro-torture Catholics, regardless of their merits, are self serving.

    The real problem with the Vox Nova folks (MM, HK, MI) is that they have continued to ignore the pro-abortion zealotry that killed the healthcare bill. They are now lashing out in all directions. This pro-torture bashing is little more than fuming (regardless of the merits).

  • In my answer above, I don’t mean to imply that torture is only physical and not psychological. Clearly, as Kyle points out, there is also psychological torture that can cause mental pain and anquish.

  • Kyle,

    One question I have with that is there does not seem to be an absolute freedom of will to do whatever it wants. There are limits the state can place upon the will.

    That then leads back to my first question.

  • “One question I have with that is there does not seem to be an absolute freedom of will to do whatever it wants. There are limits the state can place upon the will.

    That then leads back to my first question.”

    There is also a question of the difference between BREAKING THE WILL and Reforming the Will which I suppose are two differnt things

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  • One other thing should be noted here. A lot of people are not just engaging this with a poltical viewpoint which seems to a subtone of many of these debates as we are looking into motives

    For many of us there is a obligation to have a coherent view on this issue that takes in all scripture all Church tradition and all Church teaching. Not just what has been said in the last 100 years.

    It all has to fit together and it is a important task as we engage other Christians from other other faith communities and non Christians.

    The Church and scripture have never endorsed abortion. Scripture, tradition, and Church teaching is not so clear cut on all the aspects of the torture. enhanced interrogation debate where one could say it is so OBVIOUS.

    That has been one of the frustrating things about this debate is much of it is seen through a purely political lens.

    Why that might be great as we compare the various faults of the Bush and Obama administrations it is not very helpful when a Non Catholic confronts me with verses from Sirach or other teachings.

    It must fit all together some how.

  • Jay read my mind!

  • If it were up to MM, cap-and-trade opponents would incur latae sententiae excommunication.

    I agree that this is a teaching moment but I don’t think the bishops know what to teach.

    Bishop: Torture is evil.
    Congregant: What’s torture?
    Bishop: Sticking a baton up the ass would be torture.
    Congregant: Obviously but what about waterboarding?
    Bishop: [crickets chirp]

    Personally, I’d rule out all physical and psychological harm, beyond what is necessary to restrain, for a purpose extrinsic to the individual.

  • I suspect the bishops will say that waterboarding is torture. They will of course need to have a strong, reasoned response to do so.

  • I agree that anything causing psychological harm should be ruled out. But, in my view, there is more room for debating what causes psychological “harm” than there is when we’re talking about physical coercion.

    Here’s what I mean by psychological means of extracting information are less clear cut:

    * Is good-cop/bad-cop torture?
    * Is lying – for example, telling Prisoner B that Prisoner A has spilled the beans and fingered Prisoner B as the mastermind when Prisoner A has done nothing of the sort – torture? (Such a tactic may be morally problematic apart from the question of torture.)
    * What about other mind games that play on the emotions of the person being interrogated but that arguably don’t cause psychological harm?

    It could be that, in context, any or all of those may constitute torture. But that’s the point. In contrast to physical coercion, which, in my opinion, is ALWAYS torture, the examples above may or may not be torture depending on the circumstances.

  • Phillip,

    The state can legitimately limit what one is able to will, but it may not licitly rob him of his core capacity to will. It may imprison a man, thereby preventing him from acting as free people do, but it may not render a man a mere puppet incapable of making moral decisions. The man tortured into action is a man made less than a man, a man rendered incapable of free choices, and therefore incapable of virtue. The sin of torture has much to do with pain, of course, but it has, in my opinion, more to do with what it does to the core personal selfhood of the one tortured. Torture uses pain to make a person act precisely not as a person, but as an instrument of the torturer.

  • I suspect imprisoning does rob him of his will but not of his conscience. He may continue to believe what he wants but cannot act (will) it. For example an imprisoned murderer may continue to wish to kill another but cannot act on his conscience which tells him its okay.

    Thoughts?

  • I think the way I’m using the word “will” is somewhat close to how you’re using the word “conscience.” I’m using “will” in reference to the power of the person to make free, moral decisions. An imprisoned man still has that power, even if he cannot exercise it toward the ends he wishes. He may not be able to will what he wants, but he can still will. The coerced person, however, can neither will what he wants to really will at all. He acts involuntarily.

  • It seems the state does have the right to stop some consciences from acting as they will. From Dignitatis Humanae:

    “7. The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.

    Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

    These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.”

    It seems there can be restraint on conscience at some level.

  • Equivalency bewteen abortion and torture?

    I don’t think there is necessarily an equivalence, nor that anyone is making such an equivalence. Both are evil, and intrinsically so. I do agree abortion is more evil in many respects, but that really doesn’t seem to be the point. Rape and adultery are both evil, and a strong argument can be made that rape is worse. That doesn’t lessen the evil of adultery one iota.

  • Phillip,

    I read the passage you cite as saying the state can curtail freedom in the sense that it can prevent or prohibit a person from willing certain actions, but I don’t see that it anywhere says the state may render a person fundamentally incapable of willing or attack the power to will. The limits allowed to be placed by the state are limits on what can be willed, not on the power to will itself. I don’t see how the Church could ever advocate limits on the latter, for it would be advocating putting people into conditions that violate their core personhood by making them incapable not only of evil, but of real goodness as well.

  • True, but what can the state do if some, in good conscience continue to act against the common good.

  • Again, limits on not so much as willed, but one in conscience can be held. We already acknowledge we can stop the will from acting.

  • Philip

    Double-effect does not take place the way you think it does. There are many more rules to war than “it’s war” to justify double effect. And even then the evil is the same, the issue is not the evil, but the guilt.

    And this goes into Colin’s claim.

    Colin: many people have shown you that the claims are outright wrong about abortion in the health care bill. But let’s say more abortions will happen because people are given better health care. That IS double effect going on right there. Increase of health care is itself a good, and to intend that without intending more abortion, but having more abortion happen as a result, is exactly double effect.

  • I’m not sure I understand the last question.

  • Henry,

    Perhaps. This is the way I understand it. Let’s say there is a tank that is a threat. There is also a civilian nearby. One can drop a bomb on the tank, anticipating that the civilian will be killed by the blast. What is directly intended is the destruction of a threat. What is not directly intended is the killing of a civilian. Nor does the destruction of the tank come as a result of the killing of the civilian Not direct killing so not morally illicit. That’s my understanding of double effect in war.

    This to contrast with dropping a bomb on civilians because they’re the damn enemy. Direct killing of innocents and thus immoral. In the same category as abortion.

  • Kyle,

    Perhaps because I have worded poorly. It seems to me (and I could be incorrect) that what one reasons is a good is distinct from what one wills to do. It seems to be that the state may do a great many things to stop the will from acting. It seems the state may even drop a bomb on a tank that is unjustly invading one’s land. This with the implicit reality that one will kill the occupants of the tank who are willing it to invade. This in contrast to the assertion that the state may never force the conscience of a person.

    It seems the state can do a great many things to limit the will. The question is can the state do anything to limit the conscience and if so to what degree.

  • A number of responses to the post and comments:

    (1) I actuallly agree that the Pelosi comparison was apt – in each case, a person self-identifying as a faithful Catholic, attempted to defend a position which simply cannot be defended.

    (2) Despite Christopher’s assertion to the contrary, there is no real debate about whether waterboarding constitutes torture. I would note that the arguments of the defenders – Hudson, Akin, Harrison – have little to do with specific techniques and more to do with consequentialist arguments about circumstances under which it might be licit. As for the technique itself, until Bush-Cheney, there was no doubt that this was torture, especially when done by the Khmer Rouge and the imperial Japanese. That tells me that the real defense is an exercise in pure consequentialism – it’s OK when America does it to “keep itself safe from terrorists”.

    (3) For Paul Primavera – “fascism” is a 20th century term that cannot be applied to the 8th or the 16th century. Even worse, “islamic fascism” is an offensive term much loved by American neocons who use it as pretext for war and torture.

    (4) Yes, the Church sinned in the past by supporting torture, largely because they embraced Roman law, and torture was part of the Roman law. But the catechism itself says very explicitly that this was wrong, and that torture (just like slavery) can never be defended.

    (5) I disagree with Darwin’s canonical distinction between abortion and torture. The issue pertains to those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.” There is a lot of consensus that publicly saying something opposed to Church teaching in scandalous manner could be grounds for denying communion. This would encompass defending something that is both extremely grave and intrinsically evil. Both torture and abortion would qualify – after all, they are both listed as among the grave sins in Gaudium Et Spes, and they both evil regardless of circumstance.

    (6) Following up on the last point, let me state for the record that I do not agree with Burke’s take on canon 915. And I am not saying this as an arrogant amateur – I’ve consulted some canonists I know who assure me that Burke’s interpretation is a distinct minority opinion. That makes sense to me. I think somebody who publicly states he is a faithful Catholic and says that abortion is a great social good, or that more women should be encouraged to abort might fall foul of this canon. Likewise, somebody who claims that torturing a prisoner is a great thing to do (Thiessen) might be implicated.

    (7) Prohibitions on receiving the Eucharist are as old as the Church. But I would have you call that some of the oldest debate centers on whether soldiers who participate in war should be permitted to partake – see St. Basil. Not that I am defending this today, but we need to be aware of the history. I’m not particularly interested in targeting individuals at the communion rails – I’m just dismayed by the silence of the episcopacy on this issue.

  • Thank you for the dialogue, particularly Kyle. I am off to the mountains for the weekend. Hope to come back to continued genteel conversation.

  • Henry,

    Is Pelosi wrong then when she reassures her abortion constituents that abortion funding IS part of the bill? Or is she lying to them?

    Your application of double effect is incorrect. Abortion funding does NOT have to be part of the bill. You are advocating the bill despite the funding of such. That isn’t double effect. That is material cooperation.

  • Colin

    I believe she is lying — and I am no fan of Pelosi. She is a liar, and misrepresents things constantly for her own political gain. Or do you think she is telling the truth when she talks about Catholic understandings of abortion?

    And as has been shown on Vox Nova — there is no such funding in the bill itself.

    BTW, do you know double effect IS about cooperation? That is a part of the whole point. That one can promote something which is good despite unintended consequences from one’s support, even if the consequences are foreknown.

  • Colin

    And this goes along with Cardinal Dulles who has even said similarly — you can support a good (X) despite abortion (of course within specific guidelines — but that’s been discussed on VN).

  • Henry,

    Which is more likely:

    1. Pelosi is trying to smuggle in unpopular abortion funding (76% against last I checked) using an obtuse accounting scheme (Casey admendment). Upholding her commitment to abortion.

    2. Pelosi is lying to her constituents and betraying the “right to choose” push healthcare through.

    My money is one the first, esp since she didn’t support Stupak and the Dem leadership has been trying to get hiim to roll on the issue (rather than the other way around).

    Also, you application of double effect only applies if there is NO ALTERNATIVE. Abortion funding is not a necessary result of health care reform. Stupak proved that. If other Democrats would uphold life we might have a bill signed already.

  • Apologies to the author. I didn’t mean to sidetrack this thread.

  • Colin, I’d love to see the evidence. Though many have compared the Nelson Amendment to the Capps accounting trick, as far as I can tell, there’s a very important difference. The Nelson Amendment requires enrollees to write two checks. That virtually ensures that nobody will choose to pay for abortion coverage. This is why pro-choice groups opposed it. But, I’d love to see evidence to the contrary (from a source other than Pelosi’s mouth).

  • The one thing that remains missing in this discussion of theoreticals is a usable definition of “torture”. The good old, “I know it when I see it” that applied to pornography is not workable here.

    Why, would you ask?

    Well, thanks for asking!

    The problem from which most of this discussion suffers is actually two-fold: a lack of practical experience in even *imagining* the situational ethics (bad term, I know, but give me a minute) of a particular instance, combined with that very “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” mentality I dismissed above.

    Some things are easy to define as torture: cutting off fingers/toes; pushing bamboo shards under fingernails; cutting; testicular electrification; castration; murder of a comrade with a threat of one’s own murder; confinement to a space smaller than one’s own frame; burning; acid in the eyes; other disfiguring injuries inflicted for the purpose of coercion. All definitely torture; all specifically outside the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Land Warfare.

    But…is loud music? ( I would argue that it would depend on the genre.) Is sleep deprivation within reasonable limits? Is environmental manipulation? Withholding food (this one is a probable yes)? threatening? Intimating that someone has ratted the prisoner out? Not correcting a misimpression on the part of a prisoner that something bad has happened to a comrade, or is about to happen to them?

    Then…what about dripping water across the face of a person in a controlled manner, with medical assistance present, in order to evoke a visceral panic reaction on the part of the subject that is so unpleasant as to encourage the subject to avoid its repetition?

    I don’t know the answer.

    But I will say this: Unless you have had to manage the use of deadly force in some way, your ability to make a valid judgment may be impaired. Not that you’re a bad person, or you lack intelligence, or anything negative; you just may not have a frame of reference that allows you to validly evaluate the morality of a particular situation. Killing is objectively evil; murder is intrinsically evil..BUT: Some people just need killin’, as people in the South might say. And as unpleasant as it is to hear, it is unequivocally true. And it is up to the moral actor, IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT, to make the best judgment he or she can based on his or her training and experience, and then to pull the trigger (or not). And that moral actor must bear the consequences of that decision before God.

    So I guess I’m saying: If you haven’t had to think about killing another human being, you may not have enough information to really validly evaluate the morality of things that go on in war (past a certain point, and with obvious exceptions, like My Lai).

  • Why is this such a tedious and ultimately meaningless argument? Because only 3 people were waterboarded. This is an issue that is being ginned up mostly by folks who hate Republicans and want desperately to change the debate from abortion.

  • Austin Ruse,

    The argument is neither tedious nor meaningless and it pertains to more than just three individuals who were water-boarded. We have witnessed the systematization and legalization of coercive interrogation techniques, including torture, into official government policy. That fact alone should concern us. Perhaps even more disheartening, this policy has found justification among Catholics and others that bases its use on a materialistic and morally relativistic gospel of salvific violence. I’ve seen even otherwise pro-life Catholics argue that we must keep ourselves safe by any means necessary and that the end of keeping us safe justifies any means. To be sure, we’re not simply witnessing a debate among Catholics about what techniques qualify as torture. We’re seeing Catholics who typically decry moral relativism embrace morally relativistic arguments in the name of national security. That’s a problem.

  • Except of course Kyle that the use of what is currently described as torture was routinely used by virtually all Western governments until the day before yesterday in historical terms. In the US the third degree was quite common in police work until the Sixties. The papal states had official torturers until the papal states were abolished in 1870. In a society which tolerates the destruction of human life to the tune of tens of millions a year in regard to abortion, I am curious about this new found sensitivity to torture in both the Church and Western countries at large. One may be against physical torture on prudential grounds as I am, and yet wonder if it is truly immoral for a cop for example to pummel a kidnapper in order to get a child back safe to her parents. A whole host of prudential reasons can be mustered as to why the cop should not do this, but I truly find it hard to understand why such an action would be immoral. Substitute a parent for the cop, and I think it would be immoral for the parent not to attempt to coerce the will of the kidnapper in order to rescue a son or daughter.

  • Why is this such a tedious and ultimately meaningless argument? Because only 3 people were waterboarded.

    I quote from the above post:

    “Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining ‘the religious dimensions of the torture debate’ found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justifiable.”

    This is an issue that is being ginned up mostly by folks who hate Republicans and want desperately to change the debate from abortion.

    What a contemptible claim!

  • Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children. This is a waste of time and i reiterate, an attempt by a small group who want to divert attention from a truly horrific situation. These guys also want us to believe that its ok to vote for someone like Obama, who opposes waterboarding 3 guys but supports the killing of unborn children, rather than one of those despicable conservatives who may favor waterboarding but opposes the deliberate killing of millions of unborn children. This is not a serious debate.

  • There you go again, Austin. While you may have some success tarring me as one of those “folks who hate Republicans”, you most certainly cannot say the same for most of the commentors above who oppose torture. What I see is disgust with the conduct of evil by our political masters, no matter which secular ideology most appeals.

    You’ll get no argument that abortion is graver than torture. But you must also admit that the moral proximity, the formal cooperation in evil, of political leaders to each act of torture is much closer than the moral proximity of these same leaders to each incidence of abortion. Doesn’t that concern you?

    And what kind of argument are you making anyway? Rape is probably not as bad as murder. Does this mean we should turn a blind eye to rape? Is rape tedious?

    You would be more convincing if you argued that you supported your precious Republicans in spite of, not because of, or indifference to, their embrace of torturing people for consequentialist reasons.

    And this goes far beyond waterboarding, by the way. You take the Bush-Cheney techniques minus waterboarding and you have a very close approximiation to the approved techniques of the gestapo. But the gestapo didn’t really torture, did they? Or did they? Maybe they did, if you bring intent and circumstance into it. Oh wait, you can’t do that with intrinsically evil acts…

  • Colin,

    You have been at this game for too long. It’s time to end it. Look at the Vox Nova threads on healthcare reform. Even better, read the bill.

    Here’s the deal. This reform does not support or push forward the abortion agenda. The reform relates to the expansion of private insurance. Many private insurance companies pay for abortion. Should they? Not if I had my way, but I don’t remember a pro-life organization making a priority of this one.

    The issue then, is now to minimize taxpayer funds from going to these private insurance companies that cover abortion. Stupak was ironclad – did the pro-life movement support the House bill with Stupak? No, they instead supported a pro-abortion pro-torture Senate candidate who opposed both the House and Senate bills.

    And yes, Stupak is better than Nelson, but not that much better. After all, Nelson would allow states to forbid abortion coverage, give people the option of an abortion-free plan, and shine attention on abortion coverage by separating payments (if you can’t see the value in forcing such attention, just ask the RNC). The pro-choicers hate it for a reason. Is it ideal? No. But it is the first ever federal attempt to address abortion coverage by private insurance companies. And I think people would most definitely start choosing plans without abortion, which will force insurance companies to drop coverage.

    I’ll leave you with an insightful point made by a commentor on Vox Nova. When Republicans implemented the Medicare Advantage program, involving direct subsidies from taxpayers to insurance companies, was abortion an issue? No, it was not. And yet, what is the difference? And don’t respond by saying Medicare does not cover abortion – the money is going to insurance companies that do fund abortion, and this money is fungible. And since the reform bill proposes to save money by eliminating Medicare Advantage, shouldn’t you be lauding them for distancing taxpayer funds from abortion?

    Oh, and by the way, the more recent Republican ideas on healthcare are not exactly unborn-friendly either. Granting tax credits makes it cheaper for people to purchase private plans with abortion. And allowing insurance plans to be sold across state lines without appropriate minimum standards would gut the Nelson provision allowing states to ban abortion coverage.

    What do I conclude? I conclude that many of those who scream about healthcare and abortion do not support this healthcare reform in the first place. They use the unborn on their behalf, but it is really their liberal principles that are offended. They object to forcing people to purchase health insurance, and especially to forcing the healthy to subsidize the sick, either directly through community rating, or indirectly through budgetary subsidies. This was really why they opposed reform, not abortion. Let’s end this charade here and now.

  • Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children.

    No. Evil is not opposed to evil. All evil comes from the same source, and all evil will be sent back to that source, carrying along whoever clings to any part of it.

    Formal cooperation with evil is one way of clinging to evil, and there’s reason to believe that tens of millions of Catholics in the United States formally cooperate with the grave evil of torture.

  • As Tom has aptly pointed out (I think, anyway) this is a both/and scenario. We must oppose both torture and abortion per Church teaching on each. This is hardly a mutually exclusive predicament.

    That being said, in a discussion on abortion and torture in the US, abortion is demonstrably the greater historical scandal. The blood on our hands from millions of children lost since Roe v Wade is in no small part the result of an enabling, ideologically-driven, morally pernicious, left-wing brand of Catholicism.

    No amount of moral calculus can be used to justify torture as if abortion is so heinous that everything the political-right does pales in comparison. Yet given the track record of the left it is understandable that such claims of the moral high ground are more about advancing the political football than about embracing Church teaching on this particular matter.

  • Nice to see, once again, Austin reveals his true colors. Push for Republicans and use abortion as a diversion.

  • If torture was actually an issue, then yes, we should oppose it. But to use it as a wedge to keep people from voting for the pro-life party, it is no more than Democratic trickery. The proposition is that there is some kind of equivalence between the murder of 50 million children and three men being waterboarded and therefore one may in good conscience vote for party that supports baby-killing (and by the way, the Party of Death also knew about waterboarding and did nothing).

  • “The pro-life party” — what party is this?

  • That would be the party that had this in its platform in 2008:

    “Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

    Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.

    We have made progress. The Supreme Court has upheld prohibitions against the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. States are now permitted to extend health-care coverage to children before birth. And the Born Alive Infants Protection Act has become law; this law ensures that infants who are born alive during an abortion receive all treatment and care that is provided to all newborn infants and are not neglected and left to die. We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

    Respect for life requires efforts to include persons with disabilities in education, employment, the justice system, and civic participation. In keeping with that commitment, we oppose the non-consensual withholding of care or treatment from people with disabilities, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which endanger especially those on the margins of society. Because government should set a positive standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, we need to update the statutory authority for the AbilityOne program, the main avenue by which those productive members of our society can offer high quality services at the best possible value.”

    The pro-death party had this in its platform in 2008:

    “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”

  • So, the Constitution of the Soviet Union made Stalin good? The platform didn’t deal with the whole issue of life, and ignores the Gospel of Life. To be pro-life, as the Church speaks, is more than to be against abortion. And Austin shows what happens when people think that is all it is about — even being against abortion doesn’t have to be (Brown) as long as one is GOP! The shell game doesn’t work. The fact of the matter is that the actual policies of the Republicans have been anti-life, and have promoted the culture of death. The fact of the matter is that when people think “torture doesn’t matter” they have accepted the culture of death (if it doesn’t matter, than abortion, as torture, doesn’t matter). But it does matter. And any attempt to ignore it when it is an issue is an attempt to hide real anti-life policies.

    And here is a note for the sophists:

    Just because book X might be the most expensive book ever does not mean books A-W, when combined with Y and Z are less valuable than X.

  • Karlson your never ending efforts to run interference for Obama and the party of abortion lend support to the argument that Mr. Ruse is making. This is on par with your ludicrous attempt last weekend to argue that Nixon was more pro-abortion than the patron saint of Vox Nova Obama. Stop beclowning yourself in your attempt to be a useful tool for people who are completely pro-abortion.

  • Karlson your never ending efforts to run interference for Obama and the party of abortion lend support to the argument that Mr. Ruse is making.

    Yes, and it’s deucedly annoying, because the argument that Mr. Ruse is making is a “30% less evil than the other leading brand” whitewash of the Republican Party.

    As long as Catholics treat moral issues as though they were fundamentally political issues — as Austin does by claiming, in the teeth of the empirical evidence, that torture is not an issue — politicians will treat moral issues as Catholic vote-bait, and souls will be lost.

  • One very big difference between the issue of banning Communion to pro-abortion politicians vs. banning Communion to “pro-torture” politicians is simply the fact that what constitutes torture may not be as clearly defined as what constitutes abortion.

    It’s pretty obvious what constitutes abortion (although, granted, some people have tried to redefine “conception” in a way that excludes certain forms of abortafacient contraception). And some practices are obviously torture (branding, whipping, racking, mutilation, sexual abuse, threatening to kill, rape or torture a loved one in one’s prescence. And I would, personally, include waterboarding in this definition). However, the danger is that certain persons of more liberal persuasion may attempt to expand the definition of torture to include just about anything that causes distress or places pressure on the person being interrogated. Next thing you know, they will be claiming that parents who spank their young children are guilty of child abuse… oh wait… but I digress.

    I do think the issue of whether the government should ever officially endorse certain “enhanced interrogation” practices as a matter of policy is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. It does have the potential for greater abuses. Remember, hard cases make bad law.

    However, in this particular case, it seems obvious to me that liberal Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians are just looking for a “gotcha” to use against those who advocate denial of Communion to such politicians.

  • The Democrat party favors the deliberate killing of unborn children up to 50 million at this point. The Democrat Party has funded abortions overseas and is now attempting to coerce foreign countries to kill their own children. Besides working to protect the unborn child from abortion in this coutnry and around the world, the Republican party has supported billions of dollars in federal and local spending to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease in this country and around the world. The Republicans embrace the whole social justice agenda.

  • Austin,

    If you want others to take the issue of abortion seriously, it helps not to belittle the significance of the issues they believe are important. You make opponents when you should be making allies.

    Moreover, your depiction of the reasons behind the opposition to torture doesn’t correspond to reality. Sure, you can find people opposed to torture who don’t think abortion is a big deal, but you can also find conservative Republicans who oppose both torture and abortion and are loudly outraged about both.

  • Donald

    When will you stop lying about what the other person is doing? I am not pro-Obama. I didn’t vote for him. I said I could not support him in post after post. I’ve criticized him and continue to do so. But the problem is the criticism has to be valid ones. The fact that the issue over health care reform was not abortion but “socialism” shows the concern is not about life but sophistry and political rhetoric. The fact that I agree with the Church that health care reform is necessary allows me to see beyond the “socialism” card. But that it was “socialism” and not abortion which was the issue is obvious to anyone who can see the Republicans rejecting legislation which would have had greater limits on abortion funding than ever before — because of “socialism.” So defense of capitalism is more important to the “party of Life” than life. Sick. And this ruse is up. People see through it.

  • Karlson I didn’t say you voted for Obama, unlike Matt Talbot, the Catholic Anarchist, MZ, and various other denizens of Vox Nova. What I do say is that you ceaselessly attempt to minimize the importance of the struggle against abortion in order to provide cover for the pro-abortion Democrat Party and to attack the Republican party, and you do so in a completely transparent manner.

  • Donald,

    I would credit the influence of philosophical personalism on the development of Catholic moral thought for why the Church today opposes torture and coercion that destroys the will. For example, Catholic moral thought now includes the principle that the human person is an end in himself and shouldn’t be used as a mere means, a formula that originated with Kant and was developed by Catholic moral philosophers such as Pope John Paul II. This principle alone would prohibit torture and will-undermining coercion, for these actions reduce the person to a mere instrument.

  • Kyle,

    I never did that. In fact, I claim the GOP is more social justice in orientation than the Dems because the GOP takes on the whole social justice agenda including protecting the unborn child from abortion. I also understand the Church teaches that abortion is the primary issue today. Not that the issues of poverty, hunger and disease and not important but that abortion is the preeminent human rights issue of our time. If you get that (abortion) wrong, as Bernardine himself said, then you undermine the whole social justice agenda.

  • Kyle, the Catholic Church is both a divine and a human institution as we both know. As it proceeds through history it is both the guardian of the eternal truths of Christ and is buffeted by the intellectual currents popular at different points in history. Looking at the Church over 2000 years there have been many accretions on the Faith that at one time were confused with the gospels and have fallen away as time passes. One subject I have always found fascinating is how one discerns what is a mere accretion from a development of doctrine a la Cardinal Newman. In regard to the subject of torture was the prior praxis and teaching of the Church that torture was licit when used by lawful authority a mere accretion due to Roman law, etc, or is the accretion in modern times due to the personalism you mention and other secular developments? This is the aspect of the never ending debate in Saint Blog’s on torture that I find personally interesting, and one that is rarely addressed.

  • Austin,

    In the comments above, you call concern about torture a waste of time, an unserious debate, and not really an issue. I’d call that belittling.

  • Yes, it is a waste of time because it has only happened three times if you define waterboarding as torture. It is not an issue. It is a distraction by partisans who want to score points on the GOP.

    Kyle, you work on a vicious website that attacks anyone who disagrees with the VN party line. You cannot lecture me about working toward common ground. VN is not in the least concerned with common ground or reaching out or anything like it.

  • Having said that, Kyle, i want to say this. You are one of the more fair contributors to that vicious awful site. You have always given me a fair shake.

  • Donald,

    At least in regards to personalism, we can ask the simple question: Is it true? Can we show with arguments of reason that a person should not be used as a mere means? If we can, then we have a firm basis on which to reject torture, regardless of whether or not the Church has made any official declarations.

  • Like most philosophical doctrines Kyle I think the answer to that question would include such phrases as “it depends”, “true here, not true there”, “now how would we interpret it in this situation”, etc. In regard to torture, I think perhaps even a more important cause of the shift in the teaching and praxis of the Church was that the popes ceased to be secular rulers of anything other than a postage stamp realm.

  • Donald,

    I’ll grant that examining the veracity of personalism as a whole isn’t such a simple endeavor. However, the personalist principle about the human person being an end in himself is a pretty absolute principle. It’s either true in all cases or not true at all. If we can licitly use a person as a mere means even in one circumstance, then the whole principle falls apart. Therefore, I think we can assess the truth of that principle and, following that assessment, either have or not have grounds on which to reject torture in all cases.

  • 8:17: The Democrat party…. The Democrat Party … the Republican party …. The Republicans….

    8:33: … the GOP … the Dems … the GOP….

    8:48: It is a distraction by partisans who want to score points on the GOP.

    Who’s the partisan wanting to score points?

  • Tom,

    The purpose of this distraction is to give aid and comfort to the party of death.

  • And by the way, the party of death supported waterboarding until it became politically expedient not to.

  • …it is better to bring it out in the open, to flush them out as it were….

  • The “party of death” is bipartisan.

    Whoever can’t see that has blinded himself.

  • Kyle, let us say that you are a platoon commander in the Army. You are guarding a group of refugees. A bridge must be held against an advancing enemy force in order for the refugees and the remainder of the platoon to escape. You assign a squad to hold the bridge and to delay the enemy long enough so that the refugees and the rest of the platoon can get to safety. You look into the eyes of the squad members. They realize you have just sentenced them to death in order to save others. Under the doctrine of personalism as you understand it, is it morally licit for you to give this order?

  • VN is not in the least concerned with common ground or reaching out or anything like it.

    It depends on the contributor. I think most people tend to define ‘common ground’, at least implicitly, as ‘moving away from your misconceived ideas about public life and adopting or accommodating mine.’ Witness Obama’s transparently silly calls for bipartisan solutions (so long as ‘bipartisan’ means 90% of what he wants and 10% of what the other party wants). This doesn’t mean that anyone is necessarily arguing in bad faith; just that people come to political discussions from very different places, so it actually is hard to find agreement on how to put into practice shared larger commitments to the common good.

    I don’t think we have a good reason to trust either party to oppose torture when they’re in power. Pelosi was fine with waterboarding until she had the opportunity to use it as a cudgel. I wouldn’t say that torture is a ‘distraction,’ though. It’s important to oppose it clearly and consistently, particularly from the point of view of a commitment to pro-life activity.

  • Donald,

    Yes, as long as the squad isn’t being reduced to a mere means. Clearly they are being used as a means – a means to halt the enemy force and save the refugees – but the question is whether they are being used as a mere means. I would say they are not, as they are freely cooperating in that order. They understand their service may mean following such orders. And, of course, were they to follow the order, we would rightly recognize their actions as self-sacrifice. The fact that we would see their sacrifice as more than involuntarily following orders, but as a heroic act on their parts, shows us that, while they are following orders, they do so as whole persons. They are not mere instruments of the commander’s will.

  • From your response Kyle I perhaps make the rash assumption that you have never been in the Army. The men in the squad could have any number of motivations and reactions but at that moment none of that matters. They have been ordered to hold that bridge whether they think it is a great order or a grave imposition on their personal freedom. At that moment they do not have a choice under military discipline not to obey. This is the type of gut wrenching decision that military leaders often have to make and with soldiers not at all eager, understandably, to give up their lives.

  • “At that moment they do not have a choice under military discipline not to obey.” Unless they are Hitler’s soldiers, then they are told they have a conscience and should have known not to obey.

  • Karlson, I will make the non-rash assumption that you know as much about the military as a pig knows about penance. Soldiers in the US military have an obligation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice not to to obey unlawful orders such as one to massacre prisoners for example. That does not allow them to refuse obedience to a lawful order because the lawful order might very well get them killed.

  • Donald is correct as to his assessment of the realities surrounding his hypothetical.

    Also, I’ll just go ahead and weigh in on a few things.

    First, while waterboarding may have been confined to just a small handful of individuals, it happened a lot more than 3 times. The individuals in question were by all accounts repeatedly waterboarded.

    Second, the weight of Church teaching pretty plainly falls in favor of the position that torture is intrinsically evil. I have not found the arguments to the contrary made by various Catholic thinkers to be especially persuasive.

    Third, just because two things (i.e., torture and abortion) can both be intrinsically immoral does not mean they carry the same moral gravity.

    Fourth, while I accept Church teaching on torture, I admit I don’t fully understand it. While admittedly the hypothetical ticking bomb scenario may be implausible (I’m not sure), it does crystalize one’s thinking on the matter. For the record, if I thought the most efficacious way to save innocent lives was by torturing a person who I knew to a moral certainty was culpable in arranging their deaths and had information that could avoid those deaths I’d torture him — you bet. If God’s Church teaches otherwise I’ll take the consequences. I don’t believe God will damn me for such actions, and if a few centuries in Purgatory are the cost, so be it.

  • Donald,

    My response wasn’t meant to explore the specific motivations and reactions of soldiers in that situation, as these would undoubtedly vary from soldier to soldier. Instead, I aimed in my response to illustrate a general situation of cooperation with that gut-wrenching order that doesn’t reduce the soldiers to mere instruments of their commander. Now, I could also imagine situations in which a commander uses those under his command as mere means to an end. In any case, my answer to your question remains the same. The personalist principle does not necessarily prohibit such orders.

  • Donald

    When Hitler ordered his military to do things, it was “lawful.” Therefore, they had to obey? I thought the rule was that one is not to obey a positive law when it broke natural law, right? I guess that changes in the military. Of course, only for the victors.

    It used to be as you said, that all one did was “obey.” But then they were not considered guilty for obeying bad orders, only those who made the orders could be tried for war crimes.

    Things changed. Our understanding of morality became more sophisticated. We grew to understand the role of the conscience and its place in a person’s free will. We grew to understand the role of the person in decision making, and the place of subjective and objective guilt in the equation. Thus, the earlier “just obey” kind of response is no longer acceptable. It is rejected by the Church. It is rejected by the international community (hence war crimes trials like after WWII which said that obeying orders was not a good enough defense).

    Of course, while we have grown to appreciate this more in recent times, it really is not new. The first few centuries of the Church saw this as well. Soldiers who were Christian were given the lawful order to offer various sacrifices. They disobeyed. They were killed. Would you say they were in the wrong? Oh, I know. They didn’t have US laws. But they did have Roman ones, and they broke it.

    Of course I know the US situation. I also know that the rules as you proclaim, as if by saying that’s the rules that ends all discussion, are the rules the Church has spoken out against several times. It continues to speak out against them. It wants the soldiers not to be abused for disobeying orders which they view are immoral, whether or not the order is legal.

    Yes, I know the US wants to have its cake and eat it too. It will constantly say “obeying orders is not good enough an excuse” when dealing with the enemy. But I also know as you said they tell their soldiers that they don’t have such an option. “It’s only illegal orders you don’t have to obey.” Of course, what does that mean when the law is immoral? Again, when the positive law is immoral, it is no law.

    Thus, as with the Church I will say the soldier’s conscience is important and is not limited to “is it legal or not.” You can say otherwise and side with the nation-state as you want.

  • Henry,
    You are missing the point. In Donald’s hypothetical the order to defend the bridge would not be a violation of natural law. I’m confident that if the order was instead to target innocents Donald would agree that the order could and should be disobeyed as unlawful even if lawful under positive law.

  • Mike

    It is possible a soldier could think the order is to block aid to innocents, and so oppose it. There are many reasons why the orders could be made. Donald said it doesn’t matter, they have to obey. The point is — the orders to matter, the reason why they are asked to do it, still does not matter. The soldier still has a conscience. His own words said that “lawful orders” must be obeyed without question. The issue is that “lawful orders” can be immoral orders. And if a soldier has a good reason to believe it is, they must follow their conscience. Even things which appear innocent could end up not.

  • “The point is — the orders to matter, the reason why they are asked to do it, still does not matter.”

    Should read — “The point is, the orders do matter, and the reason why they are asked to do it still matters.”

  • Henry, I agree that one’s conscience is always paramount, and that a soldier does have a moral obligation to disobey an immoral order that is lawful under positive law. And I bet Don agrees with that as well, and he would likely add that the UCMJ makes a positive law versus natural law incongruity pretty unlikely, but to the extent it occurs I’m pretty certain he’d agree that natural law trumps. But Don’s hypo pretty clearly postulates an order that is lawful under both natural law and positive law, especially from the point of view of the soldiers receiving the order. His hypo was intended to test Kyle’s earlier proposition that related to the point of view of the one giving the order, which is not germane to the point you are trying to make.

  • Karlson, this obtuse act of yours is tiresome. The soldiers had absolutely no right under military regulations to disobey the order given to them in my scenario even though they would probably all suspect that the order would cost them their lives. That is the military. Orders are obeyed even though the death of the ones carrying out the orders may be the result.

  • Tom,

    I do not make a claim for common ground or bipartisanship. I also tend to disdain calls for dialogue since the left usually does not mean it. To them it usually means the left speaking to the further left, or the left hassling the bishop. Dialogue is one of the hypocrisies of the left.

    What I am is a little weary of the rather vicious holier-than-thou crowd trying to make folks guilty for voting for Bush and the GOP which is the subtext of any “debate” about torture, something the US does not do. It is a ruse, if you will, not a very clever ruse but a ruse nonetheless.

    By the way, the downstairs sitting room at the Papal Nunciature in Washington DC has ten pictures of George Bush — even now — and not a single one of that moral paragon Obama. Go figure that, Bush haters.

  • Oh, and i did not say waterboarding happened only 3 times. It happened to only three people.

  • You are correct, Austin. I apologize if it looked like I was misquoting you.

  • Thanks for that, Mike.

  • Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children. This is a waste of time and I reiterate, an attempt by a small group who want to divert attention from a truly horrific situation.

    If you really believe that, I have a simple solution.

    (You might want to browse my archives a bit before accusing me of being an Obama supporter, by the way, or of being soft on abortion. And since my infamous nickname for the blog Vox Nova is “Debate Club at Auschwitz” — my reasons are also in the archive, and I continue to stand by them — you might want to do the stoppy-ready-thinky thing a bit before jumping to any conclusions).

  • “The purpose of this distraction is to give aid and comfort to the party of death.”

    Ok, Austin — you’ve repeated this point ad nauseum, to the point where I’d suspect you were attempting to engage in distraction yourself.

    1) liberals may have any number of motivations for pressing the torture issue — I concur, that for many, it’s a convenient distraction from abortion and/or other policies of the Obama administration. That said, many conservative (and pro-life) voices are raised in response to the techniques employed by the Bush (and present) administrations.

    So, let’s bracket and forget about the ongoing AC+VN feud as best we can, and address the subject of this post.

    2) I would say that, while waterboarding is probably the most prominent example of what has been termed ‘extreme interrogation’, the subject of ‘torture’ is not confined to such, nor are incidents of detainee abuse confined to those which occurred at Abu Ghraib. Incidents continue to occur in both Iraq and Afghanistan See for example Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan – “comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002.”

    Practices which we might think of as fairly innocuous when presented on paper — sleep deprivation, raising/lowering the temperature, “stress positions”, and other techniques of “softening up” detainees for interrogation — have contributed to such deaths. Not all of these incidents can be dismissed as violations of the system in place, either — rather, the impression I get is that the system currently in place cultivates, and encourages, the abuse.

  • I would take any report prepared by Human Rights First with a boulder of salt based upon its funding by George Soros and its hard Left orientation. Its founder Michael Posner now serves as head of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Human Rights First is tightly wired in with the Obama administration.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/02/soros_influence_on_obama_polit.html

    http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/hr/2009/alert/479/index.htm

    Anyone involved in the murder of a detainee should be prosecuted. However, an axe-grinding report from an axe-grinding group leaves me unimpressed.

  • Anyone involved in the murder of a detainee should be prosecuted.

    I think one consistent point that keeps arising is that prosecutions are few and far between.

    However, an axe-grinding report from an axe-grinding group leaves me unimpressed.

    Much like you and I would likely take offense if a liberal pre-emptively dismissed an investigative report because it came from a conservative think tank, the best course of action would be to read it, then embark on a factual analysis and rebuttal.

  • If they had any real evidence Chris they could petition for prosecutions themselves by bringing the evidence they have compiled to the attention of the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.

    I have been involved in hundreds of felony cases as a defense attorney, and two cases as a special prosecutor, over the years. People shooting their mouths off about alleged crimes is one thing; actually proving the guilt of a defendant in court is another. I have seen plenty of cases that looked good for the prosecution fall apart when actual evidence had to be presented and witnesses were subject to cross-examination. I would think the Obama administration would be eager to prosecute these cases if they think they can prove them in court. Perhaps Mr. Posner can discuss this with his boss.

  • I would also suggest that when a detainee dies in custody a convening authority should conduct an immediate investigation to see if courtmartial proceedings should be initiated. If civilians are involved, then a DOJ criminal investigation should be immediately implemented.

  • I would also suggest that when a detainee dies in custody a convening authority should conduct an immediate investigation to see if courtmartial proceedings should be initiated. If civilians are involved, then a DOJ criminal investigation should be immediately implemented.

    Well, yes. I think it goes without saying that would be the wish of the authors of the report as well. Unfortunately, if their analysis is correct, that’s not happening — in fact, what the report alleges:

    Commanders have failed to report deaths of detainees in the custody of their command, reported the deaths only after a period of days and sometimes weeks, or actively interfered in efforts to pursue investigations;

    • Investigators have failed to interview key witnesses, collect useable evidence, or maintain evidence that could be used for any subsequent prosecution;

    • Record keeping has been inadequate, further undermining chances for effective investigation or appropriate prosecution;

    • Overlapping criminal and administrative investigations have compromised chances for accountability;

    • Overbroad classification of information and other investigation restrictions have left CIA and Special Forces essentially immune from accountability;

    • Agencies have failed to disclose critical information, including the cause or circumstance of death, in close to half the cases examined;

    • Effective punishment has been too little and too late.

  • Criminal investigations are often incompently done Chris? Well that is certainly no news to me after my involvement with the end product of criminal investigations over the past 28 years. That actually is fairly par for the course in my experience. Conducting investigations in foreign nations, usually involving some witnesses who cannot speak English, is challenging and compounds the difficulty. That is why investigative teams that specialize in this area should be developed.

  • … That is why investigative teams that specialize in this area should be developed.

    I’m heartened by the news that you and the authors of said report share the same concerns. =)

  • Not quite the same concerns Chris. I want the guilty punished but I also want an adequate record so that politically motivated advocacy groups can’t make hay out of such deaths years after the fact. Perhaps also if we have good investigators maybe we would have them develop the sense not to prosecute troops for minor infractions. Case in point, the three Navy Seals who are being courtmartialed because one of them allegedly immediately after the capture of a terrorist gave him a fat lip. Maybe I’ll burn in Hell for saying this, but I think the Navy is over-reacting a wee bit. 🙂

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2426067/posts

  • Zippy?

    I don’t even know who you are so you have me confused with someone else who accused you of something.

    About torture, i don’t know any Catholic who supports torture.

  • About torture, i don’t know any Catholic who supports torture.

    I do. You, for example. Oh, your support hides behind euphemism and denial (the whole “waterboarding isn’t torture” canard); but as a substantive matter you defend actual acts of torture perpetrated by and admitted to by the Bush administration. Your euphemisms aren’t any more valid than “blob of tissue” euphemisms used by pro-aborts.

    Did you read the post I linked to? Given that you mean what you say — that you see this as a low priority issue which is a distraction from the far more important issue of legal abortion — I proposed a solution that would allow the issue to be defused, so we can get back to the higher priority.

  • Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture. I don’t know of anyone in the Bush administration who has said they tortured. And even if waterboarding were torture, it happened to three guys. This is a meaningless argument when compared to the other things we are facing.

  • Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture.

    And like I said, I do: you (among many others).

    This is a meaningless argument when compared to the other things we are facing.

    And again, if you really believe that I have a suggested solution.

  • Like I said, I don’t know anybody who supports torture.

    According to the Pew Research Center’s survey, which Christopher linked to in the post and which I referred to twice in response to your own comments, 71% of Americans, 73% of weekly churchgoers, and 78% of white non-Hispanic American Catholics think that torture can be justified.

    If you don’t know this, then you probably shouldn’t be making categorical statements about whether torture is an issue.

  • Tom

    Of course, there is another issue, confusing quantity with quality. We can see the error of this argument by bringing up another intrinsic evil, one which is done far more than abortion in a year. Lying. Lying is rooted to the fall of humanity (the deception of Satan), lying leads to the death of multitudes, and lying of course, is done far more often than abortion in a year. So does that now make abortion no longer significant? Not at all. But if one follows the logic Austin is trying to give us, one would have to say abortion needs to move over until we stop lying.

  • Well, of course, there are Catholics who support abortion, contraception, torture, etc. Lots of fake Catholics around. In fact, I personally know Catholics who support abortion and contraception. I have met Frances Kissling! But, except in the abstract (polls etc), I do not know any Catholic who supports torture. And if torture was a widespread problem I suspect there would be a reason to get all het up about it. As it is, it is a distraction of Dems to get drive a wedge through the pro-life movements.

  • But, except in the abstract (polls etc), I do not know any Catholic who supports torture. And if torture was a widespread problem I suspect there would be a reason to get all het up about it. As it is, it is a distraction of Dems to get drive a wedge through the pro-life movements.

    I am embarrassed for you.

  • Doing anything to a person against his/her will (with the exceptions of saving his/her life, and their having broken a law punishable by jail) is not in line with the Gospels and therefore is a sin. Torture. Seriously? Torture? It is wrong. Time to move on…

  • Tom K,

    I suspect you are not embarrassed for me. Likely you are annoyed, angry, crossing your little arms and stomping your little foot on the floor. Who cares? Now, lets get back to the conversation.

  • I suspect you are not embarrassed for me.

    And I suspect that you live in a bubble, and Tom really is genuinely embarrassed for you.

  • Gosh, no. I don’t live in a bubble. I live in a house in Arlington, VA and drive to work every day in Washington DC and work in public policy.

    The frustration of you fellas is noted by me, by all. Now, let’s get back to the conversation.

  • … and drive to work every day in Washington DC and work in public policy.

    I guess that explains the bubble. Have a nice day!

  • Austin:

    Your “no Catholic I know supports torture,” in the face of evidence that 78% of white Catholics support torture, is so glaringly irrelevant, and glaringly improbable (in fact, I am morally certain it is false), that it really admits of no response other than silence.

    Your repeated insistence that it’s all a Democratic plot is uncomfortable in the way Captain Queeg’s muttering about strawberries.

    And it’s made all the worse because your inability to actually engage the issue you’ve been commenting on all weekend reflects on you professionally, in a way it wouldn’t for those of us who don’t work in public policy.

    So yes, I am genuinely embarrassed for you.

  • Why would not knowing any Catholics who support torture be embarrassing? I wish I could say the same.

    P.S. Welcome back to blogging, Zippy.

  • Looks like Tom has answered my question before I even asked it. Impressive.

  • If the charge against torture is “a distraction of the Dems,” why are there so many non-Dems leading the charge?

  • I guess, Tomkay and Zippy (!), that these are supposed to be conversation ending bon mot of the kind that passes for wit or something on blogs but I must confess, fellers, I am just not moved.

    The only Catholics who i know support torture are those in the abstract from this poll. I have not read the poll. I hvae not read the poll question. And, honestly, polling is notoriously unreliable in determining questions like this.

    I come back to my previous point, even if waterboarding was torture, lets say that it is, it does not amount to a hill of beans given that it happened to three terrorists, especially when compared to 50 million abortions. While this “conversation” has been going on there have been thousands more abortiohs and not a single waterboarding. This is a waste of time and a distraction being used by those who hate Republicans and are carrying water for the party of death.

  • Austin,

    Do you watch EWTN?

  • I don’t, no.

  • The reason I ask is they recently had Marc Thiessen on to promote his pro-waterboarding book. That suggests, to me at least, that the problem is bigger than you are making out.

  • I guess, Tomkay and Zippy (!), that these are supposed to be conversation ending bon mot of the kind that passes for wit or something on blogs but I must confess, fellers, I am just not moved.

    Zippy can answer for himself, if he chooses. If I were attempting to be witty at your expense, it would come out as sarcasm.

    Even so, I suspect my attempts at sarcasm would do less damage to a conversation than your remaining in voluntary ignorance while dogmatically and repeatedly asserting claims that are empirically false.

  • Did Thiessen say he supported torture on Raymond’s show? I know Marc. He is a faithful Catholic. He brought a Catholic priest into the White House every week for prayer and bible study. He said he supported torture?

  • Tomkay,

    What am I claiming that is empirically false?

  • Did Thiessen say he supported torture on Raymond’s show?

    No. He said he supported waterboarding, which is torture.

  • Ahhh….but he disagrees that it is torture, right?

  • Let me ask anyone this.

    Torture is intrinsically evil. Right?
    Waterboarding is torture. Also right?
    Then waterboarding is intrinsically evil. Right?

  • Ahhh….but he disagrees that it is torture, right?

    That’s what he says, anyway. So what?

  • Let me also add that I’m a Republican. I voted for Bush (three times, actually), and I plan on voting for whoever the Republican nominee is in the next election. This isn’t about hating Republicans or wanting people to vote for Obama. It’s about organizations and people that I admire and respect hitching their wagon to something noxious and evil.

  • “So what” is that there is no debate over torture but a debate over what is torture. Personally, i do not believe that loud music, extemes of heat and cold, etc are torture. Waterboarding? I am not sure. I knwo i will be mocked for this. Even so, i do not care. I am not so sure and my conscience is clear.

    To my question. Torture=intrinsic evil, waterboarding=torture, waterboarding=intrinsic evil. True or false?

  • Austin,

    Okay, so you think waterboarding might be torture, and might not be. So, from your perspective, Thiessen might be supporting torture. So you can’t really say that you don’t know anyone who supports torture, just that you aren’t sure whether you do or not.

  • OK. i know someone who may or may not support torture. Answer my question. Is waterboarding intrinsically evil.

  • Waterboarding is one of many U.S. used torture techniques to which we non-Democrat Catholics are opposed, so our concern with the practice and policy of torture extends beyond a concern with the technique of waterboarding. Furthermore, we are troubled by the poor moral reasoning and misrepresentation of moral principles such as double effect by Catholics like Marc Thiessen and Raymond Arroyo. The problem we see isn’t just that Catholics disagree on what techniques qualify as torture; the problem is deeper than that. What troubles us more than disagreement over techniques is that Catholics claiming the mantle of orthodoxy have embraced moral relativism in the name of national security. These Catholics may continue to oppose abortion, but their moral thinking, the very moral thinking they use to argue against abortion, has been perverted. If these Catholics are not think right morally, then their moral positions on paramount issues (such as abortion) are at grave risk of collapse.

  • To my question. Torture=intrinsic evil, waterboarding=torture, waterboarding=intrinsic evil. True or false?

    Depends on what you want to include as waterboarding. If you want to count the simulated waterboarding that goes on at the SERE, then not all waterboarding is torture. If you want to restrict the term to actual waterboarding, then I would say waterboarding does equal torture.

  • Is waterboarding intrinsically evil?,/em>

    As a technique used to coerce the will, yes.

  • I don’t see how they are being moral relativists. They do not believe that waterboarding or loud music or sleep deprivation are intrinsically evil. How is this moral relativism?

    Is waterboarding intrinsically evil?

  • So, waterboarding is not intrinsically evil?

  • So, waterboarding is not intrinsically evil?

    If the term is restricted to actual waterboarding, then it is intrinsically evil. If the term is used in a broader sense so it includes simulated waterboarding (e.g. what goes on at the SERE), then it is not.

  • Whatever else Marc Thiessen may be, he is now the self-appointed Francis Kissling of torture.

  • Btw, I would hope, Austin, that you would concede that ” loud music, extemes of heat and cold, etc.” could be torture, you just don’t thing they would constitute torture in all cases. If so, then we are agreed, and the question becomes whether the actual use of loud music, hot and cold, etc. were torture.

  • In SERE training they only simulate waterboarding? Are you sure?

  • Loud music etc as used by the US military or intelligence officials would not be torture, that is correct. If someone is put in a deepfreeze and allowed to die, yes that woudl be torture. Waht we are talking about here is what the US military does.

  • In SERE training they only simulate waterboarding? Are you sure?

    Sure. The whole program is designed to teach solders how to respond if they are tortured by the enemy.

  • In what way is this waterboarding different than waterboarding of enemy combatants? Be specific.

  • In SERE training they only simulate waterboarding?

    Yes, a prisoner is different from a trainee. Treating “waterboarding” as a physical act alone is like treating sex as a physical act alone, making no distinction between a wife and a hooker. This is moral theology 101.

    Mind you, I’m not fully convinced that waterboarding in SERE training is definitely morally licit. But that it is fundamentally different from waterboarding a prisoner is obvious to everyone who doesn’t desperately want it not to be obvious. The trainee knows that it is a finite training exercise done by people with his own best interests in mind. He has an out, he knows it won’t go on forever if he doesn’t betray his principles, etc.

    So yes, they are manifestly, obviously, radically different things, even though those fundamental and clear differences don’t mean that SERE training is morally licit.

  • So, waterboarding is not intrinsically evil. This is what I suspected since i know at least one person, a woman, who was waterboarded and she does not believe she was tortured by her own government.

    Abortion is a little different than this. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

  • Gents,

    I am stepping out to take my little family to see the Mr. Fox movie. i will check in in a few hours…

    Best to all,

  • Perhaps an analogy would make my point clear. Suppose the SERE training includes a unit on how to respond to interrogation, and as a part of this training solders are locked in a room and a guy comes in and starts asking them questions. The question then arises: are these solders being interrogated? I can see people taking both sides of this question. Someone might say that this isn’t really interrogation but only a simulation, while someone else might claim that it doesn’t matter whether the interrogator was really trying to get information out of the solder or not, it still counts as interrogation. What you can’t do, however, is say that what happens to the solder wasn’t interrogation, therefore what goes on in police departments isn’t interrogation. To make that argument you have to equivocated on the meaning of the word “interrogation.”

    Similarly, you seem to want to argue that because waterboarding in the broad sense (which includes simulated waterboarding like at the SERE) isn’t torture, therefore waterboarding in the narrow sense (which does not include simulated waterboarding) isn’t torture either. But that’s a faulty inference, as it requires one to equivocate on the term “waterboarding.”

  • Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

    But just what is produred abortion, anyway? Salpingectomy, anyone? With a little salpingosomy on the side?

    Really, Austin, you have years of Internet discussions to catch up on before you can even begin to discuss this intelligently.

  • SERE trainees are really waterboarded. They are strapped down, cloth over their faces, adn water poured over their mouths and noses. This is wateboarding that is done to enemy combatants. It is not simulated. It is real. But, its not torture.

    Now let me go to the movies!

  • Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evi.

    Yes, and adultery is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil. And torture is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil. And [insert all manner of different things] …

    And…

    Look, we all get it that the Thiessen argument hinges on the notion that strapping a prisoner to a board and repeatedly making him feel all the sensations of drowning until he coughs up information is “not torture”. What many of us don’t get is why anyone would think that that is a sane, let alone plausible, argument.

  • Abortion is a little different than this. Procured abortion is always and for any reason and in any way done, an intrinsic evil.

    If one wanted, one could play the same sort of game with abortion that you wish to play with torture. For example, spontaneous abortions aren’t intrinsically evil. Are spontaneous abortions abortions? Says so right on the label. Therefore, abortion isn’t intrinsically evil.

    I don’t say this is a good argument. In fact it is a very bad one. But it is the same sort of argument as the one people make with regard to torture and the SERE.

  • We can do it another way, and see how his view leads to the acceptance of abortion, BA.

    Since killing is allowed in various situations, killing itself can be said not to be an intrinsic evil. Abortion is killing. Therefore abortion is not intrinsically evil. That is the kind of argument he is making. He is jumping around in categories like that when pressed to deal with the issue.

    And we could change it into an issue of just war, and two people just having different points of view as to what a war is and when it is just. Thus, some women who abort their babies think the babies are an invader into their body. They believe they have a right to protect themselves from the foreign invader, one who poses a health risk to them and might kill them if not taken out. This leads them to think it is a just war to remove the invader they didn’t welcome into their body, and to do so in a preemptive strike before it can harm her and her body.

    In saying this, I am not saying I think such women are right. In fact, I think they are wrong. Just as I think many people who are flippant on the issue of just war and think because people can have differing opinions it means any opinion is fine.

    Austin has, in many places, already pointed out how war is not an intrinsic evil, and so one can’t use that to morally judge someone if they engage a war you don’t think is just. He says the mere fact we can have a disagreement means one can just treat is as an insignificant issue. This is exactly the same view the woman who aborts her child in a “defensive posture” thinks with her abortion. She is the one who has the authority to determine her own body and what takes place in it, no one else. She has the moral right to defend herself the same way a president has in determining when to proclaim war in defense of the state. So following this kind of reasoning, the woman can even say “yes, abortion is an intrinsic evil, but killing an invader isn’t. I’m not having an abortion, I am destroying an invader. The two acts are similar, but because I proclaim my body as a body at war, it changes everything” Of course, again, she would be wrong. But this is the kind of argument being seen here in regards to torture. Sophistry.

    Torture is an intrinsic evil. The Catholic Church has defined torture. The use of waterboarding for interrogation falls under the mantle of torture. That is intrinsically evil. But other ways of such torture being done is also intrinsically evil. Even if, in other circumstances, the actions done outside of the torture might be similar and not torture.

    This sophistry has been mentioned to him before, and I’ve told him he needed to respond to it. He never did. He avoided it. I expect he knew his equivocation and sophistry was revealed, and it is why he ignored it and tried to deal with other things, hoping ignoring it would lead to people forgetting he had been called. But he had been called, and he folded.

  • Austin

    You forget many details. The soldiers have a way out to have it stopped. The prisoners do not know if the person do it will stop. The soldiers know they are being trained to do something and there will be limits. The prisoner does not. The soldier knows it is with his will. The prisoner knows it is against his will.

    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.

  • The relativism, Austin, is found in the justifications for torture and coercion built on the premise that the government should keep us safe by any means necessary or that whatever the government does to keep us safe is rendered good. Such justifications treat the realm of national security as a place in which the moral law doesn’t apply or in which the ends of safety and security establish moral legitimacy. If there are realms in which the moral law does not apply, then there is no absolute moral law that applies in all times, places, and circumstances, and morality, then, is relative.

  • The intent of waterboarding as a training exercise isn’t to coerce and undermine the will of the one waterboarded, but to train him to withstand such coercion. It doesn’t reduce the trainee to a mere puppet of the one who waterboards. As Zippy points out, this difference from waterboarding as a coercive and torturous interrogation technique doesn’t necessarily mean that it is morally licit, but it is clearly a different act, morally speaking. We can therefore say that the interrogation technique of waterboarding is intrinsically evil without necessarily signifying that waterboarding as a training exercise is also intrinsically evil.

  • First, Henry, don’t waste your breath. After getting so abused by you at Vox Nausea, i wont even read your posts let alone respond to them.

    Kyle, Thiessen et al dont make the argument that it is alright to torture to make us safe. He/they say waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture.
    Blackadder, spontaneous abortions are not acts of man. Procured abortions are. Waterboarding is.

  • Austin

    Yes, I didn’t bow before you; you deemed it an abuse I didn’t just fawn over the fact a “professional pro-lifer” was on Vox Nova telling me I was a coward and not a man.

  • Now let me ask you this, gents. If the US military in its training pulled out the fingernails of its soldiers or hooked their testicles up to car batteries, would this be torture, even if its training?

  • When I was a child we used to do Chinese Water Torture on each other. One of would lay down and the other would drop a single drop of water on the other’s forehead repeatedly. It was voluntary, harmless, and not terribly uncomfortable. But it didn’t really take very long before you got up because somehow that little drop of water did begin to make you rather uncomfortable. It didn’t take much imagination even then to realize that if someone who was hostile to you, manhandled you and tied you down to the floor and started a water drip over you for hours or even days that it would no doubt be torturous. Waterboarding is far more uncomfortable and dangerous than the above example, but the similarity still exists about the nature of voluntarily submitting to it for whatever motive vs. having it forced on you.

  • “When Bush, an evangelical Methodist, left the stage, one of the event’s organizers, Austin Ruse, referred to him as ‘the second Catholic president.'”

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Bush+touts+political+agenda+at+Catholic+prayer+breakfast.-a0145981252

    We now know what Ruse thinks of Catholicism. It’s just a tool for GOP politics.

  • Thiessen et al dont make the argument that it is alright to torture to make us safe. He/they say waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture.

    Thiessen says waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are not torture because they make us safe. He’s a consequentialist.

    I don’t think anyone is looking to condemn him as a wicked man who knowingly advocates wicked means. He simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about, beginning with what it means for something to be “wrong” morally (and the less said about the hash he makes out of the principle of double effect, the better).

  • Tomkay,
    Marc does not say what you say he says. He says waterboarding is acceptable becuase it is NOT torture.

  • Anybody want to take up my car batteries to the testicles question?

  • The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government — whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community — has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

    After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”

    Nielsen’s experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan’s military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170.html

    Even John McCain, whom Austin fawned over looking for good relations with a guy he thought would be president, after fawning over Bush, said the same:

    “There should be little doubt from American history that we consider that as torture otherwise we wouldn’t have tried and convicted Japanese for doing that same thing to Americans,” McCain said during a news conference.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/29/politics/main3554687.shtml

  • RL,

    I would be very concerned if children were actually playing waterboard.

  • Austin

    You ignore the definition of torture. If you look to the definition, you will get an answer. People have already answered it by dealing with what is necessary for torture. They have also said, even if something is not torture, it doesn’t make the non-torture actions right.

  • Tomkay

    You punk.

    Marc does not say what you say he says. He says waterboarding is acceptable becuase it is NOT torture.

    And he says it’s not torture because it keeps us safe.

  • No, Tomkay, he says it is not torture. He also says it keeps us safe but he says its morally licit in and of itself.

  • Thiessen may not be among those Catholics who say we should defend ourselves by “any means necessary,” but such Catholics are not few in number. Among Thiessen’s specific moral errors is his fundamental misunderstanding of the principle of double effect and his use of his erroneous idea of it to justify coercion. Even if he were correct about the morality of coercive techniques – he isn’t – he is still, with the help of EWTN, propagating poor moral reasoning and a false presentation of Christian moral principles.

  • Kyle,

    Having a “misunderstanding” about double effect is hardly a “moral error.” Is it?

  • In what way is this waterboarding different than waterboarding of enemy combatants? Be specific.

    From the Department of Justice ’Certain Techniques’ memo of May 10, 2005 at page 41, footnote 51:

    The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator…applies large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique is different from the used in SERE training because it is ‘for real’ and is more poignant and convincing.

    [The CIA’s Office of Medical Services] contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologists/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant.

  • It is an error of moral thinking that leads to an error in moral judgment. Furthermore, Thiessen’s faulty use of double effect can be used to justify a number of grave evils, a consequence I wrote about at Vox Nova. Its danger spreads beyond the torture debate.

  • Where did that memo come from?

    About it. The memo says that waterboarding is not torture. It does say that someone at CIA said SERE waterboarding was different than interrogation waterboarding. The memo quotes someone saying the differences were so vast as to be completely different but then goes on to say the differences were chiefly in the amount of water used and that the later was more “poignant”.

    It is an interesting memo and i wonder where it came from. But it does not really change the underlying assertion that we waterboarded our own troops, leaving open the question of whether we torture our own troops.

  • The other thing that strikes me about this memo is how very careful was the Bush administration on this and other questions related to the War on Terror. They wanted to get things exactly right. A friend of mine who was high up in CIA and DOD, and a faithful Catholic and a Democrat to boot, said there will be books written about the intense and precise moral calculations the Bush administration undertook on all aspects of the Iraq war and the War on Terror.

  • Precise moral calculations — just wrong calculations. From the get go, the war was unjust. And the war was waged unjustly. And continues to this day to bring America into shame with all kinds of evil being employed for that war. What you call moral calculations others call “excuses.”

  • …there will be books written about the intense and precise moral calculations the Bush administration undertook on all aspects of the Iraq war and the War on Terror.

    And there will be no shortage of faithful Catholics to write forewords to all of them, explaining why the Pope, though a dear old fellow, just doesn’t quite understand how morality works during wartime.

  • Tomkay,

    I am certain there will be faithful Catholics who will write these books. The truth of how the administration came to its conclusions and prosecuted the war are far more interesting than mere cartoons. One of the bottom lines is that these were profoundly morally serious people.

  • Two days (and nearing 200 comments) later and we’re still going strong!

    Morning Minion replies:

    Despite Christopher’s assertion to the contrary, there is no real debate about whether waterboarding constitutes torture.

    Like it or not, I do think there is a ‘debate’. Various Catholic apologists and pundits believe waterboarding may very well not be torture, and not intrinsically evil. Austin Ruse in the comments marshals the same tactics and arguments employed by others over the course of nearly half a decade of Catholics exchanges on this topic.

    – waterboarding as visited by SERE upon our own troops, or upon the Al Qaeda prisoners during interrogation, was, well, qualitatively different from the ‘waterboarding’ used by the Japanese and the Gestapo during World War II; by French during the Algerian war; by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, or, for that matter, by U.S. troops during the Vietnam war and a Texas sheriff upon a prisoner in 1983 (the latter two cases resulting in a court martial and dishonerable discharge from the Army, and a 10 year prison sentence, respectively).

    – waterboarding was used with a different motive in mind than that which is condemned, say, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“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.”) The United States, to quote the protest of one Catholic apologist, was done “to extract vital information from, say, a captured and self-confessed Al Qaeda operative whose secret plans may be the required key for saving hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives from his next projected terrorist attack.” Consequently, the Catechism‘s “failure to condemn torture for obtaining “information” look like a deliberate decision on the part of church authorities, rather than a mere oversight or coincidence.”

    – waterboarding is defensible under “Just War” criteria — This position is taken by several Catholic pundits (Deal Hudson, Fr. Robert Sirico and most recently Mark Thiessen on EWTN). Last year, a prominent advisor in the Reagan administration and popular evangelical Christian Gary Bauer employed the ‘just war’ criteria in defense of waterboarding as well.

    I’m not necessarily stating the above arguments are persuasive and hold water — but they are used just the same.

    Perhaps in much the same manner as a good number of ‘pro-choice Catholics’ have received a public response and authoritative correction by the Catholic bishops (locally and/or collectively), these kind of instances constitute opportune “teaching moments” where our Bishops might render the same service and clarity to the issue of torture.

  • For those who just can’t get enough of torture threads, and I confess to a certain “car crash” sort of joy in reading them, here is a good one I stumbled upon from last year by Ed Fesser at What’s Wrong With the World.

    http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/05/its_just_so_obvious_the_case_o.html

    My congratulations to my friend and colleague Christopher in posting on this topic. As always, he is one of the most fair minded bloggers on Saint Blog’s on this and all other issues.

  • Perhaps in much the same manner as a good number of ‘pro-choice Catholics’ have received a public response and authoritative correction by the Catholic bishops (locally and/or collectively), these kind of instances constitute opportune “teaching moments” where our Bishops might render the same service and clarity to the issue of torture.

    You may be asking too much. For example, I’m not aware of the bishops ever speaking out at the level of granularity to say “suction aspiration of alive fetus is abortion, and abortion is intrinsically immoral, therefore suction aspiration of a live fetus is intrinsically immoral”. Expecting a similiar syllogism: “waterboarding a prisoner is torture, torture is intrinsically immoral, therefore waterboarding a prisoner is intrinsically immoral” — is I think unrealistic, and would be, as far as I know, unprecedented.

    The only people who would claim not to know that suction aspiration of a live fetus is abortion – and there have been people who have made the “blob of tissue” gambit many times, indeed there is at least one regular commenter at Vox Nova who still makes that gambit — are people who don’t want it to be the case that abortion is intrinsically immoral.

    Same with waterboarding prisoners. If the Bishops spoke on that level of granularity, these people would find ways to poke holes in the more-granular description — despite, as Mark Shea has tirelessly pointed out, the additional positive command to treat prisoners humanely, and six years worth of other reasons which have been given again, and again, and again.

    I mean, people who think the Bishops haven’t spoken are just flat wrong.

  • You may be asking too much.

    Zippy — I was hoping for something along the same lines of when over two dozen bishops analyzed and corrected the very specific, ‘granular’ arguments of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden on abortion in 2008, when they claimed on ‘Meet The Press’ to embrace ‘the Catholic position’ on the matter.

    The case of Mark Thiessen on EWTN, in my mind, constitutes just such an opportune case.

  • Much as I would like to see Marc Thiessen censured directly in public by his bishop, he just isn’t as important as the Speaker of the House and the Vice President, so I doubt we’ll see it. Though I hope I’m wrong.

    Who is Thiessen’s bishop? Loverde in Arlington?

  • And finally, it happened to only three guys and yet it has taken up so much time and commentboxes (oh the humanity).

    I would say there are too many people with too little to do with their Ph.D.s or who should be spending blogging time on their dissertations.

  • “It happened to only three guys,” and therefore it’s not important. Seriously, the issue of quantity in an issue of morality indicates Austin’s lack of moral integrity. Which is why my point on lying is straight on the point — and why he will not deal with it or many other challenges offered to his position.

    Secondly, has it only happened to three guys? Doubtful. Don’t confuse “we admit to it happening to three guys” (which of course was denied originally and so Austin could have said, for a time, happened to no one) to “that’s all there is.” And do not believe it is merely the CIA who engages such practice.

  • Austin:

    Just so you know, I’m a forty-something self-made multimillionaire and a staunch pro-lifer. I donate not insignificant amounts of money every year to Catholic causes. And you’ve accommplished something that that joke Vox Nova could never have accomplished: you’ve put C-FAM on the list of charities which will never get a red cent from me unless there are some serious public sackcloth and ashes from you on this issue.

    I mean, what are you thinking? Whatever private opinions you might have, dying in a ditch defending torture – torture! – is, as the kids say, nucking futs.

    But thanks for the advice on how to spend my time.

  • I’m seriously tempted to the belief that the “Austin Ruse” in these threads is a sock puppet who set out with the purpose of “proving” Vox Nova right. Hopefully someone who knows the real Austin Ruse can alert him to the sock puppet and have his organizations publicly repudiate this amazing little thread.

  • Zippy needs a hug….

  • Zippy,

    We have 15,000 individual small check donors and don’t have to rely upon the whims of self important “self-made millionaires.” In fact, i do my best to stay away from self important “self made millionaires.” I have found their money is very expensive.

  • Christopher:

    For what it’s worth, a while ago (a year? two years?), I sent an email to my Archbishop Wuerl’s press secretary asking whether he might have something to say about torture (his own email is not public, and I didn’t take the trouble to send him a letter (though I might yet)). She replied to the effect that, unless and until he had something in particular to add, he would let the Bishop’s Committee on International Justice and Peace take the lead, and she included a link to the “Torture is a Moral Issue” study guide. This, along with the various statements made by the chairman of the IJ&P committee, clearly consider waterboarding to be torture.

    When this was pointed out on Coalition for Clarity, an anonymous commenter said the (former) chairman was a known leftist, and he, the commenter, wouldn’t believe it until Archbishop Chaput weighed in.

    Abp. Chaput, as you may know, does have a public email. When I emailed him, explained the circumstances, and asked if he had any comment to make, he replied that people outside his diocese shouldn’t look to him, but should ask their own bishops for guidance on this (which is consistent with my own understanding of the office of bishop).

    From my perspective, then, I would say I have been given sufficient guidance from my own bishop. Moreover, while I by no means have my finger on the pulse of the American bench of bishops, I don’t expect them to say anything further about torture any time soon, barring something a lot more significant than anything Marc Thiessen could say to Raymond Arroyo.

  • Glad to see this was genteel. I think waterboarding has been dropped from all but Navy training. This because the argument was that troops were being taught to resist a given technique. However, most military branches discovered that no one was able to resist waterboarding even in the allegedly mild SERE form.

    The Navy still likes it. Who said Marines were tough?

  • “Who said Marines were tough?”

    As an ex-Army guy, I can attest that all Marines I encountered in service were quite eloquent as to how tough they were.

  • My research director, a woman (White House Fellow, Commander in the Navy-retired, former professor of strategic planning at the Naval War College, volunteer in India with Mother Theresa), was waterboarded for SERE training and has concluded waterboarding is not torture. FWIW.

    Donald, thanks for the humor…

  • Only three guys were subjected to coercion/torture? Last I checked, we knew of at least 100 people who had died as a result of our government’s use of coercion/torture.

  • What is your source of that claim, Kyle?

  • Only 3 guys were waterboarded.

  • FWIW

    “I went through X in training, therefore anything like X used repeatedly in a open-ended fashion on prisoners to break their will and get them to cough up information is not torture” has to go down as one of the dumbest arguments ever. And given the dumb arguments one sees every day, that is saying something.

  • As mentioned, waterboarding isn’t the only interrogation technique used by our government to which we are opposed on moral grounds.

  • Art Deco,

    Glenn Greenwald has reported, with documentation, on the numbers I reference.

  • My brother had pepper spray sprayed in his eyes as a police trainee. Does that mean that repeatedly spraying pepper spray into the eyes of prisoners until their wills break and they sing like canaries is “not torture”?

  • Kyle,

    This is an easy one. If interrogators went beyond the law into torture, that should be condemned and even prosecuted.

  • I know many folks have suggested that the definition of torture is an unimportant inquiry, and I disagree. But I do agree with Zippy that the waterboarding conducted by US authorities under the Bush Administration constituted torture under any reasonable definition. While these acts were apparently quite limited and perhaps even understandable, they were nonetheless immoral. As I’ve suggested before, there may be some hypothetical situation where torture is morally defensible (if so, Catholic teaching would seem to need further development), but in my view such a hypothetical would need at minimum to involve (i) specific imminant harm (urgent action is necessary), (ii) harm that is directed toward innocents (i.e., civilians rather than combatants), (iii) harm that is more serious than that caused by the torture, (iv) belief to a moral certainty that the subject is both complicit in the harm to be avoided and has the requisite knowledge to stop it, and (v) a good faith belief that no other options are as likely to be effective. By all accounts some of these criteria were not satisfied. While I do not view deliberately harming the guilty to save innocent lives to be morally equivalent to killing the innocent in order to preserve quality of life, the fact remains that what the Bush Administration did was objectively evil, and Catholics should admit it.
    I realize that Zippy will almost certainly assert that my hypothetical is malignant in that it ignores Catholic teaching, and he may be right. I’m not a student of moral theology, and will accept Church teaching even if I don’t fully understand it. That said, I’m pretty sure that if confronted with a real world circumstance with an innocent life at stake, I would beat the living hell out of pyschopath if necessary to secure the information necessary to save the innocent. I fully admit that this does not make it right.

  • Kyle,

    I would even say it is possible to torture using waterboarding and if someone did so, they should be called to account. It sounds as if, from the Washingotn Post story you site to, that the use of “large amounts of water” was beyond guidelines and the law. It sounds like from that story that the proscribed form of waterboarding was similar to what was described in SERE training.

  • What if the law (including legal memos by the OLC) governing interrogation policy gave legal legitimacy to immoral and historically illegal interrogation techniques?

  • “Gave legitimacy” is too vague. They either supported illegal methods or they did not.

  • Austin is once again falling for the error that what is legal is what is moral. But this once again undermines his position on abortion (if he really holds to it as he claims). For all the abortionist has to say is “my method is legal.”

  • And finally, it happened to only three guys and yet it has taken up so much time and commentboxes (oh the humanity).

    I would say there are too many people with too little to do with their Ph.D.s or who should be spending blogging time on their dissertations.

    You seem to be spending quite a lot of time on it yourself. I guess you have nothing better to do?

  • Austin,

    In the more than half a decade of discussion we’ve had on this subject, one of many, many proposals was that a distinction between torture and punishment is that torture is, as far as the victim knows, open ended: it may go on forever, as far as he knows, until he breaks down and betrays his friends. Even the death penalty does not have that characteristic: the suffering implied in the death penalty is necessarily limited.

    And as it happens, that characteristic is a clear distinction – one of many – between SERE simulated waterboarding and actual waterboarding.

    Just FYI. But as I mentioned upthread, you have more than half a decade of discussion to catch up on, and you do yourself and your organization as disservice by wading in as a torture-apologist newbie like this.

  • Acutally I think “simulated waterboarding” is a euphamism. As pointed out above, all services save the Navy stopped it in training as no one could be trained to resist it even as applied in training. Waterboarding is just plain painful even in training.

  • Blackadder

    It is sad to me that he thinks even one is acceptable, let alone three, let alone how many really have been abused which we do not know. The problem is that this matters because by rejecting the stand on torture, as he does, and treating it as unimportant, he provides the means by which all other intrinsic evils, including abortion, can be “justified” (put in quotes because they cannot be). And that is what I’ve shown through a few examples, how his reasoning can be used by the abortionist in one way or another -from the “just war” theory of the woman being invaded by the child, to the “legally justified” theory he just provided now.

  • Blackadder,

    We have been snowed in. Plus, i can multi-task.

    Zippy,

    That these things have been discussed before, for six years?!, doesn’t mean that they have been settled. Quite clearly they have not been settled.

    I join in this debate because i am disgusted by how this debate is being used by GOP haters and pro-life haters to drive a wedge in the pro-life movements. I entered in here with that point and i remain on that point.

    The waterboarding of three men does not amount to a hill of beans when compared to the death of 50 million unborn children. yet this is the proposition of the GOP/pro-life haters. They want folks to think it is OK to vote for the party of death because Bush waterboarded three guys.

    Would that all of this good energy been spent for six years (six years!) on the question of baby killing and in recent months how Obama is the most pro-death president we hvae ever had. I wish this energy was spent on something real.

  • We have been snowed in. Plus, i can multi-task.

    And you think these qualities are somehow unique to yourself?

  • It is why i am on here right now and not two weeks ago and likley not next week…but who knows…

    Meow? Woof!

  • I join in this debate because i am disgusted by how this debate is being used by GOP haters and pro-life haters to drive a wedge in the pro-life movements. I entered in here with that point and i remain on that point.

    Well, first, the folks you’ve been arguing with in this thread aren’t GOP haters or pro-life haters. As I mentioned before I am a Republican and am very pro-life.

    Second, aside from a few stray comments you haven’t spent your time arguing that the discussion over waterboarding is a distraction. Instead you’ve spent hours defending waterboarding.

  • I doesn’t mean that they have been settled.

    Of course not, any more than one could claim that the abortion debate is “settled”. That is, there will always be dissenting Catholics who prostitute their faith to their political ideology, so no moral issue with political implications ever becomes “settled”.

    But you just have no idea how clueless your posts sound: how completely, naively unaware of the most basic arguments operating in the domain. Marc Thiessen is just as bad in his book, worse if anything, as I posted on recently, just on a particular passage from his book.

    And seriously, people like you really can make this go away — by getting on the right side of the moral issue.

    I agree that torture is a wedge driving apart the pro-life movement: a wedge created and driven in by the Bush adminstration, and exploited by the likes of MM (he is medium-bright but hackishly unprincipled, wielding principle as if it were a partisan weapon; Karlson, on the other hand, seems as sincere as the day is long, but the combination of faux-intellectual airs with his modest intelligence is cringeworthy. Kyle I have nothing but good things to say about, despite our occasional disagreements. Not that anyone asked).

  • Zippy,

    Now that’s the way to convince me! I am a naive prostitute dissenter and i am never going to get any of your money! After six years, this is your argument?
    More than 50% of American Catholics actually support torture and these are your arguments to convince them? Typical self made millionaire. Agree with me or I will not give you my money and i will call you names. Nicely done.

    We do agree about the Vox Nausea crowd though, Zippy, and I like that.

  • Waht i think is driving the GOP/Pro-life haters at Dotcommonweal, America and Vox Nausea is precisely that, a hatred of all things conservative. What drives this debate among this crowd is something else. i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn. I suspect there is an aspect of boredom. We have been fighting the prolife fight for many many years. I have been doing it full time for 13 years. Boredom and frustration leads folks to new fights or new aspects of old fights. I think the personhood fight is an aspect of boredom and frustration. I do not know, but i suspect similar boredom adn frustration is driving this torture debate among good people.

  • i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn.

    Austin,

    You seem to have missed or ignored my previous comment:

    I would say that, while waterboarding is probably the most prominent example of what has been termed ‘extreme interrogation’, the subject of ‘torture’ is not confined to such, nor are incidents of detainee abuse confined to those which occurred at Abu Ghraib. Incidents continue to occur in both Iraq and Afghanistan See for example Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan – “comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002.” [See also Glenn Greenwald’s post, as Kyle pointed out].

    Practices which we might think of as fairly innocuous when presented on paper — sleep deprivation, raising/lowering the temperature, “stress positions”, and other techniques of “softening up” detainees for interrogation — have contributed to such deaths. Not all of these incidents can be dismissed as violations of the system in place, either — rather, the impression I get is that the system currently in place cultivates, and encourages, the abuse.

    Your “I don’t know if it’s intrinsically evil but even if it was, we only did it to three people — so it doesn’t matter” schtick is getting old.

  • I think the report above refers not to the CIA program that was approved by the Bush administration where waterboarding occured. I think it refers to command problems that encouraged rogue actions by military personel that resulted in abusive actions.

  • If these charges are true, who defends the deliberate killing of detainees? Or torturing them to death? Who has done that? As far as i can tell, no one. So, that is not really part of the debate. The only thing that is open for debate is whether the approved methods of enhanced interrogation are torture. As far as i can tell, only three men have been waterboarded. This debate is about that, three men who were waterboarded. My schtick is my schtick and i am schticking to it.

  • Reading the report also, it seems a number of individuals reached back to what they learned in SERE training even though it was not approved for these detainees.

  • Waht i think is driving the GOP/Pro-life haters at Dotcommonweal, America and Vox Nausea is precisely that, a hatred of all things conservative. What drives this debate among this crowd is something else. i do not doubt that you all are sincere in your concern but i dont get is how three guys getting waterboarded is worth all this time and effort and ink adn giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the unborn.

    If you think that the issue is a distraction then why spend so much time defending waterboarding? Why does the head of the American Life League feel the need to weigh in on the torture issue? Why does EWTN feel the need to have guests on to offer pro-waterboarding arguments? If you think the whole issue is a big distraction, then it seems to me those are the people you should be upset with.

  • We feel the need because the torture debate is giving aid and comfort to the party of death.

  • We feel the need because the torture debate is giving aid and comfort to the party of death.

    If you think the debate aids the party of death, why participate in the debate? Is this really such a hard point to grasp?

    The odd thing about these comments is that they’ve largely come after Bush left office. Waterboarding is no longer practiced by the U.S. government, and Bush isn’t on the ballot, so if there was ever a time to argue that the issue was moot and a distraction, it would be now. Yet instead of continuing to remain silent as they did when it was actually a live issue, for some reason a lot of Catholic groups have decided that now is the time to start actively defending the Bush era practices. It makes no sense.

  • Actually, i should say, i cannot comment for Ewtn or for Judy Brown. as for myself, i have commented for the reasons previously stated.

  • I think it is like mine, a reaction against folks, like you, who insist upon giving aid and comfort to the party of death by continuing to harp on a nonissue but one that divides prolifers.

  • I think it is like mine, a reaction against folks, like you, who insist upon giving aid and comfort to the party of death by continuing to harp on a nonissue but one that divides prolifers.

    As long as you continue to think that, you are going to perpetuate and aggravate the division. I’ve never seen someone hand Vox Nova – Vox-freaking Nova! – such a heaping helping of credibility on a silver platter.

  • Zippy,

    YOu are in league with Vox freakin Nausea in continuing this stupid argument. While this argument has been going on today there have been exactly zero waterboardings and roughly 2000 abortions.

  • Kyle, he makes reference to the reports of the organization Human Rights First. Human Rights First offers a total of 141 individuals who have died while in captivity. Since their total includes 38 individuals who were killed when a stray mortar hit a detention facility, I do not think they are inclined to lowball their figures. Human Rights First contends that a minimum of eight individuals have died ‘as a result of torture’, not the minimum of 100 individuals claimed by this dubious fellow Greenwald.

  • Reading Christopher’s link, it seems those things reported involved actual beatings and severe physical injuries as such. A number involved were disciplined though perhaps not to the degree that they should have been. But again these abuses seem different from what was approved in CIA interrogation. Not that it makes the CIA methods licit. Just that comparing the two seems faulty.

  • YOu are in league with Vox freakin Nausea in continuing this stupid argument.

    I see. If someone argues with you they are aiding the forces of death, but if you argue with them that’s fine and dandy.

    Frankly, if anyone in this thread is damaging the pro-life cause it would be you, both by claiming defense of waterboarding as a pro-life issue and by the juvenile manner with which you have conducted yourself.

  • The ‘we should be talking about something other than this’ line of argument is one of the least effective rhetorical ploys I’ve come across. Whether it’s the classic lament that “if we spent half as much time helping the poor as we do talking about abortion, the world would be a much better place,” or Mr. Ruse’s odd suggestion above that we should not talk about torture because it harms pro-life efforts, ‘be quiet about that, it’s not my pet issue’ is hardly an effective response.

    Torture and abortion are both abuses of the human person; Catholics should uphold the dignity of the human person on both issues. It is true that some people instrumentalize shared moral commitments for partisan purposes, such that torture is opposed not so much for its own sake but as a club to attack conservative Catholics, or abortion is condemned primarily as a means to attack liberal Catholics. Nevertheless, it is ridiculous to suggest that torture isn’t worth discussing at all simply because it’s not as bad as abortion, much less that to do so harms pro-life efforts; are we to be silent on every other matter of public policy save abortion?

  • John Henry — precisely. Good thoughts.

  • John Henry:

    There are troubles large and small in this world and someone is obligated to take responsiblity for each and every one.

    That having been said, you have the ambiguities involved in the question of how detainees are properly treated, you have a good deal of chaff obscuring your view (see the recent controversy over Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s) and questions about the credibility of various parties, and you have the scale of the problem to the extent it is a problem. On the other hand, you have the quantum of verbiage devoted and the vehemence of of the discussions, which have included the most atrocious personal attacks on various parties. It leads one to believe that whatever it appears people are discussing, they are truly discussing something else.

  • It leads one to believe that whatever it appears people are discussing, they are truly discussing something else.

    Well, yes. If we were confident that the three people waterboarded would be the last people ever waterboarded, and we were leaving it behind, then harping on it would indeed be counterproductive.

    What I see myself doing is ensuring that it ends there. And that it doesn’t open the door to other evils — will pro-life advocates be considered dangerous to the country?

    It is bigger than the three people; it’s about what kind of country we want to be; what kind of people we are. Are we the type of people who abandon are principles at the first threat?

  • Blackadder,

    Your post is beneath you. I dont mind if people argue with me. My point is that the torture debate is being used those who care more about it than the lives of unborn children. They use the torture debate as a subtext to convince people that it is better to vote for the non-torturers (the Dems) even though the Dems favor baby killing than for them to vote for the pro-life party, which is the GOP. Based on a recent post at Zippy in which he attempts to destroy my organization and several families who rely on my group for their livelihood, I am convinced that even on this side of the debate, torture trumps the babies and that those who disagree must be destoyed.

    I am sorry if i have been immature. I am not aware of having been, but in the comboxes, it is a strange place adn folks say things they do not mean and it is hard to convey true feelings and intentions here. Have I been sarcastic? I dont think anymore than anyone else. Anyway, if i have offended you, i apologize.

    Let me make several points i have made at Zippy’s hate site.

    1) I speak here as an individual and not as the president of C-FAM. C-FAM does not take a position on torture except insofar as we are faithful Catholics loyal to the Holy Father and the Magisterium in all things proper to them.

    2) I assert the debate over torture is being used by some, not all, to harm the pro-life movement.

    3) I assert the debate over torture is about very little since it involved only 3 people who were waterboarded.

    4) I have further questioned, not asserted, that waterboarding may not be torture. In fact, on this blog I demonstrated very convincingly that waterboarding is not intrinsically evil since the US does a form of it to our own troops as a part of training.

    4) I asserted that waterboarding could be torture under certain circumstances.

    5) I positively said i reject all forms of torture including waterboarding that is used as torture.

    If anyone needs me to be any clearer than this, let me konw.

  • But there is talking past one another. There have been 100 deaths of detainees. This of an estimated 80,000 detainees since 2001. Of these 32 were ruled homicide. Of these many (though not all) were court martialed or dealt with otherwise. The deaths reported suffered injuries which were not approved methods.

    But this gets presented as a sign of rampant torture.

  • And I’ve met thousands of women in my life that I’m not married to.

    And if I slept with one, it would be presented as a sign that I’m an adulterer.

  • Phillip,

    I contend there is not real debate over these things. If they happened, that is, if people were killed because of interrogation, this is a violation of human rights and should be punished. I dont knwo that even Marc Thiessen says its ok to kill someone during interrogation.

  • Let me rephrase that. The 32 homicides are against the moral order and should be punished. There is no evidence presented that these were approved of nor that they were the result of officially sanctioned interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques are torture are what some question. But the report linked doesn’t prove there is rampant, govt. sponsered torture.

    Just as JohnMcG having sex with someone not his wife doesn’t prove that the govt. is sanctioning adultery.

  • Well this torture thread is going the way most torture threads I’ve seen on Catholic sites. Endless posts by a few people and no one being convinced to alter their position one iota. I think perhaps the sterility of the debate is at base caused by the fact that some Catholics view torture in the same category as abortion and some do not. I am in the do not category. I am against physical torture as I’ve repeated ad nauseum in this endless futile debate over the past five years. However, I do not view torture as intrinsically evil, although it may well be evil depending on the circumstances, and I view it as a minor social ill at present compared to the mass slaughter of legalized abortion. Therefore, I simply can’t get worked up about it. Ban it, allow it under certain circumstances, allow it only under extreme cirumstances, it matters little to me one way or another. Obviously it excites some people greatly, but I am not in that category. There! My remarks should spark at least another 50 comments, but I will not be among them. The torture threads make amusing reading if one is interested in observing posturing, hair-splitting, avoidance of the argument your interlocutor is making, etc. I think they are rarely good for anything else productive.

  • I guess i am not follwing you Phillip. If detainees have died in custody and it is shown that it happened as a result of interrogation, then culpability must be assessed and the guilty should be punished. Again, i dont know anyone who would disagree with that.

  • Maybe this will help make my point. Some bishops have been pedophiliacs. Therefore the Church approves of pedophilia.

  • Some soldiers have tortured, therefore the govt. has approved of torture.

  • Of course that is not true. Has someone said its true?

  • Austin,

    I’m going to try and explain this one more time, as simply as possible. If you think the torture debate is a distraction, then DON’T GET INVOLVED IN THE DEBATE. You think that the issue doesn’t justify voting for Democrats over the GOP? Great. So do I. Making that argument doesn’t require you to defend waterboarding or other practices on the merits. When you start to do that, you have to expect that people who are opposed to waterboarding are going to respond. To accuse them of not really being pro-life when they do so it utterly hypocritical. What do you expect, for people who consider waterboarding a violation of human dignity to just sit silently while Judy Brown or Marc Thiessen or you or whoever make whatever pro-waterboarding statements? You clearly aren’t willing to abide by that standard, and it’s ridiculous for you to expect others to do so.

  • Since it is their interest and their duty to see that relations be normal between the members of a given group – a family, a school, a firm, a community, a social class, a city, a state – their constant temptation is to impose by the use of force such normal relations as bear the appearance of Peace. The ambiguous character of the social life which follows is torture and corruption for human spirits. A life of pretence is the atmosphere resulting sometimes from an inglorious victory, at other times from an irrational despotism, from a coercive repression, or from a balance of permanently opposing forces which are usually on the increase as they wait for a violent outburst which by devastation of every sort shows how false was the Peace imposed only by superiority of power and force.

  • Did the bishops hire lawyers to investigate whether there was wiggle room in Canon law to allow sex with minors?

    Have prominent Catholics responded to recent news events by saying that the Church’s rejection of pedophilia is making the Church less safe? Are retired bishops criticizing current bishops for this?

    Has there been a best-selling book making the case for pedophilia that was uncritically promoted in Catholic media?

  • John,

    You know I am not saying that. I’m merely saying that using the above cited report to state that what was reported was govt. policy is false.

  • …and that becomes a starting point to not be talking past each other.

  • Blackadder,

    Idont know if anyonehere works for a prolife group. I do. As someone who does this work, I am telling you this prolonged debate about how the GOP are torturers gives aid and comfort to those who want to kill babies. I have come into this debate to warn you that this could result in yet more proabortion people being elected to Congress and anohter term for Obama. This is why i have entered into this discussion. i regret digressing from my main point into an exploration of waterboarding, though i think we all benefited from some of the points raised there.

    Lstly, i am not aware of saying anyone is not prolife based on being against waterboarding. If i did, i retract it.

  • Amen Donald!!

  • Austin

    We get it. “Elect the GOP!” That’s your point. GOP this. GOP that. GOP. GOP. GOP. That’s your concern. Everything is for the sake of the GOP, and you are willing to undermine morality for the sake of the GOP. Moral questions and issues are insignificant to you. People dying are insignificant to you. GOP winning is all that counts. And this seems to explain why you confuse the GOP with the Catholic Church; how else can Bush be called a Catholic by you?! If you reject the moral absolutes, and say morality doesn’t matter, then you are indeed following consequential relativism for the sake of the party. And people see it here. Rock on, Austin. Rock on. (How did you like working for that pro-abortion Rolling Stone magazine, btw?)

  • Look Austin, it really doesn’t matter that there are people who use the Bush policy regarding waterboarding to justify support of pro-aborts and other policies that go against pro-life policies. They are objectively correct to condemn torture and want our country to not participate in it. It’s okay to agree with them even if you disagree with the gravity or importance relative to abortion and other life issues.

    Frankly, if it’s not the torture issue there will be something else they will use to justify supporting the a pro-abort candidate. Why fall into that trap? Why excuse a grave injustice just because your political opponents do? Why not use your support of conventionally pro-life candidates to lead him/her to a more thorough and consistant pro-life position? Don’t be the mirror image of those whom you’re finding fault with.

  • I will just reiterate to everyone here. I will not respond to anything Henry Karlson says. He has a totally free shot to say anything at all. I will not respond to him.

  • Idont know if anyonehere works for a prolife group.

    Several of the commenters here either currently work for a pro-life group or have in the past, including myself.

    As someone who does this work, I am telling you this prolonged debate about how the GOP are torturers gives aid and comfort to those who want to kill babies. I have come into this debate to warn you that this could result in yet more proabortion people being elected to Congress and anohter term for Obama.

    You said earlier that you know Marc Thiessen. Have you ever made similar warnings to him? Because I guarantee you that by writing his book Thiessen has prolonged the torture debate several orders of magnitude more than anyone on this thread. In fact, if Thiessen gone on EWTN to argue in favor of waterboarding this thread wouldn’t even exist.

  • I’m sure Austin is smart enough to know, by stating what he just said, he did respond to me. But of course, the problem for him is he acts like a typical bully. When the taunts don’t work, he has nothing left. But I will warn people: if you don’t want him pestering you at home, tell him now before he thinks you are fair game too.

  • Your real identity will remain private…

  • … in which he attempts to destroy my organization and several families who rely on my group for their livelihood,

    Austin, I’ll make you a friendly offer right now. I disagree with your characterization of my post — all I did was link to information you posted publicly on the Internet, and recommend that people read it, so that they will be fully informed. But I’ll happily remove the post if you’ll back off, go have a coffee or beer or whatever favorite adult you prefer, and seriously reconsider what you are doing. I think pro-life leaders like yourself have a huge potential to do great harm or great good in how you approach this particular problem. I think you maybe jumped in with both feet when you ought to have been more careful, and that you were probably goaded into a lot of this by the Leftists and liars at Vox Nova. (I can’t judge the discussions over there because I don’t read them any more).

    But any way, if you’ll just commit to go re-think the issue, pray on it, and discuss it with your Bishop before speaking publicly on it again, I’ll be more than happy to take the post down.

    You know what — to Hell with it. As a gesture of good faith, I’ll go take it down now anyway. But please, please do what I asked. You really want to be on the side of the angels on this one, or the stink of Hell is going to infect the other things you do. And that would be a terrific shame, for all of us.

  • Here is my offer, Zippy. Lets get together…

  • And, i want you to know that is darn nice of you, Zippy. I appreciate it. I take it as an act of very good faith.

  • “Leftists and liars…” hah!

  • Love it, Zippy. Just went there and it is down. You are a man.

  • Here is my offer, Zippy. Lets get together…

    Expect an email.

  • I recall becoming best friends with guys i had fistfights with on the playground…

  • I submit that to call the Democratic Party “the party of death” and the Republican Party “the pro-life party” causes far graver injury to the cause of life than to insist that the Bush Administration approved of torture.

    Can the pro-life movement really succeed only if people stop telling the truth? Are professional anti-abortionists really insisting that voters be kept ignorant lest they not vote Republican?

  • Rick Lugari @ 5:07 PM – “Why excuse a grave injustice just because your political opponents do? Why not use your support of conventionally pro-life candidates to lead him/her to a more thorough and consistant pro-life position?” – Thank you.

    Donald McClarey / Philip — I freely concede and acknowledge that the ‘100 detainee deaths under U.S. custody’ merit close scrutiny, and likewise believe one should be skeptical of cases in which, for example, every one of those cases are attributed to torture and interrogation. At the same time I don’t think they can be dismissed wholesale, either, as some here are inclined to do. Here are some other attempts to break down the list in question:

    Deaths of Detainees in the Custody of US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan From 2002 to 2005 (12/05/06) [free signup to access required]

    Medical Investigations of Homicides of Prisoners of War in Iraq and Afghanistan (07/05/05) [free signup to access required]

    And Philip — just to clarify where I stand:

    I understand that not everything that occurred happened with the authoritative sanction from the top. (I stand corrected if I gave that impression). I don’t necessarily buy into the liberal “torture narrative” either (the proposition that the Bush administration deliberately conspired to commit torture and demanded the legal sanction to do so. I find it more plausible that many of these officials did not want to commit torture, and — when approached for help on this matter by those conducting the actual interrogations — were thus motivated to ascertain those techniques which they deemed were “within the lines”.

    I’m not necessarily convinced they succeeded in doing so, but I believe they had honorable motives and did so in good faith.

    But — reading over the vast body of accounts and memos related to “enhanced interrogation” and detainee abuse, my sense is that even the lesser of the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques — “environmental manipulation”; “sleep deprivation/adjustment”; “stress positions”; “20-hour interrogations”, “controlled fear” — that were signed off and formally approved of, were a contributing factor. Moreover, that our present methods of implementing this incarceration and interrogation is grossly dysfunctional. (See “No Blood, No Foul”: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq. On paper it sounds as if such ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques were tightly regulated so as to prohibit any abuse; that such abuse would be easily recognized and quickly addressed — enough that our former President could say with a straight face and perhaps believe it himself: “we don’t torture.”
    When in reality, at least according to one soldier’s testimony:

    … And within a couple hours a team of two JAG officers, JAG lawyers, came and gave us a couple hours slide show on why this is necessary, why this is legal, they’re enemy combatants, they’re not POWs, and so we can do all this stuff to them and so forth. Yeah, they came the very same day. . . .Oh, it was very fast. We [laughing] it was like they were ready. I mean they had this two hour slide show all prepared, and they came in and gave it to us and they stopped interrogations for it. It was a PowerPoint. It was on a computer laptop. . . .

    Some of the slides were about the laws of war, the Geneva Convention, but it was kind of a starting-off point for them to kind of spout off, you know: why we don’t have to follow these Geneva Convention articles and so forth. Like, you know, inhumane and degrading treatment, well, this specifically relates to POWs, so we don’t have to do this. So basically, we can do inhumane and degrading treatment.

    And then they went on to the actual treatment itself, what we were doing, what we’d signed off on and those types of things: cold water and nudity, strobe lights, loud music-that’s not inhumane because they’re able to rebound from it. And they claim no lasting mental effects or physical marks or anything, or permanent damage of any kind, so it’s not inhumane. And then there was also [discussion about] degrading [treatment]. Like what’s more degrading than being thrown completely naked in the middle of a mud pile, with everybody looking at you and spraying water on you. . . .

    So while much of this is morally questionable, I agree with Philip that we have to rightly distinguish between those techniques which were “lawfully sanctioned” and signed off on by the Bush administration at the time (which may, nonetheless be gravely immoral and tantamount to torture); and other immoral abuses which occurred as a result of on-the-spot decisions by the parties themselves, not formally approved from the top.

    Donald / Austin

    Overall, it is disconcerting to me — as a self-identified ‘Catholic-conservative’ blogger since 2002 — that the predominant sources I have to turn to for investigations and reporting on this subject are leading liberal periodicals (New Yorker, New York Times, Mother Jones) or organizations (ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First). I’m well aware of the liberal bias that is present, and am mindful to read with a critical eye. I very much resent the fact that it’s chiefly liberals who are raising a storm over this — and that some seem to shrug it off with the “we only waterboarded 3 guys years ago, so what does it ultimately matter? it’s only a distraction and will ultimately prevent us from electing another Republican” attitude.

    This kind of behavior puts pro-lifers in a sorry light and simply gives ready ammunition to Vox Nova‘s stereotype of the hypocritical conservative.

    * * *

    Austin Ruse asserts: “If detainees have died in custody and it is shown that it happened as a result of interrogation, then culpability must be assessed and the guilty should be punished.”

    Well, yes. I think it can be said that everyone desires thus. But it is one thing to assert this, and another to read over the reporting on these incidents and to find just how rarely justice is actually achieved.

    Here are some resources that may help evaluate “enhanced interrogation” — again, with the disclaimer that these are typically understood to be ‘liberal’ sources. We have to read critically, but we can’t wantonly dismiss for that reason either.

    Documents Released Under FOIA relating to the treatment of prisoners in detention centers overseas. (A project of the ACLU).

    ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody International Committee of the Red Cross, Regional Delegation for United States and Canada, February 14, 2007

    The Torture Archive is an ongoing project of the National Security Archive, is assembling at a single location documents from wide-ranging sources on United States government policy toward rendition, detainees, interrogation, and torture. (In light of the criticisms of liberal bias that accompanies various portrayals of the cases, it may help here to refer to the primary documents).

    Torturing Democracy – A project of the National Security Archive.

    The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Meyer. Yes, it’s by a journalist for The New Yorker; but it is to date one of the best researched accounts of how we got to where we are today.

    Lastly, I would be less concerned about the fact that all of his happened “years ago”, and we shouldn’t have to worry about it (much less talk about it), if a Catholic author like Mark Thiessen wasn’t making the television talk-show circuit (both secular and religious), peddling his book lamenting the fact that waterboarding is now prohibited and the Obama administration had done away with the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program — and Catholics were still engaged in open debate on this topic as they have been for half a decade, both sides echoing by-now-familiar arguments.

    Indeed, the comments on this post validate my desire for some authoritative interjection on the part of the Bishops. (Not that I expect it will happen anytime soon).

    Thanks for your participation and commentary on this thread.

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Are You Listening Madame Speaker?

Friday, January 15, AD 2010

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:

In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.

Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.

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5 Responses to Are You Listening Madame Speaker?

  • So what next? Nice statement and all, but what hapens, in the highly probable event that this goes in one Pelosi’s ear and out the other (there being nothing in between to catch it)? What will he do when she comes back with some form of I politely disagree but must follow my own reason and conscience which tells me campaign fund– I mean, a women’s right to choose, is an inviolable right necessary for her dignity?

  • To answer the question posed by the title of this post: No.

  • What a great statement by the bishop! And thanks for posting it in its entirety, Donald.

  • Thank you Pinky!

  • Even though Speaker Pelosi may not take the archbishops instruction, this is a positive sign that many bishops in America are finally defending life in a public manner in the correct circumstances.

    Especially from this archbishop who is breaking the stereotype of a “personally orthodox” but “episcopally lax” mold a la Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC.

Why is Cardinal George Silent about Abortion in the Current Health Care Bill?

Monday, January 4, AD 2010

When Cardinal George requested that pro-life Republicans vote for the Stupak amendment to the health care bill, he was shaming conservative American legislators that they need to stand up for what they claim in public.  Cardinal George discounted reasonable Republican objections  that this was just a ploy by Nancy Pelosi to get pro-life Democrats on board knowing full well that all pro-life language would be stripped in the joint chambers conference committee.

Was Cardinal George this naive to fall for this parliamentary trick?  Can we assume he isn’t this naive?

No, Cardinal George is not this naive because why would the Vatican choose him to lead a diocese?  The Vatican certainly takes its time to make wise and knowledgeable decisions don’t they?  The Holy Spirit guides them in their work, granted that this is done primarily through the teachings of the Church.  Though we can be reasonable enough knowing that the Vatican wouldn’t choose someone who is incompetent to be a shepherd to his flock.

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29 Responses to Why is Cardinal George Silent about Abortion in the Current Health Care Bill?

  • Well, this is no excuse for the Cardinal — but the Republicans who thought about not voting for Stupak were acting on a consequentialist impulse. For all they knew, Pelosi could have had the votes and by their miscalculation, a bill with Capps language could have left the chamber when it could have gone differently.

    You don’t vote “present” and leave the unborn undefended on the presumption that such a provision would be stripped from the final bill. That’s consequentialism. You vote for the provision because it is the morally right thing to do regardless of the circumstances. I agree with the Cardinal because the GOP was behaving according to a moral theory (one that they tend to follow a lot in my view) that is deeply flawed.

    The fact that the Cardinal has not used his position to make statements toward members of the opposite party is open and free for criticism.

    I just don’t think the Republican objections were reasonable — it was a strategy to fight the health care legislation by any means, to the point of compromising basic ethics.

  • Moreover the writer you cite — whose views obviously differ from my own — far from just being partisan in his presenation, which I have no qualms with per se, but it is obviously clear he has not done his homework.

    http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=99578

    Last I checked, the USCCB has not endorsed the final passage of the health care reform legislation. Actually, the opposite is true.

  • But I do believe the GOP was right to vote against it. The Dems simply didn’t have the votes to begin with. They went against their better judgment, but got out-foxed by Cardinal George.

  • Eric,

    I know the opposite is true, but why the silence on behalf of Cardinal George?

    What will the USCCB do if the bill passes with abortion being funded by the federal government? Will they oppose that one particular premise yet hail the rest of the bill as “good” for America? Splitting the difference, but compromising their moral authority and hence cause a scandal to the whole Church?

  • Well, I will maintain my civil disagreement. I think such a position incorrectly applies natural law norms. In fact, the angered response of pro-life organizations at the news of the GOP helping a pro-life measure sink was quite appropriate.

    The Democrats did not appear to have the votes, sure. But what if for some reason they did? And we did not forsee it? Who forsaw even after the legislation passed in the House that it would survive the Senate hurdle?

    I agree entirely with Represenative Pitts who after the legislation passed, together with pro-life House Democrats and Republicans, reiterated you do not play politics with human life. The unborn should not be subjected to some consequentialist political gamble to stop legislation that one opposes. You vote for the unborn and do everything within the restraints of the moral law to stop bad legislation. I think to act otherwise amounts to moral compromise.

  • Thanks for being civil!

    🙂

  • I have no idea. I’m not speaking in favor of Cardinal George. I am sometimes disheartened because I believe Republicans get a “pass” from pro-life Catholics often because of their opposition to abortion. So, I sometimes see such a thing as “finally.” On the other hand, when it stops for the other side that is problematic — we cannot have a double-standard, which is the very thing I oppose. So I am not defending the Cardinal in that regard — only in his initial criticism.

    The USCCB will surely speak out against the bill. I think they would actively in the Midterm elections advocate that Catholics be conscious of candidates’ position on that issue.

    If anything, the USCCB — if happy with the other provisions in the legislation — would only want the abortion language changed. In other words, roll back the abortion funding only.

  • wow, excellent post. Very revealing..and sad at the same time. If our Catholic leaders don’t stand up for the unborn, who will?

  • Eric,

    I’m with you on that.

    Though the USCCB has criticized the current bill in the Senate, so they deserve that recognition.

    I’m waiting to see the final outcome and see how they respond.

  • Chicago political blogger Tom Roeser has long asserted that the Archdiocese of Chicago is for all practical purposes a subsidiary of the Cook County Democratic Party (which he refers to as “The Squid”). Perhaps that would explain why Cardinal George saves his criticism for Republicans?

    Roeser is a very conservative Catholic (politically and liturgically) and I don’t always agree with everything he says, but he may be onto something here. Here is a recent post by him on this topic:

    http://www.tomroeser.com/blogview.asp?blogID=25127

    I note that the two staunchly pro-life auxiliary bishops he names as having voted in the Republican primary are the two most often mentioned as prospective candidates for just about every episcopal vacancy that has come up in the last few years….

  • Eric,

    I agree that one can never vote for the creation or increase of abortion funding. Moral prohibitions bind, as the latin says, semper et pro semper. But must one always vote against such funding, if one can absent oneself from voting at all? Moral exhortations don’t bind the way prohibitions do. You can never steal, but you can refrain from making a contribution to the poor at times. You can never contracept, but you don’t have to be trying to get pregnant at every moment.

    You raise an important point, and I think it’s worth discussing.

  • Strategically, the Republicans should have voted against the amendmendment. However, the bill passing without the amendment would have placed them in an ethical dilemma and I can see whey they voted for it.

    My outrage is at Pelosi and the top Democrats for using the abortion issue as a bargaining tool to pass healthcare legislation. The bishops should be more outspoken about this point.

  • I don’t see the problem. The bishops opposed the House’s expansion of abortion, and the pro-life congressmen voted against it (actually, voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment which blocked it). The bishops again opposed it in the Senate, and were unsuccessful. When the final bill comes to Congress, if it increases abortion, the bishops (and, I hope, a sufficient number of congressmen) will oppose it.

    It’s not the bishops’ duty to anticipate political maneuvers. Indeed, if the bishops denounced the Stupak Amendment on the suspicion that it would be dropped in conference, that would only weaken their voices. They’ve been clear: nay on abortion coverage.

  • Where is it written that the bishops’ consciences must be represented by the USCCB? If every bishop wrote to the representatives and senators from his district and spoke to the people of his diocese, that would certainly have more effect than the words of the [arch]bishop of Chicago. As Abp. Chaput put it neatly “bishops should not be speaking to politicians. They should be speaking to their flock and the flock speaking to the politicians”.

    Cardinal George is not a sort of American pope.

    The problem, I suppose, is that our bishops have lost much of their credibility with the sheep because of the cover-ups in the sex scandals.

    As far as morality goes, it is the personal effort that counts with Our Lord, not indirect government roles. [“I gave at the office”]. Such problems are best solved locally and one by one.

  • Gabriel,

    I am pointing out he hypocrisy of Cardinal George’s actions, or non-actions.

    I don’t have any respect, nor do I recognize the legitimacy of the USCCB.

    I agree though that if the bishops would act more like ‘bishops’ rather than being someone’s friend or a Democratic Party groupie, they would gain the trust and respect of the laity and this country would be in a much better shape than it is now.

  • Lest anyone forget the USCCB sent out flyers to parishes across the country urging parishioners to oppose any healthcare plan that included abortion coverage.

    As Eric and other posters have also pointed out, the Bishops have been adamant about Stupak being included in the bill; this is as far as they have gone, and, frankly, is about as far as they can (and probably should) go, politically speaking. Questions about the intricacies of actual healthcare policy (will a public option work or not, etc.) are not “do or die” moral questions like abortion and euthanasia, but fall to the expertise of individual politicians to decide. It is best for the USCCB to remain nuetral on such matters while insisting that the allowance of any moral evil in the bill (abortions, etc.) impels a legislator to vote against it – which is exactly what they’ve been doing!

    Where is their any proof that Cardinal George is either for or against the House healthcare bill as passed? This article has nothing but speculation – where are the words of C. George himself that imply he supports the Pelosi bill? Did he ask parishioners to unconditionally support a bill that included the Stupak amendment? No. He merely asked that the lives of babies and their mothers take priority over political victories – hence the strong support for Stupak. Eric, Pinky, and Rep. Pitts are right. To vote “no” on Stupak as an amendment is to vote against the unborn – it’s placing a potential political victory ahead of the lives of the unborn.

    I have personally congratulated many people in the Chicago Archdiocese who worked with the Cardinal on this and I asked them to forward my accolades and gratitude to him. I find his actions to be heroic, not cowardly – partisan shill C. George is not, and this article is at best misinformed, at worst a calumny.

  • Andy K.,

    It’s interesting that you accuse me of speculation.

    I made a concerted effort to only report the facts, withholding my opinion.

    He was vociferous in demanding pro-life Republicans vote for the health care amendment, though he is dead silent when it gets revised in the Senate.

    And yes, you are correct, Cardinal George has been conspicuously silent about the bill.

    My speculations are reserved for the commbox. And I will only say he has continued to do nothing at all.

    And having the USCCB send out flyers is not the role of a bishop, ie, hide behind a bureaucratic organization.

    Where are our shepherds?

    Where is our Saint Ambrose?

  • Tito’s final question reminds me that we need to be *praying* for courageous bishops. Frankly, I think that’s the most effective avenue available to the vast majority of us.