"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More On Gestalt Morality

Pope Mark again, at agonizing (torturous?) length expostulates his fundamental thesis that TORTURE IS BAD. Bad, bad, bad. Evil. Torture is really wrong. Did you see where he mentioned that torture is bad?

And if you want to know what torture IS, so you can perhaps discern between proper, good, moral, interrogation, and BAD, EVIL, torture?

Well, sorry, you're just a torture excuser! Because according to Pope Mark, even to ask what is torture is to commit the grave sin of "tiptoeing up to the line." Why, everyone knows that if we just treat prisoners humanely and avoid doing anything that produces a visceral reaction when we see it in a picture, then all will be well.

No definitions, no line-drawing allowed. If you have any doubts about this or that practice, you're a torture excuser and should report to Pope Mark right away, and he will tell you whether his visceral reaction indicates torture or humane treatment. These things cannot be reasoned out, they must be sincerely FELT.

Oy, I need a drink.

No wait, drinking is ALWAYS the sole cause of drunkeness, and drunkeness is BAD. I'd better not have a drink because it may lead to being slightly tipsy, just a step away from being drunk.

And if I start trying to figure out how much I can drink without becoming drunk, I'm definitely just a drunkeness excuser and committing the grave fault of "tiptoeing up to the line" of drunkeness. No, best just to forget about it and ban drinking altogether.

UPDATE: Post modified to remove assertion that no Catholic writers deny that torture is always intrinsically evil, see especially the renowned Fr. Brian Harrison, who has the temerity to suggest that post-conciliar denunciations of torture do not have a substantial pedigree in Catholic thought and may not be as authoritative and absolute as Pope Mark wants to suggest. The protestants love their appeals to Scripture proof texts; some Catholics love to make every pet idea an irrefutable excercize of the Church's full teaching authority.

Beats having to come up with an actual argument.

MORE here and here.


Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. said...

Since your comment mentions and links my last year's letter to "Crisis" commenting on Mark Shea's article on torture, you and your readers (and perhaps even Mr. Shea) may be interested to read my much more extensive two-part article on the morality of torture which has since been published in "Living Tradition". Mr. Shea's "Crisis" article was a big factor in prompting me to research this difficult and unpleasant subject much more thoroughly. Part I of my article deals with the teaching of Sacred Scripture regarding the ethics of torture, while Part II deals with the witness of Tradition and Magisterium.
My bottom line is that you are right and Mr. Shea is wrong. As I see it, the authentic (and much less the infallible) magisterium, correctly understood, does NOT clearly condemn as intrinsically evil the direct (intentional) infliction of severe bodily pain. Mr. Shea's position seems to me a good example of what has been described as "magisterial fundamentalism" (interpreting magisterial statements in a superficial, literalist way without taking account of their literary and historical context, and the previous history of Scripture and Traditon on the subject). The links to my two-part article are:

Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., S.T.D.
Associate Professor of Theology,
Pontifical catholic University of Puerto Rico,
Ponce, Puerto Rico

I. Shawn McElhinney said...

Fr. Harrison, thanks the quality of your work over the years. Even when I have not agreed with your conclusions, you nonetheless argues your positions well and basically approach the issues with the same degree of scholarly care that I wish was standard but (alas) is not.


PS You may find these threads to be of interest:

On Torture and General Norms of Theological Interpretation Contra Certain "Apologist" Fundamentalist Hermeneutics--Parts I-III

The bottom line is, Mark does not well understand theology and his methodology is not in line with how the late Pope John Paul II and the Pope-formerly-known-as-Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) views these matters. Nor is it in line with the manifested intentions of GS and the whole of tradition. But I think I covered it all in the thread above which I am sure has substantial congruence with your own position.