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« A Smattering | Main | Intrinsic Evil »

November 29, 2006

Comments

chris-2-4

Oh dear. To borrow a phrase: "All Light and No Heat".

Thank you for hashing this out. This, in not so many words, is what many of us have been feeling all along.

SDG

Zing. Zang. Zung.

There it is.

What more is there to say?

Zippy

Ah. So now that it has been clearly established that your technical definition of torture doesn't meet the criteria of being intrinsically evil, you've decided to unequivocally join the "torture isn't intrinsically evil" crowd. Good luck with that. You do realize that you also can't just say "abortion is intrinsically evil" without 'qualifiers' - that is, without understanding what the act of abortion is, right?

Wow.

Also, you spent a whole lot of words to say that Gaudium et Spes doesn't say the same thing about the list as VS. You could have just quoted VS on the matter:

This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial.

Zippy

Also, the "unstated" qualifiers on the list aren't unstated at all. The statement of the qualfiers is the entire context of the encyclical itself. If JPII had wanted to say "here is a list of unqualified intrinsic evils" he was no doubt smart enough to just say so. The parsing being done here is ignoring the entire encyclical, which provides what is required to understand the listed acts as intrinsically evil acts.

Jimmy Akin

Ah. So now that it has been clearly established that your technical definition of torture doesn't meet the criteria of being intrinsically evil, you've decided to unequivocally join the "torture isn't intrinsically evil" crowd.

Don't jump to conclusions.

Zippy

Well, Jimmy, it better be good. Because I don't think I am the only one whose patience with Catholic Answers is wearing thin.

Jimmy Akin

Also, the "unstated" qualifiers on the list aren't unstated at all. The statement of the qualfiers is the entire context of the encyclical itself.

Please point me to where in Veritatis Splendor it provides a list of qualifiers to allow us to establish that mutilations can potentially be performed for therapeutic reasons or on non-innocent people.

Zippy

Please point me to where in Veritatis Splendor it provides a list of qualifiers to allow us to establish that mutilations can potentially be performed for therapeutic reasons or on non-innocent people.

It doesn't provide a "list of qualifiers", as if a positivist "list of qualifiers" were capable even in principle of completely specifying any concept at all. The fact that you are looking for a "list of qualifiers" as if it could settle the matter is an error in your approach, not a weakness in the encyclical which would allow for the Bush adminstration's waterboarding of KSM to be understood as licit.

SDG

Because I don't think I am the only one whose patience with Catholic Answers is wearing thin.

Zippy, you've just crossed the line from high-spirited to obnoxious.

In the first place, dragging Jimmy's employer into the discussion is, to put it kindly, darn rude (not to mention misguided).

In the second place, what the heck does your "patience" have to do with anything? Get over yourself. (Subordinate suggestion: Try putting down Veritatis Splendor for a little while and spend a little time reading Deus Caritas Est.)

Chris-2-4

I'm sure nobody's patience with YOU is wearing thin, Zippy. You have shown yourself to be a target always in motion as far as your discussions go.

My patience has certainly run thin to the point of gone with your attempt to equate a theoretical discussion about what may or may not be licit under VS and G et S with what the Bush Administration has/may have done.

Zippy

Oh, I am sure that Jimmy and CA will continue to have supporters, irrespective of how they approach this issue, and will probably lose supporters either way. It is a very interesting test of integrity.

rsps

It seems clear that, although there are mitigating situations and qualifiers for self-defense and killing in war, we are all called to not 'objectify' our fellow man.
If you read the tradition of Phenomenology (Philosophy) that JP II came from there has always been a strong sense of the 'I' and 'Thou' and it's impact on how we relate in the world and to God. Read Martin Buber's book titled just so: I and Thou. This book has a profound impact on the works of JP II and can be a great starting point for his point of reference when he is speaking on actions that 'objectify' our fellow man. You can follow this line of thinking through all his writings/speaches and you find it heavily in his theology of the body.

Tim J.

Test of integrity, Zippy?

I have known Jimmy for a lo-o-o-ong time, and one thing I KNOW about him is that he does not - would not - take a philosophical position for any other reason than that he was convinced it was true. He does not shill for anyone. He does not test his arguments based on their popularity - with anyone.

Your entire position on torture is built on your understanding of one document of the Church. Jimmy has proposed an understanding of that document (VS) that undermines your argument and you seem to be reacting in a knee-jerk fashion at seeing your viewpoint threatened.

I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from this particular debate (on other blogs as well as this one), and find it disappointing that rather than engaging any of Jimmy's arguments, you have turned to ad hominem attacks. If you can demonstrate how Jimmy's reasoning is wrong, please do so.

Jeff

I'm glad a prominent person finally showed the "arbitrary deportations" wheeze to be the unsupportable nonsense it is. I used to snigger whenever I read the "depends on how you parse the adjectives" garbage. Commas restrict the way you can parse adjectives, of course. But not to one desperate to defend their own interpretation of a papal document at any price.

Guess what? I think torture is a terrible thing. As do the Popes. In practice, I incline strongly toward ruling it out. But it AIN'T an intrinsic evil in the classical sense.

All that means is that we can't arrogantly look down our noses at people who disagree with us about practicalities and condemn them as unCatholic (being unCatholic and being unZipplic are two different things.) And we can't do the bait-and-switch maneuver of changing the conversation in the middle to one about "treating people with dignity". Yes, we SHOULD do that, but NOT doing that isn't an intrinsic evil in the classical sense EITHER.

So, we have to be patient with our brothers and sisters and listen to what they have to say. Perhaps in some cases they will rationalize to support their politics. We just have to live with that possibility. And when we deal with the question of torture we have to rely on appeals to conscience, just as we do when dealing with, say, harshness toward one's children or poverty of spirit or other precious concepts that simply can't be categorically pinned down.

I think it's a very good sign that Zippy
(Zippy! :-D ) has been reduced to threatening Jimmy Akin with a loss of supporters for Catholic Answers. Because of Jimmy's lack of integrity, no less. Ah, well, one becomes irrational when a beloved pet dies, doesn't one? Even Mark Shea is beginning to make noises to the effect that he isn't sure he ever knew the poor, dead doggy and that perhaps that dog wouldn't have hunted anyway.

Zippy

If you can demonstrate how Jimmy's reasoning is wrong, please do so.

I have. I spent a great many words doing so in the previous thread. In this thread, when I said that Jimmy was concluding that torture isn't intrinsically evil, he told me not to jump to conclusions despite the large post above arguing that torture isn't intrinsically evil.

So, Jimmy, is torture intrinsically evil in your view or not? Obviously, if we conclude that the items in JPII's list are intrinsic evils that leads in one direction of inquiry. If they aren't intrinsic evils and JPII was just being sloppy ("speaking generally"), that leads in another direction of inquiry -- a direction of inquiry that by the way would make the very existence of the encyclical pointless.

In his previous posts Jimmy was pursuing the first line of inquiry. In this one he is functionally dismissing the list as if JPII didn't really mean it when he said that the items on the list are intrinsic evils.

This isn't an ad hominem, as much as my kind interlocutors might like to construe it as one. It is a genuine test of integrity, and a tough one at that.

SDG

Zippy, everything is a test of integrity. Including your participation in this thread right now. How "interesting" it is depends, I suppose, on whether one is in a position to evaluate the participant's performance on the test.

Zippy

But it AIN'T an intrinsic evil in the classical sense.

By saying "in the classical sense" you are skipping over the fact that VS states outright that it is the first authoritative Church document to lay out in detail how intrinsically evil acts are to be understood. There is no unitary "classical sense" here. There is only the sense laid out for the first time -in detail- in VS.

Josiah

Rsps,

I've heard a lot of good things about I and Thou. Unfortunantly when I tried to read it I couldn't make heads or tails of the thing. Talk about abstract! I'd quote some passages for illustration, but unfortunantly, I gave my copy to a Methodist minister a while back.

Jeff

Right, Zippy.

ALL one has to do is to conclude that John Paul the Second chose a list of items that illustrated his point poorly. If Cardinal Dulles can do that, so can others.

And since the list of things he chose simply AREN'T intrinsic evils in the classical sense (for the reasons patiently outlined above), one is left with two alternatives. The list was just illustrative and one doesn't have to accept it AT ALL to be a Catholic, let alone a good one. Or the list is a dogmatic definition of sorts.

But since the second alternative leads to defending impossibilities, one has to accept that the list is illustrative.

One COULD, if one wasn't proud, conclude that if someone like Cardinal Dulles thinks like this, then maybe just maybe there is a flaw in one's own approach somewhere.

David

The authors of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church seem to disagree with your interpretation on the topic of mutilations:

They say,

"477. What practices are contrary to respect for the bodily integrity of the human person?

2297-2298

They are: kidnapping and hostage taking, terrorism, torture, violence, and direct sterilization. Amputations and mutilations of a person are morally permissible only for strictly therapeutic medical reasons." (my emphasis)

http://geobay.com/a49db0

Josiah

Zippy,

You need to read Mr. Akin more carefully. His post doesn't deny that torture is intrinsically evil. It doesn't even deny that Veritatis Splendor says that torture is intrinsically evil. What he says is that there are ambiguities in the text which prevent us from "assert[ing] as fact the idea that Veritatis Splendor says torture is intrinsically evil."

David

And remember that the Compendium comes with the following endorsement from our present Pope:

"The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith, thus constituting, as my Predecessor had wished, a kind of vademecum which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.

In its structure, contents and language, the Compendium faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church and will thus assist in making the Catechism more widely known and more deeply understood."

Zippy

ALL one has to do is to conclude that John Paul the Second chose a list of items that illustrated his point poorly.

Right. Down one path of inquiry we start with the premise that PJPII was a moron who wrote an encyclical he worked on for at least a decade sloppily. Down the other path of inquiry we leave out that assumption. Forgive me for not taking the first path of inquiry seriously.

Zippy

You need to read Mr. Akin more carefully. His post doesn't deny that torture is intrinsically evil. It doesn't even deny that Veritatis Splendor says that torture is intrinsically evil.

He is welcome, indeed eagerly invited, to state outright whether or not he agrees that torture is intrinsically evil.

rsps

Josiah,
It is a bit tough to wade through if you don't know the foundational definitions. Phenomenology can be percieved as 'abstract' as compared to Tomism. Usually this is because those reading it don't have an understanding of the 'language'.

Zippy

This first step really should be very, very simple.

Is torture, properly understood in the technical sense, intrinsically evil? Obviously the "properly understood" bit means that there is work to do in properly understanding it; work which will be constrained by our answer to the question.

That there is more work to do in properly understanding it is true of properly understanding, well, pretty much everything that we work on trying to properly understand.

But what is Jimmy's unequivocal answer to that question?

Jeff

Really Zippy's analysis even shows the utter hopelessness of finding something "intrinsically evil" about the items on this list.

In order to "discover" how exactly deportation is intrinsically evil, he is forced to import an adjective that clearly applies to another term in the sentence only. (Not an intrinsically EVIL act, but an intrinsically SILLY one!).

But all that leaves you with is that deportations are "intrinsically evil" when they done "for no good reason." In other words, when deportation is bad, it's bad.

That's true about any thing that's bad in a general way or any thing that could BE bad.

So, I'll agree to apply "arbitrary" to ALL the things on the list. Torture is intrinsically evil when it's arbitrary. When it's bad, it's bad.

Frivolous as this is in some way, I think it leads to wisdom.

Suppose, Zippy and Zippy-ites, that torture and deportation were NOT intrinsic evils in the same sense as abortion. Just suppose.

That wouldn't mean that it was fine to torture people or to deport them whenever you felt like it, would it? There would still be many cases of abuse and cruely, wouldn't there? So there would be many acts of torture, deportation, etc. that AS INDIVIDUAL ACTS were intrinsically evil.

The point then would be that one couldn't treat these 'SOCIAL EVILS' as if they were simply by-the-way things that could be indulged in freely. The rule of thumb would still be, "Gee, I'm about to torture or deport. What a bad idea!" Or for a landlord, "Gee, what person would want to live in my building. Is it really fit for habitation? Would I want to live there?" One is not dealing with morally neutral matter; when one gets to such things, one is confronted with wickedness, even if it isn't categorical wickedness.

This I think salvages the passage in VS according to VS's own stated purposes. Because Zippy's idea (sans the "adjective parsing" nonsense)--that deportation is always an intrinsic evil--is a nonsense and is completely insupportble. No amount of "loyal" flailing about will save it.

David

Um, anyone care to address my point about one of the items in Jimmy's list.

Zippy

In order to "discover" how exactly deportation is intrinsically evil, he is forced to import an adjective that clearly applies to another term ...

No, I don't. I defer to Jimmy's latin expertise on the point, since I don't know Iack. All it means is that we have to answer the question "Are deportations, properly understood in the technical sense, intrinsically evil?" instead of "are arbitrary deportations, properly understood in the technical sense, intrinsically evil?".

The answer, unless JPII was just being sloppy in a relatively short encyclical he spent years to write, is yes. So the line of inquiry becomes how to apply what VS says to understand deportations as intrinsically evil. That is a legitimate line of inquiry, informed by VS. "He can't possibly have meant that" isn't.

Tim J.

David -

No one here - including Jimmy - has argued that torture is NOT an intrinsic evil.

Please read Jimmy's post about Intrinsic Evil.

Jeff

I think Jimmy has stated that he THINKS the Magisterium is "heading towards" some kind of condemnation of torture as an intrisic evil, but hasn't got there yet. That's different from saying that torture simply IS intrinsically evil in the standard sense of the word. It's not. And that's the point of this post.

I also think that Jimmy and I would both gladly state that torture is intrinsically evil just as deportation is intrinsically evil. No more, no less. In just the same sense.

I suspect that Jimmy's voyage of discovery is similar to mine. I began happily thinking that the Church unequivocally condemned torture. I had no wish to see torture and no problem with this teaching. Far from looking for excuses to get around it, I rejoiced in it.

But as soon as I started looking at the question, I found that the Church DID NOT in fact unequivocally condemn torture. Honesty and INTEGRITY compelled me to admit that. It is this "Aha!" feeling that one gets when reading Dave Armstrong and Jimmy as well...the more they look, the less they find.

Honesty and integrity compelled me to admit and even defend those who were arguing for the use of methods of interrogation that I found worthy of reprobation. To defend them because their opinions were permissible opinions for Catholics to hold and therefore, they were worthy interlocutors. To defend them--even though I disagreed with them--from dishonest and ungentlemanly attacks on their motives and from tattered and worn absolutist arguments that clearly would not stand up to real scrutiny and served mainly to bolster the vanity of those who were making them.

But that of course gets you condemned by the Zippy-ite faction as "unCatholic" and "a dissenter." And worst of all as "a torture apologist." (Yes, just as much as Cardinal Dulles is "a proponent of slavery.") All on the basis of suppositions about one's motives that are simply false and that the accusers, of course, could know nothing about. Sounds like "calling your brother wicked fool" to me. Is that "intrinsically evil" I wonder?

No, people like Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong and Christopher Blosser are not a bunch of folks who want to defend cruelty in the service of relativism at any price. They are simply honest people who want to find out what the Church REALLY teaches: which positions are permissible and which aren't. Who, after all, wants to "defend" torture and be painted as a savage reprobate by self-righteous folks like Zippy and Mark Shea? A person without integrity would steer well-clear of the controversy.

So, thanks for your integrity, Jimmy. Keep up the good work.

Paul H

Zippy wrote:
"I have. I spent a great many words doing so in the previous thread. In this thread, when I said that Jimmy was concluding that torture isn't intrinsically evil, he told me not to jump to conclusions despite the large post above arguing that torture isn't intrinsically evil."

Did you read the same post that I read? It seems to me that Jimmy is arguing that Veritatis Splendor can very legitimately be interpreted in such a way that it does not define torture as intrinsically evil. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that torture is not intrinsically evil, nor that Jimmy himself believes that it's not intrinsically evil. It ONLY means that Veritatis Splendor, as Jimmy understands it, may not define one way or another whether torture is intrinsically evil.

Zippy also wrote:
"Is torture, properly understood in the technical sense, intrinsically evil? Obviously the "properly understood" bit means that there is work to do in properly understanding it; work which will be constrained by our answer to the question."

And wasn't Jimmy's main goal with yesterday's series of posts to help achieve a "proper understanding" of what torture is, in the technical sense? Isn't he contributing to exactly that work which you say needs to be done?

Zippy, I'm just not understanding why you are being so negative toward Jimmy's ideas here. I can understand that you might not agree with Jimmy's analysis and conclusions. Fine. But it seems to me that you are being, dare I say, disproportionately negative and critical toward Jimmy's viewpoint, and toward Jimmy himself. I get the impression that you may have an axe to grind here, that goes beyond this series of posts. That's my impression anyway, but I admit that I could be wrong.

Jeff

Zippy:

Ah, you say that it isn't a legitimate line of inquiry. Cardinal Dulles, who knows far more about it than you, is of unimpeachable orthodoxy, and is an expert theologian rather than a rank amateur like yourself, says it is. Why should anyone believe you? Why shouldn't they rather conclude that you don't know what the h___ you're talking about? In fact, why shouldn't YOU conclude that? I would, if I were in your shoes.

Fine, lets "discover" how deportation is "intrinsically evil". We know that deportation AS SUCH isn't intrinsically evil, as Jimmy has pointed out. Because there are circumstances under which the Church countenances it. And if we have to "figure that out" we should let people figure it out, and let them figure it out about torture, too, without slamming and condemning them at every turn as disloyal Catholics.

David

Tim,

Thanks for the reply!

I am not arguing, on this thread anyway, anything about torture.

I gave a discreet bit of evidence against how Jimmy is understanding the Magisterial prohibition against mutilation.

I was aiming to question this statement Jimmy made:

"Thus we have two unstated qualifiers since the Catechism leaves open the possibility of amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations being performed "for strictly therapeutic medical reasons" or "on [non-]innocent persons."

There seems to be, at least from the words of the Compendium, no room for (non-therapeutic/punitive [?]) mutilations involving the non-innocent.

Esau

No, people like Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong and Christopher Blosser are not a bunch of folks who want to defend cruelty in the service of relativism at any price. They are simply honest people who want to find out what the Church REALLY teaches: which positions are permissible and which aren't. Who, after all, wants to "defend" torture and be painted as a savage reprobate by self-righteous folks like Zippy and Mark Shea? A person without integrity would steer well-clear of the controversy.

So, thanks for your integrity, Jimmy. Keep up the good work.

Thank-you, Jeff!
Nicely said!

Again, as mentioned in the past:

There are contingent factors around the world sociologically that kind of go beyond the Pope’s teaching sphere and, so, there’s kind of a fuzzy border between the moral principles and how they get applied in concrete individual situations, and its in that area that the limit of the Church’s Teaching Authority is reached -- in that fuzzy area, because the Church intends to propose basic principles for us but then it’s up to the laity who are on the ground, in concrete circumstances, to try to figure out how to apply those in particular cases.

Paul H

Zippy also wrote:
Well, Jimmy, it better be good. Because I don't think I am the only one whose patience with Catholic Answers is wearing thin.

Zippy, would you care to share WHY your patience (and apparently the patience of others) with Catholic Answers is wearing thin, and how that is relevant to this discussion on Jimmy's personal blog?

Again, I get the impression that there is more here than meets the eye, regarding your objections to Jimmy's analysis and conclusions.

Josiah

David,

Mr. Akin's point was that "mutilations" couldn't be intrinsically evil in an unqualified sense because the Catechism lists two examples where it is permissible. You've cited the Conpendium to the Catechism, which only lists one of the examples. That hardly affects Mr. Akin's point. Whether mutilation is permissible in one type of situation or in two, it is sometimes permissible, and so cannot be said to be intrinsically evil.

Zippy

Zippy, would you care to share WHY your patience (and apparently the patience of others) with Catholic Answers is wearing thin

Sure. Torture fits the CA Voter's Guide non-negotiables criteria to a T (hah), but it hasn't been added and promoted. I personally know of quite a lot of money being witheld from donation to Catholic Answers for precisely that reason.

Esau

Sure. Torture fits the CA Voter's Guide non-negotiables criteria to a T (hah), but it hasn't been added and promoted.

Please, Zippy, so does Capital Punishment and a host of other things, but then there wouldn't be JUST FIVE NON-NEGOTIABLES, but tens of them!

Jeff

Oho, Paul H., you hear that wheel a-turnin' and that axe a-grindin', too?

I think some good Catholics (Shea, Zippy, others) who want to be loyal to the Magisterium made an understandable mistake in reading Church documents. They wanted in praiseworthy fashion to simply accept and rejoice in what they read and make it their own, without cavil. No, they wanted --nobly and virtuously, yes, indeed--to sit at the Table as Invited Guests and partake of all the Courses, rather than picking and choosing from among all the good things their Host offered them.

So far, so good. But they then went public with their interpretations and got to "own" them, like scientists with a theory about cold fusion or something. They got used to regarding their opponents as "dissenters of the right" and they got used to feeling pleased with themselves as the ones who wouldn't be swayed by politics on either side, but were simply Catholics who hated the merest hint of a Cafeteria.

Or so I guess. I don't know, of course. But I guess, because I think at root these folks for all their depolorable treatment of their fellow Catholics, were motivated originally and in some sense still by something noble and great.

This is how a noble approach can be transformed without one's knowing it into a pet which must be stroked and fed and which curls up around one's intellectual vanity at night and keeps it warm.

I think that Zippy and Mark and others are fundamentally marvellous Catholics doing a service to the Church, though on this matter they are woefully mistaken. I think that they are people of INTEGRITY who can go through the painful process of reexamination and admit when they are wrong even though it will cost them a great deal in terms of face and humiliation.

So, I look forward to the day when Zippy says, without qualification, "Sorry, guys; I goofed. I really thought I was defending Catholic teaching per se against Catholics who were refusing to accept it. But after serious prayer and reflection, I see I was wrong."

I think he will do that one day. Because I do think he is a man of integrity.

David

Josiah,

Go back and read my posts on this thread. I didn't claim that mutilation was an intrinsic evil, did I?

What I claimed was that the Compendium seems to close a door that Jimmy left open, namely, the question of whether non-therapeutic/punitive mutilations on the non-innocent (say, a convicted rapist) were licit.

On my reading, the Compendium's statement "Amputations and mutilations of a person are morally permissible only for strictly therapeutic medical reasons" rules out any other kind of mutilation.

Tim J.

Actually, capital punishment is not an intrinsic evil, nor would it be non-negotiable for Catholics.

Josiah

Esau,

Capital punishment doesn't meet the Catholic Answers criteria for a non-negotiable issue, because it is not intrinsically evil.

I have problems with the Catholic Answers voting guide in general, but that's another story.

Paul H

"Sure. Torture fits the CA Voter's Guide non-negotiables criteria to a T (hah), but it hasn't been added and promoted. I personally know of quite a lot of money being witheld from donation to Catholic Answers for precisely that reason."

Thank you for explaining that. I probably wouldn't agree that torture should be included as a non-negotiable, at least not without more guidance from the magisterium on this matter. I say this because Catholic Answers intentionally leaves out those issues which are not part of the current political debate in this country (two examples would be contraception and genocide). And I think that a Catholic in good conscience COULD hold the position that the interrogation techniques which are being debated in today's political climate do not rise to the level of "torture" (but I also think that a Catholic in good conscience could hold a contrary position). Obviously, you would disagree with me, but I'm just explaining where I'm coming from.

But anyway, at least I better understand your position on the matter. However, what exactly are you trying to imply, if anything, with this statement about the CA voters' guide? Are you saying that Catholic Answers has, in good faith, made an error in their assessment of the nature of torture, and/or in their assessment of magisterial teaching on this subject? Or you accusing them of intentionally excluding torture from the voters' guide as a result of some ulterior motive?

Josiah

"I didn't claim that mutilation was an intrinsic evil, did I?"

I never said you did. Your comments, while potentially interesting, don't affect Jimmy's conclusions and are at best tangential to the point of his post.

Esau

Actually, capital punishment is not an intrinsic evil, nor would it be non-negotiable for Catholics.

Okay, riddle me this --

There are a great many who have rightly said that torture itself is intrinsically evil.

Yet, Capital Punishment, which itself can involve a form of torture, isn't?

Paul H

Jeff wrote:
Oho, Paul H., you hear that wheel a-turnin' and that axe a-grindin', too?

I think some good Catholics (Shea, Zippy, others) who want to be loyal to the Magisterium made an understandable mistake in reading Church documents....

Jeff, thanks much for the background information. I am a regular reader of only a few Catholic blogs (Jimmy Akin, Ignatius Insight, the Curt Jester, and occasionally BettNet). Mark Shea's blog is one that (for no particular reason) I just don't read regularly. I have heard a few mentions here and there of Mark Shea's anti-torture stand, but I am not well-informed on the history of this controversy in the Catholic blogosphere. Your post helps me put some of the pieces together. Thanks!

David

Josiah,

if someone makes a claim about what the Catholic position is about x or y, and then doesn't state that position with exactness, I, as a Catholic, think it is relevant.

Who knows, if that person is not quite accurate about mutilation, then perhaps, just perhaps, they might not be quite accurate about torture as well.

Josiah

Esau,

Substitute "amputation" for capital punishment to see the flaw in your argument.

Amputations can involve torture, but not all amputations do. Same with capital punishment.

Esau

Josiah,
Amputations are a necessity, though. Without doing so, especially in the instance of gangrene, would endanger the subject individual.

Can it be said with Capital Punishment?

Paul H

Josiah,
Amputations are a necessity, though. Without doing so, especially in the instance of gangrene, would endanger the subject individual.

Can it be said with Capital Punishment?

Doesn't the Catechism acknowledge that capital punishment could, at least in very rare instances, be necessary for the protection or self-defense of society? Perhaps someone with more time than me could look up the passage. :-)

Esau

If capital punishment (which can involve torture) could, at least in very rare instances, be necessary for the protection or self-defense of society, then torture itself can be applied similarly as well under the same set of circumstances, right?

Dave Armstrong

What is so difficult to grasp, and incomprehensible about the difference between the following two propositions?:

1. Torture is intrinsically evil.

2. This particular instance of coercion may not in fact be -- closely examined -- torture.

What, must we adopt a circular definition from the outset?:

"Every act of coercion is torture; therefore every defense -- or even tentative examination -- of said acts and indeed practically any coercion whatsoever as possibly moral, must necessarily be a defense of torture; therefore a positive defense of evil, since torture is intrinsically evil".

This is the logical and moral ludicrosity on the part of those who are presently critiquing Jimmy Akin, that seems to be shot through this entire discussion. How can such an elementary thing continue to be overlooked? I marvel at it.

Tim J.

"If capital punishment (which can involve torture) could, at least in very rare instances, be necessary for the protection or self-defense of society, then torture itself can be applied similarly as well under the same set of circumstances, right?"

No. Not torture - ever - or for any reason. Coercion? Infliction of proportional pain? Maybe. But never torture.

The Catechism does not say that capital punishment is an intrinsic evil that is permitted in rare cases. Capital punishment is not an intrinsic evil.

An intrinsic evil would never be permitted ever, for any reason.

Josiah

"If capital punishment (which can involve torture) could, at least in very rare instances, be necessary for the protection or self-defense of society, then torture itself can be applied similarly as well under the same set of circumstances, right?"

No. You're making a common logical mistake. It goes like this:

All A are B.
Some C are A.
Therefore, All C are B.

In this specific case, what you're arguing is something like:

All torture is wrong.
Some executions are torture.
Therefore, all executions are wrong.

This doesn't follow. Consider the following:

All Presidents have been men.
Some Protestants have been President.
Therefore, all Protestants have been President.

It doesn't work, does it? To show that all executions were wrong, you'd have to show that all executions involve torture, not just that some of them do.

Does that make sense? Have I understood you properly?

rsps

CCC on the Death Penalty:

"The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor" (CCC 2267).

Morning's Minion

Zippy is absolutely right, both in his interpretation of the moral issues and his view of Catholic Answers. CA claims that non-negotiable issues "involve principles that never admit of exceptions and.... are currently being debated in U.S. politics." Torture surely qualifies. I find it highly distressing that somebody with the intelligence and learning of Jimmy Akin would resort to arguing that waterboarding need not be torture, if there is no less painful means of stopping a "ticking bomb". Jack Bauer meets Thomas Aquinas! Of course, you don't need an advanced degree in moral philosophy to figure out that this is flirting dangerously with consequentialism and proportionalism. Of course, a cynic would argue that the Catholic Answers voter guide was always geared toward a nudge-nudge-wink-wink exhortation to vote for one particulary party. And while this may not be "intrinsece malum", it's certainly "proba"!!

Esau

Thanks Josiah & Tim J.
I appreciate the thoughtful response.

Josiah:
I really appreciated your use of Traditional Logic in your post. It's refreshing to actually witness this in these here blogs. Thanks for that!

However, the very word "execution" denotes an evil action as it entails the murderous taking of a human life; and, in this case, an unnecessary action at that given the possible alternatives.

doubting thomas

Thank-you Jimmy for excellent work. Together with Christopher Blosser's work I have learned a great deal. Keep it up in spite of the spiteful.

Esau

I find it highly distressing that somebody with the intelligence and learning of Jimmy Akin would resort to arguing that waterboarding need not be torture...

Morning's Onion:
Where did Jimmy actually state this?


Of course, a cynic would argue that the Catholic Answers voter guide was always geared toward a nudge-nudge-wink-wink exhortation to vote for one particulary party.

So, you're accusing Catholic Answers as having an ulterior motive for their Voter's guide and being pro-Republican, perhaps?

Morning's Minion

Esau,

In Jimmy's own words: "I would not say that it [waterboarding] is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution)."

And yes, perhaps...

Esau

Morning's Minion:

I believe, more precisely, Jimmy said:

Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

Esau

Morning's Minion:

I don't believe Catholic Answers is so much set on having people vote for a Republican candidate than they are for people actually voting for the right candidate.

How that gets cashed out in a particular political race is something that has to be determined as a matter of prudence based on the Catholic voter's knowledge of the candidate and what they’re likely to do in office.

Each individual voter just has to figure out who's likely to do the most good and minimize the most harm possible.

If the right candidate happens to be Republican, then so be it.

It could very well be a Democrat as well.

Dave Armstrong

But of course, Morning's Minion has no corresponding pro-Democrat agenda when he, e.g., advocates legal homosexual "marriage" and jumps through all sorts of hoops in justifying (widespread?) voting for Democratic pro-abort candidates (judging from his blog).

It just so happens that his positions when it comes to voting look to me (at least after a heavy skimming of his blog) indistinguishable from the levers that your run-of-the-mill nominally religious or secular Democrat would pull in the voting booth (if I'm wrong about that, as I very well could be, I look forward to his correction).

It all works out the same in result, doesn't it? We get a Clinton or would have gotten a Kerry, and heaven-knows-who in 2008: the great majority voting in Congress for the legality of partial-birth infanticide and increasing disgraceful sanction of homosexual acts, via the legitimacy and co-opting of the word "marriage." And making sure that we get Supreme Court Justices who will never consider overturning Roe v. Wade or even considering the slightest restrictions (at least four will soon argue in favor of legal partial-birth murder soon; it's as predictable as breathing). Real societal progress and the advancement of Catholic morality and spirituality there, isn't it?

Yet MM wants to devote a ton of energy to bashing the Catholic Answers Voting Guide and the Catholic League, etc. Will the next thing be apologetics itself? It's quite fashionable to bash that (and sometimes converts) these days, too.

Dave Armstrong

And by the way, I voted for several local Democrats three weeks ago because they were pro-life. I vote a straight pro-life ticket. I've never voted a straight party ticket in my life. While the slaughter continues, it is of paramount importance to end it first; then we can get to other important (but relatively less important) issues. 4000 a day: that's more every day than all the US troops killed in Iraq thus far (I anticipate the war being brought up to counter this).

But the Catholic Voting Guide mustn't emphasize such life issues! That's scandalous, dontcha know!

Esau

But of course, Morning's Minion has no corresponding pro-Democrat agenda ...

Dave Armstrong:
I'm glad somebody else pointed out the obvious! ;^)

God Bless You, Dave!

Morning's Minion

We are steeriny way off topic, but I feel obliged to defend myself! And I'm glad people are looking at my humble little blog, even if critical :)

First, neither Democrat nor Republican equals Catholic. Everybody needs to make their own choice. As you say, form your own prudential judgments. But do not cherry-pick a list of issues whereby one party looks bad and say you cannot vote for a party that supports these issues. The core error of the approach is not that the issues are not non-negotiable, but that they assume voting is equivalent to providing support to enacting these policies. It is decidedly not.

The classic issue, is of course abortion. Note that voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not mean that there will be more abortions. It is a perfectly reasonable prudential judgement to vote for a pro-abortion candidate if you think that he/she could enact policies that would reduce the incidence of abortion, or if you think abortion will be unaffected, but you can stop some other evil (think of torture or over 600,000 dead Iraqis). In this case, you are only guilty of remote material cooperation with evil and are free to back this candidate without violating any moral precept of the Church. Again, you might come to different conclusions than I would and vote for the pro-life candidate, and there's nothing wrong with that either. This is why I dislike so much the whole "non-negotiable" road show.

On the "gay marriage" point: I believe it is perfectly orthodox to question whether we should care that the state grants marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. I view marriage as a sacramental union between one man and one women geared to the bearing and rearing of children. That is most decidedly not how the civil authorities see it, and frankly, I think a divorce between the two concepts is in order. For a start, it would put an end to all the nonsense in the secular press decrying "annulments" (resulting of course from a confusion between the sacrament and the civil legal arrangement). Just look at the state of civil marriage today: Britney Spears's drunken 24-hour Las Vegas "marriage" was accorded all the rights and responsibilities of any of our marriages. Is this less offensive than a same-sex marriage? Hardly. Bottom line: let's promote the church's understanding of marriage, and worry less about what the state does. Civil marriage is already trashed. Let's spend more time promoting the real thing.

Dave Armstrong

Hi M&M,

I thank you for your civil and substantive response (I always admire that). I do want to comment on one thing you said:

Note that voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not mean that there will be more abortions.

This is sheer nonsense, and I would say obviously so. It is we Catholics who brought this country the blessing of legal abortion in the first place because we were so weak in 1973, and the pro-abortion forces knew that full well. The Protestants hardly even cared about the issue till some seven-ten years later, so we bear most of the blame (the "good men doing nothing" routine).

We also bear a large part of the blame for allowing the holocaust to continue, because many of us Catholics reason as you do and thus serve as pawns for the pro-aborts to get what they want.

You voting for pro-abort Democrats (no matter how well-intentioned and nuanced and internally-reasoned with recourse to St. Thomas, etc. it may be - which I don't deny), still gives the vast majority of Democrat politician pro-aborts exactly what they want. Your vote comes out the same way as the vote of any far-left secularist: maintenance of the abortionist status quo and the killing.

How does it do otherwise? You want to tal about partial-birth abortion? The Democrats keep that going because the radical abortion agenda of PLanned Parenthood et al won't allow any modification of the total "liberty" no matter how human or sensible, even by low secularist standards. So you vote for these guys and they keep it going. You can't claim that you didn't participate in that because you voted for the guys who in turn vote to keep this ghastly procedure safe and legal. It ain't the Republicans, by and large, who vote for this.

Likewise, as I mentioned, Democrat control almost ensures that we get less-than-stellar Supreme Court Justices. It's bad enough even with the ones that the Republicans put in (Kennedy, Souter, O'Connor). This ensures maintenance of the societally-sanctioned murder. To deny that folks who vote for the Democrats who have a direct influence on how these things turn out is to have one's head in the sand. I would be lax in my duty as an apologist and long-time pro-life activist (predating my conversion by eight years) if I didn't point this out to you and everyone else reading.

It's true that there are situations where one chooses the lesser of two evils. But that is not usually the case at the national congressional level or the Presidency: they have direct bearing on how abortion will be legally considered. We're talking about wholesale slaughter. Hardly any exceptions at all are allowed. The liberals who get voted in vote for the liberal judges who overturn sensible restrictive laws such as parental consent or even knowledge.

I have to compromise to some extent even to vote for bush I and Bush II, who hold to the exception clauses for rape and incest. But that was far superior to voting for Kerry or Gore or Clinton, who held to no legal restrictions at all, and were prepared to do what they had to do to keep this abominable state of affairs going.

So there is no way in heaven or hell that anyone who votes for these ultimately heartless, brutal clowns who wink at widespread institutionalized murder and call it names like "choice" gets out of the responsibility for the continuance of the holocaust. You can cite the pope or St. Thomas all you want; it'll do no good. I understand those arguments. I am saying that they don't apply in the present situation. It's gone far beyond that. You try to deny that they have an effect on abortion, but they clearly do in the ways I have mentioned.

"Gay marriage" is even more clearly wrong to be in favor of or neutral on. I wouldn't even waste time arguing about that.

Esau

The classic issue, is of course abortion. Note that voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not mean that there will be more abortions.

Okay, suppose you had a democrat that’s pro-life, you’d have to vote for him since you can’t vote for a pro-choice Republican, right?

However, there are those who would say that even if you have a democrat that’s running that’s Pro-life, their base will tell them that they have to vote pro-choice. So, some might make a point to vote for the Republican who’s pro-abortion because the whole Republican base will still be pro-life instead of pro-abortion and the base has more control than that one candidate; so even though the candidate is running pro-abortion, they’ll get beat down by their base anyway. They won’t let anything get pushed through for pro-abortion.

As a matter of prudence, one certainly has to take into account the effect of what pressure a particular party and its constituency are going to put on a candidate in office, so that’s not a consideration that should be dismissed, but also it’s not a determinative consideration and each individual voter just has to figure out what’s likely to do the most harm – er, do the most good -- and minimize the most harm possible.

Dave Armstrong

If the Democrat has a voting record that is solidly pro-life, then we can safely vote for him. Trouble is, that usually occurs only at the statewide level. The higher they go, they have to renounce pro-life convictions, just like Jesse Jackson, Gephardt, Gore, and Clinton did. And even a pro-life Democrat might vote for pro-abort judges, up to and including the Supreme Court. But faced with a choice of a solidly pro-life Democrat and a liberal pro-abort Republican (a Juliani or Romney type), it is clear who we choose.

Jonathan Prejean

But do not cherry-pick a list of issues whereby one party looks bad and say you cannot vote for a party that supports these issues.

Was Pope John Paul the Great "cherry-picking" in Evangelium Vitae?

"To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others.
...
Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.
...
Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.
...
In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.'"
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the CDF?

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia."
http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

You'll note that FOUR of FIVE non-negotiables on this list (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem call research, and cloning) are fundamental life issues that take the highest priority and entail a direct conflict with even the possibility of achieving the common good.

What was the fifth again? From the CDF:
"In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
...
It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good."
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

Maybe the CA explanation for why these five issues are head and shoulders above all other political issues was faulty, but there is PLENTY of doctrinal reason for treating those five as non-negotiables even as compared to other intrinsic evils. They strike at the very idea of society as a protector of the common good (the first four at the individual life, and the last at the family).

Rather than picking out your own favorite pet issues, you should give a little thought to the magisterial teaching on the subject of what sort of laws are merely unjust and what sorts of laws are so gravely unjust that they attack the entire legitimacy of the society as a protector of the common good.

Dave Armstrong

Oops; spelled the great savior's name wrong: Giuliani. Shows how terribly out of fashion I am.

Jonathan Prejean

Note that voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not mean that there will be more abortions. It is a perfectly reasonable prudential judgement to vote for a pro-abortion candidate if you think that he/she could enact policies that would reduce the incidence of abortion, or if you think abortion will be unaffected, but you can stop some other evil (think of torture or over 600,000 dead Iraqis).

You've missed the point that his public support for abortion is a grave evil in and of itself, and it is an evil against the common good itself, i.e., against every member of the society. Your voting for him is remote material cooperation with an actual evil against everyone for the disproportionate reason of some hypothetical benefit to a miniscule fraction of the society that might not even be realized, which is obviously disproportionate.

Jonathan Prejean

Should have been "obviously evil," not "obviously disproportionate," although I would add that "obviously evil" does not mean "intrinsically evil." For example, if you were deciding between two "non-negotiable" (society-destroying) issues, there might be proportionate reasons for picking one over the other.

Morning's Minion

Hi everybody,

Thanks for the civil input. Just a few points:

First, yes, Dave, the fact that so many Democrats are in the thrall of the abortion lobby is most distressing to me. You make some very valid points that must weigh heavily on our consciences.

But, to make the issue non-negotiable from the point of view of the voter (not the act itself, that's another matter), you need to be sure that voting a certain way will have the effect you desire. For example, you vote for pro-life candidate A (let's say for president and keep it nice and simple). Candidate A can do nothing to end legalized abortion, but can pick judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade. At every stage, questions abound. Will the judge really vote to overturn Roe? If Roe is overturned, will this have much impact on legalized abortion? And if abortion is illegal, how can we be sure it is still not taking place (just look at Latin America)? Now, two voters can look at these questions and form different prudential judgements about the likely outcome. What if I decided that with Candidate B, although there would be no attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, he/she may implement economic and healthcare policies that could diminish the abortion rate. Would that be enough? Uncertain, as the first best is clearly "penal sanctions" (as Donum Vitae calls for). But what if, as well as this, Candidate B would be closer to the church's position on issues like torture and war? Would these be proportionate reasons? Again, I'm not saying that's the right call, merely that it is within the bounds of a good Catholic's prudential judgment.

Jonathan quoted John Paul on abortion and euthanasia. No argument from me there. Since I opened this dicussion by supporting Zippy's position on torture, it would hardly be consistent to take a different tack when it came to (say) abortion. Abortion is clearly instrinsically evil, which means evil in its object, and neither intention nor circumstance can change this. But voting for a person who supports abortion is not the same as formally cooperating in this evil. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his infamous letter, this is remote material cooperation, and may be permitted. People do not make this distinction enough.

David B.

"As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his infamous letter, this is remote material cooperation, and may be permitted. "


I am sure he meant only in extreme circumstances, such as voting for a mildly pro-abort guy to replace someone like hitler.

Rick Lugari

As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his infamous letter...

Infamous? Wow.

Seamus

Amputations are a necessity, though. Without doing so, especially in the instance of gangrene, would endanger the subject individual.

Can it be said with Capital Punishment?

Actually, it *has* been said with capital punishment. One of the classic defenses of the morality of capital punishment is be analogy with amputation of a diseased body part.

Seamus

Capital punishment doesn't meet the Catholic Answers criteria for a non-negotiable issue, because it is not intrinsically evil.

I have problems with the Catholic Answers voting guide in general, but that's another story.

Isn't taking a second spouse while one's first spouse is still living "intrinsically evil" (leaving aside cases the rare cases where Pauline or Petrine Privilege applies)? Yet I don't see opposition to divorce laws as being among Catholic Answers' (or anybody else's, for that matter) voting guide.

I know that Catholic Answers would say that divorce laws aren't "in play"; i.e., that taking a stand against divorce laws isn't likely to have any practical effect on public policy. I wonder whether Catholic Answers has paid any attention to what decades of opposition to legal abortion has accomplished. (Oh, yeah, we're just "one justice away" from overturning Roe v. Wade. Just like we have been since Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and maybe earlier. And yes, I think I'll buy that bridge you're selling.) I think Catholic voters could be excused for concluding that voting for pro-life candidates isn't likely to make a lick of difference in the actual abortion laws, and that they might actually accomplish some good in the public policy realm if they were guided by some other criterion in voting.

(That said, I still couldn't bring myself to vote for Jim Webb for Senate, because of my visceral reaction to how he toed the Democratic party line on abortion and homosexuality. But I can understand how your mileage may vary.)

Paul Hoffer

Before I get started, I want to say at the outset, that I believe that torture is intrinsically evil. With that being said, I also believe that people can legitimately disagree as to whether a particular technique or methodology constitutes torture.

When I read the comments to posts like this, I am reminded that throughout its history the Church has generally defined things by saying what they are not as opposed to what they are. The issue of torture is one of those things. What the problem here is that people can not define what torture is. Aside from a very vague, nebulous notion, we can only decide whether a technique is or is not on a case by case basis.

It seems that some people have lost sight that the objective of an interrogator or examiner is to elicit truthful information that may assist in the attainment of a legitimate end, such as saving lives or to protect them. More brutal techniques generally do not lead to the disclosure of truthful information. It seems to me that the less likely that a technique would effectively lead to the attainment of truthful information, the more one should question the validity or rightness of using that technique.

Jonathan Prejean

MM:
Abortion is clearly instrinsically evil, which means evil in its object, and neither intention nor circumstance can change this. But voting for a person who supports abortion is not the same as formally cooperating in this evil. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his infamous letter, this is remote material cooperation, and may be permitted. People do not make this distinction enough.

I think you've missed the point. These issues are of such gravity that even public support of laws that permit abortion, euthanasia, same-sex "marriage," etc., is intrinsically evil. Those people are committing an intrinsically evil act against the entire society merely by publicly endorsing such laws, and you, by voting to give them a platform to do so, are remotely but materially (though not formally) cooperating in THAT sin, which you may only do for proportionate reasons. You're treating the evil as if it were just the abortion itself, but even supporting legalized abortion is evil in and of itself, which is not the case even for other intrinsically evil activities (e.g., being in favor of a law permitting the intrinsically evil use of contraceptives is not itself intrinsically evil, as there might be legitimate prudential reasons for doing so). That's the distinction that you don't appear to be making. Yes, voting for the person is remote material cooperation is the sin, but it doesn't appear that you understand what the sin is. The sin isn't the commission of abortions, from which the cooperation is extremely remote, but the public advocacy of the pro-choice position, with which your cooperation is far closer. Given the choice between an extremely remote form of cooperation of almost any other sort of evil and a much closer form of cooperation with a grave evil worked on an entire society, there is no choice. It is "non-negotiable."

It is an evil against the entire society to have politicians publicly taking a pro-choice position. Even if they pass no law, even if they reduce the actual number of abortions, they commit an massive evil simply by endorsing the pro-choice position. There certainly might be proportionate reasons for voting for a pro-choice candidate (e.g., the opposing candidate is even worse, both candidates are pro-choice, the one pro-life candidate is practically unelectable). But if you have a choice between someone who is going to be committing an intrinsic evil simply by their public stance versus and someone else who is not, it's a no-brainer.

Seamus:
I think Catholic voters could be excused for concluding that voting for pro-life candidates isn't likely to make a lick of difference in the actual abortion laws, and that they might actually accomplish some good in the public policy realm if they were guided by some other criterion in voting.

But at the cost of materially cooperating with the advocacy of laws permitting abortion, no good in the "public policy" realm world be proportionate. It might not make a "lick of difference" in the actual abortion laws, but it does make a difference in the degree of public advocacy of abortion laws, and that in itself is grave matter that you have to take into account. It's not all about the end result, but the evil that is suffered in obtaining the end result. And if the evil being suffered is giving somebody a position of power to advocate infanticide when you have a real choice, then the cost is too high.

Esau

Amputations are a necessity, though. Without doing so, especially in the instance of gangrene, would endanger the subject individual.

Can it be said with Capital Punishment?

Actually, it *has* been said with capital punishment. One of the classic defenses of the morality of capital punishment is be analogy with amputation of a diseased body part.

So, criminals who, for example, commit your classic run-of-the-mill murder are considered a 'diseased body part', but should it be a terrorist who commits murder on a grand scale, the annihilation of countless innocents on a 9/11 degree (and perhaps are capable of even worse), they're somehow afforded such dignity even above such individuals and their lives are worth saving.

Someone had mentioned that capital punishment could, at least in very rare instances, be necessary for the protection or self-defense of society.

However, it seems this does not apply when it comes to terrorists though, in spite of the tremendous harm they will cause to not just one innocent individual, not even just a series of innocent individuals, but populations of innocent people!

John

What about Bishops that are allowing the desecration of the eucharist to politicians who are pro abortion-are they guilty as well of being evil and are these men as well evil for promoting the death of the unborn?

Seamus

Mr. Prejean:

So do you agree that Catholics may not materially cooperate with the advocacy of laws permitting, say, contraception, or divorce and remarriage (i.e., vote for candidates who advocate maintenance of the status quo)? After all, both are intrinsic evils.

Corollarily, are you obligated to vote against candidates who advocate such practices by their very lives (e.g., my Congressman, Tom Davis, who is divorced and remarried--to a nominal Catholic, no less)?

Seamus

So, criminals who, for example, commit your classic run-of-the-mill murder are considered a 'diseased body part', but should it be a terrorist who commits murder on a grand scale, the annihilation of countless innocents on a 9/11 degree (and perhaps are capable of even worse), they're somehow afforded such dignity even above such individuals and their lives are worth saving.

How is the analogy of capital punishment with amputation an argument against capital punishment for terrorists?

Paul H

Quote:
I think you've missed the point. These issues are of such gravity that even public support of laws that permit abortion, euthanasia, same-sex "marriage," etc., is intrinsically evil. Those people are committing an intrinsically evil act against the entire society merely by publicly endorsing such laws....

EXCELLENT point, Jonathan!

Jonathan Prejean

So do you agree that Catholics may not materially cooperate with the advocacy of laws permitting, say, contraception, or divorce and remarriage (i.e., vote for candidates who advocate maintenance of the status quo)?

No. In fact, I specifically said that there might be proportionate reasons for doing so. My point was that advocating for a law in favor of permitting contraception or fornication is not a grave sin in and of itself, while advocating for a law permitting abortion, euthanasia, or same-sex marriage is intrinsically evil, and there can never be any reasons to justify it. To use an example from St. Thomas, it might be acceptable for a society not to criminalize prostitution if the disturbance to social order in banning it would be greater than the proportional benefit. In other words, it is possible for a law permitting contraception or fornication to be ordered to the common good.

But abortion and euthanasia are like the murder of innocents, the society MUST ban it to be a legitimate government. There is no room for prudence; a society's first job is to protect the lives of those under its auspices. Ditto marriage; marriages cannot be disrupted by law (which typically requires legal recognition of the marriage by the civil state). The fact that the acts in question are intrinsically evil has nothing to do with it; it's the fact that the evil attacks something so fundamental to the common good that even laws protecting them are automatically and gravely opposed to the common good.

Corollarily, are you obligated to vote against candidates who advocate such practices by their very lives (e.g., my Congressman, Tom Davis, who is divorced and remarried--to a nominal Catholic, no less)?

Nope. His behavior may cause scandal, but it is not part of the exercise of his public office. It is his advocacy of laws that is pertinent. Of course, you can take the factors that you mention into account, but you are not obliged to vote against such a person. And certainly, the fact that a pro-life candidate was living in sin would not be a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

Again, I'm not sure that the CA voter's guide made this clear, because it isn't JUST the intrinsic evil that makes these issues "non-negotiable" (although one should certainly not take lightly someone's advocacy of unjust laws). It is that the intrinsic evil in question is of such gravity for the common good that even advocating them attacks the common good. And there are very few such issues.

Jonathan Prejean

With regard to marriage, I'd also add that simply being in favor of civil divorce could be ordered to the common good, although particular laws certainly might not. For example, civil divorce can serve a purpose such as legally protecting a wronged spouse or children from the bad behavior of an abuser, a gambler, an addict, or the like. What distinguises same-sex "marriage" is that it cannot even possibly have such a justification; it encourages intrinsically evil living arrangements relative to other sorts of relationships without any redeeming social purpose.

Esau

JIMMY AKIN IS A TERRIBLE PERSON!

I had a terribly interesting evening last night when I happened to learn just how awful a person Jimmy Akin really was.

I encountered the following comments concerning Jimmy Akin in Mark Shea’s blog:

At this juncture, it is customary to complain about my unfairness and mischaracterization of the position of people like Jeff and the Coalition for Fog. "We're *not* defending torture!" goes the protest. We are defending, er, aggressive interrogation. Totally different! Maybe, however, in this case what is being defended are acts which *would* be called torture if the circumstances were not desperate. For that is precisely what Jimmy argues for when he says, "I would not say that it [waterboarding] is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution)."

The logic of the argument is entirely understandable and even emotionally appealing. Some weirdo has kidnapped your kid and buried him alive in a box. He won't talk. Why not use torture to make him talk? You can hardly fault the parent who would beat the living daylights out of the guy. As a parent myself, I am not immune to the persuasiveness of such arguments.

Nonetheless, I agree with Zippy that Jimmy's argument is a bad one, both for Zippy's reasons and reasons of my own. If an act is intrinsically evil, then it does not become proportional and just when circumstances change.

Okay, from this, had I not read Jimmy’s entire post on his website, by the way he’s painted here, that Jimmy is actually for the torture of terrorists, but the other following comments happen to paint an even darker picture of him:

Another problem with Jimmy's argument is that it seems to me to be extremely subjective. How, precisely, is proportionalism to be determined? If it's proportional to torture at all, then how do you measure the proportion? Waterboarding if 100 lives are at stake? Pliers to the testicles for 200? Blowtorch to the eyes for 1000? If a city is endangered, then in what sense can we be "proportional"? How can the suffering of one man *ever* match the suffering of a million? And since those millions have families, why not threaten the family of the suspect? Indeed, why stop with waterboarding when you can gouge eyes, castrate and pull fingernails and not even come close to the suffering your (assumed) terrorist will inflict (assuming he knows something, which you are torturing him to discover). Of course, if it turns out your suspect knows nothing, then what? It turns out you have committed an intrinsically immoral act against an innocent man and you could well go to hell for it.

And yet, here in cyberspace, no small effort, ranging from the Coalition for Fog, to Against the Grain, to (now) Jimmy's blog has been put into figuring out some way to redefine it so that it's not torture, or shout down those who oppose it as "Pharisees" or otherwise figure out a way to overlook the bleedin' obvious in favor of the highly abstract and hypothetical. Virtually *no* effort has gone in to pursuing the question, "How do we treat prisoners humanely while still getting the intelligence we need?".

So, here, it seems that Jimmy Akin is nothing more than a heartless hypocrite who lives to Catholic morals when it suits him, but, under certain desperate circumstances, Jimmy’s the kind of horrible person who would actually abandon his morals, his very Catholic identity – no wait, he’s more sinister than that! – Jimmy would redefine Catholicism itself in order to weave arguments that would actually suit his vengeful purpose in such circumstances!

What’s interesting to note is that my post happen to come up as well:

Of course, Zippy couldn't care less that even if the hundreds of innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks could have been saved by the simple capture and rigid interrogation of terrorist(s) prior to the time of the attacks, the life of that terrorist is far more precious than those innocent people and shouldn't even undergo a smidgen of psychological interrogation tactics since even these are considered "torture".

See, it's so easy when folks can simply reflect such issues in an ivory tower, with an "holier-than-thou" attitude, looking down from an almighty throne on those who should even dare cross what they've declared to be the moral threshold, without even being in the actual trenches.

Yet, there are those of us who suffered greatly from the tragic events of 9/11 and have, in fact, lost people close to us.

To actually witness folks giving such "preferred" treatment to terrorists, of all things (even ordinary criminals aren't treated with such esteem and have to undergo a barrage of even the most rigid psychological tests), even at the cost of innocent lives, is just too repulsive.

Not to wish any harm on such folks, but it seems that the only way they could ever feel the pain of the tragic events of 9/11, is to suffer personal lost themselves. It's sometimes about walking in someone else's shoes until they come to terms with the other perspective.

In point of cool, rational fact much of this outburst has nothing to do with anything Zippy has ever said, or anything any opponent of torture has said. It has nothing to do with the reality of torture opponents. It has to do with pain and fear--pain and fear I readily acknowledge. But the fact remains, torture would not have stopped 9/11, except on "24". Zippy is not the heartless bastard this commenter declares and he certainly does not think a terrorist's life is *more* precious than an innocent man's. He simply does not think a terrorist's life is worthless. And he emphatically does not think Caesar will keep us safe by being granted the power to commit intrinsically immoral acts against those Caesar deems to be enemies. In this, at the end of the day, he has Veritatis Splendor to back him up

From what’s said here, I am made to appear as if I, myself, actually endorse torture – after all, I did know people who died on 9/11, and, therefore, I, myself, must be harboring some vengeful feelings toward such people! Yet, in fact, in much of the things I’ve said in other posts, I have made it clear that I do not endorse the actual torture of these terrorists, but that it *seemed* to me that there are those who would not even have these people go through even the same rigid interrogation tactics common criminals undergo since even this is considered "TORTURE" in their eyes – a point that would've been reached by readers actually interested in the truth had it not just been the *isolated* quote above.

Although, what had been said?

...*torture* would not have stopped 9/11, except on "24".

If there was any misunderstanding on my part, wouldn’t Christian charity have been for them to simply clarify my misunderstanding? Further, perhaps to even clarify Jimmy’s misunderstanding, if there was actually any on his part as well? Or perhaps even actually dialogue with Jimmy should there even be (God forbid!) a misunderstanding on *their* part, too!

Instead, what was done was folks (fellow Catholics-those who actually profess such high Catholic ideals!) actually engaged in vicious back-stabbing rather than confront their assumed opponents and deal with this misunderstanding.

I would've expected such devoted Catholics to have done what Christian charity would have called for in this case!

Was there perhaps some trace of intellectual pride and the "high and mighty ways" on their end that may have played a part?

It is said in the Prayer of St. Francis:

"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as *to understand*..."

But, I guess that's all thrown out the window should such a noble cause arise!

Interestingly enough, isn't that what's being implied here about Jimmy? That he would actually throw out his Catholic morals for the *noble cause* of saving the lives of innocents from terrorists?

Though, those who actually know the full story, this is not the case at all!

SUMMARY:
Love Thy Enemies except if they are fellow Catholics and appear to oppose you.
Treat terrorists with human dignity because they’re in the image of God, but I guess this doesn’t apply to fellow Catholics.

Condemning innocent men? Well, suspected terrorists may end up being innocent people certainly, but those suspected to be against you, no way! In fact, when duty calls for it, engage in character assassinations by all means!

So, thank you Mark Shea et al, for confirming what some may have suspected all along, that this “Love Thy Enemies” routine might end up being all an act to flaunt that “Holier-than-Thou” attitude that some feel the need to pull over their fellow Catholics in such an underhanded way!

Could there be an ulterior political motive in this as well?

FOLLOW-UP:
I would not have gone ahead and posted the preceding message, but, obviously, Jimmy being the stand-up person that he is, I don’t think he would have retaliated the least on his blog since he actually *lives out* his Catholic beliefs rather than merely *leave it to words*.

I wished that in some cases, I could be the same kind of person, but I am still a “work-in-progress” (so-to-speak), entirely fallible and but human and can only rely on God’s mercy and goodness. In the end, I can only pray he guides me to do the right thing in life and that I can ultimately live out the Catholic Faith in all aspects of life.

Seamus

But abortion and euthanasia are like the murder of innocents, the society MUST ban it to be a legitimate government. There is no room for prudence; a society's first job is to protect the lives of those under its auspices. Ditto marriage; marriages cannot be disrupted by law (which typically requires legal recognition of the marriage by the civil state). The fact that the acts in question are intrinsically evil has nothing to do with it; it's the fact that the evil attacks something so fundamental to the common good that even laws protecting them are automatically and gravely opposed to the common good.

I am hard pressed to find some principle under which cooperation with adulterous second "marriages" can be permitted but cooperation with sodomistical same-sex "marriages" cannot. Or one that finds abortion and same-sex marriage somehow contrary to the public good in some absolute sense that does not apply to contraception or to remarriage after divorce.

And the idea that "a society's first job is to protect the lives of those under its auspices" owes more to Lockean and Hobbesian political theory than it does to Catholic teaching about the role of the state.

Seamus

For example, civil divorce can serve a purpose such as legally protecting a wronged spouse or children from the bad behavior of an abuser, a gambler, an addict, or the like.

Those purposes could be served by legal separation (what used to be called divorce a mensa et thoro), which does not allow the spouses to take new spouses while the other spouse is still living.

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