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December 01, 2006

Comments

SDG

From Mark's post:

...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.

I count Mark as a friend -- indeed, I've known him a number of years longer than I've known Jimmy, from back before I was Catholic and Mark was a published author.

I am mortified that my friend Mark has written so intemperately and uncharitably in public of my friend Jimmy. Mark, you've lost perspective, and you are doing no one any favors. You owe Jimmy an apology.

momof6

I chose not to start reading any of these discussions, based on my own time constraints, but in reading this entry, I would like to again say that I appreciate, Jimmy, how charitably but clearly you deal with those who disagree with you.

Dave Armstrong

I just wanna say that I greatly appreciate and admire both your effort and disposition with regard to this issue, and to keep up the good work; a bit of encouragement for you.

Dave Armstrong

We both wrote basically the same thing ten seconds apart!

Esau

That's exactly what I was pointing to in my previous posts!

Thanks Jimmy for actually coming out with your defense and not allowing yourself to be walked all over like a doormat!

Mark's comments like:

"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).'"

"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"

has invoked negative images of Jimmy floating around in cyberspace saying that he is this monster that actually supports torture in desperate situations and would go to the extent of compromising his Catholic ideals due to these comments.

Esau

This is why I had to post the following this morning:

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!


JIMMY AKIN IS A TERRIBLE PERSON!
(Part II)

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!

JIMMY AKIN IS A TERRIBLE PERSON!
(Part III)

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!

JIMMY AKIN IS A TERRIBLE PERSON!
(Part IV)

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.

M.Z. Forrest

Since I haven't perfected thinking outside the natural rights paradigm - I was raised on it as most people - I may not be the best person to address the starving man 'steals' a loaf of bread. I will try none-the-less and ask for patience.

Property is ordered toward the common good. In so much as the ownership of property serves the common good, we have a provisional right to property. (Sorry, I can't break the natural rights paradigm.) If someone lacks the property in order to provide for himself and his family, there is injustice present. A person in such a state taking a loaf of bread is not stealing, but doing the minimum necessary to re-establish justice.

Our conscience is not a provisional good. To make the analogy work, I think one would have to claim that the conscience is a provisional good and we can therefore deprive one of their conscience if it serves the common good. I would say that a given desire of the conscience can be disordered, and therefore the action flowing from that disorder we can seek to thwart. I think our actions cannot do violence to the conscience itself though.

JohnD

I think Jimmy's "disproportiate" descriptor is meant to be applied in terms of the virtue of justice, not as a scorecard to distribute pain from the group to the individual as some sort of mechanical advantage of pain.

"Against You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight"

Brian John Schuettler

My compliments to you, Jimmy Akin. You are a true gentleman and have addressed this unfortunate attack with great poise.
It seems that Mark needs a long retreat to relax and recollect himself.

Esau

I also would note that it is true that we are to be maximally loving, including toward our enemies, but this does not mean not killing them, imprisoning them, or otherwise making their task difficult or their life hard. Doing these very things to them, while it is unfortunate, are themselves acts of love and acts of duty toward those who would otherwise be harmed or killed by our enemies.

If one focuses too narrowly on loving the terrorist, it is easy to lose perspective on the love that is also owed to the terrorist's prospective victims and result in a sentimentalistic "Kumbaya Christianity" that refuses to take effective action to deal with threats and looks down its nose at those who would.

BINGO!

FINALLY, the Victims of terrorists (both the lives of those close to us whom we lost in 9/11 and those who would become so--God Forbid!) are finally acknowledged with the dignity they also should deserve!

Tim J.

I would suggest that we combox visitors not get too deeply engaged in defending or accusing either Jimmy or Mark regarding their blog behavior (talking about the merits of an argument is a different thing).

They are big boys, and if one of them sees the need to offer some criticism of the other, or feels led to offer a defense against some criticism, they will do that.

Neither of them needs our help in that regard, and circling the wagons on either end is really not necessary or helpful.

I do appreciate the forum they both provide.

chris-2-4

Thanks again, Jimmy.

I'm surprised you didn't mention taking exception to Mark's aspersion that you are basically a novice to the discussion and probably hadn't really given it much thought. I found that to be particularly insulting to your reputation.

Tim J.

Oh, and Jimmy, can I have your permission to use the word "Kumbayistic"?

Personally, I have always been uncomfortable around Kumbayistic behavior.

Esau

Neither of them needs our help in that regard, and circling the wagons on either end is really not necessary or helpful.

Tim:
As I had mentioned, I apologize to Jimmy for actually coming out and defending him this morning, but when you see an injustice like this, you can't help but take the reins and help out the innocent, as you would in the case of an innocent terrorist suspect.

There had to be some damage control after actually seeing some of the slanderous comments floating around the web about Jimmy.

You always want to cut off a viscious rumor early before it gets out of hand.

Jimmy Akin

Oh, and Jimmy, can I have your permission to use the word "Kumbayistic"?

Personally, I have always been uncomfortable around Kumbayistic behavior.

Glad you find the term helpful, and by all means use it!

It's a perfectly cromulent word.

--Jimmy

A noble heart embiggens the smallest man.
--Jebediah Springfield

Esau

Strike that -

You always want to cut off a viscious rumor early before it gets out of hand --- that is, at this point, before it gets out of hand even more seriously than it already is now.

Blogs are not the only places where these comments are popping up, mind you.

Tim J.

Esau -

I wasn't thinking of you in particular when suggested laying off taking "sides".

I can just see this turning into Friends Of Jimmy and Friends Of Mark getting all worked up into a combox flamewar that would only reflect shamefully on everyone and perhaps drive people away from these perfectly respectable blogs who might otherwise really benefit from visiting them.

Esau

Esau -

I wasn't thinking of you in particular when suggested laying off taking "sides".

I can just see this turning into Friends Of Jimmy and Friends Of Mark getting all worked up into a combox flamewar that would only reflect shamefully on everyone and perhaps drive people away from these perfectly respectable blogs who might otherwise really benefit from visiting them.

Actually, my thought as well.

After all, "A house divided against itself shall not stand." (Mt 12:25)

I was hoping that after the antagonistic remarks I deliberately applied in that post of mine, the obvious un-Christian aspects of it would come to actually hit those folks who were actually engaged in this type of slanderous torture debate 'warfare' (for lack of a better term).

I may admit that my morning post might have otherwise been a poor attempt at hyperbolic language, to say the least, to make the point that what these folks were doing (i.e., those actually slinging the slanderous comments), that what they were doing was equally detestable as the nature of my comments in that morning post of mine.

It was not at all an attempt to get Mark and Jimmy to have at it (JIMMY AKIN, I apologize if you may have gotten that impression, my bad), but to actually bring those on the sidelines engaged in this type of vicious behavior to actually realize the un-Catholic nature of it all.

Though, since it had been brought up, I wonder who would actually win in a wrestling match between Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea? ;^)

Jonathan Prejean

The lack of an objective definition for pain is a crucial source of concern. Yet we don't have an objective measure for "reasonableness" when it comes to theft, either. People who want to justify torture will be able to play the definition in their favor the same way that people in favor of theft (principally, those who wish to commit it) will wish to play its definition in their favor. The lack of an objective measure of proportionality or reasonability is an inescapably problematic part of these definitions, but this does not alleviate us from the responsibility of try to apply them if they are the logical (or Church-mandated) definitions to apply.

This seems wrong. In law, we consider what a "reasonable man" would do to be an objective standard. Similarly, "custom" is an objective standard used in the canon law. Including terms like this doesn't mean that they are "subjective" or that people will reasonably (as opposed to wrongfully) be able to "play" them. There might be some possibility for individual mistake, but it's a perfectly good objective measure, not a "problematic" part of the definition. People ought to be expected to be able to do some degree of thinking without surrendering the field to subjectivity.

I'm not saying that what Mr. Shea said was entirely correct, but his intuition that, at the end of the day, there can't be any balancing of results for an intrinsically evil activity is a sound one. Subjectivity isn't the problem; balancing the good result against the evil inflicted is. What Shea specifically wants to exclude is the moral actor prudentially balancing the good of his action against the evil, which is exactly what you should expect to be able to do if an act is intrinsically evil.

Esau

This seems wrong. In law, we consider what a "reasonable man" would do to be an objective standard.

Jonathan,
I'm not making a case here for anything (that is, I'm not speaking to whether or not torture or even things considered as torture is okay in certain circumstances, mind you), but that in Law, wouldn't there also be consideration as far as extenuating circumstances go?

Jonathan Prejean

[W]ouldn't there also be consideration as far as extenuating circumstances go?

There can be, but they are usually specified. You don't really see an open-ended, subjective consideration of circumstances to determine whether "justice" is done; the whole purpose of the law is to set objective standards for that purpose.

Paul H

I am a great admirer of many of Mark Shea's writings, but I'm disappointed in his recent post that Jimmy referenced here. It seems that Mark is jumping to the conclusion that because Jimmy doesn't completely agree with him, that therefore Jimmy must fit into some pre-defined one-size-fits-all pro-torture mindset. Hopefully I'm wrong about this, but that's the impression that I got from Mark's post.

Esau

Thanks, Jonathan!

Hoping you're having fun with all the claim language you deal with on perhaps a daily basis and that the Examiners aren't giving you a hard time!

You must love the fact that the U.S. finally accepted the 1st-to-file principle! ;^)

Squiboda

As one of those people who is guilty of pitting Mark against you, I apologize and I have already stopped.

I'm not cheering for either of you to win, I'm just cheering for Mark to stop the name calling and bullying he has been engaging in for lo these many months when this subject comes up.

I believe if the two of you manage to put your heads together on this, something interesting and constructive will happen.

Here's hoping that happens!

rsps

You guys just need some Miller time. Though a good Austrian Festbock would be much more enjoyable. It is a good Catholic tradition...ahhhhh the drink.

David

Jimmy, a suggestion:

Mark Shea has, for several years now, argued against the sort of thing that the Bush Administration has seemingly countanced, waterboarding in particular. One of his premises has been that "torture is intrinsically evil" as taught in GS, EV, and VS, and that waterboarding is torture.

You disagree with his reading of the documents, and argue that in at least one case, the ticking time bomb case, waterboarding is both not torture and perfectly licit, other things being equal.

I think it would help him, and those of us not yet persuaded by what you're arguing for, if you'd be more specific about the sort of cases that waterboarding or other pain-inflicting behavior would be licit.

Are such things licit in situations that don't involve the possible deaths of millions? Can I waterboard someone if one death might be averted?

Has the Bush Administration violated your own strictures about when waterboarding or other methods are licit?

Answers to those questions, in some specificity, would help, IMO.

David

er, "countanced" should be "countenanced".

Brent Brown

...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.


I think that Mr. Shea needs to go back to the beginning. Jimmy was specifically asked to take a shot at defining torture. And that is exactly what he has done.

Jimmy did not attempt to write a commentary on American policy, nor did he attempt to address the morality of current events. Those are separate (though related) issues. This is about defining what torture is. If that is not a subject of interest for Mr. Shea, then he should just say so and move on. But it is unbecoming of him to call into question the motivations of others, merely because they are interested in that definition.

I'll assume that Mr. Shea was in a rush when he wrote this, and didn't think it through. I'm sure an apology will be forthcoming.

rsps

I don't see anything unbecoming in the heated debate that insued from Jimmy's torture posts. I have read over the banter and the objections and even Jimmy's pointing out that "Mark Shea Needs More Time".
I seems to be a fear of dissent in this blog. Having been raised in a ferociously Dominican manner I was taught that debate was good, clarifying, even humbling. Afterward you should go have a glass of wine and eat some good food, and be friends again.
The critique of Jimmy's Blog by Mr. Shea, I believe, justly calls into question motivation. For it is a timely discussion with bearing on the moral life of our world at this very moment. Jimmy is not preaching ex cathedre, holds no infallible grip on moral teaching and its particular bearing on a circumstance by circumstance basis.
So, it seems far more of an injustice that Jimmy would post a blog airing his 'gripes' with Mr. Shea instead of keeping his discussion to the combox. It was simply a way of asserting his power in this blog.
Now, I command it, go out for a festbock....have a wonderful heated debate...but remember you are brothers.

Mark Johnson

Mark Shea was once criticized in New Oxford Review for the same thing (this would have been within the last couple of years): condemning something he obviously had not read, or had only skimmed. I'm going by memory, but I believe it had to do with NOR's criticisms of Scott Hahn. This apparent tendency, combined with Shea's seemingly rather tempestuous disposition, is not a good combination.

Esau

So, it seems far more of an injustice that Jimmy would post a blog airing his 'gripes' with Mr. Shea

It wasn't gripes about Mark Shea. It was the arguments themselves. Read the above.

I don't think it would be right that you are saying it is acceptable that Mark post his critique about Jimmy's blog posts while Jimmy should not be able to do the same with Mark's blog posts.

It was simply a way of asserting his power in this blog.

What did you call Mark doing then when he posted his critique about Jimmy's posts?

Although, I, myself, wouldnt' actually be calling it an "assertion of power". This is equally as unfair as the aforementioned.

Paul H

I think that Mr. Shea needs to go back to the beginning. Jimmy was specifically asked to take a shot at defining torture. And that is exactly what he has done.

Jimmy did not attempt to write a commentary on American policy, nor did he attempt to address the morality of current events. Those are separate (though related) issues. This is about defining what torture is. If that is not a subject of interest for Mr. Shea, then he should just say so and move on. But it is unbecoming of him to call into question the motivations of others, merely because they are interested in that definition.

Amen!


So, it seems far more of an injustice that Jimmy would post a blog airing his 'gripes' with Mr. Shea instead of keeping his discussion to the combox.

Would you similarly denounce Mark's blog post airing his 'gripes' with Jimmy? Should Mark also have confined his thoughts on Jimmy's torture posts to the combox?

Trubador

Jimmy,

I think you got caught up in the storm that had been spinning in the blogosphere between Mark Shea and Christopher (over at Against The Grain) for quite some time.

There are some posts by Mark that I enjoyed reading, but all too often he'd post something with an air of flippant dismissiveness or superiority. This whole torture debate has repeatedly (IMHO) displayed the worst of this personality quirk of his.

I've since relegated his blog to 3rd tier status, checking in only occasionally rather than daily.

rsps

Esau I read Mr. Shea's blog and it was far less...incindiary.

Paul H

Esau I read Mr. Shea's blog and it was far less...incindiary.

Incendiary? I am left wondering if we read the same post. I thought that Jimmy's post was a great example of how to disagree with someone politely and respectfully. I guess this illustrates one of the limitations of the written word -- different people come away with very different impressions of the intended "tone of voice".

Esau

CORRIGENDUM:

RSPS:

So, it seems far more of an injustice that Jimmy would post a blog airing his 'gripes' with Mr. Shea

It wasn't gripes about Mark Shea. It was the arguments themselves. Read the above.

In particular, Jimmy had remarked:

In this post I will not point out all the elements in Mark's post that I think are mistaken or misdirected

Now, I don't think it is right for you to say that it was actually acceptable that Mark posted his critique about Jimmy's blog posts while Jimmy should not be able to do the same with those of Mark's.

Also, carefully observe the cordial tone of Jimmy's posts above with that of Mark's.

In fact, Jimmy does as much as possible to preserve Mark's dignity in this post while I cannot say the same with the subject post from Mark's blog regarding Jimmy's, which had been all but used to fuel much hostility toward Jimmy Akin with all these negative images of Jimmy already floating around the Net due to that post of Mark's alone.

Mark had claimed that this was not actually his intention, which I can respect; but the fact of the matter is that the way he presented Jimmy's arguments in his blog went as far as to engender these hostile sentiments toward Jimmy due to how he wrote it.


It was simply a way of asserting his power in this blog.

What did you call Mark doing then when he posted his critique about Jimmy's posts?

Although, I, myself, wouldn't actually be calling it an "assertion of power".

This mis-characterization of Jimmy is equally as unfair and, not to mention, vilifying as the aforementioned remark made by you implying that Jimmy was personally attacking Mark Shea.

Esau

Esau I read Mr. Shea's blog and it was far less...incindiary.

Then, I guess the following comments from JIMMY AKIN are the most *incendiary* comments I have ever heard in my life:

In this post, he [Mark Shea] complains that he is suffering from a severe lack of time, and with that I entirely sympathize.

...

I also dislike people attempting to set one orthodox Catholic apologist against another, and I ask anyone who has been doing this to stop.

...

I also appreciate the polite and measured tone that Mark has taken in much of what he says concerning my remarks on torture. I do not mind him disagreeing with me. As is well known, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me as long as they are polite. That's Rule 1 on my blog, and I apply it to people commenting on my remarks on other blogs as well.

Esau

COMPARE THE ABOVE TO Mark Shea's:

"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).'"

"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"

rsps

"If an act is intrinsically evil, then it does not become proportional and just when circumstances change."
It is the pith of the argument.

Esau

RSPS:

All that Mark needed to do to fuel even more resentment towards Jimmy was to post some gruesome pictures that corresponded to the horrible images he presented in his comments below which would then seem to demonize Jimmy even more:


"...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."


Now, as mentioned, Mark has said that clearly this was not his intention.

My intention in presenting all this is to demonstrate to you that there was a difference in tone; where contrary to what you said:

Esau I read Mr. Shea's blog and it was far less...incindiary.

Jimmy's was really the more cordial while Mark's actual post was the one incendiary.

Randy Carson

I think both of you have more important things to do than argue with each other.

For example, why not spend a few minutes of your precious limited time answering questions from belligerent Protestants in the Catholic Answers forums instead?

Sheesh.

rsps

"Guys like Jeff approach Jimmy's argument with an astonishing attitude of "Iacobus locuta est. Causa finita est." People who agree with me have sometimes done the same thing with me on this and other issues. That's bad, because we are not the Magisterium and people shouldn't treat us as though we are."

Esau, This one is good as well. It is tone that matters. I have read through Mr. Shea's blog and agree with his objections to Jimmy's 'torture' exploration and its seeming conflictions of definition (intrinsic evil/proportionality.) I find nothing wrong with either of them being confrontational on the issue...but the comments in the combox of this blog seem to be more of a 'partisan' tail wagging agreement.....rather than a thoughtful exploration of what the Character and Sentiment of the Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church would mandate of us.

Esau

Esau I read Mr. Shea's blog and it was far less...incindiary.

Even further:

"By their fruits you shall know them." (Mt 7:16)

If Jimmy's post above is, as you say, the one more incendiary, then, I shall expect to see an even worse deluge of slanderous comments against Mark Shea than the ones I had been privy to already since yesterday evening.


Yet, what have I witnessed so far?

Please observe the below comment from one Comboxer here:

As one of those people who is guilty of pitting Mark against you, I apologize and I have already stopped.

I'm not cheering for either of you to win, I'm just cheering for Mark to stop the name calling and bullying he has been engaging in for lo these many months when this subject comes up.

I believe if the two of you manage to put your heads together on this, something interesting and constructive will happen.

Here's hoping that happens!

Posted by: Squiboda | Dec 1, 2006 3:50:18 PM

Zippy

There seems to be an assumption that it is always at worst morally neutral -- which is to say, that it is never imprudent no matter what the circumstances - to have a highly public abstract discussion about a moral topic. It isn't clear that that is true. There may indeed be such a thing as an "intrinsically good" act: an act which is never evil, no matter what circumstances obtain. Adoration of the Holy Trinity comes immediately to mind. But I doubt that "having a highly public discussion on a topic in moral theology" is one of those intrinsically good acts: acts which are good no matter what circumstances obtain.

Esau

RSPS:

Quite frankly, I don't even know Jimmy Akin, personally, and, really, not everything he says I agree with.

There have been certain things he's said in the past that I very much disagree with that I have brought to his attention through e-mail.

But, overall, he's a stand-up guy who lives his Catholic Faith the best way he possibly can and is certainly one of our best Catholic Apologists.

Until such time I have evidence to the contrary, he has my respect.

Jonathan Prejean

the comments in the combox of this blog seem to be more of a 'partisan' tail wagging agreement.....

Where did this nonsense originate? This rather-implausible belief seems to be the source of much useless rancor on the subject.

Esau

For example, why not spend a few minutes of your precious limited time answering questions from belligerent Protestants in the Catholic Answers forums instead?

Randy:
I think that might be because in my own personal life, some of these guys may actually be my friends who are Protestants AND Anti-Catholic, and I already get a headache from trying to argue with them face-to-face.

Plus, the tactics currently being utilized by some is even in the face of convincing evidence FOR the Catholic Church, their attempts are not to actually engage in meaningful dialogue but to actually subvert all influential Catholic websites out there.

rsps

It isn't implausible, Jonathan, or as zippy points out the very fact of a disagreement over moral theology wouldn't have become a 'personal' issue. I see that both Mr. Shea and Jimmy have a beef over the 'tone' of the the disagreement.
I am interpreting their blogs to be Mr. Shea having a fundamental over jimmy's reasoning on the assertion that an act of 'intrinsic evil' can be linked even in theory to 'proportionality'
whereas it seems that jimmy feels he has been slighted, misread, and misjudged. I believe that Mr. Shea is alarmed by the moral conclusions that could be drawn by Jimmy's line of reasoning. Though, I do not know Mr. Shea nor his mind......I agree with him. The conclusion is alarming. In the spirit of true debate Jimmy must accept that some would find the end point of his conclusions alarming, maybe even find him completely wrong.
Can't we all just have a Festbock (the best Austrian beer ever)?
My we need more people who think like Dominicans and live like Franciscans in the world.... a bit of debate, some red faces, get out the wine and cheese.

Donald R.McClarey

Mr. Akin, thank you for your reasoned arguments in an area which too often has degenerated into mere name calling. You have done your very best to raise the tone of this debate and I believe you have succeeded. Bravo!

Jeff

Why can't Mark Shea and others simply let go of the motive analysis? I cannot understand this. They "feel" that the motivation of everyone who argues against their position is "minimalistic", etc., etc.

So what?

So what even if it is?

The questions that Jimmy and others have raised are not going to go away. They must be dealt with.

And to be dealt with fairly, they must be entertained.

The overwhelming mistake that Shea and company make is in not being willing to entertain the position of their opponents. Every trick in the book is used to avoid doing so.

Yet the questions multiply. And it is precisely among the most pro-papal and orthodox Catholics that they DO multiply.

What Shea and Zippy and others need to figure out is that they must stop insisting that their opinions are equivalent to WHAT. THE. CHURCH. TEACHES.

That they are most certainly not. These folks were honestly trying to read Catholic documents in a faithful way and be good Catholics. But they made some interpretive mistakes along the way. And they ended up condemning people who are just Catholics trying to figure out what they Church teaches.

All that's necessary is for them to have a discussion, proposing this and examining that, without screeching about WHAT. THE. CHURCH. TEACHES and accusing people of bad faith and lack of integrity and all that nonsense.

But I'm afraid that the fons et origo of the whole position is precisely that it is simply the teaching of the Church. Once you take away that motive principle, the position deflates and becomes far less compelling.

Brian Harrison (who despite the critics is most famous for HARMONIZING church teaching on religious liberty and making it possible for traditionalist to be faithful to Vatican Two); Cardinal Dulles; Christopher Blosser; Dave Armstrong; Jimmy Akin...

what all crazy loons who can't tell what is obvious
Catholic teaching? That lineup would make me doubt almost ANYTHING I thought about Catholic teaching.

It's a goof, that's all; a goof about papal documents and how to read them and about the nature of moral principles. And it'll keep getting them in hot water until they figure out they have to let it go.

Cajun Nick

rsps,

I must interject that there are many - many - Belgian beers that are at least as good as (if not better than) any brew that the Austrians can come up with, most of them Trappist.

I therefore welcome all to enjoy a nice Orval (or Chimay or Corsendonk or Maredsous or ... well, the list could go on).

rsps

"There may be any number of people who would like to encourage Jimmy to err on the side of caution in his definition of torture, but I think Jimmy is more concerned with trying not to err at all" AS posted by Tim J. on Shea's blog

Indeed of one to wish to not 'err' at all we would take the most literal meaning of not 'objectifying' man as a means to information and allow that to be the persuasion for acts of violence or degradation. Once one puts a sliding scale on 'torture' there is a slippery slope. Now, if one discusses deprivation (of sleep of food of quiet of physical activity) it takes on a different light. Though it still could be (and I think it is) morally objectionable if taken to an extreme.
The U.S. armed forces has done extensive studies that show that 'deprivation' for a certain period of time (not usually of food but of sleep and quiet) has more of a profound impact on getting people to co-operate. I think the problem with Jimmy's post is that he doesn't define 'torture' in a functional way, because of all the qualifiers.
Now I must add that I lived in a country which was coming out of a bloody revolution and had close contact with those that participated in torture...or recieved it. I am familiar with the subject in a way that is personal. It did appear to me that Jimmy was going beyond trying to define torture and explore it's moral value or deprivation of such and find a way to allow for what was 'permissible.'
1)torture is easily definable
2) deprivation is not always torture
3) Interrogation is not torture under the
strict definition of the word
If we haven't our words and their definitions we haven't anything at all.
One should be less concerned with exploring the broad possibilities of what causes 'anguish of body and mind' than to say that as Catholics we have a mandate to never cross into that territory. Thus, If an individual is involved in an act that causes; anguish of body or mind : AGONY b : something that causes agony or pain, they have a moral obligation to cease such actions, bring them to light if they are systemic, and confess themselves.

rsps

Ahhhh Chimay, 'nough said.

Zippy

Jeff: speaking for myself, it isn't about motives in the slightest. It - that is, the thing I assume is bothering you - is about the fact that abstract discussions can't be separated, as a prudential matter, from the concrete situation on the ground. That one of CA's most prominent apologists has posted on his blog that:

I would not say that [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).

... in our present context is in fact not something with absolutely no moral effect out in the world. Some might argue that its moral effects are good. Some might argue that they are evil. I have little doubt that they are a combination of both, and as a prudential matter I would weigh in firmly against it. Many seem to assume that those comments are morally neutral in effect, despite the manifest implausibility of that position.

Cajun Nick

rsps,

In all fairness, I must admit that due to a lack of time (and availability), I have not yet been able to taste the aforementioned Festbock.

I plan to remedy that as soon as I can find a local retailer.

Until then, I'll just sip a Grimbergen. (It's been waiting for me to get to it. I'll save something better for Christmas.)

SteveG

I just posted this in the intrinsic evil thread, but I think it really belongs up here and want to get some thoughts on it.

Above, Jimmy says…

Again, it appears that Mark may not have had sufficient time to have read or digest recent discussion on my blog. As I'm sure will be obvious to those who have been able to keep up with the discussion, the above could easily be re-written as follows:

If taking someone's property against his will is theft when circumstances are not desperate, then it remains theft when circumstances *are* desperate. That is the plain meaning of Pope John Paul and I see no way around it. That's not ivory tower thinking. That's the plain meaning of the teaching of Holy Church.

The reason that we know the above argument doesn't work is that we do have a definition of theft from the Church that shows that some taking of property against the will of the owner is not theft and that this can occur in desperate circumstances.

And I think this is where he goes wrong. It really isn’t the desperate circumstances that change things, but the unreasonableness of the owner of the goods in question. I think that in order to tease that fact out, we have to show that taking of property against the will of the owner is licit in other than desperate circumstances.

And I think I can come up with at least one such case. I am thinking here of taxes. Does the church call the taking of property via taxes from a person theft? No, because the owner’s contention that he shouldn’t have to give some portion of his goods for the common good is unreasonable (at least to some extent).

So it seems that even in the taking of goods, if we really analyze it, the morality of it really is not tied to desperate circumstance, but purely to the reasonableness/unreasonableness of the will of the owner.

Could you guys check my 'math' please? ;-)

Jeff

No, Zippy, that won't do.

I suppose it might do as a mitigation effect: "Your honor, I was just so upset about torture that I couldn't control myself!"

But you just accused Jimmy Akin a few posts ago of selling out. You accuse people of wanting a cafeteria of the right rather than of the left.

Those are assumptions about motives. You have no business making them. You have no business stating them.

A pacifist might with good reason be horrified and appalled by the thought of some poor innocent teenaged soldier's brains being splattered on the ground in war, leaving his wife a widow and his kids orphans. The horror and pain are the same.

But you know and I know that despite the hideousness, we get to argue--we have to argue--about when that is permissible and when it isn't. Or--if we are not Catholic--about whether it is permissible at all.

If you can't separate moral theology from "the situation on the ground" then you ought to keep out of moral theology.

What bothers me is self-righteous amateurishness and zealous arrogance. You clearly don't know any better than any of the people listed above how to read the papal documents connected with torture. The grown-up reaction is to question yourself. I hope you'll manage it some day.

Zippy

SteveG: I think you are right, and I think that the error is positivist: it comes from mistaking a particular formal construct - "taking property against the reasonable will of the owner" - for the reality, of expecting more from a definition than any definition can deliver. "That is the definition and I can't change it" is always a hint that an argument may be too invested in a formalism and not invested enough in the reality. The purpose - indeed the only possible purpose - of the formal statement is to point to the reality sufficiently for us to conceptualise it. The map isn't the territory.

Zippy

But you just accused Jimmy Akin a few posts ago of selling out.

No. I told him, quite factually, that at least in some circles patience with softness on torture was wearing thing. And it is. The discussions at CAEI clearly show that to be a fact. It is a fact that what Jimmy posts on his blog has a moral effect out in the world. It is a fact that some people are fed up with anything that even begins to smell like excuse-making for torture given the facts on the ground: that the CIA has waterboarded prisoners, has accidentally killed at least one prisoner while subjecting him to strappado, and has rendered others to be tortured by our allies. Try as we might to avoid the factual context of our actions, our actions do have a factual context.

That doesn't mean there is any evil imputed to anyone in particular's will, and I think Mark Shea has been quite explicit that he doesn't impute any ill intentions to Jimmy whatsoever. And it is possible that my own prudential judgement is wrong, and that it was better (in its material effects) for Jimmy to post that than to not post it. But nevertheless my own personal judgement is that it was not.

What bothers me is self-righteous amateurishness and zealous arrogance. You clearly don't know any better than any of the people listed above how to read the papal documents connected with torture. The grown-up reaction is to question yourself. I hope you'll manage it some day.

I appreciate the advice.

Mary

I'm afraid that I used to read Catholic and Enjoying it, but when the torture discussion kept coming back -- I gave it up. I wasn't enjoying it.

Jeff

Sorry, Zippy, but that won't do either. You openly and explicitly questioned Jimmy Akin's integrity and you have repeatedly proposed that those who don't accept your idiosyncratic ideas about torture are motivated by a desire to have a "Cafeteria Catholicism of the Right" without, of course, knowing a thing about their political views.

Do you have problems remembering what you wrote? Or is everything except torture infinitely flexible to you?

What is happening is not the people are getting fed up with Jimmy Akin's discussion (which just began). What is happening is that people were fed up for years with the nasty treatment they were getting from Shea and Pals and are rejoicing that orthodox apologists and theologians are taking a look at the matter and raising the same darned questions that were derided and dismissed and danced around by your set and taking them seriously.

The cabal, the clique, the monopoly is broken. Now you and Shea have to contend that people like Dulles and Akin are either fools or reprobates. Have fun trying!

Fr. Ben

And I'm afraid I used to read Catholic and Enjoying it AND Jimmyakin.org (there were in fact the two blogs I read on a daily basis), but I'm not enjoying any of these right now as it seems that many comments in the torture threads + comboxes of both blogs are anything but kind, patient and humble. If this is what it means to be Catholic thinkers and seekers of truth, then we all should be ashamed. I guess we're not really different from the Muslims or pagans. Hopefully the season of Advent will be a time for everyone involved in these discussions to take a break... and a deep breath.

Sorry if I come across as having a 'holier than thou' attitude but I speak to ye all not as a friend-- you don't really know me-- but as a priest of the Lord (and as Saint Paul once said, I too believe I have the Holy Spirit). We're only playing Satan's game arguing, pitting one against the other.

For what it's worth, I'll continue reading both blogs since I believe both writers are really talented and insightful (and good Catholics faithful to the Church). Yé!

2 Timothy 2:23-25. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce (nothing but) quarrels... (and- alas!- sometimes even clever arguments can produce quarrels).

GB

Doug

Jimmy,

While an admittedly minor point, where did you get your definition of theft? As an attorney, I've never seen "unreasonable" be an element to the crime of theft.

Jonathan Prejean

Thank you for the wise words, Father.

Zippy

You openly and explicitly questioned Jimmy Akin's integrity ...

If that was what I was taken to mean, it wasn't what I intended. I think the present situation challenges all of our integrity, and I do think there is an especially difficult challenge in this for prominent lay apologists for the reasons I stated in that comment: that no matter where they come out on all this, a significant number of folks who would ordinarily not be polarized by the usual topics - abortion etc - will be polarized by this one. And it will be difficult - for anyone - to set that aside and focus on what is true. I never said Jimmy isn't up to it, just that it is a real test of integrity. And it is.

It strikes me as quite plausible that Jimmy entered this discussion against his better judgment about his own self-interest, because he thought he could do some good by it. Seems like that kind of guy. But it remains true that what we say isn't morally neutral, and I personally disagree with him saying that waterboarding isn't torture in the ticking bomb case; both as fact and as pertains to the moral effects of saying it.

Zippy

Now you and Shea have to contend that people like Dulles and Akin are either fools or reprobates.

And why would anyone "have to" do that? Jimmy may take offense at my suggestion that even saying some of these things publicly in our present context itself has moral implications, and I think evil ones. Other people have. Maybe he will disagree without taking offense. Maybe he will even agree with the general principle, if not my particular judgement here. But so far I haven't seen any evidence that he is liable to freaking out over the suggestion as some others have.

Lurker #59

I appreciate the tone and willingness to work with a difficult theological and moral problem on the part of Jimmy Akin. It is important to remember that Jimmy's work is a "work in progress" and one that has been specifically asked to be critiqued and amended.

It is primarily on that that one should find the comments of Mark Shea and other unhelpful to the discussion (particularly if they have not had the time to read the discussion in its full). It is of course Mark's fundamental point that the discussion should not be had at all and that one should lock step with his position.

This is a travesty, for instead of letting the discussion of Jimmy's play itself out (if he doesn't want to get involved in discussing the topic) or helping to critique, Mark simply blasts away at Jimmy for even having the discussion.

Perhaps when all was said and done, Jimmy would have been near to Mark in the position that was arrived at. Perhaps Jimmy still will be.

However, I do have to say that I am very thankful for Jimmy actually taking the time to engage in the discussion, where ever it leads. There is different styles of logic on the parts of Jimmy and Mark, but I think that Jimmy's is pastorally the better position for it takes into account the all parties involved in the situation and tries to find the balance where justice and the rights of of each party is upheld properly.

I look forward to reading Jimmy's future posts on this topic and seeing how this all is fleshed out.

I would also like to invite all those who are posting and otherwise engaged in the debate to remember that there are people who are only reading and not posting. I am only #59. Be mindful to engage the specific topic at hand.

Paul H

rsps wrote:
In the spirit of true debate Jimmy must accept that some would find the end point of his conclusions alarming, maybe even find him completely wrong.

Jimmy previously wrote:
I do not mind him [Mark Shea] disagreeing with me. As is well known, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me as long as they are polite.

Jimmy also previously wrote:
I have phrased matters tentatively, advanced proposals rather than conclusions, invited critiques and alternative proposals, and pointed out options that individuals may wish to pursue in forming their own views on the subject.

'Nuff said.

Paul H

So it seems that even in the taking of goods, if we really analyze it, the morality of it really is not tied to desperate circumstance, but purely to the reasonableness/unreasonableness of the will of the owner.

I don't think that that quite works. Suppose that I own a grocery store, and that my will is that no one break into my store and take food without paying for it. This is reasonable.

However, now suppose that a hurricane is headed for my town. I evacuate, but others choose not to or are not able to. The hurricane does much damage, and for one reason or another, some folks who live close to my grocery store go several days without any outside assistance, and have started to run out of food. But my will still is that no one break into my store and take food without paying for it.

You would probably agree that my will has now become unreasonable. However, my will didn't change. So then, what did change? The circumstances! It was the desparate circumstances which caused my unchanging will to go from reasonable to unreasonable, and which thus caused the act of taking food from my store to change from theft to something other than theft.

Paul H

(In my grocery store example in the previous comment, please assume that the store is no longer open for business after the hurricane, and that the people in question have no other way of obtaining food.)

Tim J.

As I have said before, definitions should not be constrained by the potential that they might be abused. They should be dead-on accurate.

While erring on the side of caution SOUNDS good, it won't do in a definition, because any error can be exploited for evil purposes.

Let scholarship and reason take us wherever they lead. Aim for as precise a definition as possible... THEN, in the application of that moral truth, we may err on the side of caution IN OUR BEHAVIOUR.

In our BEHAVIOUR, we may certainly want to err on the side of caution... in our definition we must strive not to err at all.

Tim J.

Also, Zippy, in the case of theft, assuming that the original owner of the property was being unreasonable or unjust does not work.

I might own more than I need, but that is not unreasonable or unjust in itself.

I may own more than some poor person who has no food (in fact, this is undoubtedly the case), but this is not unreasonable, either.

What would be unreasonable would be if I had plenty, KNEW about the person who desperately needed food AND refused to share it.

It is very possible that a property owner may have goods taken from him by a desperate stranger AND NEVER EVEN BE AWARE OF IT.

The reasonable/unreasonable test DOES NOT assume that there is some imbalance of justice that needs correcting, only that there may be an imbalance of goods (for whatever reason) that excuses what would ordinarily be theft.

There may be many morally NEUTRAL reasons for an imbalance of goods in a particular situation.

Jimmy's analogy therefore holds.

Paul H

Tim J. wrote:
Let scholarship and reason take us wherever they lead. Aim for as precise a definition as possible... THEN, in the application of that moral truth, we may err on the side of caution IN OUR BEHAVIOUR.

In our BEHAVIOUR, we may certainly want to err on the side of caution... in our definition we must strive not to err at all.

Makes sense to me. A lot of sense.

A. Williams

St. Bernard of Clairveux wrote a very interesting book titled "In Praise of the New Knighthood", in which he tries to justify, and even 'praise' the new types of monk's who would defend 'Christianity with the sword' during the Crusades against Islam in the 12th century. What is interesting is the contrast he proposes..that is..the contrast with 'desert father' type monasticism and the life of the soldier. How can such a holy man bring the two lives together and even claim that the monk who fights..is even superior to the one who might stay in his cloister..(thus, the title of the book.) Anyway, this type of reading will show that what is usually at the core of all these difficult moral decisions, especially regarding the morality of killing another, or possibly even torturing another, is the motive, disposition and understanding of the person doing the act. It is usually too difficult to understand the mind or soul of another to so as to know exactly the motivations and reasonings for the act, and thus it is very difficult to judge such acts...because for one soldier killing is an act of virtue, but for the other it is murder (according to St. Bernard). So if there are difficulties in all of these ethical discussions, it is because we are dealing with the human heart..which is very deep, and which really only God can understand and judge correctly. However, we must also try as we might, to be as 'reasonable' and loving as possible, so as to come as close as possible to the mind and heart of Our Eternal Father. Therefore we try to make rules, norms and regulations based on this love and reason...such as St. Bernard, Jimmy and other theologians/apologists are trying to do. As for all the details? We can try hard...but will really only understand them in Heaven.

John

Jimmy

As someone who disagrees with Mark Shea on topics (he blasted me for my feelings that Nostre Aetate went to far) and deletes most of my posts-I find your work to be well thought out, using all resources (but I must say I have yet to see you refer to any council documents other than V2) and most of all, unlike Mr Shea-You listen to anothers opinion and act CHARITABLE. YOu would never see such a wide range of view points as you do here on Sheas blog as he deletes all posts that dont follow his line of thinking and if you get out of line you get banned asap as happened to my Wife believe it or not who is as sweet as pie.

You are correct, Mr Shea did not read your post, but he acts on emotion, as we all do at times-but when I or most do, it will be uncharitable and then you basically lost your argument

Keep up the great work Jimmy A

Zippy

It is of course Mark's fundamental point that the discussion should not be had at all and that one should lock step with his position.

Two points:

(1) Jimmy's position isn't as tentative as all that. He said outright that in his view waterboarding isn't torture when there is a TTB. Maybe he has or will change his mind, but he did state that outright.

(2) Mark Shea's point clearly isn't that everyone ought to be in lock-step with him on every issue nor that nobody should have any discussions at all. It is that having discussions is not morally neutral. It is that when a prominent CA apologist posts #1 on his blog, that is not an act with no moral effects out in the world; a world in which the CIA has been torturing prisoners and has even had prisoners die accidentally under torture.

Zippy

The reasonable/unreasonable test DOES NOT assume that there is some imbalance of justice that needs correcting, only that there may be an imbalance of goods (for whatever reason) that excuses what would ordinarily be theft.

Right. That is the conclusion people draw when they take that definition to be the be-all and end-all. That is why it has to be wrong.

The methodology here is backward. People are squeezing known intrinsically evil acts into everyday definitions taken to philosophical extremes, which allows them to reach false conclusions about what it means for an act to be intrinsically evil in general; rather than starting with a description AND the fact that an act is intrinsically evil and working to harmonize those two known things about the act.

Zippy

To frame the issue in terms of "How can we be maximally loving toward terrorists?" would be to fundamentally misframe the issue because it leaves out the equally crucial question "How can we be maximally loving toward those the terrorists would harm?"

That isn't what Mark is suggesting, though. What Mark is suggesting is that instead of asking "what can we do to prisoners that isn't torture" or "what can we do to prisoners that isn't rape" we should be asking "what must we do to treat prisoners humanely". I think Jimmy has probably misunderstood Mark at least as much as vice versa. In fact given the "kumbayistic" comment, I am certain of it. If Mark is talking to a straw man then Jimmy is at least as equally talking to a straw man.

Michael

Does anyone else ever feel concern that the atmosphere on this blog is almost cultlike? Anything Jimmy says seems to be met by a Greek chorus of approval and dissenters are shouted down. Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea are both fallible men. Let's hope neither loses sight of that fact in the fog of adulation and condemnation that seems to surround them.

Mary Kay

Because of other commitments, I haven't followed the discussions of the past two weeks. I've been chafing at the bit to get back here as this IMHO is a very important question to wrestle with.

A couple of people have said that they don't enjoy the um, less than friendly posts on this topic. I can see their point because I stopped reading a Catholic blog (none of the above) because of the uncharitable comments.

OTOH, real work gets messy. To honestly grapple with such a challenging question is hard work. Certainly there is a need to be civil and courteous, but it's also likely to be uncomfortable.

I haven't read Against the Grain (probably should meander over there), but from what I read earlier, this is a question that has some people by the throat and they have to work it through.

Where I'm stuck with this question (this is without having read this week's threads, especially Jimmy's post on intrinsic evil), is that "Thou shalt not kill" is one of the commandments, yet the Catechism allows self-defense.

That's my two cents for the morning. I hope to get more caught up this weekend.

rsps

I am disturbed by the tone of the torture debate; I have heard to many first hand stories, seen too many broken people to even want to put qualifiers on 'torture'. Having lived in a country that was new from a horrible revolution I believe we must be strict on this debate. Mr. Shea's three points on the determining of torture are, in my mind a concrete way to deal with a real life situation. Isn't that what Moral Theology tries to give us? A viable road map?
I have even seen how the training for 'torture' and 'mind-control' affect a person.... in the person of a friend, a SF Capt. in the 7th brigade who was a man conflicted in his own self. And I still pray for him. That is the human side to all of this, the real side.
Since we are dealing with the human heart, as was said in a wonderful post above, we must pull back from being too 'lawyerish' and think of the nitty gritty implications of our conclusions.

SteveG

Does anyone else ever feel concern that the atmosphere on this blog is almost cultlike?

Umm...no. I don't think you could be more mistaken. And I say that as one of those who disagrees with Jimmy on this. I think it's an unfortunate tendency that all people are apt to try to shout down those who disagree with them. From what I've seen, the discussion here has actually fallen into that tendency far less than is common other places.

Realist

The Vatican is supposed to speak for us on moral matters like torture. They have done so (Google it to see), so why do civilian apologists take up the task that result in multiple interpretations and discord with the supporters of each apologist beating their breasts on how their fellow or gal is correct???

Cornelius AMDG

Mark is one of my favorite bloggers, and I have serious questions about the US policy toward the treatment of prisoners and detainees, but he's frankly been over the top on this issue. Jimmy, thank you for the your measured, reasonable approach on this issue. I sincerly hope all of us can lower the decibels on this argument and get closer to a Catholic consensus on this important issue.

Tim J.

"The methodology here is backward. People are squeezing known intrinsically evil acts into everyday definitions taken to philosophical extremes"

You can't just assert that, Zippy. You have to show it is the case.

"Anything Jimmy says seems to be met by a Greek chorus of approval and dissenters are shouted down."

You apparently haven't been raeding very carefully, Michael. I have made some significant changes to Jimmy's definition (though this is all in flux), as have other of his regular readers.

Is it now cult-like to disagree with Zippy or Mark and agree (kinda) with Jimmy?

Christopher Fotos

I also dislike people attempting to set one orthodox Catholic apologist against another, and I ask anyone who has been doing this to stop

Jimmy Akin, I appreciate the serious and charitable way you have approached this subject. But surely you are aware of the slander and abuse that Mark has spewed in the direction of others who have disagreed with him, assigning the worst possible motives for their beliefs. Indeed, he has said inexcusably abusive things about people who have taken the same position on many of these issues as you have. I'm one of them. So while Mark has only now just begun to dismiss you, Jimmy, in a comparatively mild way, please keep in mind there are many others who have a rather different experience. And apart from the personal resentment that inevitably arises from such abuse, which no doubt colors our attitude, many of us think it is a scandal for a well-known Catholic apologist to behave this way, without any apparent restraint. That is the reason--or if you disagree with my point, the excuse--for focusing on how Mark has dealt with this issue. Keeping in mind Fr. Ben's concern (We're only playing Satan's game arguing, pitting one against the other) no doubt shared by you.

But what's going on is bigger than the indignity of "setting one orthodox apologist against another;" some of us non-prominent non-apologists have been on the receiving end of grave invective for a year or more.

SDG comments I am mortified that my friend Mark has written so intemperately and uncharitably in public of my friend Jimmy and Brian writes It seems that Mark needs a long retreat to relax and recollect himself. Folks, the only new ground being broken is the size of the target. Although Some Priest Named Fr. Brian Harrison was a fair-sized one too, and similarly uncalled for given the latter's scholarly and charitable approach.

Separate topic: An attorney asks a question above about theft, well known to those of us who have read 1,000 coments and posts but I don't see it addressed in this thread. The answer is that in Catholic teaching a starving man who takes food to prevent his own death, or that of his family, would not be guilty of the sin of theft. From the other side of the equation, the only sin being committed would be if the "owner" of the food denied it to one who is starving. In these circumstances it would be unreasonable for the owner not to surrender it, or object to its being taken. This is an interesting case where the definitions of sin on the one hand and a secular crime on the other appear to differ (but I wonder--is there no provision in secular law for something along those lines? I seem to recall civil authorities in New Orleans permitting essential goods to be taken from retailers, and while that's certainly open to abuse, it's the principle that's interesting).

Anyway I invite correction on that somewhat tangential point if I've muddled it.

Tim J.

"That is the conclusion people draw when they take that definition to be the be-all and end-all. That is why it has to be wrong."

Zip, you were ready to show why that definition of theft actually supported your argument yesterday. Now it "has to be wrong" because it has been shown NOT to support your understanding of intrinsically evil acts?

Zippy is right... it's the definition that must be screwed up.

Naomi

Michael,

You make an interesting point, but you go much too far with it. It is a temptation for all of us, in this age of on-demand media such as blogs and podcasts, to listen to only those voices that agree with our own. This is the "Greek Chorus" or "echo chamber" you describe.

This, combined with the decline in intelligent argument, and a corresponding rise in ad hominem and contradiction as forms of "discussion," does tend to give rise to a certain amount of groupthink.

But I wouldn't place the blame for this on Jimmy, or on his site; I think he's actually quite adept at engaging, or at the very least tolerating, intelligent disagreement. Sometimes his comboxers, I among them, are not. But is he to blame for our conduct? I don't think he can be, but I'd be interested to know how you think blog owners can or should moderate their commenters beyond deleting obscenities, attacks, and spam.

Tim J.

When I said "Zippy is right... it's the definition that must be screwed up", I was speaking with toungue in cheek.

I believe the definition of theft is right.

Zippy

You can't just assert that, Zippy.

I am not just asserting it. Jimmy's actual method in his post on intrinsic evil is to take a long list of day-to-day definitions of intrinsic evils, model his understanding of intrinsic evil on that laundry-list, and draw conclusions about other acts from that understanding. I don't think I've misunderstood his method in the slightest.

In VS, though, JPII tells us explicitly how to grasp the object of the act (indeed what is necessary in his words to grasp the object of the act): we are to place ourselves in the perspective of the acting agent and ask what specific behavior he is choosing. See my present post on gluttony for an example of following JPII's method. (I don't point it out to say that my particular conclusion is right, but to illustrate the difference between the method described by JPII in VS and the method actually employed here).

Zippy

Is it now cult-like to disagree with Zippy or Mark and agree (kinda) with Jimmy?

I certainly hope not. I don't want anyone to agree with me for any reason other than that they find what I am saying convincing and think it is true.

rsps

What I find interesting in the combox's and the blogs themselves is that in one this debate is put as an 'intellectual' exercise, on the other there is more discussion of the concrete implications of the conclusions drawn by Jimmy.
I also find it interesting that not one person in this blog has responded to the posts above that discuss the first hand experience with the effects of torture, mind-control.
Could it be that there is more heat than light? Could it be that some don't want to have to reflect on the real life situations and their moral effects but prefer to debate 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin'?

Greg Mockeridge

I second Chris Fotos' point regarding the abusive manner in which Mark Shea has acted. I think it gives Catholic apologetics a black eye, to put it mildly.

I also think fraternal correction regarding Mark's behavior on the part of prominent professional Catholic apologists is long overdue.

Tim J.

rsps -

Personal experience can certainly be valuable, but what makes it valuable also can make it problematic, as it can tend to warp the ability to think objectively on certain issues.

How many times have we seen hard personal cases used as a sentimaental sledgehammer to justify abortion?

"You would not allow a woman to choose to have an abortion, but have you ever been pregnant as the result of being raped by your father? Well, I HAVE!!!".

That sort of thing.

Such personal experiences should be met with compassion, but giving them undue influence in deciding big issues can only lead to problems... perhaps even to the point of wishing that - just this once - the Church might teach in error... on the side of caution, of course.

Lurker #989302

Does anyone else ever feel concern that the atmosphere on this blog is almost cultlike?

As a lurker, I would say "Definitely". At least half the comments on this post can be summed up as "WOW, JIMMY IS SO AWESOME, MARK IS MEAN AND HIS BLOG SUCKS..." Are these posts really necessary? Do they contribute anything to the discussion? Posts like these serve no purpose other than pumping up the cultlike atmosphere.

(FYI, I wholeheartedly agree with Jimmy's defenders.)

Tim J.

AS I SAID BEFORE - I think it would be best BY FAR for us combox commandos to refrain from the discussion of personalities.

Jimmy and Mark can speak for themselves.

rsps

Tim,
I don't think that a request to take into consideration the concrete effects of torture is anything akin to a misguided empathy for abortion.
You must marry both the intellectual excercise of the discussion with the real life implications of that discussion. Once you insert the qualifier of 'proportionality' into a debate on torture you must responsibly explore the effects of that concept on real life applications.

Sifu Jones

rsps, you can't argue the morality of an act based entirely on its potential effects. While potential effect is a viable concern when discussing principles like Just War and Double Effect, it can't be the only concern.

Would you like to clarify that consideration of effect is not, in fact, your primary concern? That would help me follow the argument more clearly. Following that, how LARGE a concern is potential effect, as far as you are concerned? It seems to me that making it too much of an issue would be disproportionate.

Tim J.

That is precisely what I have tried to do. Discussion about the "breaking of the will" is meant to take into account the purpose for which real torture is actually used in real situations.

Brent Brown

rsps,

I don't see anything unbecoming in the heated debate that insued from Jimmy's torture posts.

...

The critique of Jimmy's Blog by Mr. Shea, I believe, justly calls into question motivation.

It would seem that Mr. Shea disagrees with you on those points. Please see his post for his very sincere and classy apology for inadvertently calling into question Jimmy's motivations.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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