Friday, December 12, 2014

Torture--What's Deep within us?

   The catechism (of the Catholic Church) later declares: "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity" (No. 2298). The use of torture dishonors the Creator in whose image every human person is created and disfigures the human person who is worthy of respect.

   The above quote from the Catechism of the Church makes it clear that there is no circumstance under which torture is justifiable.  Based on this teaching and based on what is in my own heart I must join with those who were saddened and disappointed in the recent report issued regarding CIA practices after 9/11.

   With this article I would like to take a look at the various reasons presented for supporting what the CIA called "Enhanced Interrogation Tactics."  Oh, how we love euphemisms. For many these practices were justified because of the results that they produced--stopping further terror attacks.  Basically the argument here is that the end justifies the means.  In Catholic moral teaching the end never justifies the means if the means are deemed as intrinsically evil, which torture is.  There have also been studies which show that torture does not produce good information.  The tortured will say anything just to be relieved of the torture.

   I must say though that I challenge the self-righteousness of many who objected to the torture.  It is easy to get puffed up with moral indignation over evil.  It is tempting to say that "I would never torture anyone, or I would never (fill in the blanks).  When we do this we are putting ourselves in the position of Peter who said that he would never deny Jesus.  We know what happened in that situation.

   What I'm getting at here is that we will never eliminate torture unless every one of us looks seriously at the darkness that lurks in our hearts.  This is true not only for torture and violence, but of anything we see to be evil.

  To reveal a bit of my own dark side that I would really rather not admit I can remember as a youngster that there were a couple of bullies in our neighborhood.  I used to fantasize about cruelly torturing them to teach them a lesson.  I never acted on that, of course, but the thoughts were there.  Later in life I faced, through both counseling and spiritual direction that a dark, angry violent streak resided within me, not one that led to physical violence but to angry outbursts that were not acceptable for a priest and friar. As I faced that truth I was freed from letting that darkness control me.

  We all love to point fingers at the government, at school shooter, at violent rapists,etc.  Until,however, individually and as a people we face the darkness within and admit that it is there, we will never be set free.   Let's all think about that.

   The next step is realizing that we can go to a deeper level within us, not one that naively let's evil go unpunished but one that takes the pains to find just ways to do it. I think that we might have found those ways with the 9/11 terrorists if we had  just put in the effort.

Let there be peace on earth!

1 comment:

  1. I dunno, the whole thing seems a bit muddled to me. First, we're not talking Nazi death camp experimentation here. It's pretty mild stuff in the grand scheme of things. Second, I think we as Americans are insulated in a fantasy cocoon far away from wartime violence. I would find it hard to believe that Americans, even priests, of, say, 1942, with U-Boats having their way with the Eastern seaboard would have any problem with the stuff described in this report being done to captured Kriegsmarine sailors.


Letting the Earth Speak