Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Coalition for Fog expands

OK, not literally. But Richmond lawyer Tom McKenna takes to task The Grand Torture Pharisee™ (he compares him to Cromwell, which is also apropos, I think). And Shea reader Jayson notes his disappointment elsewhere.

I think it really does take a lawyer to understand some things, including that enshrining fine-sounding principles into law, both domestic and international, is usually a bad thing. (Further proof: an approving link from lawyer Roger H. of the site "Between Heaven and Hell")

But Oliver Cromwell Shea doesn't realize how legal thinking operates, that the law actually can parse a distinction between "cruelty" or "degrading treatment" and "torture." Which is why his claims of innocence on a definition of torture sit impossibly alongside his pronunciamento that "aggressive information gathering techniques" is just a euphemism for "torture" or his reducing certain practices to "torture-lite." Now, "not thinking like a lawyer" is usually considered a good thing (sorry, Tom ... couldn't resist). And in many contexts, it is, but ... um ... "the law" (international, civic, administrative, whatever -- and Shea is not above shilling for specific legal solutions, i.e., congressional bills and telling people to "call your congresscritters) is not one of them. I think this is why they are called "law"-yers.

But why actually think things through when you can just show a photo of Lynndie England (a lie, apropos the point OCS was making, as Tom points out, but never mind) and demagogue on the natural "ick" reaction. But a visceral reaction is not an argument. Ever. Good things *can* be unpleasant to look at. I eat sausage with a perfectly clear conscience. I send gifts to friends' children without any need for pictures of how the child came about. So a person's resort to pictures designed to evoke a visceral reaction immediately causes me to suspect him, on all subjects.

That said, I would make one criticism of Tom's piece. There are actually, two other proof texts on torture -- Veritatis Splendor 80 and Evangelium Vitae 3. Though they are both quotations of GS 27, they are reiterations and John Paul the Great surrounded the latter quotations with emphatics "certain that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience."


Tom McKenna said...

Thanks for the additional cites. Like LG 27, however, they do not add much to understanding exactly what "torture" is to be understood as encompassing. Here again, everyone (I assume) opposes torture; the question is: what constitutes torture. Settled international law that Shea very studiously doesn't want to hear about strictly defines it in a way that I have not seen done in magisterial sources.

Steve Golay said...

What does Mark Shea mean by "Christians who cheer for torture". A list, Mark! And please, don't talk about your "loose" blogging style; you either have a list of hoarse cheering Christians, or you do not.

Roger H. said...

Thanks for the mention Victor. You've probably already seen this, but Shea, via "a reader", has taken on the onerous task of self congratulating himself over his self-proclaimed victory on the torture debate with you.

Greg said...

I think the fact that a prominate Catholic apologist like Mark Shea engages in the kind of behavior he has regarding this issue which includes his libelous attack against Michael Ledeen is a disgrace to both Catholic apologetics and the Church herself.

I also believe that the refusal of the Catholic apologetics establishment, like the folks at Catholic Answers who employ Mr. Shea as a seminar speaker, to practice fraternal correction here is equally disgraceful.

I have twice written to Jimmy Akin alerting him to this and asking that he and his colleagues demand Shea to correct his behavior and I have yet to even receive a response.

I think a public campaign on the part of Catholics in the blogospohere denouncing Mr. Shea and the other Catholic apologists who either engage in similar behavior or circle the wagons for those who do is in order

kathleen said...

"But Oliver Cromwell Shea doesn't realize how legal thinking operates, that the law actually can parse a distinction between "cruelty" or "degrading treatment" and "torture." "

Shea's reliance on "Army Regs" is laughable. As a lawyer who worked with federal regs for several years, I feel confident stating federal regs do not, and never will, have the force of law of an act of Congress (or even a pronouncement on policy from the Commander in Chief. Of. The. Military). Regs are constantly and continually revised, and courts often interpret them as merely suggestions by specialized agencies of the executive branch -- in other words regs are often ignored by the other 2 branches of government.

and Shea is really "torturing" the argument (pun intended) if he wishes to elevate the moral weight of army regs (which i doubt he has read anyway) to pronouncements by the Vatican.

Anonymous said...


Yes, there is no doubt in my mind ... not a shred ... that Shea has libelled Michael Ledeen. In this post and this post ... in that he repeats what was thoroughly rebutted and turned to rubble, as a characterization of Ledeen's words in the comboxes attached to these posts.

Now, Ledeen would have a difficult time winning a libel lawsuit, and he certainly wouldn't without much more trouble than it's worth to rebut one ignorant blowhard. (And I can't imagine anyone whom Ledeen would respect being persuaded by Shea's posturing and lying.)

Morally speaking, though, that doesn't matter. Shea has still committed calumny, the moral equivalent of libel.