Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dave Armstrong has questions ...

And while I can't speak for Victor, I have my own answers.
I continue to await Mark's proofs as to whether you guys state that [1] torture is intrinsically immoral yet grant loopholes according to circumstance and relative ethics, or whether you [2] deliberately intend to dissent against what you know to be JPII's teaching.

Can you confirm whether you agree or disagree with [1] and [2]? I assume not, but I want to hear it from you (and also, do I have permission to post this with your answers, on Mark's blog?).

You can post my material anywhere that you like. I personally believe that Mark has reached a point rhetorically on this issue where he is unwilling to back down, but I am more than willing to listen to what he has to say.

As to the specific questions:

1. If I believed that torture was intrisically immoral, I would not advocate practicing it. Nor do I advocate practicing it now (as I said, I supported the McCain amendment), I simply object to the premises under which Mark operates for arguing that we should not. My own view on torture (or if torture is defined as intrisically evil then interrogation techniques that many would classify as torture) in general is fairly akin to how the Church currently views the practice of the death penalty as formulated by Mark Shea: that it is far more defensible in primitive societies than it is currently and that in the latter case it should only be used in the most extraordinary circumstances such as those represented by Rashid Rauf or Abdul Hakim Murad. I say this with the caveat that I am able to revise it later as much of what I have been writing here has been based around critiquing Mark's bad arguments on the subject rather than developing my own.

2. I do not believe Mark's views on torture or the relevent Gaudium et Spes quotation in general to be consistent with John Paul II's teaching, as can be seen from the fact that as a practical matter he did not view the act of deportation as an intrinsic evil even though it is listed on par with torture in the document. The reason we have a living Magisterium is to guard against such errors when interpreting these types of documents, which is why I have referred to Mark's reading as being akin to a fundamentalist. It's akin to the argument that Catholics are breaking Jesus's commandment of "call no man father" to view Magisterial documents within this kind of historical disconnect.
To use one widely-discussed concrete example, what do you think, e.g., about waterboarding? Is it intrinsically immoral? If so, you agree with Mark (and myself). If not, why?

As I understand it, waterboarding or something very close to it is also used in certain specialized military training situations, so I think that the intent needs to be discussed or at least explained. There would also seem to be (at least to me) the issue that if waterboarding is forbidden and some form of physical coercion as practiced in the past is licit, why is it preferable to damage the body and not the mind? To be perfectly honest, as noted before I have been focused far less on specific techniques and more on my general objections to Mark's mode of argumentation in making his case. In general, as I have stated repeatedly, I supported the McCain Amendment as a model for interrogation and think that narco-interrogation techniques are the way to go as far as interrogation is concerned from a purely practical matter.
Also, would you consider yourselves "traditionalists" (another thing I've asked Mark about that he has ignored)? If so, how do you define that term (as it is another one of those that has quite variable definitions)? For that matyter, what do you think about John Paul II in general?

I am a "traditionalist" in the sense that I am a "small o" orthodox Catholic, but not one who believes himself to be more Catholic than the Pope. I am a firm supporter of the policies of Pope John Paul II and am of the opinion that he will be remembered as one of the great popes of the last 200 years.
Also, another reader stated the following:
Akin is a prominent figure within the Catholic apologetics movement, so Shea can't attack him with impunity. It only occurs to Shea to attack people who appear weak and vulnerable-- this is how he feeds his massive ego. He's a bully, plain and simple.

It's ironic that Shea declares himself so adamantly opposed to torture, when it's quite clear that he gets off on abusing others. In addition to being a bully, he's also a hypocrite.

Look, I get mad enough when Mark tries to tell me about what I'm really thinking that I'm not going to return the favor. But I am getting annoyed with his increasingly escalating rhetoric towards me and Victor while remaining completely respectful and civil towards those who hold seemingly identical views on this issue. Now my respect for Mark as a person is at an all-time low for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with torture that have come about because of this discussion (namely his frequent personal attacks and refusal to engage our arguments), but I care little about what he thinks about me. My whole goal here is to correct what I see as a horridly bad method of Magisterial document interpretation (Gaudium et Spes) and application (Geneva Conventions are now sacrosanct - and I like the Conventions just fine, but they are secular political documents, not revealed moral truth) that when combined with Mark's not-so-creeping paleoconservatism (which I oppose for secular political reasons) provide a rather explosive cocktail that I would just as soon not see detonated by a Catholic apologist to other members of my faith.
Of kettles and pots ...

Mark writes:
Dave has made repeated demands to know why I think the Coalition for Fog is at war with this simple point. And given that he has read their site and their repeated sneers and smears aimed at those who accept this rather obvious teaching, I don't know what else to add that will convince him.

Given that this is coming from an individual who has repeatedly denounced us as apologists for Satan, alleged Catholics, abortion supporters, etc I don't think that he has much of a moral high ground to complain about on this one. I would remind those of you who have been following this discussion that Victor and I weren't the ones who escalated the rhetoric to the current level. The very term "Coalition for Fog" and most of the accompanying phrases were coined by Mark as an attempt to craft a rhetorical club to use against those who disagreed with him on this issue.

As to my broader criticism that Mark argues like a fundamentalist on this issue, here is the substance of it: His entire argument more or less stems from his interpretation of a single text (Gaudium et Spes, which is quoted in Veritas Splendor and Evangelium Vitae), an interpretation that I believe to be dubious based on a number of states within the text itself (the definition of what constitutes "disgraceful working conditions" is going to vary considerably depending on the time and region in which one lives), what the Church has taught historically on matters such as torture or slavery, and what the Magisterium actually teaches regarding issues like deportation. Now it may be that doctrine has developed on these matters as it has with regard to slavery or the death penalty. If Mark were arguing this I would be far less opposed to his position, but he is in effect arguing that torture has always been evil which I believe to be at odds with the historical position of the Magisterium on this subject and hence is one of the reasons why I am against him on this one.

Like I have stated previously, my own position is far better laid out by Dave Armstrong here in which he notes with regard to John Paul II's words that "a certain simplistic interpretation of it involves great contradiction with past history" and links to a great deal of supporting source material that I recommend that Mark sit down, read, and understand before he starts throwing the invective around once again. If nothing else, if he wants to continue to argue with (rather than at) Victor and I then he might want to at least understand our arguments. To do that, though, he would need to first admit that we are motivated by something other than partisan political motives. I would also note that he is the one who has repeatedly placed secular political legislation and treaties (the McCain Amendment back when he supported it and the Geneva Conventions) seemingly on par with Magisterial documents.

I would also note that Jimmy Akin isn't coming late to the discussion on torture, which he actually discussed back in 2004 in which he stated the following:
The Catechism's discussion of torture (CCC 2298) focuses significantly on the motive that is being pursued in different acts of torture. If it means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture--just as some acts commonly described as stealing are not actually the sin of stealing, such as taking food to feed one's family during a time of starvation when the person who initially had the food has plenty. The same might turn out to be true of torture (i.e., not everything that looks like torture would be the sin of torture).

For example, the Catechism's list of motives for torture does not mention the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives. It thus might turn out that it is not torture to twist a terrorist's arm behind him and demand that he tell you where he planted a bomb so that it can be defused and innocents can be saved. Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

I would be disinclined to go the route of saying that torture is not always wrong. I think that the Church is pretty clearly indicating in its recent documents that it wants the word "torture" used in such a way that torture is always wrong. However, I don't think that the Magisterium has yet thoroughly worked out all the kinds of "hard case" situations one can imagine and whether they count as torture.

Different churchmen would probably answer the hard case questions differently, some reflexibly shying away from any use of significant physical or psychological pressure, and others holding that the need to prevent an imminent terrorist attack trumps any right a terrorist might otherwise have not to have pain inflicted on him, so that applying physical pressure in such cases might not count as the sin of torture.

These are Akin's words, not my own, and I just write them to demonstrate Mark's selective outrage and vitriole under these circumstances depending on whether or not one has what he deems to be "acceptable motives" for staking a different position than his own. How he determines this is beyond me, hence my frequent cracks about his telepathic abilities.

Finally, regarding Zippy's (whom I refuse to engage for a variety of reasons) statement quoting Victor that the Coalition is "anti anti-torture," this is a direct reference to the kind of rhetoric and argumentation that Mark and others have directed against those who disagree with him and others who disagree with them on this and other issues.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Further points to try and draw my objections to Mark's argumentation style home ...

If I or Victor were to come out and say that Mark doesn't have any real objections to torture, he's just saying that it is because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and current desire to demonize the current administration with every rhetorical club available. Now if I had said that, Mark would not doubt be quite angry and rightfully so, because unlike him I do not claim any kind of power to know his inner thoughts and intentions. Instead, I can only go on what he writes and near as I can tell from that I think he sincerely believes it. A major chunk of what I have been attempting to do here is to explain why I think these statements do not pass muster.

So if Victor or myself tend to get a tad offended when we are labeled as objective apologists for Satan and alleged Catholics who are motivated only by partisan political concerns (because that, I guess, is the only reason why anyone could ever disagree with Mark on this), I really don't think that Mark has much of a right at this point to be complaining that we're being mean to him because we're seeking to point out the flaws in his arguments here. Particularly after his increasingly unhinged characterization of anyone who disagrees with him on this topic (unless, it seems, that they belong to a certain group of Catholic apologists who apparently can disagree with Mark on this without receiving the vitriole, perhaps because his telepathy enables him to discern their true intentions while posting), this isn't terribly hard to do.

That said, one other thing that I want to point out is that Mark keeps on asking how both sides can be so certain regarding the truth or falsehood of data coming out of Iraq. The problem is that he usually only asks this whenever supporters of the war question some of his more questionable assertions. If he's going to be convincingly playing that card, then I would suggest that he adhere to at least some critical filter when he cites figures like 655,000 killed in Iraq. As a factual matter, that would be 598 Iraqis killed every day for the last three years and if one even bothers to look at the figures in Baghdad (where the violence has been at its worst since the February 2006 bombing in Samarra), it is clear that 598 people are not being killed there every day.

Just my $0.02.
Further points to try and draw my objections to Mark's argumentation style home ...

If I or Victor were to come out and say that Mark doesn't have any real objections to torture, he's just saying that it is because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and current desire to demonize the current administration with every rhetorical club available. Now if I had said that, Mark would not doubt be quite angry and rightfully so, because unlike him I do not claim any kind of power to know his inner thoughts and intentions. Instead, I can only go on what he writes and near as I can tell from that I think he sincerely believes it. A major chunk of what I have been attempting to do here is to explain why I think these statements do not pass muster.

So if Victor or myself tend to get a tad offended when we are labeled as objective apologists for Satan and alleged Catholics who are motivated only by partisan political concerns (because that, I guess, is the only reason why anyone could ever disagree with Mark on this), I really don't think that Mark has much of a right at this point to be complaining that we're being mean to him because we're seeking to point out the flaws in his arguments here. Particularly after his increasingly unhinged characterization of anyone who disagrees with him on this topic (unless, it seems, that they belong to a certain group of Catholic apologists who apparently can disagree with Mark on this without receiving the vitriole, perhaps because his telepathy enables him to discern their true intentions while posting), this isn't terribly hard to do.

That said, one other thing that I want to point out is that Mark keeps on asking how both sides can be so certain regarding the truth or falsehood of data coming out of Iraq. The problem is that he usually only asks this whenever supporters of the war question some of his more questionable assertions. If he's going to be convincingly playing that card, then I would suggest that he adhere to at least some critical filter when he cites figures like 655,000 killed in Iraq. As a factual matter, that would be 598 Iraqis killed every day for the last three years and if one even bothers to look at the figures in Baghdad (where the violence has been at its worst since the February 2006 bombing in Samarra), it is clear that 598 people are not being killed there every day.

Just my $0.02.
Regarding Mark labeling us as alleged Catholics, objective apologists for Satan, etc.

I would note the rhetorical similarity between these increasingly heated denunciations and the Islamic concept of branding one's enemies as takfir. I would also once again remind Mark of two quick points:

I. Mark Shea is not the Magisterium. If these types of determinations are going to be made, he is not going to be the one making them. I would also note that at no point during this situation have we ever called his own Catholicism, orthodoxy, or loyalty to the Magisterium into question. We disagree with his interpretation of Magisterial documents (and yes, it is his, see below) and do not believe that they say what he believes that they say. That is all.

II. This is extremely selective outrage, which to me is what makes it so hypocritical. There are numerous other prominent apologists that I have noted ad nauseam who also do not believe that the documents in question require the interpretation that he adopts. I have noted this time and time again and Mark has finally opted to engage two of them (Dave Armstrong and Christopher Blosser). He has done this in a far more respectful manner (which I appreciate, believe it or not) than he has either of us and given that I don't believe that there is much an objective difference between my own position and that of Armstrong's (correct me if I am wrong here) my only conclusion is that as far as Mark is concerned, all Catholic thinkers are equal but some are more equal than others.

Understand, I care remarkably little what Mark thinks of me or of Victor. My primary interest is in contesting what I believe to be an incorrect interpretation of Catholic teaching in this regard, particularly because I believe that Mark's view, if adopted in toto, contradicts the indefectability of the Church.
Chaldean blood is thicker than Shi'ite?

Is sort of my impression of reading this. It is, predictably enough, a diatribe from The American Conservative which claims that evangelicals who supported the war in Iraq are now disinterested in the fate of its Christian community. For Mark and others who agree with his paleocon anti-war sentiments, the implication is clear that if we had just left Saddam in power the Chaldeans would continue to exist as a museum fixture for his regime.

Ignoring the fact that the implications of this position is one of the worst moral arguments I have ever seen Mark make ("Saddam can slaughter his population all he wants just so long as he doesn't touch our favorite minority") it also ignores the facts as to who is doing the killing, meaning primarily al Qaeda and its allies. To blame supporters of the war who want to see these groups fought and defeated for the deaths of Iraqi Christians (just as Mark apparently now seeks to hold them morally responsible for all deaths in Iraq) is an exercise in moral inversion and more or less holds that poor little Muslims just can't handle not living under a dictator and hence shouldn't be held accountable for their actions, only the people who removed their tyrant.

I'm sorry, but this makes about as much sense as blaming the police for the actions of criminals in the ghetto (indeed, it makes about as much sense) that you see in some circles. Muslims, like your average slum dwellers, are not Martians and possess as much of a free will as anyone else on the planet. Blaming evangelical supporters of the war for the deaths of Iraqi Christians serves to exculpate al Qaeda for its actions. And you'll forgive me for not calling Mark on that as nothing short of morally reprehensible.

As an addendum, how exactly is the future of Chaldean community in Iraq that Mark claims is so near and dear to his heart (assuming that he isn't just using it as a rhetorical club, unlike Mark I possess no charism of telepathy) going to be served by the US following his stated wishes and leaving Iraq? Does anyone reading this truly believe that completely abandoning the Chaldeans to al Qaeda and Muqtada al-Sadr is likely to end the violence directed against it?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And one more thing ...

Shea indulges in his sotto voce excommunicatory impulses here. (Hey Torq, my telepathy is as good as his.) But how can anybody take seriously someone who formulates an issue as "when it comes to supporting the demands of the Fatherland vs. the teaching of Holy Church, I'm gonna side with Holy Church every time ... I turned out I thought that the Church should be obeyed, even when it conflicts with American policy and conservative dogmas."

Anyhoo ... since Shea has us so perfectly pegged as Nazi state-worshippers -- what else could be the point of using the term "Fatherland," not the term of ordinary usage anywhere in the English-speaking world? I figured that today would be a good day to unveil the Coalition for Fog's official logo, devoted to the worship of the Most Holy Trinity:

Torture Pharisee™ become Episcopal Usurper™

There is only one phrase worth discussing in Shea's latest posturing as the Last Moral Man:

at the alleged Catholics of the Coalition

What the colorful does "alleged" mean?

How the colorful does Mark Shea know this?

Where the colorful does anyone get off saying this?

Who the colorful is "some guy named Mark Shea" to say this?

I will freely admit that I can be quite the asshole, but one thing I've never done¹ is question someone else's religious bona fides -- whether via the term CINO, "Cafeteria Catholic" or "alleged."

No comment is necessary, but I will note the following.

If anybody wishes to question my legitimacy of my presence in the Roman Catholic Church, there are persons competent to make that decision. One is Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington. Initial contact information is here. Closer to "ground level," I also have a regular confessor and pastor, the contact information for whom I'd be happy to provide upon request (they are not public figures in quite the sense the bishop is).

If you are serious about any "allegedness" on my part and (think you) have evidence therein, they are the persons to handle this most grave matter. Until such time, such persons are beneath contempt and not worth acknowledgement, beyond two words. Shove. It.
¹ And please do consider that an invitation for Shea or anyone else interested to call me on this, either in terms of past or future statements. I think such behavior is beneath contempt.

Mark's telepathy once again comes into play ...

Or so I gather from reading this:

One interesting phenomenon that I have touched on (insufficiently) in the past come to the fore courtesy of Dave Armstrong's replies to some of the more virulent Coalition for Fog types out there. What I mean is this: there is an interesting discussion to be had about the relationship of the Church's developed teaching on torture (i.e. it's intrinsically immoral) with the Church past though and practice. The same can be said for the Church's developed teaching on slavery and various other morail issues (including, even, abortion). The telling thing is how little actual interest the Coalition for Fog types have in actually engaging that question. That's because the mission is not finding out how to understand and obey the Church's moral teaching on torture. The mission is *refuting* that clearly stated moral teaching.

I actually think that there's been far less development on abortion as on slavery and a host of other topics. The Church has consistently condemned the practice of infanticide via exposure and it strikes as a lot less complicated to extend that to abortion, but what do I know?

What I find quite interesting about this is that Mark is willing to engage or at least accept that people like Father Neuhaus, Dave Armstrong, Jimmy Akin, and Christopher Blosser disagree with him on this topic without questioning their fealty to the Magisterium, comparing them to Catholics for Free Choice, et al. I really don't see that much in the way of difference between my position and that laid out by Armstrong here.

Yet Mark regards Dave Armstrong as an individual who is asking these questions out of a desire to remain loyal to the Magisterium, whereas he describes all of us here in the following terms:

But this, in the end, is all the Coalition has going for it as it labors to persuade, if not other Catholics, at least each other that those who advocate obedience to the Magisterium are idiots who have failed to split the difference between past practice and present teaching.
That is why I get angry at the alleged Catholics of the Coalition who are, just like Catholics for a Free Choice, laboring to persuade Catholics to ignore that teaching using much the same sort of rhetorical trickery. Just as Catholics for a Free Choice uses the sleight of hand stunt of asking if the Church has ever infallibly defined when a human person comes into existence (it hasn't) and chatter about Thomas' theories of ensoulment on the 40th day in order to justify ignoring the Church's clear teaching about the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, so the Coalition is engaged in the project of asking what the exact, super duper precise fine-tuned definition of torture is, and point to earlier prudential judgments in order to, by similarl sleight of hand, persuade us to ignore the Church's clear, developed teaching about the obligation to treat prisoners with respect for their human dignity.

So as I understand it, Dave Armstrong and others are motivated by loyalty to the Magisterium whereas those of us like myself who have more or less identical positions are motivated solely by a base desire to dissent from the Magisterium on this issue for whatever reason. This is pure ad hominem and I'm going to try and respond to it as briefly as possible.

I have noted before that there are numerous Catholic apologists of repute who hold a very different view of Catholic teaching on torture than does Mark. I'm not terribly surprised by this because it's a complex issue, but if Mark wants his view on this to prevail he should do so with arguments rather than with insults and ad hominem attacks. There is a rather chimerical quality to this whole debate in that whenever these apologists disagree with him on this do so that they are motivated by loyalty to the Magisterium while whenever us regular folks repeat more or less those same arguments that we are no better than abortion supporters, are in the thrall of Joe D'Hippolito, et al because we do not accept Mark's fundamentalist reading of Magisterial documents as genuine. This whole debate would never have sunk to this level if Mark would have refrained from exercising his telepathic charism (he should remember well that doing this too much can lead to the creation of Onslaught) and just engage arguments rather than the inner thoughts and motivations of the people behind them, even if they don't happen to sit at the cool apologists' table.

As for this:

The Church is already looking pretty damned prescient in her refusal to catch war fever from the Administration in 2003. The lunacy of that same group of people, and its supporters, now telling the Church she doesn't know what she's talking about when she teaches that torture is intrinsically immoral seems to me to be a living laboratory demonstration of how many people are willing to learn from the proverb "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Who exactly are "that same group of people, and its supporters" supposed to be Mark? Near as I can tell, they've pretty much ignored you since it became clear that you are incapable of having a rational conversation on anything related to national security policy without foaming at the mouth about the evils of the Iraq war? Irrespective of the fact that there were in 2003 and still are rather large differences between an issue of prudential judgement like war and peace and that of objective morality, I would note that the current Vatican position as noted in the preceding post is that religious and political leaders should support the Iraqi reconstruction, a view quite at odds with your own stated position that Iraq is lost and that we should flee the country at the first opportunity and leave the civilian population to be slaughtered by al-Qaeda and Sadr so as to engage in penance for mounting the Iraq war. In fact, the current Vatican line is more or less synonymous with the same one that (wait for it!) is currently held in the United States almost exclusively by neocons and the administration you so revile.
Also, if the terrorist threat is so over-estimated as the American Conservative article you cited with apparent approval the other day, then who exactly is killing all of these Iraqi civilians? According to the SITE Institute, the latest attacks were claimed by:

The Islamic State of Iraq and its Ministry of Information was established to protect the Sunni Iraqi people and defend Islam, by the Pact of the Scented People. It is composed of a variety of insurgency groups, including the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Conquering Army [Jeish al-Fatiheen], Army Squad of the Prophet Muhammad [Jund al-Sahaba], Brigades of al-Tawhid Wal Sunnah, and Sunni tribes. It claims a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babel and Wasit, and is head by the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

The Mujahideen Shura Council is "an umbrella organization of at least six Sunni Islamist groups taking part in the Iraqi insurgency: al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura (Army of the Victorious Sect), Monotheism Supporters Brigades, Saray al-Jihad Group, al-Ghuraba Brigades, and al-Ahwal Brigades." These are the people who have killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and to ignore the threat posed by them is nothing short of cognitive dissonance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I've been predicting this trend for some time ...

So I'm not terribly surprised to see Mark quoting an article from The American Conservative (written, somewhat bizarrely, by a physicist and evolutionary biologist) that basically argues that the threat from al-Qaeda, Iran, et al is completely overblown because neither al-Qaeda or Iran have yet achieved the level of existential threat that the USSR or China did during the Cold War.

There are a number of things that are wrong with this take ranging from the fact that the author has no understanding as to what Fourth Generation Warfare to the fact that you do not have to wait until a threat is existential before you deal with it no more than I am obligated to wait until a hoodlum pulls out a knife or a gun before I attempt to defend myself. Then there is also the fact that governments quite removed from the good graces of the current administration (France, Russia, Spain, Italy, etc.) are also quite worried about al-Qaeda.

For someone who has spent God-knows-how-many posts over the last several years writing about "Bronze Age Fanatics," one suspects that Mark is actually aware of this but that his all-pervasive desire to preserve the current Iranian theocracy from the possibility of US military intervention (which he believes is likely to occur why given the current American political situation following now-inevitable Democratic triumph this November) is superceding his better nature on this one.

The ongoing paleoconization of Mark Shea has been a rather sad state of affairs to witness for a variety of reasons that have little to do with the ideology that he has selected, though if he was going to select a new political ideology one would hope that he could do better than either paleoconservativism or the Constitution Party. I know full well that embracing the political left in its current form isn't anything resembling a "genuine option" (to borrow from William James) to him, but it strikes me as just a little hypocritical to hear that the Democrats and the Republicans are equally bad from a fringe political movement that strikes me as standing out through its embrace of conspiracy theories, isolationism, anti-Semitism, and more than a little racism towards Hispanics (not to be confused with a desire to secure the border, but I would challenge anyone to read Pat Buchanan's State of Emergency and attempt to defend the characterization of Hispanics in general), legal or otherwise.

I would argue that my predictions of Mark turning paleocon have almost completely panned out for a variety of reasons relating both to torture and the Iraq war. Opposition to either is not linked to paleoconservatism, but in Mark's case his rhetoric has left him little in the way of options. From his claims that neocons have seized control of the Republican Party without understanding exactly what they are beyond a few slogans, that all neocons are libertines without a serious concern for life issues, that the entire GOP leadership cares nothing for social conservatives, his view that Rush Limbaugh has "sold out" and become "a shill" for the GOP because he disagrees with Mark on the war, to his increasing embrace of conspiracy theories, all Mark needs to do is start waxing apocalyptic about La Reconquista and his transition to paleoconservatism should be complete. His increasing embrace of absurd conspiracy theories is indicative of this and I will continue to predict that if he continues at this rate he will come to the conclusion that the current administration is so depraved that he need not grant moral assent to it.

One wonders how Mark is likely to square his own view and that of his fellow travelers that Iraq is lost and that the US needs to pull out with the Vatican's recent statement that religious and political leaders should support the Iraqi reconstruction efforts, a view that would seem to be quite at odds with Mark's apparent view that we should be departing in great solemnity so that Shi'ites and Sunnis can slaughter one another in peace as some kind of sick penance for our having removed Saddam. Mark often likes to castigate the neocons for having supported the war in Iraq when the Vatican was calling for more time for negotiations, so I'll throw down the gauntlet here and ask him if he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Also, on name-calling and the like ...

Dave Armstrong, who I respect immensely, noted that this often tends to detract from the otherwise civil tone of discussion on issues such as torture. I agree with this wholeheartedly and I've tried to make clear from the beginning that this is how these kinds of issues should be discussed.

Unfortunately, the type of hyperbole and invective that Mark is wont to hurl when discussing these types of issues combined with his love of triangulation often makes it extremely difficult to conduct them. I particularly refer to the accusations that we are on par with those who advocate abortion, euthanasia, etc.

Still, two wrongs do not make a right and I will try to do better in the future.

Apparently the concept of humor is now to be condemned as well ...

This is roughly the reaction I had when reading Mark's latest attempted criticism of the Iraq war. The rationale? President Bush and General Garner were purportedly joking about prospective wars against Iran and Cuba after having toppled Saddam Hussein. Prior to this, Mark had listed a quote from Joaquin Navarro-Valls about how those who determine that all peaceful means under international law for resolving the issues surrounding the Iraqi regime will have to assume a grave responsibility before God, their own conscience, and history.

While Mark apparently regards this as a sign of unforgiveable hubris on the part of the president (who he then proceeds to claim in the comments "is not capable of being perfectly cavalier about matters of life and death"), a reader unaffected by Bush Derangement Syndrome might otherwise conclude that Bush and General Garner are simply enjoying a humorous anecdote.

And then there is this whopper:
Let its mush-brained teachings not intrude on the hard-headed practical realism of politicos who know their business and know what's best for 655,000 Iraqis to die for and 300,000 Iraqis to flee their homes for.
First, the 655,000 death toll is regarded as a gross exaggeration and shoddy scholarship by anyone who has actually studied the matter, as is noted by those in Mark's comments who are not patent political shills or are actively rooting for the other side (long-time readers of Mark's site should be able to guess who is who). Whether Mark changes his opinion on that or not because of it will be another matter entirely. I believe the actual figures on the Iraqi death toll are~50,000 (over the course of 3 years, as opposed to the roughly 70,000 or so a year who died under Saddam), of whom 20,000 were active insurgents. This isn't terribly surprising, as the US has lost ~2,600 troops in Iraq, making it roughly 1.5 US troops for every 10 insurgents, as might well be expected in the type of campaign we are dealing with. For Mark to blame the United States for the deaths of the remaining 30,000 and the current internal refugee situation (and I don't see any other way to read his remarks) however, is it to conflate correlation with causality.

There are two reasons that 30,000 Iraqis have been killed and 300,000 are now living as internal refugees. One is the constant campaign of violence from al Qaeda in Iraq and its indigenous allies in the Mujahideen Shura Council and the other is the rise of mass sectarian killings perpetrated by Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army. Both of these organizations, if Mark were even remotely following the news, are in active opposition to the United States and its mission in Iraq. If one adheres to Mark's anti-war arguments and al Qaeda was not active inside Iraq pre-war (which I don't believe for a moment), that would mean that both the rise organizations is a post-war phenomenon that was not caused by the invasion unless Mark buys into some kind of conspiracy theory that we created both organizations. In the case of Sadr, for instance, he is openly supported by Iran's Ayatollah Kazim Haeri, which would tend to make Iran rather than the US morally culpable for his actions. Al Qaeda, quite obviously, has its own objectives and agenda and every Iraqi civilian they kill is on their head, not ours. To state otherwise is to adopt a morally obtuse view of the situation.

Now Mark's argument (at least as I understand it) is that none of this would have happened had we not invaded Iraq. Once one recognizes the distinction between correlation and causality here, however, I think one can appreciate just how shaky ground this position stands on. It's not like al Qaeda or Iran wouldn't be trying to kill people somewhere else if they weren't currently killing them in Iraq, for instance. Moreover, the Navarro-Valls quote that Mark invokes also raises the question of if the current situation in Iraq is so bad (and I agree that it is quite dire), doesn't that also mean that those who would just as soon abandon the Iraqi people to the tender mercies of al Qaeda and Sadr by pulling our forces out (as I believe Mark has stated we should do now that he's declared Iraq an entirely failed venture) should assume an equally grave responsibility before God, their own conscience, and history? Then again, from the tone of some of Mark's posts in the past (and feel free to correct me on this one) it seems that he was entirely content to let Saddam butcher the Iraqi people as long as he allowed a small group of Chaldeans to practice their faith as a museum display, a view that is about as far removed from the Catholic view on the dignity of the human person that he is wont to invoke in many torture debates.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In his response to Blosser ...

Mark states the following:
That there are people who are clearly attempting to avoid the obvious teaching of the Church about the intrinsical immorality of torture is, I think, beyond dispute. The Coalition for Fog distinguishes itself in this way, when it declares that reading Veritatis Splendor as a condemnation of the intrinsic immorality of torture is "fundamentalist proof texting". Clearly, the goal of such rhetoric is to say that the Magisterium does not teach what it does, in fact, teach. It's as believable as Daniel Maguire's attempts to square the circle of the Church's condemnation of abortion with his pro-choice zealotry--and as contemptible. At the end of the day, the Coalition for Fog is trying, by hook or by crook, to tell us that we can ignore Veritatis Splendor when it declares that physical and mental torture are, like rape and abortion, acts for which there can never be any justification. That's what "intrinsically immoral" means, and that's what Veritatis Splendor says. I do not think the members of the Coalition for Fog are fools, therefore I have to conclude they are dishonest in trying to pretend VS does not say this, and that they cover up their dishonesty with name-calling about fundamentalist proof-texting.
I use the term "fundamentalist proof-texting" because it strikes me as an apt one for the type of argumentation that Mark is employing. His entire argument consists of an appeal to a set of texts, or more precisely his reading of those texts. I regard these readings as both historically dubious and inconsistent with what the Magisterium actually teaches if taken to their logical conclusion (as, I suspect, does Mark, unless he is now arguing that deportation is an intrinsic evil) and Mark's reply is that I am ignoring their plain meaning. With all due respect, this is exactly how a fundamentalist argues.

Now in all fairness, Mark finally got around to addressing the issue of the Church explicitly mandating torture in the past, a point that I have been trying to make here for several months but which Mark only bothered to address when Greg Krehbiel noted this problem.

Mark's explanation is as follows:
What he fails to do is distinguish between the Pope's actions as governor and his actions as teacher. It is only in the exercise of his office as teacher that the Pope is protected by the charism of infallibility. That's why, when Peter refused eat with Gentiles (an action done in his capacity as governor, not as Teacher), Paul could rebuke him and be quite right. Indeed, Paul was making use of Peter's infallible authority as Teacher to do so, because it was Peter who formulated the basic dogma of salvation by grace and not by works of the law (Acts 15:11). It's also why the Church could reprove, as foreign to the mind of Christ, acts of religious persecution in Nostra Aetate--including acts order by previous Popes and councils. And it is also why John Paul can indeed say that previous Popes have committed acts of intrinsic moral evil in permitting or ordering torture or slavery . Bottom line: infallibility does not protect the Pope or councils in their juridical acts.
While I think that this reply fails to take into account issues like the development of doctrine, which is extremely important to how the Church came to its current understanding of religious toleration. But Mark doesn't argue that doctrine has developed with regard to torture (a la the death penalty and as I've noted, this is one of the ways that would get him out of historical dilemma!), he somewhat counter-factually regards it as always having been an intrinsic evil.

Still, I think that problem here lies more with Mark than with myself since torture is an issue that he has frequently and explicitly equated with abortion as an intrinsic evil. As a historical matter, multiple popes formalized regulations concerning the practice and employment of torture not only within the papal states but also among the clerics who oversaw ecclesiastical courts throughout Christendom. To take Mark at his word, multiple popes instituted and approved of an intrinsic evil for literally hundreds of years and if we were talking about abortion rather than torture I think that the astute reader can understand the type of indefectability issues that appear within this context. The Magisterium is either infallible in matters of faith and morals or it is not, which is why our entire approach here is motivated by fidelity rather than dissent.

Mark then proceeds to assert that those who seek to disagree with him on this issue fall into three categories:
1) Those Catholics who are not actually serious about their loyalty to the Magisterium
2) Radtrads who hate Vatican II and all its works
3) The amoral realpolitik types

I'm not sure where he puts me and Victor, though he accuses us of initiating a "direct assault on the Magisterial teaching of the Church," to which I would reply that Mark Shea is not the Magisterium.¹ We have found his arguments with regard to torture to be both lacking and intellectually and historically unsatisfying and I have even gone to the length of attempting to explain alternative means through which he can retain his preferred practical policies (no torture practiced by the US, passage of the McCain Amendment, et al.) without requiring us to suspend our preference for rational argumentation. Jimmy Akin, Father Neuhaus, and Christopher Blosser, none of whom could be described as torture advocates, have all managed to do this without falling into Mark's fundamentalist reading of Magisterial documents (or demagoguery either) and if Mark wants to embrace their position I'll be more than happy to shut up on this one. Until he does, however, I will continue to note these differences and note that Mark doesn't hurl the same vitriole at them that he does at us.

He also fails to distinguish between the moral issue and the policy one, which may explain his willingness to invoke the spectre of Michael Ledeen, who to the best of my knowledge has not written about interrogation (Mark may of course be aware of his true thoughts on this matter just as he apparently discerned that Ledeen radiates evil energies) and in any case is Jewish rather than Catholic and hence would not be expected to agree with Church teachings on this or any number of other topics. I would note that Mark is willing to understand this quite well when it concerns Jonah Goldberg but is unwilling to extend the same charity towards Ledeen, who Mark's comments regarding are often completely unhinged without any attempt to understand the man's positions and would probably be considered libel. He's a neocon, after all, a group of people Mark has equated with idolators in the past because they support democracy promotion.

Regarding Mark's use of photos of Abu Ghraib:

Somehow, they seem to have it in their heads that I am saying our military is all about more Abu Ghraib's. On the contrary, the Administration was all about more Abu Ghraib's and would have gotten their wish if they had succeeded in loosening the regulations on interrogation. However, the Army, to their great credit, defied Cheney's attempt to do this and instead made clear that prisoner abuse was not in keeping with the traditions of our honorable troops.

Two points to this. The first is that it is at best counter-factual and at worst a blatant distortion of events marked by Mark's increasing Bush Derangement Syndrome, as is indicative of the fact that he apparently now believes that Cheney runs the administration and actively desires more Abu Ghraib's. There is also a difference between the military raising objections to the administration and actively defying it, one that I would hope anyone who understands the importance of civilian control of the military would recognize.
¹ VJM add: I'd guess #1, with #3 as the motivator. Applying #2 to us is prima facie stupid.

Yawn ...

I stopped reading Mark Shea's post before the end of the first paragraph. I realized there was no point when I got to this bit:
Michael Ledeen and Linda Chavez ... were ... more concretely, suggesting that we concretize these evil counsels by a) shooting unarmed wounded combatants...
That is a lie. Ledeen never said that. This was pointed out to Shea at the time (the needed links to the originals are all there). Even in his own comboxes, Shea had no rebuttal beyond mocking people's motives. Under British law, and with the time and energy to spare, Ledeen could win a fat libel suit IMHO. (Neither of those two hypotheticals obtain obviously, but they are not morally relevant.)

As I said, I stopped reading the new post at that point. What would be the purpose? Shea either doesn't listen to what other people say, even on basic factual matters like "so-and-so said X" or thinks spreading falsehood is morally licit. For the sake of charity, I'm going with the former option. But intellectual exchange is not possible either with those who refuse to listen or those who repeat what they (should) know to be false.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Glad to see that this is proceeding in a fairly civil fashion ...

And I would thank Victor for his commentary on my commentary (there is something of a Talmudic commentary to this) of Gaudium et Spes.

I would also like to clarify to Christopher (whom I thank for his gracious response) that I was not attempting to argue that "ticking time bomb" scenarios in and of themselves justify torture so much as to demonstrate their historicity against people like Mark who have dismissed the entire concept as something produced by the writers of 24. (ADD BY VJM I stopped reading this Shea post after the first paragraph, during which he twice repeated the lie ... yes, "lie" ... that those like us cite "24" as reflecting the real world. And also gave us a "what he really means is ..." sentence to boot. No point in going on.)

Essentially the main problem that I have in the torture debate (or at least how Mark has framed it) is that he conducts it in such a manner that is more or less divorced from both history and the Magisterium in the sense of what it actually teaches. It relies on a fundamentalist reading of Gaudium et Spes, Evangelium Vitae, and Veritas Splendor (the latter two both quoting Gaudium et Spes) that is questionable at best from the text itself and is made even further dubious by both the historical and the contemporary reality that the Church doesn't as a factual matter teach what Mark believes that it teaches. If all attempts to coerce the will are intrisically evil, then there can be no room for domestic law enforcement as it is currently understood. Since the Church clearly doesn't teach this, then either Mark's reading of the document is inaccurate or the Church is in error, thus raising issues indefectability.

Victor and I have noted that there are numerous other ways to read the Magisterial documents in question that quite easily preserve the indefectability of the Church and don't actually do nearly as much to the arguments for those who want to claim that we shouldn't torture now or that we shouldn't enshrine torture as a matter of law as you might think. The text from the Catechism that Victor cited below on the subject strongly appears to be of the opinion that torture was justifiable in primitive societies but that it becomes considerably less justifiable now. I've argued this myself for a number of reasons, particularly given that I think that enough has been learned in the arena of drugs and psychology in particular to render a majority of traditional physical torture superfluous. Now that may or may not be the case, but one point that I want to stress here is that contra Mark neither Victor nor myself are dissenting from Catholic teaching. Rather, we are seeking to preserve its historical integrity and above all indefectability against an individual whose misguided fundamentalist readings of Magisterial documents threaten the very foundation of Catholicism: the infallibility and indefectability of the Church on matters of faith and morals.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Response to Christopher Blosser

Wow ... it is actually possible for someone to write an interesting post on torture, disagreeing (somewhat) with me without acting like a complete jerkwad.

To the principle point of contention, and the one which I'd like to pursue, is one that Chris labels But didn't the Church use Torture? and then saying the Catechism adequately rebuts the charge.

As the person who first brought this point up (I'm pretty confident) in the little circle of St. Blogs comboxes, I'm not sure that the Catechism footnote really addresses the argument that **I made.** It is obviously NOT "some Churchman did it, therefore it was right," like using the Borgia popes to justify bastardy. It was more like, "how can something become an intrinsic evil when the church has affirmatively and authoritatively mandated it." Every word in that sentence is relevant, and brushes away the easiest objections.

The Catechism footnote (Chris quotes it in full) reads ...

In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

... quite seriously understates the Church's practices and the level of authority given them. Here from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Curiously enough torture was not regarded as a mode of punishment, but purely as a means of eliciting the truth. It was not of ecclesiastical origin, and was long prohibited in the ecclesiastical courts. Nor was it originally an important factor in the inquisitional procedure, being unauthorized until twenty years after the Inquisition had begun. It was first authorized by Innocent IV in his Bull "Ad exstirpanda" of 15 May, 1252, which was confirmed by Alexander IV on 30 November, 1259, and by Clement IV on 3 November, 1265. The limit placed upon torture was citra membri diminutionem et mortis periculum -- i.e, it was not to cause the loss of life or limb or imperil life. Torture was to applied only once, and not then unless the accused were uncertain in his statements, and seemed already virtually convicted by manifold and weighty proofs. In general, this violent testimony (quaestio) was to be deferred as long as possible, and recourse to it was permitted in only when all other expedients were exhausted...
In the Bull "Ad exstirpanda" (1252) Innocent IV says:

When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podestà or chief magistrate of the city shall take them at once, and shall, within five days at the most, execute the laws made against them.

Moreover, he directs that this Bull and the corresponding regulations of Frederick II be entered in every city among the municipal statutes under pain of excommunication, which was also visited on those who failed to execute both the papal and the imperial decrees. Nor could any doubt remain as to what civil regulations were meant, for the passages which ordered the burning of impenitent heretics were inserted in the papal decretals from the imperial constitutions "Commissis nobis" and "Inconsutibilem tunicam". The aforesaid Bull "Ad exstirpanda" remained thenceforth a fundamental document of the Inquisition, renewed or reinforced by several popes, Alexander IV (1254-61), Clement IV (1265-68), Nicholas IV (1288-02), Boniface VIII (1294-1303), and others. The civil authorities, therefore, were enjoined by the popes, under pain of excommunication to execute the legal sentences that condemned impenitent heretics to the stake.

Here are the relevant details for my purposes -- a mandate upon the civil authorities upon pain of excommunication, the latter of which is an exercise of the Keys to the Kingdom, not simply a governing practice. Further, a series of popes repeatedly reaffirming torture as a practice, to the point of setting regulations for how and under what circumstances. Further, there's this formal condemnation of a per se moral case against burning at the stake in Exsurge Domine (scroll down to error 33 for "That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit"), which formally lists heresies. Since burning at the stake most definitely inflicts gratuitous torment, and, like all criminal penalties, is always implicitly and sometimes explicitly a threat, burning at the stake necessarily includes "torture."

It's the language (and the resulting rhetorical use) of the term "intrinsically evil" that I find inexplicable (and, rhetoricwise, offensive). "Inadvisable." "Imprudent." "Wrong for our time." "Only in cases of necessity." All of these I could, in principle, buy. There are precedents for all of them -- slavery and capital punishment being the two obvious examples. In Evangelium Vitae, it's quite clear that Karol Wojtyla thinks that capital punishment can never be justified; but Pope John Paul II knows he can't say that. And the Church has carefully defined "slavery," so as to condemn it in some senses, but not others (as a punishment for crimes, say, as secular lawmakers also realize one must do).

As I say, all that is perfectly explicable. But to *become* an *intrinsic evil* -- meaning always, everywhere and without regard to circumstance? No. I'm no expert on the matter of "development of doctrine," but at face value the very things that make it a coherent concept -- different understandings over time and different circumstances -- are taken off the table by the term "intrinsic evil." As Father Brian Harrison has noted in a letter to Crisis that, to my knowledge, Shea has never responded in detail:

It certainly won't do for us Christians merely to cite at this point Vatican II's Dei Verbum , which acknowledges that the Old Testament contains “matters imperfect and provisional.” Divine authorship and divine justice do not seem incompatible with temporarily mandating something imperfect. But something “intrinsically evil”?

Exactly. It's as if the Church once had "abortion providers" or mandated fornication under defined circumstances. There is a much more severe historical problem here than I think even Chris realizes. Once this is all noted and understood, much of the Catechism footnote simply melts away ...

In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture.
This seriously understates the Church's teachings, condemnations and practices (and its justifications in re the latter).

Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy.
But clemency and mercy are not absolute duties, lest any and every criminal punishment become illegitimate, as an avoidance of a thing "intrinsically evil" would have to be absolute.

She forbade clerics to shed blood.
This is of no consequence whatever.

In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order...
This is both historically dubious (in my judgement anyway), and it gives away the "intrinsically evil" game, as it implicitly acknowledges that **if it were** necessary for public order, "torture" would become defensible. Further, unless the Church is going to say that understanding can only get better or increase over time (highly dubious), that "has become evident" statement is subject to later revision, surely.

...nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person.
Then "the human person" has to be understood as a historicized subject, otherwise how could torture have been thought to be in any way "in conformity with" the human person's rights in the past. After all, nobody in the past was so stupid (or had such an undeveloped understanding) as to think that torture was a *good* thing -- the Fathers' condemnations go back to the beginning of the Church, but always in the context of religious conversions or acknowledgement of guilt. But that actually cuts the other way -- that torture was (in some sense) a violation of the person was always obvious.

On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading.
Maybe. But that leads to the "how did we get here" historical problem. In other words, to quote a favorite Sheaism, if "sin makes you stupid," and degrading practices leads to "ones even more degrading," how is it possible to get from a world where torture and/or practices that we consider torture were considered normal, to the one we are in, where the use of the very word indicates condemnation. Whether this change be a good or bad thing in itself, as a historical phenomenon, there is absolutely no doubt (and this applies to much more than just torture) that contemporary Westerners at least are far more squeamish about violence and the use of force than any of our forebearers ever have been. This process of what I call "debellicization" is impossible on this understanding of history.

Also ...

For those who would invoke Veritas Splendor as evidence that torture is intrisically immoral, I would once again note that Magisterial documents are not to be interpreted in a vacuum, historical or doctrinal. One can make the argument that Veritas Splendor made the same argument about torture that the Church did about slavery in In Plurimis and other documents and hence should not be practiced in modern society, though I think that such an interpretation again runs into the problem of falling into functional (or actual) pacifism if taken to its logical conclusion since then we would be given to understand that any attempt to coerce the will is now intrisically immoral - if nothing else, this would seem to rule out participation in most democratic processes, to say nothing of law enforcement. Since Mark himself has acknowledged the need of coercion as it applies to domestic law enforcement ("Put your hands on your head," for instance), I think that harmonizing Veritas Splendor with Gaudium et Spes is best done by recognizing that there are definite intrisic evils mentioned in the quote but that not all of them fall under that category.

Shea's proof text ...

In order to support his claim that torture is intrinsically evil, Mark Shea has repeatedly cited three Magisterial documents on the subject: Veritas Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, and Gaudium et Spes, but since both Veritas Splendor and Evangelium Vitae are both quoting Gaudium et Spes I think it is instructive to examine it in detail so as to note that it says much less than meets the eye.

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online, but I will be focusing on 27 that is the source of Shea's arguments:

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

Now I agree with all of that, but when read in any kind of textual or historical context it clearly doesn't mean what Mark says it does, namely that torture is in of itself an intrinsic evil. In fact, the idea that Pope John Paul the Great is rounding off a list of intrinsic evils is in of itself at odds with Church teaching given that a number of the items mentioned (notably deportation, slavery, and poor working conditions) are not themselves regarded as intrinsic evils by the Magisterium. Particularly, if any attempt to coerce the will is to be considered an intrinsic evil it would seem that the Magisterium is essentially adopting the Jain view of pacifism, which is to say one quite at odds with what the Church actually believes here in the real world. I'm not even going to get into the fact that what is considered subhuman working conditions to us in 2006 would not have been 100 years ago, let alone 500 or 1,000. (italics by VJM)

Ultimately, the view that you are left with is a view from John Paul the Great that does not come off terribly favorable towards torture but which stops well short of labeling it as an intrinsic evil. Indeed, in terms of development of doctrine the Gaudium et Spes quote would seem to be quite consistent with taking up a view of torture that is either analogous to that held by the Church on the death penalty or should only be used in very exceptional "ticking time bomb" cases. And if Mark still believes that these only occur on 24, I would ask him to Google Abdul Hakim Murad or Rashid Rauf for two very specific examples. The comparison that he will no doubt be apt to make to that of the "safe, legal, and rare" argument frequently invoked by abortionists is in this context a category mistake, since abortion is explicitly defined as an intrinsic evil and has always been recognized as such.

Now, as I've noted in the past, none of this affects Shea's policy argument to the extent that he has one. There is a very good argument to be made (as Father Neuhaus has) that something that only becomes morally licit in exceptions should never be institutionalized. There are also very good arguments to be made on banning torture in any and all circumstances for purely secular reasons. Mark is more than entitled to make those arguments, but if he bothered to recognize what Gaudium et Spes actually says he would have to do so in a far less self-righteous fashion.

UPDATE FROM VJM: I don't think, Torquemada, that one can overemphasize the sentence I have emphasized in italics. The very term "subhuman" when used in reference to a material standard, is about as historical and contingent as a term gets. How can that possibly square with the language of "intrinsic evil," which means that circumstances and cases never matter? Even a child knows that material circumstances and "needs" are relative across time and place. To put it kindly, calling "subhuman living conditions" an "intrinsic evil" is not a statement that can be taken seriously.

And everything I said about "subhuman" housing, rinse and repeat for "disgraceful working conditions."

This suggests to me one of two things (I'm agnostic on which, for the moment): either (1) the things mentioned are intrinsic evils, but some (including potentially, and I wopuld argue actually, "torture") have no ahistoric meaning and thus have to be understood and defined according to circumstance; (2) the whole text is a lofty flight of rhetoric, meant to be taken prophetically (and certainly infallible as such), not as stating anything philosophically precise.