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.

13 comments:

Chris Sullivan said...

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.

This is not correct.

Law enforcement exists to :-

1. Bring criminals to justice.
2. Punish criminals.
3. Protect the community from criminal actions.

None of these functions require coercion of the will. They require careful investigation, non-violent punishment, and defensive actions.

There is never any justification for coercion of the will.

God himself never coerces the will but invites man to encounter him and patiently waits until man is ready to so do.

God Bless

kathleen said...

ever heard of handcuffs?

Chris Sullivan said...

Handcuffs don't coerce the will.

They restrain the body.

To coerce the will is to apply so much violence to a man that his own will is broken and can be forced to will whatever his coercer requires.

To coerce the will is intrinsically evil because God made man with free will so to break a man's will is to break what God has purposely endowed man with and what man uses to distinguish right from wrong by making moral choices.

To deliberately render a man unable to make moral decisions is fundamentally against God's plan for man which works through man's moral decisions.

God Bless

kathleen said...

um, the body is the instrument of the will.

Chris Sullivan said...

the body is the instrument of the will

True.

But the body is not the same thing as the will.

To restrain the body is a different thing than to coerce the will.

To coerce the will is to apply so much violence to a man that his own will is broken and can be forced to will whatever his coercer requires.

The phrase "coerce the will" is about breaking the spirit, not about restraining the body, which is a legitimate function of law enforcement.

God Bless

Steve Golay said...

Chris S.

The grind of justice channels and moves the will (individuals and corporate).

'Will' is very much grounded in the physicality of our existence with its limits, consequences, attractions, draws and mesh of choices.

Justice (in both the sense of right order and guardian of that order) requires (compels) certain movements of the 'will' for Right Order to be maintained - and for 'will' to receive the security and surity of its greatest freedom of movement.(I define that freedom as, within this fallen world, the proper harmony between will and act - the gift of creation.)

None of this is 'coercion'.

When any individual or corporate 'will' is so repulsed with Right Order that it enters the mode of totalitarian rebellion, Right Order must (through degrees of Just Defenseive Acts) protect itself - and mankind that it shelters.

"Torture"? Which slot does it fill in those degrees of Just Defensive Acts? Ever?

If Right Order is never to take up that particular act, could it, itself, be accused of failing justice?

In saying never, never, never to any degree of Just Defensive Acts are we giving opening and place to "intrinstic" evil and its totalitarian designs?

In this conversation about 'torture', and the Church's past and present response to it, can any assistance be had from the duty and practice of exorcism - rightly held?
__________________________________

Heck. Within the American contect, how many individual terrorists are we talking out. Doubt if that number would take up my ten fingers.

Steve Golay said...

Chris S.,

Still trying to understand:

"There is never any justification for coercion of the will."

Yes, the Church, and the commission of the Gospel, is never coercive. "Never' should never be omitted.

But the jump from that to the State, as if the only proper way to think of the State (its nature, duties and limits)is how it imitates the Church and its commission.

It's that jump I don't see or understand. Does not the State (within the mandate and confines of creation) have its own "sphere of sovereignity"?

I know my duty and limits as a member of the Body of Christ, and even as a citizen? Must I insist that the State must imitate those duties and limits - or are there duties and limits within the State's 'sphere' that are not mine?

Chris Sullivan said...

steve golay,

The will is an attribute of the spirit, not of the body.

Angels are pure spirit, and they have a will which is either good in the case of the good angels or evil in the case of the demons.

God is also pure spirit and has a will, which we pray in the Our Father may be done.

When we die our spirit will go to heaven, hell or purgatory where we will still have a will.

The coercion of the will, which requires the breaking of the will, is a different thing to the restraining of the body.

God never coerces the will. He is comitted to free will. We ought to follow his example by following God not man.

The state has a duty and a responsibility to the Common Good. This requires policing, military and other functions. However, the state has no right to act against the natural law or the law of God.

God Bless

Steve Golay said...

The question is never with the word "never". And, yes, man's will is free (which is a gift), and in that it images God.

But created will (as gift) is not without limits, boundaries;it does not forget its creatureliness. Its freedeom is exercised within its finite creaturehood.

In short, man's will (to be true to the Natural Law of its creation) never forgets Christ's Resurrection and the promise therein of its own.

Christ's bodily Resurrection and Ascension is the definition and upper limit of our will's 'range' and freedom of movement.

For me, without the Great Boundary of Christ's Resurrection and Ascension, I find the notion of man (his will) in possession of limitless freedom quite frightening.

Again, however man's 'free will' is to be defined, great harm comes whenever it ceases to remember the GIFT of it.

(When it comes to choosing between Augustine and John Cassian, I always take the side of the Old Man from Hippo.)

Enough of this. This has gone beyond the topic of this post and thread.

kathleen said...

"To restrain the body is a different thing than to coerce the will."

not different often enough to be helpful to your argument. very often they are the same thing. you want the two to be mutually exclusive. they are not. they are not *always* the same thing, but they are the same thing often enough that to imagine one without the other is meaningless.

Dave Armstrong said...

You guys clearly have the edge in this debate. The only thing I would fault you for would be excessively personal remarks (I think Mark is guilty too).

I'd like to see Mark Shea answer point-by-point, but that doesn't seem to be his style. There seem to be two kinds of people in the world . . . ones that do that and those who will not or cannot or dare not.

In Him,

Dave Armstrong

EricG said...

Chris Sullivan:

By that logic, torture does not coerce the will, since the only thing being coerced is the bodily function of speech. The waterboarder could care less what the terrorist thinks or believes: he just wants him to give crucial information.

But let us return to the fact that the Church has in time past ORDERED her children to torture heretics, and threatened an eternity under the blow-torch for those who refused to comply.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it an article of Catholic faith that her infallibility prevents her from positively enjoining intrinsically evil actions upon her children?

In other words, the Church may indeed act imprudently, but the Holy Spirit will always prevent her from legislating evil.

I'm not saying I support religious coercion. I admit that the Church's historic teaching on this matter bugs me; what pisses me off even more is the fact that the make-up of today's Magisterium refuses to articulate the rational and/or Traditional basis for the things they say.

The Pope condemned the war on Leabanon absolutely, without going through, step-by-step, the Just War criteria and showing us which ones were being violated; or acknowledging that good Catholics can disagree with him. That's irresponsible.

Likewise, Vatican II unequivocally condemns torture and religious coercion, knowing full-well that her own support of both of these, FOR CENTURIES, are a well-known fact, and that such unequivocal present condemnations will call forth cynical replies from opponents of her still-claimed infallibility.

Pope JPII said that the death penalty could only be employed when it was necessary to protect society. But Pope Pius XII decades earlier said that such an understanding of capital punishment was flawed. JPII never even addressed this contradiction; we were all supposed to listen to him, and reject his holy predecessor, JUST BECAUSE HE (JPII) SAID SO!

That was irresponsible.

And now the Church is getting ready to toss out CENTURIES of magisterial teaching on Limbo, saying it was all "just a theological hypothesis", when any in-depth study pof the issue shows it was A LOT more than just that. And again, no explanation! It's true JUST BECAUSE some theological commission says so, as if centuries of Catholic theologians have been ignorant of the fact that God is loving and merciful!

And THAT'S irresponsible.

The Church OWES us an explanation for her teachings. We can't just nod our heads, "YESSA MASSA!" and blindly pray, pay, and obey while our intellects tell us that the Church is speaking out of her rear and insulting our intelligence.

Might we have to consider the possibility that the *Catholic* Church is not the infallible entity we believe she is, and consider the Orthodox Church as a more realistic alternative? At least the latter Church historically has had a variety of perspectives on these and other issues, so that it's current stance cannot be said to be a definite repudiation of former teaching.

Thoughts?

Chris Sullivan said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it an article of Catholic faith that her infallibility prevents her from positively enjoining intrinsically evil actions upon her children?

No, infallibility only affects dogmatic teachings on faith and morals.

Disciplinary measures eg "you are allowed/ought to tortuure in this case right now or else" are not covered by the charism of infallibility.

God Bless