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.