Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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.


Victor said...

I would further note the irony that citatig 24 in a hypothetical, something Shea constantly uses as a point of ridicule against nameless others, *is quite explicitly done by Mr. Akin* (and, to top it off, never by anybody here).

Yet Mr. Akin isn't an apologist for Satan. Which demonstrates to my satisfaction that there is something other than intellectual or moral integrity going on with Shea.

Victor said...

Aaaagh ... that should be "citing 24"

Dave Armstrong said...

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?).

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?

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?

In the meantime, I put up a few related posts on his blog that may interest you:




In Him,

Dave Armstrong

Andy Nowicki said...

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.