Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Test Case

Jimmy Akin has started trying to define torture over at his blog. I'm still reading through all of it but there doesn't seem to be anything I've come across so far that I disagree with. The differences between this and the views articulated by Dave Armstrong (which I also agreed with) strike me as being mainly stylistic and semantical rather than substantive.

However, as one astute reader notes in Mark's comments box, if Mark has any intellectual consistency remaining he should have issues with Jimmy's approach:
I HOPE Mark Shea and friends will take careful note of this from Jimmy:

"In Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II quoted a list of social evils--including torture--from Gaudium et Spes and seemed to apply the label "intrinsically evil" to this list. This does not strike me as sufficient to settle the question, though, for as His Awesomeness Cardinal Dulles has pointed out, John Paul II's use of this passage from Gaudium et Spes appears to have important unstated qualifiers and thus some of the items on the list (e.g., deportations) do not on their face appear to be intrinsically evil without further qualification. The possibility is thus raised (and I view Dulles's article as turning the possibility into a probability) that the pope was speaking in a general rather than a technical way and without further qualification we cannot simply say that every item on the list is intrinsically immoral.

So I don't think Veritatis Splendor is decisive on this question. Instead, I think that the evolution of the word "torture" will unfold in such a way in the future that the Magisterium will want it used of intrinsic evil."

This is the essential point, if not in the argument, then at least in how to conduct it.

Those of us who doubt that torture has been defined as an intrinsic evil in the technical sense have been derided not just as wrong, but as unfaithful Catholics who are using an OBVIOUSLY WRONG and dishonest method of textual analysis. That's what needs to stop.

Mark says that because of Veritatis Splendor, torture as intrinsic evil is WHAT. THE. CHURCH. TEACHES.

Jimmy Akin says, "without further qualification we cannot say that every item on the list is intrinsically evil."

I have no argument with Mark's position as a POSITION. I have tremendous problems with being told that any alternative view is a dissenting one.

So whaddaya say, Mark? Is Jimmy a dissenter? Or are we talking about a legitimate disagreement among Catholics?

Now none of this matters terribly much to me and Victor, who have been arguing this for some time. It does, howver, pose problems for the fundamentalist methodology being employed by Mark because it poses a direct challenge to his core proof text. When we tried to point this out, we were denounced and equated with abortion supporters and those sought to dissent from Humanae Vitae. Well Mark called the tune and now I think it's time for him to pay the piper.

I would also note that Jimmy says the following:
Just because something can be justified in at least some circumstances DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE ARE IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES and thus DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CAN GO AHEAD AND DO IT. There may be many things that, while not intrinsically evil, are extrinsically evil in the vast majority of circumstances and cannot be done as part of the War on Terror.

Which is basically restating something I have tried to note here again and again. Even if torture is not intrisically evil, Mark is still quite able to oppose its application within the context of the war on terrorism. He can even continue to rant with glee against the evils of the Bush administration. But what he cannot do is use the type of rhetoric and shoddy argumentation that he has employed to date against those who dare to disagree with him on this issue.


Christopher said...

Gee, you know? For a self proclaimed "Dummy", Richard Commerford sure does do an awful lot of "talking".

Andy Nowicki said...

As I've written before, Shea won't abuse Akin and call him names for the crime of dissenting from Shea's position because Shea is a bully who gets his jollies from attacking people whom he perceives as weak. Akin is too prominent a Catholic critic for Shea to be able to get away with attacking him, so Shea would rather be his buddy.

Christopher Fotos said...

The guiding principle for Jimmy Akin and the Coalition for Fog and Tom McKenna and me and the far more accomplished Fr. Brian Harrison is the same: How do we harmonize the Catholic past with the Catholic present? This is an honest and worthy venture, if a difficult one for people who don't feel they can easily wave away past Catholic practice.

So when jeff, as excerpted from Akin's blog says:

I have no argument with Mark's position as a POSITION. I have tremendous problems with being told that any alternative view is a dissenting one.

It doesn't capture, as Jeff will surely agree, the abuse that Mark has spewed on this subject.

Akin arrives at a familiar destination via one route that's available--inflicting pain on a prisoner to obtain information isn't torture if it's done under the right circumstances for the right reasons. He explicitly includes waterboarding as one example.

So if Mark has any integrity he will either start making amends by posting a massive public apology to everyone he has slandered; or failing that he will add Jimmy Akin to the anathema of those who "don't bloody care what the Church thinks."

Akin has provided a service by discussing the issue with humility to the extent that he rightly describes his conclusion as a tentative one. And he has found no need to condemn people who take another view, as far as I can tell, focusing on his own chain of reason. Hint, hint.

However, I think Akin missed a real teachable moment here by not reproving Mark for his unacceptable behavior, a fact that I have come to think is more important than the debate itself. And Mark will continue abusing people as long as there's no penalty. I expect Catholic bloggers who should know better to continue linking to Mark's blog, life will go on, and the way will be paved for many other rounds of abuse and slander, on this and other subjects. And that will be the face of Catholic apologetics.

Christopher Fotos said...

Take waterboarding as just one example of an action that Mark Shea has said "any sane person" would call torture.

Jimmy Akin:

I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution)

Mark Shea:

...I gave a "for instance": waterboarding, wherein the victim is brought to the point where he believes he is about to drown. Amazingly, some are ready to quibble that this is not torture....

Mark Shea:

My comboxes: beyond parody

Here's an exquisite contribution:

Torture should be safe (waterboarding), legal and rare. And if you don't understand why that is different from saying the same about abortion, you don't understand the difference between saving innocent life and destroying it.

Reason #934857433554 I'm glad I belong to a Magisterial Church. I will stick with the formulation that torture is gravely immoral, not with the dissenting notion that it should be "safe, legal, and rare."...

"Safe, legal, and rare". What's next? "It takes a village to torture a child"?

How fitting that torture apologists should adopt the rhetoric of Bill Clinton, the Archetypal Perverter of Language in American politics. A fitting doom....

Mark Shea:

...When the Administration followed up this astoundingly cynical lie with the even more spectacularly cynical lie of Vice President Cheney that torture works (just look at Khalid Sheik Mohammed) but we don't torture, I thought the limits of credulity had been reached. But readers reliably came forward to play the "But is waterboarding *reeeeeeeally* torture?

I dunno, ask Jimmy.

Mark Shea:

Vice Glorious Leader Cheney, in the midst of simultaneously assuring us that torture (i.e. waterboarding) works and denying that we torture...

I literally could spend all day on this and bust the comments box.

Oh heck, one more, in a long post that refers to an earlier post by Akin:

Precisely what I object to is the attempt by torture apologists (see, for instance, Linda Chavez' sleight of hand in my article) to hopelessly blur the distinctions between the two so that torture gets called "aggressive interrogation" and is impossible to distinguish from legitimate interrogation. This is the real goal of all those people who insist on finding it perpetually impossible to know what torture is, who never seem to get around to figuring out that even waterboarding, cold cells, and Palestinian hanging are what any sane person would call torture, and who cannot even get it through their heads that the Church really does teach that torture is intrinsically immoral, no matter how many times you point them to a Magisterial document or three that says it is.

So Jimmy's perfectly right. We do need to distinguish legitimate forms of coercion from torture. I am not such a moral imbecile as to think handcuffing a prisoner or forcing him to put his hands on his head is torture. I leave that to the moral imbeciles who want to pretend that it is impossible to ever know whether an act is torture or not. And though I haven't asked him, I suspect Jimmy too would not find it hard to distinguish between handcuffing a prisoner and subjecting him to hypothermia.

You might wann recheck what Jimmy finds not hard, Mark.

(my bold in the excerpt above)

doubting thomas said...


Not only does he talk alot but he is also quite fixated on pliers and testes.