Do understand, I have no desire to start a conflict between Akin and Mark, no more than I did to be in conflict with Mark to begin with. I do, however, have an obligation to call attention to what I view as moral hypocrisy (let alone fundamentalist readings of Church documents) on the part of a fellow Catholic. So my challenge to Papa Mark is this: if you are going to continue heaping scorn our way, please explain where Akin's position (or Dave Armstrong's for that matter) differs from our own beyond your telepathic insight into our true intentions.
I stand by those remarks. I don't want to start trouble between Mark and Akin, no more than I want to start trouble with Mark to begin with. Believe me, I have far, far better things to do with my time. What I do want to hear, however, is a detailed explanation as to where my position differs substantively from that of Dave Armstrong or Akin on this issue from Mark and why he chooses to hurl invective and anathema sits our way while granting them a fair hearing.
I really appreciate this a lot. One of the most irritating things about this discussion is the awareness that there are people who would very much like to pit Jimmy and I, who are friends, against each other. One of the most saddening things for me is that I have said things which have been hurtful to Jimmy when I have had no intention of doing so. The reason the post yesterday took so long to compose is that I kept having to go back to it and say, "No, this makes it sound like Jimmy is making a bad faith argument" when what I was trying to get at was that Jimmy's argument seems to me to have the effect of supporting those who I believe argue in bad faith, while it is manifestly obvious to me that Jimmy himself does not intend to do so. I say this because I know Jimmy and I know that he wants to think with the Church.
Why he believes that I want him and Akin to be in conflict is beyond me since I specifically stated the contrary, instead saying:
Given that Mark is a respected Catholic apologist on an issue that we believe to be deeply wrong on this issue, is it really that terribly surprising that we would appeal to other Catholic apologists and theologians to demonstrate what we believe to be the weakness of his position?
He is also claiming that we are arguing in bad faith, in which case I really don't understand how he would know that given that he has never attempted to substantively argue us or if he does believe this why the hell he cares what we think. Even if we are, that still doesn't make the arguments that we are making or have agreed with wrong, but then again so far he hasn't really tried to substantively engage those either but instead issued broad statements and farmed the work out to others.
And since terrorists kill our children, why not hold their hostage and murder them if need be." That's not Jimmy's thought. But (in the case of threatening to kill children) it is what the CIA has, in fact, already done according to Ron Suskind. So it seems to me to be a perfectly obvious conclusion that most Americans would make if we make proportionality the measure of whether an act is torture of not. (Which is why, by the way, I appreciate that Jimmy is also concerned about opening Pandora's Box.)
There is a huge gulf by any standard of morality between telling a captive detainee that we have their children and that we will kill them if they don't tell us what we want to know and actually going out and doing so. Suskind alleges the former, not the latter, if I remember correctly, and one would think that Mark would find scaring the heck out of a detainee far more preferable than say physically beating the information out of them. The "bad cop" in most standard police interrogation sessions atypically threatens detainees with all manner of nasty things (none of which they have any intention of actually doing) unless they fess up and to the best of my knowledge no one has a problem with that.
Mark then makes IMO a fairly tortured argument that because Jesus does not teach us every conceiveable form of evil but instead asks us to uphold good that asking questions regarding how far you can morally go with regard to interrogation is equivalent to how far you can morally go with murder or adultery. He then says:
Veritatis Splendor regards the various prohibitions against various sins such as abortion, torture, slavery, etc. as the rock bottom lower limits of morality. They are the starting point, the minimum of bare human decency, not the goal of Catholic moral teaching.
And as a general standard for human conduct, I think it's a fine list. However, as myself and others have attempted to note, it should not be read as the kind of authoritative standard that trumps all prior Catholic teaching on the subject that Mark has been selectively using it as (i.e. ignoring the references to deportation among other things), nor do I think that John Paul II intended for it to be used in such a fashion. Akin understands this and said as much in his posts on the subject, but Mark largely refused to engage that argument because his appeal to the text is about the only thing he has left at this point, which is why I have referred to him as "arguing like a fundamentalist."
It's like this: On September 10, 2001 a Catholic could have approached the question of how to treat prisoners in wartime in a lot of different ways, because it really was a purely abstract discussion. I think the general approach before the outbreak of war would have been to start with Paul's (and Christ's) counsel to love your enemies and then go from there to the question of real world applications of how to get intelligence within that basic limitation.
However, with the outbreak of war, the peculiar heinousness of 9/11, then the revelation of brutalities committed by our troops and by the CIA, then the various attempts by favored pundits to downplay the significance these acts (and the various attempts of others to parlay them into political capital), coupled with a wide sense that torture is a "realistic" option we must keep open in desperate times, what quickly emerged was real world need to define the question in a particular way so as to serve this need to defend the Administration and to defend acts of torture or explain them away as "not really torture". To this was added as well, the curious spectacle of an odd tendency to major in minors.
I got involved when Michael Ledeen and Linda Chavez offered appalling defenses of, respectively, murder and torture. I was amazed to see respected opinion makers do this and I analyzed their arguments and responded to them in "Toying with Evil".
First of all, Catholic teaching on torture and interrogation did not change on 9/11. As I think Victor posted awhile back, neither he nor I were really all that aware of the Church's teaching on the subject until we read Mark's blog and realized just how out of whack his increasingly hysterical pronouncements (and as long as he's accusing us of bad faith I'll throw this out - almost certainly fueled by hatred of all things neocon and opposition to the war in Iraq) were with actual Catholic teaching on the subject. He also made a number of what were IMO factual errors by embracing every lefty conspiracy theory imaginable available on the subject and then pronouncing before the 2006 mid-terms that he regarded both parties as being complicit in intrinsic evils. Because Victor and myself disagree with Mark on both secular political issues, factual issues, and moral theology (which we are able to distinguish, even if he can't) we challenged him in particular on the latter since he is a respected Catholic apologist and as such we feel the need to hold him accountable and correct we view as extreme failings in both his position and argumentation.
As for Mark's melt-down on Ledeen, it is entirely clear for me (and I trust Chris Fotos to provide the necessary documentation for those who are interested since I believe he's posted it in the comments of at least one of the last several posts) that he cannot have a civil discussion concerning the man. Whatever Ledeen's positions (and I contend, as before, that Mark completely distorts and misrepresents them, especially now, but that is a post for another time), most people generally draw the line at calumny.
Mark then proceeds to conflate questioning his reading of Veritas Splendor with questioning Catholic teaching on abortion, which here again illustrates the fact that he can't have it both ways in this debate. If his view of Veritas Splendor is that of the Magisterium, then he should have the guts to come out and say so rather than going to great pains to stress his lack of "quasi-magisterial" authority as in his previous post on the subject. If the Torq/Victor/Armstrong/Akin view of the document is definitively wrong by some means other than Mark's repeated appeal to the text and there is evidence to that effect, I'd like to hear it. Thus far he has yet to provide any, however.
He then proceeds to lump us together with Joe D'Hippolito on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand for the sake of further demonization and continues:
Mostly what I began to encounter was this strange tendency to major in minor that eventually solidified into deep and rancorous hostility. It was an attitude best summed up in the words of Tom Kreitzberg, as "making the case for fog." It became apparent after a time that the goal was to do just like McBrien: encourage as much as possible the idea that the normative teaching of the Church on torture (summed up as "It's bad. Don't do it") could always be explained away. If the Church said it was intrinsically immoral than the goal was to find a way to say that it wasn't. If that didn't work, then the goal was to find a way to make it impossible to distinguish between legitimate coercion and torture. Again and again, the conversation steered toward encourage as much confusion as possible about the distinction between legitimate coercion and torture and then accusing anyone who opposed torture of opposing legitimate coercion, of hating Bush, of being a "Torture Pharisee", of loving terrorists but not victims and so forth. If Church teaching was raised, the first and last order of business was repeat constantly that anybody who cites Veritatis Splendor, Gaudium et Spes, Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism to say, "We are are committing torture. It's wrong and should stop" is a proof-texting fundamentalist. When asked point blank if they thought torture is legitimate or not, they refused to answer "on principle" (whatever the hell that means). They demanded answers (from a guy who is neither an expert in moral theology, nor specially trained in interrogation) to the question "What is torture?" yet never accepted the answers given, despite the fact that these answers appear to have worked perfectly well for police and military interrogators right up to the time the Bush Administration suddenly needed to justify prisoner abuse and a network of secret prisons. And the folks who were demanding and refusing all these answers provided no answers of their own.
Actually, Victor and I provided our own answers quite aptly when asked about the subject by Dave Armstrong and you can read mine here. If Mark wants to know my view on the topic, that's where he can go to read it. Somewhat ironic for those that Mark alleges are so dedicated to obfuscating this issue, we seem to be quite up-front with our positions if he ever actually bothered to learn what they were for the purposes of his argument. And, as before, he equates us with abortion supporters and claims that the only reason we could be doing this is out of partisan political motivations.
I was alternately accused of feigning a "cornpone aw shucks I'm just an unfrozen caveman pose" that wouldn't answer the question and of forbidding anybody from answering the question. Yet instead of turning to professionals in moral theology and/or specialists in legitimate forms of coercion, they simply kept demanding I supply a definition of torture. After a while, such behavior makes it pretty clear that such people don't really want an answer to the question "What is torture?" If they did, they would quite badgering an incompetent and take his advice to talk to an expert. So it became obvious to me that this was a classic case of people asking questions in order to keep from finding out something (and in order to keep others from finding it out too).
The primary reason that we demanded that Mark supply a definition for torture early along the line is the fact that the Church has not defined it and unless Mark was willing to supply one that he should at least be open to alternate points of view that some of the specific techniques described were not torture, if only to refute them. I don't feel that this is terribly controversial, though it became so when Mark made clear that he would not, lest he put a crimp in his moral umbrage.
Mark then proceeds to completely miss the point as to why we objected to his use of Abu Ghraib photos within the context of a debate over authorized interrogation techniques. Unless he believes (and he may very well at this point depending on how far his Bush Derangement Syndrome has gone) that what happened at Abu Ghraib was ordered by the administration, what occurred there was/is quite different in type if nothing else from what took place at CIA interrogation facilities around which the debate over the McCain amendment (which I supported) that IIRC Mark injected the photos to demagogue regarding. This is a category mistake if nothing else and an effort to manipulate emotions every bit as disgusting as that which Mark has wrongfully alleged that Vice President Cheney did to link Iraq to 9/11. Again, he conflates it with using abortion photos, but a better analogy would be if you were using photos of murdered (aborted) babies to support the illegalization of a form of surgery, in which case I would again be quite appalled by their use. His continued attempt to argue by analogy by bringing abortion and those dissenters who support it into the discussion is a good indication that he both feels the need to demonize and isn't able to argue on his own ground.
Now the Coalition guys are not all negative. They do provide ringing defenses of Michael Ledeen's sly suggestion that we "enter into evil" and "do things we know to be morally wrong" (such as shooting wounded unarmed combatants lest they grow up to be Hitler in 20 years). They do speak out bravely for the unjustly reviled Machiavelli. And they do have a creative repetoire of insults for people who say "The Church says torture is wrong. We shouldn't do it." (I'll leave you to scan the Coalition's archives for that. A great deal of the blog is dedicated (when it is not devoted to minimizing the normative teaching of the Church torture) to large group discussion of my numerous faults, failing, errors, lies (lots of these) and sins. It's a cornucupia of hostility!
You get this from "skimming" our blog, Mark? Where to begin ...
- Ledeen has explicitly stated that he doesn't favor the killing of unarmed combatants, but no doubt you know what he really meant to say through your charism of telepathy. While torture may be a sin, calumny and libel seem not to be as long as the target is right.
- I would be extremely interested to know if you have actually read Machiavelli at any point in your life. One need not agree with everything he says to find valid points in what he writes. The same can be said of any number of other writers and philosophers.
- Near as I can determine, most of our scorn here is directed, usually in retaliation, against yourself, Zippy, and the rest of your tag team on this issue. This has little to do with the argument and more to do with the amount of invective we have had hurled our way, yet for all our shots at you guys we somehow seem to get through it without conflating you with abortion supporters or questioning your standing as Catholics.
- I like that term "cornucupia of hostility." It's too bad that Thanksgiving is over or it might have been the inspiration for a Photoshop.
We then get to hear of the exasperation inflicted by the wicked juggernaut that is the Coalition against Mark and his merry men:
Meanwhile, of course, there is everybody in the middle of this raucous conflict with me, Zippy and a few others on the "Torture is bad, don't do it" side and the Coalition. These poor folk are stuck (those who haven't found the argument boring and exasperating) They can't really picture Jesus waterboarding people, but they also can't picture Jesus just standing by while a city is nuked. All they've heard is the endless repetition of two question, "Does the Church really insist that torture is always wrong?" and "But what *is* torture anyway?"
Mark then proceeds to extend his anathema sit to most of St. Blog's while simultaneously shifting his rhetorical goalposts:
First, I simply don't see *anybody* at St. Blog's overemphasizing the idea of loving the terrorist. On the contrary, my experience of St. Blog's over the past year has been of a fantastic amount of emphasis on discounting the Church's ordinary teaching on torture, teaching which, even in the midst of the War on Terror, and even granting (which I don't) that we can waterboard the Ticking Time Bomb Terrorist, *still would prohibit virtually everything the US Government has granted itself the power to do in its abuse of prisoners. I have never met a soul (except perhaps the cockeyed optimist pacifist Chris Sullivan) who thinks that a big hug will fix everything. I have met many loud and vociferous souls whose minds are dominated by the assumption that, of course, it's going to be necessary to "go to the dark side" to some degree or other. The great effort in the discussion has not been to restrain those teeming throngs who want to distribute flowers and love beads, but to get people to not immediately dismiss "love you enemies" as moralistic, pollyanna, and Kumbayistic. Even I, Holier Than Thou Moralizer Extraordinaire, have not focused on, "How can we be maximally loving toward terrorists?" That's because it too is the wrong question. Our obligation is to the common good. That means we have to consider both the humanity of our enemies *and* the good of our people. That why I think the question is "How do we treat prisoners humanely and still get the intelligence we need?"
Mark's fundamental problem in his perception of his intellectual opponents, however, is one noted by Frank Sales:
Why can't those who disagree with Mark be given credit for arguing from principled consideration of the issues rather than as shills for Bush or responding through animal fear of terrorists?
He then proceeds to apologize to Jimmy for heaping vitriole on him that he does on us. No word when we might be getting the same and I'm not holding my breath.