Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Intrinsic Evil'

There is a passage in Gaudium et Spes on certain issues, the use of which as a free-standing proof-text we have criticized here. Paragraph 80 lists a bunch of things, "torture" (perhaps) being one, which it calls (varying with the translation) grave infamies or intrinsic evils. It is here (I reprint it for the benefit of all)
"Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator."
Of all the items, the most problematic of them is "deportation," which has been frequently cited here and by those far more eminent (like "some guy named Avery Dulles," as Shea might call him) as proving that this passage cannot be understood fundamentalist-style, as a literalist proof-text. Given that the Church also says that states have a right to control their borders, there has to be some form of deportation, against those who violate that right of the state. Otherwise said right of the state is a dead letter.

To their sort-of credit (for now), the Pharisees™ among us have not resorted to saying that "well, of course 'deportation' (understood as unqualifiedly as 'torture,' with mockery poured on all efforts to distinguish it from other practices as 'deportation-lite') is intrinsically evil."

Well ... at Amy Welborn's site earlier today, a commenter drops the other shoe. It's in response to a news report about some raids on some businesses involved in an illegal-alien false-identity scam. Scroll down to "Posted by: Morning's Minion at Dec 13, 2006 12:10:42 PM." It's the 16th comment as I write this, assuming Amy doesn't delete any of 1-15:
Note the coupling of "instrinsically evil" with "deportation". This should give all Catholics food for thought before jumping on the nativist bandwagon ... (VJM deletes some morally libelous smears not worthy of dignifying by reprinting)
Shavian Fundamentalist Literalism in chemically-pure form. (It should be noted that MM is an ally of Shea's on the matter of "torture," since denouncing it at this moment hampers US security).

Just to be clear about what we are talking about. We are NOT talking about a Mexican walking across the border to do day-labor or yardwork or maid-service or whatever in Douglas or Brownsville, and being paid cash off-the-books so he can feed or house his family in Nogales or Matamoros. In other words, a regional economy working out its particulars with little regard for sovereign borders. (I have no moral problem with that ... or rather, I recognize that the problems with it will be overridden by our obligation to the poor.) Rather, we are talking about people engaging in scams involving thousands (CQ) of miles of travel and falsely assuming the identities of real people. Or as the Rocky Mountain News puts it:
a large number of illegal immigrants may have assumed the identities of U.S citizens or lawful U.S. residents and improperly used their Social Security numbers to gain employment at Swift facilities.
In other words, some illegal working in a meat-packing plant in Minnesota is claiming to be "Mark Shea" (or "Joseph D'Hippolito" ... the particular doesn't matter. It could be anybody's name and that's the point) and using Shea's (Joe's, anybody's) SSN 123-45-6789, with all the potential for skulduggery, both deliberate and inadvertant, that this implies.

Moving against THAT is intrinsically evil, we are now being told ... with the same citation of GS80 as the Torture Pharisees™ make. And with equal persuasiveness.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the most problematic item on the list is the first one, "any kind of homicide." Not only there no explicit qualification allowing that homicide may be legitimate in certain circumstances, but an implicit qualification seems ruled out by the inclusion of the words "any kind of" in front of homicide (if the document had condemned "any kind of torture" you could bet the barn that Mark would be making major use of that fact in his argumentation).

"Any kind of homicide" can only be read to mean "some but not all kinds of homicide" if we are committed to reading Veritatis Splendor is light of previous Catholic moral teaching. And if we're willing to do that, then any argument that the passage represents a significant change in Catholic moral teaching is simply untenable.


Christopher Fotos said...

"Any kind of homicide" can only be read to mean "some but not all kinds of homicide" if we are committed to reading Veritatis Splendor is light of previous Catholic moral teaching.

Yes, that makes sense to me. In that scheme, ending a human life isn't homicide when it's just or permitted (capital punishment & just war); taking food isn't theft if it's the only remedy to starvation; applying physical pain isn't torture if it's to acquire information to prevent the slaughter of innocents, per Jimmy Akin's proposed analysis. It's one way to solve the indefectability problem, superior, I think, to pretending there isn't one.

I'm not sure if "deportation" fits into this scheme as, er, "geographical reassignment," but as discussed widely it's obviously a legitimate function of government that could not have possibly been intended as the target of a papal condemnation. I forget who it was--Fr. Harrison or Shawn McElhinney?--who placed deportation in the context of the family-smashing deportations out of the Soviet Union against dissidents and the like. Wonderful if true, solves lots of problems.