Skipping past the above mentioned caricatures, when Patrick raised the issue of whether or not the Coalition has a definition of torture. I pointed him to my answer to Dave Armstrong as well as to Victor's. I don't think that we're being terribly unclear here and neither does Mark judging from the fact that he has been made aware of these posts repeatedly (and he seems to spend an awful lot of time thinking about us) but doesn't find them worthy of response. So while he is claiming that we have never really sought to engage the question so he can continue to accuse us of bad faith, he might want to read this post where I explicitly said:
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.
Nothing has happened since November to change my view on that point and if Mark wants to provide evidence to the contrary with quotes explaining where Akin or Armstrong and myself differ substantively on this one I would be very interested to see it. Instead, he continues to claim bad faith and slavish adherence to the Bush administration as the only reasons why anyone could possibly disagree with him here.
The reason I keep invoking Akin or Armstrong, as I have explained repeatedly, is that I believe that the positions of myself and Victor are identical with their own and would challenge Mark to provide evidence rather than assertions to the contrary. Thus far, he has failed to do so and has continued to assert that Victor and I are arguing in bad faith whereas Akin and Armstrong are decent Catholic apologists whose positions are only due to the fact that they haven't spent enough time studying the subject. Ignoring the patronizing nature of the latter claim, the sad fact as many of us here have come to recognize is that the only real difference appears to be who exactly happens to be in good standing within Mark's social circle of Catholic apologists. You will forgive me for not regarding that as a substantive reason to accept your claims on matters as important as morality.
As to Mark's other points:
1) The comment in question was not made by a contributor, but by a commenter. And given some of the stuff that occurs within your own combox, I thought you might be willing to sympathize. As for claims about the general hostility that exists here towards your views, we have been more than willing to turn down the temperature of the debate but as long as you keep calling the tune we will be more than happy to pay the piper. At the very least we manage to do our best to keep your actual positions straight without hyperbole while doing so, which is more than I can say for you.
2) To be fair, you seem to enjoy reading our site enough that it looked like a decent enough guess to me.
3) This one deserves its own response in full:
A curious elaboration of the cherished myth that Jimmy Akin dealt some crushing blow to my point that the basic Church teaching that torture is intrinsically immoral.
Thank you for once again demonstrating that you have no real conception of what this discussion is about. We hold that the passages from Gaudium et Spes that you cite cannot possibly mean what you claim that it means because of the obvious contradictions between that claim and what the Magisterium in fact teaches concerning the issues that are given equal weight in the relevant quotation such as deportation. Akin concurs with that assessment, as does Armstrong. When presented with this problem, your only recourse to date has been to continue to appeal to the text and to accuse those who continue to note this as holding to ill motives. This is why I say that you argue like a fundamentalist.
I'm still not sure what the CtF guys think Jimmy did, but what he in fact did (if we grant his argument) is this: he made a case that, as with abortion, there could be a situation in which the principle of double effect makes an act that would otherwise be torture "proportional" and (somehow) justified. I'm not ready to grant that, but let us suppose that I did. What are we saying at the end of the day? It seems to me obvious that we are saying something equivalent to "On rare occasions, tubal pregnancies make it necessary to remove the fallopian tube in order to save the Mother. The intention is to save mom, not kill baby (who will die in any event)."
Now, does anybody in his right mind say that, because of this extreme situation, that therefore abortion is *not* intrinsically immoral?
No, because you clearly either don't understand what Jimmy did:
I see the situation as analogous to the use of the term "theft." There is a popular understanding of the term "theft" that would include taking food from someone who has plenty if you are starving and cannot buy food. According to the popular usage, that would count as theft, and an ordinary person might say, "Sometimes theft is okay." The Church does not want to say that sometimes theft is okay, and so it defines the sin of theft in such a way that this is precluded (i.e., taking property against the reasonable will of its owner). The Church would thus say that theft is always wrong, but taking food in the above circumstances does not count as the sin of theft.
In the same way, there may be things that would count as torture under the popular understanding and yet be justified, leading an ordinary person to want to say "Sometimes torture is okay." But the Church will not want to say that and so--if my thesis is correct--it will instead define torture such that those things which are potentially justifiable do not count as torture.
Mark may well disagree with that, but my point is (as it has been stated repeatedly) that he cannot hold to a good faith argument by making the case that our position is so horribly removed from that of Akin's. To be fair, I think that Zippy, who Mark seems to rely on to do most of his intellectual heavy lifting on this topic, has in fact conceded this point.
So, granting all that Jimmy said, the question remains: "Does Jimmy remote and hypothetical argument justify, for instance, the murder by hypothermia of torture victims in Afghanistan? The rendition and torture of Maher Arar? The torture and murder of the Ice Man by CIA ops at Abu Ghraib? Nope.
No he didn't and neither do we. To begin with, we distinguish what was authorized by policy (rendition, for instance) and what occurred as the result of abuse (Abu Ghraib). Mark doesn't, all the better to serve his demagoguery, but this is a distinction that needs to be made. As far as whether or not Akin's argument justifies any of this, I think that the answer (and I haven't studied all these cases in-depth) is no. But Akin was making an argument on the morality of torture rather than whether or not we should practice it as a matter of public policy, so this is something of a category mistake to begin with. Moreover, Akin was speaking of a situation within the context of extraordinary circumstances, something that I don't think was met in any of the cases referenced by Mark. Now there are cases, such as those of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, where I think that the arguments for extraordinary circumstances are much, much stronger, but that is my own opinion. Now maybe if Mark were actually reading this blog for something other than polemical value he would recognize it.
4) Here again, this was said in the combox rather than by a contributor. Mark can take that argument up with the individual in question, but unless he want us to start citing every single moonbat remark that shows up in his own combox (a task I have neither the time nor inclination to engage in) I would ask him to exercise a little charity here assuming he were reading us for something other than demagoguery. Oops, too late.
5) Except you have frequently cited Richard as an expert witness on this one Mark, and argued that we unfairly persecuting him for opposing torture until it has surfaced that he is more than a little loopy. Oh yeah, and then he threatened to sue us for pointing that out and claimed that we were being financed by some shadowy group in order to engender ourselves to the ruling elite or some such nonsense. You have yet to take note of this, near as I can determine, though you have been polite enough to (more than justifiably) remove such remarks from your combox.
6) The reason for these contradictory statements lies in the fact that in the combox, a variety of individuals often surface with a variety of different points of view. Imagine that!
7) See replies 4 and 6. It seems to me that Mark is only willing to allow for good faith in the "oh, these people have just started the debate and are still learning the ropes of the discussion" when he's certain that they'll come around to his point of view. How intellectually charitable of him.
8) The efficacy of torture is a factual point, whether or not it is moral is another matter altogether. To draw a comparison I'm sure Mark will approve of, the fact that we can yank organs from babies or the mentally retarded and place them within our own to live longer is likely entirely workable but that has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not it is moral. MacDonald's atheism is a red herring and an ad hominem in this instance, though she seems to be ideologically pure enough to get a hearing from Mark's new buddies over at The American Conservative these days.
As to answering Patrick's question of what torture is, I will here again defer to Jimmy Akin:
The sin of torture consists in the disproportionate infliction of pain.
So much for Mark's whole "they won't define it because they want to justify everything" shtick.
To understand how he got to that point, I would recommend following his posts on the subject here, here, here, and here. As I said at the time, everything he said pretty much makes perfect sense to me as a matter of both sound reason and Catholic theology.
As for the specific case that Patrick cites, my answer would be, "Not enough information." Because torture (for lack of a better term, see Akin) is only to be used under extreme circumstances, these have to be weighed on a case-by-case basis. Using the term "terror suspect" is far too vague because we have no idea what the individual in question is suspected of doing. Are they a cell leader? A bombmaker? A chemical weapons expert? A member of the al-Qaeda ruling council? I don't think, and Victor may disagree with me on this, that you should adopt a blanket set of interrogation techniques for everyone and anyone who is suspected of being a terrorist. The more they are suspected (or known) to have done and the danger they continue to pose to the community, the closer you would come to becoming justified in an "extreme measures" situation. This, by the way, is pretty much what Senator McCain said during the debate over the McCain Amendment when discussing secular policy.
Addendum: Because just reading over my post in retrospect, I want to make sure I make my point clear on the issue of chopping off fingers. I don't support it, I don't want it carried out by the United States, etc, etc. I have repeatedly made this clear as a matter of secular policy, which is why I supported the McCain Amendment in the first place. I also have absolutely no idea as to whether or not it would be effective and my best guess would be no (the detainee need only endure the pain until he runs out of fingers, not a terribly efficient method). The broader point that I was trying to make (as opposed to that which Mark will almost certainly misinterpret), however, dealt with the issue of extreme measures and porportionality as explained by Jimmy Akin far more than it did the specific technique described by Patrick. This is because (and I think that Akin does an excellent job of explaining why this is) the issue is far more one of porportionality and intent than it is of the specific technique in question.
Or as Akin explains it:
Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). 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). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).
I find it hard to think of particular physical acts that automatically count as torture irregardless of the circumstances. Even cutting off parts of a person's body is not torture if you're doing it to prevent them from dying of gangrene and there is no anesthetic available. But if the pain involved in that physical act is not automatically torture then I don't know what would be. Indeed, I don't know how to establish a maximum amount of pain that can be inflicted, even if it is for purposes of saving someone's life.
The only amount I can think of is one that would permanently damage the person in some way, and then we're talking about some kind of physical or mental mutilation rather than torture itself--and even that might not always be immoral since the Catechism acknowledges that mutilations can be legitimate for therapeutic reasons. "Okay, maybe removing your leg on the battlefield left you mentally 'scarred,' but at least you're alive, and you can live with the scars," I could see someone arguing.
It also strikes me that adopting the kind of general moral definition that I have proposed may be a good thing in that it lets us get past a semantic chokepoint in the discussion: Instead of worrying about whether or not something counts as torture, we can start figuring out whether particular acts are or are not moral. If the pain involved in them is disproportionate then they are immoral and therefore torture. If the pain involved in them is not disproportionate then they're not immoral and not torture.
Somehow I expect that this isn't the answer that Patrick wanted to hear, but I just wanted to make my opinion on the issue plain, Mark's demagoguery be damned.