Friday, July 13, 2007

Not being a subscriber to First Things ...

I can't comment directly on what Father Neuhaus said about the Evangelical Declaration Against Torture until it is up on the website and you'll forgive me for not taking Mark at face value on this one given his past habits of "skimming" on this stuff. As a practical matter, I think that this debate is soon likely to become an anachronism since either there is going to be al-Qaeda attack of sufficient size and scope that it will vastly alter our domestic politics or the current trend of elite opinion will become consensus and all detainee procedures will be substantially revised yet again.

While I can't speak for Victor on this, I don't have a problem with what Evangelicals think about torture. It's their theology, not mine. However, what Mark completely misses is that Coalition for Fog has never been about promoting torture. If anyone wants to look back at what we wrote to Dave Armstrong's questions in this regard, I don't think our opinions have changed since. I have offered several arguments under which one might credibly argue against it from a Catholic perspective (slavery or the death penalty, just treatment of prisoners necessitates against it, and so on). John J. Reilly has argued against it on the basis that to use it would not be in keeping with American claims about our objectives. Others have held that it would be counter-productive and serve as a recruiting tool for our enemies. There are dozens of possibilities that come to mind.

Mark, however, is not willing to grant this. His entire argument is an a fundamentalist appeal to his exegesis of a particular text (Gaudium et Spes) that I think even the most sympathetic observer would argue tends to fall apart under close scrutiny when the same standard is exercised towards other sections of the document, for instance that which relates to deportation. Rather than answer these serious criticisms of his position, he either ignores them (in the case of Akin and Armstrong) or he tries to argue bad faith on the part of his opponents. It was this tactic, far more than the substantive debate on this issue (which we have yet to have, at least with regard to Mark Shea), that led to the creation of the Coalition for Fog in the first place.

Oh, and on the subject of Machiavelli and Wilsonianism, I should add that I think we are granting Mark far too much credit by attempting to argue that he believes the neocons are using Machiavellian means for Wilsonian ends. It seems to me to be so completely self-refuting: anyone who was truly committed to Machiavellian means wouldn't hesitate to stage the discovery of WMDs in Iraq, particularly in the middle of an election year, for instance.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

After some opening remarks, Father Neuhaus qutoes the following passage from the statement:

"When torture is employed by a state, that act communicates to the world and to one's own people that human lives are not sacred, that they are not reflections of the Creator, that they are expendable, exploitable, and disposable, and that their intrinsic value can be overridden by utilitarian arguments that trump that value. These are claims that no one who confesses Christ as Lord can accept."

Father Neuhaus then comments as follows:

"Precisely. In attempting to define what constitutes torture, the statement is somewhat promiscuous in embracing the language of a host of international agreements to which the United States is a party. And, perhaps understandably, there is no effort to address in detail the so-called hard cases, such as the 'ticking bomb' scenario. It recognizes that torture has been employed under the auspices of our government, also in the connection with the Iraq War, and commends remedial steps taken by the U.S. military. The signers emphasize that they have no illusions about the brutal threat posed by the enemy, as wel as the moral temptations and threats inherent in the necessary effort to protect ourselves against that enemy. They say, 'Deterring evil ends without resorting to evil means are tasks in tension, but any democracy must face dealing with this tension.' And this: 'Undoubtedly there are occasions where the demands of Christian discipleship and American citizenship conflict. This is not one of them. Returning to the absolute commitment to human rights outlined here is right in terms of Christian convictions and right in terms of the interests of our nation. We commend these moral commitments to our fellow believers, and our fellow citizens, for such a time as this.' No such statement is perfect and I would want some changes - especially in connection with the definition of torture - before signing this one, but 'An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture' is an exceedingly valuable contribution to a public debte of which we dare not tire."

kathleen said...

CFF 1, Shea 0.. Neuhaus says, "In attempting to define what constitutes torture, the statement is somewhat promiscuous .... No such statement is perfect and I would want some changes - especially in connection with the definition of torture - before signing this one ...."

sorry, Shea. Neuhaus clearly states he wants a more precise, "non-promiscuous" definition of torture. Shea's stated position is that to even ASK for such a definition is against Catholic teaching. Once again, Shea demonstrates his utter intellectual incoherence, by erroneously referring to Neuhaus' direct contradiction of Shea's position as an endorsement.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"No such statement is perfect and I would want some changes - especially in connection with the definition of torture - before signing this one, but 'An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture' is an exceedingly valuable contribution to a public debte of which we dare not tire."

I see nothing here with which I disagree. Debate and definition are what most of us have been seeking in the torture debate.

Mark Adams said...

Contrary to what kathleen says, I am pretty sure it is not Shea's "stated position . . . that to even ASK for such a definition is against Catholic teaching."

The more significant part of the Fr. Neuhaus quote is this:

"And, perhaps understandably, there is no effort to address in detail the so-called hard cases, such as the 'ticking bomb' scenario."

Fr. Neuhaus seems willing to discuss the hard cases. Given Shea's history shouldn't he be telling Fr. Neuhaus, "Get behind me satan."

kathleen said...

Shea, 9/29/06, after the briefest google search

"Bottom line: for all those agonizing about how to define "torture", there's no need. Army regs have defined inhumane treatment for ever so long. Nothing has changed in human nature that requires redefinition of inhumane treatment. If it's not broken, don't fix it. And if it was inhumane and therefore intrinsically immoral on 9/10/01, it still is."

in other words, it is totally unnecessary, and arguably immoral, to even wonder about definitions of torture.

mark adams, if you are still interested, go find other examples of Shea being totally disinterested in, and indignant about, definitions of torture. of course if you do so, you'll be giving Shea's words far more interest and attention than Shea himself gives them. as for me, I'm not inclined to give Shea's words any more attention than he himself gives.

Mark Adams said...

kathleen,

Your quote does not show that Shea's "stated position is that to even ASK for such a definition is against Catholic teaching." It shows perhaps that he thinks the question has been answered.

Shea's position is that because he knows the hearts and minds of certain people he knows that when they ask about the definition of torture they are insincere and just trying to create excuses for the Bush administration.

kathleen said...

mark adams, i reached a conclusion about shea's hazy, incoherent thoughts about torture after reading Shea's words, and my conclusion is more than reasonable. why don't you give me a quote showing that Shea is open to discussing definitions of torture and thinks catholic teaching permits such discussion, to prove your point? your position that you are "pretty sure" proves nothing. the burden of proof is yours.

btw, good luck with that.

kathleen said...

PS: mark adams, how does Shea, in your words, "know the hearts and minds of people"? in your close perusal of shea's writings, i'm wondering if you can find that out for us as well. dying to know here.

Mark Adams said...

how does Shea, in your words, "know the hearts and minds of people"?

It's called sarcasm Kathleen. Sarcasm. Shea's telepathy has been a frequent topic here at the CfF.

Mark Adams said...

i reached a conclusion about shea's hazy, incoherent thoughts about torture after reading Shea's words, and my conclusion is more than reasonable. why don't you give me a quote showing that Shea is open to discussing definitions of torture and thinks catholic teaching permits such discussion, to prove your point? your position that you are "pretty sure" proves nothing. the burden of proof is yours.

Kathleen, you said that Shea's "stated position is that to even ASK for such a definition is against Catholic teaching." When you say that someone has a stated position it places the burden on you to produce a quote in which the person explicitly states what you say they state. You have produced no such quote. The burden is not on me to go through everything that person has ever said to show they never said what you claim they said. The fact of the matter is that the quote you provide says absolutely nothing about the morality of questioning what defines torture. It only says what Shea has long said, that he thinks "army regs" answer the question.

In any event, the very post from which you pulled your quote shows that Shea doesn't believe discussing the definition of torture is contrary to Church teaching: "But that said, I think the Interrogator's Golden Rule works pretty well: If you'd call it 'torture' if it were done to you or your buddy or (I might add, since American citizens can now be tortured if the President thinks so) your wife or daughter, then it's torture if you do it to somebody else." Obviously Shea wouldn't be engaging in a discussion of how to define torture is if he thought doing so was against Church teaching. See also this post: "To go further, I have tried to give examples of what (I thought) all civilized people could agree on to fit the definition of 'torture'. I stuck to just a couple: waterboarding, cold cells, Palestinian hanging."

kathleen said...

sorry, no dice. Shea's equating the recognition of torture to implementation of The Golden Rule is just an exercise in avoiding definition of torture (it's also nonsense, but i'll let that go for now). it's a punt. a cop-out. And anyway, as shea says, "there's no need" to define torture -- so why would he do it? Whereas clearly Neuhaus believes there IS a need to define torture, or else he wouldn't express qualms about a "promiscuous" definition.

Mark Adams said...

I'm not endorsing Shea's reasoning or methodology. I am saying he has never articulated the position that you attribute to him. And so far you have produced no evidence to indicate I am wrong.

kathleen said...

i've produced evidence, as much as i care to. and also (ahem) It's called sarcasm, mark adams. Sarcasm.

Mark Adams said...

You keep telling yourself that Kathleen.

paul zummo said...

She's bad enough on his own that we don't need to exaggerate his opinions. No, he has never actually said that it is a sin to ask what the definition of torture is. But he has certainly bristled at many attempts to have this very debate, and he mocks anyone who dares ask the question.

paul zummo said...

First word of my previous post should be Shea, not she. So just a typo - not trying to question Shea's manhood.

kathleen said...

"You keep telling yourself that Kathleen."

what?

kathleen said...

Shea 9/29/06:

"To their credit, most conservative Catholics recognize, at some level, that you can't just declare the Magisterium dead wrong on a matter of faith and morals and expect to be taken seriously as a Catholic. Therefore, those who are still looking for an escape hatch in the debate use the second strategy, which is to say they aren't advocating torture and that the techniques and tactics being advocated are something besides what is meant by "torture"....as a general rule they will go for the "Golly! It's just so hard to define torture!" strategy."

paraphrase (and good luck trying to argue it's an unreasonable one): to ask for a definition of torture is against catholic teaching.

mark adams, it's interesting that you spend so much more energy and time on my words than on Shea's.

Christopher said...

Shea 7/16/07:

". . . O'Leary takes Fr. Brian Harrison, the Ratzinger Fan Club and various other fans of the Pope to task (rightly in my view) for somehow suddenly becoming extremely interested in trying to figure out a way to reconcile torture with the bleedin' obvious teaching of the Church, just at the moment when it was most convenient for supporters of President Bush's policies of torture and prisoner abuse."

Bracketing for a moment Shea's magnificent powers of telepathy, feel free to read my posts from last year and judge for yourself.