"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Defending Torture

"These so-called ill-treatments and this torturing... were not, as assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual leaders, subleaders, and men who laid violent hands on internees... It is obvious that there were elements among them who would ill-treat internees, but this ill-treatment was never tolerated." Nazi Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Hoess during the Nuremberg Trails.

While the pragmatic arguments against torture, best understood and summarized by the military and incorporated into their field manuals, are virtually unanswerable, as Christians we must penetrate more deeply and understand why torture is always a violation of God's law. According to the Catechism: "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." Catechism, #2297. God calls us not merely to respect the dignity of others, but to grow every day more deep in our appreciation of that dignity, which in the end is our own dignity as well. Degrading others degrades ourselves even more thoroughly and wounds our humanity, making us less able to love others and the Lord. The purpose of social life is to create a world where such abuses are no longer possible.

Penetrating even more deeply, the Catechism characterizes using God's name to justify torture as blasphemy. "It is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death." Catechism, #2148. Those who use God's name to justify torture, as the current administration is doing by their veto of the bill which simply codifies anti-torture rules that have been a part of military code for decades, commit mortal sin.

Let us pray for those who blaspheme the image of God and justify war as Bush recently did by saying, "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …' And I did."

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