Jesus Nailed to the Cross
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As we prepare to look into the eyes of he who was tortured for us, may we who call ourselves Christians renew our dedication to end the practice of torture whereever it may occur, particularly by those who claim to be protecting our security. What security is it that keeps our lifestyle safe while rotting our souls?
"Torture is not an ethical means for fighting terrorism, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace." Cardinal Renato Martino made that assertion today at a press conference where he presented Benedict XVI's message for World Day of Peace, to be held Jan. 1.
"Torture is the humiliation of a person, whoever that person is. For this reason, the Church does not accept it as valid this means to extract the truth," the cardinal said.
These two quotes from an article on Zenit indicate the rapidly solidifying consensus by the Church that torture has joined the ranks of acts that are intrinsically evil - in the same category as abortion. With the image of Jesus on the Cross, being tortured to death, we need to reflect on exactly why this act is evil at the core and can never be justified.
What makes us like God - made in the image of God? Part of the answer must be our rationality and freedom. When such an image is tortured, the purpose is to destroy that freedom, to make the torturer's will prevail, to negate the will of the tortured and to reduce him or her to the level of an instrument, a mere thing in the hands of the only real power, the torturer and the authority he or she represents. Where reason and persuasion have failed (or have never been tried in most cases) physical and psychological pain is applied to coerce the will, to negate the freedom that has been abused and therefore rendered the bearer of that freedom unworthy of further respect.
In the eyes of the Church, we are persons, not individuals to be coerced, to be tortured into shapes that feed the eyes of those who love power for power's sake, "...everyone should look upon his neighbor without any exception) as another self, bearing in mind above all his life and the means necessary for living it in a dignified way..." Specifically forbidden are "...all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures..." Gaudium et Spes, 27. These moral laws apply as much to "terrorists" as to our fellow Catholics.
But there is a further similarity of the person to the community of persons that live in the Trinity. In the words of John Perry, "...the human rights and dignity attached to our personhood ... are grounded in our similarity to the divine nature, the nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, persons distinct only in their mutual relationships to each other in the unique community we call the Trinity. Thus, a torturer inflicting torments and suffering on a victim not only defaces another bother or sister, but implicitly attacks the face of God in the other, and destroys human community." Torture, p. 43.
Let us pray for the souls of those Catholic bishops that choose to turn a blind eye to the crimes against international law and human dignity that the current U.S. Administration continues to commit and justify openly. "Bush's demand is unprecedented. No leader in all human history, not even Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, has publicly demanded the right to torture. All others have behaved as Bush did before the amendment when he secretly tortured on a scale unseen in American history even while saying he wasn't. Forced into the open by the McCain amendment, however, Bush chose to openly demand the legal right to torture. Most experts assume he will continue to torture." Fred Branfman, "On Being Good Americans"