An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "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.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Saving the Child



"Two Roman Catholic priests, Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly and Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale, are willing to go to prison to expose the fact that young soldiers at Fort Huachuca are being trained to torture. Further, one of those young soldiers has already committed suicide after going into the prisoners' cages as an interrogator in northern Iraq." - "Torture Training at Ft. Huachucha", CounterPunch, June 7, 2007.

Armed with truth, "These priests are armed with a message about the proliferation of U.S. torture, secret prisons, depleted uranium and prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who are never charged. It is about torture and the United States violation of the Geneva Conventions."

We will not be protected by our subservience. What is presented as a temporary suspension of human rights will soon become unalterable and our submission offered as proof of its acceptability. As Jesus told us, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Matt 12:30. The failure of our outrage has scattered the forces that could have been used to battle the moral obscenity of this administration.

But the miracle of faith never dies. Fr. Kelly bears witness with his body that torture in itself is one of the deepest outrages of God's love, "His convictions are so deep, that he has already served time in solitary confinement." Too often, torture opponents use consequentialist arguments against torture, such as torture leads to retaliation, torture provides useless intelligence, and so on. As Christians, we should argue more deeply, from the moral foundations of our faith. Torture in an of itself is mortal sin. Saying torture is undesirable because of some bad practical consequence leaves the door open and once that door is open, the powerful will enter and what they do in the dark will spread.

With Fr. Kelly, we must also pray for the torturers, "He also prayed for the guards, who he said were also dehumanized by their own duties." In many ways, it is ironically just that Catholics should do penance for torture in this way. In our long history, we may well be paying for the inner corruption that infected the Church when temporal and spiritual powers were confounded during the Middle Ages and the Church gave its blessing to dehumanization.

In the words of the priests, "Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing." It is the practice of terrorization that the domination system is readying for the rebellions to come. In Iraq, they have begun perfecting the techniques of terror that will be used on those who fail to be sufficiently submissive to the ruling imperatives.

As in ancient Rome, Christians will form the heart of the resistance. "In Tucson, Kelly and Vitale were honored at the 'Festival of Hope,' at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, on June 5. With anti-torture activists representing vast religious and political backgrounds arriving from across the nation, from North Carolina to California, this was a celebration to kick off a movement."

The victims of torture understand its real purpose. Orlando Tizon, a Filipino victim of military outrages in the Philippines, describes it as follows: "'Its purpose is to destroy your humanity.' He said for victims, recovering from torture is a lifelong struggle. The tortured person trusts no one and relationships with family are often destroyed."

Once the victims are atomized individuals, they can be fully controlled. They have no inner center from which to derive their precious humanity and fear takes its place. As Christians, we know that center is Christ, which is given to us in the Eucharist. The purpose of torture is to destroy that inner core of value so that the dominator becomes the directive center. The domination system cannot be satisfied until its control reaches into the depths of conscience to subvert it to the mandates of profit. Whatever knits our heart to Jesus must be scattered and replaced with the pulse of fear. Or as Orlando summarizes his experience, "The bonds that make us human are destroyed."

Every act of humanity is an act of defiance against the torturers. Yet these acts become more powerful as they become more informed by explicit analysis of the origin and content of oppression. We must not simply remain in the outrage that chokes us at the sight of an individual act of torture, but must understand the purpose of the torture in the context of empire.

Law must be put in the context of justice. "Laws" that enforce dehumanization for the purpose of destroying the Christ-center that wants to live in our hearts are no laws at all, but the abomination of desolation set up by the Beast. Defying such laws is the cross that Fr. Kelly and Vitale have chosen to follow with eyes wide open. In the words of Bill Quigley, "Referring to the legality of the priests action to halt torture, Quigley compared it to the act of a passerby who sees a house burning and a child in the upstairs window. Although the door is locked, the passerby must enter the house to save the child."

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