Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cal Thomas, a Professed Catholic, on Torture

Here is a brief little blurb from conservative Catholic columnist, Cal Thomas, on the subject of torture:

Torturing Ourselves to Death

By that I assume it is meant torture by the West, since terrorists are famous for using all sorts of torture, including physical, mental and religious torture, such as forced conversion.

There is a double standard when it comes to this subject. We in the West are supposed to adhere to certain rules so we "won't be like them." But if the other side adheres to no rules and sees our standards as a form of weakness, such things are counter-productive to our objectives. It is not coincidental that the trailer for the new season of the TV series "24" features Jack Bauer testifying before a congressional committee on the subject of torture. Bauer is asked if he defends torture and responds that if it is needed to save lives, he will use it.

That seems to me to be the proper balance if it is reasonably certain the person being tortured (and how do we define torture?) has information that will save innocent lives. To do otherwise might satisfy certain civil libertarians, but they should know that terrorists do not discriminate between those who favor torture and those who oppose it.
First, Pope Benedict and the Vatican authorities have had this to say on the subject:
At a news conference about the peace message, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's pontifical council on peace and justice, was asked if torture could be a legitimate tool to gain information that might prevent terror attacks.

The prelate replied that there was no justification for using torture, which is the "humiliation of the human person, whoever he is."

"The church does not allow torture as a means to extract the truth," Martino said. Terror suspects "sometimes say what the torturers want to hear. ... There are other ways to obtain the truth."
Notice that the Vatican's guidance is that torture isn't acceptable even if it extracts information that prevents a terrorist attack. According to our Catholic Church's leaders, there is NO justification for using torture. I wonder how Cal Thomas squares his Catholic faith with his defense of torture.

Second, I would add in my criticism of Cal Thomas that our motivation for behavior should not ever be relative to what terrorists will or will not do. Yes, there is a double standard. But for good reason. We shouldn't be like the terrorists. We should hold to a standard that doesn't embrace what Cal Thomas supposedly finds reprehensible in the standards (or lack of such) among terrorists in their practice of torture. Cal Thomas should know that there are many examples of martyrs in the Catholic faith (not to mention Jesus, himself), who withstood the indignity of torture and death, in the practice of a higher standard of speaking truth to power. Why should we accept a common standard with our enemies that tends towards the least common denominator of accepting torture, however defined, as opposed to demanding that our enemies abandon torture themselves, and of holding that even if our enemies don't abandon torture, that we will unilaterally do so nonetheless, even if it costs us our lives.

1 comment:

Pat J said...

First get your facts straight. Cal Thomas is NOT a Roman Catholic. He is an evangelical Protestant.