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March 09, 2005

Comments

John Hetman

An excellent article! Mark clearly warns of the dangers to the minds and souls of those who employ torture as well as to what that means to our society. I shall be reflecting on this article for some time.

Jason

[i]"For a Catholic, there is no debate on that question, for the Church has answered it definitively. Gaudium et Spes (no. 27) condemns torture categorically:

"Furthermore...whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as...torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself...all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

"And if that isn’t clear enough, Pope John Paul II quoted that same passage in Veritatis Splendor (no. 80), calling torture (of any kind) one of “a number of examples of...intrinsically evil” acts."[/i]

I'm curious where the teaching of Pope Leo X in Exsurge Domine fits in with this:

"these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows...That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit."

Kevin Miller

One possibility, of course, is that Leo X was mistaken.

Jason

Is it? By the same token, couldn't John Paul II be mistaken?

Kevin Miller

Yes. But we believe in a living Magisterium (the only kind there could be, really). We need to assent to its teachings until and unless they're changed (to the extent that they're changable - obviously, some aren't).

Maclin Horton

I read Mark's piece in Crisis when I got the new issue a couple of weeks ago. To be perhaps more blunt than is needful, I didn't expect to like it, even though I am hardly an advocate of torture, because his rhetorical style in debates here has often put me off. But the article is very good. There is a slippery slope here, and we have taken a couple of steps down it.

A while back (within the last couple of years, sorry I can't be more precise) there was an article in the Atlantic--I think the author's name was Mark Bowden--which had some useful things to say about where the boundary between tough interrogation of dangerous people and torture lies.

Mark Shea

Maclin:

Sorry to be irritating here in these boxes. For what it's worth, things written in the heat of debate and on the fly (at least by me) tend to be a lot more blunt and unpolished than stuff I have time to craft a bit. Anyway, thanks for hearing me out.

And thanks, Amy, for the link!

Oh, and Jason, I think Kevin's got a point.

Jason

Yes, he has a point. However, accusing Leo X of error brings up a lot of problematic points in regard to John Paul II's teaching. If Leo X could be wrong, and John Paul II can be wrong, then you may wake up next week and owe assent to the teaching that torture is fine and dandy. It seems that Leo X needs to be addressed in a different light, eg, on the weight of the document itself, or nuance in the teaching, rather than error. But that's a topic for a whole other thread. Don't want to derail this one.

Patrick Sweeney

I wish Mark had better developed the idea that something the Church did in its own name in the pre-1870 Papal States and failed to condemn when practiced by other states had become "intrinsic evil" in our time.

If torture was intrinsically evil prior to GS, why did the Church fail to punish those who used torture to obtain confessions or information?

Luke Patrick Shea

Of course JPII can be wrong. Has anybody ever denied it? Happily, the question does not come down to placing isolated sentences from two Popes in a complete vacuum and then having to choose blindly between them. The judgment of the current Pope is rooted in a long development of doctrine. That doesn't make him smarter or better than Leo X. It does meant that he stands on shoulder of giants in formulating the Church's teaching.

To put it another way: do you have a mortgage on your house? Every medieval theologian would condemn your participation in usury. But there's been some water under the bridge since then.

Mark Shea

Oops. "Luke" is me.

Patrick: I only had limited space. I couldn't write about everything. My quickie recommendation: read Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. People got away with it for the same reason Ireneaeus "got away" with holding an Adoptionist view of Jesus' relationship to the Father: because they didn't know better and the teaching of the Church had not been articulated and thought through clearly here.

Jason

One last question from me:

I haven't read Newman's essay, but as I understand it, valid development does not contradict what was previously taught. Do you believe the Church has developed from officially accepting torture to officially condemning it? Or do you believe the Church never really addressed the matter with any definitive judgement, until now?

Ian

Amy et al,

It seems to me that the 33rd error in the Bull of Pope Leo X has nothing to do with torture, and everything to do with capital punishment.

Mark Shea's argument would fit the subject of capital punishment just as well: the necessity of a beaurocracy for performing them, etc. The question is thus: "Does capital punishment dehumanize the executioner?" I maintain this is not the case. However, I would maintain that torture does indeed befoul the torturer.

Errors 15 and 34 of same document condemning Luther are noteworthy today in the contexts of pro-abort Catholics who receive communion and the response of the West to Islamic terrorism.

Renee

Jason:
I read #33 as saying that the Holy Spirit cannot be opposed to something that the Holy Spirit guided a Council to undertake. I don't read it as addressing the matter of executing heretics. Certainly, it does not address torture. He was addressing Luther's charges that the Holy Spirit did not guide the Church, that Confession was not supportable biblically, etc.
The entire statement, Exsurge Domine: Condemning the Errors of Martin Luther, is here:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/L10EXDOM.HTM
"No one of sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful...we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth".

T. Marzen

Pius X appears have been affirming only that burning heretics-- capital punishment for heretics -- was not necessarily opposed to the will of the Spirit. It is not clear that he was affirming the legitimacy of torturing heretics.

In any case, Pius X, it seems to me, was decisively and demonstrably wrong. A subsequent Church Council, affirmed by a pope, authoritatively precluded killing and presumably torture of heretics through VII's Declaration on Religious Liberty, did it not? It follows by inference that Pius X's statement was not authoritative.

Jason

>>>"Pius X appears have been affirming only that burning heretics-- capital punishment for heretics -- was not necessarily opposed to the will of the Spirit. It is not clear that he was affirming the legitimacy of torturing heretics."

Good point. Thanks to all for the responses.

Mark Shea

valid development does not contradict what was previously taught.

Valid development does not contradict what was infallibly taught. Pope Clement I taught the existence of the Phoenix in his letter to the Corinthians. Subsequent generations discovered he was wrong about that.

One of the functions of the Magisterium is to keep liberalism from "running ahead" (as St. John put it). For the tendency of the liberal mind is to worship the future. But another function of the Magisterium is (and always has been) to keep the conservative mind from worshipping the past. Nothing essential to the Faith is lost if the Church abandons its culturally-conditioned attachment to torture, just as nothing was lost by abandoning the practice of circumcision. For similar reasons, though slavery has coincided with long centuries of the Catholic faith, the Church is not "contradicting itself" to teach that slavery is contrary to the dignity of the human person and to be condemned.

Conservatives need to be careful lest in worshipping the past, they find themselves worshipping an idol. Caution is one thing. But rejecting the magisterial teaching of the Church for the sake of conservative ideology which assume the past is always superior to the present is as dangerous and foolish as the Vatican III liberal who always assumes the future is superior to the present.

God's given us a magisterium. Why not use it?

Roseanne

"do you have a mortgage on your house? Every medieval theologian would condemn your participation in usury"

This was before there was a banking system that could produce interest on money deposited. That is, the only value money had before then was the amount of the money borrowed; it was deemed wrong, therefore, to expect more back.
The teaching did not change, the banking system changed.

Mark Shea

Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed. Pope Clement I, Letter to the Corinthians

Note that Clement nowhere speaks as though this is a myth. He reports it as fact. Clearly, of course, he has a spiritual point he wants to make concerning the Resurrection, but he nowhere tells us this is a fable or a myth.

Now, we know Clement is wrong. In fact, we know it despite the fact that no subsequent Pope or council issued a formal statement that Clement was wrong. That doesn't mean Catholic teaching is a mass of chaos that can reverse itself from day to day. It just means that, well, times change, people learn stuff and we move on sometimes. One of the functions of the Magisterium is to help us distinguish when that is really happening from when we simply wish it were happening.

Mark Shea

The banking system changed, and so the understanding of usury changed. Similarly, the Church's understanding of the dignity of the human person has changed and deepened. And that inevitably alters the understanding of what is and is not contrary to human dignity.

Renee

"VII's Declaration on Religious Liberty, did it not? It follows by inference that Pius X's statement was not authoritative." T. Marzen

These are different issues.

"One of the key truths in catholic teaching, a truth that is contained in the word of God and is constantly preached by the Fathers, is that human beings should respond to the word of God freely, and that therefore nobody is forced to embrace the faith against their will". Item 10,Chap. 2, Dec. on Rel. Liberty

Renee

Mark,
"Now, we know Clement is wrong". The Phoenix thing was never dogma, doctrine or a statement on faith and morals, was it? I really don't see that it matters at all that he heard a story about a Phoenix and saw it as a metaphor.
What if JP2 says something about the moon and in 2,000 years we discover a second moon - what difference does that make?

Christopher Rake

Ah, the jihad against Ledeen continues. The bid for charity was a nice touch, though, more in sadness than in anger etc.

For starters...

Ledeen states "History abounds with examples of good actions furthering the cause of evil," a statement so obviously true some of us cannot see it as we cannot see our own noses.

Contra Shea, Chavez asks a series of questions and "calls for" nothing other than a clear debate about hard cases. An honest person cannot deny that Chavez is asking herself if torture could be permitted, but while Mark begins with a question mark he ends in a clairvoyant state wherein he just knows Chavez is practically demanding torture.

The extent to which enemy combatants have constitutional rights in a U.S. court is a legal question evidently answered correctly by Boyle. It may bother Mark that this is so, but a U.S. attorney is not supposed to make up the law (only Supreme Court justices can do that). Mark also neglects to mention that Boyle states torture is against U.S. policy.

When Ledeen states that the Marine was shooting an enemy combatant, not a prisoner, he again is committing this terrible sin of accurately describing a battlefield and by extension the law that binds a soldier as opposed to a warden. One is actually required to behave differently when in a courthouse, a jail and a war.

Ledeen:

I gave the Hitler example because Machiavelli knows, as every grownup thoughtful person knows, that it is also possible to do the morally right thing, and by so doing, we unleash great evil.

Again, no kidding, this is supposed to be a remarkable shock?

Life is tough. And the abstract moralists are not a very good guide for leaders, at least not all the time.

Especially when they strain to paint their targets in the worst possible light. "Charity bids me to hope" just doesn't suffice to cover one's... accusations.

Mark Shea

Renee:

My point exactly. Not everything a Pope says is protected by infallibility, including Leo X on the acceptability of burning heretics. That, of course, also goes for JPII. But as a rule of thumb, it's wisest to pay attention to the current state of development of magisterial teaching.

Mark Shea

Chris:

I gave the links so that people could go read for themselves. I think my analysis of both Ledeen's and Chavez' arguments holds up pretty well. If you want to defend their arguments, more's the pity. But that's up to you.

Jim

"Not everything a Pope says is protected by infallibility.."

Of course, infalibility serves to protect the Church from error, not to protect the Pope from the embarassment of being fallible in his judgments, just like the rest of us mortals. A Pope can sin and he can make the kind of errors in judgment that lead to sin.

al

The existence of a Phoenix, or non-existence is a biological fact, not a question of faith and morals.

The Papacy is protected from teaching error on faith and morals, therefore if there is a discrepancy between Pope's teaching in their authoritative capacity, one is obliged to resolve it in favor of the continuity, and continued preservation from error.

Leo X's statement is eminently resolvable in that way, as stated above, through the endorsement of capital punishment for heretics.

Another interpretation which posits error, not only lacks Charity, but stands the possibility of an ideological effort to excise unpalatable, but still true elements of doctrine, under the pretext of a deconstructed "development of doctrine", as has been done numerous times in recent memory (contraception being a prominent example.)

Dan Crawford

The fact is that Catholics of the Left and the Right are all too willing to sacrifice their faith to their ideologies. Forty years ago, Bill Buckley didn't like Papal social teaching, so he chose to dismiss Mater et Magister with his now infamous NR editorial, Mater Si, Magister No. (Needless to say, when Papal views coincide with his, Mr. Buckley enthusiastically embraces Magister.) I suspect that's true for most of us.

Whenever politically conservative Catholics start speculating about economics, they can construct wonderfully abstract principles that bear little resemblance to the way these principles actually influence the lives of real human beings. Thus the junior Senator from Pennsylvania can bemoan the potential loss of profit to the pharmaceutical industry and the subsequent (presumed) damage to the national economy. He has little concern for the elderly who might get some relief from a real drug benefit as part of Medicare. Though he may claim that he understands that people often forgo purchasing needed medications, he really doesn't give a damn. On his radar screen, they don't have the economic impact of the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

If people can't afford medical care (and I know it may come as a surprise to conservatives, but there are people who can't afford medical coverage), conservatives argue on all sorts of principles to guarantee that they will never get medical coverage. After all, we need a health insurance program that guarantees freedom of choice, that promises tort reform, that allows people to have medical savings accounts (you need some discretionary funds for the these accounts but if you're a politician making 160000 a year, you might have some discretionary income - if you're $5.25 an hour or less, forget discretionary income)and blah, blah, blah.

Catholic moral and social doctrine are never primary considerations in the minds of "Catholic" political ideologues of whatever stripe. If you think I'm harsh on the right, I'm just as contemptuous of the left - the Catholic pro-choicers (e.g. Catholics for a Free Church - when's the last time their shadow has crossed the entrance to a church) haven't a clue because they make themselves deliberately blind.

Thanks to Mark for his courage in finally outing the Catholic torture justifiers. Let's hope he soon turns his attention to the ones with the romantic attachment to execution as public policy.

Phil

Good article, Mark. I hope it will have a positive effect. Frankly, I was surprised and disappointed by the casual attitude many Americans have on this issue, and even more surprised and disappointed that some American Catholics are willing to accept the practices in question as a necessary evil.

Incidentally, like others here I also think that your rhetorical style often undermines the persuasiveness of your writings.

Susan Peterson

On the subject of torture I want to refer to a previous thread here that I didn't get a chance to comment on but which has been on my mind and really bothering me.

I believe it started out to be a thread about the Situation, about the sexual abuse of children, with some people speaking for a stance of righteous indignation and suggesting that the manly response was perhaps to beat up the perpetrators.

Then someone recalled something he had heard about where in a small town a man who had beat up his wife was hung up from a tree with his ankles put together, a log put through his legs and people sat on each end of the log and seesawed "until he came apart."

This sickening account, clearly an account of a horrible torture something along the lines of drawing and quartering, was spoken of with some approval and remarks that the widow and children would probably have been taken care of by contributions from these same men.

This passed by with no resounding condemnations from commentators. I want to say now that this behavior deserves absolutely nothing but resounding condemnation. It is evil, it is torture, it is nothing that Christians could do, it is sin and hell on earth.

Susan Peterson

sharon

Mark,

Not wanting to derail onto a tangent, but I'm quite certain it's not true that the medievals understood interest and banking differently. Their understanding of financial instruments was actually quite sophisticated.

My understanding (based on Noonan's excellent book on usury) is that insurance contracts were always considered non-usurious, and in the process of trying to distinguish insurance policies from lending at interest, Italian Renaissance merchants figured the difference to be that, in the former, it was risk that was bought and sold, rather than the use of money (the medieval definition of usury). Once that was clear, it was also clear that any loan at interest could be structured as a buying of risk. If buying risk was illicit, then so were insurance contracts, which the Church had long held to be licit.

Thus the ban on selling the use of money was obviated, since you could achieve the same effect legitimately, and the Church basically stopped trying to enforce a now unenforceable prohibition. (I gather the Jewish ban on usury--not quite parallel to the Christian ban--vanished at about the same time.)

Brigid

I'm just glad Mark is getting paid for these opinions he's been forming this last year.

Kudos to you, Mark, for making yourself stop, think, rewrite and have an editor publish it for you..!

When was the last time YOU READER contributed $$S to Mark's Weblog, hmmmm???

[No - I am not Mark's wife, financial advisor or editor...]

Donald R.McClarey

"This was before there was a banking system that could produce interest on money deposited."

Actually banking systems that produced interest on deposits goes back before Sumer. Church teaching against usury was heavily dependent on Aristotle. As Aristotle lost influence in the early modern period, so did the Church teaching against usury. Of course most people realized that as a practical matter the Church teaching against usury was economic nonsense, hence the popularity of Jewish financiers, not bound by the teaching, throughout most of the Middle Ages.

In regard to this thread, I am against torture if it involves beating someone, shooting them, what enemy powers have routinely done to captured American troops. I am not against sleep deprivation, round the clock questioning, lying to captured terrorists, etc. Is there an agreed definition of what constitutes torture or is it a subjective judgment like beauty?

Patrick Sweeney

Perhaps Mark Shea and I have different notions of what it means to be "intrinsically evil". "Intrinsic" is not a modifier that means "very" or "most". So it is not nearly enough to regret the torture practiced in the past (which I do) or acknowledge that the torturer is corrupted by its practice (which I do), one has to say that torture always was evil, is now evil, could never be evil in the future.

Such sins are few and in the development of doctrine in the Church one would have expected that they would have been enumerated prior to GS being written.

I would put torture into the same category as slavery. Slavery inherently offends the rights and dignity of men and women, but it is not intrinsically evil since the Church did not condemn it as such. What developed over time was a better understanding of the natural law and the Church acquired the moral and in some cases political authority to impose abolition or to restrict its practice. Slavery was and is condemned.

Torture likewise offends the rights and dignity of men and women but it was a tool of the Christian state of the fourth and fifth century and after the adoption of Christianity by most of the rulers of Europe in 1000 AD, torture remained a tool to obtain confessions and to punish evildoers. Students read Chaucer and Dante today and see how torture is regarded not with horror but with a sort of banality that one reads today about doing jury duty.

In the classical and medieval mind, torture's cruelty was balanced against its ability to obtain the truth and its ability to serve as a deterrent to others. There may have been cases where a demented man was using torture for the sake of cruelty, but here I am speaking of its institutional and calculated use (i.e. that victims were to be shown the instruments of torture in order to be given a opportunity ... "Is that your final answer?" before the torture commenced). The claims of millions of victims of the Inquisition, and other aspects of the Black Legend are not asserted, but its limited use such as that by Pope Innocent VI in Ad Extirpanda which authorized its use is simply a fact of history.

I'm not defending Pope Innocent VI and attacking Pope John Paul II, but making the case that the Holy Father faced with the Cathar heresy of the 13th century made a prudential judgment to use torture in defeating the Cathars. Was it "intrinsically evil" for Pope Innocent VI to do so in his official role as the successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ? It matters little whether Mark or I think so, what matters is that the Pope saw a "good" (i.e. the protection of the faith and the salvation of souls) to come from torture applied in the circumstances he faced in 1252. So if wasn't intrinsically evil 750 years ago in the judgment of that pope, how can it be intrinsically evil now? The circumstances of 1252 are never going to be repeated so I'd have no problem making the condemnation of torture perpetual, my issue is with this implicit condemnation of the prudential use of torture by the Church authorized by the Popes of centuries past.

Susan Peterson

I would say, by the way, that burning someone is torture as well as capital punishment. It is certainly the deliberate infliction of pain. The fear of that pain did often cause people to renounce their errors, against their consciences. I would say that this is clearly against all the principles expounded in the decree on religious freedom. So, frankly, I would say it was an error. This change is based on a development, a development in the understanding of the intrinsic worth of the human person, which is implicit in revelation but which it has taken centuries of growth in understanding to expound.

As Mark Shea said, we are to give assent to the teachings of the magisterium in our own age.
But posit a person back in that Pope Leo's day, watching the burning of a heretic and saying to himself, "This is wrong, a person should not be treated in this way." The church says this idea is anathema, so our hypothetical person wisely keeps silence and goes home. But he still believes it is wrong,despite what the church says. And, it turns out, he was correct.

Can we be absolutely sure now, that anyone who has such a belief contrary to the teaching of the Pope in an address or even in an encyclical, is wrong? Can we be absolutely sure that we are correct when we assent to such a teaching and that it can never be changed?

I say that such absolute certainty is not possible and that ways of thinking about the magisterium and truth in doctrine which try to provide absolute certainty, just do not stand up to any sort of view of the history of the church. All one can say is that one has to give great weight to the teaching of the ordinary magisterium; to start with an assumption in its favor; to examine oneself if one disagrees to see if self willed or self indulgent motives are behind one's disagreement; to study all the issues involved, to pray about it, to obey unless it is absolutely contrary to one's conscience. Our hypothetical person in Pope Leo's time would have had to disobey if actually put in a position where he was asked to light the pyre himself.

If al is right, for instance, that the Pope's address to a conference on the persistent vegetative state, constitutes a teaching of the ordinary magisterium requiring nutrition and hydration by tube feeding for anyone, even the elderly, who can or will no longer eat or drink for themselves, then perhaps I ought to allow myself to be tube fed in such a situation in order to be obedient. But my conscience would not allow me to let this be done to my father who has no reason to want to obey the church, who clearly does not want this and has stated so, whose sufferings I believe it would only extend.

Again, I think an honest view of the history of the church shows that the ordinary teachings of the magisterium have changed at times and that absolute certainty based only on the fact that something is such a teaching is not justified.
Susan Peterson

Carrie

Leo X's statement is eminently resolvable in that way, as stated above, through the endorsement of capital punishment for heretics.

Burning at the stake--the punishment commonly applied to heretics--can hardly be written off as "capital punishment" in light of the fact that it was slow torture rather than swift death. A better justification than this needs to be found.

Dale Price

I think Mark's point is pretty well unassailable, and it's a superb article.

I look at it this the same way I look at the massive number of federal laws (many of which involve new capital punishment provisions) that get enacted every year. They often sit on the books, virtually unused for years, until some clever prosecutor or agenda-ramming civil attorney figures out a new way to apply them.

Think civil RICO and the pro-life movement, and you're getting my drift.

The point is, just like all of those laws, this greases the skids to put another dangerous tool in the hands of a government that increasingly seems to have no regard for God or man.

Would anyone view the (Hillary) Clinton Administration discussing torture with the same equanimity?

Rick

Susan,

All one can say is that one has to give great weight to the teaching of the ordinary magisterium; to start with an assumption in its favor;...

This seems similar to what the US Bishops outlined as the "Norms of Licit Theological Dissent" in Human Life in Our Day:

Excerpt:51. When there is question of theological dissent from noninfallible doctrine, we must recall that there is always a presumption in favor of the magisterium. Even noninfallible authentic doctrine, though it may admit of development or call for clarification or revision, remains binding and carries with it a moral certitude, especially when it is addressed to the Universal Church, without ambiguity, in response to urgent questions bound up with faith and crucial to morals. The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal.


R Lugari

Intention and context are everything. You have to view events by the standard of the day. Capital punishment for heretics was justified because of the nature of European society at that time. So interwoven were faith and governance that a heretic was actually an enemy of the state and of society.

I agree that death by burning is torturous; I don't believe that torture was the motivation. I think burning was to have more of a deterrent and shame value and the torture was a consequence. Perhaps they would have resorted to the ignominious death of crucifixion if it wouldn't have been transformed to a death of honor by Our Lord.

john

Rick cites the US Bishops' statement on dissent(Rick:10:18AM)

By these standards many of our laymen,especially the well known, many of our clergy and even the very bishops who made the statement dissent from Church teachings without serious cause. The most obvious subjects of dissent we see day after day are the assault on the Mass and the failure to defend the unborn.

CB

Who is the 'Magisterium'?

I would hold that in today's interconnected world, the 'magisterium' cannot be less than the pope acting in conjunction with the bishops, and listening to the 'echo' of the people, as Cardinal Newman put it. Along with everything else, understanding of the Magisterium must evolve too. Too often in
JPII's time the 'Magisterium' has been the Vatican flying solo, disdaining collegiality with the bishops and the notion of consensus of the faithful. Neither the Vatican, nor the pope, is "the Church".

Carrie

Intention and context are everything. You have to view events by the standard of the day.

In other words, absolute truth is relative?

Capital punishment for heretics was justified because of the nature of European society at that time.

Torture in our own time has been justified by the nature of our society at this time, i.e. terrorism.

So interwoven were faith and governance that a heretic was actually an enemy of the state and of society.

Certainly the terrorists can be so described.

I agree that death by burning is torturous; I don't believe that torture was the motivation. I think burning was to have more of a deterrent and shame value and the torture was a consequence.

It's ok, then, to use public shame as a deterrent? As in parading war detainees naked before a number of women in uniform?

It would have been hard to ignore the consequence of screaming heretics undergoing death by burning. If torture were not a primary objective, why weren't the heretics beheaded?

al

Unfortunately, many people lack the ability or inclination to logically remove their emotional response, or rhetorical inclination, from a precise consideration of a given action.

Burning someone to put them to death is aimed at putting them to death. The burning part, may well be aimed at deterrence, as physical pain is an effective deterrent, or at some other purpose.

On the subject of torture, separately considered, I think Patrick Sweeney has a point, which need not conflict with Mark's article.

Slavery is universally condemned now, but the prohibition of it is not as an intrinsic evil, but as a relative one--St. Paul even says "slaves be subject to your masters."

This deserves consideration, while not detracting from the prohibition on torture now in force, which Mark aptly describes.

ajb

Careful Mark, that pesky intellectual and theological consistency of yours may get you in trouble around here.

It's just a good thing torture wasn't "non-negotiable" last election cycle.

As snarkiness aside, on the issue of "slippery slope":

It has now been reported (and acknoweldged, I think) that the Bush administration has grossly expanded the use of "extraordinary rendition" whereby a person is swept away in a private, unmarked, CIA gulfstream jet to a country like Syria, Egypt or Saudia Arabia that uses torture, so that interrogations that wouldn't be quite kosher over here can be carried out.

Some, like the Canadian citizen, turn out to be innocent and (probably not enough of the innocents) are released.

Others may guilty of "something", but because of the way the information was extracted there is no admissible evidence to convict them. So, they can't be prosecuted in our courts, and they can't just be released because they're probably dangerous. What happens to these people now? Do they just rot in Egyptian or Syrian cesspits?

This is a question raised publicly by members of the FBI and CIA. But how does it play out theologically?

It would the likelihood of this problem flowing from our use of certain techniques ought to put the brakes on those techniques.

johnMcG

I think someone who supports torture in teh face of the current magisterium's opposition to it is putting himself in considerably more moral peril than someone who opposes torture in the face of the magisterium's support of it.

There's a profound difference between refusing to do what is permitted and doing what is forbidden.

Christopher Rake

Burning someone to put them to death is aimed at putting them to death. The burning part, may well be aimed at deterrence, as physical pain is an effective deterrent, or at some other purpose.

An attitude that illustrates one of the many reasons I do not miss the Middle Ages.

Liam

Al

But would you agree that, whereas owning chattel slaves 300 years ago was not considered mortally sinful by the magisterium, it would be now?

Sherry Weddell

Al:

Actually slavery is condemned explicitly by the Church as an intrinsic evil on the same basis as abortion, torture, genocide and euthanasia(see below):

"Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object."(131)

The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator." (132)

Splendor of Truth, 80

Neil

Two points:

1. As Mark Shea has said, we really have to insist on a development of moral doctrine, although this is not a category mentioned in Newman's 1845 Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. As John Noonan has recently written, history simply compels us to recognize such a development. The key example is slavery. John Paul II, in Veritatis Splendor (n80), writes that slavery is one of a number of acts "which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object." But popes and saints have owned slaves. In the modern period, the navy of the Papal States depended upon Muslim slaves until 1800, St Alphonsus Liguori owned a slave, and no American bishop held that the Vatican condemned slavery in the South (Bishop John England claimed that he had personal assurances from Pope Gregory XVI concerning this matter). To the best of my knowledge, no moral theologian in the 19th century held that slavery was intrinsically immoral. Newman himself rejected his friend TW Allies' claim that slavery was intrinsically immoral.

2. The burning of heretics is different than torture. Torture is meant to obtain information through "breaking" a subject through pain and isolating him or her from any community outside of a strict dependence on the torturer. The inquisition's utilization of monastic punishments, including flogging, aimed at a genuine inner repentance and a reincorporation into larger society. I do think that this is an important distinction.

The burning of heretics - a last resort - was meant to mediate divine justice and punishment to heretics and onlookers alike by serving as a parallel and preface to God's hellfire. As Christine Caldwell Ames writes in the most recent American Historical Review, "Although execution was infrequent and technically a secular duty (Fourth Lateran reiterated in 1215 that clerics were forbidden to shed blood), there is scant evidence that inquisitors distanced themselves literally or ideologically from it. Rather, they responded to this perceived necessity, to principled arguments from heretics, and to lay crowds' objections to particular executions by avowing through various media that this new practice of executing heretics was not in fact a novelty. Inquisitors and supporters 'discovered' a biblical tradition that recounted, and thus ostensibly prescribed, the killing of those who contumaciously abandoned God and his designated earthly community. This killing, performed by righteous, zealous authorities instituted for this purpose, constituted divine justice and punishment. Both Old and New convenants mandated such death." The inquisitors thought themselves in the place of Moses destroying idolaters (Ex 32:28), Phineas (Num 25:6-18); or God killing Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11).

This is not to excuse either torture or inquisition; I wish to echo John Paul II's apology for "the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth."

Thank you.

Neil

R Lugari

R. Intention and context are everything. You have to view events by the standard of the day.

C. In other words, absolute truth is relative?

Rr. Please, don’t put words in mouth. I did not say absolute truth is relative; it is not. Intention and context is absolutely necessary in judging historical events and even morality in certain cases. Capital punishment, in and of itself, is not immoral. The Church has never taught that it is and has simultaneously upheld the dignity of life without contradiction. The Church now says that capital punishment should not be practiced, because there are other options available to society at this time. Even stealing, a violation of the 7th commandment, while always objectively sinful, may not be a sinful action based on the context and intention (a poor person stealing an apple from a vendors cart with the intention of feeding his starving child is not a mortally sinful for that person.

R. Capital punishment for heretics was justified because of the nature of European society at that time.

C.Torture in our own time has been justified by the nature of our society at this time, i.e. terrorism.

Rr. Sorry, I don’t know what to make of that. I stand by my statement that capital punishment for heretics was justified (as does the Church).

R. So interwoven were faith and governance that a heretic was actually an enemy of the state and of society.

C. Certainly the terrorists can be so described.

Rr. We are a secular society, not even remotely comparable to Christendom. Apples and Oranges. Again, I stand by the veracity of my claim.

R. I agree that death by burning is torturous; I don't believe that torture was the motivation. I think burning was to have more of a deterrent and shame value and the torture was a consequence.

C. It's ok, then, to use public shame as a deterrent? As in parading war detainees naked before a number of women in uniform?

Rr. Please discern the differences. If you don’t agree that torture wasn’t the primary motivation for burning, fine. We can disagree on the unknowable. Nowhere in my statement is an endorsement for public shame or parading naked detainees. There’s not even anything in my statement that could be misconstrued to reach the conclusion you did.

C. It would have been hard to ignore the consequence of screaming heretics undergoing death by burning. If torture were not a primary objective, why weren't the heretics beheaded?

I don’t know. Maybe, because beheading was to be made an honorable form of execution in 16th century England and 19th century France. Does that make me any further from the truth?
Somehow you came to the conclusion that my post was an endorsement for torture. It was no such thing. It was an observation applying certain principles to discerning the truth. I believe it is relevant to both Mark and Patrick’s positions, in that both of their arguments are correct. It may also serve as an objective vehicle to reconciling the “church” of Leo X and that of John Paul II.

Patrick Sweeney

Summarizing my own post and reflecting on the last few replies:

Would it be right to dispute the magisterium in 1252, to condemn Pope Innocent VI, and to proclaim torture to be intrinscially evil and absolutely never justifed, even to achieve the protection of the Church from evil and for the salvation of souls?

Torture is always wrong -- but the Church justified it, and employed it in a prudential manner for its own ends.

R Lugari

Excellent question, Patrick. However, IMHO I think your last line should read: Torture is always a wrong -- But the Church took a passive role regarding the use of torture by the civil authority.

Fair?

Tom C

The issue discussed here is bigger and more troubling than simply the Church’s position on torture. Rather, the bigger issue is to what degree are the prior non-infallible teachings of the Church binding on Catholics today. This is an area that troubles me greatly.

It was Chesterton who described tradition as the “democracy of the dead.” This is traditionally how the Church has understood itself. The teachings of the Church are to remain coherent and consistent throughout the ages. We cannot simply dump Pius X’s syllabus of errors, for example, simply because we no longer like it. If the Church is truly able to free a man “from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age,” it must function this way. To expose Church tradition to constant revision, in my mind, sounds strangely Protestant. And everyone can play that game to advance whatever agenda one wishes.

This is not about the differing positions theologians have held from time to time, or the poetic flourishes used to illustrate a point. (No one can honestly read Clement’s letter to the Corinthians and believe he was teaching that Phoenix’s actually existed. What was “known” about them happened to serve as a useful basis for making an analogy). What is at issue are the ex cathedra declarations on matters of faith and morals that have been passed down to us by the historical Church. They may not technically rise to the level of infallibility, but they cannot simply be brushed aside. If Pius X thinks separation of Church and State is error, so be it.

And I do not think the Church has been so clearly “pro-slavery.” Just the opposite. See here:

http://users.binary.net/polycarp/slave.html

I think something similar could be said of torture and execution. I am comfortable trying to limit their scope and understand them in context. But I am not comfortable in brushing aside such things and denouncing all Popes who lived before 1965.

I am too weary of the change-for-change’s sake attitude common in the Church for the last 40 years. Therefore, I think it prudent to read and interpret the documents of the second Vatican Council, and the encyclicals of JP II, in a manner consistent with all previous Church teaching.

Carrie

The Church now says that capital punishment should not be practiced, because there are other options available to society at this time.

Those other options were available when the Church burned heretics, too. Specifically the one we use today...the human dignity of the individual must be respected by allowing freedom of religion.

I stand by my statement that capital punishment for heretics was justified (as does the Church).

It reallly comes down to this and only this--the Church says so, so it must be true even if it is illogical.

We are a secular society, not even remotely comparable to Christendom. Apples and Oranges.

Not when you take into consideration that the majority of Americans would still identify with Christianity and Islam is a traditional enemy of Christianity. One would hope that we do not divorce ourselves from our Christian principles when entering the political arena.

Nowhere in my statement is an endorsement for public shame or parading naked detainees.

Your argument is that the Church was justified in burning heretics. You wrote "I think burning was to have more of a...shame value..." in the context of defending the burning of heretics, as though this made it ok, since the primary objective was not torture but rather shame.

I don't see any way clear to reconcile Leo X and John Paul II on this topic. What we have today is a 180 deg. change. Where we get stuck is on the presumption of infallibility unless we define infallibility as only operable in the case of ex cathedra statements, and not necessarily retroactive.

S.F.

Mark is right. A Catholic *CAN NOT* (ever) support torture. Not justified, EVER.

I was surprised to read that Mark now believes it's okay to ask "what is torture?". News to me. How many of us here have been unfairly attacked by the man for asking nothing but that question? In fact, those of us who have tried to use as a starting point the definition of torture in the UN Convention Against Torture have received nothing but grief from him. A document the Vatican signed and that was not mentioned in Mark's article, btw.

I don't spend as much time posting on the blogs as I used to, but if Mark wants to have a real discussion about "what is torture?" I'd be very interested to read if he can actually elucidate a usable standard.

My guess: He'll ignore this post, or accuse me of having the real motive of defending torture.

But if you do answer, Mark, please include a few examples of what is and what is not torture, if you can. Thanks.

F.S.

"Of course most people realized that as a practical matter the Church teaching against usury was economic nonsense, hence the popularity of Jewish financiers, not bound by the teaching, throughout most of the Middle Ages"
How were Jews mistreated, then, if they could do business and gouge the peasants and farmers, and were not bound by the laws of the Christian societies they rejected?

Mike Petrik

F.S.,
First, isn't it possible that the laws to which you refer were understood only to apply to Christians?
Also, what makes you assume that the loans were necessarily gouging, especially since the Church teaching against usury really was economic nonsense.
Finally, even if some Jews did gouge, are you suggesting that that justified the mistreatment that occured?
Perhaps, you are only saying that the Church teaching against usury was not economic nonsense. If so, then I can only assume that economics is not one of your interests.

Jos.

This thread and many others, in which "Catholics" and "converts" eagerly trash Church history, raise deliberately obfuscatory points to mislead and confuse, and always are defending current policies of nonreligious, non-Catholic entities - policies which are obviously contrary to Catholic teaching...well, I wonder who is being subsidized here, a la Guckert and Williams et al...and who isn't a "Catholic" etc. It is very odd that the same people, ostentatious in their assertions of being Catholic are always the ones to immediately prefer the denigration of the Church to the renunciation of what the policy makers themselves say is "neo-conservative". It is odd and consistent, going back many many months and perhaps years.

Mark Windsor

Well said, Mark. I got that copy of Crisis but missed the piece. Where'd they hide it? No matter, I'll track it down.

It's well thought out and comfortably conforms to my own opinions. You are, therefore, a genius.

(I retract all the things I said to impugn your football ability yesterday.)

R Lugari

Carrie,

R. The Church now says that capital punishment should not be practiced, because there are other options available to society at this time.

C. Those other options were available when the Church burned heretics, too. Specifically the one we use today...the human dignity of the individual must be respected by allowing freedom of religion.

Rr. Those options I refer to, as the Holy Father has expressed, is the ability to isolate a dangerous person from society. I’m sorry, but it was not a feasible option in that day. You have also opened another can of worms; “Freedom of religion”. That is it’s own discussion. Though, I will use it to demonstrate from my experience apparently conflicting Church teachings. The Church has always taught that there is no freedom of religion, that we are created by the One True God to love and serve the One True God. The power to disobey or reject God, does not mean we have the right to. Along came V II which said that freedom of religion is an inherent right that needs to be respected by everyone. Two totally opposing statements unless you discern the differences. The earlier Church teachings we speaking of a theological position regarding an act of will, so to speak. The V II Church was speaking from a pastoral perspective of how to live in the world that we find ourselves in. The V II teaching did not take away from the traditional teaching at all. You are still rejecting the nature of the time, and the danger a heretic was.

R. I stand by my statement that capital punishment for heretics was justified (as does the Church).

C. It reallly comes down to this and only this--the Church says so, so it must be true even if it is illogical.

Rr. Yes and no. The Church saying so is all I need. If it’s illogical to me, then it’s my problem, not the Church’s

R. We are a secular society, not even remotely comparable to Christendom. Apples and Oranges.

C. Not when you take into consideration that the majority of Americans would still identify with Christianity and Islam is a traditional enemy of Christianity. One would hope that we do not divorce ourselves from our Christian principles when entering the political arena.

Rr. Fair enough. I do believe we are facing the ancient battle and despise any divorcing of morality from public life. My original refutation was imprecise, because I was still caught up in defending my words about capital punishment which you were refuting with an argument about torture.

R. Nowhere in my statement is an endorsement for public shame or parading naked detainees.

C. Your argument is that the Church was justified in burning heretics. You wrote "I think burning was to have more of a...shame value..." in the context of defending the burning of heretics, as though this made it ok, since the primary objective was not torture but rather shame.

Rr. Dispel the Protestant myth from your head right now. The Catholic Church did not burn heretics. The civil authority did. The Church has the authority to make a judgment on the orthodoxy of someone, but it feel to the secular authority as to how to handle it. Second, I don’t know that I was defending the burning of heretics, per se. If you reread all my posts my comments have been on understanding the reality of things.

C. I don't see any way clear to reconcile Leo X and John Paul II on this topic. What we have today is a 180 deg. change. Where we get stuck is on the presumption of infallibility unless we define infallibility as only operable in the case of ex cathedra statements, and not necessarily retroactive.

Rr. I used to have a hard time reconciling the “freedom of religion” thing. When you will to submit to the Church, and do prayerful homework, God reveals things to you. When He doesn’t seem to help you, forget about it. It’s not necessary for salvation to have an opinion on this subject, just a submission to whatever the Truth is about it (in fact, it's safer to not have an opinion at all).

Things like this are precisely why I am Catholic. In a thousand lifetimes I would never get "it" right. God gave us Holy Mother Church to help us to get it as right as we are capable of. Thank you, Lord.

Mark Shea

S.F.:

As I told Patrick, the article couldn't be about everything.

I have no problem with trying to distinguish torture from legitimate forms or coercion. However, given your "bend over backward" defenses of Ledeen and Gonzalez, I would have to say that, yes, I do think your rhetoric in the past has largely been aiming, not at defining torture, but at making excuses for American torture.

As to seeking *my* opinion on what constitutes the difference between legitimate coercion and torture, why on earth would you do that? I have zero experience in law enforcement, I am not a lawyer, nor do I possess any training in Catholic moral theology, or ethics, nor in "pain techniques". The question needs to be taken up by people with knowledge in those fields. I don't find fault with those who seriously ask the question "What's the difference between legitimate coercion and torture?" I find fault with people who *seem* to ask that question, and then use it as a smokescreen to push for the legitimation of torture.

Mark Shea

SF:

Before you start, please be aware that I have a great deal to do. So I won't be getting into another endless tizzy with you. Say what you have to say, call me Mean Mark, rejoice that the holy martyrs Gonzalez, Ledeen, and Chavez have been spared the ravages of my unspeakable cruelty, declare victory and enjoy the glow of triumph. I just don't have the time for more. I said my piece in Crisis. I have nothing else to add.

B Knotts

Tom C,

To expose Church tradition to constant revision, in my mind, sounds strangely Protestant.

You have put precisely into words what has been making me uneasy throughout this prolonged discussion.

I'm no apologist for torture...I'm just uneasy with the idea of traditional teaching giving way to shifting sands, which can affect a heck of a lot more than the topic at hand. It's the "inherent" part that is the problem here, IMO.

ajb

S.F.,

If you want to have a discussion on "what is torture", read the recent articles describing the experiences of individuals who the CIA has shipped off to Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Syria for interrogation. Read about the mysterious deaths in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gitmo.

Ignore the self-loathing public psychotherapy on Andrew Sullivan's 'blog and check out the stuff he links to on this issue.

Then, once you can defend that sort of behavior or somehow define it as not being torture, let's have that discussion.

Of course, whether even non-torturous "coercive" behavior is justified when (from everything I've read by people who interrogate for living) it rarely if ever yields reliably accurate, truthful information in an efficient manner is another question

al

Sherry,
I stand corrected. However, in response to the above question on "chattel slavery" I would make a distinction between chattel slavery and other forms, such as indentured servitude, and the subjugation of a people rather than their extermination.

Also, I think St. Paul's injunction presents problems for understanding the prohibition to murder and slavery as identical. Anyone party to murder is guilty of an mortal sin.

So why does St. Paul say "slaves be subject to you masters" and then explain it? Does this not make them a party to the evil?

Sherry Weddell

Al

Choosing to return good for evil or to accept the suffering caused by another has *never* been regarded in Christian tradition as culpable participation in the evil itself. If so, Christ would have been a culpable partner in the evil of his own crucifixtion - instead of the lamb who takes away the sins of the world. God used it for good without participating in the "evil" intent of the perpetrators.

Willing and doing evil to another is evil - and often the matter of mortal sin.

Turning the other check to someone who does evil to you, returning good for evil, and blessing those who curse you is a supernatural good rooted in the imitation of Christ.

Come on guys - this is basic stuff. Have we slide so far down that slope that Mark was describing that we no longer understand the difference?

Jason

Slavery is intrinsically evil when initiated by man, on his own authority. God alone has the authority to place one man in the bondage of another, and he did this in the Old Testament to highlight the degradation man had incurred after the fall (the same reason he placed women in subjection to man). In Christ, however, "there is neither slave nor free, man or woman". Christ has restored us to the dignity of the sons of God, and thus slavery is not licit. St. Paul encouraged the Christians to bear with their slavery with humility, until their masters recognized the equality of all men in Christ.

Mark Windsor

Sherry - Yes, or at least nearly so...

Christopher Rake

I see now that we are encouraged to condemn the U.S. if it commits torture, but defend the same crime when conducted by the Church as capital punishment's collateral damage, and no doubt uplifting for the faithful.

Echo, meet chamber.

This particular Open Book thread is not one that I will cite to whet the appetite of friends curious about Catholics.

johnMcG

If the Church were to today, with all that we've learned about the dignity of the human person, again begin burning heretics at the stake, I would criticize her for it.

S.F.

Mark,

Thanks for the post. No desire to argue here. I was clear in my first post, so this isn't really a clarification. I wasn't suggesting your article should have attempted to define torture. I was asserting, correctly, that in your article you said that asking the question "what is torture?" is legitimate. That is a first for you.

For those who care, I've never defended Chavez. My defense of Ledeen was very limited to "What did he really mean?" and "Why don't we try to evangelize people like this rather than demonize them?" and my defense of Gonzales was that he hasn't done or said what certain Famous Blogger Catholics [TM] claim he has done or said. And I am right about that.

S.F.

AJB,

I have no desire to defend torture. But your post illustrates perfectly the problems I have with the arguments of many in Catholic blogdom regarding torture. Strangely, those who think it is the most pressing issue of the day and a spiritual problem for many conservatives who are Catholic, can't seem to define it.

Instead, they ignore the question or go into hysterics. Which makes me suspect that many are more interested in judging their brothers and appearing righteous before others than in actually stopping torture.

Mark Shea

Chris:

There is something odd about the Conservative Catholic attempt to see if there isn't *some* way to hold on to a vestige of the Rich Heritage of Torture that is part of our Catholic patrimony. But I think you overstate the case. The real question appears to be "What parts of the Catholic tradition are from God (big T) and what parts are just us (little t) and therefore mutable?" It's a reasonable question. As I've made clear, God's given us a Magisterium to help us answer such question, so we should use it. Folks who are running around, waving their hands and declaring Church teaching "Protestant" or totally contradictory seem to me to be folks who haven't taken the time to wonder just how the Second Vatican Council and the Pope arrived at their views of torture. They appear to be much more comfortable shooting from the hip at the Magisterium than actually learning from it or even listening to it.

What puzzles me most, however, is why you are upset with them, when you are making excuses for Ledeen's and Chavez' appeals for torture. Me: I'm opposed to torture if a medieval churchman performs it (though I can understand why he thought he was doing the right thing), and I'm even opposed to torture when a Patriotic American does it. I may be dangerously extremist in my rejection of all torture, but at least I'm consistent. :)

al

Sherry,
Granted on returning good for evil, but here's what the Catholic encyclopedia says explaining St. Paul "From the beginning the Christian moralist did not condemn slavery as in se, or essentially, against the natural law or natural justice. The fact that slavery, tempered with many humane restrictions, was permitted under the Mosaic law would have sufficed to prevent the institution form being condemned by Christian teachers as absolutely immoral. They, following the example of St. Paul, implicitly accept slavery as not in itself incompatible with the Christian Law. The apostle counsels slaves to obey their masters, and to bear with their condition patiently. . . .Even granting that slavery, when attended with a due regard for the rights of the slave, is not in itself intrinsically wrong, there still remains the important question of the titles by which a master can justly own a slave."

To wit.

1 Tim 6:1 "Whosoever are servants under the yoke, let them count their masters worthy of all honour; lest the name of the Lord and his doctrine be blasphemed."
6:2 "But they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but serve them the rather, because they are faithful and beloved, who are partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort."

Titus 2:9 "Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters: in all things pleasing, not gainsaying:"
2:10 "Not defrauding, but in all things shewing good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."

Liam

Al

I think Sherry's point is that current magisterial teaching is that chattel slavery (to be distinguished from forced labor in prison, et cet.) is intrinsically evil. The old and fine Catholic Encyclopedia does not appear to anticipate that development, but reflects the transition period in teaching between the time when prohibitions were more formal than substantive (that is, owning chattel slaves (unlike contracepting) was a matter of public knowledge, and prelates openly owned them and celebrated Mass without any hint that they needed to confess a mortal sin before celebrating, nor did their royal, noble and gentry communicants who owned such slaves).

Donald R.McClarey

"If the Church were to today, with all that we've learned about the dignity of the human person, again begin burning heretics at the stake, I would criticize her for it."

What have we possibly learned about the dignity of the human person that we didn't know in the time of Christ? With abortion on demand, totalitarian states in the last century slaughtering millions of humans like so many ants, the use of genocide as an instument of statecraft and the brave new world of human genetic manipulation just over the horizon, I fear that we have learned nothing more about the dignity of humanity, and perhaps, just perhaps, we have forgotten a few things.

Sherry Weddell

Al:

I use the Catholic Encylopedia a good deal myself as a reliable resource for pre-1913 Catholic info but it isn't authoritative Church teaching on either the extraordinary or ordinary level.

If you've read enough of the CE as I have,you begin to realize that there are definite personal spins in some of the articles by the scholars and theologians who wrote them. That's natural - its just an Encyclopedia - and a national one at that - and those are their personal readings of the subject. But these articles do not constitute authoritative Church teaching.

Papal Encyclicals and ecumenical councils are an entirely different matter. If we are seeking to know what the Church teaches, its a slam dunk, no-contest deal. We simply cannot use the 1913 American CE to modify or interpret explicit papal teaching in Veritas Splendor or the Council's teaching in Gaudium et Spes.

If anything, it's the other way around - we must correct and modify the understanding of the faith found in the CE in light of formal Church teaching as it exists today.

al

Sherry,

We've already disagreed on how to understand development of doctrine on the subject of the primary end of marriage.

As I recall, you held that the doctrine had been developed, whereas I held that the continuity is evident in the teaching, most recently reiterated in the Holy Father's statements "The Church, as has been mentioned previously, teaches, and has always taught, that the primary end of marriage is procreatio, but that it has a secondary end, defined in Latin terminology as mutuum adiutorium. Apart from these a
tertiary aim is mentioned -- remedium concupiscentiae. ... The ends of
marriage, in the order mentioned, are incompatible with any subjectivist
interpretation of the sexual urge, and therefore demand from man, as a
person, objectivity in his thinking on sexual matters, and above all in his
behavior. This objectivity is the foundation of conjugal morality. (Love and
Responsibility, p. 66)"

and "14. According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning.(34)" (Familiaris Consortio)

Correct me if I'm not remembering your position correctly.

At any rate, before we jump to the conclusion that Doctrine has been "developed" in say the last 50 years or so on whether Slavery is intrinisically evil, we might look for another explanation first--that it is most definitely evil, as the other things mentioned that passage of VS are, but may not meet the same standard of evil that murder does.

Christopher Rake

The real question appears to be "What parts of the Catholic tradition are from God (big T) and what parts are just us (little t) and therefore mutable?"

Fair statement, and I wasn't very clear in my post, mainly because there is so much to unpack and like you I have other things to do. In those cases a brief telegram of amazement sometimes leaps from my keyboard.

Briefly, one of Carrie's positions that I agree with is that better justifications for past Church behavior (in this case, its attitude toward torture) are required than what we have seen here. For the moment I will simply state how utterly unconvincing is one apology that has been advanced: The intention was capital punishment, torture was merely a byproduct, therefore we need not trouble ourselves about burning heretics at the stake. Yeah, like that was a good day.

Your position against torture as stated above is indeed more consistent than much of what I see here. Actually my main beef with you is not that I support torture [not] and you don't; rather, it is that I think you have systematically mischaracterized Ledeen's and Chavez's arguments (and Gonzalez and Boyle and probably Larry over there in the corner.) Ledeen has surveilled the border of a torture apologetics longer than I am comfortable with, but you do yourself no credit, IMO, by overstating and mischaracerizing what he said. We have hashed that out before and the passing months have changed neither your position nor mine.

Chavez I think you have really handled badly. She does not call for torture. The call for torture now issued, as you put it, is an unsupportble leap. Chavez ironically stifles the “rational debate” she started out asking for is hard to square with a woman who just said, let's have a debate--who in fact ends her column with that invitation.

Chavez asks a lot of questions. And as I said in my initial post here, "no honest person" can deny that she is asking herself (at least this is how it looks to me) if she can give herself permission to advocate torture. But the only thing she explicitly calls for is a debate about what constitutes torture and what we should do about it. You could say she is debating questions about the limits but it is, after all, a debate. But perhaps it's time we put aside our squeamishness on this issue and opened a genuine debate about exactly what methods a humane society is justified in using to save innocent lives.

This is only a partial analysis and there are other issues, but the above should more than suffice to innocent bystanders as examples of my objections.

al

Christopher,

Give it a rest.

I've seen you bend over backwards to perform apologetics for the Bush Administration without so much as batting an eye.

I seriously doubt you wouldn't hesitate to do the same for the burning of heretics, if you had a mind to.

Christopher Rake

Hi al. I was actually talking to Mark.

I won't count your posts if you won't count mine. Deal?

al

I was saying give the fake outrage about burning at the stake a rest.

Its a perfectly coherent argument.

johnMcG

Man, does it feel to anyone else like we're having the same type of discussion we have about other Church issues people don't like?

Aren't we constantly told that we can't oppose same sex marriage so long as heterosexual marriage fails to live up to its ideal? This sounds a lot like, "you can't oppose torture until you adequately defend the medieval Church's burning heretics at the stake," only I think the latter is slightly more ridiculous?

When we oppose embryonic research or abortion, aren't we told about how seeing the unborn as alive is only a recent development, some cultures don't name their children until they're 1 year old, infanticide was common until just recently?

Sometimes, it really is that simple. I, for one, am not going to wait for the defense of medieval torture some feel they are entitled to to oppose torture, or those who promote.

And if Chavez is "just asking questions", then consider our commentary an answer -- NO!

Mark Shea

Chris:

I agree that some of the justifications for past behavior by Catholics have been lame. I also agree that some of the stuff said here (including by me) trying to reconcile past and present praxis and teaching is weak.

My response: of *course* combox chatter is going to be shallow and inadequate. As I say, that's why we have a Magisterium. It would be great if we would use it and not just shoot from the hip at it.

As to Chavez, I continue to leave my exegesis of her column to the reader, confident that I read her loud and clear.

Zhou De-Ming

Hey Guys,

Anybody want to move up a few postings and discuss boxing? Hunk Hondo and I have been at it.

-Z

Christopher Rake

tell you what, we really ought to be concentrating on the Amy Welborn Computer Fund.

Zhou De-Ming

Yeah...do the Computer Fund thing on the way up to the posting about boxing/Million Dollar Baby...Amy provides the ring for us to comment box, right? Did my bit about 6 hours ago.

By the way, the Donate button is on the upper right. I guess Amy is inside the computer, so to her it looks like "left."

JM

To maintain respect for Pope Leo X, I suggest the following interpretation:

A heretic is a false teacher. Some of them are going to hell. The word "burned" does not necessarily mean "by a human-run Inquisition, bound to a stake, with tares, logs, fuel, and a phosphorus match". "It is an error to claim that false teachers going to hell is against the will of the Spirit" is a way of interpreting Leo X' words without dismissing him as someone today in hell himself. If there is any correct manner of interpreting a statement to be other than evil, then it isn't one of absolute evil. Torture is wickedness and God have mercy on those who suffer, perform, and even advocate it.

JM (returning Baptist)

djm

I agree wholeheartedly on not condoning torture, but is it ever possible to break a Commandment to prevent something evil?

Killing somebody before they kill you (or a loved one) is justified, right? But, what about lying to that person to prevent an evil act. Would bearing false witness, a sin, be outweighed by the impending evil act?

Does one evil act outweigh another, regardless of circumstance? If so, would that make morality relative to a given situation?

Patrick

JM,

The problem is that that's totally out of context ("the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther"). Leo X was specifically condemning a statement that Luther made:

"We even go against the will of the Spirit, who wrote that the Jebusites and Canaanites were left in the promised land so that the children of Israel could learn to make war and keep their warlike skill, by which are prefigured, if St. Jerome does not mislead me, the wars of the heretics. In any case, the Apostle is to be believed when he says: there must needs be heresies. But we say, on the contrary, that the heretics must be burnt. As if we had to pluck up the roots along with the fruits, the cockle along with the corn."

Cardinal Journet (his book is on the EWTN website) says:

"It is to be noted first that Luther did not deny either that the Spirit punishes the reprobate in the fires of hell, nor that the true heretics are deserving of hell; so that in a sense (which doubtless is not in question here) Luther's proposition might have appeared false even in his own eyes. [. . .] But let us come now to the heart of our subject. Against Luther, who was maintaining that the heretics could not, in those days, be put to death without defying the Holy Spirit, Leo X affirmed the existence of a right in those days to apply the death penalty to heretics. Who had that right? Not the Church. It belonged to the Christian State. [. . .]

The punishment of burning, also in favour in German lands, was first inflicted on the heretics at the hands of excited crowds before it was legalised by Frederick II;[680] and when the Popes approved the measures taken by this Emperor against heresy, what they found themselves approving in practice was death at the stake. Torture had been condemned by the Church, but under the influence of the legists and the old Roman law it invaded the civil tribunals at the very moment when the Popes had got the upper hand of the ordeals. [. . .]

An attentive study of the period will do one of two things. Either it will reveal that the employment of torture by the civil tribunals (whether inflicted on ordinary criminals or on heretics is all one, since heresy was considered in the Middle Ages as a crime against the State) had penetrated so deeply into customary procedure, had become so "natural", that it was practically impossible to call on the secular arm yet pretend to forbid its use. A true prudence (not that of the flesh) might then counsel a provisional tolerance of torture as of a lesser evil (as slavery had once been tolerated, as God Himself had tolerated polygamy in the Old Law), so as to leave the way clear for other and more urgent tasks; but without abandoning hope of a better regime in which to work effectually for its extirpation from judicial customs and penal codes. In that case the historian will certainly condemn torture, but he will not condemn the Popes who attempted to put the secular judicial and penal machine into action against the heretics before they could hope to make it less barbarous. "Every prudent man tolerates a lesser evil for fear of preventing a greater good."" (Church of the Word Incarnate, vol. 1, 1955)

Exsurge Domine is, by the way, one of the encyclicals usually considered infallible (ex cathedra) in its condemnations (you can consult the end of Dom Cuthbert Butler's history of Vatican I for that). Considering that, I think Journet's explanation is the best that can be found.

JM

My view is that Leo X' statement was wrong but not so wrong as to be blasphemous, for the reason described above.

R Lugari

Patrick,

Thanks for doing some legwork. You are to be commended.

JM

Martin Luther said many things and Leo X could have been condemning any one of them. This sounds like a condemnation of the notion that no one goes to hell, because the Spirit of God would not permit it. Whatever the Pope was thinking, what he said can be interpreted in another light, and had better, for Leo X was invoking the name of the Holy Spirit and was the Pope. Do you think the Holy Spirit willed that persons be burnt at the stake? If you don't know, don't answer, and God save you and me.

Patrick Sweeney

I think focusing on time of Leo X is an error here. Starting with the Constatine and thereafter the Christianized Roman Empire continued to use torture. When the kingdoms of Europe were converted to Christianity torture continued. When the Cathar heresy arose Pope Innocent VI explicitly authorized torture in Ad Extirpanda. Torture was common but even then it was regarded as always and inherently offensive to the dignity of men -- which is the point that Gaudium et Spes makes. Like the killing in warfare and the killing in self-defense, something inherently offensive to the dignity of men, namely killing is justified by because there are competing goods. In the case of the Cathars, the Church was threatened by the spread of errors and the salvation of souls were at risk. The killing of a enemy combatant in war is to prevent him from killing many others and to bring about peace. War and torture are not ends in themselves by means to a end.

I believe certain acts to be intrinsic evil -- the murder of an innocent, abortion, and the entire list from the Catechism -- in the full sense, that at no time in the past, present, or future could these intrinsic acts be made just either as a means or end in themselves with no exceptions.

The Catechism itself reflects the view I tried to express in earlier replies:

2298. In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

The past is regretted, not condemned here. In 1252, the Pope made a prudential judgment to authorize torture against the Cathars. So I ask again "Was the authorization to use torture against the Cathars justified by the needs of the Church as determined by the Pope at that time?"

This can't be dismissed with a simple "Come on guys - this is basic stuff."

It's not basic at all: It's one thing to say that previous Popes' authorization was evil, but they believed it to be a necessary evil. They weighed this in their consciences. They were "legitmate exceptions" in the language of Veritatis Splendor. This is my position and the position of a few in these comment boxes.

It's quite another thing to repudiate their moral calculation they made as being incapable of bringing about the good they sought when you "promote" something from "evil" to "intrinsically evil". They were defending the faith as sucessors of St. Peter in the light of faith and guided by the Holy Spirit. How could their consciences have been so darkened?

This is a very broad brush Mark Shea has used indeed, it virtually labels every Pope from Pope St. Sylvester to Blessed Pope Pius IX for authorizing torture or cooperating with states who employed torture as perpetrating acts of intrinsic evil.

Tom C

Patrick,

Thanks. Your analysis has been helpful. I prefer to analyze the acts and teaching of former Popes with a certain amount of prudence and charity. Many were certainly far from perfect, but it’s important for us to avoid a certain chronological snobbery that is all too common in the modern Church. Once Catholics routinely begin to perceive the Church of the Middle Ages as “evil” from top to bottom, it becomes easy to reject everything taught by that era. To broadly condemn the pre-Vatican II Church is to open the door to apostasy and error. That’s generally the game played by Call to Action types and Rainbow sashers.

johnMcG

Perhaps it's a lack of charity on my part, but I have a great deal of trouble believing that the same crowd that regularly takes turns kicking our current bishops and even the Holy Father is truly motivated by a concern about offenses to charity against medieval popes.

Nobody here is trying to condemn medieval popes, or even Linda Chavez and Michael Ledeen as people. Mark is confronting the ideas they are promoting.

It is very hard for me to see the bringing up of medieval popes as anything other than a desperate attempt to change the subject.

Tom C

johnMcG,

If you would care to produce a quote from me "kicking our current bishops and even the holy father" please do so.

Patrick and I (and others) were not attempting to "change the subject." Rather, we were addressing the broader issue of how to handle both past AND present papal teachings in order to maintain the coherence of the Church's magesterium through time.

You are free to disagree with our conclusions.

Mark Shea

Patrick:

Gaudiam et Spes and Evangelium Vitae say what they say. Torture is intrinsically evil. I simply report that. And I do so, not to condemn medievals, but to caution moderns against those in our midst who would try to make torture the policy of the United States.

It is combox commenters, not me, who have seized upon the teaching of the council and the Pope and suggested that pre-moderns are somehow necessarily guilty of mortal sin. I would be extremely hesitant to leap to such a conclusion, for the same reason I would be extremely hesitant to claim that Joshua is guilty of "war crimes" or the author of Ecclesiastes is a heretic for not believing in life after death. Doctrine develops. It takes human being a long time to figure things out. When the Magisterium comes, after a long process of rumination, to understand an idea more deeply and, yes, to change its mind about the best way to prudentially navigate the waters of the world, the important thing is that *we* listen, not that we immediately turn and start accusing our fathers and grandfathers of moral failure. They were responsible for what they knew and will be judged accordingly. We are responsible for what we know. And we will most assuredly be judged accordingly as well. If we piss away the magisterium's present warnings about the intrinsic evil of torture, we will be held accountable for it. And if we point at our ancestors as an excuse, the Lord will reply, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me!"

al

Mark,
How do you respond to the argument above, that slavery is not intrinsically evil, but nevertheless, condemned in Veritatis Splendor?

Sage

Mark, I in essence agree with you, but I think you should make an important distinction.

Catholics who ask that we "define" torture precisely are not necessarily tip-toeing up to the line to see how much evil is too much. Rather, there are many perfectly licit practices--that are not, themselves, torture--that some have tried to place in the broad subheading of torture. The difference with abortion should be plain--is there the ending of a life, or isn't there? With torture, the line is not so bright, since virtually any technique of interrogation requires that the subject be made somehow less than fully comfortable or at the height of his powers--bad food, social discomfort, long, grueling questioning, and so on.

Again, I think we basically agree; I'm not interested in anyone being tortured in my name. Bbut you should give the benefit of the doubt to people who want to know exactly where the line is precisely because they do not wish to cross it. Sometimes I've seen you characterize all such inquiry as trying to get away with something, to do as much evil as we can perhaps get away with. But that isn't necessarily what is happening when we set out to make important distinctions, so as to be sure that practical necessity does not become confused with indulgence of our tendency to do evil (as, for example, we do when we set out to find a useful definition of when life begins).

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