‘Tiresome’ anti-torturers

James H. at the Opinionated Catholic blog earlier this month had a friendly word of advice to Catholics who vocally oppose waterboarding and comparable forms of “enhanced interrogation”: stop acting like jerks.

Without arguing pro- or con- (he seems to be wrestling with the question),  James gives the Catholic anti-waterboarding crowd a “huge ol’ fat F as a grade” when it comes to “changing hearts and minds.”

I could see this coming. There were many Catholics and Catholic blogs that felt strongly that water boarding was wrong. They were quite vocal on it. But this is the problem. Nine times out of ten they came off as looking like an ass and a jerk.

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I saw this a million times. It ran the gambit from conservative Catholics against water boarding to Progressive Catholics against water boarding…

I and others had serious questions and thoughts on the subject. Yet in com boxes any hint we thought it might be acceptable was met with all sort of accusations. YOU ARE NOT A TRUE CATHOLIC YOU ARE JUST A GOP SELLOUT etc etc. It got tiresome.

“If you treat people like garbage,” he concludes, “expect to get garbage in return.”

Now, I see one of the newest “causes” on Facebook is the “Coalition for Clarity,” a Catholic anti-torture group. Its slogan?

Always remember: saying things like “It all depends on how you define torture” marks you as a moral imbecile. Don’t let that happen to you.

Which provides clarity indeed. I’d always suspected an irrational hostility on the part of those who refuse to entertain moral distinctions, and generally pursue intellectual engagement, over the many different kinds of “torture” and what Church teaching tells us and doesn’t tell us about them. (One zealous anti-waterboarding fellow once asserted to me that to seek distinctions over torture was as absurd as seeking distinctions over contraception; which is curious, since it is only close and thoughtful distinctions that allow us to permit NFP while forbidding the Pill– the two being so similar in motive and end.)

But I digress. Thank you, Coalition (or your webmaster, anyway), for making that even clearer.


  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    Todd M. Aglialoro is the acquisitions editor for Catholic Answers.

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