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Torture and Catholicism

Letter to the Editor | Friday, April 24, 2009

Some might applaud the recent release of the torture memos by the Obama administration as heralding a new era of accountability, and hopefully leading to an end of the heinous, dehumanizing practice of torture. However, Christie Pesavento (“Torture is in the eye of the beholder,” April 21) recently decried the release of the torture memos, because torture is awesome, and we shouldn’t question the things our wise (as long as it’s conservative) government does.

Her article was, essentially, a long list of typical right-wing arguments in favor of torture and government secrecy, but it was also a slap in the face to official Catholic doctrine. According to the Catholic Catechism, “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” It continues, “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.”

It’s quite obvious that the Catholic Church is unequivocally against torture (at least it has been since it did it all the time) but I haven’t seen the outcry against torture as I have seen against, say, abortion, on this campus. Why is that? President Obama may have only indirect power over America’s abortion rates – the past eight years have seen relatively little change in abortion, in spite of Bush being president and pro-life yet it is only Obama’s stance on abortion that seems to matter to many on this campus.

Michele Sagala (“The real issue,” April 23) argues that the President contradicts “some of our most fundamental beliefs on life as Catholics.” Some? Over the past few months, I’ve counted a single one – abortion. Now, I haven’t been a Catholic for a long time, but I remember there being a couple of other values that were important to your average Catholic. In fact, entire Sundays would pass without a single mention of abortion!

Considering that such evils as torture are being, or at least have been, practiced by America’s leaders, I ask that Catholics on this campus wake up, and realize that there is more to Catholicism than an aversion to abortion.

James Spitalere


off campus

April 23