Action Alert!


By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jan 31, 2012

One of our users asked in a Sound Off! comment whether the Catholic Church had a clear teaching on torture and on the use of coercive means to obtain information. The Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes 27) included torture in the list of evils it used to illustrate the concept of intrinsic evil, and this was repeated by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor 80.

But as with the concept of “lying”, much depends on how torture is defined. Is it torture, for example, to punish someone by inflicting pain? Clearly this is not necessarily the case. Also, how much coercion and/or pain constitutes torture as opposed to mere pressure? Clearly not all forms of coercion are torture.

The answers are not always easy, and acting legitimately in this matter certainly involves prudent judgment as well as moral sensitivity. For an excellent discussion of these issues, see Fr. Brian Harrison’s article, The Church and Torture, in our library.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: richardols3892 - Feb. 01, 2012 9:57 AM ET USA

    When I served in Vietnam as a prisoner interrogator, it was cut and dried - no torture, otherwise a court martial. I am horrified that ANY Catholic can justify what has been done in the name of extracting information from an enemy. The ends do NOT justify the means. The FBI is noted for not using any physical coercion in questioning suspects, and Air Force Intelligence, of which I was a part, had the same rule regarding enemy prisoners of war.