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Feb 24 2012

Santorum, Torture and Selective Catholicism

Here’s another example of how Rick Santorum picks and chooses which parts of Catholic doctrine he accepts and which he doesn’t. In May of last year, he came out in support of waterboarding and other forms of torture and said that John McCain just didn’t understand how well they worked.

In a radio interview, Mr. Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania and a Republican presidential candidate, disputed Mr. McCain’s contention that “enhanced interrogation” techniques like waterboarding did not lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“This idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works,” Mr. Santorum said of his former colleague, Mr. McCain. “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information.”

Mr. McCain doesn’t understand how “enhanced interrogation” works? Perhaps Mr. Santorum forgot part of Mr. McCain’s biography: He was the subject of nearly five years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese.

And he gave false information because of that torture. McCain knows exactly what torture results in. But Andrew Sullivan points out that the Catholic catechism explicitly condemns torture in all forms:

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…

Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions.

On the other hand, perhaps Santorum is being a consistent Catholic here — consistent in declaring one thing and doing another. The victims of Torquemada could be forgiven for laughing at the condemnation of torture by the One True Church.

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  1. 1
    joeina2

    I believe the current catechism condemns torture. A lot changed at Vatican II, so Torquemada was probably using a very different book.

    ‘Course not that it matters. Still that whole “supposedly protecting the flock but also sheltering child rapists” thing to deal with.

  2. 2
    d cwilson

    There are very few things that I agree with McCain on, but I will always grant that he knows more about torture than most other politicians.

    Santorum is an unbelievable asshat, so it not surprising that being completely ignorant has never stopped him from expressing his opinion on a given topic.

  3. 3
    rikitiki

    Oh, I’m sure the inmates of the Catholic Magdelene launderies would assure you that the church abhorred torture. /snark.
    And this was in the 20th century…way after Torquemada.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_asylum

  4. 4
    davidct

    I am always amazed how much the moralistic love torture and the death penalty. Neither have been shown to be very effective but the they serve the desire for revenge. Revenge is supposed to be the sole province of god, but its followers love it too much. A little like war – particularly if one does not have to actually do the fighting.

  5. 5
    interrobang

    I’m trying to figure out exactly what the Catholic Church means by “respect for the person” and “human dignity,” because the way they act doesn’t convey any sense of respecting persons or human dignity in any sense I’m familiar with. Their behaviour makes slightly more sense if one assumes arguendo that women are not persons, but other than that…

  6. 6
    Pinky

    @ Rikitiki

    Indeed – the laundries even have their own poignant song:

    Joni Mitchell-The Magdalene Laundries

    From the reading I’ve done on Irish history, the Catholic church with its Magdalene Laundries and sundry other social ills would seem to be part of the horrendous oppression set upon the Irish by the English, but no the children of Eire heaped this upon themselves.

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    I expect that the US Catholic hierarchy will condemn Santorum and threaten to excommunicate him — or at least deny him communion.

    Or is that just if he’s in favor of torturing fetuses?

  8. 8
    Spanish Inquisitor

    “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information.”

    If Ed hadn’t specifically said this was a quote from Santorum, I would have sworn it was taken from some low-level KGB or SS officer.

  9. 9
    Bronze Dog

    “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information.”

    Sometimes, wingnuts manage to wow me with their sheer naivete. If someone’s being tortured, they’ll say whatever it takes to make the torturer stop. Now, let’s start with an innocent torture victim. He says he’s innocent, and yet the torturer doesn’t believe him. The only way for an innocent man to get the torturer to stop is to lie, and confess to a crime they didn’t commit.

    Of course, wingnuts don’t believe innocence is an excuse to release an inmate, so it’s kind of moot to speak of such things. And then again, they don’t believe there is such a thing as truth, either, so there’s no point talking about accuracy of results, either.

  10. 10
    Infophile

    But Andrew Sullivan points out that the Catholic catechism explicitly condemns torture in all forms:

    All forms except Hell. Eternal torture for the crime of not believing is just hunky-dory with Catholics.

  11. 11
    dingojack

    To be fair, Mr Frothy certainly does not approve of crucifixions!*

    :) Dingo
    —–
    * they might lead to -
    SOME KIND OF ENJOYMENT !!eleventy-one!!

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