What’s Wrong with Torture?

If a bastard has to sit through an eternity in hell, a minute on the electric chair can’t be so bad.

And we have it even easier today, where execution methods are designed to be as quick as “humanely” possible.

Corporeal and Capital Punishment and Torture seems to be universal in all pre-modern civilizations. Traditional Civilization is grounded upon a transcendent, metaphysical realm in which all things revolve around it’s unshakable axis, where the earthly realm mirrors the order of God.

If we are to look at the ideas concerning the abolishing of torture and physical punishment we see secular humanism and a worldliness in The Enlightenment Era, which is not despite popular misconception, a progress but a degeneration of man where the belief in an immortal soul and the world hereafter has been closed off to the modern man and there lives only the life of today living in “reality” which simply means seeing things that conform to material physics.

Dying is the ultimate despair and evil for people today since it is removes man from the only thing that exists.

Many people were martyred for the faith that have suffered excruciating and unimaginable pain through torture, yet does this effect really matter in the end where the person reaches heaven or suffers an eternity in hell?

People, even many in the church today would disagree with indignation, arguing about the “dignity of the human person,” which means that they have conceded to progress, that people today are somehow more In Christ today and moral then they were in the past during Christendom. The degeneracy today and the “human rights” that forbids torture and capital punishment is concomitant with all of the other ills of modern man with his “rights.” It seems inconsistent, and the moralism in prohibiting these types of punishments seems to be without much basis.

  • There is plenty of wrong with torture. It allows the torturer to descend himself into an animal plane by releasing his anger towards a helpless victim. Also, torture has been used by the very enemies of Christianity, from the Pharisees towards the Muslim invaders in the 7th century, and even now, ISIS. The Paris terrorists gouged the eyes out of the victims and tortured them before shooting them death (might even rape them). We should not emulate what our enemies do as Christians, because by doing so, we are becoming just like them, and to become just like them, we are being more like the Devil instead of being like Christ.

  • First off thanks for the comment! I would also like to apologize since this post was rushed and rather poorly written, it’s more of a draft that I decided to publish but there will be a much better post that would do this controversial topic justice.

    Torturing a person out of hatred or anger is without a doubt a terrible and gruesome thing which I do not condone, the same way an executioner would kill with great pleasure instead of being an instrument of justice without emotion. Torture I think, might have a chance of making the suffering person repentant and also to punish them. I guess you could consider whipping a person for committing a crime to be a minor form of torture, and I bet most people won’t have an issue with that. If the state has the power to inflict death via capital punishment, surely it would do lesser acts?

    This link has a very interesting analysis and historical accounts and notable church figures on the use of torture.

  • A. Markov Citadelius

    This is a very murky issue, partially because we need to define torture, and define the context in which it is used. I do not believe waterboarding is torture, for example, and find it totally acceptable when necessary. I also do not consider corporal judicial punishments such as lashing and caning to be torture, as the intent is more oriented to correction than the extraction of something. It seems hard to define torture as just ‘causing a lot of pain on purpose’. If we define it this way, then God tortures people by not allowing them into heaven. In that sense, it becomes impossible to condemn torture as intrinsically immoral.

    • Yes, it is a murky issue but I believe that the humanist idea of all corporal punishment/torture being inhumane and therefore prohibited comes down to an implicit belief that there is no afterlife where people can suffer or enjoy beatitude. We can see the correlation in that the most modern countries based upon Enlightenment philosophy have now abolished the death penalty, corporal punishment, and allow euthanasia and abortion, all under Human Rights!

      • Bellomy

        This is untrue. The Church has always been against torture; Zippy’s catalog of failed arguments is an excellent primer on that,

        • Hrodgar

          It would be more accurate to say that the Church has always been against the bulk of, but not all of, the various sorts of acts which we lump together under the term torture, while other acts differing in essence which also fall under that label were permitted, albeit often reluctantly and subject to a host of regulations and safeguards.

          While Zippy’s “Catalog” is indeed very useful, I would still recommend reading Unam Sanctam’s article to get little bit fuller picture. Though I’ll confess I’ve not actually gone through the primary sources myself, and it may be that a still more complete view would show Unam to be wrong on this one.

          • Bellomy

            What you’re saying seems to amount pretty effectively to “The Church is against what we moderns call torture”.

          • Hrodgar

            More like the Church is against most of what we modern’s call torture, but probably not all of it.

            Zippy’s contention that the appeal to the incomplete definition works against approval of waterboarding is true. But when we move past waterboarding to all acts that are commonly called torture it gets a bit murkier.

            For instance, CCC 2297 says “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to … punish the guilty” is wrong. Well, punishment is clearly not wrong. Even corporal punishment is clearly not wrong (parents spanking children: “spare the rod, spoil the child,” etc.). At what point does punishment become torture? Is flogging always immoral? I doubt it, but it could be. Is the difference when there is no set end? It has frequently been claimed that a significant part of the effectiveness of torture is that there is no end in sight, and Ad Extirpanda permitted something it called torture which may or may not qualify for our purposes to be used once but no more. Or something else entirely? When we have that distinction, whatever it might be, does it apply also to the other purposes listed in CCC 2297, such as “extracting confessions”, or does any inflicting of pain to extract a confession qualify as torture (IF it’s licit to give 5 lashes as punishment, is it licit to use it to extract a confession)? Again, I have no idea. Further confusing the matter is the question of how authoritative various documents (Ad Extirpanda, for instance) are.

            It may be that everything which is generally called torture qualifies as the sort of torture that is immoral. But it may not. And while the waterboarding of prisoners pretty clearly is immoral (as the Unam article agrees), torture is a fairly vague word used to cover a range of substantively different behaviors, such that if one kind of them is wrong it does not necessarily mean that all of them are. The question is not as clear cut as it might at first seem.

            And at any rate, the claim that “the Church has always been against torture,” even if true in the sense that it has always been against torture properly understood, is dangerous to leave out in the wild unqualified because of the scandal it can give since it at least seems on the face of things to be an absurd falsehood, given Augustine, Aquinas, and various papal bulls and encyclicals permitting and regulating it.

          • Bellomy

            Interesting stuff! I’ll try and go through the whole Unam article; I started but realized it was a pretty deep work so will go through it in more depth later.

          • Hrodgar

            For more fun and torture, you may also find this much shorter article interesting: http://www.medievalists.net/2016/03/20/why-medieval-torture-devices-are-not-medieval/

            Not directly relevant, but it could help put things in perspective by giving a (very) rough idea of the sorts of behaviors which were being permitted.

          • Torture is kinda like Porn isn’t it? You know it when you see it, although it cannot be clearly defined. Seems that things like these depend on judgment and discretion, which leads to what authority can do so.

        • Sorry I didn’t comment on this post earlier, I flew right under my radar? I am in debt to Zippy for his insights, and I admit I didn’t read his articles on torture, although it seems that Unam Sanctam’s massive article counters the idea that torture under every circumstances is prohibited.

          I realized I opened up a very large topic that I don’t even have too much of an idea or grasping of, but from my limited perspective (freestyle amateur thinking) It seems that torture isn’t immoral in certain circumstances, it is even desirable.

          • Bellomy

            Oh, I didn’t expect you to respond anyway. Thank you!

            I think it comes down a lot to the Church defining torture differently than us moderns.

  • Hrodgar