Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Once Again, Mark Shea Disagrees With Me

If you read Mark Shea's blog, you've probably noticed his focus on torture lately. The problem is that he's so intent on establishing that torture is wrong that he doesn't both to establish what torture actually is. His big piece of support is Gaudiam et Spes, a Papal document, which condemns "torments inflicted on body or mind, [and] attempts to coerce the will itself." Where I have trouble is that this can be taken so broadly as to be useless. Do you spank your child when they do wrong, or even just sit them in the corner? Seems like coercion and a torment on the body to me. Do you use positive peer pressure to get your kids not to do drugs? Coercion. If someone threatens to kill your family this very instant may you coerce them, through torment on the body or mind if necessary, not to do so?

I don't argue that torture is right. It's not. However, we know that there are times when force is justifiable (or else Just War Theory would be a mere novelty). What we need to know is when those times are, and what may be done. In common law, for instance, you could shoot someone who invades your home and threatens you, but once he starts running away you may not shoot him in the back. Matthew 10:16 commands us to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (New Robert Bauer Translation).

Mark snarkily thinks this kind of thinking is not only counterproductive, but sinful. I had given a hypothetical situation (in these comments) where your child has been kidnapped and will die unless the kidnapper tells you where the child is. Shea goes on to embellish my example with CSI-esque examples and calls it "incredibly unlikely." Really? Such a situation could not be believed? I'll bet this boy and this boy and these two are glad to know that kidnapping never leads to murder.

The fact is that any number of situations occur where information is time-sensitive and people's lives are at risk. Mocking and condemning those who substantially agree with you but want more clarity is reprehensible, and Mark Shea should know better.

Apparently it's not as bad as all that. While there was snark and disagreement, the two weren't meant maliciously (if that makes sense; it does in my own head). I apologize for any undue harm caused to Mark, and know that he shares the same sentiment. I believe the discussion is a valuable one, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to consider opinions. It's very easy for tempers to flare up, and I think everyone would benefit by holding back on saracasm, snark, and by extending an extra dose of charity to situations.

Things were getting a little heated in the comments to this post. Debate is encouraged; hostility gets things shut down. I'm not above censorship.