US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Torture ruins everything, including my favorite TV show

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Is no place safe from torture? As I was watching my current favorite aliens v. humans guilty pleasure, ABC's remake of V, I had to suffer through a grotesque torture scene in which the "good guys" (the humans) try to extract information from the bad guys (the Visitors). Sound familiar?

Since the United States joined such human rights powerhouses as China and Iran in using torture, television has been pushing the dubious moral claim that the ends justify the means, as long as "good" people are the ones using the bad means. So whether it's Jack Bauer on Fox's 24 or FBI agent and counter-alien-insurgent Erica Evans, heroes now inflict pain to get information.

As protesters last week continue to the effort to shut down the human rights tragedy in Guantanamo Bay, I'm wondering if I should be watching any show that perpetuates the moral lie that torture is justifiable. Does that count as material cooperation? Is this art imitating life, or life perverting art?

I'm not sure about those questions, but I know that torture is always wrong; Catholic teaching calls it an intrinsic moral evil, as theologian Bill Cavanaugh explains in an interview with USC.

So why is Guantanamo Bay still open? Maybe it's because torture--through poltical justification, fear, and media cooperation--has become morally acceptable to the majority of Americans, maybe even American Catholics.