US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Torture: Wrong then, still wrong now

Liz Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

At least one Bush administration official disagreed with the former president’s definition of torture, a recently declassified memo shows. Philip Zelikow, a counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, circulated the memo in 2006 in which he disagreed that practices such as waterboarding could be considered mere 'interrogation techniques' and not a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

The memo stated:

Under American law, there is no precedent for excusing treatment that is intrinsically ‘cruel’ even if the state asserts a compelling need to use it…If the techniques, taken together, are intrinsically cruel, inhuman or degrading — i.e., if under American constitutional law they would be either considered cruel and unusual or shock the conscience, then they are prohibited.

His stance was ultimately ignored.

The Catechism (2297) states: "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."

Jesus was tortured before being put to death. As we call to mind these events this Holy Week, starting with a procession of palms and ending with an empty tomb, let us also remember his clear directive to love our enemies--not torture them.