US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Why Americans do, and don't, want to know the details on the CIA's use of torture

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify a 480-page summary of a more than 6,000-page report on the United States' use of "enhanced interrogation" in the wake of 9/11. And based on what members of the Senate committee have said publicly, the report will not be an easy read. 

The Washington Post reported that the Senate's report finds the CIA had concealed the truth about its methods and their effectiveness, and committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the results of the Senate investigation "shocking." According to Feinstein, "The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen." The report is not surprisingly also the source of great disagreement, as seen in the debate between Maine Sen. Angus King and former Vice President Dick Cheney over whether the actions described in the report can truly be considered torture.

But from the religious community, support for the Senate's decision to declassify the report has been overwhelmingly positive. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture issued a press release last week quoting several faith leaders on their support for the decision, including Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace. “For Catholics, torture is an ‘intrinsic evil,’" Colecchi said. "Only by admitting our past mistakes can the United States take a clear stance against torture and regain some of our moral credibility as a defender of human rights for all.” The U.S. bishops echoed those sentiments in a press release of their own (the bishops' conference also has a detailed guide on the church's teaching regarding torture available online).

Indeed, the Catholic Church's teaching on the dignity of the human person makes it clear that torture is unacceptable, and international laws and declarations have supported this view. If the U.S. did engage in torture--and to what degree and for what purpose--the American public deserves to know the facts. They just may not be very happy with what they find out.