Originally issued February 2006.

“Christ’s disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of (humanity) is as much debased in (the) torturer as in the torturer’s victim.” – Pope John Paul II

Pax Christi USA, as a movement committed to creating a world that reflects the peace of Christ, firmly believes that torture violates the basic human dignity held at the core of the Catholic faith and international law, and can never be considered morally acceptable under any circumstances.

As U.S. Catholics, we are deeply troubled by efforts of the Bush administration to circumvent national and international laws that prohibit the use of torture, under the auspices of national security. In particular, recent evidence suggesting the Bush administration implemented a system of ‘rendition outsourcing’ as a component of its War on Terrorism is exceptionally troublesome, and could involve several countries – under the direction and order of the United States government – implementing policies of torture outside national territory and beyond the authority of national intelligence services. This would be in clear violation of international law, and would violate the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which provides that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, even under exceptional circumstances. The Convention reaffirmed that “no State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

There is no room for debate on where the social teachings of the Catholic Church lie on the issue of torture. As is noted in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “International judicial instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances.” In all cases, even those that involve the most serious crimes and offenses, the Catholic Church calls all governments to “strictly observe” the regulation against the use of torture in carrying out investigations.

Pope John Paul II echoed this call when he decisively said that there is never any justification for torture, and that torture diminishes the souls of all those involved. “Christ’s disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of (humanity) is as much debased in (the) torturer as in the torturer’s victim.”

Torture has always been deemed abhorrent in this country, and has long been banned by our laws and treaties. Most of the interrogation techniques used today in the War on Terrorism clearly constitute torture and must cease at once. Although the McCain bill, recently passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, prohibited cruel and degrading treatment as well, it also provided legal defenses that greatly shield those who command or commit torture. Worse yet, President Bush accepted this bill with “reservations,” essentially asserting a loophole to authorize torture under the guise of national security. This violates not only our laws and treaties but also our most cherished human values.

As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, God is Love, the Catholic Church is “duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.” It is essential for Catholics, as a requirement for achieving justice, to denounce torture and hold up the words of the Catechism that torture is “contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.”

Pax Christi USA offers sincere and heartfelt apologies to our sisters and brothers in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and throughout the world who have been victims of U.S. torture, and commits to take action to end the use of torture in the name of national security as a tool in the War on Terrorism.

Pax Christi USA calls for the U.S. Congress to establish an independent commission to publicly investigate the reports of abuse in U.S. detention centers around the world, and to pass legislation to uphold U.S. and international law against “extraordinary rendition,” and require stringent standards for transferring a detainee to a country that has a history of torture.

We call on the Bush administration to publicly reaffirm U.S. support for the U.N.Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and institute as a national policy that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” We must hold all parties accountable on the issue of torture, and therefore also condemn the barbaric and cruel practice of beheading and hostage-taking by elements of the insurgency. Pax Christi USA calls for an end to these practices, which serve as fuel for the spiraling cycle of violence.

As we continue to work to transform our world into the image of the reign of God, Pax Christi USA reiterates our Church’s profound respect for the dignity of all creation – the foundation on which we are called by God to pursue peace, justice and security. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic rights of all, and to strictly observe our Church’s prohibitions on torture. For we are called by God “to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” (Micah 6:8)

Leave a Reply