The Grand Inquisitor on Torture

September 9, 2007 § 49 Comments

Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266). At the same time, they are to aid in rebuilding “social relationships disrupted by the criminal act committed” (cf. “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” 403). By their very nature, therefore, these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders, facilitating their transition from despair to hope and from unreliability to dependability. When conditions within jails and prisons are not conducive to the process of regaining a sense of a worth and accepting its related duties, these institutions fail to achieve one of their essential ends. Public authorities must be ever vigilant in this task, eschewing any means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners. In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances” (Ibid., 404).

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§ 49 Responses to The Grand Inquisitor on Torture

  • Anonymous says:

    When the Catholic Church, formally expels every single person who has obtained and every single person who continues to support an unjust divorce, then you can blow your horn about torture ZIPPY. I like you ZIPPY but you are far too easy on the Catholic Church, which faithfully promotes divorce yet says otherwise. It is the spin doctor of spin doctors.I left the Church and I still love the Church but it is despicable regarding its marital practices and what is worse is that not a single bishop gives a care. The tribunals are DESIGNED to find way out of marriages they are NOT DESIGNED to find a way to heal them, which is EXACTLY what they should be doing. Karl

  • Anonymous says:

    By the way Zippy, I really like your disciplined approach to morality. The problem with it is that it often leads to the right answers and so it has to be ignored because it does not fit our selfish interests.At the very least we each need to look honestly at where such discipline leads us and to carfullyexamine why our self interests must supercede the results of moral theological discipline.Pray for me , buddy, OK?karl

  • zippy says:

    <>Pray for me , buddy, OK?<>I do, Karl. Please return the favor if you would.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    On the original post, I kind of wish he hadn’t argued *at all* from a duty of prisons to be institutions of rehabilitation for the offender. I do not regard that as one of the prison’s primary ends, and usually imprisonment was regarded as a _primarily_ punishment. In other words, retributive rather than rehabilitative. The “prisons are for rehabilitation” idea is a relatively modern one.Does this mean I think prisons should all be horrible? No, especially if we are talking about allowing prisoners to treat each other in horrible ways. Absolutely not. But could imprisonment in unpleasant physical circumstances (you’ll recall our discussion of desert prisons and the like) be merited and legitimate to mete out as punishment? I don’t see why not, if the crime is bad enough. And rehabilitation can go pound sand, as it were. You lock the guy up for his allotted time, don’t allow him to be mistreated (beaten, raped, etc., etc.), and then you let him out.This is aside from the fact that I’m actually totally in agreement with you in saying that torture is O-U-T out, period, no exceptions. Actually (though this isn’t an argument that torture is wrong, or at most a weak one), I have rather a mental horror about torture and wish fervently that I didn’t know about some of the things that have been done to people–no matter how evil the people. I can’t quite understand how people are even psychologically able to watch TV shows portraying torture.

  • zippy says:

    Well, it seems to me that in the final analysis punishment <>is<> directed at rehabilitation, though perhaps in a more teleological sense than how most modern secularists mean it when they use the term. A prison is (or ought to be) a better place for the criminal himself to be than at large, where his ability to sin is greater. Getting away with a crime is objectively worse for the criminal himself than is being caught and punished. Being punished is still objectively the best thing that can be done for he who is punished himself. And this may be true evn if the person has rehabilitated enough to in fact be no longer a menace to society: that is, seeing a punishment through may be teleologically the better thing for the person himself.I think this may be true even for evil men who actually end up in Hell. Most people think of Hell as a kind of strictly categorical thing without variation or gradiation, but that doesn’t match my own intuitions of eternal justice very well. I think Dante may have had the better idea; but of course this is all very speculative.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I don’t see that this has anything to do with gradations in hell. Gradated or not, they are stuck there forever. (Except Trajan, in Dante’s poem. And he’s a very rare exception.) “Rehabilitation” implies that you are at some point going to get better, go back to normal society, etc. In fact, rehabilitation would seem to be related to Purgatory, not hell, and all the souls in Purgatory are saved. Or so Dante says.

  • zippy says:

    <>Gradated or not, they are stuck there forever.<>Well, yes. A quadraplegic is stuck being a quadraplegic, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do what is best for him under the circumstances.<>“Rehabilitation” implies that you are at some point going to get better, go back to normal society, etc.<>Not to me it doesn’t. Rehabilitating is simply a matter of getting the subject to the best place he can be, given his own choices and circumstances as the background. Rehabilitation after a car accident doesn’t necessarily imply <>actual<> full restoration to some idealized perfection (though that is and should be the <>idealized<> goal, and doing something intentionally which excludes it as a possibility would be wrong). Rehabilitation as a practical matter just implies doing the best that we can in fact do for the person himself, objectively.And sometimes, when we have no other good options, the best thing we can do for a criminal himself is to execute him. To protect society from a criminal is always simultaneously to protect that criminal from himself.

  • Rodak says:

    It seems to me that prisoners who are going to be released back into society at the end of a given period of time should have been treated in such a way in prison that they feel like human beings who are of some value when they are turned loose. What society does not want walking around are individuals full of rage and despair, who have nothing to lose but a life which they don’t value themselves.The prevention of that is what rehabilitation means to me.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I guess I don’t feel myself responsible for how low-life rats feel when they are released from prison, so long as they were in fact treated in a morally humane manner in prison. So, for example, if somebody was kept in a relatively uncomfortable but not life-threatening or horrifying cell in near solitary confinement, his cell cleaned as needed, not beaten, tortured, or damaged in any way, given facilities for using the bathroom, bathing, and such, maybe a Bible and paper and pencil and the ability to send letters, access to a Christian chaplain, and he comes out full of rage and despair, that’s his problem. We don’t owe him job training (for example), self-esteem-building sessions, the opportunity to form possibly violent friendships and alliances with other prisoners, access to Muslim indoctrination to channel his violent impulses into jihad, college classes, a big library, videos to watch, gym equipment, and on and on, on the grounds that otherwise it’s our fault if he comes out full of negative feelings.

  • Rodak says:

    Lydia–If he comes out full of rage and despair and kills somebody you love, then his problem becomes, irrevocably, your problem. Treating prisoners who will eventually be released humanely, and preparing them for life in society, is primarily in YOUR best interest. And one size does not necessarily fit all.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Rodak, I already said I’m in favor of treating prisoners humanely, though I don’t know whether or not we’d agree on what counts as “humane.” (Perhaps you would require the gym equipment before giving imprisonment that label.) But as to the second clause, I’m a pessimist. I don’t believe all that jazz in jail “prepares them for life in society.” If anything, and if we’re to talk about consequences rather than restrict ourselves to talking about moral absolutes, coddling prisoners lowers the deterrent effect of imprisonment, and allowing too much fraternization among the prison population simultaneously allows prisoners to mistreat the weak among them and allows them to form contacts that lead to recidivism. My program of austerity would lower prison rape _and_ help prevent religious radicalization of prisoners and gang-forming while in prison.But much harm too, would be prevented by a wider use of the death penalty, which I also advocate. It should not be necessary to be a serial murderer who also tortures his victims before you can receive the death penalty, and then only after years of appeals. Bumping off your wife in a relatively humane manner for her life insurance ought to be sufficient, and not every death penalty case should automatically be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Such a policy is not only, in my opinion, morally just and right; it also has good consequences in terms of fewer people out there trying to murder me and people I love.So a strongly retributionist and old-fashioned approach to these things is not, as it happens, consequentially stupid.

  • zippy says:

    <>But as to the second clause, I’m a pessimist. I don’t believe all that jazz in jail “prepares them for life in society.”<>I suppose what I would say is that ideally, just punishment should among other things motivate someone to rehabilitate. But whether it <>actually<> does or not isn’t up to the authorities, it is up to him. And it is up to him to convince the authorities that he is rehabilitated, not vice versa. And even if he isn’t rehabilitated in the sense of being genuinely penitent and reformed, it is still better for him to be punished and confined than not.So the aim of punishment is in fact rehabilitation in a sense, but one has to be careful about that sense and the burdens it implies on jailer and convict. The jailer’s duty is to punish the convict justly, which by no means implies coddling. The convict’s duty is to embrace rehabilitation through genuine penitence and reform. And one of the signs of true penitence and reform is the embrace of the entire punishment as expiation, as opposed to looking to get off lightly: as the Catechism says, <>2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.<>

  • Rodak says:

    Zippy–If all crimes were committed as some kind of uncharacteristic aberration, by good, thoroughly catechizied Catholics, each of whom arrived in his cell with a full understanding of the personal benefits of expiation through gratefully suffering punishment, you and Lydia might not be sounding like such giddy idealists.But, in fact, most crimes are committed by people who have, in one way or another, had their butts repeatedly kicked, and who are full of anger and a lust for revenge. If that is not taken into account, and addressed effectively, the chances of recidivism are extremely high. What constitutes coddling? I would say that a CEO who goes to “prison” for insider trading, or cooking the books, gets coddled. Why is that?Perhaps, to be safe, society should just instituted life imprisonment for all criminals who don’t belong to a country club, and are clearly susceptible (as indicated by their complexion) to be recruited by Islamists? Or why spend time undertaking this task of classification? Once a criminal, always a criminal–fry them all and present society with the certainty of safety.

  • zippy says:

    <>If that is not taken into account, and addressed effectively, the chances of recidivism are extremely high.<>If that is true in a particular case, it seems that the duty is to keep the person locked up – for his own good and the good of others – until it ceases to be the case.

  • Rodak says:

    Zippy–That’s fine and dandy, but it would necessitate all sentences being open-ended, which is not the way our legal system works. Again, you are talking ideals that don’t take into account practical reality.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    A giddy idealist? Very much to the contrary. I’m a meanie. I disbelieve that “most criminals” are full of rage because they’ve been hurt–in other words, that they deserve pity and sympathy. A lot of them are full of rage because they are sociopaths, but that isn’t other people’s faults. Some of them are just full of nasty meanness, not rage, which, if it’s someone else’s fault, is usually so at a point so far upstream causally from where they are now that it’s too late to change it by showing them “we care” and trying to “prepare them for life.”But that doesn’t mean, to me, that their sentences should be open-ended. You give them the sentence of such a length as they deserve. And probably no parole, either. Build more prisons if necessary. However, if you give the death penalty for all or nearly all murder and attempted murder, rape, and torture, then a lot of these guys are going to be pushing up daisies after, at most, a few bouts of recidivism anyway.

  • zippy says:

    The point isn’t that sentences should be open ended as a matter of law, but that a criminal who doesn’t learn his lesson will end up back in jail. So it is important that the punishment be harsh enough for him to learn his lesson. If he accepts his harsh punishment as expiation, so much the better for him. But the notion that leniency in punishment represents mercy toward the criminal simply isn’t true as a matter of fact.

  • Rodak says:

    I don’t know what either of you mean by “leniency.” What I am advocating is not making prisons into resorts, but more like making them into educational facilities, with a therapeutic component available where necessary.I think that Lydia is dead wrong about what makes a human being angry and dangerous. They aren’t born that way, they are made that way by being abused. That’s how you make a dog into a fighting dog, rather than a pet, and that’s how you get a violent criminal, rather than a “normal” human being.We can build more jails, but we already have more prisoners incarcerated, by percentage, than any other “civilized” country.

  • Rodak says:

    Please be reminded that when Jesus encountered the violent and the criminal, he *healed* them, and forgave their sins.

  • zippy says:

    <>…but more like making them into educational facilities, with a therapeutic component available where necessary.<>I think educational/occupational perks designed to make upcoming life on the outside better can be good – very good even – when earned by good behavior. I think it is a bad idea in the prison setting to be indiscriminate in handing out perks though. The primary issue if and when a criminal is released isn’t skills: it is attitude and behavior. If he doesn’t learn his lesson and change his tune, no amount of skills will help. If he learns his lesson and changes his tune, he’ll be OK independent of whether he got extra occupational help while in prison. The rehabilitative aspect of punishment is in the punishment itself, not in educational perks.Lydia expresses disinterest in the criminal’s attitude upon release. I disagree, and I think harsh punishment is required – is merciful – precisely because I <>do<> care about the criminal’s attitude upon release. And in the more extreme cases, I care about the criminal’s attitude as he faces his execution.

  • Rodak says:

    “I think it is a bad idea in the prison setting to be indiscriminate in handing out perks though.”Overlooking the use of the word “perks,” which is loaded in this context, let me point out that I said early-on that “one size does not necessarily fit all” where it comes to rehabilitation. Some are lost causes. They should be kept behind bars permanently.The real rehabilitation happens, however, when the criminal has come to feel the societal equivalent of having his sins forgiven, and his sense of self-worth either restored, or created, by his experience in prison. Being able to get a job upon release would be a big factor in that.

  • William Luse says:

    <>maybe a Bible and paper and pencil…<>Don’t give him a pencil. He’ll stab somebody with it.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “I think that Lydia is dead wrong about what makes a human being angry and dangerous. They aren’t born that way, they are made that way by being abused.”All of them? All of them were abused? How about all the people who have been abused and _not_ turned into sociopathic killers? How about all of the people who have had it pretty darned good in life and commit despicable crimes? It strikes me that perhaps you don’t believe strongly enough in a sin nature, not to mention human free will. And regardless of how people get that way–whether through abuse, through the sheerest choice of evil, through evil influences around them when young and absence of good influences–it doesn’t follow from any of these causal stories that we can make them better at the point in time when they have already held up a store with a gun, beaten the tar out of somebody, or even worse, raped a child, by trying to give them good feelings of being loved, forgiven, helped, etc., etc., in prison. In fact, I very much doubt it.As for Jesus’ healing people, he healed people who recognized their need of him. In other words, people who had the kind of attitude–and attitude change–Zippy is looking for. Jesus didn’t go around sneaking up behind vicious thugs, magically touching them, and making their evil hearts go away by brute spiritual force. And a fortiori, psycho-therapy and job training can’t do that, either.

  • Rodak says:

    “Jesus didn’t go around sneaking up behind vicious thugs, magically touching them, and making their evil hearts go away by brute spiritual force.”Actually, that’s pretty much what He did in the incident with the Gadarene swine. But, are you saying that some people are just born evil? I suppose that if one accepts the doctrine of double predestination, then one is accepting the concept of “born evil.” This being the case, they should probably be killed as children, *before* they are strong enough to hurt anybody, don’t you think?

  • zippy says:

    <>Actually, that’s pretty much what He did in the incident with the Gadarene swine.<>Well, no. Conflating demonic possession with choosing evil won’t fly. You’ll have to try a different argument.It seems to me that on the prudential matter of where and how much help job training can be, we just disagree. I think job training might be useful in the margins as a “carrot” for good behavior alongside the stick of just punishment. And it is possible that a convict might learn something that will be useful to him once he gets out. But those things (especially the latter) are peripheral to the point of irrelevance in the matter of rehabilitation: of the work that just punishment ideally will do in getting him to own up and reform.A big part of the problem is that when modern people think of “rehabilitation” they think of Oprahriffic group therapy, “education”, and being affirmed in their okayness. In reality what most people who need rehabilitation require – and here I include all of us, not just criminals – is a good hard kick in the ass.

  • Rodak says:

    I’m willing to argue that the first century’s “demonic possession” is the 21st century’s sociopathy. A figure like Geoff Dahmer, who is driven by perverted compulsions, is not really a moral free agent, even though he is judged to be sane enough to be punished for his crimes. Demonic possession does not stand up as a defense in a court of law these days.“In reality what most people who need rehabilitation require – and here I include all of us, not just criminals – is a good hard kick in the ass.”That is probably true of any “normal,” middle-class, person from a “good home” who somehow goes astray and commits some stupid crime for kicks, or out of passion. But I don’t think that it is at all true of persons born and raised within a brutal criminal milieu, who have never really been loved, and who have never had any moral values instilled in them. Such people are badly bent, and they need healing, along with punishment, if they are ever going to be turned loose. Kicking the ass of somebody who’s had his ass kicked every day of his life is not going to change him; it is only going to reaffirm that which got him there in the first place.

  • zippy says:

    <>I’m willing to argue that the first century’s “demonic possession” is the 21st century’s sociopathy.<>That is one place where we part company.<>Such people are badly bent, and they need healing, along with punishment, if they are ever going to be turned loose.<>I’ve mentioned that I am all in favor of judiciously applied carrots in addition to sticks. But I reject the notion that punishment, and the meting out of justice more generally, is not itself directed toward healing. (That seems to be the distinction between my view and Lydia’s at the moment, as far as I can tell). So all we are really talking about objectively is “healing” and “more healing”.

  • Rodak says:

    “That is one place where we part company.”So you’re going to go medieval on me, eh? Well, when either the realm of medical science, or the realm of jurisprudence recognizes a case of demonic possession in connection with the enactment of a felony crime, be sure to post on it. I don’t think we’re too far apart on the subject of rehabilitation, though. My main point is that all stick won’t do a thing toward reforming a man whose whole life has been nothing but an endurance of sticks.Was it Cool Hand Luke who, when punched viciously in the face by a sadistic jailer, spit out a tooth, grinned, and said, “Shoot, my daddy hit harder than that!”?

  • Rodak says:

    And btw, I brought up the Gadarene swine incident to counter Lydia’s argument: “As for Jesus’ healing people, he healed people who recognized their need of him. In other words, people who had the kind of attitude–and attitude change–Zippy is looking for.” I.e., I was not trying to diagnose the cause of the “demoniac’s” behavior, but was pointing out that Jesus did “heal” persons who did not request a healing. So, I think that my argument there was valid.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Nope, Rodak, if the guy with the Gadarene swine really was demon possessed, your argument is not a counterexample. Because I said Jesus didn’t make people’s evil hearts go away by spiritual force. Being demon possessed isn’t the same thing as having an evil heart. Many people in prisons have evil hearts, and Jesus himself isn’t going to force them to be spiritually healed. They have free will.By the way, my impression is that this whole “treat the poor little criminal as a victim of society and try to reform him” thing has been tried and has failed in terms of recidivism. I recall Thomas Sowell’s discussing something like this.The comment, Rodak, about “killing likely criminals in their cradles” is unworthy and jejeune. I forgive you because you scarcely know me yet.And I think you mean “total depravity,” not “double predestination.” No, actually, I’m probably more of a Pelagian than an Augustinian. But people do choose evil, and do have a (resistable) tendency to do so, as any parent knows. Choosing to become evil is an option left out in your “born evil/made evil by abuse (pore things)” false dichotomy.Zippy, I can’t tell if we agree or disagree. Our difference may be terminological. I can’t bring myself to say that punishment must be directed to the reform of the criminal when I think there is no reasonable probability a given criminal will reform. Yet punishment is, IMO, very much justified in those cases, too.

  • Rodak says:

    Lydia–I’m afraid that I have to put demon possession in the same category with alien abduction, since there is no contemporary, verifiable, instance of either that doesn’t have a more plausible alternate explanation. Probably demon possession ended with the Age of the Apostles. Whatever.Your argument seems to be founded upon neither science, nor scripture, so I don’t quite know where you are coming from, other than your obvious subjective hatred of criminals. I will grant you that they are difficult to love.

  • zippy says:

    <>Yet punishment is, IMO, very much justified in those cases, too.<>I suppose it depends on whether one believes that the moral nature of an act itself (an act of punishment in this case) can be at least to some extent independent of its foreseen consequences. We may not foresee the criminal accepting correction: it really isn’t up to us. But the act of punishment is nevertheless directed toward his correction.(Don’t mind Rob. He says hyperbolic things like that “kill them all preemptively” comment all the time, and to every interlocutor, including me, and he’s known me on-line for years. It eventually becomes part of the background noise in any discussion with him).

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy, so would you say that God’s punishment eternally of the damned is directed towards their correction? How about his punishment of Satan? It just seems such an odd way of putting it or thinking of it.(Aw, shucks. Does that mean I have to forgive Rodak for stupid comments like that even after he _does_ know me? Well, okay.)Rodak, as far as I recall, I’ve made it pretty clear that my position against a “therapeutic” approach to criminals is based in no small part on the premise that I expect it won’t work. The fact that I believe people were apparently really demon possessed in Jesus’ time figures nowhere in that particular argument. Indeed, I consider contemporary criminals to be very _different_ from a demon-possessed person, in that they are responsible for their actions. I was merely pointing out that taking Scripture literally at that point does provide a response to *your* attempt to use the Gadarene swine story as a counterexample to my claim that Jesus didn’t force people to be morally rehabilitated. In other words, you’re the one dragging in Scripture, then insisting that we take Scripture in some sort of purely metaphoric sense, then trying to use that purely metaphoric interpretation to draw the following conclusion: “Jesus _healed_ someone without his asking for it, so we too can and should _heal_ people of being criminals even if they don’t want it.” Not that it would follow anyway, being that we aren’t Jesus. But that we disagree on the possibility that there really was demon possession in the time of Christ means only that you don’t get to use that passage to show me triumphantly that Jesus made people un-evil by brute spiritual force. It’s your argument, not mine.

  • zippy says:

    <>Zippy, so would you say that God’s punishment eternally of the damned is directed towards their correction? How about his punishment of Satan? It just seems such an odd way of putting it or thinking of it.<>The reason I brought Hell into the discussion was because Hell is punishment <>in extremis<>, so if the idea stands there it ought to stand period.Yeah, it is an odd way to think of it. But Hell may be literally the best God can do, given a lack of repentance, without destroying the person’s free will (and therefore desroying the person). I’m no universalist or syncretist by a long shot, but it seems to me that justice and mercy must converge, becoming two modes of the same thing in God. Or something like that.On the other subject I don’t pull any punches in arguing the substance of a matter with Rob, but my general problem is that I have developed an abiding affection for him over time which his occasional hyperbolic straw-man outbursts cannot penetrate.

  • Rodak says:

    It is most touching to doted upon as a kind of jester, village idiot, or Tourette’s case. (“I didn’t say that, the demon made me do it!”) Thanks, guys–really. That said, I would still like to have it explained how *free will* is compatible with the idea that some criminals (*most* criminals, Lydia?) are not rehabilitatable (if that’s a word?) If one *cannot* be rehabilitated, it can only be because one *cannot* choose the Good. Therefore, one does not have functional free will. We know that one was not born in that condition, since that would mean that God made him that way. How, then, do we explain our criminal ending up so very damaged that his will no longer functions, other than by the negative influences of environmentally imposed degradations? It would seem to me, Lydia, that your analysis is merely the obverse of the liberal tendency of *blaming the victim*, where it is not the stout Rotarian burgher being victimized, but the essentially powerless individual, who’s been cornered by circumstances, and lashes out in desperation.

  • Rodak says:

    “Being demon possessed isn’t the same thing as having an evil heart.”Although I not an expert (there, I defer to Lydia), it was my understanding that the demon cannot take possession of the man by main force, but must be invited in, so to speak. That would indicate to me (correct me, if I’m wrong), that demon possession (like armed robbery) is the result of a choice made through the exercise of free will.Thus, if Jesus “cured” the demoniac without any request from the demoniac, or any request by another on the demoniac’s behalf, He did so as I said. And the Gospel story seems to indicate that, in the aftermath, the former demoniac was again in possession of his free will and capable of choosing the Good. Was it not the restoration of this faculty, then, that was the fundamental object of Jesus’ unsolicited act? And, in imitation, should we not view even the most hardened criminals in the same light?Or is it, “I was hungry, and you handed me the Want Ads; I was in prison, and you went to the movies…?”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “That said, I would still like to have it explained how *free will* is compatible with the idea that some criminals (*most* criminals, Lydia?) are not rehabilitatable (if that’s a word?) If one *cannot* be rehabilitated, it can only be because one *cannot* choose the Good. Therefore, one does not have functional free will.”I am making predictions, not metaphysical claims that it is literally impossible that the person should be saved or changed. Most particularly, I predict that offering him the kinds of stuff liberal penal theorists want to offer him is *highly unlikely* to bring about a change of heart.Scripture isn’t clear that every person to which demon possession is attributed had to accept it or agree to it. Even if that were the case, it doesn’t follow (and seems not to have been the case) that there was an on-going acceptance of it, as there is an on-going choice to be and do evil in those who do the latter in ordinary life and circumstances. In other words, it could have been a state that one entered in some sense by an act of the will but remained in un-freely. In that case, _if_ one had the spiritual power merely to cast out the demon, as Christ (and the Apostles) apparently did, this would be a good thing to do. What the person did with his free will after that would be up to him.I take all of that quite literally, however, and reject the analogy to criminals. A) They are making on-going choices to continue or repeat their crimes. B) We have no power analogous to exorcism by which we can make people who are _not_ demon-possessed good-hearted as Jesus made people free of demon control. I don’t know how much more clearly to put it.If you have in mind some prisoner whom you believe really to be demon possessed, perhaps you should talk to your local priest about arranging an exorcism. (Irony intended.)

  • Rodak says:

    Lydia–All I can in response to your last comment is that if the will is involved in demonic possession (after which a person’s acts will be criminal in nature), then I think that my analogy holds. An analogy is not a one-to-one correspondence, after all, but a recognition of a similarity.The point is not that since we can’t, like Jesus, straighten a bent person out just by willing it to be so, we should therefore not make the effort. I don’t believe that prisoners should have cable TV and a fully-equipped gym available to them. I do, however, think that they should be safe in prison, and that their spiritual injuries should be treated IF they are going to be returned to society.

  • Rodak says:

    I should further add that regardless of the prevailing opinion that prisoners are being coddled by our penal system, it is also paradoxically true that violence, rape, and all manner of degradation is the lot of prisoners in most facilities.In short, we don’t know how rehabilitatable these people are, because we have never gone the full route toward putting them in an environment that might make them better, rather than worse.

  • zippy says:

    <>It is most touching to doted upon as a kind of jester, village idiot, or Tourette’s case.<>Both the affection and the rest are genuine. What do you expect when you say things like <>“This being the case, they should probably be killed as children, *before* they are strong enough to hurt anybody, don’t you think?”<>, as if anyone in the discussion would advocate such a thing?

  • Rodak says:

    Well, that was, of course, meant to be both sarcastic and ironic to the max, and was in response to such things as: “…guess I don’t feel myself responsible for how low-life rats…” and “if you give the death penalty for all or nearly all murder and attempted murder, rape, and torture, then a lot of these guys are going to be pushing up daisies after, at most, a few bouts of recidivism anyway.”I was merely suggesting that “a few bouts of recidivsim” might be a few too many, if we really believe that rehabilitation is pretty much a lost cause.

  • zippy says:

    I should say that I agree completely with this:<>I should further add that regardless of the prevailing opinion that prisoners are being coddled by our penal system, it is also paradoxically true that violence, rape, and all manner of degradation is the lot of prisoners in most facilities.<>I expect Lydia probably does too. The paradox may be resolved when you consider that perhaps <>we ourselves should be harsher to prisoners<> on the one hand, and we should <>do a better job of protecting them from other prisoners<> on the other.The threat of being released into the general population, used to such great effect in some cases, is often quite literally a threat of torture and rape. This is inexcusable.

  • Rodak says:

    Zippy–I certainly agree that the very first duty of the penal authorities should be that of protecting the prisoners from each other, by the most effective means available, so long as those means are also humane.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “The paradox may be resolved when you consider that perhaps we ourselves should be harsher to prisoners on the one hand, and we should do a better job of protecting them from other prisoners on the other.”Bingo. I’m appalled by the extent to which prisoners are allowed to harm one another. But people don’t seem to be willing to consider that you may have to give prisoners less freedom of movement overall if you are effectively to protect them from one another, especially when we’re talking about fairly large numbers of males, many of them very tough guys indeed.

  • Rodak says:

    I am totally in favor of prisoners being prevented from unsupervised mingling, during which time they are able to form gangs, etc.My feeling is that their time in prison should be constructively spent. Some prisoners have the inner-resources to do this for themselves (e.e., the “jailhouse lawyers” we’ve all heard of). If they are illiterate, they should be taught to read. If they have no saleable skills, they should be taught one, much as though they were in the one of the armed forces. If they are put to work, it should not be make-work, totally unskilled work only, but involve the acquisition of skills.Those prove to be incorrigible, despite these efforts, should be provided with no more than food, a clean cell, and reading material, if desired.

  • Civis says:

    I just came accross this blog while googling on Natural Law. This is awesume. I’m going to have to hang around.I’m coming upon this conversation late so forgive me if my comments are a bit of topic, but I’m really troubles by the penal system. It doesn’t reform anyone. I’m in favor of having prisoners work and learn a vocation myself. I thinking working has more dignity than rotting in a jail cell bragging about how many people you are going to rape and rob when you get out.RE inhumane conditions. I have been appalled overhearing some of my former National Guard buddies who were prison guards brag about beating up prisoners and about watching while people get beaten up. It’s really sickening.I don’t know what the solution is. Personally I’d like to see alternative forms of handling criminals, but my ideas are probably unworkable.But one thing I would like to throw into the mix is a comment on what the first commenter (“anonymous”) said about divorce. It is interesting that the first comment on this post is about divorce.There is a strong correlation between divorce and crime not to mention poverty and child molestation. I don;t know the exact statistics (although I can get them for anyone who is interested), but there have been extensive studies and children who grow up in broken homes or illegitimate (“born out of wedlock” as my state’s civil code now calls it out of sensitivity) are far more likely to commit a crime, do drugs, get pregnant out of wedlock, be molested by a local predator etc etc. It is bar none the leading cause of poverty in America–educational differences, race etc don’t even come close.I’ve just witnessed the breakup of my best friends marriage and his soon to be ex wife (the divorce is not even final) already has an engagement ring on. My wife ran into her yesterday, and said, “What if your annullment doesn’t go through?” “It will. Fr. ______ said it’s a sure thing.” Now my little sister has decided she is going to leave her husband and her priest is backing her all the way. I think she is ruining her life, and it’s killing me to watch. All the priest my wife talked to and the deacon I spoke with had to say is to “love her.” And I live in a good area of the country. I respect Fr._____ in spite of what he told my friend’s wife. I respect my wife’s priest friend and the deacon I spoke with. We are very lucky in that we have an excellent bishop and many wonderful orthodox priests, but even here where I live, I think we are just too soft on divorce. I’m not saying we have to be mean, but nobody but me and wife even try to encourage people to try to work it out. I’ve had several heart to hearts with my sister, but I am one person telling her that what she is going through is just ordinary man-woman issues that every couple has to work out. I’m telling her that this is going to make her life a lot harder. The rest of the community tells her she should do what she wants.Did you know that in the 50’s there were like 500 annullments in the whole world? Today I think like 90 something percent of the annulments come form the U.S. and like 90% of the annulments that are appealed are overturned by the Vatican.Sorry for the long comment, but I said all of that to say this: If we want to make the world a better place, let’s start at home by making marriage strong, then our family by encouraging them to stay married and so on in our communtity. Mother Theresa used to always tell people who wanted to help her that “The poor are in your own family.” I’m convinced that the real fight in making the world a better place starts at home and it’s where te real fight is at!

  • Rodak says:

    “The rest of the community tells her she should do what she wants.”Yes. And never mind the rest of the community. Any time you hear your interior dialogue making the arguement that you should do/have X “because you *deserve* it”–stop, turn around, and RUN in the opposite direction.

  • zippy says:

    <>RE inhumane conditions. I have been appalled overhearing some of my former National Guard buddies who were prison guards brag about beating up prisoners and about watching while people get beaten up. It’s really sickening.<>I agree. Part of the problem is that people conflate “institutionally harsh” with “inhumane”. There isn’t anything <>institutionally<> harsh about a prison with so much internal freedom that certain prisoners routinely enslave and sodomize other prisoners.There are serious practical problems too, to which you allude. Prison guard is one of those occupations (like “president of the United States, for another example) where a desire to have that specific job is often a contrary indicator of suitability.

  • Civis says:

    Zippy,I should clarify one thing. The Guardsmen I was referring were guards here in the U.S. abusing U.S. citizens in prison. I was not talking about abuse of “insurgents” in Iraq.

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