I call. Time to show your hand

February 13, 2010 § 190 Comments

In this comment thread, Austin Ruse makes the following proposition:

Three men waterboarded vs 50 million murders of unborn children. This is a waste of time and I reiterate, an attempt by a small group who want to divert attention from a truly horrific situation.

OK, if this is what you really believe, it is time to lay down your cards. If we all can just agree that the torture perpetrated by the Bush administration was despicable and must be unequivocally repudiated by all Catholics as completely unacceptable, the whole issue can go away.

(Oh, and just so you know, here is my basic take on legal abortion).

Tagged:

§ 190 Responses to I call. Time to show your hand

  • JohnMcG says:

    Indeed, if one truly believes that what one takes to be a minor issue is distracting from larger issues, then it seems that the thing to do is acquiesce (or at least not actively resist) on the smaller issue so we can move on to larger issues.

    And the same applies to the Bill Mazzela “abortion is a phony issue” types.

  • William Luse says:

    So is the logic: we have two evils, one graver than the other, so let's pretend the lesser evil does not exist?

    If I can get God to apply it to my personal life, I'll be up for canonization before long.

  • zippy says:

    These folks just don't get it that the way to defuse torture as an issue — completely — is to stop supporting torture, including all the stupid euphemistic defenses that make them look just as unprincipled as Moloch worshipping leftists.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well, he goes on to say, “These guys also want us to believe that its ok to vote for someone like Obama, who opposes waterboarding 3 guys but supports the killing of unborn children, rather than one of those despicable conservatives who may favor waterboarding but opposes the deliberate killing of millions of unborn children.”

    And he's right. He's arguing with those Moloch-worshiping leftists.

    Could we maybe admit some “root causes,” here? I'm not saying that I agree that torture is a teensy-weensy issue. I don't. And I see your point, Zippy, that if it's such a small issue, they should just stop supporting it. Why die in a ditch for a small issue?

    But let's admit that the likes of Karlson and the Vox Nova crowd, the faux pro-life pro-Obama crowd, certainly are not a good advertisement for the anti-torture position. The temptation if one saw it mainly from those guys would be to be reactionary like that commentator and to say, “Oh, please, this is just a lot of baloney from Obama supporters. Leave me alone.”

    If he'd seen it first and solely from Zippy, he might have a different reaction.

    Yeah, we should be thinkers, not reactors. But in politics, that maybe an unrealistic standard. I certainly wouldn't want to have anything to do with the Auschwitz debate club, and if I found myself in a comments thread arguing the same position as some of those guys, I might indeed feel like I was participating in the throwing up of a smoke screen for the Party of Death. Better to argue it on one's own blog where the appearance of connection is not there.

  • zippy says:

    Actually, arguing it there afforded me the opportunity to express my opinion of Vox Nova concomitantly.

  • JohnMcG says:

    It's true that their approach to the issue often seems more driven by a deisire to pin an intrinsic evil on the other side (and so shut up about ours) than a genuine outrage at the issue.

    e.g.:http://vox-nova.com/2010/02/11/another-post-on-banning-torture-supporters-from-communion/ — “All I want is consistency” Never mind what the right thing to do is. Just to make sure that those on the right get whacked as well as those on the left.

    It speaks to seeing the world through a left/right lens first, rather than Catholic first.

    But that needs to be answered with an authentic Christian witness, rather than an opposing partisan witness.

  • William Luse says:

    Well, Lydia, the guy didn't merely say that the abortion issue was so much more important than the torture issue, but that the latter was a “waste of time,” because it happened only 3 times (which he later corrects “to three men”). If there had been only three abortions to accompany the 3 instances of torture, I wonder if he would then think the torture worth talking about, and abortion less so, since numbers seem to determine the gravity of a thing.

    This matter of appearing to make common cause with moloch worshippers by commenting on certain sites is a tricky matter. I avoid getting tricked by not going there.

    Btw, Zippy, some guy named McClary or something said in those comments that the Catholic Church once considered torture licit. I believe we've been through this before, but can you concisely refresh my memory as to the truth of this charge?

  • Henry Karlson says:

    Lydia

    I am not in “the Obama crowd.” I did not vote for Obama. I did not support Obama. So quit misrepresenting me.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I think Lydia is referring to the general character of your posts, with which I would have to agree.

  • Zippy says:

    Henry:
    You are every bit as functionally pro-Obama as Ruse is functionally pro-torture. Both of you try to hide it in a heaping pile of BS, but anyone with a nose can tell it stinks.

    Bill:
    Is this what you are thinking of?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy, I take your point. I would find it really annoying to do, but if anyone can do it (making both positions clear at the same time on V.N.), it's you.

    Henry Karlson, if you didn't vote for Obama, I apologize for implying that you did.

  • Tom says:

    It seems to me that, with his Pauline Kael meets Captain Queeg comment this morning, Austin Ruse demonstrates that he is unable to actually think about and engage this issue. Which in turn raises the question of the value in thinking about and engaging what he writes about this issue.

  • Tom says:

    My impression is that Henry is viscerally opposed to Republicans and conservatives and intellectually opposed to Obama, and that much of his intellectual opposition to Obama is due to Obama's similarities (as Henry sees it) to Republicans and conservatives.

    I think he — and, for that matter, much of Vox Nova — is well represented by something he wrote in response to a recent charge of anti-Republican bias. “I could say the same thing about Obama,” he answered in part.

    And yes, he could, but he doesn't. Not really.

  • Tom

    No, I'm not “opposed to conservatives.” I am opposed to falsely named conservatives who are as liberal as they come. As has been said on Vox Nova many times, one of the reasons why we often don't say as much about Obama issues which are popular on the rest of the blogosphere is we are not an echo chamber looking to just repeat with everyone else what everyone already knows. Rather, the concern is to deal with the moral rot that is normally treated as Austin does — as “unimportant” and to deal with that.

    And the notion that “conservative” means “small government” is the liberal lie. Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, St Alexander Nevsky, St Louis, St Constantine the Great, Pray for us.

  • Tom says:

    No, I'm not “opposed to conservatives.” I am opposed to falsely named conservatives who are as liberal as they come.

    Noted — although as it's a distinction I don't myself find worth making, if I forget to make it in the future it won't be because I think you don't.

  • Zippy says:

    If that fellow Ruse really is representative of organized pro-life leadership, … well, insert something pithy here, because I am completely at a loss for words.

  • Tom says:

    The kind of people you find in organized pro-life leadership are the kind of people you'd find in organized pro-life leadership.

  • zippy says:

    Well, OK, but I donate not inconsiderable amounts of cash to various Catholic charities every year, and C-FAM has just been added to the “will never get a red cent from me until I see sincere, very public sackcloth-and-ashes repentance from this guy” list — something the ridiculous joke called “Vox Nova” could never have done on its own. (It isn't as though anyone there is on a “likely donors to C-FAM” list anyway, for Pete's sake).

    I don't get it. Why would a guy like Ruse (who I didn't know as the president of C-FAM until today) set out to prove Vox-freaking Nova right in such a stupid, stupid, stupid fashion? Whatever his private opinions, just what can he possibly be thinking to do that? What can EWTN be thinking too, for that matter?

    The coinage “oversharing generation” becomes more and more valid every day.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I did think it was a little funny when someone (was it you, Zippy?) told him he had years of blog threads to catch up on.

  • Tom says:

    To paraphrase myself, I don't mind being ruled by elites; what I mind is that the elites are so pedestrian.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Zippy,

    To reiterate what i said at American Catholic. Your threat of not giving my group money is precisely the reason i say away from self important “self made millionaires.” The money is self important “self made millionaires” is very expensive. We get by with 15,000 individual mom and pop donors, soon to rise to 20,000.

    I will also reiterate. I am not pro-torture. I am not even pro-waterboarding. The argument over 3 guys getting waterboarded is an obsession among a small group that is driving a wedge in the pro-life movements and gives aid and comfort to the party of death. Some are doing it for reasons of causing trouble for pro-lifers. Others, you i assume, are doing it for good reasons that are still harmful.

  • JohnMcG says:

    The argument over 3 guys getting waterboarded is an obsession among a small group that is driving a wedge in the pro-life movements and gives aid and comfort to the party of death. Some are doing it for reasons of causing trouble for pro-lifers. Others, you i assume, are doing it for good reasons that are still harmful

    Who wrote a book defending this?

    Who had a segment on a Catholoc talk show uncritically promoting said book?

    Whose comment on the MA election was “waterboarding wins?”

    Who is driving this wedge, and who is trying to keep it from splitting apart the Body of Christ?

  • zippy says:

    I will also reiterate. I am not pro-torture. I am not even pro-waterboarding.

    Right. Just like Gerald Campbell at Vox Nova isn't “pro-choice”.

    Interesting ditch you've chosen to die in.

  • zippy says:

    We get by with 15,000 individual mom and pop donors, soon to rise to 20,000.

    So is supporting torture an official C-FAM grass-roots fundraising strategy, given the Pew poll numbers? Is that why you've suddenly come out swinging like a complete newbie on the Catholic blogs?

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Zippy,

    If you want to know the C-FAM mission, go to our website, http://www.c-fam.org. We work on international social policy (abortion, family etc) at the UN and the EU. C-FAM does not take a position on matters such as torture or waterboarding.

    I have spent time with Gerry Campbell through our mutual friend Pat Fagan, who was at Heritage adn is now at FRC. He is so smart, I don't understand 90% of what he says. He is too smart for his own good. I don't believe he is pro-choice or pro-abortion.

    By the way, I love your phrase “debate club at Auschwitz” and I share your intense dislike of Vox Nausea.But, you can still keep your money.

  • zippy says:

    Well, if you are going to simultaneously defend Marc Thiessen's positions and Gerald Campbell's, there just ain't much I can do to help you.

    (You are aware that Campbell is a Vox Nova contributor? You read the thread to which I linked, where he says in no uncertain terms that pro-choice is justified by subsidiarity?)

  • Tom says:

    C-FAM is a non-partisan, non-profit research institute dedicated to reestablishing a proper understanding of international law, protecting national sovereignty and the dignity of the human person.

    The Catholic Church teaches that torture is a matter of the dignity of the human person.

    Perhaps the reason C-FAM hasn't gotten around to deciding what it thinks about torture is that its mission is focused on “international institutions,” and international institutions are essentially unanimous in their condemnation of the Bush Administration's policy of torture.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Zippy,

    About Campbell, about me, about you. The rough and tumble of comment boxes does not properly reflect anyone's position on anything. Comment boxes are in fact the opposite of communication.

    Michael Novak. I think, said two people have to speak together for at least two hours even to begin to understand where they differ.

    One of the things i tried to do at Vox Nausea is actually get together with some of those guys. I was mocked and slandered for the effort though one of them has reached out and we are talking, at least via private email.

    Teh slash adn burn of comboxes is an aspect of hell, cachophony, misundertanding, and hatred.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I generally feel rather dirty after having waded into the comboxes.

  • zippy says:

    Blogs and comboxes and the like are a new experience for humanity, with an immediacy and a permanence and a reach for the written word never before seen in history in that combination, bringing out both the best and the worst in people, in my experience. They are also at least initially very impersonal, telling you very little about the man across the table.

    If it takes two hours face to face it probably takes hundreds of interactions in this kind of format. I always learn something from the people I interact with online, even when we disagree absolutely. That just emphasizes the importance of putting the toe in the water slowly though, when it comes to a whole community and discussion set and cast of characters which has a history going back for years.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I suggest that even a million interactions of this sort would get you any closer to any kind of understadning of another's position or another person.

  • zippy says:

    Well, now you are overstating it. I've made many friends on line, many of whom I still only know on line and a number of whom I've gotten to know even better in person.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Overstatement is the lingua franca of the comboxes…

  • Austin Ruse says:

    By the way, had you ever seen the memo that FWIW produced yesterday?

  • Austin Ruse says:

    FWIW's memo at 4:53 pm yesterday…

  • zippy says:

    Don't remember it from the thread. Is there some reason I should be motivated to go look it up?

  • Austin Ruse says:

    It helps your case. Have you seen it before? Yes, go look itup. i would post it but it is a link to a pdf and i dont know how to do that.

  • zippy says:

    I don't think my case needs any more help. Thx tho.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I have a point to make. have you seen the memo before?

  • zippy says:

    If you have a point to make, make it.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Oh for the love of God. this is how you make friends in the comboxes? Sheesh.

    The point is this. You say my intervention is silly, naive, late to game etc. I say my intervention has given you evidence, authoritative evidence that you have never seen before.

  • zippy says:

    I have no idea what you are talking about, Austin. If you want to make a point, you'll find that the way we do it here, at least on my personal blog, is to say what we mean in as plain a language as possible. That does tend to attract certain kinds of online friends and repel others, but I won't apologize for it and I don't indulge nonsense.

    If you have something to say, bloody well say it. Or not. The choice is yours.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Look at the memo, Zippy and tell me if you ahve ever seen it before! You claimed before that my intervention here is naive, silly etc. I say, here let me very plain, I HAVE SHAKEN LOSE EVIDENCE FOR YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT EVEN AWARE OF. IS THAT PLAIN ENOUGH FOR YOU? Perhaps i am wrong but we wont know because for some bizarre reason, you wont even go and look at the memo.

    You seem to be of the school that an 80% friend is in fact an enemy.

  • zippy says:

    OK, I glanced over the memo. I still don't see your point.

    I think you may be mistaken though in what you think I think.

    I know that leftists are taking advantage of the torture policies of the Bush administration to make political hay.

    My comment on your naivete is not about that, but about your near-complete unfamiliarity with the basic blocking and tackling arguments in the torture debate; arguments with which you are obviously completely unfamiliar.

    You aren't naive at all to see that there is a wedge driving pro-lifers apart, and to see unprincipled partisan leftists hacks pushing on that wedge with glee. That is precisely what has happened, is happening, encouraged by people like your pal Marc Thiessen.

    Where you are mistaken is in thinking that you are not also, yourself, hammering on that wedge in your present combox activites. You are. The way to take the wedge out is to get on the right side of the torture issue, and take it out. In addition to having the virtue of being, you know, right and stuff, it also defuses it as a political weapon of the Left.

  • c matt says:

    The argument over 3 guys getting waterboarded is an obsession among a small group that is driving a wedge in the pro-life movements and gives aid and comfort to the party of death.

    Hence the call to show your hand. If it is not that big a deal to you, drop the support for waterboarding/torture. Just like for those who want health care reform and claim abortion funding is a minor distraction – if it's a minor distraction, then dump the funding for it.

  • Tom says:

    St. Thomas talks about two kinds of “consequent” or voluntary ignorance.

    One happens when you wish not to know something that, if you knew, would prevent you from doing something you want to do. This he calls “affected ignorance.”

    The other, “ignorance of evil choice,” happens when you will something without considering something you ought to consider before willing it; this, he says, can occur through some passion or habit, or simply because you never took the trouble to learn something you should have learned.

    Neither kind of voluntary ignorance causes the moral excuse of involuntariness of one's acts.

    We each, I suppose, must judge for ourselves when our ignorance has extended for so long that it must be counted as voluntary.

  • I know that leftists are taking advantage of the torture policies of the Bush administration to make political hay.

    Aye! I've made that point a long time ago. Leftists generally only care about torture as far as its usefulness as a stick to beat the Bush admin. The rest of the time they are just fine with brutal dictators as long as they are not in favor of free trade and things like that. However, even if one's motives for picking up the stick are sleazy, it doesn't change the fact that the stick itself is a good one (stopped clocks and all that). Don't like that stick? Simple. Take away all its power by doing what Zippy says here: repudiate torture, “including all the stupid euphemistic defenses that make them look just as unprincipled as Moloch worshipping leftists.”

    Scott W.

  • William Luse says:

    “C-FAM does not take a position on matters such as torture or waterboarding.”

    This seems a bit timid, to say the least. I could use a stronger word.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I just got back from shopping and i frankly stunned by this post. This truly is the dark underbelly of the blog world. No longer is it enough simply to disagree about public policy issues. One must be destroyed.

    The purpose of this post is to attack a pro-life group for the personal postings of its president. In attackng this prolife group, an anonymous blogger is attempting to harm a pro-life group, to destroy it adn in the process harm the livelihood of several families who have dedicated their lives at very low pay to defend the unborn.

    To do this, the anonymous donor quotes the website of one of the most vicious proabortion website, RH Reality Check. By the way, RH Reality Chrck gets it wrong. Our annual budget is 1.4 million. Small, sure, but large enough to employ 7 full time people and five families.

    I seriously doubt that any of the few hundred readers of this blog are donors of C-FAMs, or that any of our 15,000 donors or 200,000 readers are among those readers, but to clarify my posts.

    1) I assert the debate over torture is being used to harm the prolife movemnet.

    2) I assert the debate over torture is about very little since it involved only 3 people.

    3) I have further questioned, not asserted, that waterboarding may not be torture. In fact, in the American Catholic blog, I demostrated very convincingly that waterboarding is not intrinsically evil since the US does it to our own troops as a part of training.

    4) I asserted that waterboarding could be torture under certain circumstances.

    5) I positively said i reject all forms of torture including waterboarding that is used as torture.

    Again, this post is the very dark underbelly of the blogging world. Not even the awful people at Vox Nausea went as low as the anonymous person who goes by the name of zippy.

  • Robert says:

    @Austin: I ask from genuine curiosity: how is the torture discussion being used to harm the pro-life movement?

    All I have seen are pro-life Catholics noting that torture and abortion both affront human life and dignity. I'm still not sure why such an assertion is under attack.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Robert,

    the argument is used by some to say taht there is an equivalency between the parties on teh life issues. “The Dems may be bad on abortion but they are good on torture.” In fact, the Dems are the party of death adn the GOP are the party of life. I also assert the waterboarding of 3 people pales next to the deliberate murder of 50 milloin children.

  • 1) I assert the debate over torture is being used to harm the prolife movemnet.

    If we can establish that certain pro-lifers are consequentialists when it comes to something other than their main cause, then it ain't Zippy et al, causing the harm.

    2) I assert the debate over torture is about very little since it involved only 3 people.

    Not at all. Rather it is the people making excuses for it and looking for affirmation keeping it alive. The last GOP convention was a veritable competition to see who would push the envelope the most in the name of national security.

    3) I have further questioned, not asserted, that waterboarding may not be torture. In fact, in the American Catholic blog, I demostrated very convincingly that waterboarding is not intrinsically evil since the US does it to our own troops as a part of training.

    One might as well say that abortion isn't wrong because the US has made it legal. Personally, I'll go with someone who was an actual SERE trainer who says it's torture: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/10/waterboarding-is-torture-perio/

    4) I asserted that waterboarding could be torture under certain circumstances.

    Depriving a prisoner of food is torture. Depriving a prisoner of sleep is torture. Depriving a prisoner of warmth is torture. When is depriving a prisoner of air not torture?

    5) I positively said i reject all forms of torture including waterboarding that is used as torture.

    Ok. Now if we can square with point #4, then we are a long way there.

    Scott W.

  • zippy says:

    the argument is used by some to say taht there is an equivalency between the parties on teh life issues.

    It is used in that way, if you want to call it an argument. But it is, of course, total hogwash. “No Children or Infirm Left Unsacrificed to Moloch” is the motto of the Demoncratic Party.

    On the other hand, that doesn't excuse the “No Unjust Preemptive War Left Unfought” and “No Captive Left Untortured” party either.

    But none of that is particularly here or there, since what is at issue here is not political parties but the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement will sink with the pro-torture ship if it clings to it. That has to be stopped.

  • Tommy says:

    If I may make the points for you, Zippy:

    Te Dem party is indeed the party of death. Agreed.

    The Republicans used to have a lot of people who were pro-life, but they probably stopped being “THE” party of life when they formally went “big tent” and decided that the pro-life plank was a bit too expensive for their tastes. Since then, they have been, at best, the “pro-we don't really like abortion and wish there were a lot fewer of them but we'll talk about how many” party instead. That's is hardly the same as “the pro-life” party. Any party that can stand the likes of Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter has some worrying to do.

    3 tortures does in fact pale in comparison to 50 million murders. Unfortunately for us God does not count up lives that way, He looks at it a little differently. 3 tortures will get you to hell just as fast as 50 million murders. Because:

    In both the case of torture and abortion, the act is intrinsically evil. In both cases, the chosen act itself, which chosen act under the aspect of means to an end, is contrary to the moral law always and everywhere. Therefore, anyone who wishes to forward the case that abortion is wrong always and everywhere because it is intrinsically evil, because the object of the act is itself evil, (regardless of the ultimate goal), cannot readily dismiss the issue of torture as “paling into insignificance” in a conceptual sense at all. Because in doing so you can undermine the point of an act being intrinsically evil, which is the foundation for the abortion position.

    Saying that waterboarding may not be intrinsically evil because the US does it to our own troops damages the very notion of “intrinsically evil”, forming a deep misunderstanding about it. The physical acts that constitute waterboarding's physical aspect are not intrinsically evil, and the reason you posit may show that. But the chosen act of using waterboarding on KSM, being a chosen means to an end IS, in fact, intrinsically evil because the object of the act regards MORE than the physical act alone, it refers to the act chosen, an act willed as a means to an end. As that chosen act willed, it is intrinsically evil, and this is true whether the end is a good end or an evil end.

    It would be perfectly fine to say that torture does not constitute the subject matter that C-FAM deals with. Torture, after all, does not constitute the subject matter of my business either. But when the mission statement of the entity is includes international issues about the dignity of the human person, you better pay attention to the things that are contrary to the dignity of the human person and are getting the attention of international groups in a big way. An attempt to underplay those might make people wonder if you really know what you are talking about, for example. You might want to think about limiting C-FAM's concept to abortion.

  • zippy says:

    The physical acts that constitute waterboarding's physical aspect are not intrinsically evil, …

    I would just pedantically argue that the strictly physical aspect of waterboarding isn't an act, since an act is always something chosen by an acting subject. The “object” of the act includes the objective facts about the behavior chosen, as the acting subject perceives and knows those objective facts, independent of intentions, attitudes, wishes extending beyond the behavior chosen, etc. Also excluded from the object are things other people might or might not choose to do in response to one's act, etc.

  • Tommy says:

    Well, can I add to your qualification that although the physical aspect of the action is not a human act at all, because a human act involves the will (moving freely)? But the physical aspect of the action is still an event, in the sense that the animal that is a human being does the action that can be photographed, even though the will's operation cannot be photographed. In other words, the act happens whether we speak of the will's involvement, so given that the act happens, it must be true that the act is an act. But until we speak of the manner in which the will is involved, it cannot be ascribed as a human act in its proper sense, but only in its generic sense, which sense would also cover the kinds of acts that animals do.

  • George R says:

    I think it should also be pointed out in Ruse’s defense that not only were there only three instances of supposed torture, and not only were the supposed victims none the worse for wear after their ordeal, but, unlike the 50 million, they were not innocents — in fact, they were guilty of atrocities.

    If the waterboarding of these guys was wrong (and I don’t for a second believe it was) it was as barely wrong as wrong can get.

  • Robert says:

    @Austin:

    I guess I could see your point, if the GOP was in fact the party of life. Fact is, though, it isn't.

    In other words, this discussion isn't hurting the pro-life cause. It's hurting the Republican cause.

    We have two major parties, both of which are unacceptable to Catholic moral teaching. There's not much hope from minor parties like the Greens or the Libertarians, which also take stands directly opposed to Catholic moral teaching.

    I don't know what the solution to this very bad situation is: maybe a “Catholic” party? or maybe reforming one (or both) major parties from within? or maybe trying to make them all fight more and more for Catholic votes? I don't know.

    But none of this is reason to deny that the U.S. has committed crimes by torturing prisoners, or to defend the U.S. agents who did so as if they had acted heroically.

  • zippy says:

    Suppose the CIA had sodomized three terrorists repeatedly until they broke and coughed up information. Suppose the terrorists in question were female, and were repeatedly raped until they broke and coughed up information.

    If those things had occurred, we would all be able to agree that it was gravely wrong, and we shouldn't do it again. The whole tergiversating “but the abortion holocaust is worse” canard would never even be an issue. It would be seen as it is: simultaneously true and irrelevant.

    The discussion might go something like this:

    Of course the whole abortion holocaust is of far greater gravity, even than the rape of three (or thirty, or a hundred) captive terrorists. In the gross abstract, given licit means to put an end to one or the other but not both (stipulating licit means), any morally sane person would choose to end the former.

    But now it seems to me that we have one of two possibilities:

    Either the Vox Novans are right, and pro-life is so entangled with pro-prisoner-rape that for pro-life organizations to directly confront the latter is political suicide; in that case, Austin's combox intevention can be taken as a sign that on this particular point, the Vox Novan's are right. Repudiating torture in the pro-life movement would be political suicide. (I don't believe this to be true, but I acknowledge its possibility in principle; and the longer the Thiessen's of the world keep stumping for torture, the more the impression is made that this is right.)

    Or the Vox Novans are wrong, and pro-lifers can defuse the political bomb with, you know, the TRUTH, that:

    1 ) The prisoner rape was wrong.
    2) It was done under official policy, and that official policy must be completely repudiated.
    3) The official policy has in fact already been repudiated, so #2 is not a big issue.
    4) That official policy mustn't be validly confused with unofficial abuses which have been prosecuted.
    5) Given all of the above – that we repudiate rape of prisoners unequivocally, we will not stand for it in the future, and it has been ended – the whole issue is a low priority.
    6) The abortion holocaust is of extreme gravity compared to this already-resolved issue.

    Again if you simply substitute rape for torture/waterboarding – and since torture is intrinsically immoral, that substitution is perfectly valid as a logical matter — the whole matter becomes quite clear.

    The sticking point, as always, seems to be that many on the political right simply don't want to give up on dishonorable torture of prisoners.

  • Tom says:

    Repudiating torture in the pro-life movement would be political suicide. (I don't believe this to be true, but I acknowledge its possibility in principle….)

    How else are we to understand Austin's repeated insistence that debating the fact that the Bush Administration authorized torture hurts the pro-life cause?

    Frankly, over the weekend I thought he was speaking from ignorance of the debate.

    Now, though, I'm thinking that someone who's been a professional anti-abortion activist (here I set aside the term “pro-life,” as he has declared himself professionally uninterested in the full scope of the Church's teaching on human life) for nearly twice as long as the torture debate has been going on probably has a good idea of what hurts his interests.

    And I have to ask myself whether it might be possible that the “pro-life movement” we have in this country really is so constructed as to succeed only if the truth is not spoken.

  • zippy says:

    Now, though, I'm thinking that someone who's been a professional anti-abortion activist … for nearly twice as long as the torture debate has been going on probably has a good idea of what hurts his interests.

    Well, that's the big question mark now, isn't it?

  • Tom says:

    Well, that's the big question mark now, isn't it?

    I suppose there are three possibilities:

    1. He's mistaken; decrying torture will not hurt his interests.

    2. He's correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because he has accidentally scoped his interests too narrowly (I think in particular of his implications that voting Republican is a necessary good, which may simply be a means he's become accustomed to seeking uncritically).

    3. He's correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because his interests are not wholly directed to the common good. (This is essentially the Vox Nova position, that organizations like C-FAM are merely Republican or called-conservative-but-as-liberal-as-they-come shops.)

    Before reading his own words, I would have dismissed possibility #3 out of hand.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    It seems to me that you chaps are uncharitably “overthinking,” to use present jargon. I assume that Austin Ruse just really doesn't believe that waterboarding is torture, perhaps because it doesn't leave permanent damage, or because of the SERE argument, or because it is obviously a lot less horrible than a lot of other paradigmatically torturous things, or all three, and he said this in a combox. He also is annoyed at a lot of the people who are anti-torture because they are Vox Nova types. Just what he said, in fact.

    Why assume that it's some kind of thing where he's thinking, “I know this is really wrong, but I can't say that in public, because it would be bad for my image with the pro-life base who supports my organization”? Why not just assume that even organization presidents can go out as individuals and get involved in blog combox discussions qua individuals? Discussions where they are wrong–as, you know, some of the rest of us probably do from time to time (being wrong in a combox discussion).

    I have to say that all of this “hitching the pro-life movement to the pro-torture star” talk is really annoying to me. Okay, so people are wrong about something that's wrong, but why do you have to develop some kind of Grand Unified Theory of it that somehow ropes in whole organizations and movements?

  • JohnMcG says:

    I guess that my point is that if the pro-life movement is ever going to accomplish anything close to its goals, it's going to have to grow. And to grow, it's going to need recruits. And those recruits are going to come from somewhere.

    I see 2 possibilities where they might come from:

    1.) Political conservatives who are not currently pro-life — the Scott Brown, David Frum types.

    2.) Political moderates and liberals who like to consider themselves pro-life but do not vote or support the pro-life movement for various good and bad reasons — the “Commonweal Catholic” Vox Nova types.

    IMO, option #1 may yield some Mitt Romney-like returns, but will still never get the pro-life movement to anything close to the critical mass necessary to bring about real change.

    I think the deep water where the nets should be cast is #2. And statements like Austin's scare the fish away.

  • Tom says:

    Okay, so people are wrong about something that's wrong, but why do you have to develop some kind of Grand Unified Theory of it that somehow ropes in whole organizations and movements?

    In my case, because a Catholic organization for human rights that has no position on torture is an oxymoron that requires an explanation, and my contact with the president of the organization has only made unsavory explanations more likely.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    John, for the pro-life movement (as for conservatism in general), I see the only dependable recruits as biological–conservatives tend to have more children than liberals. In that case, they'll probably mostly be raised with whatever the mainstream conservative opinions are in the country. Right now, unfortunately, mainstream conservative opinion is pro-waterboarding. That's bad, but it's not a function of the pro-life movement per se. It's a function of historical accident, really. It might just as easily have happened that the pro-waterboarding position was initially associated with the Left and exploited by the Right, and then the mainstream conservative opinion would be anti-waterboarding. That's the way politics works, I'm afraid.

    I think it's a bad idea for pro-lifers to be trying to recruit from the more liberal types. I think it's hopeless and will inevitably distort our core message as well as making conservatives less conservative on a whole range of other issues. I support the decision that I hear has been made in the past not to allow “Gays for Life” to march with signs that say that in the Life March in February, for example.

  • zippy says:

    Okay, so people are wrong about something that's wrong, but why do you have to develop some kind of Grand Unified Theory of it that somehow ropes in whole organizations and movements?

    I think you are seeing it exactly the wrong way. At issue isn't me or others roping together whole organizations and movements. I don't have any choice about the roping together part. If Austin is right, assuming I've interpreted him correctly, and mere opposition to torture on the part of pro-life Catholics harms (what he considers to be) the pro-life movement, that is something objectively true outside of anything that I wish were the case.

    What would follow is basically a prescription to lay down, keep quiet, and let the Thiessen's of the world spread their lies and propaganda, lest resisting those lies and propaganda harm the pro-life movement as actually constituted.

    But no. I won't do that. If the Thiessen's of the world would shut the Hell up, and stop going on EWTN and such to promote torture, I might well keep quiet. It might well fizzle into an issue of no importance; an historical blip of no significance.

    But the Thiessen's of the world won't shut up. They are out swinging, promoting torture as a positive good, invoking all the same sort of euphemistic bullshit that the Left has used to promote abortion; validating the Left's methods as applied to a different substantive subject matter.

    I'm certain Mr. Ruse had no intention of doing so; but as John noted in the thread I deleted, Mr. Ruse's “intervention” here has provided more steam to power the Vox Nova argument than anything else I've ever seen in the half decade this has been going on.

  • zippy says:

    In fact, Lydia, you seem to me to be really, really missing the point. We've been arguing for years that this “roping together” was absolutely not the case: that supporting on-the-street pro-life activities did not require one to support torture or turn a blind eye to torture. Then the President of a major pro-life organization came out swinging, telling everyone that that most definitely is the case. We must keep quite about the triviality of torture, lest our boat-rocking harm the pro-life movement.

    In any event, I am having lunch with him later in the week. I make no guarantees of reporting anything back from that private meeting.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I think I understand what you're saying, here. You're talking specifically about his “hurting the pro-life movement” comment, not about his own opinions on the subject per se.

    I still think the business about hurting his standing with his base or whatever is incorrect. That is to say, I think he thinks what he thinks just because he thinks it (about waterboarding), not because he is afraid that saying otherwise would be contrary to his “interests” with other pro-lifers.

    To tell you the truth, I think his comments about “hurting the pro-life movement” are a bit vaguely conceived. On the one hand, I agree with him that it hurts the pro-life movement if the only alternative to “lying down and not countering the Thiessens of the world” is taken to be “refusing to contribute to C-fam.” As you know, I think it would be perfectly possible and legitimate to answer the Thiessens of the world while not linking this to contributions to the organization.

    OTOH, he said that _before_ any question of his organization came up. So what did he mean? I assume he just meant, vaguely, that the lefty types are making capital of this issue to encourage people to distance themselves from the pro-life movement and to vote Democrat–in fact, using moral equivalence talk to do so. Which is also true.

    Is there a way to stake out a loud and clear anti-torture position without giving aid and comfort to the lefties and the Party of Death? I certainly think so. There had better be. But I think it would perhaps be as well to be patient with someone like Ruse who is worried that there isn't. Perhaps the best way to convince him that he's wrong is to _show_ him an approach that does both.

  • Tom says:

    It might well fizzle into an issue of no importance; an historical blip of no significance.

    That would be a matter of historical accident, though. With 71% of Americans (and 78% of white American Catholics) thinking torture can be justified, and the precedence of it being made legal via executive order, the United States can turn the torture spigot back on at any moment.

    (An almost-irony: the verification word for this comment is “cower.”)

  • zippy says:

    That would be a matter of historical accident, though.

    Or Providence, I suppose.

  • Tom says:

    Is there a way to stake out a loud and clear anti-torture position without giving aid and comfort to the lefties and the Party of Death? I certainly think so. There had better be.

    I think so too, although there's no guarantee in general that there's always a morally good choice that doesn't have lousy consequences.

    And I would add that “the Party of Death” is not identical to the Democratic Party, and rhetoric such as Austin Ruse's that insists on that identity (with the Republican Party conversely called “the pro-life party”) gives aid to the Party of Death.

  • zippy says:

    I still think the business about hurting his standing with his base or whatever is incorrect. That is to say, I think he thinks what he thinks just because he thinks it (about waterboarding), not because he is afraid that saying otherwise would be contrary to his “interests” with other pro-lifers.

    I am sure that is true at the level of personal honesty. I have no doubt at all that this is a very good man — just look at what he has dedicated his life to!

    On the other hand, I know with myself that it is sometimes difficult to 'disentangle' these things. He said he knows Marc Thiessen personally, for example, and we can't help but be influenced by those kinds of connections. Perhaps he is better at that kind of 'segregation' than I am — heck, he almost certainly is. But that doesn't mean that I can completely and straightforwardly separate my own opinions from the opinions of colleagues and supporters, etc. Achieving objectivity, stepping outside of one's community, is difficult even for the most “lone wolf” of us.

    So while I am happy to and fully expect to rule out bad will in a conscious coupling of ideology to material support, if you will, know that it is impossible to rule out those kinds of influences, as part of what forms the context of my own thinking, even with myself.

    More succinctly, genuine and full objectivity is a deucedly difficult thing to achieve.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Tom, I'll go along with you in not calling the Republican Party “the pro-life party.” (Anymore, unfortunately. I think there was a time when it was a better moniker.) But as for calling the Democratic Party the Party of Death–sorry, I'm all on-board with that rhetoric. I'm far to your right. Don't know how much we have in common overall.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy, I certainly agree with you about the power of personal influence. But I put personal influence in rather a different category from a utility calculation regarding the financial/support interests of one's movement. After all, I'm sure there are people who are more inclined to the anti-waterboarding side because they know _you_ and respect you, which is not a bad thing.

    Moreover, there's an irony, here: It isn't Thiessen who is appealing to the interests of Ruse's organization. It's you. The only argument that it is not in his organization's interests for him to express a particular opinion on this topic is coming from the _anti_-torture side. So it's pretty ironic to hear conjectures between you and Tom to the effect that he's saying what he's saying for reasons of an interests calculation.

  • zippy says:

    The only argument that it is not in his organization's interests for him to express a particular opinion on this topic is coming from the _anti_-torture side. So it's pretty ironic to hear conjectures between you and Tom to the effect that he's saying what he's saying for reasons of an interests calculation.

    That is just plain false, Lydia. I encountered Ruse (not Thiessen) in a comment thread at The American Conservative as someone I did not know at all repeatedly claiming that all this arguing over torture was harming the pro-life movement: that people who are against waterboarding prisoners should shut up, and the only conceivable reason one could keep harping on it is with the intention of harming the pro-life movement. It was OK, according to this commenter, for Thiessen to go out and stump for waterboarding; active resistance to Thiessen's message was simply harmful to the pro-life cause.

    I subsequently discovered that the commenter was the president of a significant pro-life organization.

    The irony you perceive is inapt.

  • zippy says:

    I have no problem calling the Democratic Party the Party of Death. That party has yet to come across an unborn child or elderly or infirm person it isn't willing, anxious even, qua Party, to sacrifice to Moloch.

    I have big problems with calling the Republican Party the party of life though. It is more like the More Evil Party compared to the Most Evil Party.

  • m.z. says:

    Perhaps you missed this, but Thiessen is not and has not been a nuanced supporter of torture. As best I can deduce, he supports the use of torture against anyone that has committed acts against our country or conspired to do so. We aren't talking ticking time bombs.

    Noted here: http://vox-nova.com/2010/02/13/i-will-not-abide-this/

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “I subsequently discovered that the commenter was the president of a significant pro-life organization.”

    Well, I know that, but my point is just that if he stands to “lose” something with supporters, it's from the anti-torture side, because you have said (I believe you even said it in the comments thread over at Am-Cath) that you won't contribute to his organization now that you know that it's his organization and know his opinions.

    Thiessen isn't warning Ruse that his organization will lose Thiessen's support–either verbal or financial–if Ruse should become convinced that waterboarding is always torture.

    And it's subsequent to the making of the connection to the organization and to the statements of loss of support from you that you and Tom are conjecturing that Ruse is making some kind of “interests” calculation in refusing to condemn waterboarding. But the shoe really seems to be on the other foot: I would be pretty surprised to find anybody saying, “That's it. Austin Ruse has concluded that waterboarding is torture and must not be done. Not a penny more of my money does he get.” It _could_ happen, but I find it implausible, and I'll bet Ruse does, too. And in any event, it's _not_ happening, that we know of, whereas a similar statement from the opposite side is. So if anything one could argue that Ruse's refusal to retract his statements is a sign that they arise merely from his own actual opinions rather than from an interests calculation, since in the most obvious sense, the loss to his interests (as an organization president) is being threatened from the anti-torture side.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    It may be that we're talking past one another. I find the talk of “he must know his own interests best” distasteful, because it seems to imply something that I just think is false. It's pretty obvious to me that when Ruse says this is “hurting the pro-life movement,” the “hurt” he fears is from the anti-torture side or from the phenomenon of having voters become passionately anti-torture. He fears that this will lead to their either voting for pro-abortion Democrats or for their refraining from voting for pro-life candidates or refraining from supporting pro-life organizations because being strongly anti-waterboarding will become a new litmus test. At least, I think that's implicit in his comments, because as I said, I think he was rather vague. What he _isn't_, I think, saying is, “My pro-life base is so strongly pro-waterboarding that if I or other pro-lifers come out strongly against waterboarding, we'll lose their support.” Not at all. But that's the implication I get from your and Tom's talk about his “knowing his interests.” And that really seems unfair to me.

  • JohnMcG says:

    In that case, then the problem is severe short-sightedness.

    Yes, exposing the errors of Thiessen and Arroyo is not in the short-term interests of the Republican Party. And insofar as the interests of the pro-life movement are intertwined with the interests of the Republican Party, it is not in those interests either.

    But being on the right side of this issue is in the long term interests of both the pro-life movement and the Republican Party.

    I don't think it's a good thing if the leader of a prominent pro-life organization isn't looking past the next election.

  • zippy says:

    Well, I know that, but my point is just that if he stands to “lose” something with supporters, it's from the anti-torture side, because you have said (I believe you even said it in the comments thread over at Am-Cath) that you won't contribute to his organization now that you know that it's his organization and know his opinions.

    Thiessen isn't warning Ruse that his organization will lose Thiessen's support–either verbal or financial–if Ruse should become convinced that waterboarding is always torture.

    This is all just conjecture anyway. I know I won't personally support any organization where the leadership is overtly pro-torture or takes the position “let the pro-torture side speak, and you anti-torture types shut up”. And yeah, that includes public stumping done by the leadership whether or not that stumping is done under some official organizational rubric. Screw 'em. I can give money to (e.g.) the Little Sisters of the Poor, where I know it is going to do God's work.

    I don't know anything about “supporters” as a general thing. I just know about me.

    And it still seems to me that you have the timeline backwards, and that there is no irony. As “the unknown commenter” (from my perspective) he was saying that, as a one-sided thing, Thiessen's stumping was fine but pro-lifers on the other side should shut up, because their speech could only harm the pro-life movement. The irony is that that speech itself — “let Thiessen stump, and you anti-torture guys shut up” — is, objectively, a-pounding that wedge in deeper, with enthusiasm.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    The thing is, I don't see his worries about possible harm to the pro-life movement as any sort of _admission_, whereas I gather that Tom, at least, does, and perhaps you do, too, Zippy.

    I think he's worried about the kinds of things I've mentioned and also about a possible rift within the pro-life movement itself. Can anyone doubt that such a rift is possible? Don't the events right here show that it is plausible?

    Let me be very direct: Suppose Ruse were to become convinced that waterboarding is torture and is always wrong. What then? Would it really be over as far as he and his organization are concerned? Tom here seems to desire that Ruse's group take an official stance on the issue of waterboarding terrorists, because it's related to “human rights.” Oh, great. So now the anti-torture side is demanding that C-fam take an official position on an issue that, IMO as well as undoubtedly in Ruse's opinion, is _not_ central to its mission. What then? Is such a formal position consistent with their having _other_ people in leadership (do they have a vice president?) who take the position Ruse now takes? Doesn't sound like it. Next stop, purges. Multiply this by the number of pro-life or at least Catholic pro-life groups out there: Human Life Foundation, ALL, PRI, etc., etc. They all have to “take a stand” against torture, publicly denounce it, hash it out among themselves and have a consistent organizational position, with all the personnel changes, use of time and emotional energy, breaking up of friendships and alliances, etc., this would entail. Is this good or bad for the pro-life movement? I say, bad. Very bad.

    The only way that we can show that not “shutting up about Thiessen” et. al. is _not_ a threat to the pro-life movement by initiating this sort of in-fighting is to show a _strong commitment_ to pro-life unity, to show that we are _not_ seeking to promote such internecine strife, while disagreeing over this issue. And you know, I'm not seeing that, here. Rather, I'm just seeing Ruse's fears of splintering and separation among allies confirmed.

  • JohnMcG says:

    1. I don't think Zippy is insisting on an anti-torture litmus test; I think he is insisting that those groups not make public pro-torture statements.

    Form our perspective, this is restriction only in so much as it is also a restriction that leaders of prominent organizations also not make racist or sexist statements.

    2. But if it is, then how is this different in character than the exclusion of the “Gays For Life” group that you praised upthread?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    John, I make a distinction between comments by an individual in a combox and either a) official positions of an organization or b) signs carried in a parade. I certainly would oppose someone's carrying a sign on January 22 that said, “Pro-Torturers for Life.” (You can probably think of something more pithy, but you get the point.) This is parallel to the “Gays for Life” signs. But if the President of some pro-life group that takes no position on homosexual rights “came out” in a combox, I wouldn't automatically stop donating to the group. It would depend on a lot of other facts, including, most importantly, how much good the group was doing and whether this was likely to interfere with their ability to “do God's work.”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    By the way, though I can't quote it (because it's been deleted), I'm sure Zippy will stand by it: He said in that thread that he would stop donating himself if Ruse made the same statements to him over a beer privately. He said that if an organization has a pro-torture person (which he considers Ruse to be) in the position of president, he will not donate to the group. That _is_ a litmus test, and I explicitly raised the question of public vs. private statements and was told, no, it's a matter of the person's position, not just of his making the comments in public.

  • Tom says:

    I would be pretty surprised to find anybody saying, “That's it. Austin Ruse has concluded that waterboarding is torture and must not be done. Not a penny more of my money does he get.”

    Oh, no, it's an absolute dead certainty that people would say that.

    You think there aren't pro-life Catholics who won't stop giving money to someone when they find out he's a lefty socialist?

    But I don't think Austin was shuddering at the thought of his announcing C-FAM was anti-waterboarding. He could not have been clearer: Debating torture hurts the pro-life movement because it costs the Republican Party votes.

    Tom here seems to desire that Ruse's group take an official stance on the issue of waterboarding terrorists, because it's related to “human rights.”

    I've posted my proposal of the necessary and sufficient conditions for a group to be “pro-life” here.

    C-FAM can do whatever they want. They owe nothing to me and I make no demands of them.

    The only way that we can show that not “shutting up about Thiessen” et. al. is _not_ a threat to the pro-life movement by initiating this sort of in-fighting is to show a _strong commitment_ to pro-life unity, to show that we are _not_ seeking to promote such internecine strife, while disagreeing over this issue. And you know, I'm not seeing that, here.

    And I care about the success of a “pro-life movement” that is injured by the truth why?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Okay, Tom, I understand better your interpretation of Ruse. And I agree that he was concerned about Democrats getting undeserved votes because of people's speaking out against torture and other people's coming to decide that they “might as well” vote for the pro-abort Democrats because some pro-life candidate is “just as bad.” And I don't think that's a bad thing for him to be concerned about. Pro-aborts shouldn't get votes. I agree with him that that would be a bad thing. I probably _disagree_ with him about whether we should, strategically, vote for certain Republicans, but that's just conjecture on my part.

    Your phrase “a 'pro-life movement' that is injured by the truth,” coming as it does after a partial quotation of my scenarios of in-fighting and purges within pro-life groups and organizations (which I presume you read) implies to me that you dismiss these concerns as unworthy of the high importance of the torture issue. In other words (please correct me if I'm wrong) if C-fam splintered because some members of its leadership decided to make a fellowship-breaking issue out of the condemnation of torturing terrorists, this wouldn't bother you, because it would be, in your view, their standing up for the truth. See, that's where we disagree. I think it absolutely would not be worth that kind of splintering and that that kind of in-fighting and splintering would be a terrible price to pay for criticizing this Thiessen guy. It shouldn't be a necessary price to pay, either, unless we agree with what I perceive to be your metalevel view, Tom, on the implications of being truly anti-torture. It should be possible for pro-lifers to work together on the _ordinary_ pro-life issues (abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, etc.) while disagreeing among themselves about waterboarding terrorists. It's a metalevel, separationist approach like yours that, among other things, I suspect Ruse senses and is reacting to.

  • JohnMcG says:

    What I think the point is is that if the pro-life movement is built on support of waterboarding; i.e. if a public debate on torture is a threat to it, then it's already splintered.

    What Tom and Zippy are doing is pointing it out. If they didn't point it out, it wouldn't mean those splinters don't exist, only that we might pretend they don't exist for while longer.

    But eventually, the whole house will crumble. If the house can't stand in the face of a candid debate on torture, then it's not going to stand up to confront the Culture of Death on abortion, either.

    Better we find this out sooner than later.

    That doesn't mean we can't work with people who are pro-torture on abortion, but if the movement us dependent on us not confronting the torture issue, then it's a movement that's destined to lose.

    For a converse example, see how pro-life Democrats being quiet about abortion so they could pass health care reform worked out for them.

  • brandon field says:

    It should be possible for pro-lifers to work together on the _ordinary_ pro-life issues (abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, etc.)

    But Lydia, it was you who expressed distress when ESCR was removed from the list of “ordinary” pro-life issues in the run-up to the McCain campaign. Who gets to make the list? Tom proposed a (rather lengthy) list based on the CCC, which admittedly you are not required to subscribe to, not being a Catholic, but what alternate list of “ordinary” pro-life issues would you propose?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “What Tom and Zippy are doing is pointing it out. If they didn't point it out, it wouldn't mean those splinters don't exist, only that we might pretend they don't exist for while longer.”

    I hate to sound cynical, but statistically speaking, I think this just isn't true. The majority of conservatives in the U.S., and ipso facto the majority of pro-lifers, are what y'all would call “functionally pro-torture” right now, and that as a result of accidental historical factors of the last ten years or so. (I don't like to use the phrase “functionally pro-torture” myself, but I think I know what you mean by it.)

    This means that there _aren't_ such splinters. For the most part, they just aren't there. I would bet that for any pro-life, Catholic organization you choose, well over 60%, probably something much higher, of the people working for that organization are what you would call “functionally pro-torture,” and the remainder don't think about the issue much, even if they are opposed to waterboarding terrorists.

    If these purely sociological statements are true, then the only way that splinters would appear would be if they were _created_, if, say, people in leadership positions became so passionate about the issue that they felt they needed to quiz their co-workers and subordinates about it and distance themselves in some decisive way if they couldn't come to agreement. Or if the grassroots started to have more people who got so distressed about it that they started using it as a litmus test for political candidates, even if the candidates were strongly pro-life on all the “ordinary” pro-life issues. Or if on-the-fence voters with pro-life inclinations started voting for pro-abort Democrats because, after listening to condemnations of the “Bush torture policy,” they decided that the candidates were “equivalent on life issues.” Or if more and more donors came to Zippy's conclusion and this started to affect the pocketbook of organizations that refused to take a formal anti-torture position.

    Now, my own crystal ball says that probably none of these things are going to happen on any great scale. For that reason, as a pure matter of strategy, I would probably advise Austin Ruse just to ignore the torture debate altogether, in comboxes and elsewhere.

    I also _agree_ with you guys that it is really weird and pointless (especially since the policy officially has been changed) for Thiessen or anybody else to be going on TV talking about this. If anything, it only encourages those who are already passionate about this issue to push back, which could lead to calls for litmus tests in organizations and the like, if enough individual “conversions”–not only on the issue itself but on metalevel questions like separation, official organizational statements, etc.–took place.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “But Lydia, it was you who expressed distress when ESCR was removed from the list of “ordinary” pro-life issues in the run-up to the McCain campaign. Who gets to make the list?”

    Well, Brandon, surely you can see a difference between _removing_ an issue and _adding_ an issue. And surely you would agree that right now, pro-life organizations do _not_ regard an official position on waterboarding terrorists as part of their central mission *and never have done so*. So obviously, there's a pretty big disanalogy there.

    Now, I'm a Protestant, so I'm going to say that obviously, nobody “gets to” make the list. We each have to decide for ourselves what our litmus test issues are for, say, giving money to an organization. But if I may give my opinion, my opinion is that ESCR and abortion form far more of a natural kind grouping than ESCR, abortion, and not waterboarding terrorists! That is to say, I think it's perfectly _understandable_ that the organizations have never considered the last of these to be part of their mission. ESCR, on the other hand, has to do with deliberately and legally killing the innocent on an on-going basis, which puts it squarely in the box with abortion. And it was dropped for purely strategic reasons, not for any reason–which there could not have been, given pro-lifers' own understanding of the matter–having to do with classification.

  • zippy says:

    … a difference between _removing_ an issue and _adding_ an issue.

    Absolutely. And there is a full court press on right now to add “accepts torture” as an issue. And we are supposed to just shut up, for the sake of “unity”.

    I don't think so. And I would respond in the same way if “accepts gay 'marriage'” were the issue in question.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “Absolutely. And there is a full court press on right now to add 'accepts torture' as an issue.”

    Zippy, I don't think you mean that literally, in terms of pro-life organizations. That was the context of Brandon's and my exchange–we were talking about official positions by pro-life organizations. In particular, he was bringing up my distress at the dropping of ESCR from an evaluation of candidates by groups like NRLC. I'm sure you don't really believe that any such organization like NRLC, C-fam, Human Life Foundation, etc., is going to start putting out candidate charts in which they have a column labeled “waterboarding” and grant or withhold organizational endorsement to candidates based in part on whether the candidate states that he supports waterboarding terrorists!

    I have never _once_ heard _anyone_ suggest that C-fam or any other group should add a pro-waterboarding position to its official organizational statement. But Tom thinks all Catholic organizations should officially repudiate it! Again, there's some sort of weird disparity going on here: The anti-waterboarding people are saying they won't support organizations, are seeking official organizational repudiations of waterboarding, and so forth, yet there's a claim being made that there's a “push on” to add _support_ for waterboarding as an official requirement. Maybe I'm just uninformed, but while I fully take your word for it that there is this weird movement going on to engage in public defenses of waterboarding, I definitely don't see a push to “add it as an issue” in anything like the sense that I see a desire _right here_ to add its condemnation as an issue.

  • brandon field says:

    Well, Brandon, surely you can see a difference between _removing_ an issue and _adding_ an issue.

    Okay, but I was asking about the definition of the list. John McCain's “pro-life” agenda has never included (as far as I know) stopping ESCR. So to him, he was just protesting the addition of an issue. To you it was removing an issue. My point was that the “ordinary” list of pro-life issues is far from well-defined.

    I agree that ESCR and abortion are more closely related than abortion and torture. Tom's diagram (I assume you looked at his diagram?) based on the CCC's categorization of the 5th Commandment (the 6th Commandment in the Protestant numbering) also agrees, putting torture under respect for the dignity of persons and abortion under respect for human life. (You'll note that ESCR doesn't actually have to be distinctly called out in this categorization, as it would be classified as abortion or intentional homicide). So I don't want you to think that anyone here is disagreeing with you on that aspect.

  • Tom says:

    Lydia:

    Again, I don't think Austin Ruse or anyone else fears a splintering of the pro-life movement over torture.

    But if the pro-life movement really is functionally pro-torture, then I say to hell with it.

  • brandon field says:

    And also, I think that Zippy and Tom's stance here is fully consistent with Zippy's “Settling is for Losers” post from a while back. Wasn't there a dance move that someone coined to represent this motion?

  • Tom says:

    You'll note that ESCR doesn't actually have to be distinctly called out in this categorization, as it would be classified as abortion or intentional homicide

    I think it's at least partly under Respect for the person and scientific research. Recall also “On the Dignity of Human Persons,” about ESCR and related issues.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “John McCain's 'pro-life' agenda has never included (as far as I know) stopping ESCR.”

    Not to the point. McCain's _existence_ didn't distress me. I don't like the guy, but what the heck? The country has quite a number of liberal Republicans. We all know this. It was his _endorsement_ by a group that had previously had stopping ESCR as one of its major issues. That was “dropping an issue.” You can see this, right?

  • brandon field says:

    You can see this, right?

    I can see this. I don't think it's as relevant as you think it is. I think it's more important to keep people out of hell. Especially people who are capable of doing good work elsewhere in the pro-life movement.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Tom says,

    “But if the pro-life movement really is functionally pro-torture, then I say to hell with it.”

    Do you include “if most of the individuals in the pro-life movement are functionally pro-torture, even if their representative, issue-based organizations take no stand on the matter”?

    Assuming you do, then I think that above statement is pretty telling. Slash and burn, in fact. Let it all come crashing down, and to hell with it. Who cares if there are or aren't pro-life organizations fighting abortion, forced abortion in China, ESCR, euthanasia, assisted suicide, dehydrating people to death, infanticide. If they won't come out swinging on waterboarding terrorists, let 'em all fail and fall.

    That's bad. I could not possibly disagree more strongly. I hope I'm not the only one here who considers that a head-shaker.

  • brandon field says:

    I think it's at least partly under Respect for the person and scientific research.

    Hmm… that would actually place it in the same category as torture, which would contradict the point I was trying to make to Lydia. Maybe I was wrong.

    Recall also “On the Dignity of Human Persons,” about ESCR and related issues.

    Only if you mean “recall” the same way I mean “recall” when I say it to my classes about something they should've learned in Calculus. (Which is to say: no, I haven't read that encyclical).

  • brandon field says:

    “if most of the individuals in the pro-life movement are functionally pro-torture, even if their representative, issue-based organizations take no stand on the matter”

    Organizations can't get sent to hell. Only people can be sent to hell.

  • c matt says:

    2) I assert the debate over torture is about very little since it involved only 3 people.

    Wrong. It involved likely thousands of people – the ones tortured, the ones torturing, the ones authorizing the torture and the ones supporting/defending it. It invloved our government approving it.

    It is more akin to abortion ca 1970 – the frequency was far less, but the attitude of approval was gaining, and it lead to the disaster we have now. Government and popular approval of torture is in a similar infancy – if it is not nipped in the bud decisively now, we are in for serious trouble down the road. So it is a grave issue now.

  • zippy says:

    Again, I don't think Austin Ruse or anyone else fears a splintering of the pro-life movement over torture.

    But if the pro-life movement really is functionally pro-torture, then I say to hell with it.

    Hmm. My own view is that if the pro-life movement is functionally pro-torture and is incapable of becoming not functionally pro-torture, it is doomed. So I wouldn't say “to Hell with it” as a sentiment; I'd say it as a prediction.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “Organizations can't get sent to hell. Only people can be sent to hell.”

    Well, Tom is damning the movement to hell. Can movements be sent to hell? I associate movements with official organizations and public activities concerning a particular cause.

    As far as Zippy's prediction, I really do not think, as a prediction, that individuals' support for waterboarding terrorists is going to bring down the pro-life movement. A far worse omen is the increasing willingness of not only individuals but even of group representatives to support openly pro-abortion candidates. The Scott Brown hysteria was a terrible omen for the pro-life movement but not because of his support for torture, because of his support for abortion. That is betraying the issues that are _already identified_ as pro-life issues. As far as I know, he got no official endorsement, but all the evidence suggests it was a very near thing.

  • c matt says:

    If they won't come out swinging on waterboarding terrorists, let 'em all fail and fall.

    That's bad. I could not possibly disagree more strongly.

    This comes close to the same justification that some Catholic progressives use to justify voting for candidates who support abortion or gay marriage, or at least don't fight it. They do good X, so we can gloss over the fact they don't oppose Y.

  • zippy says:

    I really do not think, as a prediction, that individuals' support for waterboarding terrorists is going to bring down the pro-life movement. A far worse omen is the increasing willingness of not only individuals but even of group representatives to support openly pro-abortion candidates. The Scott Brown hysteria was a terrible omen for the pro-life movement but not because of his support for torture, because of his support for abortion.

    I think the issues are inseparable, and are results of the consequentialist moral rot within. The striking of ESCR during the McCain campaign, the Scott Brown hysteria, and the rah-rah-torture phenomenon are all in a sense symptoms of something deeper.

  • brandon field says:

    Can movements be sent to hell?

    I'll assume that you're asking this rhetorically, but no, movements can not be sent to hell.

    There is a real danger, however, of people who are doing remarkably good work on one front to be spiritually attacked until they weaken on another front. This puts the good work they are doing in danger. The case of Senator Brown may be a fruit of such ongoing attacks. I consider the widespread acceptance of torture among otherwise faithful Catholics to be another.

  • Tom says:

    Do you include “if most of the individuals in the pro-life movement are functionally pro-torture, even if their representative, issue-based organizations take no stand on the matter”?

    No.

    But the evidence to date is not encouraging that pro-torture individuals will fail to make their portion of the movement pro-torture. (Just as the pro-GOP individuals have not failed to make their portion of the movement pro-GOP.)

  • Paul Cella says:

    I've asked Zippy and Bill Luse this question in private, and I think it's time to lay it out in public:

    What are we to do with the great Catholic saints and heroes who fought against the Jihad in armies that included ghastly tortures as a matter of open policy? (Waterboarding is torture, I am convinced, and thus always wrong; but gradual dismemberment, the rack, and burning at the stake are of another order of torment.)

    I happen to be a Protestant who has admired (e.g.) Don John of Austria ever since I learned about him. Chesterton's great poem called him “the last knight of Europe” and the “last and lingering troubadour” of Christendom. But Don John (a) learned his soldiering trade in the bloody suppression of Morisco revolts in southern Spain and (b) after Lepanto made his name putting down Calvinst uprisings in the Netherlands — both of which commands were so deeply implicated in torture as to make Bush administration policy looks like piker stuff.

    I haven't studied the matter in depth, but something tells me that Charles Martel was hardly unfamiliar with the rough treatment of enemy combatants as he contested against the Jihad in the 8th century.

    Who else in the great Catholic panoply of fighters against the wickedness of Islamic holy war and holy subjugation should I expect today's Catholics to abandon on account of the fact that they were compromised by service in armies that tortured?

    I have the this crazy vision of the only admirers of Catholic warriors-saints left being Protestants.

    One answer is to simply say that these saints of old were unenlightened on the subject of torture. Well, if that is the answer let's hear it. I have my own replies if necessary, but something tells me that so facile an answer will not be enough for the likes of Bill and Zippy.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Tom,

    “But the evidence to date is not encouraging that pro-torture individuals will fail to make their portion of the movement pro-torture.”

    Meaning what, exactly? Be specific. Use examples. What would count so that you would actually say, “To hell with it” about the whole pro-life movement?

  • zippy says:

    Paul:

    I have to confess that thus far I haven't responded because the question, or how it is posed, or something, confuses me.

    Is the idea that we cannot admire men of old unless those men of old were spotlessly impeccable, even when viewed completely out of context?

    Tangled in here somewhere also may seem to be a question about development of doctrine. I've posted on the subject before, but the real workhorse on that subject in blogland is (or was) Mike Liccione, whose stuff is still on line AFAIK.

    As JPII wrote when he issued the Catechism, “This catechism will thus contain both the new and the old (cf. Mt 13:52), because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.”

    The Matthew citation is “He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.”

    History isn't “fair”, and it isn't symmetrical. We are in no position to judge the dead; but they are very much in a position to judge us.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “We are in no position to judge the dead; but they are very much in a position to judge us.”

    So if Austin Ruse were dead, you wouldn't be so annoyed with what he said in those comboxes?

    Yeah, okay, that's snarky. But it makes me _feel_ snarky when people are so incredibly condemnatory of the work of people and organizations and even predict or (in Tom's case) invite the final failure of all that work because the people involved are wrong on this one issue. I'll draw a moral from Paul's comments: If, on the Catholic view, God's work was done by fairly bloodthirsty dead heroes who oppressed Protestants with a ferocity that makes the treatment of KSM look like a holiday to the beach, and who would have defended it, too, I think we can be pretty darned sure that “God's work” is being done by C-Fam et. al. even though they are not Little Sisters of the Poor.

  • Paul Cella says:

    Is the idea that we cannot admire men of old unless those men of old were spotlessly impeccable, even when viewed completely out of context?

    It is that we must break fellowship with those implicated in a torture regime. It is specifically the question of a policy of torture, working as an agent of that policy, and whether that vitiates all other good work done.

  • Tom says:

    Meaning what, exactly? Be specific.

    Judie Brown: “Torture of prisoners can be approved in some cases when there are specific reasons for doing so, but my belief is that in the case of torture, we have to examine first and foremost the case of the innocent preborn child.”

    And of course, Austin Ruse, again and again in recent days belittling those who oppose torture in a manner that works out to be functionally pro-torture and pro-abortion.

    What would count so that you would actually say, “To hell with it” about the whole pro-life movement?

    Since I count the Little Sisters of the Poor as part of the whole pro-life movement, I don't think I need to worry too much about that eventuality.

    As for me saying “to hell with them” about a specific set of organizations whose mission statements include opposition to legal abortion, in all honesty, at this point it wouldn't take much.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Tom, I asked,

    “Do you include 'if most of the individuals in the pro-life movement are functionally pro-torture, even if their representative, issue-based organizations take no stand on the matter'?”

    Meaning, would you include this state of affairs in your definition of “the pro-life-movement is functionally pro-torture.”

    You answered no.

    Your most recent comment, however, indicates that you consider any sector of the pro-life movement, any organization, to be functionally pro-torture, and you say “to hell with it” regarding that sector of the pro-life movement, if a person in a leadership position in that sector or organization goes into a blog combox and defends torture (Judie Brown) or says that he isn't convinced that waterboarding is torture and wishes people would stop making an issue of it (Austin Ruse). Right?

    See, I think that's really bad. I don't think anybody should be saying “to hell with it” about ALL or C-Fam. And I'm a Protestant, for crying out loud! I'm the one who used to be scandalized when my Catholic friends twenty years ago downplayed the Inquisition by telling me, “Being burned at the stake wasn't really that painful a way to die.” (Yes, they really said this.)

    But this is ridiculous.

  • zippy says:

    Lydia:

    You definitely seem to have misunderstood me somewhere.

    Where I put my money is a very, very personal thing. Not personal in the sense of hidden under a rock or whatever, but personal in the sense that it is my own, personal act.

    I suspect people often treat it – as they often treat voting too – as something other than a personal act, as some distant “phone it in” participation in a big abstract machine. (In fact I know people do. That is why things like the United Way exist).

    The fact that I wouldn't put money in X, for a whole variety of possible reasons, doesn't mean that X is not doing good work.

    It is just that I know, without having to do any thinking at all, let alone wrestling with (euphemistic or direct – I rather prefer the latter if a choice between were forced) support of torture of all things, that the Little Sisters are doing God's work. I know the little sisters aren't entangled in any sense at all, however remote, with strapping prisoners to a board and repeatedly bringing them to the point of death by drowning, stopping just in time to prevent actual suffocation, until the prisoner's will breaks; and I can probably guess what most of them would think of this controversy. And there are plenty of other charities like that: nice, clean-conscience charities.

    Perhaps this relates to what I admit to be a personal vice of sloth. On the other hand, I'm not sure there is anything particularly slothful or undesirable about a clean conscience. That conversation in my own mind is made easier in many respects by discussions like this one.

    I'm a big believer in Providence, as you know. We do the right thing, and God works things out for us in the long run, even if that is after death. Sometimes we have terrible personal burdens to bear, often that others don't see; and then at other times, if Providence smiles on us, our burdens are lifted.

    Modern, calculating people don't seem to believe in Providence at all. Even in this kind of case, the case of giving to charity that is, where I do in fact have quite a lot more money than the average person (though perhaps less than some think; but nevertheless far more than enough for me) and therefore “more votes in the election”, if you will; even in that situation it is critical not to overestimate my own personal importance. I'm not, at the end of the day, all that important. And that is itself something of a comfort. Do the right thing, and let God sort out the details.

    So it is a personal thing for me in a way that your commentary doesn't seem to reflect.

    And because it is so personal (in this sense) for me, I see others as having the right and duty to have an intimacy and knowledge, appropriate to something so personal, with any charity to which they give their money.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well, Zippy, I don't want to conflate you and Tom, but I'm afraid I'm not seeing enough daylight between the two of you. For one thing, even your _prediction_ of the death of the pro-life movement if there isn't this decisive repudiation of torture seems to me _way_ overcalled. And there's a real pattern of actions, here, as you know, of distancing and separating yourself from groups over this issue. I know of someone else who said that he would have broken off a very fruitful association with a project that has nothing in itself that I can see to do with torture if his partner in that project had not changed his mind over the issue of waterboarding. And I admit it's conjectural, and I don't want to attribute this to you if it isn't your position, but when you talk about groups' becoming “not functionally pro-torture” and about how important and necessary this is, I can't help worrying a lot about what sorts of duties of separation, in-house purging of leadership, and the like, you would consider to be necessary for what you obviously think they _should_ do in “becoming not functionally pro-torture.”

    I just see an overall pattern of your thinking that to be right with God and not associated with torture, these groups of people need to “come out and be separate” from anyone who has said the kinds of things even Ruse has said.

    Perhaps I should just ask you outright: If you were able to convince Ruse to hold your positions, both object level and metalevel, on this issue and its importance, should he quite C-Fam or else fire immediate subordinates in leadership if they think waterboarding is not torture? Do you predict that C-fam, for example, and the pro-life movement generally, will “go to hell” as it were and not continue to be used to do God's work (Ichabod over the door, in fact) if it doesn't alter itself in this way and take such a decisive position?

  • Tom says:

    Right?

    Wrong. You asked for the evidence I mentioned that discourages the hope that pro-torture individuals will fail to make their portion of the movement pro-torture. I provided some; there's more on Judie Brown that can be turned up.

    That's Judie Brown, ALL President, by the way, not jbrown123@bellsouth.net. She has publicly stated her pro-torture views in the context of her role with ALL.

    That in itself doesn't make ALL a pro-torture organization. But it is not, as I say, encouraging.

  • zippy says:

    I can't help worrying a lot about what sorts of duties of separation, in-house purging of leadership, and the like, you would consider to be necessary for what you obviously think they _should_ do in “becoming not functionally pro-torture.”

    Offhand, I don't see any problem with the criteria Tom posted on his blog, at least in outline. I suppose my personal one is probably less complicated than his, though I'd have to think it through. But the basic concept — an organization has to be right on at least one issue, and not wrong on the others — is pretty good. The only thing I would add to it is that, as a person who has run modestly sized organizations myself, I would not limit my criteria to only the “formal” or “official”. Do I care if the mail-room clerk is a torture apologist on the Internet? No. Do I care if the President is? Yes.

    On the other hand, addressing your other point, I don't feel particularly threatened by the prospect of standing alone, when that is necessary, while everyone around me comes unglued. I have broad shoulders, I've done it in the past, and I'm perfectly capable of it, through the gifts God has given me.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “The only thing I would add to it is that, as a person who has run modestly sized organizations myself, I would not limit my criteria to only the “formal” or “official”.”

    Okay, that takes us directly to what I'm talking about. I have no idea, but suppose that C-fam has a Vice President, Ruse's right-hand man, as it were. The two of them are both known around the country as leaders of the organization. Both of them have been saying the types of things Ruse has been saying. The other guy hasn't been making them officially for the organization, anymore than Ruse has been here, but also not anonymously. Just like Ruse now. (This is all made up.) Ruse has a conversion on the issue and comes to a full Zippian position at all levels. Is he obligated to make this what we Protestants call a fellowship-ending issue with regard to the organization? To quit or, if this is his job, to fire the other guy?

    I should add that in _this_ thread, Tom has said that he thinks that “a Catholic organization for human rights that has no position on torture is an oxymoron…” So whether he says it on his blog or not, he thinks C-fam really ought to have an official anti-torture position, and presumably PRI, too, and any other Catholic organization that concerns itself with, say, forced abortions and other such human rights abuses on the life issues abroad.

    Do you agree? Or do you maybe see how damaging such a thing would be for the pro-life movement and that the splits it would generate would not be worth it?

    These types of questions are related to what you say here:

    “On the other hand, addressing your other point, I don't feel particularly threatened by the prospect of standing alone, when that is necessary…”

    That isn't really my concern. _Your_ standing alone isn't what I'm worried about so much as _others'_ standing without you and, moreover, without anybody who comes to think like you. How many good partnerships would you not mind seeing broken up over this? How many organizations? How many group projects?

    Now, do I think this is really going to happen on a broad scale? No, I don't. But since you keep talking about the importance of having the pro-life movement _become_ “not functionally pro-torture,” and since you predict that the movement will go to hell if it doesn't thus change, your own positions and actions on these practical questions become relevant to the question of what, exactly, you are looking for and how much collateral damage you are willing to see conservative organizations endure in going there, if you could have them do what you want. And do you really think such actions are necessary, on _this_ issue, to their having God's blessing on their work, to avoiding having their movement “go to hell”?

    Perhaps this helps you to see a little more why I don't just see this as a personal comment Zippy made: “Okay, I, personally, am not going to contribute to this organization now.” It isn't just a personal thing. You're looking for something or other from the pro-life movement on this issue, and I really doubt very much that I agree with you in looking for that.

    What's particularly odd is that if I understood you correctly upthread, you pointed out there that the policy in question has been repudiated as a policy, so the issue isn't practically urgent right now. (This, I migth add, in stark contrast to the gay “marriage” issue.) A fortiori, why is it so important just now for the pro-life movement to be sure it isn't “functionally pro-torture” and to, apparently, get rid of leaders who say the things Ruse and Brown have said in comboxes?

  • zippy says:

    Is he obligated to make this what we Protestants call a fellowship-ending issue with regard to the organization? To quit or, if this is his job, to fire the other guy?

    Oh, that is a question of prudence I could not possibly answer on his behalf.

    As far as the rest, I think there may be some “daylight” between Tom and I, in this respect: I think an organization (including its high-level management as individuals-acting-in-public) should not be wrong about torture in its public actions and activities; but that is distinct from being silent about it. It is one thing for the organization (understood broadly) to say “this is not our competence or our mission, please don't let divisions over it interfere with the good work we are doing”; it is another entirely to say “shut up and let Thiessen continue his crusade unimpeded”.

    The distinction is precisely what I understand to be the difference, at the level of an organization, between “right on one” and “not wrong on any”.

  • Tom says:

    I should add that in _this_ thread, Tom has said that he thinks that “a Catholic organization for human rights that has no position on torture is an oxymoron…”

    Just to be sure, you know that the words “Human Rights” are right there in C-FAM's official name, right? It's not the Catholic Family and Some Human Rights Institute. And formulating a position on torture is not exactly a Sisyphean task.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “the rest, I think there may be some “daylight” between Tom and I, in this respect: I think an organization (including its high-level management as individuals-acting-in-public) should not be wrong about torture in its public actions and activities; but that is distinct from being silent about it. It is one thing for the organization (understood broadly) to say “this is not our competence or our mission, please don't let divisions over it interfere with the good work we are doing”; it is another entirely to say “shut up and let Thiessen continue his crusade unimpeded”.”

    I'm not sure I'm following you here. Which of these are you saying?

    A) You wouldn't mind if C-fam had no position on the torture/waterboarding issue so long as its high-level leaders didn't say that waterboarding isn't torture, or that it's hard to tell that it's torture, or something like that, in public? (Or you wouldn't mind it for _some purposes_, since I know that you would indeed mind it for purposes of contribution of your own, though I don't know if you would recommend your criteria there to others.)

    b) You wouldn't mind if C-fam had no position on the issue _and_ you wouldn't consider the organization to be “wrong on” the issue even if members of its high-level leadership in comboxes said that they don't think waterboarding is torture, _so long as_ they didn't add something like, “You anti-torture people shouldn't be pressing the anti-torture position, because it's harming the pro-life movement.”

    (I just want to add here that originally, Ruse apparently *didn't even know* what Thiessen had been saying. His original impression seemed to be that _only_ the anti-torture people were talking about the issue. He had to be informed about Thiessen's stints on EWTN, at which point he defended Thiessen _personally_ because he knows him, etc., etc. But his original “let's drop this issue” comments were not in the context of his saying anything about “letting Thiessen continue his crusade unimpeded.” He had to decide what to say about Thiessen's “crusade” on the spur of the moment after being first informed of it by people in the thread. I don't know how relevant this is to your position.)

  • zippy says:

    ” He had to decide what to say about Thiessen's “crusade” on the spur of the moment after being first informed of it by people in the thread.

    That is a good point, which I had missed. Which adds some strength to the hypothesis that he just didn't know what he was wading into here.

  • JohnMcG says:

    In any instance, it seems we all have a lot to pray and fast for as we begin Lent.

  • Tommy says:

    Is the idea that we cannot admire men of old unless those men of old were spotlessly impeccable, even when viewed completely out of context?

    Tangled in here somewhere also may seem to be a question about development of doctrine.

    Zippy, that does not appear to be entirely consistent with what you said in an earlier thread: that it is literally impossible for a man of good will to be mistaken and fall into an intrinsically evil act due to an error of judgment. The “good will” and the “intrinsically evil” cannot co-exist, and no man can be of good will and make such a mistake.

    So if the context is the object of the act, and that object is, well, objectively evil, then no OTHER context can possibly excuse, modify, ameliorate, or soften the fact that this man is choosing behavior that is evil in its very kind, and such a choosing is an intrinsically evil act, evil in its species.

    It seems passing strange to me that an organization which, 10 years ago, had never spoken on torture and never expected to, but was doing great work in the pro-life arena, now for some reason MUST speak against torture. Can't it continue doing exactly what it had been doing 10 years ago and continue doing great work in the pro-life arena? Is it everyone's professional capacity to speak against torture?

    Which doesn't mean that we all have to contribute to such an org. Maybe they do great work but they are imprudent here and there, and I don't like that imprudence. As Zippy says, I can give to the Little Sisters instead.

    By the way, Tom, the pro-life movement is much, much more than just the leading organizations, such as ALL, NRLC, etc. It consists of hundreds of peripheral organizations who support pro-life principles without that issue being their cause for being, such as HSLDA. But even more, it consists of millions of pro-life people who are not members of those main leading groups, but who dig the trenches for the cause anyway. Are you casting these to hell also? Including the 30% or 40% who explicitly reject torture?

  • Zippy says:

    I suppose, Tommy, that the question is, “is it possible to admire a sinner for things other than his sins?”

    I don't find it even slightly difficult or puzzlng to answer “yes” to that question.

  • Tommy says:

    I suppose the question is, are we talking about not only people who we admire for individual acts, or individual facets of their lives, but also about people who are considered Servants of God, Venerable, Blessed, or even Saints?

  • Tom says:

    Are you casting these to hell also? Including the 30% or 40% who explicitly reject torture?

    Yes, Tommy. Especially them. I love the sound of their bones crunching in the demons' maws.

  • brandon field says:

    I love the sound of their bones crunching in the demons' maws.

    Tom, I'm going to call you on this. This was unnecessary. The sarcastic snark works for Mark because … well because of his writing style, but not for you. Half of the people in this debate wouldn't recognize the Thomist framework that your “A General Objection” post is written in and come away from the first paragraph thinking that you agree with them. And Lydia wouldn't agree with the Flannery O'Connor, “If it's a symbol, then to hell with it,” quote even if she did recognize it.

  • Zippy says:

    I suppose the question is, are we talking about not only people who we admire for individual acts, or individual facets of their lives, but also about people who are considered Servants of God, Venerable, Blessed, or even Saints?

    When we use the word “sinners?” Yes, all of the above, except for the Blessed Virgin.

  • Tom says:

    The sarcastic snark works for Mark because … well because of his writing style, but not for you.

    Aw, man! That means I can't use the line about how “The Complete Guide to Damning People of Good Will to the Unquenchable Fires of Hell” is held up in Legal over publishing donor lists.

    But I'm really not trying to be obscure about all this. I think I've made two assertions:

    1. If achieving the end of a right-to-life group is hindered by speaking the truth about torture, the fault lies in either the means or the end of the right-to-life group, not in speaking the truth about torture.

    2. For Catholics, torture is a human rights issue.

  • brandon field says:

    But I'm really not trying to be obscure about all this.

    I never said that I thought you were trying to be obscure. I'm saying that you seem to be being obscure.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    (My degree is in literature. Of course I know the Flannery O'Connor quote. Not that I know what its relevance is here, but never mind that.)

    Zippy, if you think I'm out of line for pressing this, tell me, and I'll make this the last time I ask this type of question in this thread: You said that whether to fire the hypothetical vice president would be a prudential question you wouldn't presume to make for a hypothetical anti-torture Ruse.

    But if I'm understanding you correctly, you also support Tom's position that an organization is not authentically Catholic if it is “wrong on” torture, and you include in the _organization's_ being “wrong on” torture any statements made in public (at least in public) by its principal leaders.

    Now, I see a tension here. Let's call our hypothetical president of C-fam R. to keep him distinct from the real president. R. becomes convinced of Zippy's position. His _right-hand man_, a _leader_ of his organization, is out there saying in comments threads that he doubts waterboarding is torture. Doesn't this create a crisis, on your view? Shouldn't it, on your view? The organization isn't authentically Catholic under those circumstances! I don't see how you can possibly punt to the prudential claim.

    It still seems to me that your position really does entail that there should be these crises of friendship and decisions on whether or not people can go on co-working cropping up all over the conservative and pro-life world, as the pro-life community tries to “become not functionally pro-torture,” which is something you _want_. This would happen all the more if human rights organizations had to speak out against waterboarding, which Tom seems to want but which I think you are not requiring. But even if we just limit it to, “The leaders can't be functionally pro-torture,” there are going to be a lot of fallings-out. And that seems to me like it would be a very bad thing. But I think you're not in agreement that it would be a very bad thing. I have trouble picturing you ever urging someone (someone who thinks waterboarding is wrong, that is) to “ease off” on the issue if he were breaking off a partnership on its basis, for that matter, even if the conversations in question were not taking place in public.

    Its that rigorism and the feeling that anti-torture people are supposed to get conscience-stricken or highly uncomfortable about continuing to work with people who don't agree with them, especially if those people have spoken out in public, that I think is going way too far.

  • brandon field says:

    My degree is in literature. Of course I know the Flannery O'Connor quote.

    My apologies. I thought it was relevant here because you seem to be taking Tom's “to hell with it” in the wrong light.

    But, I thought you were in philosophy. In fact, I think I learned the word “epistemology” from you, in a discussion on religious knowledge and the Great Pumpkin.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    The phrase “to hell with it” isn't always an allusion to the O'Connor quote. Sometimes it's just a phrase people use. I think it's pretty bad to use it of the pro-life movement, yea, even of a pro-life movement the leaders of which are “functionally pro-torture.”

    I'm an academic monster (parts of different academic critters put together). My only formal graduate-level degree is in English literature. All but one of my peer-reviewed publications are in philosophy, which I learned autodidactically or from my husband. Weird situation.

  • brandon field says:

    Sometimes it's just a phrase people use.

    I don't think Tom uses it in that way. He'd have to weight in to be sure.

    But don't let that obscure the fact that there is real danger of people being condemned to hell for acting improperly with regard to both the protection of the unborn and the human dignity of detainees. I believe that is what Zippy, Tom and Mark are primarily concerned with.

    autodidactically

    Another great word. Especially from a fellow homeschooler.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I take Tom to mean by “the hell with it” something like, “Let the work fail. I don't care anymore if it fails, because it deserves to fail if it becomes, in my view, bound up through its leaders with the 'functionally pro-torture' position.”

    After all, O'Connor really did mean something like “it's unimportant” or “who cares about it” by her own comment. And a Baptist might have reason for resenting it, too.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I think more precisely, what is being expressed is that a pro-life movement that is threatened by a frank torture debate will fail, whether we have the torture debate or not.

    If actually having the debate speeds such a movement's demise, that may not be such a bad thing.

  • zippy says:

    Doesn't this create a crisis, on your view? Shouldn't it, on your view?

    Sure, or at least a problem of conscience — like the legislator faced with voting for an imperfect bill that nevertheless expands the protection of the unborn. And how one deals with a crisis, as events unfolding in time, is in large part a prudential matter.

    I really don't think “does not publicly stump for torture” is too much to ask of a Catholic pro-life organization. At all.

    I think too much can be made of “human rights” being in an organization's title though. I don't see any special problem with “that isn't our competence or what we work on” as the official organizational stance.

    But Lydia, you may also be generalizing too much, because, again, you are extrapolating from where I would personally put my money to who I would cooperate with in any manner or in any respect. Heck, I could probably cooperate in some respects with “Married Gays for Life”; but I wouldn't give them my money.

    Remember our old discussion about the difference between a legislator voting for a bill that further restricts abortion but specifically excludes life of the mother cases, versus crafting and promoting the life of the mother exception itself as a means to the end of building a consensus? Similar thing going on here.

  • Tom says:

    If actually having the debate speeds such a movement's demise, that may not be such a bad thing.

    Exactly.

    Not because public and coordinated support for the right to life is less important than right thinking on torture, but because right thinking on torture is not contrary to public and coordinated support for the right to life.

    So if I'm told that right thinking on torture is contrary to X, then I know that, whatever X is, it's not precisely public and coordinated support for the right to life. I know why I should care about public and coordinated support for the right to life; I don't know why I should care about X.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “So if I'm told that right thinking on torture is contrary to X…”

    That is just incredibly simplistic. _Nobody_, but _nobody_, has said that “right thinking on torture” is contrary to the well-being of the RTL movement. What Ruse has said is that _arguing_ about right thinking on torture is dangerous to the RTL movement, and, specifically, arguing that the Bush admin. did something terribly wrong by waterboarding terrorists.

    There are numerous, pragmatic ways and senses in which this might simply be _true_. You, Tom, have interpreted Ruse's comments specifically in connection with people's not voting for Republican candidates and/or voting for Democrat candidates. Well, okay, but this needn't mean that this is a result of “right thinking.” I presume Ruse would say, if he thought about it, that it's a result of _incorrect_ thinking either at the object level or at the metalevel (e.g., about whether this issue should make you not vote for a candidate or vote for the other party).

    John McGee, channeling Tom, says, “If actually having the debate speeds such a movement's demise, that may not be such a bad thing,” and Tom agrees.

    I could not disagree more strongly.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy says,

    “I really don't think 'does not publicly stump for torture' is too much to ask of a Catholic pro-life organization. At all.”

    I don't agree with your degree of identification of the leaders with the organization, particularly when their comments are made in so informal a setting as a combox, not even in a full-scale article or an interview with the press, a press release, etc. I agree that it would be foolish in the extreme and inappropriate for C-Fam to make official pronouncements supporting waterboarding. I don't think their president's comments in a combox really even come close.

    I do agree with Tommy's point (I think it was Tommy) concerning discretion. I think it would make sense in my hypothetical scenario for R. to ask his VP to lay off on those combox comments for reasons of discretion so as not to, well, “set off” people who get really upset about people's doing that. However, if we're talking about a group like HSLDA (which isn't Catholic, but which Tommy mentioned), some of their lawyers are probably going to teach classes at the college level where the subject will come up, so I think they have to be allowed to state their views in that academic setting, even if they don't think waterboarding is torture.

    Moreover, I don't think this is exclusively about public declarations. If R. and his VP discussed the issue over a beer, etc., well…crisis time, perhaps? I don't know what you would say to that, honestly, but I think if _you_ were R., it would bother you quite a lot and initiate a question of having to _do_ something about it. I could be wrong, however. But it's that whole “I have to decide whether to carry out a project with people who take this position” thing that I think is just going too far.

  • JohnMcG says:

    If the current pro-life movement is dependent on a lie — if it is dependent on us all pretending that torture is OK, or at least keeping our misgivings about it to ourselves, than it will not succeed, or, more precisely its successes will be limited to things like the election of Scott Brown.

    If it is the case that the current pro-life movement is dependent on a lie, it's better that we find that out now, so we can stop pouring our efforts into something that will not pay off and start building something better.

    Now, I'm not wholly convinced that this is the state of affairs for the pro-life movement, and I maintain some hope that it is not based on a lie, and can survive a robust and honest debate on torture.

    But, in either case, I don't think the advice to shut up about torture so we don't hurt the pro-life movement is valid.

    I could maybe see it in some extremely short term situation. If Bush were still president, had nominated a pro-life Supreme Court Justice, and needed every ounce of political capital to get him confirmed, then it might not be a prudent time to raise the torture issue.

    But that's not the current situation.

  • zippy says:

    I don't agree with your degree of identification of the leaders with the organization,

    You don't have to agree, of course, but that won't change my mind. What the leaders really think about the matter will directly affect the extent to which they are themselves willing to compromise on it or even seek out certain kinds of accomodations in real, concrete activites. The extent they “really think” it enough to get on a public soapbox about it – as opposed, say, to public silence on the subject – is a genuine, concrete data point with real implications.

    While compromise (see my last comment), which is to say remote material cooperation with evil, is inevitable, many factors change the proximity of that “remote” qualifier. The way the Church describes it for a legislator in the case of abortion is as follows:

    In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

    So yes, it could be morally licit, given that my absolute personal opposition to torture is well known, for me to contribute (in various ways, monetary or non-monetary) to a given organization even with such leaders. But seeking out such compromise, or making it when unnecessary (and in the case of something as fungible as donation of money the word “necessary” hardly applies at all), is a different matter. “Prudential judgement” doesn't mean “any judgment I make is fine”.

  • Tom says:

    There are numerous, pragmatic ways and senses in which this might simply be _true_.

    In which case, there's something wrong with the state of the RTL movement.

    You, Tom, have interpreted Ruse's comments specifically in connection with people's not voting for Republican candidates and/or voting for Democrat candidates.

    “This is an issue that is being ginned up mostly by folks who hate Republicans….”

    “These guys also want us to believe that its ok to vote for someone like Obama….”

    “But to use it as a wedge to keep people from voting for the pro-life party, it is no more than Democratic trickery.”

    “The Republicans embrace the whole social justice agenda.”

    “It is a distraction by partisans who want to score points on the GOP.”

    “What I am is a little weary of the rather vicious holier-than-thou crowd trying to make folks guilty for voting for Bush and the GOP….”

    “the pro-life party…is the GOP”

    Etc.

    (Oh, sure, the word verifier has to taunt me on Ash Wednesday with “malty.”)

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “So yes, it could be morally licit, given that my absolute personal opposition to torture is well known, for me to contribute (in various ways, monetary or non-monetary) to a given organization even with such leaders.”

    If there is a board who pays and employs such leaders, do you think they probably should get rid of them? Yes, okay, you're going to say it's a prudential judgement, but it's pretty clear that you have opinions about what prudential judgements are very likely wrong.

    Tom, I was _granting_ your interp. of Ruse for the sake of the argument. And I was saying that even in that case, it's not a concern that requires that the “pro-life movement is based on a lie” or whatever. People might genuinely become _over-concerned_ about the issue or accept _moral equivalency_ and vote for candidates they should not vote for.

  • zippy says:

    If there is a board who pays and employs such leaders, do you think they probably should get rid of them? Yes, okay, you're going to say it's a prudential judgement, but it's pretty clear that you have opinions about what prudential judgements are very likely wrong.

    What do you want me to say? There is always an imperative to seek the good and avoid evil. So yes, I am going to say that it is a prudential judgment, that we must seek the good in what we do, including appointing leaders, etc. As you know, in particular cases all the various factors pertaining to the particular judgment can become quite complex; but the strong moral positions staked out by management in organizations with moral missions is indeed pertinent to those judgments, on some level, always. In a ceteris paribus situation, which of course never obtains in reality, I should always choose the better man over the good man, understanding that there is also a prudential “hysteresis” here: that is, it makes no sense and is indeed unjust to the individuals involved to be constantly turning people over when someone marginally better comes along.

    But better does mean, you know, better, on moral questions in addition to questions of competence, etc.

    I am having difficulty imagining what you might be implicating as the alternative.

  • Anonymous says:

    “What Ruse has said is that _arguing_ about right thinking on torture is dangerous to the RTL movement, and, specifically, arguing that the Bush admin. did something terribly wrong by waterboarding terrorists.+

    I have been a lurker a this thread. From where I sit, the torture issue and the GOP has already damaged the pro-life movement. I know of good, traditional Catholics who will never vote for the GOP again because of waterboarding, inhumane treatment of detainees etc. Frank discussion of the torture issue might help those who have already concluded that prolife org = GOP machine = hopelessly compromised. -Vickie

  • zippy says:

    I should say, not to put words into anyone's mouths, that I would distance myself from “these organizations must die” rhetoric. I'm a big believer in redemption in all things: far better for these organizations to be redeemed than to die. But I do acknowledge that John's point:

    If the current pro-life movement is dependent on a lie — if it is dependent on us all pretending that torture is OK, or at least keeping our misgivings about it to ourselves, than it will not succeed, or, more precisely its successes will be limited to things like the election of Scott Brown.

    … is a pretty powerful one.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy, I wasn't thinking of a hiring situation but rather of a stable situation. The board gets a sizable majority of people who have a Zippian conversion and becomes concerned about the leader who is making these combox comments, etc. They'd of course have to go out and _find_ a replacement for him if they hire him. It's not that someone is coming along. But they want to make their organization “not functionally pro-torture,” so…

    See, all this talk about redeeming movements and organizations, it just bothers me. That sort of “becoming” or “changing” or “redeeming.” It's gonna take _something_, right? I mean, right now, you apparently want Ruse to repent in sackloth and ashes over his comments on the thread. You've said so. I think there could be a real problem if boards, leaders, etc., started taking seriously a call for some sort of practical _positive indication_ of such “becoming” or “repenting” or “redeeming.” It really sounds like a lot of break-ups and purges are in the wind if that were to happen, which is why, I'll say it outright, I don't particularly want pro-life organizations to start trying to “redeem” themselves from some sort of combox associations with torture. _At most_ I could see a private conversation: “Hey, so-and-so, it really upsets some people, including potential donors, when you do that. Don't you think it would be a good idea to back off on it?”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Sorry, that shd. be “They'd of course have to go out and _find_ a replacement for him if they fire him.”

  • brandon field says:

    “Hey, so-and-so, it really upsets some people, including potential donors, when you do that. Don't you think it would be a good idea to back off on it?”

    Problem is, Lydia, that Mr. Ruse pretty much admitted to Zippy that he didn't care if he was upsetting potential donors, claiming that that sort of money comes with too many strings attached. Which is exactly what makes it sound as if he may have entered into the “stop talking about torture” fray as a result of exactly such a conversation, except the other way around.

  • zippy says:

    See, all this talk about redeeming movements and organizations, it just bothers me. That sort of “becoming” or “changing” or “redeeming.” It's gonna take _something_, right?

    Yes. The Gospel, and the Sacraments, for example. Prayer and fasting. And other things besides, which seems to be what makes you nervous, even when the entire thing is filtered through an eyes-open prudential realism.

    _At most_ I could see a private conversation: “Hey, so-and-so, it really upsets some people, including potential donors, when you do that. Don't you think it would be a good idea to back off on it?”

    I agree that a private conversation is reasonable. What happens after the private conversation?

  • zippy says:

    that Mr. Ruse pretty much admitted to Zippy that he didn't care if he was upsetting potential donors,

    In fairness to him, though, I think his point was that he prefers small donors to large because a large pool of small donors makes his organization independent, whereas a small number of large donors has the opposite effect. As someone who has run organizations with small numbers of large, uh, donors (ahem) I can relate to that point.

  • JohnMcG says:

    To clarify, my attitude isn't so much “these organizations must die” as it is to spell out the implications of the statements Austin was making.

    It is my hope that the problem is in the statements, rather than a reality those statements reflect.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “And other things besides, which seems to be what makes you nervous, even when the entire thing is filtered through an eyes-open prudential realism.”

    Well, yes, because I think it's pretty clear that our prudential estimates–not of the cost of some action, necessarily, but of whether that cost is justified–are likely to differ widely, based on past evidence. Your repeated analogy to the gay marriage issue, which I think is far different for a number of reasons, confirms this.

    A smart-aleck answer to, “What do you want me to say?” would be something like this:

    “Come to think of it, you're right. A pro-life organization's firing somebody for such statements would be way off-base, and that example wakes me up to the fact that I've probably been fixated a bit too much on this particular issue. Vickie's comment does, too. We torture opponents need to be careful that our rhetoric doesn't encourage such over-reactions.”

    But I don't think we're close enough on the meta-issue for you to agree with anything like that statement. 😦

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “I agree that a private conversation is reasonable. What happens after the private conversation?”

    I think it should be relatively easy to work something out. If the person wants to continue to discuss such issues in comboxes, and if he has an opinion that the organization feels–understandably enough–should not be mistakenly taken to reflect a position of the organization, there are a number of options. E.g.

    –He could be asked to return to the thread on which he'd most recently been commenting and post a disclaimer to the effect that these are his own personal views and are in no way officially the position of his organization.

    –He could be asked to blog on this subject under his first name or initials only, rather than under his full name.

    –He could be asked always to include such a disclaimer at the beginning of a discussion of the topic of torture on a blog thread and perhaps also to post such a disclaimer at a personal blog.

    It seems to me that a reasonable leader of an organization which doesn't want to become known as “pro-torture” should be willing to agree to _one_ of these, if not several of them. If he isn't, then that seems to me like a whole 'nother problem concerning his being more or less _determined_ to associate his organization with his personal views, even where the organization does not take a position on the subject. And that's a problem in itself.

  • zippy says:

    Well, those all seem on their face reasonable steps, and I don't know why you would think I would disagree with them, if you think I would disagree with them. But you seem to want me – though it is hard for me to tell what you want, in all seriousness and without a hint of snark – to draw a line in the sand representing the upper limit of the Gospel, the upper limit to the charity to which we are called as Christians. And I can't draw that line, because there is no such line.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Oh, well, I'm sorry for being frustrating, Zippy. I suppose my “smart-alecky” answer was meant to show what I would love to hear. (That and, “I'd love to come back and blog at W4.” :-)) I find it very hard in my own mind to connect the charity we are called to as Christians with breaking off or even refusing to make fruitful associations that involve doing good work because our partners in that work have said in a combox that they think waterboarding isn't torture. I know people whom I either know or strongly suspect think waterboarding isn't torture with whom I'm very proud to be associated. My own position is publicly on record, and that's good enough for me. I think–I know this will annoy you–we should all (Thiessen et. al. included) move on from the issue. But if one side doesn't move on from the issue, I dunno: I'm inclined to think they deserve to be ignored by their opponents.

    As for whether I think or thought you would disagree with those reasonable steps, I would have _thought_ you would disagree that they would be sufficient, because the person _is_ (we're hypothesizing) a major leader of the organization. So I would have guessed that no amount of disclaimers would ever cut it for you. But I'm glad to be wrong, if they would.

  • zippy says:

    I think–I know this will annoy you–we should all (Thiessen et. al. included) move on from the issue.

    That doesn't annoy me. Nobody wants to see this go away more than me. I had a quaint, vain hope that it might fade, sublimate back into the host, and disappear as an issue, swept under the rug of history and gradually disavowed, since the practice has been stopped.

    But then we have Thiessen, EWTN, Scott Brown, and the Republicans who Just. Won't. Let. It. Die.

    And if there is a successful Islamic terrorist attack, now that the public has been softened up on the issue and 70% support torture in some circumstances, …

  • zippy says:

    As for whether I think or thought you would disagree with those reasonable steps, I would have _thought_ you would disagree that they would be sufficient, because the person _is_ (we're hypothesizing) a major leader of the organization

    Who am “I” in the scenario again? A donor? On the board of directors? Someone else? What is “sufficient” depends on answering the question “sufficient for what purpose, for whom”, and I can see the answers to “what is sufficient” ranging all over the place depending on that scoping.

    I guess I am not really asking for answers to all those things: we've probably beat this to death. I get it that you have a visceral distrust (if you will — that is, a belief that we would choose differently, nothing wrong with that) of where I would draw lines and what actions I would take, and that 'distrust' (defined that way) is probably well founded. We've known each other long enough that there is probably something to it. But at the level of principle, as opposed to the actual phase space of prudential judgments we might make in particular circumstances, I'm having a hard time seeing a clear difference: a difference-in-principle.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I guess “I” in the scenario is supposed to be a person–it could be any of the ones you listed–trying to decide if this is a worthy organization with that blogging but with those disclaimers in place, whether it needs to be “redeemed” beyond that before it's worthy of wholehearted support. It would seem to me that that question–“Is this organization worthy of wholehearted support?”–would be deeply relevant both to another member of the leadership of the organization and to a potential donor or a person thinking of blogging in criticism of the organization, etc. I am surprised at the thought that there would be such a big separation among those.

    I do agree, w.r.t. the rest, that a question like “Just how important is this issue?” is inherently a fuzzy one. When people agree on the issue itself, it's hard to find an in-principle disagreement between them on the “how important” question, just because it is so fuzzy. Speaking for myself, I find it difficult to imagine my breaking off _any_ association with people with whom I otherwise have a lot in common over the issue, unless they literally made support for waterboarding an official plank of their blog or organization, or unless they got so fixated on supporting it that they never talked about anything else, including in the publications of the organization, if it has publications. Something very extreme like that.

  • zippy says:

    Speaking for myself, I find it difficult to imagine my breaking off _any_ association with people with whom I otherwise have a lot in common over the issue…

    Oh, not me, especially on the issue that started this aspect of the discussion, donating money. Heck, I give money in Year 1 to Organization X and then fail to give them money in Year 2 without Organization X doing anything at all wrong, just because of changing circumstances. The things I put personal effort into change similarly over time and for similar reasons — that I work with X in year 1 and not in year 2 doesn't have to reflect on something X did wrong at all.

    I'm hard pressed to think that I am particularly odd in this respect, though admittedly my personal situation is not the norm.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well…but…forgive me if it's a faux pas to bring this up, but…

    You put up a post drawing the attention of other prospective donors to this! I'm really glad that you took it down, but…It just seems like this is a pretty big deal, like this _is_ because of something wrong, because of a big problem. I mean, why even _announce_ your own decision in a combox thread, much less do the other thing (the post), if not to try to influence people?

  • Zippy says:

    Is that what has you so dug in on this?

    Look, Lydia, when I give money to someone, I am entitled to know if they are out publicly telling Catholics who oppose torture to shut up. Period. So does anyone else who gives money. I haven't said, didn't say, and wouldn't say, “nobody give money to charity X because its leadership is out telling people who oppose torture to shut up”. But I sure as heck do think people considering giving money have a right to know that absolutely pertinent fact and review the public statements themselves, which is an entirely different matter from me making a specific recommendation.

    Do you think people who give money to organizations with moral missions don't have a right to know about the public activities of the key principals of the organization? Not “outing” private activities, which is a whole 'nother can of worms, but activities out in the open in public?

    I don't think you are seeing things from the point of view of the potential donor, at all. It sounds like you've never had that experience of giving your blood, sweat, tears, and money to some organization with a mission and then regretting it later. I have. If they are spending my money, I have the right and responsibility to know what kind of people they are and what they are doing with it. Of course that doesn't imply that they have to be perfect; but if there is a compromise to be made, I have the right and duty to make that compromise explicitly, not to have them cash my checks and then find out later.

    Being in favor of people having their eyes fully open on these things is not a bad thing. I don't apologize for putting that post up in the first place. All I did was link to already-public facts, facts made public and published all over comboxes by the persons involved themselves. I took it down as a gesture of good faith, not because it was wrong to put it up.

    I think a lot of people “overshare” on the Internet, as you know. Discretion is dead, and privacy is on its way out the window behind it. The Internet is not analogous to anything that came before, even though people treat it as if it is.

    But I can't control when others make a public spectacle. I can bring it to the attention of my infinitesimal reading audience when it happens and I think it is relevant, though.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I really think that even just saying, in public, esp. on the Internet, “Since I found out such-and-such about organization X, I won't give them anymore of my money” is a tacit recommendation of the action. I really do. It's not even terribly subtle. I'm sure that's how it's widely understood. And so much the more for saying, “Hey! I think other people who might be planning to donate to this organization are going to want to know this.” Zippy, I know that you often talk about influencing by blogging and about how blogging speech is itself an act. It isn't necessary to say in so many words, “I think other people should follow my example” for one's words to be a means of influence upon others to act or not act in a certain way.

    I think I'll just leave it at that. I certainly think that what you've said just here at the end reflects quite clearly how important this whole issue of waterboarding is on your view.

  • Zippy says:

    I certainly think that what you've said just here at the end reflects quite clearly how important this whole issue of waterboarding is on your view.

    It seems to me, Lydia, that you keep pushing my position toward some kind of false absolute, a false absolute that reduces my position to some kind of requirement for complete isolation from the world and refusal to ever engage in any remote material cooperation with anything to do with waterboarding, despite all the times I've carefully corrected and qualified. Perhaps I am more “morally isolationist” than you. I am not entirely sure how morally isolationist you are with donations, because you didn't really respond directly to this:

    Oh, not me, especially on the issue that started this aspect of the discussion, donating money. Heck, I give money in Year 1 to Organization X and then fail to give them money in Year 2 without Organization X doing anything at all wrong, just because of changing circumstances. The things I put personal effort into change similarly over time and for similar reasons — that I work with X in year 1 and not in year 2 doesn't have to reflect on something X did wrong at all.

    I'm hard pressed to think that I am particularly odd in this respect, though admittedly my personal situation is not the norm.

    Sure, I'm probably more “morally isolationist” on the subject of torture than you are. But lets not turn it into a straw man.

  • Mark P. Shea says:

    Well, Thiessen and Arroyo have once again brought the Church into disrepute:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/02/thiessen-defends-torture-on-catholic-cable-channel-and-they-concur.html

    Why make noise about Catholic torture defenses? Because if we don't then the enemies of the Church surely will. To Sullivan's credit, he doesn't do what allegedly faithful Catholics like Theissen and Arroyo do: he doesn't identify the Church with defenses of torture but rightfully distinguishes between actual Church teaching and what individuals like Arroyo and Thiessen try to *make* the Church say, against all reason and common sense.

    That it should come to this: that an open despiser of traditional Catholic morality has a better grasp of this argument than the “Faithful Conservative Catholic”.

    I'll retire to bedlam.

  • William Luse says:

    I think–I know this will annoy you–we should all (Thiessen et. al. included) move on from the issue. But if one side doesn't move on from the issue, I dunno: I'm inclined to think they deserve to be ignored by their opponents.

    Ah, so it finally comes out. Move on. Why? There can be only one reason: it's just not that important. There is no worm in the apple which will in time corrupt the whole fruit.

    What does 'move on' mean to Thiessen? Does it mean he'll drop the subject? Of course not. He'll never shut up. What does it mean for the Zippy-types, and what do they gain? Will they drop the subject? They could, at which point they become irrelevant. So they gain nothing, while the Thiessens snuggle in comfortably among all the rest of the true sons of the Church. Well, to hell with that.

    Let's be real clear about who's being asked to move on – in other words, to shut up – because it's just not that important.

  • Zippy says:

    Lets suppose that orthodox Catholics opposed to torture could act coherently as a group, for the sake of argument.

    It isn't as if the Left would stop using this issue as a partisan weapon if these orthodox anti-torture Catholics went away. “Lie down and die, let the Thiessen/EWTN faction win the day, and then let it fade into obscurity” isn't even an option. Leaving people who are anti-torture but not progcath leftists homeless is just going to turn many of them into progcath leftists.

  • JohnMcG says:

    The following is going to sound a bit patronizing and judgemental. That is not my intention, but I think this is a dynamic worth exploring.

    I think William has a point that what we're dealing with is a matter of heart versus the intellect.

    I think the Vox Nova crowd intellectually understands that abortion is a moral horror and they are bound to oppose it. But, when they see a health care bill that includes payment for abortion, their first response isn't to recoil in horror, but to come up with reasons why it's no big deal — private insurance already pays for abortion, even (until recently) the RNC's!! Why should we let that stop us from providing health care to the millions of uninsured? They may mouth that they would like a bill that doesn't may for abortion, but that's not where their energy is. But let someone slip and refer to the “Democrat Party”

    I think Lydia and Austin are in a similar place with waterboarding. Yes, they understand why many of us oppose it, and why it is contrary to the dignity, but it still is just three terrorists. And if advocating on behalf of terrorists in any way interferes with advocating on behalf of the million helpless innocent unborn children that are killed each year, well, maybe a few more terrorists get waterboarded.

    I'm not sure all the combox arguments, no matter how valid and grounded in rock solid principles, are going to change that.

    Let me stress that I am not attempting to assert a moral equivalence between what I perceive to be VN's attitude toward abortion and Lydia's attitude toward waterboarding. Nor do I claim moral superiority over either of them — I am sure I have my own allegiances that I allow to take precedence over my duty to God, and they are likely less noble than the desire for the poor to have access to health care or to end the scourge of abortion.

    This Lent, I will be taking a hard look at how I react to things, what motivates that reaction, and pray for the strength for myself and others to follow God first.

  • Cathy says:

    I look forward to my lunch with Zippy commencing at 12:40….

  • zippy says:

    And if advocating on behalf of terrorists in any way interferes with advocating on behalf of the million helpless innocent unborn children that are killed each year, well, maybe a few more terrorists get waterboarded.

    At a visceral level, I am probably far more indifferent to the terrorists than I should be, and much more concerned about what adopting torture does to us. Part of the problem with habitually consequentialist thinking is that it is always focused “out there” on the them and that. Ironically, this tends to make the torture debates seem to be more about the dignity of the tortured terrorists rather than the dignity of the torturers; plus the mere suggestion that the torturers may be harming their own human dignity in doing what they do is treated as offensive on its face, because these are dedicated members of the US intelligence community. Even so, I confess that that doesn't “move” me so much viscerally (intellectual understanding being something else entirely). I know these are basically good men trying to protect their country, doing something evil not as wicked little fiends but in an attempt to accomplish something they see as a far greater good.

    No, it isn't until we get to all the formal cooperation everywhere that I start to feel sick, not sick as in judgmentally sick but sick as in just sick.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “Sure, I'm probably more “morally isolationist” on the subject of torture than you are. But lets not turn it into a straw man.”

    Zippy, I don't think I'm turning anything into a strawman. I think what you've said speaks for itself. For example, you _aren't simply_ personally choosing not to donate to a given group in a given year, and that casual characterization does not capture the urgency and the connection to this particular issue that attaches to your *announcing to everyone* that you will not donate to this group *because of* its president's comments in a combox thread and your *deliberately drawing attention to this* in a way tagged to *prospective donors*, an action you say was not wrong and in fact defend passionately. That goes _way_ beyond just saying to yourself, “Okay, yeah, note to self. File that away for future reference. I wouldn't feel comfortable donating to C-Fam,” which, I agree, one might do for any number of reasons, some more urgent and some less. But this is a far bigger deal to you than that, and frankly, I cannot understand why you don't just come out and say, “Yes, I think it is perfectly defensible for me to try to _influence other people_ by my words not to donate to this organization, because I think others should _seriously consider_ following my example.” It isn't in the least like you to be at all evasive about such things.

    You're clearly very ticked off at what Ruse said. I think your characterization of that is pretty tendentious. I think he probably would be just as happy if _everybody_ should shut up about this, but he especially sees the danger of what Vicki talked about above–Catholics who start believe moral equivalencies and hence vote Democrat or don't vote because they think the whole Republican party is tainted with prisoner abuse. Hence Ruse's particular upsetness at what he seems to have come across more often–harping on this issue from the anti-torture side. Anyway, what he said really angers you, you associate his organization with it; it's a big, big deal to you. You therefore defend announcing to the world that you won't contribute to his org. until he repents in sackcloth and ashes and announcing that other potential donors “might want to know” about this. There is *no straw man* here. I think that's *way over the top* and actually *wrong*. I was shocked by it and upset by it. How much clearer do I have to be?

    Bill, Zippy himself said that he _wasn't_ annoyed by the words of mine you quote which evidently _do_ annoy you. Zippy's position is that he would move on if Thiessen & co. would move on. And if I were already a blog friend of Thiessen's, I would definitely advise _him_ to move on. This happens to be the portion of the blogosphere and the Catholic intellectual community I'm connected to, so this is where I say it. And, yes, I think it would be best *from your own perspective* to give Thiessen & co. all the inattention they deserve. This is a principle I observe in other contexts. I tell this to my children–stop arguing and you'll stop calling attention to the other person. Just ignore him. It seems to me good advice in a lot of contexts. I'm sorry you don't like it, but too bad.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    John,

    “I think Lydia and Austin are in a similar place with waterboarding. Yes, they understand why many of us oppose it, and why it is contrary to the dignity, but it still is just three terrorists.”

    Hold on there, just a minute: I have said repeatedly in public, and say it here again: I believe waterboarding is torture, is wrong, and should not be done. Frankly, I have real doubts about the licitness of doing it in training to our own troops. I am _not_ where Ruse is on this issue, because he said expressly that he isn't sure it's torture.

    Nor have I _ever_ used any phrase like “just three terrorists.” Nor would I. Wrong is wrong.

    I do, however, sympathize with Ruse's concerns about harping on this issue, and I do think that _everybody_ should move on about it, Bill's invidious implications to the contrary notwithstanding. I think it's bizarre that Thiessen & co. keep talking about it. Why do they? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    By the way, I should add: Has it occurred to y'all that your actions and words on this might push some people in the direction of approving waterboarding? As a reaction to what people perceive as your over-hyperness about the issue? Perhaps as a reaction to the treatment of Ruse or other pro-life organizations? Would that be rational? No. But it's human. And you are considering all these irrational human impulses to listen to Thiessen, to think “hey, it's just three terrorists,” to want vengeance upon them, or whatever, and hence to approve of torture because Thiessen _isn't_ answered (over and over and over again). Why not consider the possibility of a boomerang effect? Because I want to tell you: It could happen.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Bill,

    I have nothing to hide, here. I’m not in the least trying to be coy. I do almost certainly think the issue of waterboarding terrorists is less important than you do. I have evidence for this; so do you. As several of the anti-torture people have acknowledged here and elsewhere, it is _comparatively_ less important an issue than abortion, and that by a margin. (Therefore, John McG, if the Vox Novans and I really do treat the two issues similarly, that doesn’t mean that we are both wrong. It may mean that they don’t think abortion as important as it objectively is.) I also reject the comparison to sodomizing prisoners, insofar as that implies that it is *just as bad* a form of torture or dehumanization to waterboard a prisoner as to sodomize him. Torture and dehumanization, while always wrong, do admit of degrees, and some forms are worse than others.

    It doesn’t follow from any of this that I think the issue unimportant per se. If, for example, there were a bill before Congress right now to officially authorize waterboarding by U.S. intelligence, I would consider that an important bill to oppose. My only inclination to say, without much qualification, “It’s not that important” (and actually, I've never said this) arises in the current context from the presently theoretical nature of the debate. Waterboarding is not spreading, for example, into our civilian law enforcement. No one is moving to legalize it in the U.S. Nobody is trying to force people to be involved in it (as in the case of the erosion of conscience exceptions and the attempt to force doctors to refer for abortion). There are not “waterboarding clinics” throughout the U.S. at which, for example, we could organize prayer vigils. A purely theoretical debate about this particular issue does not seem to me worth the cost, a cost we are seeing right here in this thread–a thread where we’re just discussing the metalevel issue of how important the issue is!–in the form of tensions among friends and natural allies, natural allies on issues that are, yes, objectively more important as well as practically more urgent.

    But as I indicated above, I am distressed and frustrated by your implication that I’m “just telling one side” to stop going on about the issue. De facto, that’s because this is the side I know. I don’t know anybody who writes this much about how waterboarding is just fine, much less anybody who gets this upset about it on the pro-waterboarding side. De jure, you have no evidence whatsoever that I think people on the other side of the issue should go on and on about defending it in the way that I see people going on and on opposing it. If I knew somebody like that as I know you guys, and if I cared as much about what he did as I care about what you do, I'd suggest that he bag it. There is only one way in which my purely anecdotal evidence thus far shows up the pro-waterboarding side as doing better than the anti-waterboarding side: The former doesn’t seem to be breaking off friendships and associations over it or condemning organizations over it. Maybe that just reflects the limitations of my experience, though.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    Hah…that comment from “Cathy” about my upcoming lunch with Zippy was actaully me (Austin) logged in as my wife.

    Great lunch. Zippy is a mensch and I enjoyed our lunch immensely. I learned a great deal.

    i will be publishing on this debate in my regular column tomorrow at http://www.thecatholicthing.org. I hope i portray the sides accurately.

  • zippy says:

    The pleasure was mine, Austin.

  • William Luse says:

    “stop arguing and you'll stop calling attention to the other person. Just ignore him. It seems to me good advice in a lot of contexts. I'm sorry you don't like it, but too bad.”

    This is not possible. Thiessen will not shut up and what he is doing is quite literally a public attempt to pervert Catholic teaching on this issue. He must be opposed and I'm sorry you don't like it but too bad.

    “I do almost certainly think the issue of waterboarding terrorists is less important than you do.”

    Well, if you say so. But it's not the issue of waterboarding terrorists “per se” that's so important to me; it's the issue of Catholics making public apologies for it and perverting Church teaching while doing so. Publicly, out in the open, for the whole world to see.

    “I am distressed and frustrated by your implication that I’m 'just telling one side' to stop going on about the issue.”

    Let me rephrase to relieve your distress. You literally said that *both* sides should move on. My remark was addressed to what I believe will be the real world practical effect of your advice, in that only one side has anything to lose by moving on – our side – while the other is allowed to settle in as faithful servants of the Magisterium, unperturbed by any noise to the contrary. And they shall remain so only if there is one season in which the truth may be spoken, and another in which it must not be.

    “The former doesn’t seem to be breaking off friendships and associations over it or condemning organizations over it.”

    I have broken friendships and associations over “it” with the following people and organizations: Nobody, none, and nada. But I am prepared to do so should the friend or association prove sufficiently obstinate. And again, “the former” have no reason to break those friendships and associations. They need them. And they have nothing to lose by going silent on the issue, whereas silence on our side results in victory for a lie. I'd be ashamed to be a party to it.

  • Tom says:

    I've read Austin's column.

    He's off the “no more than Democratic trickery,” which is good.

    But I flat don't understand why he persistently and obstinately represents the torture debate as encompassing only “the fact that three terrorists were waterboarded more than six years ago in the aftermath of the horror of 9/11.”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “And they have nothing to lose by going silent on the issue, whereas silence on our side results in victory for a lie.”

    Well, I don't get that, Bill, because the arguments are out there on both sides. I suppose what each side has to “lose” is the opportunity to answer whatever the other side happened to say most recently. Perhaps you're referring to the fact that Thiessen has had a much bigger platform than Zippy et. al., which is, of course, true. But continuing to make arguments in one's own sphere doesn't make one's platform bigger anyway, and Zippy has already done so much yeomanly work at addressing this issue that anyone who is interested in knowing the arguments against waterboarding has plenty of material of his already to read. Again, though, if there were some practical item on the agenda right now to be decided on (say, in Congress) I would understand better continuing to discuss the issue.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “But I am prepared to do so should the friend or association prove sufficiently obstinate.”

    I'm really sorry to hear that.

    There are, of course, lots of people out there perverting Catholic teaching on a whole host of issues. You guys know that better than I do and could probably tell horror stories I haven't heard, to join the ones I have heard, about perversions of Catholic teaching by Catholics. What I gather makes this particular thing (the Thiessen argument) specially frustrating to y'all is the fact that he's garnering the sympathy of conservative Catholics with whom you otherwise have much in common, not just kooky liberal Catholics who have already bought a lot of junk. I understand that. It's especially a shame when good people are messed up and confused. I think that is a reason for answering the Thiessens of the world, where “answering” can be a thing one does and then gets done doing. I don't think it's a reason for continuing to discuss the issue ad infinitum as long as the other guys won't shut up. And I think that the closeness on other issues with the people who are confused about waterboarding is, yes, whether they are Protestants or Catholics, a reason _not_ to break off friendships and associations with them, even if you can't convince them on the waterboarding issue. In fact, I think it would be really sad to see anything else happen. If that's the fruit of the Internet, that's a highly unfortunate fruit.

  • brandon field says:

    I've read Austin's column.

    I just did. In his sentence “In the end, no matter what the motives, the prolife community must protect the momentum we have generated since 1973.”, he seems to be treating society as if it conforms to some sort of Hari Seldon-like entity in that conservation of linear momentum can apply to peoples' opinions. Maybe this is what I get for living as far as I do outside of the DC Beltway, but I can't see that people, even groups of people act to conserve linear momentum. To the contrary, rational people have the ability to hold two logically-conflicting opinions at the same time and act instantly on one or the other. While I understand his point, I think that making policy on people as a group is an error. Individuals are who are getting abortions, individuals are who is being killed, and only individuals can be damned for making evil decisions.

  • Tom says:

    “In the end, no matter what the motives, the prolife community must protect the momentum we have generated since 1973.”

    I would have characterized this as, “You can't make a pro-life omelette without breaking three terrorist eggs more than six years ago in the aftermath of the horror of 9/11,” but I am forbidden snark.

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