Two facts I hadn’t known about the position and record of the Catholic Church on torture, mentioned in two letters by Catholic priests published in Thursday’s New York Times:
1. Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World produced at the Second Vatican Council, calls “torments inflicted on body or mind” and “attempts to coerce the will itself” both “infamies” and “supreme dishonor to the Creator.” They are mentioned in parallel to abortion and genocide. In the Catholic tradition, the solemn declaration of an Ecumenical Council carries enormous authority; conciliar decrees were considered infallible long before Vatican I decided that some papal decrees had that status.
2. The Catholic Bishops of Chile threatened Pinochet’s torturers with excommunication.
If the American bishops can be distracted from their current project of helping their right-wing allies destroy health care reform, perhaps they might consider a similar declaration. It is (let’s hope) not necessary right now, but it would put the current torture debate in a clearer perspective.