On the Use of Torture

Since there has been a lot of discussion recently about whether torture should be used as a part of U.S. policy, it may be helpful to review Catholic teaching in this area. Here is a relevant passage from theCompendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

In carrying out investigations, the regulations against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed. ‘Christ’s disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer’s victim. International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances. (par. 404)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also discusses the use of torture:

In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

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