"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, October 13, 2006

Torture and the Church

As part of my vast readership knows, one of my favorite apologetical themes is that the Church's development of doctrine has not contradicted (or: negated) any teaching that meets her own criteria for infallibility. That is one of my favorites because one of the most common arguments against Catholicism, often made by nominal Catholics themselves, is that the Church has changed her teaching on various points—thus either discrediting her own authority, or giving herself license to make other changes that would be popular today among those who desire sex with few or no consequences. One argument of that type is that the Church has changed her position on torture.

Unsurprisingly, it has become the argument du jour against the Church. The topic of torture has been much discussed lately for political reasons, and the Catholic blogosphere is no exception. See, e.g., what Tom Kreitzberg over at Disputations has been saying lately; and Mark Shea at Catholic and Enjoying It has been at it far longer, even when the topic wasn't in the news. Those discussions are good, but I am especially delighted by Zippy Catholic's, entitled "The Doctrinal-Juridical Two-Step." Here's the opening excerpt:

One of the common "gotcha" arguments around the blogosphere, which apparently is supposed to impress us, goes as follows:

1) During the Inquisition the Church prescribed rules for how torture was to be carried out.
2) Vatican II, Veritatis Splendour, and the Catechism all say that torture is intrinsically evil.


The Church has (supposedly) changed her position on torture! Who are we to believe, Pope John Paul II and the Vatican II Fathers, or Popes Innocent IV, Alexander IV, and Clement IV?

There is a fundamental difference, though, between a doctrinal teaching and a juridical decision.

There is indeed such a difference, and Zippy shows why it makes a difference. The Church has not changed her doctrine; she has developed it by better understanding and making more explicit the logical consequences of truths she has always professed. Accordingly, she has put the particular sin of torture behind her.

Kudos to Zippy. I shall include this topic in the lengthy Development and Negation treatise I shall complete once I can actually move into a place big enough to contain both my books and my computer, which should be when my car is paid off by the end of the year.
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