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Rick Santorum, Torture and “Intrinsic Evil”

May 19, 2011, 10:14 am | Posted by John Gehring

Rick_Santorum_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpgRick Santorum, a conservative Catholic who frequently touts his pro-life bona fides, has some explaining to do when it comes to his shameless defense of torture. Santorum and several other presidential candidates recently endorsed enhanced interrogation techniques (euphemism alert!) during the first Republican primary debate. Now he is accusing John McCain of not understanding how “enhanced interrogation works” because McCain does not believe there is credible evidence to suggest we captured Osama Bin Laden by relying on intelligence gained from waterboarding and other vile instruments in the torture toolkit. This is a stunning charge for Santorum to cast at someone personally subjected to the unimaginable indignity that McCain suffered as a prisoner of war.

Along with an apology to McCain, I would like to hear how Santorum reconciles his support for torture with his Catholic faith. If Santorum thinks being pro-life only requires opposing abortion, he might want to take a refresher course in Catholic teaching. Catholic bishops described torture as an assault on the dignity of human life and an “intrinsic evil” in their 2007 statement Faithful Citizenship. (For a more in depth look at intrinsic evil and political responsibility read this essay by Cathleen Kaveny of the University of Notre Dame in America magazine.) “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism,” the bishops wrote in Faithful Citizenship. As Kyle R. Cupp points out over at Vox Nova, Pope Paul VI described such acts as “infamies” that “poison society,” do “supreme dishonor to the Creator,” and “do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from injury.”

Last week, Catholic theologians challenged Speaker John Boehner on budget choices that undermine human life, and Catholics and evangelicals sponsored a radio ad narrated by a Catholic priest that described Rep. Paul Ryan’s House budget proposal as abandoning pro-life values. These were powerful actions that rejected a narrow and distorted pro-life vision in politics. As the 2012 presidential election begins heating up, religious leaders and faithful in the pews should continue to keep the pressure on Santorum and other “pro-life” candidates who pick and choose between which lives they consider sacred.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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