Torture

Whatever our moral judgements about changes on the issue of loans, usury, and the function of money, no case can be made for a practice that Catholic teachers accepted for centuries and then firmly rejected in modern times: torture or the infliction of severe bodily (and/or psychological)

216 For useful summaries and bibliographies see 'Usury', Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church , 1672—3, and T. F. Divine, 'Usury', New Catholic Encyclopedia , xiv. 498—500. See also S. L. Buckley, Teaching on Usury in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). The question of lending money has acquired an international face, with many countries suffering a crippling burden from the interest charged on loans. The medieval concern about interest exploiting the poor has assumed a fresh meaning.

pain either to punish people or persuade them to say or do something. A letter sent to the ruler of Bulgaria in 866 by Nicholas I stands out as a refreshing exception. The Pope rejected using torture to extract confessions from those accused of crimes and any violent means for forcing people to accept the Christian faith which had just been officially accepted in Bulgaria (DH 647—8). Notoriously in 1252 Innocent IV authorized the use of torture to force suspected heretics to 'confess' and retract their errors and reveal the names of 'other heretics'; the Pope took for granted the use of torture on 'thieves and bandits'. In Ch. 2 (above) we recalled the way Catholic Christianity countenanced torture during the thirteenth-century anti-Albigensian crusade and later—in the cause of maintaining religious unity which underpinned social and political stability. Through the sixteenth century and beyond, faith commitments were woven into the fabric of life; rulers and their officials felt themselves answerable to God for supporting what they believed to be the true religion. Those who spread heresy brought eternal ruin on those who accepted their false views, and hence were deemed to be worse than thieves and murderers.217

A firm rejection of any 'physical and mental torture', as well as any 'undue psychological pressures', finally came in the Second Vatican Council's teaching on respect for the human person (Gaudium etSpes, 27). The Council insisted on the 'right to religious freedom', which 'means that all are to be immune from coercion' coming from 'any human power'; in 'religious matters no one is to be forced to act against their conscience nor prevented from acting according to their conscience' (Dignitatis Humanae, 2). Sadly such religious freedom is still not to be found in many countries around the world. Even worse many governments, as long as they can escape too much adverse criticism, still practise or allow torture to be practised by their police and military forces.

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