Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reflections on a survey about torture

“If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink.” (Proverbs 25: 21)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5: 43 – 44)

“Then, stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” (Matt 26: 50-52)

The most depressing story I have read recently was an entry on Michael Paulson’s blog, “Articles of Faith.” He reported on the results of a Pew Research Center survey, which showed that a majority of practicing Christians believed that on the whole, the use of torture is justified. 51% of white non-Hispanic Catholics holds that torture is at least sometime justified. (

This again shows the disconnect between what the Church teaches and what the people in the pews believe and practice. There have been many surveys that continually show that a majority of people (including Christians) support the death penalty in some form. Martin Marty, in a radio interview, pointed out that during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, while many Church leaders spoke out and marched for equal rights, most of their congregations were either ambivalent or hostile to the idea.

I can only hope that the Church continues to be the prophet, not only with the world at large, but also with its own members. It must continue to proclaim the words of Christ, hold them up as a challenge to us all, to be courageous and reach out to our enemies, to trust in the Lord and hold tight to our ideals of valuing the dignity of human life.

I close with words of the late John Paul II, quoted in an editorial by the National Catholic Reporter: “The thought of Jesus being stripped, beaten, and derided until his final agony on the cross should prompt the Christian to protest against similar treatment of their fellow human beings. Of their own accord, disciples of Christ will reject torture, which nothing can justify, which causes humiliation and suffering to the victim and degrades the tormentor.”
-- Pope John Paul II, before the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, June 1982

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