Religious leaders must speak up on CIA report

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Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

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Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

In its report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the Senate Intelligence Committee examines the cases where the Agency has said it obtained useful intelligence from “enhanced interrogation techniques” and finds the claims bogus. In their pushback, Agency officials, present as well as past, insist the contrary.

While this debate has its uses, it is morally irrelevant.

Last spring, the Catholic Bishop of Des Moines, Richard E. Pates, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement supporting release of the report and noting that Catholic doctrine considers torture to be “‘an intrinsic evil’ that cannot be justified under any circumstances.” Although not all religious traditions take as hard a line on this as Catholicism, they agree that the moral issue is not whether torture produces accurate information.

The only circumstance that might justify torture is the kind of imminent danger dramatized in TV shows like “24,” where a bomb is about to go off and knowledge of its whereabouts is squeezed out of a bad guy. No such case is alleged by the CIA or its defenders.

Religious leaders need to make it clear that what the CIA did was, according to their teachings, wrong. And that those who claim otherwise are wrong. And that we as a society need to face up to what was done in our name.

The burden of such teaching responsibility falls particularly on those religious leaders whose flocks tend to be aligned with those who are now finding ways to exonerate the CIA and criticize the release of the report. Evangelicals and Mormons, that means you.

  • Religious leaders have been making up beliefs and dividing humanity since they created the first religion. It is best they remain silent.

  • samuel Johnston

    I have not read the congressional report, and have not even had time to digest the news reports.
    The last thing we need at this juncture is amateur hour, starring poorly informed clergy, grandstanding and making instant judgments.
    ” Catholic doctrine considers torture to be ‘an intrinsic evil’ that cannot be justified under any circumstances.'” Fine, quote doctrine, then let the politicians do their jobs. We have just begun to hear from them, via a report that reflects the former Congress, released at the last moment of their reign. There will be much more information to come to light soon. I expect no one to be covered with glory. War is nasty business, and most prefer to avert their eyes.

  • cken

    Why is this a religious issue? Lest we forget the inquisition by the church to root out heretics. Perhaps we should teach that mankind can be cruel and corrupt. Perhaps we should teach our government is cruel and corrupt. Where is the moral lesson in here?

  • Fran


    Yes, I agree with you, that man can be cruel and corrupt, just as man’s governments can and have been in the past.

    That is just one of the reasons why God and his kingdom will soon put an end to all of man’s corrupt governments and to all wicked ones who refuse to change (Daniel 2:44; Psalm 37:10,11).

    A world of meek and caring mankind where there is absolute peace and brotherhood of man can and will be realized, but it will never come true by man; only by God! 😀

  • cken

    Even though it is difficult to foresee, I understand. “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Will this species of mankind ever evolve to that point? Maybe when we realize as Paul said ….God… is through all and within you. Sometimes I think religions only teach God is above all. I know I won’t live to see that day you reference but maybe in the next century or two, one can hope.

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