Saturday, November 15, 2008

The sin of subjectivity

I have been grappling with news stories lately discussing how some Catholic Bishop's are condemning Catholics who voted for Obama. What bothers me is not their stand on the moral issue of abortion but their lack of outrage over other issues that, in my opinion, are as equally morally repugnant. To say don't vote Democrat because of abortion is to say vote Republican because their moral values are better. "Well at least they don't promote killing unborn babies" goes the argument, so as long as they oppose abortion everything is all right in the eyes of these Bishops. Case in point:

The Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its interrogators working abroad would not violate U.S. prohibitions against torture unless they "have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," according to a previously secret Justice Department memo released Thursday. The interrogator's "good faith" and "honest belief" that the interrogation will not cause such suffering protects the interrogator, the memo adds. "Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture," Jay Bybee, then the assistant attorney general, wrote in the memo.

How this type of logic works:
  • Define “severe” – if it is not legally defined in this context then it becomes subjective.
  • Define “pain” – since pain is relative to the individual, it cannot be quantified.
  • Define “suffering” –how does “x” compare with “y”
All the interrogator needs to show is that he or she did not believe that the pain from the torture was severe and that the suffering was not even close to what has been done in the past or might have been done by another method. (you know, a kinder, gentler, machine gun type of thing)

“My intent, your Honor, was to gain information, not inflict pain or suffering. It was my honest belief that what we were doing did not meet the definition of severe pain or suffering.”

Let’s see if this holds true in other situations:

“My intent, your Honor, was to enjoy time with my friends, not to get drunk. It was my honest belief that I was not legally drunk when I drove home.”

“My intent, your Honor, was to shoot him four to five times, not to kill him. It was my honest belief that he would recover from the bullet wounds I inflicted.”

“My intent, your Honor, was to stop my wife from leaving me, not to beat her up. It was my honest belief that I was only defending myself when she tried to get away.”

“Why yes Jesus, I am going to throw the first stone. I had no intent on sinning when I slept with my neighbor’s wife and it was my honest belief that my doing so technically do not violate any of your ten commandments since I did not feel blameworthy desire for her nor did I wish for her longingly.”


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