Cicero was faced with a choice: Do I break the law, or do I let Catiline and his friends make a coup d’etat? When he saved the republic by breaking the law, he had every reason to believe that he would never face prosecution for his deed. The traditional Roman attitude had been to look the other way when some savior of the city cut legal corners.Keep in mind, however, that Cicero was a man of high ethical standards. He was one of the most notable moralists of the ancient world: see, for example, his work De Oficiis (On Duties). It is one thing for a good man to feel that he has a license to break the rules; it is something else for a bad man to feel he has that license.
ARROYO: Many people will then come in and say, “Wait a minute, but they’re against torture, and they’re for immigration…” These are all prudential judgments, as opposed to this abortion question…
SIRICO: Which is intrinsically…
ARROYO: …Which is always gravely evil.
SIRICO [simultaneously]: …intrinsically evil.
ARROYO: And how is it defined by the Church?
SIRICO: There’s a difference between something that is intrinsically, by its nature, evil and something that may be problematic, depending on certain circumstances, that requires prudential judgment.
SIRICO: Waterboarding, which doesn’t sound like very plea– I know that I was threatened with that earlier in the evening… [laughs]ARROYO: No, I said I wouldn’t waterboard you!SIRICO: Well, actually I’m from Brooklyn.SIRICO: Um… My understanding is that a lot of intelligence officers have been through this, if you’ve ever known anybody who’s been in the SEALs, as I have, they have been through sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and other things. So I think you have to make those distinctions. You also have to make a distinction with regard to ethics and morality, and a distinction with regard to legality and effectiveness. You know what I think would be very helpful, is if we took and adapted some principles of the just war theory and applied it to aggressive interrogation techniques. So it would be a matter of the competent authority; it would be a matter of the proportion. I would also add immediacy, because what makes it urgent to resort to real physical agression is whether there’s a ticking bomb, or there’s a kid in storage who’s going to suffocate.
2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong.Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizationsperformed on innocent persons are against the moral law.2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.
Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature "incapable of being ordered" to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed "intrinsically evil" (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exists acts whichper se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object." The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator.
22. There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.
23. Similarly, direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.
In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances”Nathan O'Halloran, SJ