Is torture ever morally acceptable?

I know killing is acceptable sometimes (Just War, Principle of Double Effect, etc.). According to Catholic morality, is torture ever justified (i.e. to save 1000 people)?

On the surface I would say no with several provisos. It would be much less serious spiritually than the mortal sin involved in inflicting torture on someone. That’s assuming that the 1000 people are bound for heaven but sadly that is probably not the case. 1000 holy people dying physically is not necessarily a big deal if you believe in eternal life. 1000 unrepentent sinners dying is a tragety.

Submitting to torture and death to save 1000s or 1 soul would be saintly.

God thought it would be more acceptable for His Son to be tortured and killed than untold billions of people to die spiritually eternally!

Never. Torture is never acceptable.

Torture would be and is a grave moral evil. I would have no hesitation in describing it as a grievously mortal sin.

As a tactic of war it would be unreliable anyway, since people generally under such duress would say whatever it was that they thought their torturers wanted to hear, thus anything gleaned under such abhorrent conditions could never be considered reliable intelligence.

It’s relative. In the first instance you would have to give your definition of torture and it would, in all probablity, be different to other peoples. Then you would have to give an example of possible outcomes. That is, why is it being done.

Would you put a child on the rack to find out where he’s hidden your keys?

Would you make a terrorist watch Adam Sandler films constantly in order to save all American citizens from nuclear holocaust?

Torture is a no-no.

Defining what constitutes torture is where we have trouble agreeing.

Many oppose sleep drepravation and loud music on the basis that they are torture. Yet, as a former military pilot, we endured both from our own government in preparation for combat and various flying missions.

So is it the act itself, or the motivation? We underwent the procedures to prepare us for a possible incident.

Obviously I don’t see either as torture. The most dicey example often foisted for discussion is water boarding.

What even constitutes torture?

The days of electrocutions and head-crushers are gone. At most, what liberal critics call torture is no more than temporary physical distress. And that is pretty much inevitable Inman interrogatory context.

Before we can say that something is wrong, we have to agree on what it is.


Google “Abu Gharib + photos”

I hope that’s not “inevitable” in any interrogation.

From the CCC:

**2313 **Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.

If you follow the above, it is unlikely you will ever be guilty of torture.

A terrorist hides an atomic bomb in the sewers of a major city. It has a 3 hour fuse, set 20minutes ago. You have the terrorist in custody. When asked where he hid the bomb…he smirks and says, “I forgot.”

I will torture him to find out where he hid it, and feel no remorse about doing so, nor will I think for an instant about my salvation for doing so. Heck, I’d hook parts of his anatomy up to a car battery in a heartbeat if I though it’d make him talk.

Heck, I’d condemn as heartless the folks who wouldn’t use all means, fair or foul, to find the bomb’s location.

As usual, hard fast moral laws often have a way of being awfully harsh when seen in the cold light of reality.

That pretty much sums it up.

I suspect I would do that too. In practice, I’m not sure that I would actually do that, you just never know.

The Church says that the ends do not justify the means. Also, I subscribe to the categorical imperative. That’s what makes this so darn tricky, because I nevertheless feel like I would act to the contrary in the scenario you provide.

“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.”

In the example by PolarGuy with the atomic bomb hiding terrorist, he would use physical or moral violence against the terrorist to extract information about the whereabouts of the atomic bomb. He would not use the physical or moral violence to extract a confession (he probably would not care about any confession at all under the circumstance), punish the terrorist (neither intent nor is it punishment as it is not dependent on making up for the crime, but simply stops after the information is given and confirmed), frighten opponents (no intent to frighten the terrorist because he is an opponent) or satisfy hatred (PolarGuy might be in danger of hating atomic bomb hiding terrorist, but its not motive for the action in the example).

Hence, we are a bit at a loss, whether the CCC definition of torture also includes physical or moral violence to extrect information necessary to prevent a crime.

As a strong indication that such action cannot generally be condemned is that its often used in law enforcement.E.g. criminal A has information about criminal B, which police is more interested in. Police then often gives A the choice of either cooperating and receiving a lesser sentence or not cooperating and a more serious sentence. Since being imprisoned is physical and moral violence, the police in such case uses the threat of physical or moral violence to make A give information. Since nobody sees a problem with that kind of coercion, one cannot generally condem more extreme forms in more extreme circumstances without any throughful analysis.

Furthermore, the threat of physical violence to make someone else do something is often moral.

E.g. cop sees a potential criminal on the verge of entering someone else property and carrying a gun. The cop would immidiately aim his own gun at the potential criminal and threaten to shoot if he doesnt drop the gun.

In that case, the cop threatens physical violence to coerce someone (who btw might actually be innocent, maybe its the property owner who carries his gun, because he assumes there is some invader on his property) to do something. However one defines torture and condemns it always or in specific circumstances, it should not at the same time condemn a cop using his gun to threaten someone to drop his weapon.

Categorical imperative, at least in my understanding, does not forbid “torture”, because i see no fundamental problem with a universal law “Criminals must offer any information necessary to prevent further damage from their crimes to the legal authorities, otherwise the authorities may use any proportinate means to force them to offer the information.”

Also the golden rule is naught, if you ever find me planting atomic bombs in civilian areas, give me one chance to give all information and otherwise start waterboarding immidieately and some other persons should meanwhile look up how thumbscrews work in case waterboarding is not sufficient.

Furthermore, in many legal systems it can be a crime under certain circumstances to be silent or offer false information as a witness in court. In such circumstances the witness, which often would be an innocent person, is threaten with physical and moral violence (imprisonement is that) to talk and give correct information.

And i know how to dance around all the examples i have given for legal coercion, its by redifining what violence is and claiming that imprisonement and cops drawing their guns have nothing to do with violence. But that is in my eyes a dishonest reinterpretation of words.

The CCC is as far as i can say silent about the use of violence to force someone to give information, which is necessary to save lives.

The CCC only outright condems torture which uses violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty (here i would be curious - why is imprisonement still ok?), frighten opponents or satisfy hatred.

If I was organising a terrorist attack, then I’d make sure that the guy who planted the bomb was a masochist.

I agree with you. Especially after finding out the truth about 911. I was military (army) at one time and a ‘true patriot.’ When I came across the site, Architects and Engineers for 911 truth, I about wanted to throw up. It completedly changed my entire world view and I NEVER thought that would happen. Again, I was a true blue patriot in the world eyes. I still am, but not with the same idealistic, noneducated thought process.

I don’t read about torture in the Beatitudes. Christ was tortured - He was not the one who tortured.

Justin Martyrs first apology to the senate in Rome also touches on this. Those Christians ‘joyfully’ accepted their fate at the hands of the Romans, but at the same time he asked Rome to not kill them. That was a strong faith they had for Martyr to use such a word in his apology.

I urge everyone to go to AE911truth. You may not like what you learn, but shifts in thoughts patterns are seldom easy.


Arguments regarding the efficiency/success rate of “torture” cannot establish that “torture” is intrinsically evil. Furthermore, the succes rate might be different today from what it was 500 years ago to what it will be in 500 years, so its even only a temporary argument.

Similar weakness of your argument, if the US government is a cruel regime ready to sacrifice thousands of its citizens for a false flag operation, this can only show that the current US government should not be trusted with using “torture” (or having a police force, control of justice system, having a military force, being in control of trillions of taxpayer money, …), but it is no argument against “torture” itself (or police, justice system, military, taxes, …).

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