Torture and Corporal Punishment


I understand the Church’s teaching on torture. However, I think non-lethal corporal punishment would result in a good things for the Church (especially given the ongoing clergy scandals) and for society at large (a better alternative to the prison-industrial complex, which breeds hatred, fear, violence, and despair).

Obviously, anything that puts the individual being punished at risk of death or grave bodily harm is beyond the pale. But force is a universal currency, and the threat of pain and humiliation should be an effective deterrent. It worked for hundreds of years; only in recent decades have we taken the Benjamin Spock approach to criminal treatment, and it hasn’t worked.

The punishments I had in mind include, but are not limited to:

  1. Beatings with rubber hoses
  2. Time in the stocks, and having rotten food thrown at you
  3. A paddlin’


Here’s a very in-depth treatment of this topic in two parts by Fr. Brian Harrison:


Part I. The Witness of Sacred Scripture

Part II. The Witness of Tradition and Magisterium

To sum up, infliction of physical pain by lawful public authority as a punishment for a crime already committed is not intrinsically evil, but excluding it is likely a practical consequence in current circumstances.

On the other hand, inflicting physical pain by one without authority, to frighten opponents or satisfy hatred, or to coerce the will or extract confessions (what the word “torture” generally entails), are unjust.


How about this getting out of hand, it has happened before? Who are we torturing here? Priests? The “'prison-industrial complex” is a result of “getting tough” on crime even though it has been on a substantial decrease since 1990. It involves putting people jail for being addicts, they need help not prison, who come out not being able to get a job; a prime situation for increased crime or addiction. It is the profitable “leasing out” prisoners to do work for pennies on the hour. It is for profit prisons.


My point exactly. Punish, then release. End the war on drugs and stop putting people in prisons for nonviolent offenses. Save prison for the terrorists, murderers, rapists, and thieves (including white collar).


You want to punish addicts?
And oh my gosh, just no on the whole thing.
I take it that you have never been a victim of physical violence. Which is what you are approving of essentially. You may call it “corporal punishment,” but it is the same thing as physical violence.


The stocks may appear to be a comparatively benign punishment for miscreants, especially at our remove of several centuries, but I can assure you that such was not the case. Rotten food was by no means the only projectile lobbed at the criminal. Rocks, bricks and sharp implements were often employed as missiles, and the resulting injuries, up to and including the loss of one or both eyes, were no joke. In addition, anyone unfortunate enough to be stocked overnight, particularly in wintertime, faced the unenviable probability of frostbite, or even death from exposure. Not the most pleasant of prospects, surely.


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