Skip to content

Another Post on Banning Torture Supporters from Communion

February 11, 2010

It has been clear for some time now that EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo supports torture. Let me rephrase – he supports torture when conducted by the US and when dressed up in Orwellian euphemisms. There was the infamous exchange with Fr. Sirico a while back, when Arroyo and Sirico made jokes about waterboarding, and defended torture if conducted by a competent authority and in case of a “ticking bomb scenario”. Recently, Arroyo invited Marc Thiessen – one of the most public and notorious torture-supporters in the United States – onto his show, not to berate him for supporting an intrinsically evil act, but to actively support his stance (See Kyle’s excellent post showing another case of consequentialism on display on EWTN). And Arroyo is not the only problem – one of EWTN’s supposed experts’ forums offered the following advice: “nobody can suggest that torture is intrinsically evil”. Well, that would be nobody except the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, EWTN.

Anyway, I wrote a post a while back arguing that by the logic of Archbishop Burke and his supporters, if somebody should be denied communion for supporting abortion, then a person should certainly be denied communion for supporting torture, something the Church defines as intrinsically evil and lists right after murder, abortion, and genocide as among the most grave sins. Well, in light of the shocking behavior by a supposedly-Catholic news organization, I think it’s time to dust off that post. The arguments are straightforward, and I will quote Burke directly wherever applicable.

Canon 915 states:

“Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Archbishop Burke lays out the case that it should be applied to Catholic politicians who publicly, after admonition, “continue to support legislation favoring procured abortion and other legislation contrary to the natural moral law.” He claims that the “gravity of the sin of procured abortion and of the sins involved in the commission of other intrinsically evil acts” means that public figures who support such activities meet the standard of “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”. He concludes: “The discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious manner. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under this discipline.”

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

When is somebody going to come out and state the obvious? I’m not personally calling for canonical action against Thiessen, Arroyo, and Sirico, but I am calling for consistency. Archbishop Burke, I think we need to hear from you…

About these ads
41 Comments
  1. February 11, 2010 5:18 pm

    You do well to point out the flaws in the argument here.

    What dismays me most is that people like Arroyo have (well-accepted) platforms to broadcast messages of hatred.

  2. February 11, 2010 5:23 pm

    Yep.

  3. February 11, 2010 5:31 pm

    I’m not a fan of denying communion in general.

    But I do think Thiessen’s waterboarding advocacy (and perhaps Arroyo’s cheerleading of it = “you laid the smack down!) call for some episcopal correction, similar to what was given when Pelosi and Biden were on national TV misrepresenting that Catholic faith.

  4. February 11, 2010 5:36 pm

    Of course, I would like this post a lot more if it were aimed toward getting the record straight on torture an waterboarding, rather than scoring points against Archbishop Burke.

    Personally, I’m much more concerned that the Catholic position on torture be corrected than with consistency. And I think some statement from the bishops in this instance would be quite valuable.

    The bishops should do this because it’s the right thing to do, not in order to satisfy a left-right consistency.

  5. February 11, 2010 6:05 pm

    “ost public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society.”

    What?

  6. February 11, 2010 6:12 pm

    There has been a lot more Catholic tradition on abortion than if Waterbording is torture or not.

    These issues as to torture and what is torture or not is still in in infants stage.

    This reminds of a good Catholic friend of mine that said all people who support the Iraq war should be denied entrance to the Catholic Church. I just shook my head.

    I am pretty sure on issues like abortion etc we have some pretty clear defining lines. On issues of what is torture and the such not so much.

    So no I don’t thing the commenator from EWTN should be denied Communion.

  7. Kevin in Texas permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:14 pm

    MM, I would agree with you on the irresponsibility and outright incorrect moral theology displayed by Arroyo and especially Thiessen on this matter. I would also agree that the torture issue must be discussed and addressed very specifically by Catholic moral theologians, and most especially by the Holy Father and others in the Vatican, as well as even at the parish level by individual priests. They must also address other intrinsic evils like abortion, same-sex “marriage,” cloning, ESCR, and actively promote assent to, and support of, these clear teachings among the lay faithful.

    I’ll even go further, MM, and agree with you about refusing communion to openly dissenting Catholics on all of these issues. It’s clear that this is allowed in Canon law and authority is granted to individual priests and EMHCs to do so. But how do individual priests and bishops know what the communicants really believe? There is no simple and objective standard to go by for guidance here, other than obvious incidents of public Catholics who publicly state their support (or vote for, etc.) for such intrinsic evils. Somehow, though, I sense that many progressives don’t really want or support this, and that they would raise holy hell if it were actually carried out, even if applied equally to all whose actions violate clear Catholic moral teachings.

  8. M.Z. permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:15 pm

    EWTN needs to clearly and unequivocally condemn torture. Spokespeople of the network such as Arroyo need to clearly and unequivocally condemn torture, specifically the torture our government has committed over the past decade.

  9. Tony de New York permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:23 pm

    Torture is wrong and evil, i am from el Salvador and many people were torture and kill during the civil war by the military.

  10. phosphorious permalink
    February 11, 2010 7:46 pm

    I am pretty sure on issues like abortion etc we have some pretty clear defining lines. On issues of what is torture and the such not so much.

    I’m not sure exactly what you are claiming here.

    Are you saying that in the case of abortion, natural reason gives no clear answer as to when human life begins, but the Church has pronounced the revealed truth that it starts at conception. . . whereas in the case of torture, the Church has not spoken authoritatively as to which techniques, exactly, qualify as torture?

    The Church has never mentioned waterboarding by name, and so its true nature, as torture or not, is an impenetrable mystery?

    Please tell me that’s not what you’re arguing. . . .

  11. Frank permalink
    February 11, 2010 8:03 pm

    Re: Torture

    If Arroyo approves it and EWTN– by providing him a platform– approves it then shouldn’t the Catechism of the Catholic Church be updated? Perhaps someone could persuade Michael Novack to advise the Holy Father on this matter?

  12. David Nickol permalink
    February 11, 2010 8:06 pm

    There has been a lot more Catholic tradition on abortion than if Waterbording is torture or not.

    These issues as to torture and what is torture or not is still in in infants stage.

    jh,

    Accepting for the sake of argument that the Catholic position on abortion is crystal clear and goes all the way back to the Didache, nevertheless the Catholic tradition on the obligations how Catholic executives, legislators, and citizens in a pluralistic democracy is in its infant stage, too. (And how old is the “tradition” that the birth control pill is illicit?)

    Quibbles about the definition of torture are so ridiculous they don’t even deserve a response. The fact that this kind of nonsense is coming from a “Catholic” television network is appalling.

  13. February 11, 2010 8:23 pm

    I believe that withholding communion for any reason is wrong: Sick spirit? Sick body? Christ heals.

  14. Kevin permalink
    February 11, 2010 8:45 pm

    I’d like to assume he is doing this out of ignorance or poor formation, but I agree that if he does not recant he should be denied communion.

    His email address is raymond@raymondarroyo.com

  15. Kevin in Texas permalink
    February 11, 2010 9:08 pm

    Rodak, what you say is the case for all Catholics who have no mortal sins on their conscience when they receive Christ in the Eucharist, but no less authorities than St. Paul, St. John Chrysostum, and Pope JP II have expressly denied it in the case of those who approach the Eucharist unworthily:

    1 Corinthians 11: 27-29
    Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

    St. John Chrysostom, in a homily published in The Book of the Prophet Isaiah:
    “I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called “communion,” not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but “condemnation,” “torment” and “increase of punishment”

    Pope JP II, in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
    “The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to the situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who <>.”

    I’m sorry, but there’s just no wiggle room for interpretation on the matter of whether a Catholic can receive the Eucharist when in the state of mortal sin, as would be the case of actively promoting any of the intrinsic evils I stated in my last post. Differences exist at the pastoral level among different bishops and priests in how or whether they choose to enforce Canon law on the matter, but we should harbor absolutely no doubts that receiving the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin is a further mortal sin.

  16. brettsalkeld permalink*
    February 11, 2010 9:20 pm

    I am not a huge fan of withholding communion, but persistence in manifest and public scandal does have to lead to something eventually. Pelosi has had several warnings. Arroyo should start receiving his own warnings ASAP.

    I think the best thing for this situation (especially given that so many of the faithful accept EWTN as an orthodox voice) is something very clear about torture from the bishops, preferably backed by Rome (for those who dismiss national bishops conferences). They should be concrete and specific. If, for example, they don’t say why not to torture in a ‘ticking bomb scenario’ you will still hear this canard floated by those who confuse “common” sense and the gospel.

  17. brettsalkeld permalink*
    February 11, 2010 9:20 pm

    Kevin,
    An e-mail address? Nice. Do we know who his bishop is?

  18. Kevin permalink
    February 11, 2010 10:00 pm

    EWTN is in Huntsville so it would be Birmingham. http://www.bhmdiocese.org/ct.asp

  19. Ronald King permalink
    February 11, 2010 10:01 pm

    Rodak, I am with you. I think that everyone should be free to receive Communion and then let God sort it all out. Actually, denying someone Communion contributes to the misused, misunderstood “culture of death”. To deny anyone Communion who wants Communion because they aren’t a member of the Catholic church is spiritual narcissism. Narcissists have no insight and people are just objects to be labeled as good or bad, useful or not useful, etc.
    It seems that the spritual narcissists have taken over the airwaves. To name homosexuality as a grave sin is a grave sin.
    To promote torture as a supposedly member of the Body of Christ is a grave sin. There is no violence, physical or emotional, in the Body of Christ. Violence is death and Christ is Life!
    MM, this thing just drove me crazy for a minute.

  20. Magdalena permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:16 am

    Actually I am not sure if Mr. Arroyo’s bishop is in Birmingham. I don’t believe he lives there. I think he flies in for the show from elsewhere, so canonically…

    But I think the bishop of Birmingham does generally handle issues that arise with EWTN…

  21. Kevin in Texas permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:21 am

    Arroyo lives in northern Virginia (I’ve met him there), so his bishop is Bishop Loverde of the Arlington diocese, while his studio is at the JP II Cultural Center on the Catholic U campus, so that would fall under Archbishop Wuerl in that case, although he’s also reticent on the Eucharist issue w/ pro-choice politicos, so he may not necessarily be the one to write to first.

    Ronald, indeed if anyone calls same-sex attraction a grave sin, that is wrong theologically. The RC Church does NOT call SSA a grave sin, or even a sin at all. It only calls homosexual acts gravely sinful because they are unnatural. As for your views on the Eucharist being given to anyone, even non-Catholics, do you not believe that it is the body and blood of Christ? For those who do not believe so, they commit sacrilege and mortal sin by receiving unworthily, as my previous post’s quotes clearly point out. Your accusations of spiritual narcissism don’t ring true theologically at all; in fact, they deny clear teachings of Scripture, saints, Church fathers, and the Magisterium itself.

  22. February 12, 2010 12:30 am

    (And how old is the “tradition” that the birth control pill is illicit?)

    I think this example may cut against your argument, David. Contraception was more or less rejected for nearly all of the Church’s history; and it wasn’t until the 1930’s that any Christian denominations formally approved of contraception in limited circumstances. Are you suggesting that because one form of contraception (the pill) came into existence more recently, that therefore the the tradition regarding contraception is recent? Or do you think the Pill is a substantially different type of contraception (morally, rather than physiologically or chemically), and that therefore the Tradition regarding contraception does not really extend to the Pill?

  23. February 12, 2010 1:55 am

    I get the impression that Raymond is a very tech-savvy fellow. Maybe someone could forward this post to him, asking him to comment on his next show, or at least reply here.

  24. February 12, 2010 4:40 am

    Mark 2:17

    And when Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

  25. February 12, 2010 8:31 am

    I am not saying torture is okay, but reading the history of the Catholic Church, it seems that you would have to “deny Communion” to many more people than just Arroyo. We have a very modern sensibility when it comes to the inviolability of one’s personal space. I would only point out that such an understanding is historically conditioned. The opening of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish comes to mind.

    I too have studied the history of Latin America, and know all the various techniques that U.S. operatives trained the natives to do down there to get rid of their “commie problem”. I have no doubt that the left would have done the same if they go into power, but that is neither here nor there. The point is that when dealing with morality, one has to deal with absolutes. Killing a child in her mother’s womb is absolutely wrong, and the testimony of the Magisterium and tradition has been unanimous on this. But torture? That seems something that needs to be discussed. Perhaps our modern sensibility is prepared to excommunicate, but Catholic reason has to actually investigate the question, because there is too much water under the historical bridge (i.e. Dominicans with too much enthusiasm for the rack and the stake).

  26. TimF permalink
    February 12, 2010 9:56 am

    EWTN is not in Huntsville. It’s outside of Birmingham. Irondale, I think.

  27. Kevin in Texas permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:48 am

    Rodak, this is my last post on this. You appear to be side-stepping the obvious issue and implications of your first statement. The answer for one in mortal sin, which we all are at least sometimes, is to approach Christ and ask for forgiveness through sacramental confession. After we’ve done so, we may then worthily receive Christ in the Eucharist.

    This is basic Catholic catechesis, so I’m not sure why it’s confusing to Catholics.

  28. February 12, 2010 10:54 am

    I don’t like the idea of withholding communion either, but I do think that public (and private) reprimands are in order.

    And I had this guy (Arroyo) as my commencement speaker in undergrad. Yucky.

  29. Ronald King permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:58 am

    Kevin, It is spiritual narcissism when people say they have the fullness of the truth and hold themselves superior to others who do not have the fullness of the truth. It is impossible for the human mind to know the truth. The human mind believes it knows the truth, but, what is the truth? Isn’t the truth constantly being revealed if we are open rather than closed?
    How do you know homosexual acts are unnatural if the act is a natural consequence of some unknown traumatic factor in one’s genetic history or social history resulting in sexual desire for the same sex? To use another as a sexual object and have the position of power to do that in a relationship would be a grave sin. The intent is everything. To repress the sexual drive for the purpose of celibacy is an unnatural act since it goes against the nature of God’s creation. As a result there seems to be

  30. David Nickol permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:58 am

    It seems to me that to even begin to justify withholding communion from an advocate of torture (in a case like this), he would have to be spoken to by a bishop and told he was in error. If he persisted in the error, that is when the bishop should think about some kind of disciplinary action or the withholding of communion.

    On the other hand, it’s one thing to hold or advocate a political position in the political arena. It is quite another thing to be broadcasting it over a Catholic television network. It might make sense to simply deny the person the right to speak as a Catholic on these matters, in much the same way as Curran and Kung lost their right to teach in Catholic institutions, but did not lose their right to express themselves altogether.

  31. Ronald King permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:16 am

    Kevin, It is spiritual narcissism when people say they have the fullness of the truth and hold themselves superior to others who do not have the fullness of the truth. It is impossible for the human mind to know the truth. The human mind believes it knows the truth, but, what is the truth? Isn’t the truth constantly being revealed if we are open rather than closed?
    How do you know homosexual acts are unnatural if the act is a natural consequence of some unknown traumatic factor in one’s genetic history or social history resulting in sexual desire for the same sex? To use another as a sexual object and have the position of power to do that in a relationship would be a grave sin. The intent is everything. To repress the sexual drive for the purpose of celibacy is an unnatural act since it goes against the nature of God’s creation. As a result there seems to be a lack of proper understanding about the dynamics of developing sexuality and intimacy. How can anyone understand love without being in a passionate relationship with another and experience the loss of that love? How can a celibate person know the feeling of passion and be comfortable with that passion without feeling and expressing it with another? How can anyone be comfortable with being vulnerable without risking the humiliation of rejection over and over again until love is found?
    Torture can only occur if someone is defended against love.
    Now Communion. My daughter took a course in international law a few years ago at a university near Rome. She was not Catholic at the time. She was agnostic like me. She visited St. Peter’s with a Catholic friend and also went to Mass. She decided to receive Communion since nobody knew her there. It was a totally innocent act. After that she began to soften and the sound of her voice was beautiful. Ash Wednesday two years ago she called to tell us that she was going to be Catholic. We never suggested to her to do this. We live 3,000 miles apart. She stated that she loved the mystery and depth of Catholicism. The Eucharist opened her to that Mystery. Now she is distressed as am I and her mom by the hardness and seems overwhelmed by the darkness being presented to the world by the voices in America who have gained access to the airwaves.

  32. February 12, 2010 1:16 pm

    What needs to be “discussed”? Like, maybe we should put a clause in there that says torture is intrinsically evil unless the Church did/does it?

    No, we must say that torture is intrinsically evil and the Church has engaged in intrinsically evil acts.

  33. alex martin permalink
    February 12, 2010 3:58 pm

    I am waiting for a Bishop to say something on the matter. It’d be very nice to hear.

  34. February 12, 2010 4:22 pm

    Kevin in Texas:

    I’m not a Catholic. And the closed communion is one reason that I’m not.

  35. Kurt permalink
    February 12, 2010 4:54 pm

    Rodak,

    Our Church is deeply harmed by some loud but minority voices.

    If I can share with you how one bishop explained this Catholic practice to me, you might take less offense from it. The Church feels no scandal for a baptized Christian not fully a member of the Catholic Church recieveing communion. We beleive the Eucharist is the Body of Christ. While He was on Earth, His Body touched tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners of every kind. That His Body would touch a sincere Protestant does not worry us.

    The Church does not invite those outsite of full Communion to the Eucharist. The key word is invite. If they come without an invitation, so be it. But just as only a rude host would invite you to one course of a dinner party, the Church feels it cannot invite someone just to the Eucharist. The invitation is to a fullness of life in Jesus Christ and full communion with the Catholic Church. Our liturgy could make that point better — we don’t have altar calls like some communities. But nevertheless, that is the foundational principle.

  36. Kevin in Texas permalink
    February 12, 2010 5:32 pm

    Rodak, I didn’t realize that, so my apologies for assuming that you were Catholic.

    Like Kurt said above, the Church does not invite non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist, but if they do, it may not necessarily be a sin, esp. if they have no awareness of the distinctiveness of Catholic Eucharistic practices. Ronald, this would be the situation when your daughter received the Eucharist in Rome. If she didn’t know better, then no sin was committed. Of course God is omnipotent and all-merciful, and His Grace is boundless, so it’s not limited to the Catholic sacraments. I certainly wouldn’t ever doubt that the Holy Spirit opened her heart and soul to accept the fullness of the Catholic faith, and who knows if that was through the reception of the Eucharist or through other means? The most important thing, and that for which we can be thankful, is that she did receive tremendous graces and come into the Church.

  37. February 12, 2010 6:16 pm

    Thanks, Kurt–
    I appreciate your generosity of spirit.

  38. Claessens1 permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:06 am

    For what its worth, Arroyo’s bishop:
    Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde
    200 North Glebe Road, Ste 914
    Arlington, Va, 22203-3728
    Phone 703-841-2500

Trackbacks

  1. Catholic advocacy of torture: a teaching moment for the Catholic bishops? » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog
  2. Catholic advocacy of torture: a teaching moment for the Catholic bishops? « The American Catholic
  3. Moral Kabuki: Torture, EWTN and the Devil : Aprehendite disciplinam

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 860 other followers

%d bloggers like this: