Via Media

According to this poll, Catholics approve of torture in higher proportion than the general public does.

“This may be a reaction to 9/11, the horrible loss of life and the atrocities of those acting in the name of Islam,” says Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., member of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy. “Some people feel the situation is out of control. They feel a vulnerability and a temptation to respond in kind. We have to resist that.”

A survey by the Pew Research Center in October showed that 15 percent of Americans believe torture is “often” justified, and another 31 percent believe it is “sometimes” justified. Add to that another 17 percent who said it is “rarely” justified, and you have two out of three Americans justifying torture under certain circumstances. Only 32 percent said it is “never” justified, while another 5 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

But the portion of Catholics who justify torture is even higher, according to the survey. Twenty-one percent of Catholics surveyed said it is “often” justified and 35 percent said it is “sometimes” justified. Another 16 percent said it is “rarely” justified, meaning that nearly three of four Catholics justify it under some circumstances. Four percent of Catholics “didn’t know” or refused to answer and only 26 percent said it is “never” justified, which is the official teaching of the church.

(Whatever "Catholic" means in this survey – self-identified, practicing, weekly Mass-goers. Not evident from the data).

Distressing. And, one is tempted to say in regard to the Church’s catechetical efforts, the same thing that one wag rhetorically remarked to Woody Allen’s longtime psychotherapist after he married his adopted daughter: "Good job!"

But, my cycnical self says – this survey trumpeted in NCR(eporter) with the implication being that there is a failure here – a failure to communicate the teachings of the Church.

However, when NCR(eporter) does surveys that suggest that large proportions of American Catholics, have, shall we say, a "nuanced" view of abortion, the implied conclusion in those reports is not that the Church has failed to teach and support those truths, but that the Church needs to catch up with the sensus fidelium and get with the program and be where the people are.

Funny how that works.

(And, to be fair, the other "side" does it as well, particularly in regard to, say, economic issues.)

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