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CURRENT ISSUE:  July 7, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Governor pledges fight
for health care reforms

New cathedral will include healing garden for abuse survivors
Bishops issue new
study guide on torture

Father Stephan Kappler, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Berkeley, stands on the church steps with parishioners to declare their opposition to torture.
photo courtesy of St. Joseph the Worker Parish

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The dignity and respect of the human person is the cornerstone of the U.S. bishops’ new study guide on torture as a moral issue.

The guide, titled “Torture: Torture Is a Moral Issue, a Catholic Study Guide,” looks at Church teaching as it relates to the use of torture by government authorities around the world and mixes in biblical passages that evoke Jesus’ call to “love your enemies.”

Written by the Catholic Leadership Council within the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the guide is designed for use by discussion groups and classes in Catholic settings as well as individuals, families and others interested in studying the issue.

The guide was introduced June 23 in the midst of Torture Awareness Month as designated by religious, human rights and civil liberties organizations.

“We wanted to have some teaching prepared on what was a timely issue and to reflect our concern for what is happening because there’s been a lot of debate, and put it into a context of overall Catholic social teaching about human rights,” explained Virginia Farris, foreign policy adviser for Eurasia and human rights in the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We felt this was another effort we could make to expand discussion in Catholic settings about a very important issue, and to look at ways to develop a more positive environment whereby the justification for torture is no longer there,” Farris said.

Quoting encyclicals by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI that call for the prohibition of torture, the guide offers a thorough review of Catholic teaching on the topic while giving users action steps as follow-up.
The guide does not just address questions related to U.S. policies in the treatment of detainees in locations around the world, but also raises concerns about the practice of torture and harsh interrogation techniques by more than 150 governments around the world.

The guide is available for downloading on the Web at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/TortureIsAMoralIssueCatholicStudyGuide.pdf.

The 36-page guide cites several international treaties that outlaw torture; they include the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture.

It is divided into four chapters, each focusing on a different topic for discussion and reflection.

Meanwhile, as part of Torture Awareness Month activities, nearly 300 churches and faith communities across the country were joining a public witness concerning torture. About two dozen Catholic parishes and organizations were part of the effort.

Vinyl black-and-white banners bearing messages such as “Torture is wrong” or “Torture is a moral issue” were being displayed throughout June.

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