WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace said acts of torture outlined in a Senate Intelligence Committee report “violated the God-given human dignity inherent in all people and were unequivocally wrong.”
Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, also called on President Barack Obama to strengthen the legal prohibitions against torture “to ensure that this never happens again.”
The bishop joined several religious leaders who condemned the use of torture by the CIA after Democrats in the Senate released a 500-page executive summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence findings Dec. 9. The full 6,000-page report remains classified.
The comments were provided by the Washington-based National Religious Campaign Against Torture after the report became public.
The intelligence committee began investigating the CIA’s treatment of detainees in the so-called war on terror almost six years ago. Committee members adopted the report in 2012 and agreed to release it in April, but Senate Democrats waited eight months to do so.
The report slammed U.S. tactics, which critics have described as torture, used against detainees. It said some of the tactics were more brutal than first described, produced little information that prevented an attack and often resulted in “fabricated” information.
Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, said she was appalled by the “lack of moral integrity of a nation and individuals who justify the use of torture in the name of national security.” She called the actions by the CIA a “travesty of justice and a flagrant violation of human rights, with no reverence for the dignity of human life.”
Gerry Lee, executive director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, said the report should drive Congress to enact new laws to permanently prevent the use of torture.
“Maryknoll missioners have very often served in communities alongside torture survivors, and some have experienced torture themselves,” he said. “As Christians, they know that it is horrific, dehumanizing behavior and its use must be stopped immediately.”
Scott Wright, director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, said torture is never justified, adding that the report “makes very clear that crimes were committed, laws were broken and lies were told to the American people by our government. We must never as a nation go down that path again.”
The acts of torture described in the report “are not just horrific,” but also represent a “brutal violation of our country’s most basic values,” said Matt Hawthorne, policy director for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
With the report’s release, the U.S. can begin healing “from self-inflicted spiritual wounds,” he said.
“The revelations about the use of torture have been a source of torture to many of us,” said Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America. “We had taken pride in the fact that we have left behind many societies where it was a norm and that we had chosen to be part of a nation that prided itself on its belief in human dignity and human rights.”
The Rev. Susan T. Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, concluded that the report’s findings “shock the conscience.” She called for actions that respect life as a gift from God in condemning any government-sanctioned practices that violate moral teachings.
The Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches, said he was grieved that “in our name others were tortured.”
“May God give us the moral courage to never again betray the core principles that have guided our nation as a leader in the struggle for human rights,” he added.
In a Dec. 10 statement, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns said the fact that such “reprehensible acts were done in our name should shock the conscience of every U.S. American.”
“The report clearly documents that these immoral techniques often failed to generate intelligence or produced false information,” it said, adding that “the intelligence ultimately provided could have been acquired by lawful means.”
“The CIA misled both Congress and certain members of the Bush administration in order to obtain approval for its torture program,” the statement added.
“Maryknoll missioners often have served in communities alongside torture survivors, and several have experienced dehumanizing torture themselves,” it said. “We acknowledge the suffering of those who were the victims of this torture program and their families, we apologize for our complacency, and we denounce the use of torture as barbaric and wrong.”
In 2008, the U.S. bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace and the Catholic members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture developed a study guide titled “Torture Is a Moral Issue,” which examines torture “within the larger context of Catholic social teaching in an era of globalization.” The document is available on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, www.usccb.org.
“Two basic convictions” shaped the study guide, says the introduction. “First, that torture is a moral issue, one that deserves to be understood and addresses by Christians. Second, that an atmosphere of fear and desperation within society opens the door to the torture and abuse of prisoners, but that there is much Christians can do to help create a new atmosphere within society — an atmosphere in which respect for human dignity rules the day.”