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Pictures speak 1000 words

By Fr. William F. Maestri
Director of Communication
Archdiocese of New Orleans

Catholicism and Culture: Pictures speak a 1000 words

One picture is worth a thousand words. The visual grabs us at the visceral level. Words confront the intellect. Pictures force us to look at raw reality. Notice how those who are anti-life never want to confront the pictures of abortion. Pro-abortion groups would rather debate than look, get lost in verbiage than confront the visual.

A new set of pictures has emerged to trouble our consciences. It is hard to look at the photographs of Iraqi prisoners being abused, humiliated, and tortured. Such repulsive behavior demands universal condemnation. It is not simply against the law, the Code of Military Conduct, and various international treaties. What has occurred at Abu Ghraib Prison is a direct attack on basic human rights. It is a violation of the eternal, divine, natural, and positive laws. There is something deeper than a reckless disregard for policy and practice by our military. This is an affront to human dignity. A prisoner does not cease being endowed by the Creator with inalienable human rights. To abuse those in captivity is also dehumanization of those who engage in such behavior.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a basic teaching about terrorism and torture. Under the section on “Respect for the Dignity of Persons” we read: “Terrorism which threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately is gravely against justice and charity.” (No. 2297) As to the issue of torture, we read: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confession, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” (No. 2297) It is clear from these words that terrorism and torture are grave moral wrongs. They must be condemned by every nation and individual.

More than condemnation is required. It is a time for accountability and rededication. Today we often look to complex systems to explain human (or inhuman) behavior. Certainly there must be a hard analysis of our military procedures in dealing with prisoners. However, individual responsibility and accountability can never be ignored. Individual leaders must render an account of their stewardship. To whom much is given, much is expected. It is not a time for political posturing, but it is a time for those entrusted with promoting our values to be answerable.

It is time for rededication to the truths of the civilization of life and love. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II has called for the culture of death to be replaced by the civilization of life and love. Terrorism and torture promote the cycles of death which are too much with us. When we attack and disvalue life at its edges, abortion and euthanasia, there is a creeping disrespect for all human life.

During this difficult time, people of faith must turn to prayer. We must pray for the gift of peace, for those who are the victims of war, for those who are tormented; and we must pray for their tormentors. The need to respect all human life must be acknowledged in word and deed.


Archdiocese of New Orleans  LA, US
Fr. William Maestri - Dir. of Communication, 504 596-3023



pictures of Iraq prison

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