Four Catholic Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, voted to support the cruel prolongation of imprisonment without trial for 6 Bosnian men seized from their homes and imprisoned for six years with no opportunity to see the evidence against them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the lone Catholic in the majority, wrote the passionate ruling that condemned President Bush for his short-sightedness and heartlessness in rendering the treatment these prisoners have received. What could more thoroughly violate our Christianity than this total lack of empathy for these men, and the inability to put one's self in another's shoes?
On Thursday the Supreme court ruled 5-4 to allow the inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, access to US courts in order to contest their confinement. They were viewed as being so dangerous that they were placed in solitary confinement, denied access to family or lawyers for years, and in some instances force-fed to keep them alive. Many have been tortured.
Now that federal courts have been opened to them, it is likely that most, if not all, will eventually go free. Coerced confessions cannot be the basis for conviction in a US court, so the Bush strategy of torturing detainees into making various kinds of admissions will turn out to have made the US dramatically less safe. Even the most egregious among them, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, may ultimately have to be set free because the evidence he provided will be excluded based on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Indeed, the Fifth Amendment was written precisely to prevent the kind of torture-ridden interrogations upon which the Bush people have so inhumanely relied. One must assume that if the Administration had convincing evidence of their guilt, the criminal proceedings would have been long-over by now.
Having been so unjustly imprisoned, tortured, isolated and force-fed all these years, would it be any surprise if many of these individuals choose to enlist themselves as combatants against the US once they are ultimately released? It is human nature to return the hatred that has been shown to them. There will be some in Congress who will say, "See, we should have kept them locked up in order to protect ourselves." But the Way of Jesus suggests that had we simply treated them with respect from the beginning, as our Constitution compels us to treat all prisoners in the US, they may well have left US custody with a new respect for Americans--or been rightly convicted of the crimes with which they may have been charged.
"Love your enemies" was the advice that our Lord and Savior gave us, and we ignore it at our own great peril. The Supreme Court has brought a measure of dignity back to the judicial proceedings of our nation, which reflect so directly on each of us. Time will harshly judge these four Catholic Justices who once again abandoned the principles of our Catholic faith out of their personal ideological conviction. 13 June 2008