A Verdict for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Perhaps for the Death Penalty in America

It was no surprise that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on all 30 counts in the Boston Marathon Bombing trial yesterday; in their opening statement his attorneys conceded his guilt in the April 2013 horror at the finish line. Now the penalty phase—deliberations which will determine whether Tsarnaev, 19 at the time of his crimes, will face execution or life behind bars—will begin as early as next week. Massachusetts bars the use of capital punishment, but Tsarnaev has been tried in a federal court. Seventeen of the crimes he has been convicted of—which include the 2013 Marathon bomb attacks themselves that claimed three lives, wounding 260 others, and the murder of a police officer days later in a chaotic attempt to escape the city—are eligible for capital punishment.

His jury will begin hearing testimony aimed at deciding Tsarnaev’s fate next week, but Massachusetts Catholic bishops have already indicated where they stand on the matter. “The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent.’ The Church’s teaching is further developing in recognition of the inherent dignity of all life as a gift from God,” the state’s bishops, including Boston’s Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM, Cap., wrote in a statement released on April 6.

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The statement continues: “The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm. Because of this, we…believe that society can do better than the death penalty. As the Bishops of the United States said in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, ‘no matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.’ We believe these words remain true today in the face of this most terrible crime.”

The Massachusetts bishops' rejection of the use of capital punishment follows in a recent line of public statements from Catholic global and national leaders moving the church farther from the notion that the death penalty is ever an appropriate punishment in a free society.

On March 20 Pope Francis bluntly denounced capital punishment as "unacceptable" regardless of the seriousness of the crime of the condemned.

Pope Francis had met that day with a delegation from the International Commission Against the Death Penalty and issued a letter urging the worldwide abolition of capital punishment. He called capital punishment "cruel, inhumane and degrading,” adding, “as is the anxiety that precedes the moment of execution and the terrible wait between the sentence and the application of the punishment, a 'torture' which, in the name of a just process, usually lasts many years and, in awaiting death, leads to sickness and insanity.”

Noting that “human justice is imperfect," Pope Francis said the death penalty "does not bring justice to the victims, but only foments revenge.” In a modern "state of law,” he added, “the death penalty represents a failure” because it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice. 

In a statement released on March 31, 400 Catholic and other Christian leaders denounced the use of capital punishment in the United States. “Torture and execution is always a profound evil, made even more abhorrent when sanctioned by the government in the name of justice when other means of protecting society are available," the statement read. "All who reverence the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, must never remain silent when firing squads, lethal injections, electric chairs and other instruments of death are viewed as morally acceptable.”

The statement—coordinated by the group Faith in Public Life and signed by three retired Catholic bishops, death penalty abolition advocate Sister Helen Prejean, and another dozen or so women religious, hundreds of clergy and academics as well as other Christian leaders, urged governors, prosecutors, judges and "anyone entrusted with power to do all that they can to end a practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration.”

On March 5, a rare joint editorial by four national Catholic publications—including America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor—called for "our nation to embody its commitment to the right to life by abolishing the death penalty once and for all.”

The ghoulish return of firing squads in Utah as an acceptable form of state-administered justice was quickly condemned by the states Catholic bishop. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert reinstated execution by firing squad for those convicted of capital crimes on March 25. Utah’s lawmakers argued they needed a backup method of capital punishment if drugs used in lethal injection were not available. (There is a critical shortage of lethal drugs for executions and their use in carrying out the death penalty has become more controversial after recent botched executions.)

But by resurrecting firing squads in Utah, "it seems as if our government leaders have substituted state legislation for the law of God," said Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester. “[The legislators] argue that, because executions are lawful, they are then moral. This is not so. No human law can trump God's law," Bishop Wester said in a March 24 statement. "Taking a human life is wrong; a slap in the face of hope and a blasphemous attempt to assume divine attributes that we humble human beings do not have.”

Bishop Wester argued, “The real issue here is the death penalty itself" because "only God can give and take life. 

"By taking a life, in whatever form the death penalty is carried out, the state is usurping the role of God. Execution does violence to God's time, eliminating the opportunity for God's redemptive and forgiving grace to work in the life of a prisoner.” Utah is now the only state that has the firing squad as a method of execution.

It has been almost 70 years since the last execution in Massachusetts, and 18 years since its state legislature was one vote away from restoring the death penalty after public outcry over the murder of a 10-year-old Cambridge boy. Though 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2013 Pew study, say they support the death penalty—including 59 percent of white Catholics—that's a sharp decline from a high of 78 percent who supported it in 1996.

Across the United States enthusiasm for the use of the death penalty has diminished  as “humane” methods of execution persist in misfiring and miscarriages of justice accumulate. If the members of the Tsarnaev jury conclude they cannot apply the death penalty—even in this heinous crime—it could be another signal that this peculiar criminal justice institution in the United States may be reaching a historic end.

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Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Sean Cardinal Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap, states that “The Church has taught that the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are ‘rare, if not practically nonexistent’”, referencing St. John Paul II’s prudential judgment regarding one of the four reasons in the Church’s teaching that a punishment may be levied - to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor - summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church at 2267. And indeed Pope Francis bluntly denounced capital punishment as "unacceptable" regardless of the seriousness of the crime of the condemned. However, since the ordinary and unchangeable teaching - not personal opinion of the Holy Father, or prudential judgment of the Cardinal or the bishops of Massachusetts - of the Church found in the Catechism at 2266 is that “Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.”, which is the basis for all punishments of crimes, it is the public authority’s duty to accomplish the levying of punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. The jury will proceed to hear testimony aimed at accomplishing that. A prejudgment would require the jury to disregard the requirements of the natural law for any legitimate state to be impartial and just. A good end cannot be accomplished by an evil act. Once that is done, should the jury find that a death penalty is proportionate punishment, then the Holy Father, Sean Cardinal Patrick O'Malley, the bishops of Massachusetts, and any other interested parties may petition the executive - in this case the President of the United States - to grant pardon, commutation, or other relief in mercy. Anglo-American jurisprudence separates justice and mercy, justice being blind, impartial, and fair, mercy being personal, more or less than justice, and partial.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

You should revisit the catechism and not just hack off a piece of it:
 

2267    Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. (2306)

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
I not only did not hack off a piece of it, I specifically mentioned 2267. 2266 precedes it. It precedes it because the natural law requirement for a proportionate punishment, the levying of which is a duty of the legitimate public authority, has to be accomplished before other considerations, such as the defending human lives against an unjust aggressor, are made. Defending human lives is not the primary reason for levying punishments. Proportionate punishment is the basic requirement of criminal justice in the natural law, and in Catholic teaching. In addition, whether those conditions “are very rare, if not practically non-existent” is a prudential judgment, one which belongs to the competent authority based on conditions at a particular time in a particular place, not to Sean Cardinal Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap, not to the bishops of Massachusetts, and not to the Holy Father. It might be true in one place but not another. It might true today but not tomorrow. As a result that prudential judgment is not a teaching, which Sean Cardinal Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap, mistakenly called it. Teachings do not change with time and place. In the levying of a punishment, as in the case of your personal defense against an attacker, only sufficient means to stop the attack are moral. However, even if the criminal does not represent a threat to human life, the death penalty may be levied because no other punishment would be just. Had St John Paul II meant otherwise, he would have excised most of 2266. He did not because he could not. The content of 2266 reflects the Church’s constant teaching based on Scriptures and the natural law and therefore cannot be repealed. This was thoroughly hashed out in the comments on the ill-advised March 5 editorial in America, which comments well documented the actual unchangeable teaching of the Church. However, for quick reference I note the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.’s, excellent summary: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2001/04/catholicism-amp-capital-punishment which lays out the four reasons why a punishment may be levied. No Catholic is required to oppose capital punishment in conscience. Some, including the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, share the prudential judgment that it should be avoided. Others, such as myself, believe it should be rare, it should be exercised with the utmost safeguards, but it should be available for the exceptional cases such as Timothy McVeigh where the crime cries to heaven for justice. That position is not the result of a cut and paste operation, or hacking off a piece, it is a result of a consideration of two thousand years of Catholic teaching and a rejection of the kind of fuzzy thinking the March 5 editorial represented.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

Don't get hacked off. 2267 is meant to address the death penalty explicitly. You are using 2266 to justify capital punishment. That is clearly not its intent or its focus. I post the complete instruction below:

 

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

 



 

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
CCC 2266 most certainly justifies capital punishment, and among other things that is clearly its intent or its focus IF the crime is of such a magnitude that only the death penalty provides proportionate punishment. As Pope Innocent III wrote “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” Let us be clear: the Church cannot change its teaching on capital punishment. The Holy Father has never taught and can never teach that the secular power cannot, to accomplish justice, exercise judgment of blood. You citation makes clear another valid purpose of punishment: repentance and expiation. Father George Rutler waxed eloquent on that topic: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/hanging-concentrates-the-mind To see how that works in the real world, consider the case of Timothy McVeigh. After blasting a child daycare center into oblivion, snuffing out the precious lives of nineteen innocents, he callously referred to them as "collateral damage". Strapped to a gurney, awaiting the lethal injection that would send him to eternity, Timothy McVeigh asked to see a priest. He then received the sacrament of Extreme Unction by a Catholic prison chaplain. McVeigh was baptized in the Catholic Church as a boy, but had stopped practicing and described himself as agnostic. By accepting the punishment in expiation of his sins, like the criminal described in Luke 23:39-43, he could enter eternal life by losing this temporary one. To repeat, it is settled unchangeable Catholic teaching that the State, to accomplish justice, can levy the death penalty in punishment. No Catholic is bound in conscience to oppose the death penalty.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

<Let us be clear: the Church cannot change its teaching on capital punishment.>

What is clear is that the church is changing its teaching on capital punishment and has altered the catechism at least twice in recent years. 

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Can I fairly conclude from your statement: - the Catechism in your opinion is not a compendium of teachings, disciplines, and prudential judgments but consists of teaching only - the Church can change its teachings - those who oppose the Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, divorce and remarriage, same sex marriage, and so forth should take hope since the Church may, perhaps not twice in recent years but at some point, change its teaching on any or all of them? This puts you in conflict with Cardinal Avery Dulles, the Church’s constant teaching, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who, in his letter to the then Archbishop of Washington, DC, advised that because capital punishment was not intrinsically wrong as was abortion, Catholics in good conscience could disagree on this prudential judgment. Cardinal Avery Dulles privately shared with others his concern that the insertion of a prudential judgment at that point in the Catechism would lead to the very confusion you’re exhibiting. Most Catholics lack the theological bona fides to distinguish between a teaching, a judgment, and a discipline as cursory reading of the comments on any article would illustrate. Apparently his concerns were well-founded. When you have a few moments please find and cite the teaching document where the primary purpose of punishment under the natural law, cited by Pope Innocent III, was abrogated, at least insofar as capital punishment pertains, and Catholics were bound in conscience to accept that abrogation.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

Wow.

Rarely has someone gone to such trouble to put (so many!) words in my mouth.

Happy trails.

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Were I in your position, I would conclude with "Happy Trails" myself. It probably should have dawned on someone at America that if the folks over at the National "Catholic" Reporter were willing to sign off on it, it was time to go back to the drawing board rather than issue your editorial in March without edits. At least, unlike an overzealous staffer at the National Catholic Register, you haven't called those who point out the difference between a teaching and a prudential judgment "dissenters". Yet.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

Oy.

This seems pretty straight forward to me:

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

You are rationalizing ways to ignore the clear intent of the catechism; I don't feel any need to call you out as anything for doing so. 

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
You were better off with “Happy Trails”. The four reasons in the Church’s teaching a punishment - not just capital punishment - may be levied, in descending order of importance are: 1. Retribution. Guilt calls for punishment. The graver the offense, the more severe the punishment ought to be. Retribution by the State has its limits because the State, unlike God, enjoys neither omniscience nor omnipotence. Retribution by the State is only a symbolic anticipation of God’s perfect justice. However, every punishment should meet the proportionate requirement of the punishment fitting the crime. That is why we have sliding scales of penalties corresponding to the approximate gravity of the crimes. 2. Defense against the criminal. Capital punishment is obviously an effective way of protecting society from a wrongdoer. Whether execution is necessary is another question. In recent years it has been found that, for an example, criminals in Mexican prisons due to conditions including corruption have been able to continue their activities behind bars, including ordering murders. Conceptually and morally this is highly related to personal self-defense against an attacker. It is only moral to use sufficient force to stop the attack, it is only moral to levy a punishment sufficient to protect society. 3. Deterrence. Executions prevent others from being tempted to commit similar crimes, just as fines deter speeding. The Fathers of the Church censured spectacles of violence such as those conducted at the Roman Colosseum. Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World explicitly disapproved of mutilation and torture as offensive to human dignity. The evidence on the deterrent effect of the death penalty as currently practiced is ambiguous, conflicting, and far from probative. 4. Rehabilitation. Capital punishment does not reintegrate the criminal into society. The sentence of death, however, can and sometimes does move the condemned person to repentance and conversion as it did with Timothy McVeigh. There is a large body of Christian literature on the value of prayers and pastoral ministry for convicts on death row or on the scaffold. The death penalty may be a way of achieving the criminal’s reconciliation with God. Avery Cardinal Dulles summarized these in ascending order, I summarized them in descending order. That corresponds to CCC 2266 and 2267 in order, which is why they are discussed in that order, and which is why you will see the citation for 2267 also discusses them in the same order. “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.” summarizes the content of # 2. The assertion that “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’ is a prudential judgment as to the application of reason # 2. It does not speak to # 1, # 3, or # 4 whatsoever. We have already found that in some circumstances in some nations today this prudential judgment is not applicable. The source of this prudential judgment as noted in the Catechism, which is a compendium of teaching, disciplines, prudential judgments, and explanatory material can be found in the footnote. Among other things the footnotes allow the reader to determine whether the entry is a teaching, discipline, prudential judgment, or explanatory material. That source is St. John Paul II’s “Evangelium vitae” #56. Going to that text we read St John Paul II first noting that “The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is ‘to redress the disorder caused by the offence.’" In the next paragraph in #56 he deals with reason #2 above, and says “It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” That is a prudential judgment. Unlike a teaching prudential judgments can and do change with time and circumstances. I have already noted it is not true in Mexico today. Returning to the real world case of Timothy McVeigh, I would concur that the Federal Government which tried him has - unlike Mexico - the means to imprison someone like McVeigh effectively rendering execution unnecessary to meet the requirements of #2. However, we need now to return to the *primary* reason for levying a punishment, retribution. It is hard to imagine a more heinous, callous, offensive crime than that of Timothy McVeigh’s. There was no question of his guilt, he freely admitted his crime. As a Pontiff earlier in the 20th century pointed out, the failure of the public authority to levy a proportionate punishment when basic justice demands one undermines public support for the State, leads to vigilantism, and ultimately endangers society. It an absolute requirement that the State provide just laws, law enforcement, fair trials for those accused, and proportionate punishments for those convicted. That is why proportionate punishment, retributive justice, is the primary purpose of punishment. A State which fails to accomplish that is illegitimate. You cannot, as you are attempting to do, interpose reason #2 and the prudential judgment regarding it, to block completely the operation of reason #1. Therefore, we can see it is you who are rationalizing ways to ignore the clear intent of the Catechism. You begin by basically disregarding the primary reason why any punishment is levied, then reordering the priority of these reasons and their order in the Catechism to raise defense of society to primary position, and finally call a prudential judgment a teaching. Were your education in theology rather than International Studies, my assessment of your reasoning would be considerably harsher since you would be culpable rather than confused. Given the incredible babble on the topic by people whose positions and training should equip them to make more accurate statements, were I in your position I might well be led to the same errors. As the comments on the March 8 editorial demonstrated, the confusion is - as Avery Cardinal Dulles feared it would be - rampant. However faulty your reasoning and your interpretation of the Catechism, I can agree that as Catholics we can disagree on this topic, as long and with the caveat that we agree we are dealing with a prudential judgment, not a teaching, that the primary reason why any punishment, up to an including the death penalty, is levied is proportionate punishment - retributive justice, and that reason # 2 under no circumstances, by any legerdemain, sophistry, or slight of hand becomes reason # 1. St John Paul II did not make it reason #1, nor Benedict XVI, nor so far Francis, primarily because the constant teaching of the Church based on the natural law and Scriptures cannot change.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

This is a lot of verbiage, with a fair to middling dollop of condescension, now exceeding the length of the article you have commented on by several hundred if not thousand words. This is an impressive commitment of energy and time. Thanks?

My 'faulty reasoning' is apparently shared by St. John Paul II, Pope Francis, the bishops of Mass., and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, company I am satisfied to keep even with just my degree in international studies to keep me warm.

And I think we were both better off with 'happy trails.'

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
In fact your faulty reasoning is NOT shared by St. John Paul II, Pope Francis, the bishops of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - which has NEVER by the required 2/3 vote opposed the death penalty. They, unlike you, understand that this involves a prudential judgment rather than a change in teaching, that therefore no Catholic is bound to oppose the death penalty, that the constant teaching of the Church can never change. Condescension would be appropriate were you merely confused or misled. Obstinate adherence to an error is another matter.
Kevin Clarke
3 years 6 months ago

Finally, something we can agree on!

Assuming anyone, beyond Mr. Eble and myself, has followed this thread and now finds themselves confused, misled, culpable or merely obstinate, please visit this collection of U.S. bishops' statements and Catholic teaching on the death penalty for clarification: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/index.cfm.

Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
In order for any document issued by the USCCB to be an actual teaching document, it requires that it be passed by a 2/3 majority of the bishops. Opposition to the death penalty has not achieved teaching status. Avery Cardinal Dulles, in his 2001 seminal article on the death penalty, pointed that out fourteen years ago and the status has not changed in the interim. The USCCB through a variety of committees issues a vast number of documents, sometimes with the approval of a single bishop or committee of bishops. Those documents provide valuable insights and often cite the Church's teaching in support of possible applications of those teaching. They are not, however, authoritative teaching of the USCCB. Catholics looking for a clear teaching behind which to put their shoulders to eliminate a pernicious evil might consider looking at the issue of abortion. Over one million abortions are performed each year in the United States, while 35 executions took place in 2014. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, while whether any specific execution is moral is a prudential judgment. There is never a case in which the infant in the womb has merited execution, while no doubt from time to time someone is executed who deserves to be. If 1/10 the effort were invested by Catholics that is being invested in the elimination of capital punishment, it might well be that the Holocaust of innocents would end. As it stands, our evangelical Christian brothers have done more to restrict abortion than we have, possibly because they remain focused on an actual intrinsic evil rather than spreading their efforts over a wide variety of issues on which reasonable people can reach diametrically opposed conclusions.
John Donne
3 years 6 months ago
Mr. Eble writes:
You (sic) citation makes clear another valid purpose of punishment: repentance and expiation. Father George Rutler waxed eloquent on that topic: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/hanging-concentrates-the-mind … awaiting the lethal injection that would send him to eternity, Timothy McVeigh asked to see a priest. He then received the sacrament of Extreme Unction by a Catholic prison chaplain…. By accepting the punishment in expiation of his sins, like the criminal described in Luke 23:39-43, he could enter eternal life by losing this temporary one.
The criminal described in Luke 23 did not enter eternal life by his crucifixion, but by his prayer that Jesus remember him when He entered into his kingdom, thus witnessing the divinity of Jesus. There is no sense in which the criminal accepted crucifixion. It was involuntary up to the point of his prayer, and the volition after his witnessing becomes immaterial. Fr. Rutler says:
… The medicinal reason for inflicting punishment, goes beyond preventing the criminal from repeating his crime and protecting society, to encouraging the guilty to repent and die in a state of grace. The vindictive reasoning also has this interest in mind: for by expiating the disorder caused by the crime, the moral debt of the guilty is lessened.
This seems to indicate that beyond the repentance of the guilty, and beyond forgiveness, there remains yet a moral debt which requires expiation, and this expiation is some further sacrifice beyond repentance and beyond forgiveness. So given Matthew 6:12 … forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. which indicates a full forgiveness of our debts by God, if and only if we have granted full forgiveness to those who are in our debt, there nevertheless still remains some required exculpatory sacrifice (beyond that of Christ). To whom or what is this sacrifice directed? Clearly, not to God, because that goes beyond the New Testament. This sacrifice is offered to the well-being of society, so it seems. The arguments seem pre-Christian.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
The criminal described in Luke 23 entered eternal life by accepting his own crucifixion as expiation for his sin. That was independent of his request to Jesus. Jesus witnessed his divinity by stating without equivocation that his repentance was in fact effective, something only the Son of God, Who forgave sins, raised the dead, and healed the sick, could do. Your conclusion that "There is no sense in which the criminal accepted crucifixion." is unsupported by the text itself. The criminal accepts that his punishment is just and corresponds to his crime in Luke 23:41 "And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Beyond the repentance of the guilty, and beyond forgiveness, there remains a debt which requires expiation. That underlies the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. It is also why the Church grants indulgences, and why the steps in the sacrament of penance are confession, repentance, amendment, forgiveness, and a penance. The penance is in partial expiation of the injustice every sin creates. And, indeed, the basics of the argument are pre-Christian, in fact they are Jewish. I have during Lent been reading the Judaic texts on sin and forgiveness, and am astounded that Jesus' words not only echo but use the exact language of the rabbis in many cases. What Jesus' death accomplished was the opening of the door closed by Original Sin. We are still personally responsible for our own sins and the debts which they create which, one way or another, we must pay.
John Donne
3 years 6 months ago
I cannot disagree more. If the criminal's acceptance of his own crucifixion as expiation is independent of his witnessing Jesus' divinity (or of his request to Jesus), then we have to assume that even before he - the criminal - was aware that he would be crucified next to Jesus, he accepted willingly his death as expiation. This is very dubious, and we have no proof for it. If he did not willingly accept his death as expiation before having met Jesus on the cross, then there was something in his request to Jesus that changed his unwilling attitude to a willing acceptance of expiation. Therefore, his acceptance was not independent of his witnessing the divinity of Jesus. To be precise, Jesus said that that criminal would be in heaven that day, and did not put add a footnote regarding his attitude towards whatever sins he had committed. No mention of expiation. Why would one be astounded that Jesus' words use the exact language of the rabbis? He studied and argued with them in the Temple, did He not? And He started at an early age. Yet He went beyond and fulfilled the Torah, and His death rendered all other bloody expiation unnecessary.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
I suppose one can’t disagree more than disagreeing. Being next to Jesus has nothing whatsoever to do with the criminal’s expiation. Every penance that we do, every just punishment we accept, does expiation. The easiest way to envision this is a set of scales in balance. When we sin we place a weight on one end, and the scale is no longer in balance. When we do penance, good acts, compensation for our wrong acts, earn indulgences, we take away the weight of sin. Eventually we either leave this life balanced or we do so in Purgatory. The only thing that being next to Jesus accomplished was that the criminal's internal state - that he was paying the price for his crime - was recorded for posterity. For Jesus, and us, it provided another opportunity for Jesus to assert his divinity by affirming that the criminal would enter the next life with the scales in balance. If you’re not astounded that Jesus used the language of the rabbis, you should hardly be astounded at the concept of expiation which comes right out of Judaism. If his death rendered all other expiation unnecessary, you must have significant issues with penance given at confession, indulgences, Purgatory, and with the phrase "the value of expiation" in the following from the Catechsim. 2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.
John Donne
3 years 6 months ago
This reminds me of St. Jerome before the throne of Heaven: Asked who he was, he replied he was a Christian. But He who presided said that due to Jerome's love of the Latin classics, he was a follower of Cicero and not of Christ. For 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' Matthew 6:21 Today it may be said of us herein that we are followers of the great Hillel or Shammai.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Temporal punishment due to sin, and the notion of expiation, have been part of Catholic belief since the beginning. Every Catholic should know this, the teaching on Purgatory, and indulgences. If it is new to you, it simply illustrates the near collapse of Catholic catechesis in many places over the last several decades.
John Donne
3 years 6 months ago
As Evelyn Waugh said of Rex Mottram, I am a particularly obdurate catechumen. I like the way you argue to my ignorances. It instills a sense of awesome certitude. None the less, if the temporal punishment due to sin is held to be: " ...as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain." then the temporal punishment is an element of the sinful process itself (since "sin" is not a singular point in time, but rather consists of a period leading up to the act, the act itself, and the denouement thereafter) itself, not the actions of a legal system. Furthermore, since a "conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner...", then the act of witnessing Jesus' divinity upon the cross was sufficient for the criminal (whom I seem to think of as St. Dismas) to achieve complete purification, and expiation was no longer to be attained by his death. That is, unless we believe that there is yet some other remora of sinfulness we must expunge.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
War, the death penalty, and abortion are all manifestations of the same sin: human life is expendable, especially when it thwarts one's own agenda. They go together and should not be discussed as if separate issues. Either life is sacred, or it is not. (I meant for this comment to go at the bottom of the long exchange between Kevin & Martin, where Martin finally plays the abortion card. I don't know why it appeared here at the top. I wish I could move it.)
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
The world is steeped in evil and will remain so until the Second Coming. The moral difference between capital punishment and abortion is that the criminal has killed himself, while the innocent in the womb has done nothing. The practical difference is weighing less than three dozen against over a million.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
Every life is sacred. When we get into judging one life more worthy than another, the premise that life is sacred is compromised. We can then rationalize and justify anything - torture, abortion, war, executions, genocide. Either life is sacred, or it isn't. Abortion will continue until we know and teach the sacredness of all life. "When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy." Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Capital punishment does not detract, per se, from any notion that life is sacred. I could cite repeated statements of actual teaching by Councils and Pontiffs over the last two millennia actually teaching that truth of Catholic belief. We read, for example, in the current Catechism that defense of one’s life and the life of one’s family may not only be a right but at times a duty. And this is not a prudential judgment, this is a teaching. We read the same about defense of one’s country. In neither case - defense or capital punishment - is an intrinsic evil done nor a statement against the sacredness of life made. To the contrary, were human life valueless it would be intrinsically immoral to defend it. Assuming all the conditions are met - guilt is morally certain, the heinousness of the crime is proportionate, and so on - the criminal who merits capital punishment has effectively killed himself. Joseph Cardinal Bernadin when questioned admitted that capital punishment was licit and moral because it is. What the sacredness of human life requires of us relative to capital punishment is that we reserve it for only the most heinous of crimes, that we improve our justice system so that the chances of an innocent individual being wrongly executed is precisely zero, and that we provide mechanisms for clemency by the executive power to provide for cases of conversion and repentance. What the sacredness of human life does not require is that capital punishment be banned. That effectively guarantees that in some case somewhere sometime justice will not be accomplished, and justice is an absolute requirement of a legitimate civil power.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
I guess you don't think much of Francis' perspective, which calls for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment. He denounces what he called a "penal populism" that promises to solve society's problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice. "All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment ... Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty." - Francis
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
I notice that you wisely use the term “perspective” rather than “teaching”. The Holy Father has personal opinions. When they are directed to the faithful in teaching form, they have greater weight. Depending on the weight given by the text and citations, it may even bind us in conscience. This particular Pontiff has a great number of personal opinions and is hardly bashful about sharing them. Like St John Paul II, who lived under a system in which executions were common to “protect the state” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre Francis lived under a regime which “disappeared” thousands of innocent people to “protect the state” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War which appears to have left him exceptionally sensitive to the issue of misuse of capital punishment. However, the letter you reference to Federico Mayor, president of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Holy Father sent in March on Vatican stationery does not reflect the Church’s constant teaching, and in fact does not reflect the current entries in the Catechism on the topic. I have to say that it seems hardly likely that a properly constructed justice system like the one which found Timothy McVeigh guilty and executed him fosters vengeance. In fact, given the sentiment in Oklahoma City and the nature of the crime, had justice not been accomplished I believe a lynching would have taken place, precisely the sort of thing that a justice system is supposed to prevent. In fact that is one of the reasons that the State has the power to levy punishments under the natural law. The Vatican Press office has gotten quite a work out issuing “what the Holy Father meant to say” statements. He is not the careful theologian that Paul VI, St John Paul II, and Benedict XVI were. Perhaps we’ll get clarification and some citations.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
The quote that I cited was from a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law. October 2014. It was not a private letter. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1404377.htm
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
The article you cite is not about a letter, it is about an address. No one said it was private letter. Were it a private letter I could hardly have cited it. I compared the contents of the address with the letter which followed it and they are essentially the same content. All my comments on the letter are also equally applicable to the address. If you want to see an example of a teaching document, take a look at Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. It uses a classic format: question raised, considerations on the question, decision, binding teaching citing the teaching office itself as Pontiff confirming the brethren.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
This is what you said: "However, the letter you reference to Federico Mayor, president of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Holy Father sent in March on Vatican stationery does not reflect the Church’s constant teaching, and in fact does not reflect the current entries in the Catechism on the topic." I cited the original address. Didn't know anything about the letter. We'll wait and see what becomes of the teachings of JP2, B16 and Francis regarding the Death Penalty. All of these popes have publicly called for its abolishment, as have the United States Bishops. If you need it in a classic format, perhaps that is coming. It seems likely. Francis is no wimp. He shows a lot of courage in calling things as they are.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
St John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have made no new teachings on the death penalty. In the Church's constant teaching the use of the death penalty for the protection of society was restricted to only where it was absolutely necessary, in an analogous manner to defense of self and defense of country. St John Paul II reiterated that with some emphasis, but it was no new teaching. Anyone who lived where he lived through what he lived through would want to emphasize that using "defense of society" for summary executions is not moral. In order for the United States Bishops to issue a teaching document, a 2/3 vote in favor is required. That vote has never happened because over 1/3 of the bishops point out exactly what I am pointing out - the Church cannot change its constant teaching.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
St. John Paul II, Benedict the XVI, and Francis may have made no new teachings on the death penalty, but they have all substantially deepened the Church's dedication to the dignity of the human person and the common good of society. And they have done this by calling an end to the death penalty.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Neither St John Paul II or Benedict XVI called for abolishing the death penalty. Pope Francis, in a recent expression of a personal opinion, not a teaching document, seems to have called for the total abolition of the death penalty and expressed something new - abolishment of life imprisonment. Without any explanation and citations to the Church's teachings, this is basically impossible to evaluate. In the United States 2/3 of the public oppose abolition of the death penalty. In the states where the death penalty has been abolished, the use of life imprisonment has been the selling device. Remove life imprisonment and in the United States it is my impression that the drive to abolish the death penalty will cease forthwith. Americans do believe in justice. Rather than speculate whether the Holy Father has actually something teachable in mind, or this is another "Mexicanization" misstep, I will await something definitive.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
In his encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II called us to choose to be “unconditionally pro life” (no. 28). During his last visit to the United States, he referenced the encyclical in a speech in St. Louis: “The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively deny- ing criminals the chance to reform.” In response to Pope John Paul II’s call to end the death penalty during his January 1999 visit, the bishops issued A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty. They reiterated his challenge to “end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” They concluded that their opposition to the death penalty is important not only for “what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society.”
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at his Nov. 30 [2011] general audience. Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-benedict-end-the-death-penalty#ixzz3XHvx7VuZ Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday offered his support to a major international meeting underway this week through the sponsorship of the Sant’Egidio Community aimed at eliminating capital punishment. "I greet the distinguished delegations from various countries taking part in the meeting promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio on the theme: No Justice without Life. I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order." - Benedict XVI, November 2011 http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/64/langID/ro/itemID/8704/Pope_Benedict_XVI_support_for_efforts_to_eliminate_death_penalty.html
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
Martin, you are aware that Jesus was a victim of capital punishment, right? And that he stopped an execution when he stopped the stoning of the woman caught in adultery?
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
What made Jesus' death particularly ignominious was that it was an unjust trial on perjured testimony, which would be immoral today as well. Pilate "threw Him to the wolves" for the sake of political expediency knowing full well He had not committed a capital crime. Jesus did not take the occasion to make a statement about the death penalty either on his own death, or the attempt to stone the woman caught in adultery. That particular story has another point altogether than opposition to the death penalty.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
That's pretty much the way most capital cases go in the United States of America. Prosecutorial misconduct is epidemic. Look at the recent case of Anthony Hinton, freed after 30 years on death row ... http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/03/alabama-death-row-inmate-released-after-30-years/25259723/ ... These cases are not unusual. I could cite a dozen of them, all recent. So far, only one prosecutor (see the Michael Morton case in Texas) has been held accountable. Things haven't changed much since Jesus' time. Better yet, get to know, personally, some people who are spending hard time (20+ years) in prison in the USA. Find out what they did, who they are, what they are up against in trying to redeem themselves. Jesus didn't have to make a statement, he let his life itself tell it. He was executed as a common criminal who posed some threat to the power structure of the day - exactly what you are defending with your explanations of how killing criminals somehow "works". What exactly do you think is the point of Jesus' death? That those who live by the rules will triumph?
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
I am not sure it is fair to say "the way most capital cases go" when there are less than three dozen executions per year, nor that "prosecutorial misconduct is epidemic". I do think that there have been miscarriages of justice, particularly 30 or more years ago. Having elected prosecutors presents a number of problems, as do elected judges. Justice is supposed to be blind, not running for office or seeking campaign contributions. In fact the cases you cite are unusual, which is why we know about them. Of course I am not defending executions for threats to the power structure, and that is the reason you don't cite chapter and verse where I do. Jesus' death has nothing to do with the topic. Jesus statement "render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's" does. Those who live by the rules rarely face execution in the United States. But these emotional appeals and attempts to make law with hard cases are really not the discussion, they are attempts to deflect the discussion. Timothy McVeigh was not executed due to prosecutorial misconduct, nor because of mistaken identity, not because he was a innocent man like Jesus Christ who posed some threat to the power structure of the day. He snuffed out the lives of nineteen children in an instant and called them "collateral damage". He killed an additional one hundred fifty nine people going about their jobs with families waiting for them. He destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed 86 automobiles, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and caused over $652 million worth of damage. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/54/Firefighterbabyocb.jpg Families were destroyed, people crippled, lives shattered. And then he showed no remorse at all. I've visited Oklahoma City many times, gone to the memorial where the Federal Building once stood, and talked to survivors, many of whom are crippled. That is why we have a death penalty, because there are some crimes that cry to heaven for justice. The State which fails to provide it is illegitimate.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
18% of the countries of the world retain the death penalty. 53% of the countries of the world have abolished using the death penalty for any crime. 26% are under a moratorium or have not used the death penalty in 10 years. 3% only use the death penalty in exceptional circumstances (war crimes). The United States was the only country in the Americas to carry out executions in 2014. The United States carries out more executions than any other liberal democracy (as defined by Freedom House) in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_capital_punishment_by_country Are you saying that all those other countries are illegitimate?
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
We’re in the 3%, as the less than three dozen executions in 2014 illustrates. Our Federal system is designed to levy the death penalty only for the most heinous crimes, as are the 32 state systems and the military justice system which retain the death penalty. If less than three dozen executions in a nation of 320,000,000 people that suffered over 150,000 murders and intentional homicides is “more executions than any other liberal democracy”, so be it. Any country which intentionally does not provide punishments which are proportionate to the crime is, according to the natural law, acting unlawfully. That is, illicitly, illegimately, contrary to what the State is supposed to do in making and governing a just society. And proportional justice is also the primary reason in Catholic teaching, cited in the Catechism at 2266, the State passes laws and punishes crimes. What is interesting is that you disregard the more important statistic. Western Europe and Canada, which have effectively eliminated the death penalty, also have placed no obstacles at all in the way of abortion. Canada is particularly egregious since the Supreme Court of Canada, in the landmark Morgentaler decision of 1988, declared the entirety of the country's abortion law to be unconstitutional. In the United States, however, efforts have never ceased to restrict and eliminate abortions, most recently in Kansas with a relatively small percentage of Catholics (20%) and a blatantly pro-abortion “Catholic” former governor who opposed capital punishment. I suppose I need not point out that Planned Parenthood contributed mightily to her gubernatorial campaigns, while apparently the capital punishment folks don’t have large sums of cash to contribute. In passing I will also point out that Massachusetts has no anti-abortion legislation on the books, and that “Catholic” Massachusetts politicians at the local, state, and Federal level have been consistently pro-abortion and never, not once, been censured by one or more of the bishops in Massachusetts. Those bishops, however, recently came out against capital punishment. So, we might conclude Western Europe and Canada, which you tout as “liberal democracies”, place a greater value on the lives of a few criminals, some whose crimes are so heinous I cannot relate them here. On the other hand, they place a value of zero on the unborn. In one country they use the remains from abortions in the manufacture of cosmetics. And you were telling us that banning capital punishment would enhance a society’s treating life as sacred. What is happening in these “liberal democracies”? The answer, of course, is that if you don’t believe in morality and God, you have no need to believe in justice. But, since you doubt an afterlife, you do value the life in this world. Thus our Canadian and European friends and their schizophrenic view of the sacredness of criminals and the valuelessness of the unborn. I don’t think you have really thought this all the way through.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
We are not in the 3%, Martin. The United States is in the 18% of the countries of the world who maintain the use of the death penalty in both law and practice. I have been thinking about this for more than 35 years. I have stood on street corners protesting the state sponsored murder being done in my name every time a person is executed in the state of Florida. You are wrong when you state that: "Our Federal system is designed to levy the death penalty only for the most heinous crimes, as are the 32 state systems and the military justice system which retain the death penalty." Martin, you've been hoodwinked by what parades as "justice" in this country. I'd even call you naive. Talk to some people and their families who have been trapped in our justice system. Listen to their stories. Believe them. Even when the innocence of a condemned man is indisputable, and there is proof of that innocence, the laws surrounding the death penalty are such that this evidence is not allowed to stop an execution. Who is the killing for? We say that it is for the victim's family, but even when the family of the victim insists that they do not want the murderer to be killed, the law does not allow them to interfere. The darkness of the death penalty is the system of attorneys, judges, and politicians who profit monetarily from the business of Capital Punishment. It's long past time to clean this mess up. Thank you God that our Catholic bishops and popes can see things as they are.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
I have been thinking about this for more than 35 years myself. If you think I have been hoodwinked, my response would be that you are living in a near unreality, unsupported by the Church’s teachings, and overwrought to say the least. Justice should be emotionless, rational, blind, fair, and even. I would be happy to work with anyone to make the justice system better. However, what you advocate is the near destruction of the justice system, which works well for the Timothy McVeighs, the Hermann Goerings, the Karla Homolkas and Paul Bernardos, and the Ian Bradys and Myra Hindleys of this world. It does not serve justice, and since God Himself is the author of justice, it does not serve God. To this point you have shed not one tear for the innocents in the Holocaust of abortion. Multiply that by millions and you know why Catholics are the Lilliputians of the political process against abortion. What is more amazing is that you think you are doing untold good.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 6 months ago
Lord have mercy on all of us.
Robert Lewis
3 years 6 months ago
Martin Eble, it seems to me that you have never read John Henry Newman's THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE. Newman, you know, is now a "Doctor of the Church," and some consider him to have been the guiding spirit of Vatican II. The clear implication of the tome I refer to is that, By virtue of the Petrine Commission ("what you shall bind on earth, I shall bind in heaven, and what you shall loose on earth I shall loose in heaven"), the popes and the Church in Council have divine authority to change ANYTHING, especially those things that have to do with moral theology, such as slavery or "just war" doctrines. What they may not change is DOGMA. So-called "capital punishment has nothing to do with dogma, and it is within the prerogative of the Teaching Magisterium to proclaim that judicial murder NO LONGER fulfils the Gospel's sense of the State's prerogatives and responsibility. The obfuscations and mental contortions you are applying in order to deny the Teaching Magisterium its right to delegitimise capital punishment smacks of Protestantism, not Catholicism, and it also reminds me of the intellectual gymnastics some so-called "Traditionalists" employ to also insist that the Teaching Magisterium" has never delegitimised slavery. Additionally, I've always wondered about the attraction of state-sponsored murder for some types of "religious conservatives" in America and have occasionally referred to judicial murder as "the sacrament of Protestant Fundamentalism in the American South," because, having grown up down there, it regularly seemed more important to those folks--of whose ilk you seem to be one--than the Beatitudes!
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
The notion that the popes and the Church in Council have divine authority to change ANYTHING is, simply put, a modern heresy. John Henry Newman never took such a position, and in fact was drawn to the Church because - unlike his Church of England - it built off its previous teaching. Laundry lists which include slavery and just war, to use your examples, are not only typical fare in “modern” Catholic discussions, but are encountered all the time in apologetics with non-Catholics. The Church has never changed its teaching on slavery, for example. The Church has always opposed treating other human beings as chattel, whether as chattel slaves in antebellum America, or as industrial machines in industrial America. We are to treat others with human dignity. In the Roman empire, for example, “slaves” included classes of people who were not chattel, who had defined rights, and St Paul admonishes them to obey their masters. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., in his seminal 2001 article on the issue points out that Pope Innocent III required that disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” The Roman Catechism issued in 1566 taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment. He wrote: “Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death. “ He also pointed out that “The mounting opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life.” John Henry Newman, who you cited, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a memorandum to Cardinal McCarrick made public in July, 2004, wrote: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” The obfuscations are all coming from your side of the aisle, to the point where a staffer at the National Catholic Register called those who opposed banning the death penalty “dissidents”, considering himself - apparently - more Catholic than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The primary reason for any punishment, up to and including the death penalty, is administering justice, providing proportionate punishments to fit the crimes. Over at the National Catholic Reporter they are apparently giving each other “high fives” since, as this “change in teaching” demonstrates, it will only be a matter of time before the Church comes to its senses and changes the teaching on birth control, the ordination of women, same sex marriage, divorce and remarriage, and so on. That is hardly what drew John Henry Newman to the Church. The Church cannot change, and has not changed, its teaching on capital punishment. If it is used for the defense of society, it has always been restricted morally to its use only when there is no option. Emphasizing that does not constitute a change in teaching, not matter how much you wish it did.
Robert Lewis
3 years 6 months ago
Considering all of your palaver about the justness and appropriateness of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, I suggest you check out the April 14th article about the Oklahoma City bombing in the online edition of the Guardian UK. There you will learn that this institution of depravity, which seems to be so sacred to you and your Fundamentalist ilk, instead of serving to promote justice, served INSTEAD to help the public and Law Enforcement to FORGET and IGNORE their responsibility to bring to book the actual instigators of that heinous crime. This or something like it happens so frequently that it is rapidly becoming the "the sense of the faithful" that judicial murder is beyond the competence and the prerogatives of a Christian community, acting collectively.
Martin Eble
3 years 6 months ago
Speaking of palaver, using phrases such as "this institution of depravity" and "fundamentalist ilk" (which one has to assume includes Benedict XVI, John Cardinal Henry Newman, St John Paul II - who termed proportionate justice the primary purpose of punishments in general up to and including the death penalty, Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, and all the rest who teach and hold the Catholic Faith) seems to indicate you really have nothing substantive to add to the discussion.

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