A glorious day

On November 29, the Community of San’Egidio held a ceremony in Rome to honor Connecticut, which last April became the fifth state in five years to abolish the death penalty.  As part of this ceremony they illuminate the Colosseum–they have done this for every state and nation that has abolished the death penalty.  Since I worked for many years on the abolition of the death penalty as part of my pro-life witness, I wanted to share with everyone this profoundly joyous moment.  I could not be there, but even the tape has moved me to tears.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js6MR2geqcg]

The actual lighting and a short speech in English (by a man who spent 18 years on death row before being exonerated) starts around 47 minutes into the video.

About David Cruz-Uribe
  • Julia Smucker

    The beautiful irony of the colosseum being illuminated to celebrate death penalty abolition makes it all the more poignant.

    • brettsalkeld

      Evil is self-destructive. The early Christians knew that when the Romans executed them, it slowly killed itself. Any system that resorts to killing signs its own death warrant.

  • Mark Gordon

    I’m proud of Connecticut, just as I’m proud of my own state, Rhode Island, which abolished the death penalty in 1852 following the unjust execution in 1845 of John Gordon, an Irish Catholic immigrant who was railroaded by powerful political interests. The death penalty was reauthorized in 1872, but never again used, and it was finally outlawed for good in 1984.

  • http://www.catholicsforpeace.ca Larry Carriere

    Congratulations, David. The Great Work is advancing because of your personal commitment and persistent efforts for justice and peace on Earth.

  • Jordan

    Very proud of my home state :-)

    Connecticut, like most of New England, is heavily Catholic. The Catholic faith, which is clarified through reason and magisterium and not just through scripture, has no place in its ethos for the death penalty. For Catholics, Christ is not only Pantocrator but also the Sacred Heart — he is the law-giver but also superabundant in forgiveness and mercy. It is this aspect of the faith which I believe impels Catholics in Conn. and elsewhere to formally end state execution.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Cue someone to argue why the death penalty is not contrary to Catholic teaching…..

      • dominic1955

        I’ll bite. :)

        Sts. Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, various Scholastics etc. etc. say capital punishment is supported by Scripture and right reason. Pope Innocent III required Peter Waldo and the Waldensians to sign a statement that said that the secular power can “excercise judgment of blood”, with certain limitations, before they could be absolved of their heresy.

        More recently, Pius XII’s allucution to medical experts, AAS 47 (1955) 81-82. (the computer I’m on isn’t let me cut and paste, I will later) and every moral theology manual from St. Alphonsus Liguouri onward, along with Vitoria and Suarez.

        Plus, the Papal States/Vatican City had the death penalty until 1969.

        It would seem that one could certainly advocate for the suppression of capital punishment, but not that it is “contrary to Catholic teaching” as the doctrinal and historical evidence weighs heavily against such an assertion.

        • http://poorjeremiah.tumblr.com/ Poor Jeremiah

          YOU SPRUNG THE TRAP, DOMINIC.

          Little do you know, that your balanced approach that allows for freedom of individual and social judgment in the light of Reason and Revelation is FROM SATAN HIMSELF. Everything you just mentioned is from prior to the last 40 years — otherwise known as “that time we don’t talk about anymore.” We live in the now, man! Only now do we have the complete teaching from the Holy Spirit regarding this serious matter, and only now do we fully understand that when Paul wrote about the secular authority having the power of the sword, he had his fingers crossed. Check *and* mate, good sir.

          Now, this being the internet, the *real* question is if everyone who eventually reads this will understand this is a deliberate parody. Perhaps that requires a smiley. : V

        • dominic1955

          I argue this on principle, if we want a moratorium on death sentences I’m all for it as long as its for the right reasons and not some hippy-dippy misplaced sense of luv. I do think that the death sentence in the U.S. is a travesty, not because murders die but because they wait on “death row” for a decade or more. If they are found guilty and that is the sentence, string them up and be done with it. If we cannot be sure, then just do not do it at all and be done with it. That is “cruel and unusual” to use a U.S. term and it makes a horse and pony show out of justice. If we ant to get rid of that, I’m for it.

          However, the PRINCIPLE cannot be denied and you must be willfully blind not to see the obvious and long support for this principle in the Church’s moral teaching. Only in recent years has the idea that the death penalty is somehow intrinsically immoral, basically equivalent to murder crept into some areas of Catholic thinking.

          One of the biggest problems with these issues is that probably the majority of Catholics haven’t the foggiest idea what the Church has taught, what Her auctores probati (or what/who that/they even is/are) taught at any time let alone more than 10 years ago. Even with the oft alluded albeit ignorantly Vatican II, its a “spirit” or a “movement” and then back to (secular and worldly) business as usual. A mere 50-60 years ago Pope Pius XII clearly reiterated the constant teaching of the Church in this regard at least twice-but who is he?

          We have largely become de facto Modernists even when we attempt to be orthodox.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Then JP II himself is a modernist, because I see no way to reconcile his view of the death penalty with the earlier teaching by, say, Thomas Aquinas. He has narrowed the scope considerably, and more importantly, restricted the licit reasons for applying the death penalty to the defense of society. This is very, very different from the previous ideas about the DP.

        • dominic1955

          Popes are custodians of Tradition, not Mormon prophets or Mainline ministers trying to frantically whore their teaching to the World.

          He stated his opinion, which seems to contradict the last 1900 years of Catholic teaching on the subject. Not the first time or the last time a Pope says something odd. Of course, these days we are not the least bit suprised that a pope could say something contrary to proper teaching as a theologian or offensive to pious ears-as long as they are historical footnotes or fading frescos.

          The principle still stands-the death penalty in principle is licit, has retributive and expiatory value, and is in line with human dignity.

        • http://poorjeremiah.tumblr.com/ Poor Jeremiah

          (Dominic, I agree with you, I was making a parody of the Modernists. That’s what I get for trying to be funny and then explain myself at 1 AM.)

          David, don’t you think “I can’t see how they’re reconcilable, therefore they can’t be” is a poor standard for interpretation? I can’t see how gravity and the electromagnetic forces are reconcilable, but that doesn’t mean I throw my hands up in the air and say “we found EM later, it *must* be more important!”

      • Jordan

        re: dominic1955 [December 6, 2012 11:17 am] and Poor Jeremiah [December 7, 2012 2:42 am

        As the Catechism reminds us, there are both pragmatic and theological reasons to oppose the death penalty. Let’s break the catechism down point by point.

        2267 para. 1: 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.

        I interpret only possible way to mean that execution is only licit to protect a populace from persons who cannot be rehabilitated. only possible, in my view, regards execution as a very last resort after all other means to protect a populace has been exhausted. It is very clear that the first paragraph of 2267 does not endorse the death penalty as retributive justice (lex talonis). The latter is not an uncommon view among many Americans, but is certainly not a Catholic understanding of human dignity or morality.

        2267 para. 2: 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 are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. [my emphasis]

        Execution, then, is less in conformity with the dignity of human life because it places the safety (but also the intrinsic human dignity) of others over the human dignity of the offender. All persons possess absolute and unalienable dignity, both the offender, the victimized, and greater society. The ability to safely detain grave offenders without execution allows societies to witness to the absolute dignity of human life for all.

        2267 para. 3: 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 definitely 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.”

        Pre-contemporary societies could not achieve this witness to life that is the abolition of state execution because many of these societies did not have sufficient means of incarceration. Many current societies do, and for this reason persons today can better witness to human dignity. Certainly, the many American states have the capability to detain violent or chronic offenders without resort to execution. John Paul II’s closing remark is not only prophetic, but an indictment of capital punishment as retribution cloaked in legal statute.

        • dominic1955

          As the Roman Catechism reminds us concerning the 5th Commandment:

          Again, this prohibition does not apply to the civil magistrate, to whom is entrusted the power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which he punishes the guilty and protects the innocent. The use of the civil sword, when wielded by the hand of justice, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this commandment which prohibits murder.

          cf. Rom. 13:4

          As to the CCC, “You” interpret-exactly the correct way to say it. Retributive justice not Catholic? Go re-read Romans 13:4.

          As to human dignity, that is just nonsense. Quoting Pius XII again:

          “Even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual’s right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime.” AAS, 1952, pp.779

          Incarceration presents its own pitfalls. We, as Catholics, should be more concerned not about he who can kill the body but about he that can kill the soul.

        • dominic1955

          Just watch a documentary or read about prison life and what goes on in there. There definitely needs to be reform of that system, but it is not so unassailable as we might think. Also, while we are at this, read the life of St. Joseph Cafasso by St. John Bosco-sometimes the immediate and real threat of death is the best way for a hardened sinner to find the fortitude to cooperate with grace and come to true conversion and repentence.

        • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

          @ David Cruz-Uribe —

          Let’s be honest: “the defense of society” is just about as restrictive as “the health of the mother” in the final analysis. It is virtually a blanket approval of the death penalty.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            No, it shouldn’t be in either case. It can be used as an excuse—and I have heard it used this way. But properly interpreted it is such a narrow exception that, as JP II noted, it leaves no wiggle room for Western democracies, or indeed for any modern state, to apply it.

  • Ronald King

    “I argue this on principle, if we want a moratorium on death sentences I’m all for it as long as its for the right reasons and not some hippy-dippy misplaced sense of luv”- Dominic,, are you serious?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, look at my picture: I am the poster child for “hippy-dippy misplaced sense of luv.” I guess it was something about “love one another as I have loved you.”

      • Ronald King

        I love your picture. The caricature that Dominic paints is stupid.

        • dominic1955

          No, you’re stupid.

          Really?

          • Ronald King

            Thanks for the clarification Dominic 1955. You have confirmed what I have thought.

      • dominic1955

        What does “love one another as I have loved you” mean David? The Good Lord is going to come one day to judge the quick and the dead-and He loves the goats too unless we somehow became Calvinists in the theological mishmash.

    • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

      @ David Cruz-Uribe — I can’t really imagine any real circumstance in which one criminal poses a real threat to an entire society. The term, therefore, could not be more vague, Any prosecutor could convince any jury that any defendent was so evil that his life needed to be taken so ensure that he will never strike again. The next jury might not buy it. It’s the same with “the health of the mother” in the abortion controversy. Can her mental health be taken into account, or not? How does one define “health?” These terms are left deliberately vague to leave every possibility open on a case-by-case basis, not to limit those possibilities.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    “David, don’t you think “I can’t see how they’re reconcilable, therefore they can’t be” is a poor standard for interpretation?”

    I spoke quickly: let me be more precise. Every theologian I am aware of who has seriously considered this question is unable to reconcile them. Cardinal Dulles tried, but in my reading he was attacking straw men and not grappling with the central issues. The Pope has appeared to have made substantive changes in Catholic teaching on the death penalty. If you believe that Church teaching is always and everywhere irreformable, this is a problem; but if you see that teaching evolves towards fullness, not so much.

    • Liam

      There is another contextual consideration: the Church’s approval of the DP developed with the development of Christendom – a Christian supracommonwealth. Christendom in that sense does not exist (its paroxysms extending over three centuries from the Thirty Years’ War through the World Wars). In general, the state no longer can be assumed to be operating from within a Christian context.

    • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

      Dominic1955: [Pope John Paul II] stated his opinion, which seems to contradict the last 1900 years of Catholic teaching on the subject. Not the first time or the last time a Pope says something odd. Of course, these days we are not the least bit suprised that a pope could say something contrary to proper teaching as a theologian or offensive to pious ears-as long as they are historical footnotes or fading frescos.

      David: The Pope has appeared to have made substantive changes in Catholic teaching on the death penalty. If you believe that Church teaching is always and everywhere irreformable, this is a problem; but if you see that teaching evolves towards fullness, not so much.

      Excellent, David; this is the perfect rebuttal. I think one of the biggest issues in some quarters since Vatican II has been a creeping infallibilism and a failure to recognize development of doctrine. For some that has resulted in outright schism (e.g. the SSPX), for others a sort of crabbed dislike and quasi-dismissal (usually on the grounds of “prudential judgement”) of a lot of post Vatican II stuff with the hope that it will become “historical footnotes or fading frescos”. Count me on the “hippy-dippy luv” side. Certainly a far more nuanced and restrained understanding of infallibility is needed in understanding a lot of these issues.

      • http://speciouspedestrian.blogspot.com Dominic Holtz, O.P.

        I think one of the biggest issues in some quarters since Vatican II has been a creeping infallibilism and a failure to recognize development of doctrine.

        While I suspect that dominic1955 can speak for himself, I do want to interject here that creeping Whiggery is at least as dangerous a tendency as creeping infallibilism. After all, development in doctrine, at least as presented by Newman, precisely does not, nor can it, entail the repudiation of what has been before. So, ex hypothesi, should some subsequent, even widely-held opinion in fact contradict 1900 years of teaching, we would have more than excellent grounds to consider the more recent opinion suspect. A saner policy, surely, is not to justify any change with the name of “development”, but rather to do the hard work to see how the newer expression can, without damage to the received, prior understanding, nonetheless deepen our understanding and reception of it. After all, if it is possible for the Church in the past to have failed to emphasize certain features of the Gospel better known or appreciated at earlier moments and only lately retrieved, it is likewise possible for more recent notions to be mistaken. Newman’s “notes” of authentic development were meant precisely to address this.

        So, while a Catholic cannot, authentically, reject tout court developments, practices, and teachings from the past half century, a fortiori he cannot authentically reject continuous and perennial understandings of the faith from before the most recent council. This means that a Catholic cannot consider the more recent considerations of the death penalty merely interesting opinions without authority to rightly interpret the Church’s received teachings on this question, but likewise a Catholic cannot reject the more classic approach as contrary to the faith.

      • dominic1955

        It has nothing to do with infallibility but it does have everything to do with dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with the development of doctrine-this has always been admitted. St. Vincent of Lerins even allowed for it besides his oft quoted (poorly) statement about believed everywhere by everyone. The problem is that a true development seems to not have happened. No, we have a consistent body of (non-infallible) teaching and theologizing which basically goes out the window after some talks by Pope John Paul II. So, again, great if the teaching on the DP has developed but more work needs to be done to show what actually and really developed. As it stands, it looks much more like people just do not have the stomach for it anymore and last time I checked, that isn’t a development.

        Lastly, doctrine/dogma does not “evolve” as per Lamentabile and Vatican I. We are striving for a continual fuller understanding, as all mysteries properly called can never be plumbed to their depths by merely human understanding. However,

  • Mark VA

    Considering the death penalty, I agree with Mr. David Cruz-Uribe, who in turn agrees with Pope John Paul II.

    In a functioning state, there is no longer any need to apply the death penalty, since society can be protected by incarcerating the offender for life. This has the additional benefit of allowing such a person a span of natural life to repent – one less excuse during the particular judgment’s life review.

    I believe that the death penalty may be an option in extreme circumstances, for example when the state is unable to function, and its penal system is either non-existent or is not fulfilling its intended function. Such exceptional situations did happen, for example during World War II, and still happen in some of the lawless parts of our planet. But these are the exceptions, thank God.

  • http://speciouspedestrian.blogspot.com Dominic Holtz, O.P.

    Might I stretch out an olive branch here? The tension we see arising in this question is necessary and unavoidable. Why? Because (a) we live in a fallen world and (b) by the blood of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit we have been made strangers in the world, in and not of it, with our true homeland in the Kingdom. This means that no world order, no efforts at the right ordering of human life, even those moved by the impulse of divine charity we have from baptism, will ever satisfy our thirst for justice, for which thirst we will be blessed and have our fill. At the same time, sin does not wholly destroy the good of nature, and so we not only can, we must cooperate with the best the world can give to conform, as it can, to the righteousness of God, here and now.

    Practically speaking, this means that some responses to evil and injustice here and now may be good, while others may be better, but we cannot expect a best until the last trumpet has sounded and this earth and heaven have passed away. Even so, we can say that the lawful imposition of the death penalty on those duly and rightly convicted of grave crimes can be a good. However, we can also, indeed in light of the current teaching of the recent popes and the college of bishops as presented in the CCC we must hold that finding ways to respond to evil and injustice without recourse to the death penalty is better. This means, as dominic1955 rightly notes above, that we cannot, on penalty of violating how Catholic theology and moral reasoning is done at all, assert that the imposition of the death penalty is per se contrary to faith and morals. At the same time, with David we need to uphold the growing consensus that the goods achieved once by the death penalty can, here and now, better be accomplished by other means, means which have the advantage (again, in general) of upholding more expressly the dignity even of the hardened sinner.

    By way of analogy, consider child labor. Is it intrinsically contrary to the faith to employ children, even young children, in servile labor? Most historical societies, including Christian societies, and many present societies, have had to do so, being unable, economically and socially, to provide both sufficient work and wages for parents and other workers and structures to allow for the education and wholesome development of the young. Here and now, certainly in much of the world, it is right and just to abolish child labor, and indeed criminalize the use of children in servile work, given what we know now about child development and what we can (or ought to be able to) do regarding a living wage. Does this mean that every system of compulsory education is a good thing? Does this mean that a child subjected to a dangerous school is, in particular, better off than a child working on a family farm while being educated by his mother and grandparents? Surely, the fact of contrary examples does not undo our claim that Catholics (and people of good will) should, here and now, work to end child labor, and can rightly consider allowing for child labor as contrary to the good, without having to make the (untenable) claims that (1) child labor is per se contrary to the faith or (2) every solution to respond to child labor is per se better in actual fact than the ills it means to replace.

    So, can we not say that we ought to want to end the death penalty, as having other options available, and as more suitable to upholding other goods worth upholding, without, at the same time asserting that imposing the death penalty per se is against faith and morals or that every other penal solution (e.g. the American prison system) is necessarily achieving the good for which it was and is intended?

    • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

      @ David Cruz-Uribe — Most of what we have above is various attempts to rationalize how the death penalty might be okay–even good–given various societal circumstances. Right. And why, then, can’t abortion be okay–even good–given various societal circumstances, acting negatively, aggressively, and harmfully toward a woman and her family, with those bad effects rippling outward into the larger community? As usual, I see no moral integrity in the pro-life movement. Abortion has become a fetish towards which the response is knee-jerk and unreasoned. And while there is still room for debate with regard to state-sanctioned murder, there is no objective truth regarding the practice of it, no ruling moral guideline. It is another example of situational ethics/morality.

      • dominic1955

        The proper distinction is pretty simple, actually. One of the persons being killed is guilty and the other is innocent. That makes a big difference. Your use of the loaded term “state sanctioned murder” shows you either do not get this distinction or deny it.

        The death penalty is rightly applied to those who commit a capital crime. As Pius XII said, they forfeit their right to life by their crime. The person to be put to death, if done so rightly, is guilty of a grave crime.

        A baby, first of all, cannot be guilty of anything so they are naturally innocent. Thus, directly taking their life cannot be justified as killing any innocent person is gravely sinful. It is not “knee jerk” to uphold the basic premise that it is seriously wrong to kill the innocent.

    • dominic1955

      Thank you.

      I can say that. Let’s end the death penalty as it stands, practically speaking and put a moratorium on its use for those already so penalized. Let’s also work to reform the prison system to make it more effective in its intended use. Lastly, let’s not do violence to the constanting teaching on the principle of the death penalty. After all, a right does not entail a duty. Saying that the State has the right to exact the judgment of blood (per St. Paul) does not mean they have the duty to carry it out in particular cases or even at all.

      • http://poorjeremiah.tumblr.com/ Poor Jeremiah

        Exactly. I wish I could add more, but the good Friar and Dominic said it well.

    • Dante Aligheri

      Interesting. This does seem reasonable as if to say that the principles to be applied -accomplishing justice and protecting society – are universal but that historical applications are conditioned. Principles can only be best applied in any given circumstance and tend toward an ideal while not reaching it. To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what’s new about this statement. It sounds quite like the reasoning the Catechism in more thought out terms. Then again, I’m not an expert by any stretch. I like the child labor analogy. However, I wonder how this could be applied to slavery without compromising an objective morality.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Wow! Dominic Holtz’s response here is one of the most telling things I have read in a long time in my digital peregrinations, trying to understand the state of Catholic thought nowadays. It should be read very, very carefully. It would seem based on it, as a matter of simple coherence, that the very same logic, would work just as well to allow abortion much more in Catholic thought than it is now, grounded in the same non-intrinsicality, so to speak. Someone should forward it to Joe Biden’s office!

    • dominic1955

      I think the problem here is that folks seem to muddle what “killing” means. Every single form of killing has never been considered instrinsically evil-war, self-defense, execution, double-effect. Directly killing an innocent always has been considered intrinsically evil. I fail to see what is so difficult about getting, at least, the basic principle.

    • Knab Knob

      I’d think the difference, Peter, would be that Dominic is defining the State executing someone judged guilty by judicial process as non-intrinsically-evil, but the private killing of an innocent as intrinsically evil.

      The main category of difference or confusion in these sorts of debates seems to be that between State action and individual action and how those interact.

      In the Church’s traditional thought, the two are rather categorically different given that only individuals, not societies, are properly the subject of virtue and salvation.

      So it is certainly possible to see one social state (say, eliminating slavery, the death penalty, or child labor, or achieving universal healthcare) as morally superior, or even to in some sense identify them as intrinsically evil in the sense of falling (even gravely) short of the ideal, of an eschatological moral vision of a “heavenly” society. But that still doesn’t answer a few things.

      Firstly, that doesnt address what is the morality of participation in those institutions by individual in societies that do “fall short”? Is the fact that an institution falls short of the heavenly social moral vision equivalent to saying that any individual in such a society is thereby damned? Obviously not. Is it equivalent to saying that an intrinsic evil, an intrinsic missing-the-mark (amartia) on a social level, is necessarily also thus a sin for an individual participant in a society which thusly falls short? At least, the Church’s traditional thought does not say this; in the past there may have been holy slaveholders or virtuous judges or executioners even if those systems as a whole were/are “social sin.”

      Secondly, it raises the question of what “social sin” means, and about just whether Church teaching is primarily addressing individuals, or societies. Obviously, speaking of social sin does not mean a society as a whole (in terms of each of its individual members) will be damned for sinful systems (nor even necessarily, traditional thought would suggest, individual participation therein). A society is not a person, in the end, a State does not go to heaven or hell or purgatory.

      Now, whatever evaluation the Church or Christians might make about social sin, it seems that Church teaching has always had the individual in mind, primarily, in its moral teachings. It is utopian fantasy to try to prescribe a vision of the heavenly society; rather it is the Church’s job to propose a model of the heavenly individual life. So when I see people having a debate like this, sometimes I feel like they’re talking past each other; the side condemning slavery or the death penalty as absolute evils are really saying “that’s social sin (intrinsically),” which is true and the Church recognizes it; the side defending the Church’s past in saying they aren’t intrinsic evils or even are a “right” of the State in some circumstances seem to really mean “an individual is not necessarily personal sinning by participating if society has that system,” which is also true perhaps.

      When it comes to abortion, then, I’d have to think its apples and oranges. Saying abortion is intrinsically wrong on the individual level is different than saying it must be criminalized. Even if the “ideal” State or society would protect all life, it is not a moral imperative on the individual to achieve a morally ideal society, and indeed there are good arguments I think for the need to work “within the system” and to pragmatically address the facts of falleness or brokenness rather than insisting on imposing standards on the individual that require “pretending” as if they were living in the good society in order to have the good life.

      Of course, it might also be asked whether such “idealism” is likewise harmful to apply to the individual in each moment, as regards faith or morals, rather than recognizing a continuum or hierarchy of truth or virtue in which it is always good to move “forward” or “up” rather than an attitude insisting on “perfection or nothing-at-all” in the present. If conservatives are guilty of this sort of deontological judgment of individuals, liberals seem guilty on the level of societies. Shouldn’t both be judged relative to their own growth rather than against the final ideal that (hopefully) they are groping earnestly towards?

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Knab Knob,

        I was meditating on your response here a little bit ago and conjuring a reply, but then the holidays intervened, and I forgot. So now I am here finally ready to parse your thoughtful response. I say you are thoughtful because in your penultimate paragraph you limn an viewpoint on the issue of abortion that I WISH the RC church would take, especially in this country. It seems to me that your type of approach would allow the RC church to keep its morality in tact, and yet be reasonable in society. It would especially allow them to cease being used by reactionaries who are eager to cash in on their rather Johnny one-note obsessions in the moral arena lately.

        As to your general logic, I can’t quite be as sanguine. You say that the Catholic logic is such that “society as a whole,” won’t be “damned for sinful systems.” I don’t get how you can even write that, as I have to assume your erudite prose, that you would be educated in a little things like The Reformation and The Counter-Reformation. Besides those, a who slew of examples could be trotted out to show the seemingly eagerness of the RC Church having “damned for sinful systems.”

        As to the technical distinction between societal and individual, or personal, it seems to involve some sort of infinite regress. A matter that is to vexing personally can be summed up as a problem of societies, and vice versa. The irony is that you yourself seem to get this difference, in your above-mentioned and lauded penultimate paragraph. If the discussion remotely involves civil society, which is by definition pluralistic in our world, then there can NEVER be the sort of deductions based ideal goods, so dear to the hearts of certain Catholic thinkers. As personal religious obedience, that is sacrosanct, period.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      @ PPF — Isn’t that what I said above?