Rejoice Death Penalty Zealots!

Rejoice Death Penalty Zealots! August 28, 2013

Nidal Hassan has been sentenced to death! And as we all know, the Church is completely wrong to oppose the death penalty and can be blown off by recourse to that beloved “prudential judgment” thing. So American “prolife” conservatives can relish deadly vengeance justice and still go on talking about the “sanctity of life for each and every (cute) human person” while basically shaking all that off when they feel like it and sneering at the out of touch Magisterium and its panty waist liberal softness on crime. So good to see Real Christians (not those wussy CINOs) lock arms with our brethren in Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Iran, and a dozen other Muslim craphole despotisms on this vital point of resistance to the Magisterium’s woefully wrong teaching.

Suggested reading for all the combox experts Catechism correctors who are certain that the Church has erred in calling for death penalty minimalism and, where possible, abolition.

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  • quasimodo

    we don’t need another martyr… the bone heads

    • Steve

      I’m not in favor of his execution, but facts insist I must add this:

      He’d be a martyr either way. The Blind Sheik remains alive, but is still a rallying cry around the Islamist world. Nidal Hissan’s death will probably mean he is forgotten more quickly.

  • Rachel

    This is sad :(. I will pray for his conversion. Why couldn’t they just let him have life in prison without parole?

    • They can. This is a military court. The commanding general must sign off on the results of the court martial or substitute personal judgment.

  • HornOrSilk

    Kyrie Eleison!

  • defiant12314

    I’m sorry mark but you really do need to look up the Church’s teaching on this, She has for nearly 2000 years taught that the Death Penalty is an Option, otherwise she’d have bullied all of those european states who only got rid of it in the last 100 years or so into abolition centuries ago.

    As for the case of Mr Hassan, he killed 13 people in cold blood and attempted to kill many more, if that doesn’t qualify as death penalty material then I don’t know what does. Now as justice will hopefully be done with the minimum of legal wrangling I will start to pray that he repents and converts to the One True Faith before he dies, seeing as I wouldn’t wish hell on my worst enemy.

    • Sarx Discuss

      There’s a Catechism for that:

      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.

      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 to 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 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 nonexistent.”

      • defiant12314

        The Fact remains sarx that the guy killed 13 people, now according to you he should live out the rest of his natural life in reasonable comfort at taxpayers expense with (because not to provide them would be ‘cruel and unreasonable) leisure facilities and conjugal visits if he was married ?

        Now this is one area where we can agree to disagree, this man forfeited his right to life when he killed 13 people in cold blood, 13 people who didn’t get the due process of law and who leave behind fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children who had their loved ones taken from them by a psychopath. Personally I think that lethal injection is to good for him, either hang him high or make do the sit down dance in the electric chair.

        • enness

          “at taxpayers expense”
          As usual, the crux of the complaint cannot help but reveal itself.

        • Sarx Discuss

          “According to you”? I never stated my opinion. Everything after the first five words was a quotation from the Catechism.

          But a couple of thoughts:

          1. He’s not a psychopath. He’s a Muslim.
          2. There are no conjugal visits in military or federal prisons.
          3. I think per the Catechism the military justice system can render him incapable of doing harm and that execution is not an “absolute necessity.”

          • Sus_1

            There are millions and millions of Muslims that don’t kill anyone.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          He’s also paralyzed, meaning that – barring some sort of Hector Salamanca thing – he’s harmless.

        • Nobody said “reasonable comfort” was necessary in this case. Or for that matter, given his injuries, even possible.

          End his pain medication, take away the wheelchair, lock him up permanently, would have been a far more fitting punishment.

          • Dave G.

            How would ending his pain medicine and leaving him locked up in perpetual pain not be torture?

            • The only torture is natural effects of his own actions.

              Nobody has to *do* anything to cause this man pain. Torture is caused by others, this man’s pain is caused by himself.

            • kenofken

              Easy. You hire the right lawyer to say it’s not torture!

          • Such a punishment would have quite possibly ended up with his release for 8th amendment violations.

            • I think you know I’m much more of a monarchist than a constitutionalist- though either is preferable to being a moral relativist.

              I personally think the 8th Amendment is too vague to apply to anything at all.

              • I was speaking to the law as it is currently written while you are not. So long as there is that distance between us, we have nothing further to say to each other on law.

        • UAWildcatx2

          “this man forfeited his right to life when he killed 13 people in cold blood, 13 people who didn’t get the due process of law and who leave behind fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children who had their loved ones taken from them by a psychopath”

          The concept of the death penalty is not revenge, as you seem to believe it to be. His actions are horrible, no doubt, and the impact is absolutely long-lasting and far reaching. That being said, the emotional investment you have put in your statement is good for a prosecution’s closing statement, but not appropriate for the consideration of justice. And as the Catechism cited above clearly states, and as Blessed John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” the usage of the death penalty as construed is practically inexcusable. If you want to disagree with the Magisterium and a very-soon-to-be-saint, be my guest.

          • defiant12314

            well the Pope Emeritus says we can disagree with one another (and the Holy Father) over whether capital punishment can be used in specific cases. In fact I agree without you that the Death Penalty is not about revenge, it is about making sure that the punishment fits the crime.

            BTW thanks for the comment about my rhetoric, I once thought about becoming a Shyster but realized that my rhetorical skills could be better employed elsewhere.

          • My recollection of JPII’s position was that he believed that modern conditions of imprisonment had improved to the point where it was sufficiently unlikely that others would die if the prisoner would live so that the traditional reason would not hold. This argument, whatever its merits in other cases, is weakest in the case of a religious martyrdom seeker who is likely to have terrorists seeking to negotiate his release and/or break him out of prison.

    • The Death Penalty is too good for him. And that’s my problem with the Death Penalty in general- it is always unjust.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    What is deeply stupid is that the man has made clear that he wanted exactly that. He wanted to be a martyr in his execrable cause. There, you have given him what he wanted. Did it not occur to the court that life without parole would have been a much more severe punishment for this particular villain?

    • Imp the Vladaler

      If the death penalty is wrong, and life imprisonment is more severe, then can life imprisonment be moral?

      • chezami

        I question your minor premise.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          Not my minor premise. Fabio’s the one who said that life imprisonment is “more severe.” I don’t think it is. I’m just pushing back against the sloppy argument of those who say “the death penalty is wrong, but don’t think I’m soft on crime – it’s actually more of a punishment to be imprisoned for your natural life.”

      • Yes. The death penalty is wrong precisely because it cuts short the ability of the condemned to repent. Life imprisonment gives that chance.

        • John

          That argument cuts both ways. Knowledge of certain and swiftly impending death may actually be motivation for repentance. How then to decide? More time for repentance but less motivation or less time but more motivation?

          I think you would be hard pressed to make a definitive argument that the odds of repentance are greater in the former case. Perhaps they are. But at the very least it would seem a matter open to legitimate debate and not quite as cut and dried as you portrayed it there.

          • Andy, Bad Person

            Knowledge of certain and swiftly impending death may actually be motivation for repentance.

            If that is held true for Christians, then why not put guns to everyone’s heads to stimulate their conversions? Aren’t their souls important enough to do this?

        • Dave G.

          What about an innocent person who might be killed by someone who otherwise would have been executed? It has happened you know. Setting aside the state’s new found ability to prevent crime, assume someone gets out and kills an innocent. What about that person’s chance to repent? I’ll bet an escaped convict won’t telephone ahead and let the victim know he’ll be killed next Thursday. While the convict on death row has a very definite knowledge of when he’ll die (assuming natural causes don’t take him first). One of the reasons that the Church apparently supported the DP in the past. Also assuming that loss of soul is worse than loss of body. So those are questions I have when people talk of the criminals not having a chance to repent. I used to stand completely against the DP, but that always bothered me – the idea of an innocent dying at the hands of a guilty person. The Catholic Church solved all of that…at least until now.

          • That’s what the science of welding is for. I’m not for parole. I’m not even for letting a condemned and convicted killer mix with other prisoners. It is possible to create an escape proof cell today.

  • If we want to opopse the death penalty, that’s cool. Yet I really think we should be willing to talk a bit more about how in todays prison system, life imprisonment without the possiblity of parole is more often than not just as inhumane as the death penalty. In the case of supermax prisons, I’d argue lethal injection is more humane than a lifetime of continious torture.
    Why to this day I think most opponents of the death penalty really don’t care about the dignity of the human person. They just simply jump on board a crusade and try to make themselves feel morally superior than those mouthbreathers who support the death penalty. (For the record, I’m for a very limited use of the death penalty, and that becomes more and more limited each day.)

    • GOOD. I’m against the Death penalty, but I’m not for somebody having dignity that they were not willing to give to others.

    • I don’t know about that; most of the people I know (including me!) who are opposed to the death penalty are also opposed to the abuses and cruelties in our penal system, and wish (or even advocate for) prison reform.

  • Brennan

    “So American “prolife” conservatives can relish deadly vengeance justice”

    It’s as if no Magisterium existed prior to Vatican II or the New Catechism. If you believe this man deserves the death penalty and ought to be put to death you are simply a death relishing vengeance monger. It’s simply not possible to believe this man should be put to death for the reasons the Magisterium has given in prior times such as justice, expiation for sin, and the right ordering of society.

    Well, then I guess almost all Popes and Catholics prior to the new Catechism simply loved the death penalty not for any reasons having to do with justice and expiation for sin, but as a way to deal out some wonderful bloodthirsty vengeance. I’m glad we’re so above that now.

    • bill bannon

      Splendid retort. Our two largest Catholic populations, Brazil and Mexico, have no death penalty and high murder rates over 20 per 100,000. Japan’s murder rate is .4 per 100,000 and they have the death penalty and they have a genteel country after processing their enormities in China which were not genteel. Your family is 50 times safer traveling in Japan than in Brazil, the largest Catholic population. China also has a very low murder rate but they are brutal as to the number of crimes than it includes. God gives it to the gentiles in Gen.9:6 and mentions only murder. Romans13:4 echoes that mandate and John Paul II effectively hid both from view in Evangelium Vitae where he actually quotes the non death parts of Gen.9:5-6 four times while never showing the death penalty part.

      • Dan C

        Because the matters that make these Catholic countries unsafe are exclusively detrmined by its policy on capital punishment. Poverty would have no bearing in these matters. History-no bearing.

        Because these cause and effect detrrminations due to the Capital punishmmet policy of Brazil and Mexico are to blame.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Japan is also overwhelmingly atheistic. Since we’re implying causation by correlation, do you want to renounce your faith?

        Also, for some weird reason, I trust Pope JP II’s Scriptural exegesis over yours. I’m weird like that.

    • enness

      There was a time when I probably would have taken it just as personally and gotten just as indignant as you. But seriously, you don’t have to take his word for it. If you want to see disturbing vengeance fantasies, try comments on Yahoo when there are news stories about crime (particularly if it involves a child, elderly person, animal, etc.). Or Facebook, where if you call someone out, you get accused of sympathy for child molestation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s correct for people to be upset about the harm criminals do and want to see them brought to justice, but the reactions can go way beyond that and for some people it apparently doesn’t lie all that far below the surface. No offense to you, but I really hope we’re all taking an honest look at our motives, all the time.

    • Dave E

      Well said. These DP prohibitionists just cringe at the concept of justice. Sympathy for mass murderers is more their style.

      • chezami

        Good to know JPII, Benedict, and Francis have sympathy for mass murderers. I hear their boss actually let one into heaven. What a pansy!

  • John

    Pope Leo X, Papal Bull Exsurge Domine, condemning the errors of Martin Luther, condemned proposition 33:

    “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”

    “By the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected . . . We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication….”

    Now I am wondering to myself, Mark, whether you hold the above condemned proposition. Do you think it is against the will of the Spirit for heretics to be burned (which seems to be a form of capital punishment)?

    If not, wouldn’t you have to allow that the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral (for if it were it would seem to be against the will of the all-holy Spirit). And if it is not intrinsically immoral, then it can sometimes be morally good (apparently by definition).

    If you do think so, then do you not have to admit that you are not being entirely obedient to the magisterium of Pope Leo (to say nothing of the possibility of incurring an automatic major excommunication)?

    Which is it? Or has a third logical possibility escaped me?

    Of course the obvious option is to avoid the question by simply quoting the Catechism at me. But then we have another series of options to consider.

    Either (A), the Catechism doesn’t actually contradict Pope Leo insofar as it doesn’t actually say that capital punishment is immoral. In which case you might want to consider moderating your tone when discussing your fellow believers in Christ who think that it is good and right to make occasional use of it.

    Or (B), The Catechism does contradict Pope Leo. Now if this is the case, how are faithful and obedient Catholics to choose between them? I can think of three possibilities offhand:

    1. We could follow the one which expresses itself more clearly (since it is a general principle of interpretation to interpret more ambiguous passages in light of less ambiguous passages). Advantage: Pope Leo.

    2. We could follow the one which is issued with a greater degree of magisterial authority (e.g. stick with the decisions of Ecumenical Councils over Particular ones, with papal bulls over encyclicals, and with encyclicals over Wednesday audiences). Advantage: Pope Leo.

    3. We could follow the one which is issued more recently. Advantage: Catechism. I genuinely don’t want to assume, but if this is the principle of your decision (as it is for some of my acquaintances), I wonder what justification you could offer in defence of it? I would be interested to hear or read it.

    4. Of course this last was not a strict logical division, so there may be other ways of choosing between contradictory magisterial statements (if you believe there are such), which I have left out. If so, I would also be interested to hear or read about what these may be.

    And of course, any choice made, no matter how justified, of which the upshot is that you end up holding a proposition condemned by the authority of almighty God and the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul as contrary to Catholic truth would still leave you with that problem of holding an opinion condemned as contrary to Catholic truth by the authority of almighty God and the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Wouldn’t it?

    Pax et bonum.

    • There is no contradiction that I see.

      First, re: the papal bull, the condemned proposition is in a list of many, with many causes of error. It is not a systematic moral treatise; rather it is a reaction to specific errors of the time. That burning heretics is everywhere and under every circumstance contrary to the will of the Spirit is indeed contrary to the mind of the Church.

      The Catechism (along with our recent popes) defends the right of the state to use capital punishment – which is what happened in the burning of heretics.

      No contradiction.

      However, that capital punishment is not intrinsically evil does not necessarily imply that it is often good. It is a tool, like most any other, and can be used for good or for evil.

      The main difference is that, as history has gone on and technology has developed, the popes and many other bishops see more and more the risk of committing evil by using capital punishment, and fewer and fewer circumstances in which it would truly be good. Those latter circumstances seem to be so few as to eliminate the risks posed by abolishing capital punishment altogether. Therefore, they suggest minimizing the use of capital punishment.

      This is indeed a prudential judgment, but those who propose this judgment are well known for their wisdom and prudence, so they are well worth listening to.

      • Dave G.

        Well said. A good response to a well written comment. And a much better approach than this topic sometimes gets. One thing though. Minimizing the use of capital punishment is no different than a year or ten years ago and I don’t see a problem. But abolishing altogether. That’s the sticky part, since the state hasn’t quite caught up with ‘eliminating crime’ yet, and the innocent may still die at the guilty’s hands. As long as it’s minimizing, I see no contradiction. It says we may need to use it to protect the widow and orphan, but let’s not as often as we can. If it’s abolish altogether, however, then we have to sit down and wonder what the ramifications are. What does this mean, our willingness to say it’s better that an innocent might die than the guilty be executed? That speaks to issues beyond capital punishment. And personally, I think that is why good people and good Catholics can disagree on this issue without the need to, well, you know.

        • Michaelus

          What does burning heretics have to do with the US Government killing Hasan?

          • Dave G.

            Was this directed at some other comment that mentioned burning heretics?

            • Michaelus

              Exsurge Domini addressed burning heretics by Christian princes not the execution of Mohammedans by anti-Christian Governments. Perhaps I should have replied to John rather than at the end of the thread.

      • John

        I agree entirely. I was wondering how someone who rejects capital punishment entirely – as intrinsically immoral – would deal with Pope Leo’s statement on the issue.

        • Honestly, I struggle with the Church’s teaching on capital punishment. To my mind, it appears to be intrinsically immoral: the direct and deliberate killing of another human, not a side-effect of immediate self-defense.

          But the Church is right about so many other, more important things (everything from the universal destination of goods to sexual morality to, you know, that whole life/death/resurrection of Jesus thang), that I’m willing to trust her on this. I’ll trust that the innocence or guilt of the person matters, and that the State has rights and duties that the individual does not. And I’ll keep thinking and praying about it till I understand.

  • Paul

    Has anybody noticed that all of the prophecies of Maria Divine Mercy are actually happening ?!! A few examples… the unprecedented Flooding… and about Iran, Egypt, Israel and Syria issuing in WW3… the collapse of the money system…. The imminent Warning to Mankind…. Hey, I’m with God on this.

    • Matthew

      Go sell your contradictory-to-the-Church garbage somewhere else. Charlatans that prop up the Pope as evil, like MDM, does nothing in this discussion, or in any other discussion as well.

  • Hassan seems to have been aiming for this sentence. It’s difficult to see how, both sides pushing for this, it wasn’t going to be the verdict.

    Were Hassan to be sentenced to life in prison there are two possibilities that need to weigh heavily on the anti-death penalty side. In this particular case, it is more likely than usual that attempts will be made to trade Hassan out and also to break him out of incarceration.

  • Paxton Reis

    Seems to me that Hassan wants the death penalty so he can die as a martyr to his cause. As such, life without parole would have been better so to deny him this desire.

  • CrustyNatsFan

    May God have mercy on him. I just have a hard time in my mind going from Christ’s words of “loving your enemies” to a moral justification to kill them, whether it is the death penalty or even in some applications of just war theory. I know smart people have made the case that you can. But I just don’t see how love, defined as “wishing the good for the other as the other”, can ever end up in wishing for someone’s execution. Each day this man is alive is another day the Holy Spirit could possibly move him away from the evil he so strongly grasps to.

    • Dave G.

      It’s not hard to believe that the two can be reconciled, since that was the official stance of the Catholic Church for almost 2000 years. I’d like to think they all weren’t that wrong for so long.

      • Bryan

        For almost 2000 years, human societies also didn’t have adequate means to incarcerate dangerous criminals for life as we do today in the modern world, so for 99% of human history, the only feasible way to actually control and minimize the threat to society from homicidal criminals was to execute them. The Church’s historical support for capital punishment was for this practical
        reason, and it has never been about the “eye for an eye” mentality
        prevalent among many conservative Christians (and I say this as a
        conservative Christian myself). Today, especially in the U.S. and other developed nations, we have the ability to lock such people up for life in technologically advanced maximum security prisons. Hence, there is no longer a valid moral justification for the continued use of capital punishment. And, I’d contend that it’s worse punishment for them to have to live out the rest of their lives in the most miserable prison conditions imaginable, forgotten by the world, than for them to be given the ‘easy way out’ of this life via execution. And then, of course, there is that stubborn Gospel passage about loving our enemies and praying for their salvation; hard as it may be to believe, there are many true Death Row conversion stories out there, and we never know who might come to know Christ, repent of their wickedness, and be saved – and as Christians, that should be our chief desire for everyone.

        • Dave G.

          I’m missing where they can prevent crime now. Better means to try maybe. But not perfect. And in this case, not perfect means somehow, in some way, the machine still breaks down. And even if that day comes when the state has become perfectly capable of preventing crime (because anything less than perfect means we’re prepared to let the innocent die rather than execute someone who might kill again), it still doesn’t mean that there is something, or ever was something, inherently twisted or wrong with allowing for it. You say that, and no matter how it’s qualified or parsed, and you have one seriously flawed 2000 year Catholic history.

          And it’s worth noting that you can certainly argue there might be a time when our government is so perfect it can prevent crime, and there is no longer a need for capital punishment. But that, too, would only be the result of ‘changing times’ and would only last as long as the state could prevent crime. If people argued against the DP even if things got worse, that means there are reasons beyond ‘because the state can prevent crime now’ that are behind the call to change this rather old and consistent approach to the topic.

          • bob

            It’s certainly true that prisons, however technologically advanced they are, will not be perfect in preventing crime. Prisoners have been known to order executions right from their prison cells using smuggled cell phones and other means.
            But speaking of the government machine breaking down, what about all the innocent men wrongly convicted and put on death row, only to be exonerated later, often decades later? Surely some innocent men have been executed before their exonerations came. We’ll never know, for example, whether Troy Davis was truly guilty.
            And more will be, no doubt. Texas executes someone roughly once a week, I believe. Surely some those men are/were innocent. But I suppose we can just chalk it all up to collateral damage to giving us all that (false) sense of safety. Tank goodness out government is protecting us by killing so many people.

            • Dave G.

              And that’s the problem. Innocent people no doubt have been executed. Meanwhile, innocent people have been killed by convicts when the machine has broken down. Just this year, two people in my state were killed by inmates who managed to escape. There isn’t an easy answer, but for 2000 years, the Church provided a consistent one, no matter how it was modified. Now the Church is changing that. OK, fair enough. But the reason the Church is saying *Now* is the time is because of this new found ability the State has for effectively preventing crime. That would be like the Church calling for an end to traffic laws now that the State can effectively prevent auto accidents. One need only look out the window and say ‘Gee, that hasn’t happened yet. What’s the Church talking about?’ Which is why many (ahem, me) who traditionally opposed the DP are bothered by the Church’s move here. It doesn’t account for the various historical reasons for the DP at all, and rests largely on a reason that is clearly not. Sure, when the Catechism was written, there was a decline in violent crimes, esp. in European nations. But in recent years, this is not the case. In some countries violent crime has been on an uptick. And in other places where the DP has been banned (Mexico), it’s a killing field. So it seems less like the Church has just unpacked a clear revelation of what the Church has always taught, and more like a decision to say ‘it’s time to change this traditional teaching.’ Which is like eating peanuts. Once you start, you just can’t stop. Because if the Church can change this consistent witness to this particular issue based on something so difficult to grasp as ‘the state can now effectively prevent crime’, it can change other teachings based on other reasons no better.

  • moseynon

    It may be worth remembering that the US military has not executed anyone since 1961, more than 50 years ago.

    Since 1984, the military has placed 16 men on death row, but 11 of those sentences were overturned (for a variety of reasons.)

    Of the five men currently on military death row, one has been there since 1990, or 23 years ago. I am not sure about the other four.

    I mention all this because there is a very good chance that Nidal Hassan will not die from execution, despite the sentence handed down today.

  • pjm

    “If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millennia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture.” — Avery Cardinal Dulles

    • kenofken

      He would also be overthrowing the even older traditions of the Roman emperors, the Aztecs and the more contemporary wisdom of the Zetas Cartel.

      • Dave G.

        So you’re saying that all of the consistent witness of the Catholic Church, up until recently, was in line with the Roman Emperors, Aztecs and the Zetas Cartel? I never knew how right critics of the Church actually were until I followed this debate on the Catholic blogosphere.

        • kenofken

          I’m saying the instinct for retributive homicide is universal and not rendered any more noble because one church’s philosophers came up with some fancy justifications for it.

          • pjm

            Yes we all know how just were the actions of Roman Emporers, the Aztecs, and a drug cartel.

          • Dave G.

            Some might disagree, especially if it means better the innocent die than the guilty be executed, which isn’t exactly something that has never happened in history. To me, there’s always something implicit in the idea that we’re prepared to let the innocent die for the cause that suggests in the back of our minds we’re saying ‘we mean those innocent over there…not anyone we know and cherish.’ One of the reasons societies have wrestled with this – what to do about protecting the innocent. Protect at all costs? Or is there a point when you put up your hands and say ‘the innocent are just going to have to buy it at this point’? Not as easy as some who appear already convinced can make it seem. As one who used to oppose all capital punishment, I know it bugged me to no end. And I understood why there were valid reasons given by those who disagreed with me.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      “I’ll take the teaching of John Paul II, an actual pope, over that of a contradictory cardinal.”

      -Andy, Bad Person

      • Nordog6561

        “I’ll take the teaching of John Paul II, an actual pope, over that of a contradictory cardinal.”

        Fortunately they do not contradict each other, so you need not reject either.

    • Sam Schmitt

      “If the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice . . . “

      When did he do that?

      • Nordog6561

        He didn’t, and that’s the point.

  • laxrocketeer

    To say that the death penalty does not have deterrent effect because people still kill people is to say that the speed laws lack deterrent effect because people still speed. I do not speed because I do not want to pay the penalty. Others don’t care and will speed regardless. Same for heinous crimes. I don’t commit heinous crimes for reasons including, but not limited to, I just do not want to pay the death penalty. Others don’t care. The fact is that there IS a deterrent effect to proper and timely use of the death penalty which does, indeed, justify it as a means to protect other decent citizens. This says nothing of the protection it affords to others, such as the multitude of prison guards injured each year by same-said people who don’t care. I am a lawyer and have worked in criminal justice since 1991 and, unlike bleeding heart liberals and uninformed Catholics, actually know what I am talking about. Bottom line: if someone poses such a threat to others in society, or to others in prison, then the death penalty actually is appropriate. If the miscreant is repentant enough to be forgiven by God, then God will take care of it in eternity. If the miscreant is not repentant enough to be forgiven, then satan will take care of him in eternity. So be it. It was the miscreant’s choice, and Almighty God will honor that choice.

    • Matthew A. Siekierski

      Is the death penalty a deterrent to those seeking martyrdom, or is it a selling point?
      Would Hassan pose a threat to guards, other prisoners, or the general public (“decent citizens”)?

      • potted plant

        “Would Hassan pose a threat to guards, other prisoners, or the general public (“decent citizens”)?”

        Yes. He’s said that he kills in the name of Allah. He’s unrepentant. Why on earth do you think he’ll show restraint if given the choice to kill again?

        “Is the death penalty a deterrent to those seeking martyrdom, or is it a selling point?”

        Selling point, definitely. But people like this are just as happy with slaughtering innocents as martyrdom. How many people does he have to kill before you’re convinced he’s dangerous?

        • Matthew A. Siekierski

          “Why on earth do you think he’ll show restraint if given the choice to kill again?”

          As a paralyzed prisoner, when would he be given the choice (or chance) to kill again?

          “How many people does he have to kill before you’re convinced he’s dangerous?”

          The deterrent effect is through a message to others who would do what he did, not a message to the individual committing the initial crime. If he is executed, the message is “kill a bunch of innocents and be guaranteed martyrdom”…not a very effective deterrent.

          He *was* dangerous (clearly). His attitude still *is* dangerous. However, I ask if he would physically pose a threat to guards or other prisoners. I don’t think so. In which case he can be handled without resorting to capital punishment, and the not-quite-a-deterrent of martyrdom isn’t given to him.

          • potted plant

            “As a paralyzed prisoner, when would he be given the choice (or chance) to kill again?”

            How paralyzed is he? If he still has the use of his arms, he’s still dangerous. Wheelchair or not, you’d be a fool to let anyone you care about near him.

            “If he is executed, the message is “kill a bunch of innocents and be guaranteed martyrdom”…not a very effective deterrent.”

            His sentence should be a proportionate punishment for his crimes. Deciding on how his sentence would go over for a particular demographic shouldn’t have any bearing on what is considered just. That would reduce him to a propaganda vehicle.

            I’m also very doubtful that a potential jihadi (the person that is supposed to be deterred) is going to interpret a life sentence the same way you or I do. Restraint is seen as weakness. And you know Hasan will be recruiting for jihad at every opportunity, so I think deterrence will be minimal to none.

          • The biggest threat Major Hassan poses is in inciting others to commit murder. The second biggest threat would be for him to be released and for him to volunteer to be a suicide bomber (bomb in a wheelchair is a nasty and practical scenario). Now normally I wouldn’t worry too much about the 2nd one because of the US history of “no deals” policy and refusing to do prisoner swaps. I no longer view that as certain policy for the likely lifetime of prisoner Hassan.

  • Bill

    ummm, no Dave, he’s saying what the Church teaches
    by a logical extension, you’re saying ignore the Church

  • Stu

    So if the Nidal Hassan is in fact executed, does the Church maintain that such a sentence in general is immoral or intrinsically evil?

    (BTW, I am not for the use of capital punishment.)

    • Sarx Discuss

      The Church doesn’t teach that the death penalty is intrinsically evil as she does with abortion. Were that the case, it could not be countenanced at all.

      Elsewhere in these comments is the full quotation from the Catechism, the authoritative compendium of the Church’s teachings. Although the Church does not teach that it is intrinsically evil, it finds its use immoral in virtually any scenario. (That’s my summary; read the comments for the actual text.)

      • Stu

        Thanks. I agree mostly with your summary but I don’t believe it goes as far to call it’s use “immoral” even in a time when it is possible to confine people with some certainty that they can do no more harm. In fact, it uses the term “absolute necessity” in making that case and goes on with the stipulation being “rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

        So here is the challenge? Who makes that call if a case like this is indeed an “absolute necessity?” You? Me? The Pope?

        I see the Church’s teaching on this as pointing out a “better way.” It’s not that capital punishment is wrong, but rather mercy is better. Accordingly, the condemnations of “Real Catholics” (yet another “us” vs “them” paradigm) just simply miss the mark.

    • chezami

      Nope. It just says, “Don’t kill unless you have to.”

      • Stu

        Agreed. So let’s not damn people who appeal to a moral recourse of the state in effecting justice (the Church doesn’t) and instead point to a better way in a manner that will actually change hearts.

        Do you really want to compare those who honestly see the Nidal Hassan sentence as just to North Korea? Kind of a Godwin’s Law sort of appeal.

  • George Albinson

    Pope Pius XII urged the hanging of Nazis convicted at Nuremburg and met with the assistant US prosecuting attorney to assist him. The Pope wrote:

    “Even in the
    case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right
    to life. Rather, public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of
    the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime,
    deprived himself of his own right to life.”

  • Mike the Geek

    The purpose of execution is justice, not vengeance. It says that we as a society take things like murder seriously. And, with all due respect, I’ll take my clergy’s version of what the Church’s teaching is over yours. If Abouna or his reverend superior tells me the Church now opposes the High Justice, then I’ll rethink my position. Until then, provide Dr. Hassan with clergy so he can reject the gospel, and go to hell with all his Moslem Antichrist buddies who martyred the Blessed Massabki Brothers in front of the altar have the gift of final repentance.

  • Nathan

    It’s one thing to be offend someone by speaking frankly, but it’s quite another thing when the only point of your diatribe seem to be to insult those that disagree with you.

  • Nathan


    Are you making an argument, or are you just trying to insult me? It’s not really clear from what you said.

  • MK

    “And as we all know, the Church is completely wrong to oppose the death
    penalty and can be blown off by recourse to that beloved “prudential
    judgment” thing.”


    “The Church” doesn’t officially teach what is presented in the CCC. That’s an opinion we can hold – obviously Pope JPII did – but Catholic teaching has never been that the death penalty can be used only in cases of extreme need. The State has the right to excercise capital punishment for capital crimes, and doing so is not a violation of the 5th commandment (see: the Catechism of the Council of Trent). It would be the height of arrogance to conclude that all of the brilliant men leading the Church before the 1980s were misguided.

  • tz1

    One might argue a technicality or some abstruse theology. Capital punishment is TECHNICALLY licit, however it is at the edge of the cliff that overlooks Gehenna. In most who run toward it are not able to stop short.

    When prudence dictates (if we don’t execute, he evildoer is very likely to do more harm including more deaths, as it was long ago), and if there is a system of justice, and it has worked properly, … after a long chain of due process, then it will not be a greater evil.

    But do look at the ACTUAL PRACTICE. Can any Catholic say we have justice in America? Fortnights and rallys for freedom, yet in this instance Caesar is doing the right thing? A stopped clock is right twice a day. A stopped brain less often.

    Also there is no positive command that we must execute in any possible case including the most egregious evils.

    This – if it goes through – will be a judicial killing. But it ought to make everyone nervous about the extra-judicial killings. Al-alwaki and his teenage son for example (no charges, but he was on an Obamalist, as are “suspected militants” which means any young man).

    To put it into perspective, remember when the man who we could not get to – who was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of innocents, when they burst into his sanctuary and shot him to death. How did you feel when you first heard the news that George Tiller was dead? You may have thought I meant Osama. Well Osama didn’t literally have the blood of innocents on his hands, though he did give the orders. But I have to wonder why.

    In a nation that has slaughtered 55 Million innocents in their Mother’s wombs, and who knows how many Terri Schiavos, do we really, really prefer a spirit of revenge and hatred that we would not rather banish all slaughter – would it not be better to fail to execute a few hundred for the sake of millions?

    • MK

      It’s not at any sort of edge. You certainly don’t have to like it (who does?), but what you’ve posted here simply isn’t the Catholic understanding of the death penalty.

      This is:
      “The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment [Thy shall not kill], such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the State is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent lives.”

      Protecting society isn’t the only goal here – if it was, extended jailtime would be ideal. Instead, the Church recognises that certain crimes render one’s life forfeit. Pope Pius XII explained this when he said, “Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.”