Death Penalty Red Herring

Death Penalty Red Herring March 7, 2015

“The death penalty is not intrinsically immoral like abortion, therefore the state has no business banning it!”

Prescinding from the fact that the “prolife” people most ardently in favor of the death penalty have absolutely no problem with grave intrinsic evil when Dick Cheney is defending the cold-blooded murder of innocents for the greater good, it must also be noted that nobody arguing for the abolition of the death penalty says it is an intrinsic evil.

The game of Simon Peter Says that is at play here is that only intrinsic evils can be outlawed. But this is obvious rubbish. Jaywalking is not intrinsically evil, but it is still against the law in many places because it is highly imprudent and dangerous.

It is not intrinsically evil for one person to sell heroin to another (the buyer *might* be going to use it for some licit reason like a chemistry experiment). But it is still such a massively imprudent thing for the state to allow that the state outlaws it anyway.

The cost/benefit ratio of the death penalty, fiscally, morally, and spiritually, is so massively against the death penalty that the obviously sensible thing to do is to ban it.

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  • sez

    Granted, banning the death penalty is clearly sensible in theory, but the Great Oracle Party has deemed it a Vitally Important Policy – a hill to die on, so to speak – so, therefore, we must keep it legal. Because freedom.

    • Alma Peregrina


  • Dave G.

    “The death penalty is not intrinsically immoral like abortion, therefore the state has no business banning it!”

    I’ve seen that argument, but not framed that way. Usually the ‘it’s not intrinsic evil’ argument is a response to the attempt to say anyone who hasn’t already fully accepted the recent change in almost 2000 years of consistent Catholic teaching are probably best grouped with North Koreans, Chinese, Muslims and other murdering types since they, you know, probably desire to increase human slaughter anyway. I’ve often noticed that framing an argument as ‘you can see it as I clearly do, or you can admit your a stupid, evil person who doesn’t love Jesus the way you should’ typically gets a response. Sometimes a bad one. Therefore seeing the full context of the quote might help to see if that’s what the individual was actually saying, or if there was just an attempt to counter an equally poor argument in favor of banning the death penalty.

    • Iota

      “the recent change in almost 2000 years of consistent Catholic teaching”

      This is a loaded characterization – early Christians didn’t practice the death penalty, because they weren’t rulers in the state (significantly – they were never advised to just take criminal law into their own hands). This is especially relevant, since for a large part of that time, Roman law didn’t square with Christianity on many, many levels.

      in states whose rules were Christian, when the death penalty existed, the King’s pardon was seen as a good thing, in religious terms.

      In war, pardoning prisoners was considered better (even though those are people who, potentially, wanted to kill you yesterday). You will repeatedly see saints pleading for mercy to such people.

      In later times, when societies adopted honour codes that demanded duels for disrespect, people were excommunicated for taking part in a duel (1917 cannon code, for example). In other words – you are not permitted to duel, regardless of whether people start disrespecting yo for “being weak”, “not acting lie a real man” and whatnot, effectively treating you worse than him. Tis is irrespective of whether the law permits duels.

      The idea that non-lethal judicial solutions, that put focus on the wronged party showing leniency (mercy rather than justice), are a novelty is really, really hard to support, from historical sources about Christendom.

      • Dave G.

        Note I said almost 2000 years. Not exactly 2000 years. Also I never once argued that the Church has universally cheered the death penalty, preferring it to all other options. Fact is, the Church has, for most of its history, allowed for the death penalty in the same way it allowed for just war and allowed its believers to amass personally fortunes even while their fellows starve in the mud (though charity was always encouraged). My point was that I’ve not seen the argument quoted used that way. It might be. But when I’ve seen the ‘it’s not an intrinsic evil’ argument used, it’s usually in reaction to the attempt to frame the debate between those who just itch to increase human slaughter, and those who clearly are perfect in their obedience to what the Church is obviously moving toward.

        • Iota

          > Not exactly 2000 years

          Well, exactly 2000 years ago wouldn’t work anyway – the Church hasn’t been around EXACTLY that long. 🙂

          The Church still allows for the death penalty (the teaching itself hasn’t actually changed – the state has the right, potentially, to execute criminals and in that sense it’s still consistent). The argument is about it’s application to a particular set of circumstances.

          Said application (and relations between Church and state) varied drastically – that the death penalty was in some sense allowed throughout Church history across a few different continents is true, but it’s a generalisation that loses most of its point. Which is, in such cases specifics really, really matter.

          This is why appealing to “change of 2000 tears old teaching” is loaded – it implies that the specifics didn’t matter, that the situations are similar and that the Church “allowed” the death penalty and now it “doesn’t”. Not that, say Medieval Europe and 21st century US (for example) are drastically different contexts for the application.

          • Dave G.

            I think as long as people present it your way, there is scant reason to object. When the argument casts it as abolishing the death penalty period, and further suggests that questioning this is akin to desiring human slaughter and getting to kill people, that’s when things go south. For my part, I think there are actually compelling arguments for ending the death penalty, at least now. There are also compelling arguments for continuing the Church’s historic approach. The latter is where I tend to lean, though I can understand where prudence might dictate not using the death penalty while the issue is debated (since you can’t undo an execution).

            • Iota

              > I think as long as people present it your way, there is scant reason to object.

              Well, I’ve certainly seen people object. To the point of arguing (unless I misunderstood), that the Pope and Bishops are responsible for making Evangelization more difficult in dangerous countries, that they don’t care about Catholics in such countries, or that they are committing actual heresy (no joke). Implicitly, this would also be an indictment of everyone who listens to them (no way to escape that conclusion)

              All this while the national Bishops’ conferences of said dangerous countries were repeating that teaching (that Christianity is against retributive or cruel and unusual punishments, with some contexts where the death penalty is acceptable).

              It probably takes a lot of mental fortitude to listen to such arguments more often and NOT conclude that the other side positively likes murder. Not that that conclusion would be true for most, but all people have limited capacity to listen to really, really bad arguments.

              [FYI: I consider the argument that “The Church allows us to have luxuries while people starve” bad – if this were the go to defence of the death penalty]

              I don’t have a dog in the American policy fight, since I live elsewhere: in a country that saw major abuses of the death penalty (Communism and Nazi occupation), had abolished the death penalty and – in the context of the world I actually live in, I consider that the better thing to do. We do not have enough violent, bestially murderous people around to make executing them such a priority that it would be good to reissue the State’s license to kill, at least if you ask me (as democracy does, when I vote).

              • Dave G.

                The church allows us luxuries in a starving world because there was a concession to life in a fallen world. The first one really. If we take Acts 2 as a snapshot of the early church, it didn’t take long before the apostles themselves apparently were at ease with the haves and have nots sharing the meal. They simply made other accommodations to deal with those who had no intention of living up to the lofty mandate of the Rich Young Ruler. The question of Christians and warfare, and the state and executions were similarly dealt with. The sad fact being we live in a fallen world, where concessions to the ideal must be acknowledged. Fine. Now we’ve seen two of those concessions seriously challenged within the last few generations. I think Pope Francis is beginning to chisel away at the third. Which for me is good. After all, the likelihood of me being in a position to execute someone, or even go to war or send others to war, is pretty slim. Likewise it’s probably not likely, statistically speaking, that I will pay a negative price for any opposition to those things. The likelihood of me getting Netflix or a big screen TV while my brothers and sisters die in the mud, however, is much higher. Which is why I like where Pope Francis is taking things. Not that we’ll get there overnight. But if I’m willing to say that those who might die as a result of abolishing the death penalty are a statistically acceptable price to pay (which most opponents in discussions have more or less said when those cases are brought up), I sure should be able to take a few steps closer to the ‘sharing everything with one another so nobody is without’ ideal of the earliest days of the Faith.

                • Iota

                  The reason I said defending the death penalty by appeal to extant luxury is not actually good for the death penalty position is because that implies you SHOULD always be bothered by the death penalty, from a Catholic perspective (and every other judicial system, while we’re at it).

                  I’m not aware of anyone, from a Pope downwards, suggesting that during the Last Judgement my luxuries will be counted as a GOOD thing, by Christ. I may be unable to leave them, in which case I should cast myself on His mercy. But I don’t expect to have a budgeting debate with Jesus in which I win.

                  I wouldn’t expect it even if Pope Francis weren’t saying the things he is. Neither did the medievals, to my knowledge.

                  • Dave G.

                    I don’t expect a budgeting debate, and yet there seems to be quite a bit of talk about economics and financial matters in recent years, as if it might be a major part of our walk, if not our destiny. Again, I’m hoping that all this talk isn’t about lofty global economic issues, while letting me get off the hook in my day to day. I can’t imagine anything more disastrous than allowing me or anyone to think that righteousness is best staked on issues that likely won’t impact me or that I don’t have any real control over, while I’m pretty much free as a bird about how I actually live my life.

                    • Iota

                      > I don’t expect a budgeting debate

                      To be clear – I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a budgeting debate with Christ on Judgement Day. But only one I’d lose. He already basically pointed that out (as far as I’m concerned) via the Widow’s mite – I don’t remember ever being in the position of giving away money I needed for sustenance (and not just wanted for something).

                      > and yet there seems to be quite a bit of talk about economics and financial matters in recent years

                      If you mean in terms of Church documents, that’s not really new. Rerum novarum (in response to the raise of socialism), Church decrees against slavery (which was defended as economically necessary), decrees against usury, preaching against luxury by the Church Fathers. It goes all the way back. Mosly, people just aren’t that interested in what the Church thought of bank interest in the 16th century.

                      If you mean in terms of Christian practice, that’s also not new. Because the Gospel isn’t new. The contexts change, the issues don’t.

                    • Dave G.

                      I know. My point is that we tend to enjoy the Church’s historic concession to a fallen world by allowing us wealth and luxuries, even in the face of our fellows who lack the means to survive. As we seriously look at rethinking that concession in light of war or capital punishment – things that hopefully I’ll not have to do or be impacted by no matter which way things go – it’s nice that I might actually be challenged to rethink that other concession, which I can actually do. Morals are always so much better when removed from the lofty shelf of academic debate and put squarely on my lap with what I can actually do.

                    • Iota

                      > My point is that we tend to enjoy the Church’s historic concession

                      I guess my problem is that I don’t particularly feel like defending the position “we tend to enjoy it” or to apply it to other people. I don’t *enjoy* that concession in any emotional sense – I’m just bad at being a good Christian.

                      Now, granted there may be people who find the lack of a formalized declaration on what is acceptable sustenance and what is luxury nice, insofar as they can always say “The Church hasn’t banned me such and such”. Or “But look at the Cardinals” or whether, such that they are never bothered and excuse themselves neatly.

                      But since I’m not them and I consider it faintly uncharitable to assume that people I don’t know are even worse at being good Christians than I am, I prefer not to refer to what I consider a moral failing as a justification.

                      Edited to add: Anyway – perhaps you don’t mean that argument the way I would have meant it, if I used it. In which case I’m being a boring contrarian. 🙂

                      God’s peace and blessing to you.

      • etme

        Iota – I agree with you.
        May I just note that it lead be to all kinds of pleasant and interesting scenarios, that the Church “has banned dueling as part of its cannon code”.
        Dueling with cannons? Why would the Church ban that? Sheer greatness and amazingbility!

        • Iota

          Ooops – well, that’s what happens when I spell Canon Law (a.k.a. Church Law) with a double n and my brain says Law and Code are synonyms.

          At least the mental image is interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.

          * I should have written Canon Code or Ecclesiastical (Church) Law.

        • Heather

          Please, please tell me this conjures up for you the same images of the glorious finale of Blackadder Season 2 that it does for me.

    • antigon

      you’re, not ‘your.’

  • Irksome1

    I wonder if, in today’s political climate, banning recourse to the death penalty might not create worse evils than the evil created by the death penalty itself. For instance, now that torture is becoming more and more widely accepted in the Republican Party, and those military agents who have practiced it are slowly being integrated into our domestic police force, isn’t possible, indeed likely, that someone whose guilt has supposedly been established in court for murder or even a lesser crime, could have his life so transformed into one of bloody and gruesome misery that he eagerly looks for the opportunity to kill himself?

    Death, at least, will preserve some small shred of the condemned’s dignity in ways that might be lost otherwise.

    • D.T. McCameron

      My concern is that recidivist parolees will cause the populace to loose all faith in the criminal justice system (and we should be under no delusions that they or the police are bound to protect us; their function is to uphold laws, which may or may not coincide with justice), and take up vigilantism.

      Sin plucks on sin. The people will have their blood, one way or another.

  • Cypressclimber

    “…nobody arguing for the abolition of the death penalty says it is an intrinsic evil.”

    That’s not true. I’ve seen plenty of folks who make no distinction between the evil of the death penalty with the evil of abortion.

    • Dave G.

      If they aren’t arguing that it’s an intrinsic evil, and that it must be abolished once and for all no matter what, they give a good imitation. Which could be part of the problem with the discussion.

  • Doyle

    Let the same judicial system that gave us RvW have the power to execute people? No thanks. Abolish it if at all politically possible.

    • sw85

      I’m sympathetic to this argument but bafflingly it is not the argument virtually any Catholic makes in their anti-death penalty polemics. And if we took it seriously, it would seem to have implications that go far beyond just the death penalty.

  • FromSaul2Paul

    I believe it was St. Pope John Paul II that stated that due to the means that we have in this country the death penalty is no longer needed. In the past the death penalty was allowed due to the lack of ability to contain certain people and the evil in which they inflict on others. We in this country and most civilized societies have the means and duty to allow God the time to possibly touch the hearts of these sinners.

    This is the true purpose of our penitentiary system. It is a means for a person to due penance for their sins and repent and reenter society a better human being. Granted that murder is a different story and should carry life without parole. This allows God many years to touch this individuals heart and drive them towards his mercy. The death penalty robs God of this opportunity and is one of the biggest reasons the death penalty though not intrinsically evil is still the wrong choice for society.

    Some of the greatest sinners who have experienced conversion in their life have contributed greatly to The Church and its mission of saving souls. Just look at St. Paul. If he had been killed for his crimes where would The Church be? If he had been killed for his crimes The Bible would be a much lighter read.

    • Dave G.

      Could you please tell me – and I mean this, it isn’t some dig and I’m not trying to be cute – what it means when we say that in the past things were one way regarding criminals and crime, but now they are another. In fact, with social media and other forms of easy mass communication, it could be argued the only change is the greater capability of someone in prison inspiring more harm than before. As for crime rates in and out of prison, the numbers are no different, unless they are worse than they were back when the Church seemed pretty much willing to allow capital punishment. I just don’t get it. It’s like saying now that the state can effectively prevent auto accidents, there is no longer a need for drunk driving laws. All we have to do is look out the window and see there are still auto accidents. All we have to do is pick up the paper and see crime is no different, unless it is worse than back in the day. That is a huge – and I mean huge – problem I have for saying now is the time. If the Church, even the Church, says because 2+2 now equals 5, now we can effectively end capital punishment, I’m going to wait until someone can tell me why I need to accept 2 added to 2 now equals 5. Thanks

      • Sue Korlan

        When we get smart cars that can drive us home we won’t need drunk driving laws. In the past there was a much higher possibility of people escaping from prison. Execution prevents that problem. Now we are better able to prevent such escapes through video surveillance and other modern inventions. Therefore we don’t have to execute people to protect society.

        • Dave G.

          I haven’t seen the stats on that. What are the numbers? For instance, just a year or so ago, an inmate and two innocents were killed by other prisoners or by prisoners who escaped. That was just in our neck of the woods. And that was in a space of less than a year. Was that some cosmic fluke? Does it account for violence in prisons? Just curious.

          • Sue Korlan
            • Dave G.

              Again, thanks. It’s good news, though they still happen in surprisingly high numbers. I found it interesting that escapes were actually at their highest numbers in the early 90s, when the Catechism was being released in which the State’s ability to prevent crime was put forward as the basis for abolishing it at this point in history. That’s interesting, you have to admit.

              • Sue Korlan

                I agree. I would have thought the highest numbers would have been before modern technology could be used to help stop escapes. But most of that stuff was available before the height of the escapes. I found that extremely interesting.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  Is this discussion about escapes in general, or about escapes of convicted murderers, on death row or not? The matter of the death penalty has to do with murderers; other criminals who do escape once in a while are not part of that equation. I would like to see figures about escapees from death row….

                  • The relevant deaths are by people who are not on death row but those who would have been eligible for the death penalty but have been given alternate sentencing such as life without parole in obedience to CCC 2267. It is those prisoners who then kill again that form the case against death penalty abolishment.

                    You won’t convince anyone on the pro-death penalty side by shrinking down the pool of prisoners to be examined inappropriately.

        • Dave G.

          Thanks for the answer, BTW.

        • Drusilla Barron

          How do we stop criminals in prison from committing additional crimes? Various gang members, though they are incarcerated, continue to commit crimes. Visitors and, in some cases, even attorneys assist them. Social media assists them. Criminals kill other inmates. Often, prison is no protection from those imprisoned.

          The death penalty is evil. And still, we must live in reality. How do we stop those incarcerated from committing additional crimes while they are in jail? I’ve never seen an answer to that question.

          BTW: Solitary confinement is usually considered “cruel and unusual punishment.” And even in solitary confinement, prisoners have access to their attorneys, some of whom help perpetrate additional crimes.

          • Mariana Baca

            But is it really gang and organized crime members that we are applying the death penalty to? Like, are we deciding to use it in cases where communication with the outside world prevents us from incarcerating them effectively? It seems to me that most cases it is applied in are cases that we deemed “more horrible” (and that is often true), but not because of trouble containing their evil. (at least, running down the list of “Executions in 2014” that have articles in Wikipedia).

            I don’t think that is a valid argument because death row prisoners are there for years if not decades without presenting a clear and present danger, nor are we only reserving the death penalty for criminal masterminds, mob and gang bosses that are wreaking a reign of terror from within their cells (as far as I can tell, 0 such prisoners received the death penalty recently).

          • Ciaran

            Ask a prison expert.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            That solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual is an issue top take up with Washington, not Rome.

            Rome sees that our abilities, both technological and financial, allow us to imprison murderers safely. That our courts will not allow the technology doesn’t lessen our obligation in Rome’s eyes. That we can’t afford to do it and imprison non-violent offenders as well doesn’t lessen our obligation in Rome’s eyes.

            • “Rome sees” but does it see truly? With the BS psychological evaluation of the curability of pedophiles, Rome clearly made a mistake. Rome admits it, to its credit. Is its judgment on prison technology and the financial burden imposed clear eyed and correct or is it similarly flawed?

              This is not a question of theology, but of judgment on secular issues. It is reasonable for this judgment to be made public both for its teaching value and to review for error and to facilitate applicability analysis in particular judicial jurisdictions. So where is it?

        • The existence of smart cars will not change the need for DUI laws one iota. If you do drive drunk on manual, the fact that it’s a smart car doesn’t change a thing.

          As I noted elsewhere, fellow prisoners and prison guards are people too. It’s the death toll, not who dies and where that matters in the moral calculus of CCC 2267.

      • sjay1956

        I think we know more now about the limitations of our justice system and its ability to accurately and fairly address desserts and so, based on the information we have, it is imprudential to utilize the death penalty.

        • Dave G.

          I could see that as a better reason. Given the troubles and difficulties the state has in dispensing justice, handling problems, being correct, whatever. The problem is, the ‘why we can do it now’ in the Catechism is based on the state’s sudden ability to more or less prevent crime. And just a casual watching the local news, not to mention larger outlets, suggests we’re no closer now than a century ago, unless there are some stats I’m missing.

          • capaxdei

            The premise isn’t “the state has a sudden ability to more or less prevent crime.” The premise, to quote Evangelium Vitae, is that “Modern society … has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.”

            Maybe the premise isn’t true, but I don’t think you can argue against it simply by citing the news, which I’ll suggest could only prove we lack the will, not the means.

            • The burden of proof is on those who say the statement is true. I started off assuming that they had done their homework. I’m less and less convinced of that every time the anti-side fails to come up with it.

              • capaxdei

                I haven’t seen much thought given the matter one way or another, though I haven’t looked very hard either. My guess is the circumstances of our prisons tell us more about what we need to do with our prisons than with our capital punishment laws.

                • The linkage is explicit in the Catechism. Because we run our prisons so well, we don’t have the circumstances of legitimate execution come up very often seems a just paraphrase.

                  Our prison system is a horrible mess is my observation which leads me to question whether anybody who believes in this linkage has ever actually checked.

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    Well…. Are you saying that, since your country’s prison system is such a horrible mess and there seems to be little political will to fix it, it is a good idea to kill as many of its “tenants” as possible in order to partially correct that mess until a better system can be devised? Sorry, even if it is Lent, I could not resist that temptation…

                    • 1. The prison system is a horrible mess
                      2. There is a growing bipartisan coalition to fix that.
                      3. It has not achieved a level of reform that actually would get us to fulfilling the conditions of CCC 2267 yet
                      4. It would be prudent and just to fix that first as both a bigger problem and politically more likely to succeed than to launch a Don Quixote campaign on the death penalty when the conditions that justify such a campaign have not been fulfilled yet.

                      So I agree in part and disagree in part with your characterization of my position. You are, however, much closer than some of the others are. Congrats.

      • freddy

        Maybe the real thing that has changed is us. Perhaps by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and throughout the world, we have a better respect for life; even the life of a criminal. Maybe we have better empathy for those poor souls, a greater hope for them, and a greater understanding of our own role in how people become criminals. I dunno. I don’t have a dog in this fight; as I believe what the Catholic Church believes, holds and teaches concerning the death penalty.

        • sw85

          “Maybe the real thing that has changed is us. Perhaps by the mysterious
          action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and throughout the world, we
          have a better respect for life;”

          This would be much a more compelling argument if it were not belied by the many millions of abortions.

    • sw85

      “I believe it was St. Pope John Paul II that stated that due to the means
      that we have in this country the death penalty is no longer needed. In
      the past the death penalty was allowed due to the lack of ability to
      contain certain people and the evil in which they inflict on others.”

      Which is a very strange argument to make since the Church has never, at any point in the past, articulated such a sentiment. She has made clear in the past that, of the four ends of punishment, the primary one is the restoration of the order of justice. The idea that we can only execute criminals in order to protect society from the same crimes which we are not allowed to execute them as punishment dates back to exactly 1995, it seems. I cannot imagine Pope St. JPII was ignorant of this, so you (and the many, many others who have said this exact thing in more or less the exact same words) must be misunderstanding him.

  • Cost benefit ratios are a more sensible argument, but only for banning a death penalty in the current form and in particular circumstances.

    The traditional death penalty applied for combatants caught out of uniform has a completely different cost/benefit ratio to the death penalty applied to civilian cases in the US.

    I am much more open to significantly changing the latter than the former. The anti-death penalty crowd does not make a distinction between the two so I think that the antis are not actually doing cost benefit analysis, even when they say they are.

  • Ljutic Monogun

    Dick Chaney doesn’t speak for me.
    When I run into a pro-abort who accuses me of hypocrisy, I tell them that I’d accept the trade: No capital punishment for no abortions. I haven’t found any takers.

    And when I run into a functionally senile death penalty abolitionists I challenge them to admit that the Church’s teaching hasn’t changed in a fundamental way. When I find the first one who admits that, I will join them. So far, I’ve discovered they really don’t care much about capital punishment and none will admit the constancy of Mother Church’s teaching on the matter.

    BTW, I never supported hanging horse thieves.

    • Donna Boyle

      Of course abolition of the Death Penalty is not
      their goal. The want to repudiate the “Old Church”
      while holding up the “New Church”

      I’m sure you can find other examples.

  • etme

    What I see here in action is a kind of “presumption of death”,or, “preferential option for death”. And yes, this is mostly among Republican-evangelized Catholics. Similar to, “when do we get to kill”, instead, “when is it unavoidable” – just worse.

    I would say – and that is my position versus the famous case of Terri Schiavo – is that – who would choose death, if life is possible. In that case, as far as I understood, you had a couple of parents willing to take the burden upon themselves to maintain her, on their own time, dime, effort. But no, due to the husband’s wishes, she HAD to die. In what looked like a most blatant case of , well, “interested parties” (life insurance etc).

    Same here. Nonono, I can find canon law Z from 475 AD, and clearly… Why would anyone argue for death, revenge, punishment – if other means are available. The question is the same with war, and just war – not “when we get to do it”, but “when is it so unavoidable, and last possible option, that there is no other choice, but…”

    • Dave G.

      What I see is the growing ease we have in assuming the worst motives of those we disagree with. It wasn’t that common ten years ago, but it’s become all the rage in recent years on the blogosphere. Just like assuming those wishing to abolish all methods of killing are simply your run of the mill post-modern martyr (I’m willing to let millions of other people die for my righteous stance). That would be wrong of course. Just as it is wrong, and dangerous, to begin assuming about those who hold differing views, especially when we’re in the middle of a transition from traditional approaches to a subject. Far better is it to deal with the substance of the debate, than to assume (or judge) others. As heirs of the Inquisition, I’d think Catholics would be more careful about such things. I would think.

      • etme

        Well, I am participating in the debate by pointing out that the opposite positions tend to show a presumption toward / for death, not life. And that in itself leads to the wrong conclusion. As Mark Shea puts it – when do I get to kill, rather than, what circumstances makes taking life inevitable (as the name suggests, only when it is, after all else is exhausted, inevitable, last resort, nothing left). There is a major difference between “which category gives me free reign to take life, once the given person /situation enters that category”, and, “when can we consider that all other types of acts have been exhausted, truly exhausted, and there is nothing left but this”. In this sense, capital punishment is like just war, indeed, because the logic is the same, behind both.

        And – here’s another parallel – in many ways “torture” follows a similar logic with “preemptive war”.

    • entonces_99

      “Preferential option for death”? Really? I think that, instead, most death penalty advocates are perfectly happy with the current state of the law, in which the death penalty is *not* the default for first-degree murder–or even for capital murder, in states where that’s a separately defined offense–but that the death penalty can only be imposed where the jury makes a specific determination that particular aggravating factors make it appropriate in that case.

  • entonces_99

    “Prescinding from the fact that the “prolife” people most ardently in favor of the death penalty have absolutely no problem with grave intrinsic evil when Dick Cheney is defending the cold-blooded murder of innocents for the greater good,”

    This sure looks like a straw man to me. I, for one, have no problem opposing abolition of the death penalty while opposing both abortion and the murder of innocents. (I’ve also mastered the art of walking while chewing gum.)

    • chezami

      Here despicable Catholic court prophet hurrying out to declare victory for Cheney after he disgraced himself: It’s a tissue of lies nobody but a thoroughly deluded whore for the right’s torture zeal could make himself believe. And it remains the dominant narrative of the torture-loving right.

      • entonces_99

        But not the dominant narrative of supporters of the death penalty. Marc Thiessen is one person. He doesn’t speak for me. To say that if I support the death penalty I must also support torture is as baseless as to say that because a lot of people who support universal health care also support legal abortion, then people who support universal health care can be lumped in with supporters of abortion.

        (But like Ljutic Monogun below, I’d gladly make a trade: abolish the death penalty in exchange for banning abortion.)