End the Death Penalty

End the Death Penalty March 5, 2015

Excellent! Four Catholic journals–the National Catholic Register, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and Our Sunday Visitorto call for the abolition of the death penalty.

And for good measure, the Patheos Catholic Channel pitches in too. It’s time for “faithful conservative prolife” death penalty advocates to start listening to the Church’s teaching instead of finding clever ways to ignore it.

The rationalizations for vengeance killing just don’t hold water. Three popes have called for the abolition of this barbarism. Any list that includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the rest of the Islamosphere, as well as North Korea, and Communist China as its most prominent members is not a list we want to be on. But those are the closest ideological allies American death penalty advocates have.

Plus, mere prudence suggests that Christians in a rapidly de-Christianizing world are fools for pressing the sword into the hands of a Caesar whose love for them has, shall we say, cooled considerably.

However, the main reason to oppose the death penalty is not skin-saving selfishness but the simple reality that it is the right thing to do and killing people when you don’t have to is the wrong thing to do. Catholics believe in the sanctity of human life, including guilty human life. The approach of the Church to human life is not “when do we *get* to kill?” but “how do we avoid killing unless we absolutely have to?”.

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  • petey

    it took no time at all for the commenters at the link to detour the subject.

    • chezami

      Yep. The lovers of death won’t go down without a fight.

      • antigon

        ‘Four Catholic journals–the National Catholic Register, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and Our Sunday Visitor…’
        *
        My understanding – The Eye of the Tiber being my & I think we can all agree an infallible source – is that the journal calling itself the National Catholic Reporter isn’t actually a Catholic journal, but rather, if to be sure less reliable, a parody thing like the Onion. Since with America magazine, it’s really friendly to people who dig mass murder of the unborn, this opposition to the death penalty is, you know, either selective or more likely – again like America (& arguably the order that publishes it) – just a joke.

        • chezami

          I’m not choosey about my allies in a good cause. We can argue about other things at another time. Here, they are right.

          • antigon

            Not picking on the cause, but just as one might hesitate or even be choosy about trumpeting, say, Dick Cheney or Pewsitter as a valiant enemies of abortion…

            • chezami

              Dick Cheney doesn’t give a shit about abortion. Pewsitter does. I have no problem praising the latter for that. I’m sick to death of the genetic fallacy and guilt by association. We make common cause where we can and stop this stupid tribal shit.

              • antigon

                ‘Dick Cheney doesn’t give a shit about abortion.”
                *
                My suspicion too, tho he always voted against when in Congress.
                *
                Still – despite holding as I very much suspect do you that circumstances sometimes demand being choosy (even while perhaps disagreeing about whether the parody site mentioned qualifies, or that it is but tribalism to wonder) – not my intention to quarrel.

                • Dave G.

                  Did he? I didn’t know. I never thought of it. What is it, then, that suggests he doesn’t care about abortion if he always voted against it? Just curious.

                  • Hezekiah Garrett

                    You’re asking the wrong person. Antigon made no such claim. Mark did.

                    • antigon

                      Not entirely, since I acknowledged the suspicion Mr. Shea was right. Suspicion based on Cheney’s openly stated Leninist & profoundly anti-Christian view that ends justify means, including – & Cheney was specific on the point – killing innocents.
                      *
                      In consequence, despite genetic fallacy & other arguments against it, I’d hesitate about celebrating him as a voice against abortion just as – if not quite identical yet for comparable reasons – I would hesitate celebrating the parody site above mentioned as any kind of serious voice against capital punishment.
                      *
                      In fact, even were he sincere, just as Cheney speaking at a NRLC convention might for any number of reasons actually hurt the cause of the innocent…

                    • Dave G.

                      I guess that’s possible. But just because a person is wrong, or even sinful, in one area does not follow that they are therefore wrong and sinful in every area. If abortion has shown one thing, it makes strange bedfellows, on both sides of the debate. More than once I’ve known people who would do their best Slim Pickens down on a thousand cities, or would indulge in the sex and drugs culture without limits, who then turn around and take a strong stance against abortion. Other issues can be that way as well. It’s entirely possible that with abortion, for reasons we might never know, he might be passionately against it.

                      Which is why I take seriously the admonition not to judge, and to interpret people’s statements in the best light. For my money, we can’t be pro-life if we indulge in Raca and Fool, and false accusations without merit, or judgementalism, or ignore all those other pesky teachings about how we should and shouldn’t deal with people. Those teachings suggest that pro-life is more than just concern for the biological life form known as homo sapiens. It’s concern for the whole person – mind, body, heart and soul. For my money, if Cheney says he’s against abortion, I take him at his word, until I have reason on that subject not to. No matter what else he has done. Same reason why I can laugh at Jon Stewart, or even agree with him on some issues and take him at his word, despite the horrible and heinous things he advocates and promotes in other areas. To me, it all fits.

                    • antigon

                      ‘I take [Cheney] at his word, until I have reason on that subject not to.’
                      *
                      But you do. Since he holds, openly, that the end justifies the means, it follows he is happy to lie for an end he likes. So while you are free to believe he means it if he says he’s against legal abortion, you’d be no less justified in suspecting he’s lying to serve some other purpose in light of his openly professed willingness, as no less than a principle, to do so.
                      *
                      ‘I’ve known people who would do their best Slim Pickens down on a thousand cities…who then turn around and take a strong stance against abortion.’
                      *
                      Not that strong, since they’re happy to see the innocent unborn indiscriminately massacred in those thousand cities.
                      *
                      Meantime, Mr. G, what with the danger to your wrist muscles and all, you might want to be less vigorous when patting yourself on the back about your devotion to wonderfulness.

                    • Dave G.

                      I’m sorry, I missed where trying to follow all of the Church’s teachings was such an affront to good Catholics everywhere. I guess it is easier to throw those teachings I can actually do in the circular file while emphasizing the lofty issues that will likely never personally impact me. Go ahead and judge if you will. I will do my best to follow the other part of the teachings that suggest I shouldn’t without evidence. Short and sweet. Hope you appreciate it.

                    • antigon

                      Better to fail at a fast, then to swell with pride for keeping it – Pascal, paraphrased.

                    • Dave G.

                      I missed where it is pride to say I’m trying to keep all of the Church’s teachings. If that’s the case, pride must be the sin of choice across the Catholic blogosphere, where such statements are more than common. Nor do I see it as a problem to point out the full scope of the teachings, especially when it’s clear many think that the old Raca and Fool and false accusations are no big deal when arguing the really important issues that we don’t personally have control over. And it’s one thing to try and fail. It’s another to find clever reasons to ignore it altogether.

                    • antigon

                      ‘it’s clear many think that the old Raca and Fool and false accusations are no big deal.”
                      *
                      Mr. G:
                      *
                      It is? What’s at least clear is that anyhow you’re of that view, in that you provide about this ‘many’ no evidence beyond assertion.
                      *
                      Equally clear is that, with little cause & less justice, your whole tone has been less the value of Catholic teaching than the pleasure of discovering dubious motes in the eyes of in your view racas & fools who fail in concern for the whole person (body, mind, heart & soul) at the presumably purer level achieved by their accuser.
                      *
                      Look, your inner sophomore got the better of you. But stop digging.

                    • Dave G.

                      Given how many times, on this very blog, I’ve been insulted, personally attacked, and slandered and falsely accused of heinous things like wanting to increase human slaughter, simply because I have questions about Church teaching regarding this subject, I’d say personal experience. And when I reference things like the Catechism or the teachings of the Lord, I’m dismissed as being a wimp, cry baby, and told it doesn’t count since Jesus called people fools as well (that last one was an interesting thread to be sure). True, that might not proportionally translate into the world wide Church’s numbers. But in terms of this particular debate in the forum of the blogosphere, especially this one, the numbers appear to be pretty high. And that’s just what has been said about and to me, not counting things said about and to others. Does that shed some light? Assuming, again, we’re looking at the whole teaching package, and not just the ones we get to choose. Since I hear Catholics who pick and choose are so universally derided by Catholics seeking to be completely obedient to Church teaching.

                    • antigon

                      ‘that’s just what has been said about and to me, not counting things said about and to others. ‘
                      *
                      No reason to count those latter since, once again, the only real subject is Dave G.
                      *
                      Stop digging.

                    • Dave G.

                      Yeah, I know. Though Antigon did agree, and I figured Antigon could unpack why the agreement with Mark’s statement.

          • HornOrSilk

            I have tried to tell many people this through the years.

            • Artevelde

              People who seek allies to the cause of Catholicism will probably agree with Mark’s statement. People who seek to make the Church an ally to some other cause, probably won’t.

              • There are dangers to certain allies. The communist strategy of adopting a common front and picking off their non-communist allies within the front is a true danger and there’s nothing peculiar to communism to stop others from adopting it.

                The Church is ill equipped to adopt the strategy itself as, tactically, it heavily depends on lying.

                • Artevelde

                  And lying, as you will no doubt demonstrate, is a prerogative of the left. Or is that not what you meant with ”certain”? Do your ”others” perhaps include the GOP as well?

                  • It is unamusing to have words stuffed down my throat.

                    However, in the internal battle of the GOP subfactions, there *is* a reasonable case to be made that a common front sort of strategy is playing out, though not as stark a one as Orwell wrote about in Homage to Catalonia.

                    Lying is the prerogative of humans. It goes with the fallen nature. No ideology is exempt from lying scoundrels.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              Really? Because you always seem ready to argue the minor issues…

              Case in pont, look at the number of times you’ve an anathematized that poor Irish fellow.

        • IRVCath

          America is nowhere as liberal as they used to be, IIRC it’s become even less so since the election of a Jesuit Pope. Now Commonweal or the Reporter, on the other hand…

          • antigon

            If true, very glad to hear it. Admittedly haven’t read the thing in years, & thus assumed it still held the apostles got it all wrong since clearly Christ always meant the Church should just be a kind of homosexual rotary club.

            • Artevelde

              It’s a Jesuit publication, isn’t it? Odd, the Jesuits I know can lean heavily to the left in matters of economy, most would be willing to incorporate the weirdest cultural habits in order to facilitate evangelism and almost all like to entertain dangerous thought, if only because it’s intellectually amusing. I never imagined they would be anything but staunchly pro-life and against gay marriage though.

              • antigon

                ‘…in order to facilitate evangelism.’
                *
                Unfortunately not for Catholicism, save for some truly glorious (& rare) exceptions.
                *
                ‘almost all like to entertain dangerous thought…’
                *
                save that politically correct drivel is hardly dangerous.
                *
                ‘…if only because it’s intellectually amusing.’
                *
                no, tho it is socially obligatory.
                *
                Meanwhile Jesuit universities – & not long past their flagship America magazine – have long been in the forefront promoting & winking at folks who dig mass murder, & the glories of the Sacred Hole.

                • antigon

                  Speaking of which, from Eye of the Tiber:
                  *
                  ‘Hoping to surprise his family and friends at Holy Trinity Parish’s annual Halloween Breakfast this morning, local Jesuit Walter Allen arrived dressed as a Catholic priest. “It’s always been a fun little idea of mine to wear one of these things,” Allen said, shortly after he surprised those gathered at the breakfast. “He walked right up to us and asked if we wanted him to bless our food,” Allen’s mother, Suzy Allen, recalled, “but none of us had any clue that it was Walt in that thing, so we were like, ‘sure, why not?’” But the Allen family soon became suspicious when Allen forgot the meal-time prayer midway through. “That’s when we knew it was Walt,” his mother said.

          • I was wondering about that, whether it was just me noticing a change in tone.

  • Greg Mockeridge

    “It’s time for “faithful conservative prolife” death penalty advocates to start listening to the Church’s teaching instead of finding clever ways to ignore it.”

    Yeah, especially that Joey Ratzinger guy who had the gall to say this:

    Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    • Bill

      Just because you CAN disagree, certainly does not mean you should, and, truthfully means, you should not.

      • Greg Mockeridge

        Really???!!! Bill? If the pope is taking ill-informed positions on issues outside his competence, we shouldn’t express disagreement? That’s not sound Catholic reasoning by any stretch of the imagination!

        • Bill

          Oh stop it.

        • HornOrSilk

          Yeah, we know, questions of morality are outside of the Pope’s competence, right? Er wait…

        • chezami

          Bloodthirsty guys like Greg, who also believe in abortion of children in places like Hiroshima and Nagasaki and totally reject the Church’s teaching on that crime in the eyes of God and man *love* to use the unborn as human shields for their bloodlust.

          • To say that you believe in the abortion of children murdered by recidivist lifers would be equally just, and equally cruel.

    • JM1001

      Ratzinger also once said:

      …we must begin asking ourselves whether as things stand, with new weapons that cause destruction that goes well beyond the groups involved in the fight, it is still licit to allow that a “just war” might exist.

      Abortion and euthanasia are intrinsically evil, and are therefore always wrong under all circumstances and regardless of the acting subject’s intentions.

      However, war and the death penalty are at least in principle morally permissible given certain conditions. However, Ratzinger seems to be suggesting that a just war may no longer be possible in practice. I have often wondered the same thing myself. And I increasingly wonder if the same may be true of the death penalty — that it may be just in principle, given certain conditions, but may not be just in practice.

      The Catechism quotes John Paul II’s words in Evangelium Vitae as saying something similar to what Ratzinger said, but in reference to the death penalty rather than war:

      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.” [emphasis mine] (CCC 2267)

      That, I think, is where Catholics might have a “legitimate diversity of opinion” — whether we’ve reached the point where war and the death penalty can no longer be just in practice.

      A much more controversial proposition would be whether or not they ever could be just in practice. I don’t know. But sometimes, I wonder…

      • We are currently undergoing a period of breakdown in the international order. ISIS will not melt away peacefully. The war in Ukraine is not an isolated incident that is over. Fear of a just war launched from the USA (in its role as global military hegemon) kept the wolves back. But now we lead from behind and the wolves have no fear. Forsaking war entirely would only worsen the effect.

        • Artevelde

          Budapest 1956
          Prague 1968
          Saigon 1975
          Kabul 1979
          Tehran 1979

          In terms of results and wolf management I don’t see any particular difference in leading from behind or from the front, to be honest.

          • A list of cities and years does not constitute analysis. The effect of posturing in foreign policy is real and pretty well established. Khrushchev evaluated Kennedy in Vienna and counted him weak. The Cuban Missile Crisis proceeded from that evaluation. There is very little difference between that incident, what happened during Rome’s expansion, and today.

            Societies that don’t study war anymore must find a protector who does or get sacked and ultimately destroyed. Europe is especially in trouble now because its protector is a reluctant one that tends to look inwards and in the opinion of a majority of its people would like to avoid morphing into an empire.

            • Artevelde

              The Wolf lies to the east of Kiev now. Do you propose going back to the glorious days when his paws almost reached the Rhine?
              The tendencies of the USA in alternating between a bashful form of empire building and isolationism can be a bit bewildering to some, but that has always been the nature of this beast.
              I don’t exclude Mr. Putin making another grab for a bit of land, but his (military and other) resources do not look very imposing for the moment, with the exception of the nuclear arsenal. It’s quite unclear to me how the nuclear threat plays out these days though.
              As for your strange worldview consisting of bashful maidens blushing at the mere mentioning of war, marauding hordes of late antiquity barbarians, and valiant bipolar knights who can’t make up their mind on what exactly to do with said maidens, well, I’d only begin to worry if this stuff would now actually be taught at the Pentagon.

              • There is no “the wolf”. Russia, ISIS, DPRK, Venezuela, Argentina, the list goes on and on. The wolves of Somalia are measured in packs, not individuals.

                I propose, you stop avoiding taking a position and actually lay out what you believe, something I’ve found uncommonly difficult for europeans of a certain stripe lately.

                The bashful maiden thing, well, I just lost you there and will just leave that whole line alone.

                • Artevelde

                  With all due respect, you lack the basic knowledge to even begin judging the European political spectrum, and you certainly haven’t got the foggiest idea what my stripes and colors could possibly be. I suggest you stick to ”stealth Fabian under the bed”.
                  As for taking a position, I am not a partisan shill, though I consistently vote for the maximum Catholic position, if reasonably available. If you wish a specific point of debate clarified, you can ask.
                  Now, as much as I enjoy politics, this forum is not my chosen place to do so. I come here as a Catholic among fellow Catholics and prefer other venues for matters that are not closely related to my faith. Always a pleasure to debate you though.

                  • You’re right, I haven’t the foggiest idea what your stripes and colors are. That was my complaint. Your unwillingness to take an honest stand on what you actually believe is the only tribal identifier you’ve actually put out.

                    Perhaps another time.

                    • Artevelde

                      I take a fairly blunt and – I hope – honest stand on what I believe. What I don’t do is confirm the silly dualistic view you project onto nearly every debate. I’m perfectly willing to clarify a specific point, but you haven’t asked.

                    • antigon

                      TM, one hopes your stands on US imperial glory aren’t honest but just paid neocon agitprop; yet if you really do think such nonsense I suppose it at least gives you a leg up – as regards honesty, not perception – on the many folk who do get paid to promote this drivel.
                      *
                      But while I vaguely recall that on other subjects your alas muddy prose has even made points occasionally worth considering, your Cheneyism – his insane foreign policy I mean, not, however invariably connected in practice, the gleeful torturing of innocents – is just…I don’t know, is contemptibly ridiculous too kind a way to put it?

                    • the idea that the US is an empire has always struck me as being disconnected from reality.

                      The wind down of the cold war ended up with the US in the position of global military hegemon. That position always has two consequences. It is unsustainably expensive over the long haul and so long as it lasts, it significantly suppresses warfare. I like the warfare suppression just fine. I’m not so ok with the long term financial stress and the body counts to achieve it.

                      My big question is how to climb off the tiger of military hegemony without lighting off war after war after war. It would be extraordinarily helpful if the sane and free countries of the world would get together in an alliance and shift the burden around so that the benefit of war suppression would persist without the financial destruction of the US. Of course, the alliance exists in the West (NATO) but too few of the members are taking up the burden, which by consensus has been set at defense expenditures of 3% of GDP.

                      Given that public unwillingness to engage in the task of war suppression, the US has two choices, take up the burden and be the scary hegemon and use that posturing to frighten the opportunists from joining the truly malevolent bad actors in creating wars or let the wars come to inconvenience those who would not defend themselves until they reform their ways. Bush/Cheney chose the first, Obama/Biden have chosen the second.

                      Like most important public policy questions, both sides have a death toll. I believe the Obama/Biden option has the higher one and is more dangerous for the world. You find that contemptible and ridiculous. I find the alternative on offer shortsighted and bloody handed.

                    • antigon

                      ‘the US in the position of global military hegemon… significantly suppresses warfare.’
                      *
                      Caro TM:
                      *
                      On the subject of disconnection from reality, given one or two & maybe more of ‘war after war after war’ since the Cold War ended, anyone with access to media of any kind will, of course, recognize that line of yours above as simply nuts.
                      *
                      As they will regarding your other premises above (& right along), tho one grants that on the backs & from the labor of American taxpayers, Hegemonic glory is as disastrous economically as it is in every other way.
                      *
                      Another example of disconnection truly comic is the assertion that the US has but the choice of Obama’s approach or Cheney’s, tho perhaps none will be surprised it is the latter that tickles thine own heart, & which of course can’t be called neocon or anything.
                      *
                      Any more than that the Hegemon could ever suffer – the very idea! – an imperialistic impulse of any kind.

                    • I was born in a neighborhood (the area between Romania and Hungary) that is the site of one of those conflict zones that hegemony tends to suppress conflicts in and the lack of hegemon rips the scabs right off. It’s not a simple linkage and there is a significant as well as variable time delay involved but the historical pattern is quite clear. Military hegemony means you have to say mother may I before any invasion because if the hegemon intervenes, you are toast and the hegemon doesn’t usually see the value in third parties fighting each other. There’s no benefit for them so they tend to say no.

                      As for alternative foreign policies, there’s always the realist school of supporting murdering, torturing dictatorships in order to keep the lid on in the third world, but I was assuming that the number of hard hearted guys who advocated that on a catholic board like this was likely zero. I guess I was mistaken.

                      As for the hegemonic impulse to imperialism, of course there’s a temptation towards it. It’s one of the reasons I’d love to see a way to get America to climb off this tiger. Both Bush, with his idea of ‘regional sheriffs’ and Obama, with his idea of ‘lead from behind’ attempted to climb off that tiger because the historical anomaly the US is in where it is both a military hegemon and doesn’t have a global counter-balancing coalition seriously fighting it was never going to be a stable state and everybody knows it.

                    • antigon

                      Dear Mr. Lutas:
                      *
                      While I fear your arguments above suffer the same disconnect as most others you have proposed, it is time to close this dispute for now, which, if you agree, I formally do in my note above to you via chezami.

                    • I’ve no desire to continue to be publicly libeled and abused by you so feel free to go away and hopefully future discussions can skip the gratuitous insults and other low tactics.

                      Good day.

                    • antigon

                      Sir, you have not been libeled by me at any point.
                      *
                      But I join you in hoping future discussion will skip gratuitous & other low tactics, & meanwhile wish you a fruitful Lenten season.

                  • petey

                    “you lack the basic knowledge to even begin judging the European
                    political spectrum, and you certainly haven’t got the foggiest idea what
                    my stripes and colors could possibly be. I suggest you stick to
                    ”stealth Fabian under the bed”. ”

                    give him time, you’ll be a communist soon enough

                    • Artevelde

                      I admit, I was not strong enough and began to hum Bandiera Rossa under his relentless character assassination.

                    • Aww, still carrying a grudge petey? I don’t.

                • antigon

                  ‘There is no “the wolf”.’
                  *
                  Sure there is. It’s the Hegemon.

                  • Weren’t you saying a day ago that you weren’t anti-american? You can’t even keep your lies straight for more than 24 hour.

                    • chezami

                      Do not call antigon a liar. You have been warned.

                    • antigon

                      Yeah, this essentially private conversation – albeit howdy Mr. Shea – is getting unnecessarily personal & overheated. Of course Mr. Lutas isn’t wicked so much as deceived, & inclined to a grabbag of unfortunate clichés when challenged on those deceptions, which then escalates to the personal when the clichés too get attention. Or so I propose.
                      *
                      Not a personification perfect of gentleness meself, TM, allow me to say that while I obviously oppose your arguments, I do not doubt you hope for Heaven; & as I hope both to get there too & also to meet you there, that mutual aspiration is of arguably more moment than such political analysis over which in the end we have little control or influence.
                      *
                      Or shorter: pax et b TM.

                    • Artevelde

                      Seconded. And in that spirit I will withdraw from this particular debate myself. I’ll be around though 🙂

                    • antigon

                      Hah! Howdy to you too then Artevelde! And am curious. In what country do you reside?

                    • Artevelde

                      Belgium. The north to be specific, which makes me culturally ”Flemish” and linguistically Dutch-speaking.

                    • antigon

                      Dear Rev. Lutas:
                      *
                      Your mentor Rev. Sharpton will be proud of the way you libel others with sins you like to indulge.
                      *
                      For of course as you are aware, it’s you who’s lying. It is pro-American – pro her people – to oppose the Hegemon, whose interest in Americans is only in the fodder they provide for the H’s pornographic empire & fantasies.
                      *
                      As my posts have made clear right along, & as is clear to anyone with eyes to see.
                      *
                      But you knew all that, Reverend, as you do that slander is essential to the contemptible agitprop you promote.

                    • I think that you have no idea whatsoever what a military hegemon means and have decided on the shameful tactic of libel to cover your ignorance.

            • antigon

              ‘Europe is especially in trouble now because its protector is a reluctant one.’
              *
              Europe is in trouble now because it has nothing to live for beyond wanking to Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but to the extent it is militarily in trouble is due not to an Imperial master reluctant to sacrifice its children to Charlie, or at least not to Europe’s Charlie; but because once the Soviet Union was gone, it has allowed anyone, even deluded Americans, to think it needed a protector.

                • antigon

                  Which needs the US military lest it gets conquered by Isis?
                  *
                  At least you’re becoming an expert on fantasy TM.

                  • The Italian government is complaining that they’ve got Libya related security problems but you know better.

                    Italy proposed, what, last month a new military push into Libya. That seems to have died on the vine because the Italians don’t have more than 5k troops deployable and the US wasn’t interested.

                    But what do I know, reading military analysts and news reports…

                    • antigon

                      …& abundant neocon agitprop.

                    • And now you know my reading list too. Funny, I don’t recall sharing that with you.

                      The way you’re using neocon, it’s just a bad word devoid of any meaning. Anything it touches is corrupted just by the mere fact of labeling.

                      The neocons (and I do keep a watch on them too) mostly laughed at the Italian proposal if they addressed it at all. The idea didn’t fit their narrative at present.

                    • antigon

                      ‘now you know my reading list too.’
                      *
                      Sure. Not difficult. The agitprop’s ubiquitous, & easy to recognize.
                      *
                      ‘neocon, it’s just a bad word devoid of any meaning.’
                      *
                      That’s been the neocon argument since they were first identified of course.

                • Artevelde

                  Time to make Rome safe for democracy, I say.

                  • You have beclowned yourself.

                    • Artevelde

                      Yesterday, when I sat down in front of my screen with a glass of good Burgundy, as bourgeois socialists tend to do, I was rummaging through my communist precursor card collection and suddenly it struck me: nobody I ever met can turn the word virtue into a sickle the way you do, your list of interior and exterior enemies vastly outshines any other and in your steadfast opposition to any form of mirth you are unsurpassed, oh Robespierre de nos jours.

                    • That’s not funny!

                      B-)

                    • antigon

                      Because he repeated your argument? Beclowned indeed.

        • antigon

          ‘We are currently undergoing a period of breakdown in the international order.’
          *
          Mr. Lutas:
          *
          This is too large a subject for a combox, but most of your premises are just nonsense. Such breakdown in international order since the effective & then final collapse of the Soviet Union has been due, save arguably Tunisia & Egypt (who perhaps in consequence have been able to establish a measure of stability), to US Imperial hubris virtually without exception.
          *
          Examples, of many:
          *
          1) Green light given by US Iraqi ambassador to Saddam’s proposed Kuwait invasion, never even remotely explained, leading first to that invasion, then Bush I’s counterattack, then to the Trade center destruction, then to the second Iraqi invasion so preposterously handled that it led to the rise of Isis funded by US-government allies & opposed by that government’s supposed great enemies Persia & Syria.
          *
          1a) Endless & fruitless occupation of Afghanistan after legitimate assault on the Taliban.
          *
          1b) Lots of color-coded US promoted ‘regime changes,’ of at best little value to anyone.
          *
          2) Breaking promises to Russia, NATO under (to be sure) US direction rushes to its doorstep, provoking nutball Georgian to attack provinces & a measured Russian response that restored both justice & order.
          *
          3) US funded & promoted coup against a democratically elected Ukrainian government provoking perfectly legitimate Crimean vote to reject results of that coup, which latter is of course also the cause of the current quasi civil war.
          *
          4) Libya.
          *
          ‘ISIS will not melt away peacefully.’
          *
          Turkey, right next door, accordingly more menaced than you are by ISIS, has a big army. So does Persia.
          *
          ‘The war in Ukraine is not an isolated incident that is over.’
          *
          To be sure, as that war is an effort to staunch the breakdown in international order U.S. imperial hubris invariably causes.
          *
          ‘Fear of a just war launched from the USA (in its role as global military hegemon) kept the wolves back. But now we lead from behind and the wolves have no fear.’
          *
          Nonsense on two counts: because while the US government has mostly engaged in but unjust aggression since the end of the Cold War, Cheneyesque fanaticism far from keeping any wolves back only strengthened Sunni fundamentalism, & the only wolf it restrained was Kaddafi, thus teaching wolves & everybody else what fate such restraint delivers; & because the US hegemon was hardly leading from behind.
          *
          ‘Forsaking war entirely would only worsen the effect.’
          *
          One wonders, despite that that’s as much of a quite silly strawman as the rest of your post.
          *
          If the US government began an orderly withdrawal of its troops from Europe, Korea, & most of those in virtually every other country in the world, the result would be manifestly salutary very much for that world, tho’ still more for US citizens.
          *
          T’would make it rough for the chattering classes I grant, & those who want to throw other people’s sons (& daughters) around for the same kind of empty & vicious & finally psychopathic thrill that pornography provides.

          • The breakdown of the international order of state sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs does have a US driver, the invention of atomic weapons, as well as the US contribution to global wealth and technology.

            We cannot countenance crazies (usually millenarians of various stripes) with nukes. The technology necessary to make nukes is constant, the sophistication level of the globe is rising. More and more countries, then subnational groups will cross the nuclear technological framework. It’s unsustainable to maintain westphalianism over the long haul in that environment. We desperately need a better framework to improve on westphalianism. We seem, instead to be slipping back to pre-Westphalian mistakes that haven’t been seen for centuries.

            I won’t go into a point by point argument on your examples save to note that your interpretation of these events is by no means uncontested. You seem to have a peculiar way to look at the world to my eyes that seems anti-american.

            America is not the only actor and it is not the only force that has moral responsibility. But anti-americanism tends to act as if it is unique, and therefore when things go wrong, it’s America’s fault. When mass killings do not involve America, it is our heartlessness that permits it, and when we act, the death toll is solely our moral responsibility.

            There very well may be “those who want to throw other people’s sons (& daughters) around for the same kind of empty & vicious & finally psychopathic thrill that pornography provides”, But I doubt that this is a very large contingent. A much more common state of affairs is the educated person who realizes that the result of the withdrawal of a military hegemon is arms races and increased likelihood of war because historically that is what happens. Hegemons suppress great power war right until the cost of hegemony becomes too great and they withdraw, either voluntarily or involuntarily. War reasserts itself at that point as a much more common state of affairs.

            I really wish your fantasy actually would work in reality. It would be a much nicer world to live in than the one we have.

            • antigon

              ‘We cannot countenance crazies (usually millenarians of various stripes) with nukes.’
              *
              No? Then why does the hegemon countenance Netan-yahoo?
              *
              ‘You seem…anti-american.’
              *
              To the contrary, pro-American, thus anti neo-con (a powerful contingent, if not large).
              *
              ‘I really wish your fantasy actually would work in reality.’
              *
              It worked from Washington to ol’ genocidal McKinley, & was no more of a fantasy then than it would be now, were Americans to rise against the far more dangerous fantasies of porn world.

              • Assuming that Israel really does have a nuclear deterrent and has had one since 1966, you’d actually have to demonstrate that Netanyahu was crazy.

                And ‘Netan-yahoo’? Keep it classy, antigon.

                Wake me up when Pax Britannica makes a comeback and we can once again free ride on somebody else doing the global heavy lifting.

                • antigon

                  Classy enough, Mr. Lutas. Worse could be said about that yahoo.

                  • And it frequently is, by barbarians, evil people, and anti-semites. He has legitimate, civilized critics too, but they tend to be able to spell his name.

                    • antigon

                      One supposes as well that barbarians, the wicked & racists perhaps call our president Obummer on occasion, & race hustlers use that by charging anyone else inclined to such (relevant) humor – or who doesn’t refer to him with proper reverence – as but another Simon Legree.
                      ^
                      Neocons – not notable for their humor, & very hostile to it when it’s apposite – are known to employ similar umbrage & comparable libels when their totems aren’t properly reverenced, & of course think it highly civil to call anything that challenges their nonsense to in fact be but Jew hatred.
                      *
                      Classy Al Sharpton, meet thy spiritual doppelgaenger TMLutas.

                    • The problem with your idea is that when I call people on the ‘Obummer’ and other casual insults, most people on the right amend their address and don’t insist on the insulting one. It’s a joke that fell flat and is abandoned. The ones who insist on the insulting address, in my experience, are showing a marker for more than philosophical and ideological difference.

                      Racists sometimes agree with me, and when it happens, I always double check internally to make sure that it’s a moment of sanity for them, and not a bad turn for me. I recommend the practice.

                    • antigon

                      ‘Th[ose] who insist on the [chidingly accurate] address, in my experience, are showing a marker for more than philosophical and ideological difference.’
                      *
                      Dear Rev. Lutas:
                      *
                      That marker would be a sense of humor, which, while I recommend the practice, is apparently as incomprehensible to you as is civil discourse.

  • The teaching, embodied in CCC 2267, relies on a statement of fact that is under dispute. It assumes that no general amnesty, breakdown in civil order, or revolution will empty the prisons. It assumes that prisoners eligible for the death penalty will not kill again. It assumes that life imprisonment actually will be carried out.

    Nobody can tell the future, but we can google to learn about the present. Lifers kill again is a search string that reveals a death toll that is an uncomfortable challenge for those who simply assumed that the fact statement at the end of CCC 2267 is actually true.

    The UK rate for recidivist murderers by lifers on release is 100 times the general population UK murder rate. If there is a Catholic movement to eliminate the liberation of lifers in the UK, I am unaware of it. In the UK, the state, in fact, cannot fulfill the conditions of CCC 2267 at present. People are dying of it.

    • chezami

      Kill them now in case there’s a breakdown in the civil order one of these day. Brilliant.

      • Saddam’s emptying of the prisons, the UK’s policy of releasing lifers, we don’t have to think of such things. It could never happen here.

        Mock the blood away. It is better than washing your hands.

    • Dave G.

      “as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime”

      I have yet to get a consistent answer about what that actually means.

      • The assumption is that the episcopate did its homework. So far as I know nobody ever published it. If it does exist, it would be a powerful argument for the anti death penalty side and I cannot understand why they would not release it given the usefulness to their arguments. It may not be aging well.

    • Heather

      In your UK example, I would first want to know what kind of numbers we’re talking about. 100 times the general rate is what actual rate, exactly? If 1 in 100 people in the general population commits a murder, then your released offender with a 100x increased odds of murdering again is certain to murder again, indeed how dreadful, we had better do something to make sure not a single one of them gets back out onto the street.

      However, I am pretty certain the average murder rate is quite a bit smaller than that. In fact, Wikipedia lists the intentional homicide rate in the UK as 1 per 100,000 inhabitants per year (which is less than a quarter than that of the USA’s). Let’s assume that each of those people was killed (murdered, in fact) by a different person for the maximum number of murderers in the population, so the average risk of any given person committing a murder is around 1 in 100,000 in any given year. Which says to me that a 100x increased risk brings the odds to 1 in 1,000 of a released lifer per year. Your average lifer on release probably has 30 or fewer years remaining in their average lifespan upon release, so that makes it maybe 30 in 1,000 to reoffend in their lifetime on average. So that “100x risk to reoffend” works out, on average, to about 1 in 30 of released lifers will commit another murder sometime within 30 years of release, after which old age should make them no longer a factor.

      So you make it sound like an overwhelming plague of recidivism and we had better just throw away all the keys or better yet kill them all and let God sort them out, but it seems to me that what they need is better dangerous offender legislation and more competent evaluations regarding whether someone should actually be eligible for release, (and doing a better job of helping re-integrate these people into productive society), to avoid letting out that average of 1 guy in 30 who is likely to kill again. And keep in mind, that 1 in 30 is worked out assuming that each murder is committed by a different murderer, which in practice is not the case, so the number of actual murderers is actually lower.

      But really, even before playing with all these numbers, all one has to do is see the 1 per 100,000 residents homicide rate compared to the USA’s 4.7 per 100,000 to put the lie to the notion that the UK is a hotbed of murder that needs to re-establish the death penalty to prevent the murderous hordes from having the whole nation at their mercy.

      • The fact statement in CCC 2267 is pretty clear, “rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself”. If it’s not true, then the confidence in the state is misplaced and the anti-death penalty movement’s reliance on this teaching is also misplaced. This is not a matter of mistaken theology. The theology is correct. It is the world which does not match, making applying that theological construct moot until the world matches the conditions that the theology was counting on as a prerequisite.

        The two people who died in 2013 as well as the 2 who died in 2012 because lifers on release in the UK killed again breaks the assumptions in CCC 2267. It’s not about whether such murders are tolerable. The Catechism is pretty clear. They are not tolerable. It is not for you to tolerate them and impose the randomized deaths of innocents on others.

        • Heather

          Somebody who should not have been released on parole went out and killed someone after being released. This is a tragic failure of the system whose consequences cannot be undone. This person should have been identified as being a dangerous offender with a high risk to reoffend and not been granted parole.

          Do you want to know what else is a tragic failure of the system? Wrongful conviction. You can argue that any failure at all, even at a risk of 0.1% per year, is too many to put innocent people at risk at a rate of 1 homicide per 100,000 residents. In return, I can argue that any wrongful conviction, even at a risk of 0.1% per year, is too many to put innocent people at risk. Do you have greater than 99.9% confidence in the accuracy of all criminal convictions? Because I don’t.

          By your argument, that since statistically speaking lifers on parole murder more often than the general public and therefore should instead be executed to protect the public, then we should look at other risk factors as well. Let’s say that individuals previously convicted of something other than murder are, say, 80 times more likely to commit a murder than the general public. Should we be executing them to protect the public as well? Or perhaps people suffering from a specific rare mental illness may be 120 times more likely to kill than average. Let’s kill them too, regardless of whether they have actually committed any crime? Maybe we can reduce the murder rate by instituting a comprehensive surveillance state and giving the state powers to indefinitely detain those they believe to be at risk of committing an offense, whether they have already done so or not.

          If you’re just looking at numbers and risk factors, let’s get rid of our kitchens, since we are so much more likely to be injured there than anywhere else in the house! Let’s pre-emptively arrest all mothers’ boyfriends, since statistically speaking “mom’s new boyfriend” is much more likely to commit a crime against a child than just about anyone else in the child’s life!

          Or we can be sensible and say that a murder rate of 1 per 100,000 residents indicates that, despite a few high profile incidents, the UK is able to guarantee a high level of public safety without executing people, in fact several times higher than that of the USA.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            But the Church does not rest her argument on wrongful punishments of the innocent.

            I’m anti DP, but your beef is with the CCC, not tmlutas.

          • If you can bring out the magical statistics, so can I, weaving tales of never erring juries and wise politicians dispensing appropriate mercy.

            The fundamental problem is not a political one. It is that people are misteaching the Catechism by ignoring the question of whether the factual statement embedded in CCC 2267 is true.

            It should be front and center to the teaching that we have a duty to check whether the statement is true and to periodically double check if it has remained true as well as to take reasonable care to deal with failure use cases, a few of which I’ve outlined above but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get them all.

            We are Catholics because we believe that what the Church teaches is true. Among many other things that means that we don’t jump into penology without checking to see what we’re asserting is actually true. I think it is not true and thus the teaching changes until and whenever such time as it becomes true that we can practically reach the level of safety that the Catechism states “rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself.”

            That doesn’t mean that we reduce prison murder rates to the rate of murder in the general population. The plain language creates a much higher standard than that. Death penalty eligible prisoners “incapable of doing harm” simply isn’t how we run prisons and I’m not sure we could run them that way.

            You raised an interesting point about extending the death penalty to non murder crimes. In certain nations, that is current law. In the past, death penalties for crimes other than murder were not uncommon. Piracy used to routinely be a death penalty crime, for example. It is how we mostly got rid of it and why it seems to be coming back.

            Theologically I’m not sure what the problem is. What is a death penalty crime is within the discretion of the state to at least some degree. Eugenic killings, however, are not within the discretion of the state.

            • Heather

              Let’s read the actual full sentence that you are quoting.

              “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.””

              For some reason, my version of the CCC reads “possibilities which the state has” not “absolute exceptionless and permanent infallibility which the state, without a single error of judgement or imprudent lapse in caution, has.”

              Certainly we need to maintain vigilance to see if the state is indeed able to maintain an adequate level of public safety. But the example “failure case” state that you use, the UK, still has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world (#29th lowest out of 228). Somehow, the state has managed to keep its citizens far safer from murderers, on the whole, than the middle-of-the-pack USA (ranked #108 of 228) without recourse to the death penalty.

              • Vigilance was what I was talking about, specifically the lack thereof. I’ve been fishing for any sort of evidence that the anti-death penalty side is engaging in any sort of examination at all of the serious question of whether the statement is true. Nobody’s come up with such a thing. That is, frankly, disturbing.

    • Newp Ort

      So keep them in jail. Just don’t kill them.

      • It doesn’t follow. Some of those people dying are in jail, either fellow inmates or prison guards. For example, a Denver case:

        http://www.denverpost.com/ci_20249702/when-lifers-kill-prison-is-it-waste-prosecute

        This sort of thing goes directly to the truth value of a statement of fact in the Catechism. This problem is not insurmountable for the anti-death penalty side, but it needs to be treated seriously. It’s possible that someone already has, but I’ve not read it. I would appreciate a pointer, if such works exist.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Keep them in solitary. American jurisprudence regards the most extreme forms of incarceration as cruel and unusual, but that is a problem with American Jurisprudence, not the Church’s teaching.

          None of this is an endorsement of the comments of Artevelde, who comes off as an idiot.

          • If the state cannot bring itself to do what is necessary to fulfill the condition set by the catechism, how is the condition fulfilled? Necessarily in a conversation about the death penalty, the politics of the possible legitimately enters into the discussion.

            The UK certainly isn’t physically forced to release murderers. They do it because the power blocs and how they are arranged within the UK elite make true life sentences impossible, much less life sentences in solitary confinement as you advocate as a possibility. You might very well need a revolution in the UK to establish the political conditions where a fulfilling of the fact statement in the Catechism would be possible.

      • J_Bob

        And how much does that cost per year?

        Why not use the $’s to rehabilitate those with a better chance of becoming normal citizens?

        • chezami

          Better the innocent be executed than that you lose your precious money.

          • D.T. McCameron

            Doubtless it’s cheaper to never incarcerate the innocent at all; still, the issue is (I think) a valuing of guilty life.

          • Are you always anti-stewardship or just when it’s inconvenient for a policy proposal you support?

        • Newp Ort

          Kill somebody to have money to help others well intended but still ultimately killing someone

    • Artevelde

      CCC 2267 doesn’t assume any of the things you mentioned. You interpret this teaching of the Church as ”Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, that person can be killed unless the conditions of the Garden of Eden are met”. You make killing an option unless impossible conditions are met.

      • I did not set the conditions. The Church did in the text.

        But for the sake of argument, let’s assume a certain amount of wiggle. There are border conditions, no matter where you set the border. If more than X recidivist murders happen, then the statement that the state is capable of foregoing capital punishment and should therefore do so is no longer operative and the ‘de facto ban’ stops being a ban. So what value is X? I have never seen anti-death penalty Catholics seriously treat this question. If I simply have missed this literature, I would appreciate references to it.

        • Artevelde

          That literature does not exist, but if it did, it would no doubt also answer the question ”what value is X when X= the amount of numbers in a numbers game required to make it a valid moral argument”.

          • In this particular case, by the plain text of the Catechism, X is any number greater than zero which makes the de facto ban, not a ban at all until we do get to that world where prisoners can be rendered incapable of doing harm.

            • Artevelde

              Non-lethal ways will never be enough to exclude the possibility that somewhere, some day a convict will do harm again, either in prison or after being released. When a state bans the death penalty, however, it does not do so under the assumption this envisioned X=0 situation has become a fact. It does so under the assumption that the current non-lethal means at its disposal generally suffice. That is how ccc2267 should be read.

              • We’ve now precisely flipped. The starting premise of the article was that pro-death penalty people are playing fast and loose with the Catechism and now you’re the one arguing for wiggle on the plain text of CCC 2267.

                Wiggle there probably should be, and we should sit down and discuss this at professional levels, in detail. When the anti-death penalty side collectively comes on board to that position, I’ll have a lot more respect for it.

                • Artevelde

                  Oh I’m on board with the wiggle. I’m all too willing to debate what the practical implications are of ”very rare, if not practically non-existent”. What I’m not willing to do is accept your sophistic translation of CCC 2267 into ”the church states that until we can guarantee 100 pct non-recidivism, we are under no moral obligation to abolish the death penalty”. That is not what the text says and I will not even consider it as a starter for any discussion.

                  • The Church was represented a statement of fact, which they accepted and placed in the Catechism. Specifically what was the representation and is it true? This is the question I posed. I’m ok with a looser interpretation than X=0 but state your case and make your point in a way that works. You declined the last time so I went with the strictest border condition to see if you really were ok with it. You call that sophistic.

                    I’m not going to debate myself.

                    • Artevelde

                      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.

                      Which statement of fact precisely is it you object to?

                    • I object that it’s not actually true that the state always has such possibilities and that before we make a call for the end of the death penalty, it behooves us to actually make sure those possibilities are there and where they are not, refrain from making things worse by pretending the world is as it actually is not.

                    • Artevelde

                      If you rewrite the catechism, you should stick to it. The word ”always” is not in there. But let’s assume you were not actually and deliberately falsifying the Cathechism to make your point: if you sincerely believe that the USA, or any particular state, lacks the non-violent means (in general or in specific cases) to keep society safe from the future actions of convicted violent criminals, then that would be a valid argument to execute some people.

                    • The United States of America has a federal prison system, 50 state ones, and around 3000 county systems of incarceration of various qualities. In all that variety, it would be normal to check to see whether a system does actually handle prisoners in a manner consistent with CCC 2267. So far as I can tell, nobody’s bothered to do the work of checking or even lay out the criteria for such a check to happen.

                      There was no intent to rewrite the catechism. I just assumed that the writers of the Catechism didn’t have a bad case of 1st world blindness where you assume that everybody’s rich enough to do what the richest state is capable of.

                    • Artevelde

                      I’m not assuming that, certainly not when when we take into account the shoddy state of some nations’ finances and infrastructure. But then the Cathechism DOES leave open the possibility of death penalty. I certainly feel that my own country, Belgium, and its closest neighbours abolish can and have abolished the death penalty, resulting in a situation where the few negative consequences are far outweighed by the positive ones.

                    • I hope that in Belgium somebody is at least checking whether it is actually true that the “few negative consequences are far outweighed by the positive ones” which is what I’m seeking here, in the US debate. I have very little faith in government action either way. People who come down, unthinking, on either side of the death penalty debate, are wrong.

                      This initiative proposed in the article is unthinking. There’s no intellectual homework to back it up, that the US (in all its multijurisdictional glory) has achieved the condition set by CCC 2267 throughout the land. If it were not unthinking, they would use that homework to slap the pro-death penalty side like St. Nicholas debating the Arians. And they would be right to do so.

                      We are decades into an information revolution and we worry about permanent unemployment for a large portion of our population. There is zero reason to skip over doing these exercises, other than the unthinking simply don’t want to confront the possibility that their preconceptions might be wrong. That, on either side, is cowardice. It is not consistent with the Catholic faith.

  • margaret1910

    I have some issues with the no death penalty, to be honest. I am in Kansas. I have trouble, personally, with not putting BTK and the Carr brothers to death. I am willing to submit to the Church, but I have issues. I am likely wrong? Please explain how I am wrong? These are horrible murderers who have no remorse whatsoever?

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      You’re wrong in your use of ‘whatsoever’. It is more accurate to say they have no remorse yet. Will they develop remorse? No way to know. But they very well might, and this is a testament to Christ and his power to change lives. Their remorse is uncertain at present. But, if they are executed, their future remorse is rendered impossible. The only way a human being can reasonably support removing their opportunity to achieve remorse is by denying Christ’s salvific power.

      Instead of killing these men, Christians should be praying for their salvation.

      Of course, please forgive my prattling if you have already fasted and prayed fastidiously for these men’s salvation.

      • margaret1910

        I am sure you are right, hezekiah. I just find it hard.

    • The Catholic argument for the death penalty is not that these are horrible men without remorse. It is that these men are a danger to further kill that we cannot reliably stop. The name escapes me now but there was a prisoner who did not get the death penalty but wanted it and claimed that he would keep on killing until he got it. He got his wish in his second subsequent murder trial and was executed. It is this type of case which keeps me from agreeing with the anti-death penalty side.

      • BJ

        What you list as “the Catholic argument” is nothing like that argument. Your characterization is facile. I suggest you read something substantial on the subject. Try Ralph McInerny.

        • Thank you for giving me a content free slam and suggesting I read an author with a pretty large list of both fiction and non-fiction books. I’m sorry but I don’t have several months to plow through it all. Do you think you could possibly give at least a precis for what the catholic argument for the death penalty actually is in your opinion and just one book which should clarify things? I’m trying to figure out if you’re rude or a sophisticated troll.

          • BJ

            Since you characterize your argument as “the Catholic argument”, since you do so without any textual or authorial references, since you are in a public forum representing an august, serious, and very sophisticated tradition, and since you are incorrect in your presentation of that tradition, while I can understand that my words might have stung, they are not, for that fact, rude. Pointing such things out, in a direct manner, is not trollish, but in fact an act of charity. Rarely do I find anyone even remotely open to engaging the real argument, so your reply comes as a surprise. I salute you for moving beyond the trifling sting and pursuing the issue. As for Prof. McInerny, the easiest introduction to the tradition comes from his 1999 editorial in the WSJ in response to the then Holy Father’s intervention in a Missouri capital punishment case. The presentation there is terse but adequate and touches most substantive parts of the real argument. Should you prefer something more in depth and extended, entirely within the tradition, and quite sophisticated, refer to J Budziszewski’s article on capital punishment in First Things, vol 145, 2004; http://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/08/capital-punishment-the-case-for-justice

            • No, rude it was, though in the end educational. There is a certain style of troll which follows your previous chastisement to a T but there’s nothing there, really except a desire to puppet you into chasing a vague reference into something resembling an actual argument. After you’ve wasted your time chasing these things down often enough, the wise commenter will no longer chase the lure laid down by the troll. It’s generally considered rude to imitate them as well.

              Thank you for the link to an actual argument. I won’t nit pick over it, but will think about what’s written there.

  • BJ

    Specious reasoning Mr Shea and for someone who apparently spends time reading the history of the Church, this article is a more than a little shameful. You do not the slightest justice to the tradition and show frankly only the most rudimentary understanding of politics. Shame on you. Here’s an idea: read something marginally sophisticated. Do you have any idea at all how many serious Catholic thinkers from history you summarily dismiss is this silly waste of verbiage?

    • chezami

      I have three popes and the Magisterium on my side. You have your private judgement. You and your fellow lovers of the death penalty will lose.

    • Dagnabbit_42

      Yes, this is pretty unsophisticated. It is full of straw men, and so is the linked article, especially the term “death penalty maximalist.”

      But it remains the formal magisterial teaching of the Church that, while capital punishment imposed by legitimate authority IS morally licit, there is a very high bar of justification required for its use to be “justified” in the fullest sense…similar to the very high bar of justification required for war. (And for many of the same reasons.)

      It is in fact such a very high bar that, in a society such as the United States, one should expect it to be very rarely used at all, if it is only used justly.

      We are a nation of 350 million persons. With that many people, in this kind of culture, some truly horrific crimes will be committed pretty regularly. But the horrific nature of the crime, by itself, is insufficient justification for the death penalty. For, while the crime itself can merit execution — indeed, death by torture…indeed, eternal torment in hell — there are additional requirements which must be met before we can justly impose such a penalty.

      And THAT bar is so high, that one might expect somewhere between none and a handful of morally justified uses of capital punishment a year. (A much smaller country might not see more than one a decade.)

      But the U.S. averages forty or so, in recent years. This suggests that we are overdoing it.

      Why are we overdoing it? This penchant for capital punishment is not something caused by the 20th-century destruction of sexual morality; it predates it. What is it about us, that makes us want to cling to it?

      I suspect that our aversion to abolishing the death penalty it is a gut reaction to another problem; namely, that we are under-doing it, in our response to wickedness in our society.

      You see, it is mostly those persons who’re least bothered by the affront to God’s laws and the scoffing at God’s justice — those who’re so insensate to moral corruption — who’re prone to opposing the death penalty. It is easy for them: They are comfortable swimming in the sewage. They mostly do not believe in any sin except intolerance (excepting intolerance towards expressions traditional moral codes). A rape-murder here, a plundered pension there, a politicians’ pedophilic playground on a private island over yonder, and they tend to shrug about it and ask which starlet is emerging from rehab and how big a deal she got for her next album.

      In short: They oppose the death penalty because they really don’t keenly feel that the crimes being punished are THAT egregiously wrong. Oh, yes, sure, they’re bad; but killing a man has a finality to it which suggests a sort of carved-in-stone nature to the moral code. It suggests that the wrongness of such things might be absolute, not relative. And that, they’ll tell you with a jaded chuckle, simply can’t be right. Is any crime bad enough, really, to risk sending such a message? For them, the problem with the death penalty is that people like them wouldn’t be caught dead supporting it: How gauche.

      Now this is the majority moral philosophy of our era, and it is held by those in power in our cultural high-grounds: Popular Entertainment, News Media, Academia, The Ruling Elite Class, et cetera. Those who oppose it — as they should! — often feel that they’ve been force-fed this philosophy one time too many. Enough is enough, they feel! So they put their foot down with a solid STOMP and declare that, by God, persons who commit such crimes should be permitted a last meal and an opportunity for penance, and then “decently hanged.”

      And since the U.S. currently has capital punishment, their further inclination is to fight to keep what the U.S. has. If nothing else, they feel, it pisses off all the right people.

      I am sympathetic to this.

      But, it’s unthinking, it’s undiscerning.

      Yes, the multiple child-rapist deserves execution. Of course! Whoever said he doesn’t? He deserves hell, which is far worse than the worst botched execution. In an otherwise-ideal world, where somehow such a crime nevertheless managed to happen, the perpetrator ought to be “decently hanged.” At least.

      Yes, but this is not an otherwise-ideal world.

      In this world, we make mistakes about guilt; in this world, government is often the chief persecutor and potential executor of faithful Christians; in this world, we experience race-based and sex-based disparities in whom gets “the chair”; in this world, the consciences of those who affirm particular executions — even just ones — are gradually coarsened by doing so; in this world, corrupt prosecutors and judges accidentally-on-purpose “lose” exculpatory evidence; in this world, we get so gleeful about offending the pansy-assed reprobates of Europe by our use of the death penalty that we mostly…do it on occasions when the Church tells us the bar of moral justification has not been met.

      Oops.
      So, under the circumstances, each state which still uses the death penalty ought to at least raise the bar for its application: More hurdles, more guarantee of excellent representation for the poor, more opportunities for being shunted towards life in prison.

      This will of course increase the expense. That’s fine. More states will decide that it just isn’t worth the hassle or the cost. That’s fine.

      Yeah, I know, I know, Mark Shea habitually lights up his flamethrower when he sees daylight between the Church and a political conservative. Perhaps it’s because he feels that they ought to be more like him…because he, being of somewhat conservative inclinations, is more than a bit like them. When ISIS burns a guy alive, it’s ISIS being ISIS; when someone who votes GOP supports the death penalty, It’s The Inexcusable Imbecility Of The Thing That Used To Call Itself Conservatism. He only “others” those who’re close enough to himself to feel like they shouldn’t be “other.”

      So, I get the irritation.

      But in fact Mark Shea is not one of the people who opposes the death penalty because of not caring about sin. He actually does believe in objective morality, in the heinousness of the crimes which, were our penal laws changed, would cease to lead to executions. His reasons are not the leftist-progressive “reasons.”

      So, in spite of the broad and sloppy brush of his criticisms of those who disagree, give Mr. Catholic-And-Enjoying-It some grace. In the end, he’s on the side of the angels, on this issue. Even if his personal halo looks a bit crooked. (But then whose isn’t?)

  • Elaine S.

    First question for everyone here: how many of you are in a position to ever ACTUALLY make a binding, life or death decision regarding the death penalty or waging a war? I mean a direct, immediate decision, not an indirect one such as casting one vote among millions for a particular presidential or gubernatorial candidate, or possibly swaying another person’s opinions by posting something online or debating at the water cooler or kitchen table. The latter actions are good, but they are NOT in the same moral responsibility category as, say, serving on a jury for a capital murder case or being the POTUS or a member of Congress voting on a declaration of war.

    Second question: if you are never going to be in a position of direct responsibility for waging war or handing down or carrying out a death sentence, why are you getting all worked up about those issues to the point of insulting and condemning one another?