Huckabee’s Inconsistent Ethic of Life

Huckabee’s Inconsistent Ethic of Life January 2, 2008

Huckabee’s attack ad on Romney said something very interesting: “No executions. Supported gun control. And Romney’s government-mandate health plan provided a $50 co-pay for abortion.” This really shows the need for a consistent ethic of life, and the clear limits of a political marriage with the evangelical movement. Huckabee is supporting the culture of life on abortion, but (in the same breath) opposing it with the death penalty and gun control. And even for somebody who supports the death penalty, isn’t there something a little obscene about attacking your opponent for not executing anybody?

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  • isn’t there something a little obscene about attacking your opponent for not executing anybody?

    Yes, there is. That is the Republican rhetoric though. Same thing with immigration.

    I hope Huckabee wins though. He’s not the “ideal” candidate, but he’s probably the best of the Republican platform. Just because the Republican base dislikes him so much makes me like him a little bit 🙂 I’ve already settled for the mediocrity of the candidates from both parties :-/

  • The death penalty is not intrinsically evil.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    To add to this, the death penalty claim is a reaction to Romney’s criticism of Huckabee’s large number of commutations and pardons.

  • The death penalty is not intrinsically evil.

    Oh brother.

  • Suibhne

    I’m new here, so pardon me if this has been hashed out here before. Gun control is consistent with the culture of life?

  • Well, it isn’t. Therefore, support of the death penalty is not inconsistent with a consistent ethic of life.

  • Blackadder

    Sulbhne,

    Why would gun control not be consistent with the culture of life?

  • Zach, aan you explain why you think gun control is inconsistent with a culture of life?

  • Zach,

    Sorry to inform you that our late Pope John Paul II would have disagreed with you:

    “A model of society appears to be emerging in which the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless: I am thinking here of unborn children, helpless victims of abortion; the elderly and incurable ill, subjected at times to euthanasia; and the many other people relegated to the margins of society by consumerism and materialism. Nor can I fail to mention the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty . . . This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message» (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia In America, 63).

    May Christmas help to strengthen and renew, throughout the world,
    the consensus concerning the need for urgent and adequate measures
    to halt the production and sale of arms,
    to defend human life, to end the death penalty,
    to free children and adolescents from all forms of exploitation,
    to restrain the bloodied hand
    of those responsible for genocide and crimes of war,
    to give environmental issues,
    especially after the recent natural catastrophes,
    URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE 1998

  • I’m new here, so pardon me if this has been hashed out here before. Gun control is consistent with the culture of life?

    It would seem that it depends on whom you ask around here! 🙂

    Welcome to the never ending discussion at Vox Nova on this topic and many more!

  • If I accepted the premise of this argument, that is, that gun control will lead to less gun violence, perhaps I would advocate for gun control. Further, I do not think that this advocacy would be inconsistent with a “culture of life”. I’m not sure why you would assume I think this.

    But I don’t accept the premise. There is compelling sociological data that shows that when guns are outlawed, something quite different happens.

    And another point worth clearing up: I do not think this particular position is a necessary component of a consistent ethic of life, because guns are morally neutral.

  • I’m not sure I agree with the assertion that the “Republican base” dislikes Huckabee. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be doing so well. There are parts of the base – economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives – who oppose Huckabee, but the social conservatives – who are most often identified by the MSM as the “Republican base” – don’t seem to have a problem with him.

    Furthermore, I have to take with a grain of salt any criticism of Huckabee’s alleged “inconsistent ethic of life” coming from MM, who just last week was singing the praises of a candidate who, as an Illinois legislator, did everything in his power to kill legislation aimed at protecting infants born alive during an attempted abortion.

    And “gun control” is NOT an ethic of life issue, but is rather one of those issues that those with left-leaning policy priorities like to lump into the spectrum of “life issues” in order to

    (1) give their personal policy preferences some sort of imprimatur of Church-approvedness, and

    (2) distract attention away from more important life issues on which the Church really has taken a stand such as abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc., on which their politicians of choice have less than stellar records.

    I’ve refrained from jumping on the Huckabee bandwagon as of yet (there’s something about him I find not altogether trustworthy), but he does seem to be the candidate with the MOST consistent ethic of life in EITHER party. (I think Brownback was even better but, alas, he is no longer in the running.)

  • Katerina,

    I’m not sure I understand how I disagree with him, but even if I do, John Paul the Second is not the Magisterium.

    If, as John Paul II says, a culture is wrong if it glorifies the death penalty, then I certainly agree with him. Where is the disagreement?

    But the document you cite is not a morally binding teaching. The death penalty remains a legitimate option, allowing that the circumstances in which it is licit might be very limited.

  • USCCB, 2007:

    “Promoting moral responsibility and effective responses to violent crime, curbing violence in media, supporting reasonable restrictions on access to assault weapons and handguns, and opposing the use of the death penalty are particularly important in light of a growing culture of violence.”

    “Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.”

    “Our nation’s continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified. Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life, the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty and, in the meantime, to restrain its use through broader use of DNA evidence, access to effective counsel, and efforts to address unfairness and injustice related to application of the death penalty.”

    USCCB, 1975:

    “The growing reality and extent of violent crime is of great concern to the Committee on Social Development and World Peace and to all Americans. It threatens more and more of our citizens and communities. The cost of this violence in terms of human life and suffering is enormous. We speak out of pastoral concern as persons called to pro claim the Gospel of Jesus, who “came that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). We are deeply committed to upholding the value of human life and opposing those forces which threaten it.

    One of these factors is the easy availability of handguns in our society. Because it is so easily concealed, the handgun is often the weapon of crime. Because it is so readily available, it is often the weapon of passion and suicide. This is clearly a national problem. No state or locality is immune from the rising tide of violence. Individual state and local action can only provide a partial solution. We must have a coherent national firearms policy responsive to the overall public interest and respectful of the rights and privileges of all Americans. The unlimited freedom to possess and use handguns must give way to the rights of all people to safety and protection against those who misuse these weapons.”

  • The death penalty remains a legitimate option, allowing that the circumstances in which it is licit might be very limited.

    It remains a “legitimate option” in theory, but not in the United States, and indeed not in this point in actual history. You know, REAL LIFE.

  • MM, I’m not sure how that’s related to the argument at hand, can you explain?

    The USCCB is not the Magisterium, and the prudential teaching you’ve cited from the USCCB is not binding. Granted, we must give it serious consideration in the formation of our political philosophies.

    By the way, I generally support policies to limit or end the death penalty. But my opinion is not the official Teaching of the Catholic Church. Nor is the opinion of the USCCB.

  • Michael,

    That’s something that is subject to legitimate debate and disagreement amongst faithful Catholics!

  • TeutonicTim

    “reasonable” and “coherent” policies do NOT apply to me, a normal, law abiding citizen.

    There already are restrictions: felons = NO, mentally ill = NO, non-citizens = NO.

    What else is reasonable?

    Wanting to limit the use of the death penalty != it is an intrinsic evil. It means exhausting all other means before executing someone. It also means that in a modern society we have more means to keep a piece of trash murder/rapist alive than we did in past times. That also does not make its use evil.

  • TeutonicTim

    Ah, now we’re brining in “REAL LIFE”.

    The real life where murders and rapists get out of prison to repeat offend, the real life where guns will exist in the hands of evil people whether we outlaw them or not?

  • bill bannon

    MM
    Too bad the USCCB and John Paul contradicted …..not developed….Catholic tradition on the death penalty from Augustine to a 1952 speech by Pius XII with the papal executioner ….Buggatti….executing 516 criminals between 1796 and 1860 and with the Vatican having the death penalty on its books until the 1960’s…..development is never so abrupt as reversal.
    And you support whom MM …Obama??…..and does he support partial birth abortion..err….yes?
    What benefit of his acts as a counter weight to his being in place to appoint someone to the supremes for decades?

  • But the document you cite is not a morally binding teaching.

    I don’t fall into those kinds of legalisms that seek to justify one’s divergence from Church teaching.

  • Katerina,

    That’s not a legalism, that’s the nature of the Church’s teaching.

  • This means specifically that nothing I have said diverges from the teaching of the Church.

  • that’s the nature of the Church’s teaching.

    According to…?

  • …the Gospel of Zach

  • You don’t have to take my word for it. Please ask any competent preacher, or consult any Magisterial documents that define the nature of Church teaching.

  • ctd

    I’m late coming into this discussion, but here goes:

    As regarding the death penalty, the Catechism is very clear. No, it is not intrinsically evil, but it cannot be justified so long as “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor . . .” Furthermore, if you read the entire section, it is clear that this teaching is rooted, in part, in the respect for life. Just because it is not intrinsically evil does not mean that Catholics are free to support the death penalty, particularly in a nation that clear has the means to defend and protect society without using the death penalty.

    Regarding gun control, it is morally neutral. However, it is difficult to see how absolute opposition to gun control can be consistent with Catholic teaching. The state has the legitimate right to protect society for the common good. Denying the availability of gun control as an option would infringe upon the legitimate right of the state.

  • Zach

    ctd has it right.

    The death penalty cannot be supported as long as “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor . . .” ”

    This is the part that is subject to debate. That is, exactly what is it that constitutes sufficient defense and protection. Reasonable people will disagree.

    regarding gun control: i would only add that it is equally inconsistent with Catholic Teaching to argue that guns only ought to be in the hands of the police.

  • bill bannon

    ctd
    So we are to trust the prudential judgement of a Pope regarding protection of society when in fact that Pope took no emergency action to protect children under his own regime (remember Christ with the whip in the temple…no 4 decade long solution in that situation)….with John Paul’s regime having almost the identical number of allegations of priest sex abuse in his first ten years in office that obtained in the ten years previous to his entering his reign?

    The catechism after revision in #2267 stuck that particular Pope’s prudential judgement that modern penology was protecting society (vis a vis implied life sentences which were safer under Pius XII who supported the death penalty)….. into a catechism article where prudential judgements of that nature are simply out of place. One is not bound to the prudential judgements of a Pope because such judgements depend on sociological facts which he never gave at all in Evangelium Vitae or anywhere else. If you watch MSNBC’s series on prisons, you will not come away thinking life sentences are protecting guards and other victim prisoners and people like witnesses outside who are ordered killed from prison as a young boy in Newark was so killed.
    Prudential judgements are even more out of place when faced with a Pope who according to his own official biographer, George Weigel, never read newspapers and yet according to Weigel ….was the “most informed man on earth”….Catholic papal idolizing is part of Catholic publishing apparently. Had he been that informed, he would known that Catholic children needed protection from him fast from fellatio inter alia….all through the 1980’s…. while instead he was writing the TOB lectures of all things.
    There are a number of predominantly Catholic countries who do not have the death penalty and who are in the top 15 countries for murder so why should the world listen to Rome on such matters?

  • TeutonicTim

    Except for the fact that in this state (the united states), the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It is indeed a restriction upon the state designed into the state itself.

    All arguments for gun control rest on the premise that it works. See MM’s post regarding D.C. and look at the statistics there to see that this is a fallacy.

  • TeutonicTim

    “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor”

    It comes down to keeping the people safe from the people who would harm society if they were free to keep existing in that society. The prison system in this country is so broken and convicted killers, rapists, and other violent offenders are let out regularly only to to offend society again. Let’s not forget the financial cost of keeping these people in jail for LIFE. This cost harms society all over again via taxes, including those who can least afford the burden.

    As spoken above, the death penalty is not intrinsically evil, and exists as a valid option in today’s society

  • Zach: let’s get it straight. The teaching that the death penalty is only valid “when it would not be otherwise possible to defend society” is not a prudential judgment; rather it is a teaching pertaining to moral principles and thus is owed religious assent (Lumen Gentium, 25). The prudential judgment comes in when John Paul notes that such circumstances today are “very rare, if practically non-existent”. No reasonable person could possibly claim otherwise in the US context today, so yes, John Paul’s teaching is binding on you, me, and Bill Bannon too.

  • Tim notes:

    “the death penalty is not instrinsically evil”. Agreed, but in its current application, it is extrinsically evil, as I argued above.

    “exists as a valid option in today’s society”.

    Exactly the opposite of what the Church teaches. Who opened the cafeteria door today? 🙂

  • bill bannon

    MM
    Gee….I look forward to you and John Paul explaining that in the next world to the families of the several hundred people whose murders were ordered from prison in California according to a NY Times article of some years back.

  • ctd

    “Let’s not forget the financial cost of keeping these people in jail for LIFE. This cost harms society all over again via taxes, including those who can least afford the burden.”

    Neither the Catechism, the Compendium of Social Teaching, or EV say “but not if it is expensive.” The teaching is clear that because human life is involved and the common good — which is diminished if life is unnecessarily taken — we are morally obligated to assume those costs.

    Precisely because these fundamental interests are involved, the burden is on those supporting the death penalty to show that it is absolutely necessary — that is, the only option, to pursue the legitimate purposes of defending society from that particular aggressor.

    We should also keep in mind that prudential judgment is not a blank check. Everyone must still make judgments according to all of the Church’s teaching and with respect to the role of the bishops as moral teachers.

  • ctd

    “regarding gun control: i would only add that it is equally inconsistent with Catholic Teaching to argue that guns only ought to be in the hands of the police.”

    How so? I would agree that it would be wrong to say that Catholic teaching supports the argument that guns only ought to be in the hands of the police, but I don’t see how we could say that the view is inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

    Regarding the Second Amendment, I think an argument could be made that disrespect for the Constitution undermines the public order necessary for the common good. However, the meaning of the Second Amendment is debatable. More importantly, we should be suspicious of positivist appeals to language of the Constitution.

  • bill bannon

    ctd
    Death sentences in the US are more expensive than life sentences due to appeals. So then we should not avoid death sentences because they are more expensive….which …lol…. was probably just operative in New Jersey which is under great budget problems.

  • Zach

    MM the first part of your comment seems to be an exact repetition of what I already said.

    Then you add, “No reasonable person could possibly claim otherwise in the US context today, so yes, John Paul’s teaching is binding on you, me, and Bill Bannon too.”

    This I cannot agree with. You do not know the circumstances and nature of every crime and criminal in the United States.

  • Zach

    I should clarify that I do not say I mean to disagree with John Paul’s teaching, but that “no reasonable person could claim otherwise”.

  • Zach

    ctd:

    I would cite the inviolable right to private property. And also the right to self defense.

  • Zach

    whoa typo. should read: “I do not mean to say that I disagree..”

  • ctd

    Zach:

    While I would not agree that the right to private property is “inviolable” — the teaching on private property is much more nuanced and subordinate to several other principles — the right to self-defense argument is interesting. I will have to give it some thought.

  • Zach

    ctd,

    Perhaps you’re right to say that inviolable is the wrong word there.

    Although, for me at this moment(I haven’t really reflected on it) it is difficult to think of an example of some individual thing that would be wrong by virtue of your ownership of it.

    I would greatly appreciate an explanation of how the right is not inviolable.

    But I must add that the right to private property is very important in Catholic Social Thought and is not something to take lightly. Centesimus Annus is probably the most relevant text although the right also finds support in nearly all social encyclicals and the Catechism (2402 and 2403)

    I think it can be applied in the case of individual ownership of firearms. e.g.,

    From the Catechism 2402:

    “The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge”

    Self-defense is surely a basic need. (?)

  • Policraticus

    Zach claims that John Paul II is not the magisterium. Zach claims that the USCCB is not the magisterium. Hmmm…the Church defines the magisterium as the teaching office of the Church, which consists of the bishops in union with the pope. U.S. bishops in union with the pope…teaching…about the death penalty…and its legitimacy…in America…a matter of morality. Yep, that sounds magisterial.

    Zach must have missed that key passage from another magisterial document, Lumen Gentium, which states that religious submission must be given to papal teaching even if it is not taught infallibly:

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” (LG, 25)

    Note that bit about frequent repetition of the same doctrine! Be sure to check out how often John Paul II spoke of the death penalty, and how many times the USCCB reaffirmed his mind and will.

    Zach either relies on some other magisterium, of which the rest of have little or no knowledge, to aid him in discerning which teachings of the Catholic magisterium are binding (perhaps himself) or he is fundamentally confused about the relationship between the magisterium of the Catholic Church, the charism of infallible magisterium (cf. Vatican I) and binding teaching. In regard to this latter option, he seems to conflate all of these distinct elements into one: the magisterium is binding, infallible teaching of the Church. But, as the Church teaches, these three elements are not the same.

  • What Policraticus said.

    Our most basic need is not survival, but salvation. Violence is evil – intrinsic or not, You want to fight for evil and claim your right to self-defense? Go ahead. You’re still giving into evil. Our Church has made clear Christ’s truth: that we defeat evil with good, not with violence. You want to truly defend yourself? Pick up the what Pope Benedict calls the “cross of nonviolence”, the only true defense against our enemies.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

    Which of course begs the question of what to do when Pontiffs contradict each other as they frequently have in such areas as the death penalty. Much of what popes write and say is consigned to oblivion a few pontificates after they are no longer on the scene. Consider for example the Oath Against Modernism championed by Saint Pius X, or the Syallabus of Errors of Pio Nono. Only time tells whether the views of a particular Pontiff will join the corpus of the faith, or be steadfastly ignored except by historians.

  • Zach

    Policraticus, are you being intentionally dishonest? Your definition of the Magisterium is the same as mine. Why do you attempt to set up a difference? Of course, the Magisterium is the Pope in union with the Bishops. Your comment reads “Zach claims that John Paul II is not the Magisterium.” This is true! Why do you write as if it isn’t? The quotes that have been discussed in this post are not pronouncements of the Pope in union with the bishops, but individual pronouncements of the Pope and the USCCB separately. But even if the Pope and the USCCB made such statements together, that would not be the Magisterium either – for it’s not just the US bishops that constitute the Magisterium, but all of them throughout the world. Surely you know this.

    And yes, I’m quite aware that JPII talked very frequently about the death penalty. But there is a great debate that is ongoing about what exactly, if anything, he developed in Catholic doctrine regarding the death penalty. As far as I’m aware, this has not been totally resolved and the doctrine regarding the death penalty is still exactly what we resolved it to be earlier in this post. Namely, that it is not intrinsically evil because there are certain circumstances in which it can be legitimately applied. This is all I’m saying. I don’t even support the death penalty in America!

    Further, I am quite aware that religious assent has to be given to teaching that may or may not be infallible, as the term infallibility applies very sparingly and is most frequently used when the Church defines a dogma. But how exactly does that apply to this case? This is one of the things I’ve been trying to get at in this post. How do you reconcile the consistent teaching of the Church (“that it is not intrinsically evil because there are certain circumstances in which it can be legitimately applied”) with some of the teaching of JPII? How do we give due respect to that other pillar of Divine revelation, Tradition?

    I think the conclusion to be drawn is that the previous Pope had a great desire to see use of the death penalty greatly curbed and we should commit ourselves to implementing his wishes as we can. But, Catholic Doctrine being the way it is, he could and indeed did not change the basic nature of the teaching.

    Avery Cardinal Dulles in an article in First Things, writing on the death penalty:

    “Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2175&var_recherche=death+penalty

    Catholicblues, I’m sorry but I must simply say that I think you are misreading the teaching of the Church. It is quite clear the Church teaches there is such a thing as legitimate self-defense. And I never said our most basic need is survival or anything like that.

    Finally, I would like to add that I am trying to be a faithful Catholic, and I do not appreciate, nor do many of the other posters, being painted as someone who has created some fictitious or personally revealed Magisterium in my mind, as Policraticus attempts to do. If I am wrong, I do not mind being corrected, but there is no need to write as if I have no respect for the teaching office of the Church, because the case is exactly the opposite. One of the reasons I think precision when talking about these things is important is because I have so much respect and love for the Church.

  • bill bannon

    Policraticus,

    What he said and…..postdating Lumen Gentium 25 and its “religious submission of mind and will”, the Church’s ordinary magisterium imprimatured moral theology tomes for seminaries like Grisez’s tomes in 1997 which note the right of an intellect to part company sincerely with a doctrine that is less than infallible (Grisez “Way of the Lord Jesus” vol.1 p.854). That is why Archbishop Amato of the CDF was able to note to John Allen in 2001 at a Rahner conference at the Lateran that Rahner was an “orthodox theologian” and Rahner had publically dissented from HV. Thus you have the 2nd in command at the CDF representing a Catholicism that the conservative internet Catholicism is totally unaware of in their pan infallibility tendencies.
    Sooner or later, Catholicism will have to part company with this hiding of the right to disagree on the less than infallible which it permits but hides in books that are $70 per incident and which Rome knows few of the 1 billion Catholics will ever buy or read. Grisez by the way is conservative so he himself hides such concepts in very few pages and when he gets to “epikeia”, he is apoplectic in his warning label on that idea despite Christ exemplifying it constantly around the issue of the Sabbath which freedom of Christ and of the disciples (to pick grain as they walked) with the Sabbath law gets little play in Catholic sermons. Thus the clergy is enlisted to be somewhat like the prosecutor who knows certain exculpatory evidence that he never mentions since his job is not that of the defense attorney. A thousand years into the future this two tiered moral theology and clergy salesmanship on obedience as absolute rather than conditional will be as stale as the 19th century encyclicals against freedom of religion are now.

    And here’s the magisterium…..Pius XII in 1952 on the death penalty during a time when the US not only had modern penology….but life sentences were safer since gangs were smaller and less organized in prison and less dangerous:

    Pope Pius XII in an address in 1952

    “Even when it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death, the state does not dispose of the individual’s right to live. Rather, it is reserved to the public authority to deprive the criminal of the benefit of life, when already, by his crime, he has deprived himself of the right to live.” (A.A.S., 1952, pp. 779ff.)

    And John Paul seems to have created the illusion that life sentences are modern and yet they are mentioned in Inquisition documents and one simply needs an affluent culture to house a man for life and feed him….which some Italian cities of the Renaissance certainly had.

    For those who view catechisms as the magisterium, here is the Trent magisterium:

    Catechism of the Council of Trent

    Commenting on the Fifth Commandment (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”), the Roman Catechism says:
    Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.

  • bill bannon

    Correction…….That was 2004 on the Amato / Rahner incident:

    http://www.cathnews.com/news/403/85.php

  • A lot of people say bad things about gun control. I disagree that gun control is a bad thing. In fact, I spend a lot of time at the range improving my gun control so if I do have to kill someone, I can do it as humanely as possible.

  • TeutonicTim

    Go Pauli!

  • Christopher Gant

    Zach wrote :

    “The death penalty is not intrinsically evil.”

    “Well, it isn’t. Therefore, support of the death penalty is not inconsistent with a consistent ethic of life.”

    Zach, if you agree that the circumstances in which the death penalty can be legitimately applied do not obtain in the U.S., why then do you object to including it within the ambit of “a consistent ethic of life”? I can see how your argument supports the idea that pro-death penalty Catholics may not be guilty of dissent from authoritative Church teaching on the death penalty. But why should disagreement amongst Catholics about whether the death penalty is legitimate in the U.S. stop those Catholics that think that it is not from saying so and linking their opposition to the death penalty to their opposition to abortion and other “life issues”- particularly since John Paul II himself did so on numerous occasions? The unecessary resort to the death penalty and issues like abortion and euthanasia are linked together by a weakening regard for the value of human life that we find in the U.S and Europe. Besides, most people who support the death penalty in the U.S. do so because they think killing is justifiable as a form of moral retribution, not because they have carefully considered whether the death penalty is necessary to preserve human life and reluctantly concluded that indeed it is.

  • Zach, which teachings do you think I’m misunderstanding? That violence is evil?

    “Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil . . . To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems . . . No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love.” – JPII Message for World Day of Peace 2005

    While self-defense may be condoned by the Church, I believe that the Church has recognized the futility of such defense, and more – the horrific consequences of resorting to such futility. Only love is effective.

  • Christopher, you write

    “But why should disagreement amongst Catholics about whether the death penalty is legitimate in the U.S. stop those Catholics that think that it is not from saying so and linking their opposition to the death penalty to their opposition to abortion and other “life issues[?].”

    In the first place, because it creates unnecessary and artificial division amongst Catholics. Catholics who think the death penalty may be sometimes appropriate in America should not be excluded from the group with a consistent ethic of life, because, they may in fact have a consistent ethic of life. If their opinions are in line with the basic moral teachings of the Church, surely these opinions must be in line with a consistent ethic of life. That follows if the Church’s teaching is in line with a consistent ethic of life.

    I should qualify this slightly by saying that, of course you cannot argue as a faithful Catholic that the death penalty is a wonderful thing and we should glorify it in our culture, and I don’t think that any faithful Catholic who is in favor of the death penalty would do this.

    In the second place, I do not think these people should be excluded from being qualified as having a consistent ethic of life because I do not know the circumstances of every crime and the nature of every criminal in this country. I do not know every situation and every argument that a person might make, and I am not going to call these persons unfaithful to the Magisterium a priori. I think it has to be looked at on a case by case basis, with a general disposition to be merciful first and to use the death penalty as the last possible option if ever at all.

    Finally, I would argue that, while the issues may be conceptually related on some level, they are in fact two distinct issues, and we need to be clear about the differences. Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being by another individual. Capital punishment is the intentional killing of a presumptively guilty individual by the will of the state. We can’t just say these are the same things.

    Indeed, we should have respect for life at all stages. But apparently, the Church teaches that the respect for life sometimes means capital punishment, and we ought to allow for the truth of this teaching to be explored.

    Unless of course you think the Church has been wrong about the death penalty for some 1960-odd years. (implicitly Scripture as well). In which case that’s a whole different animal.

    I apologize if my response is unclear, as I wrote it quickly. I hope it helps to further this conversation which has been, I think, for the most part fruitful. Thanks for thinking with me!

    p.s. Zach C. = Zach

  • catholicblues,

    With all due respect, I think you fail to see that the Church teaches that, given our fallen nature, sometimes self-defense (which I suppose you can call violence) is a licit option. Yes, it’s true that it’s very sad that we have to resort to it. But does that make it wrong? The Church answers with a clear-cut no. Sometimes, Love necessitates self defense. I think this idea is the moral truth behind the legitimate use of capital punishment and also the just war theory.

    Cheers,

    Zach

  • Christopher Gant

    Zach C:

    I still don’t see why Catholics who think that the death penalty is not legitimate and reflects a general disregard for the value of human life should refrain from saying so merely because that judgement is contingent on a contestable empirical proposition.

    You seem to think that the Church is not competent to teach authoritatively concerning contestable empirical questions. Thus, you say that Catholics are free to disagree with John Paul II when he says that the death penalty is not necessary to preserve human life in advanced countries such as the U.S. because that proposition is essentially a contestable empirical proposition. But, it can’t really be true that the Church is not competent to teach authoritatively regarding contestable empirical propositions. In fact, all moral judgments, including those that say that certain kinds of conduct are intrinsically evil, depend on contestable empirical propositions.

    Consider abortion. The judgement that abortion is intrinsically evil rests on the contestable empirical proposition that life begins at conception. We get that proposition from science. Like all scientific facts, it is contestable and subject to revision upon the basis of further evidence. But, even though it is a contestable empirical proposition, clearly the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception is binding on Catholics. So, clearly, the Church can bind the faithful to at least one contestable empirical proposition. If the Church can bind Catholics to the proposition that life begins at conception, why can’t it likewise bind Catholics to the proposition that the death penalty is not necessary in advanced countries such as the U.S.?

  • bill bannon

    Christopher
    Because abortion is condemned in se in the Septuagint version of Exodus 21:22 and actually gives a timeline is that different from the one John Paul gave (the Church needs therein to make a decision on that arguably inspired passage and does not seem to even be aware of it or the problem it poses to the immeidate ensoulement position) ….and the death penalty was repeatedly commanded by God and in some cases done by God when protecting society physically was not even an issue…..see Acts 12 Herod’s death/Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira’s death/ Romans13:3-4 no mention of protecting society but of being the minister of God’s punishment/ stoning for sodomy etc. in Deuteronomy which does not threaten others in society physically though now it does etc.
    John Paul gave no evidence of having read a thing about the death penalty/deterrence/ or any related issues. He never cites any empirically oriented facts….like the Catholic countries with high murder rates and no death penalty. And his biographer, George Weigel contended that he did not even read newspapers…..a habit that would be helpful on empirical questions.

  • bill bannon

    Christopher,
    Here is the Septuagint passage:
    21:22 “And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty; as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation.23 But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life,24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

    Hence what the Church considers the revealed word of God which the Magisterium is bound to preserve is differing here with the Rome position on when life begins but it is agreeing with the Rome position that abortion is murder (“life for life”). The Hebrew bible does not have this passage the same way and only tells of the woman dying instead of the infant.

    Ergo Rome has room to declare the passage not inspired since there is a difference but
    Rome ought to do something about it since there are secular laws which are probably rooted in the passage. Augustine found a difference between the Septuagint and the Hebrew in the Jonah account of the number of days that Nineveh had to repent….3 versus 40….and he contended that both were inspired and he said….”look for both 3 and 40 in Him who is to come”….the resurrection and the fast in the dessert. So overriding the Septuagint is not traditionally a piece of cake since it is the version used by Christ’s generation.

    The liberal laws coming out of the English common law on abortion may well have been influenced by the above Septuagint passage and the change it produced in the later Jerome and the later Augustine. If Rome and the Pope have time to write a survey of the early Fathers week after week and time to inaugurate bronze doors, one would think they have time to fight abortion by settling such uncontested problems and thus they would show society where liberal abortion laws had their mistaken roots if in fact it is a mistake and not inspired. If it is inspired, Rome has some reviewing to do on the timing of ensoulement which for the three most prominent minds in the Church….Aquinas, Augustine and Jerome…and for the Septuagint version of the bible…..was delayed.
    The Septuagint version makes the stoning of adulteresses (commanded by God)seemingly more understandable in that in the stoning of an adulteress, one could also be stoning an ensouled pre born within the adulteress if ensoulement is immediate.
    Though this is not critical in that when Dathan and Abiram were swallowed by the earth for rebelling against Moses, God took their entire families with them.

  • Christopher,

    I’m not sure how you arrive at this statement: “You seem to think that the Church is not competent to teach authoritatively concerning contestable empirical questions. ” I certainly think the Church is competent to teach authoritatively about faith and morals. I guess I’d ask you to cite something that I wrote in defense of this statement.

    The Catholic Church has taught specifically that the death penalty is different than abortion, that it is not intrinsically evil, and that it can be supported in some, albeit rare circumstances. This means that support of the death penalty in those circumstances is not necessarily inconsistent with a consistent ethic of life, if we are to believe that the Church itself has a consistent ethic of life in its teaching.

  • Zach, I said, “While self-defense may be condoned by the Church, I believe that the Church has recognized the futility of such defense, and more – the horrific consequences of resorting to such futility. Only love is effective.”

    You replied, “I think you fail to see that the Church teaches that, given our fallen nature, sometimes self-defense (which I suppose you can call violence) is a licit option. Yes, it’s true that it’s very sad that we have to resort to it. But does that make it wrong?”

    Before I answer that question (I hope it’s not rhetorical), I’d ask – why do you think it is sad that we have to resort to violence?

  • bill bannon

    catholic blues
    You are stating that the Church condones what is futile which is illogical.

    What if you were up in the mountains and saw a man raping a girl and you had a knife for camping purposes but it would conduce to stopping the man from raping her.

  • Which of course begs the question of what to do when Pontiffs contradict each other as they frequently have in such areas as the death penalty.

    I think you mean it raises the question.

    But this isn’t really a particularly difficult problem unless two conditions obtain: (1) the teaching in question must itself be irreformable, that is, infallible; and (2) the putative contradiction must in fact be a contradiction: that is, it must be literally impossible to reconcile what was infallibly taught by one Pope or Council with what was infallibly taught by another.

    It seems pretty obvious that neither condition (1) nor condition (2) obtains here. Rather, it seems that folks tend to interpret things under a hermeneutic of discontinuity as a way of granting themselves a license to believe as they will.

    If a reformable teaching has been in some way reformed or clarified by the authentic Magisterium, Catholics are bound to give assent to the reformed/clarified teaching. Asking “what if it gets reformed again?” as if that were some kind of devastating unanswerable question is silly. If it gets reformed again, it gets reformed again. Take it like a man.

  • bill bannon

    Zippy
    So a man keeps changing his position depending on who gets elected Pope? But is that not the relativism that the last two Popes have decried. How does one denounce relativism and then mandate it in one’s followers?

    So if a Pope says that all whipping with a whip of cords is intrinsically evil as being part of torture…..and Christ made a whip of cords and drove men out of the temple…..then it follows that we are to follow the Pope and denounce the actions of Christ?

  • Zach C.

    Catholicblues,

    Because violence is obviously not the ideal. We as Catholics should not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    And as for whether or not it was a rhetorical question: please read the rest of the paragraph…

  • So a man keeps changing his position depending on who gets elected Pope?

    A man keeps growing in understanding his whole life, hopefully.

    How does one denounce relativism and then mandate it in one’s followers?

    One doesn’t do that.

    I expect this is one of those areas where hypotheticals aren’t just useless, but indeed where simply entertaining them indicates a fundamental lack of understanding. “Suppose the Church does [X], which as I understand it makes a hermeneutic of continuity impossible” is question-begging: it assumes what it purports to demonstrate.

  • bill bannon

    Zippy

    Men grow in understanding throughout life without changing their position on whether an action is evil in se. One could grow all his life long without changing his position on whether blaspheming is sometimes allowed.

  • Christopher Gant

    Zach C:

    I agree that the Church has taught that the deathpenalty is not intrinsically evil and that there are circumstances where it can legitimately be applied. I don’t take John Paul II to be saying otherwise. I do take John Paul II to be saying, however, that the circumstances in which the death penalty can legitimately be applied do not obtain in the advanced countries such as the U.S. What I’m asking is whether you think John Paul II’s judgment to that effect is binding on the Catholic faithful. I think that it is. You position seems to require that it isn’t.

    Bill Bannon:

    I read the Septuagint passage you cite as making a distinction in the penalty imposed based on the level of development of the fetus. But that passage doesn’t say that it is ever right to kill the fetus. In any case, I don’t think that the case against abortion is based in revelation. If it did, then it would seem to me that we would have a hard time justifying imposing anti-abortion laws on non-believers. Rather, it seems to me, the case against abortion follows from the coupling of an intuitively plausible moral proposition – it is wrong to deliberately take a human life – with a factual proposition settled by science – Fetuses are human beings.

  • bill bannon

    Christopher

    Parenthetically ….science obviously is not as univocal on the matter of when the fetuses are human beings. During the 1980’s in the Jesuit periodical “Theological Studies” even Catholic scientists argued against each other on the ensoulement issue with genetics people leaning toward the position of immediate personhood and embryologists leaning away from that based on the high rate of natural spontaneous abortions both pre and post implantation….and based on the problem of twinning of identical twins wherein the cell has roughly 14 days in which it may split and become two persons so that one soul could not have thus split into two since Aquinas explained in the ST why souls cannot divide.

    Problems like that posed by the delay of identical twinning and the high rate of spontaneous abortions by nature (40% to 70% depending on whom one reads)understandably raise questions for science about claims of early one personhood. I wish Popes worked on such problems more than the things they do work on. I actually have great faith in papal infallibility while regretting that few of them put in the work necessary to raise such issues to that level.

  • Zach C.

    Chris,

    Yes, we understand each other correctly.

  • Men grow in understanding throughout life without changing their position on whether an action is evil in se.

    Sure. Though I have no idea how that addresses anything I’ve said.

    You seem to be assuming that the Church has changed Her position on some infallible teaching, such that submission to what JPII and the ordinary Magisterium is teaching you now would constitute a decisive break with prior infallible teaching. What precisely is it that you have in mind?

  • Hey you people. How about Strict Catholic Morals? What happened to that? Shame on so-called Catholics praying with non-Catholics and going to the Schismatic Churches for Sacraments!!! Many so-called Pro Life Leaders have been involved with Ecumenist Scandals, [redacted]

    Admin Note: Please hawk your independently published book honestly. There are many people here who may be even willing to review it. However, you work is at best tangentially related to this thread and is practically spam. I will retain the link to your website. ~M.Z.

  • bill bannon

    Zippy

    Putting aside the long papal and moral theology tradition supporting the death penalty…..John Paul’s teaching on the alleged modern contextual ineffectiveness of the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae was a sociological statement (and a personal bias revealed at St. Louis in 1999) with absolutely no citing of any studies from that field of sociology. You can’t do sociology and pretend that it falls under papal authority rather than under the research work that sociology requires just as a Pope could not bindingly declare on an historical event during the Inquisition without citing what he read that led to that declaration.

    And that assertion that modern penology protects sufficiently sans capital punishment….disguised as sociology…. followed strangely enough in that encyclical a Biblical explanation by him based on the immunity from the death penalty extended by God to Cain for murdering Able that made absolutely no sense as being iconic for us…. since Cain’s immunity from the death penalty is followed almost immediately by Genesis 9:5-6 where the same God commands for all men the death penalty for murder in the future. And later still the same God requires multiple death penalties of the Jews only… for personal sin.
    John Paul actually saw the Genesis passage enjoining univeresal capital punishment because he quotes it piecemeal in section 39 of EV but does not cite the very passage within it which argues for the death penalty. Then in the next section 40 of EV, he reveals that he thinks much of the OT violence was really not from God but from the unrefined culture of the Jews and that such violence does not rise to the level of the non violent sermon on the mount. What he leaves out is that the same old testament God is still alive and well after the sermon on the mount in Acts 5 and then in Acts 12 where He has an angel kill Herod and leave his body for the worms due to his not correcting the crowd who called him..Herod …”god”. And John Paul leaves out all mention of Romans 13:3-4 which also postdates the sermon on the mount and is the classic NT passage on the death penalty.
    So we have a bad biblical essay followed by sociology which avoids sociology’s rule of doing research and citing it……and we thus have that odd mixture that John Paul was on both war and the death penalty outside the encyclical. In an Easter speech during his last years, he stated that “war solves nothing” which in essence contradicts the just war theory and contradicts some of his own more traditional statements on war and its necessity.
    And in St. Louis in 1999, he stated that the death penalty was “cruel” and “unnecessary”…loose lips again…..and words which contradicted the technical caution of his own previous statements and of the catechism. The USCCB then had the gumption to quote both the “cruel” passage and the contradictory catechism passage in their own document.

    Ergo John Paul was neither stable on the issue nor sociological on the issue nor biblical on the issue. In the early part of the 19th century, several Popes called the “freedom of religion” idea an “insanity”….Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura and Gregory XVI in Mirari vos.
    That was totally rejected and rightly so in Vatican II which demanded that modern constitutions of states include freedom of religion clauses. Very non dependent Catholic minds knew it was wrong then in the 19th century while it lay there in encyclicals. They did not have to wait past their deaths to see that it was wrong a hundred years later…. from Heaven.

  • So to summarize, Bill: you don’t think you have to listen to and make sense of JPII and the bishops – that is, the Magisterium of the Church – on the death penalty. Rather, you go to great lengths to make nonsense of them. I get that. What I don’t get is why you think that is justified.

  • bill bannon

    Zippy
    Listen??? ROFLOL. I seem to be the only one here who has actually read Evangelium Vitae attentively….and maybe….at all.

  • If you say so, Bill. But why have you read it attentively? To learn and submit to what it teaches, or to develop arguments against its authority? Under what kind of hermeneutic have you read it attentively: a hermeneutic of continuity and receptivity, or a hermeneutic of discontinuity and suspician?

  • Hi Sir, thanks for your editorial correction. It is your blog true. I am trying to make a valid point though… in as much there are many political and hollywood figures involved in the Societal Problem of Religious Indifferentism – that one church is as good as another, or that we are all going to heaven somehow….this book I mentioned I did not write, I am simply a fan of people who grasp the same things I do… I do notice a lot of people voicing traditional moral points here, and I can only praise the Lord for some such works… Keep it up, keep quotes good old Catholic Popes, like Pio Nono, but also be aware of pseudo-Traditionalists like Mel Gibson, and others as such.

    Abortion is a Mortal Sin, Rome Hast Spoken – the Case is Closed!

    Vote Pro Life!

    Rosa

  • bill bannon

    Zippy
    You and many here are liberal by nature so obeying several contemporaneous liberal popes on war and the death penalty is no sacrifice at all for you…..none.
    Now, if you were born under Pope Sixtus V who executed thousands and you… in Italy…. obeyed his order to become a papal executioner at that time….then you could talk about your hermeneutic of receptivity. But I’m betting you would not submit at all to Pope Sixtus V. I’m not so sure I would either. The man placed their heads on bridges to warn other criminals. I only want the minimum that scripture talked of….with no histrionics.
    Although…. Sixtus could point to the histrionics of Acts 12 wherein worms ate Herod’s body in line with God’s will. I better read Acts 12 with more attention before criticizing Sixtus V.

  • By the way, what is the pole in this blog about Curt Schilling? Has he picked Huckabee? He has put his mouth way out there as a Christian Conservative Advocate….

    Also what do you’ll think of Roger Clemens? I know this seems sports talk, I am really more concerned because I believe both are GOP supporters, and Steroids in Baseball is a Major Political Issue since it also attracts young voters. Should Enhancement Drugs be totally banned from Sports? Or be regulated?

    Any opinions about this? It is certainly a Moral Issue, whether Enhancement drugs can be used to heal one’s body from a physicians referral. I personally do not see what is immoral with a regulated allowance for this, e.g. in the example of Andy Petite’s situation.

    I mean this Baseball Scandal seems to have some other Political undertones, and know Schilling has his own very Conservative Blog…

    I would to like to intellectually challenge Schilling about his consistency of being supposedly Christian and Conservative.

    How about Creed Indifferentism? I believe like St. Cyrpian “Outside the Church no salvation,” all the Early Christians held this dogma, why now people think we can communicate salvation in any creed believing church?

    How about Communion with the Pope of Rome? Is he not “The Rule of the World,” as Pope Boniface VIII said to King Philip, “by abosolute necessity all human creatures must be subject to for eternal salvation”?

    -Rosa Luz

  • You … are liberal by nature …

    ROFL! That’s quite a howler. I’ve been accused of being a paleoconservative before, but this may be a first.

    (See here and here if you want to get some idea of where I’m coming from.)

  • Zippy,

    I would be curious, what would you disagree with in an article like this:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2175&var_recherche=death+penalty

    The whole article is great, but specifically:

    “In coming to this prudential conclusion, the magisterium is not changing the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine remains what it has been: that the State, in principle, has the right to impose the death penalty on persons convicted of very serious crimes. But the classical tradition held that the State should not exercise this right when the evil effects outweigh the good effects. Thus the principle still leaves open the question whether and when the death penalty ought to be applied. The Pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked, because, on balance, it does more harm than good. I personally support this position. ”

    Note how he does not say you are obligated to support this position as a faithful Catholic. Do you disagree ?

  • Zach: I think doctrine legitimately develops, that this doesn’t represent a particularly alarming problem when our epistemic heads are screwed on straight, and that a number of moral doctrines have developed in the direction of being more restrictive than they were perceived to be in the past. Among these is the death penalty. I agree that it is not intrinsically immoral on the one hand, but I think the ‘available’ range of its morally licit use is much more narrow than it was once widely presumed to be by Catholics (including the best and most orthodox of Catholics). This isn’t a matter of prudential judgement of facts and circumstances; it is a matter of moral principle. That JPII uses today’s actual practices as an example of circumstances in which it would not be licit is also not something which can be set to the side as a mere judgement of the prudential order, it seems to me, although certainly a range of theories are acceptable as to precisely why that is so. So I think the FT article is overly hasty in pronouncing JPII’s teaching as a prudential judgement layered on top of a mere restatement (as opposed to development) and therefore a matter in which assent is optional.

    Furthermore, I think people as a rule aren’t thinking coherently about what necessarily follows from a doctrine of infallibility. From a doctrine of infallibility it follows that whatever is not infallible can be reformed, even to the point of requiring the opposite of what once was – through authority – required. I posted on this subject as a result of Bill Cork’s formal defection from Catholicism last spring. A lot of the posters in these kinds of threads end up sounding a great deal like St. Blogs’ erstwhile Seventh-Day Adventist; and in my view that is no accident.

  • Zach: for some reason my reply is not posting. Maybe posting this comment will push the other one on through.

  • Zach: I think doctrine legitimately develops, that this doesn’t represent a particularly alarming problem when our epistemic heads are screwed on straight, and that a number of moral doctrines have developed in the direction of being more restrictive than they were perceived to be in the past. Among these is the death penalty. I agree that it is not intrinsically immoral on the one hand, but I think the ‘available’ range of its morally licit use is much more narrow than it was once widely presumed to be by Catholics (including the best and most orthodox of Catholics). This isn’t a matter of prudential judgement of facts and circumstances; it is a matter of moral principle. That JPII uses today’s actual practices as an example of circumstances in which it would not be licit is also not something which can be set to the side as a mere judgement of the prudential order, it seems to me, although certainly a range of theories are acceptable as to precisely why that is so. So I think the FT article is overly hasty in pronouncing JPII’s teaching as a prudential judgement layered on top of a mere restatement (as opposed to development) and therefore a matter in which assent is optional.

    Furthermore, I think people as a rule aren’t thinking coherently about what necessarily follows from a doctrine of infallibility. From a doctrine of infallibility it follows that whatever is not infallible can be reformed, even to the point of requiring the opposite of what once was – through authority – required. I posted on this subject as a result of Bill Cork’s formal defection from Catholicism last spring. A lot of the posters in these kinds of threads end up sounding a great deal like St. Blogs’ erstwhile Seventh-Day Adventist, and in my view that is no accident.

  • Grrrr.

    Zach: I think doctrine legitimately develops, that this doesn’t represent a particularly alarming problem when our epistemic heads are screwed on straight, and that a number of moral doctrines have developed in the direction of being more restrictive than they were perceived to be in the past. Among these is the death penalty. I agree that it is not intrinsically immoral on the one hand, but I think the ‘available’ range of its morally licit use is much more narrow than it was once widely presumed to be by Catholics (including the best and most orthodox of Catholics). This isn’t a matter of prudential judgement of facts and circumstances; it is a matter of moral principle. That JPII uses today’s actual practices as an example of circumstances in which it would not be licit is also not something which can be set to the side as a mere judgement of the prudential order, it seems to me, although certainly a range of theories are acceptable as to precisely why that is so. So I think the FT article is overly hasty in pronouncing JPII’s teaching as a prudential judgement layered on top of a mere restatement (as opposed to development) and therefore a matter in which assent is optional.

    Furthermore, I think people as a rule aren’t thinking coherently about what necessarily follows from a doctrine of infallibility. From a doctrine of infallibility it follows that whatever is not infallible can be reformed, even to the point of requiring the opposite of what once was – through authority – required. I posted on this subject as a result of Bill Cork’s formal defection from Catholicism last spring [URL at bottom of this comment]. A lot of the posters in these kinds of threads end up sounding a great deal like St. Blogs’ erstwhile Seventh-Day Adventist; and in my view that is no accident.

    http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2007/05/positively-apostate.html

  • Zach, you said that you found violent self-defense to be sad “because violence is obviously not the ideal. We as Catholics should not make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

    I think you’re saying that violence is sad because it signifies that we have fallen short of the standard that Christ set for us. Yet your second sentence seems to say that the ideal – Christ’s standard – is an enemy of the good? Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by enemy of the good?

  • Bill, you said, “What if you were up in the mountains and saw a man raping a girl and you had a knife for camping purposes but it would conduce to stopping the man from raping her.”

    I hope that I’d do all I could to stop the man without harming him, including sacrificing my life. I would identify the real opponent in this situation – Satan.

  • Zippy, I know there are respectable theologians and bishops who disagree with you, and likewise those who disagree with me. I wish the teaching was more clear about the specifics.

  • Christopher Gant

    Zach C. says:

    “The Pope and the bishops, using their prudential judgment, have concluded that in contemporary society, at least in countries like our own, the death penalty ought not to be invoked, because, on balance, it does more harm than good. I personally support this position. ”

    Note how he does not say you are obligated to support this position as a faithful Catholic. Do you disagree ?

    Me:

    I do. There is no reason that John Paul II’s judgement that the factual circumstances in which the death penalty may legitimately be applied do not obtain in the U.S. should not be binding on the Catholic faithful. I argued that point above. Why do you think that we are not bound by it?

  • Michael Webb

    The death penalty is good and just for capital crimes; I cannot see how the late Pope John Paul II’s argumentation about alleged better prison systems( even if true) and containment of serious criminals( even if true) is any argument against a just punishment to fit seriously heinous crimes.
    In fact his predecessors such as Pope Pius XII all answered questions during their pontificates on the validlity fo the death penalty and ruled out the modernist arguments regarding rehabilitation etc by saying that repentance and confession prior to execution satisfied the requirement of Divine Mercy.