BOOKS RECEIVED: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment

Anything written by Edward Feser is reliable and worth time.  He recently joined forces with Joseph M. Bessette to create a new book exploring Catholic teaching about the hotly discussed “death penalty”.

James V. Schall, S.J. says of this book: “At long last, we have a serious and intelligent look at all aspects of the death penalty — its causes, its justification, its consequences for the victim of the crime, the criminal himself, his family, and for civil society. … This book brilliantly sheds some much-needed realism in the fuzzy thinking in our society and often in the Church on this basic question of the consequences of our most heinous acts.”

Endorsing the book are also Fr. Kevin Flannery, SJ (brilliant), Prof. Edward Peters (meh… just kidding, Ed!), Prof. Robert Royal (brilliant), Prof. J. Budziszewski (brilliant), et al.

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette. Ignatius Press.

US HERE – UK HERE

This is a good book for the strong reader, student of Catholic moral and social teaching, seminarians and clerics.

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37 Responses to BOOKS RECEIVED: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment

  1. Geoffrey says:

    I’m sorry, but I will stand with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 2266-2267) on this one… as I do with everything!

    It basically comes down to: Does the state have the legitimate right to utilize capital punishment? Yes. That has always been and still is the teaching of Holy Mother Church. However, she now asks: Is it prudent for the state to have recourse to this right in today’s world?

    There is an example from the Old Testament that illustrates this. I cannot recall specifically, but I believe it was during the Exodus from Egypt. A law was laid down saying that anyone caught stealing would be put to death. To modern ears, this would seem extreme. However, look at the circumstances. What other methods of punishment were there? They were “on the march”. No jails, no dungeons. Also, an example had to be made, otherwise crime could spread like wildfire.

    In today’s world, there are sufficient means to punish criminals and protect society without having recourse to capital punishment. This was the heart of St John Paul’s teaching on the matter.

    [Don’t forget Evangelium vitae. I think the new book shows that there is a bit more to be said on the topic, though the CCC is sound and clear.]

  2. But, Pater, those guys ARE brilliant! Me? I am just…meh.

    [You, sir, are a steely-eyed canonical missile man.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. teomatteo says:

    “In today’s world, there are sufficient means to punish criminals and protect society without having recourse to capital punishment.”
    That may be true in many countries but not in all. Take Venezuela for example. That country is not stable. Some very dangerous criminals may have been tried and found guilty but the penal system may not be able to prevent the drug lords’ henchmen from breaking them out with great loss of life. Capital punishement may be the only way to protect people.
    Sometimes we need to be reminded that Catholic teaching is viable in every inch of the planet.

  4. tominrichmond says:

    Can’t wait to absorb this book. Much needed antidote to widespread “civil pacifism” which hold that death penalty abolition is the only valid Catholic position.

    I hope there’s a discussion on how the CCC is basically a conditional teaching: “if there are means to render offenders harmless” (citing unspecified “possibilities”) then the death penalty need be resorted to “rarely” if ever.

    The problem is that there really are *no* such possibilities on a systemic basis, so the conditional is not met. See many examples of how we can not “render offenders harmless” here: http://seeking4justice.blogspot.com/search/label/Rendering%20Offenders%20Harmless

  5. traditionalcatholicman says:

    It strikes me here that protection of the people is not necessarily physical but also moral as well. The Bible says not to fear those who can kill the body but rather those who kill the soul. In light of that I would suggest that capital punishment can be licit quite often, according to the Catechism, when partially used to show the gravity of the sin (e.g., with murderers), but, then again, these are just thoughts I’m having, I’m open to hearing why what I just said is incorrect…

  6. dover_beach says:

    Nearing the end of the first chapter currently so can say the reviews are not exaggerating the quality of this work.

    Geoffrey:

    In today’s world, there are sufficient means to punish criminals and protect society without having recourse to capital punishment. This was the heart of St John Paul’s teaching on the matter.

    Sure, but this doesn’t provide an in principle objection to CP even in the current circumstances, because whatever ‘sufficient means to punish criminals’ means, it cannot exclude CP without also claiming that it is disproportionate as a punishment for this or that crime.

  7. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    The Hatfield and the McCoy scenario – in which I took a life from among the enemy clan / tribe /gang in retaliation for the enemy taking a life from among mine – that had prevailed in most times and places among humans, was halted by the development of a system of justice with the power to take the life of the guilty, and the public agreement that private citizens should leave the dispensation of justice to the public authorities, and not take the law into their own hands.

    One of the benefits the state once had from enacting the death penalty was that the crime victim’s family and friends didn’t grab pitchforks and torches and try to set fire to the alleged perpetrator’s house with his entire family still in it. Thus perpetuating an endless series of murderous incidents.

    The death penalty cut all of that off. One man dies at the hands of another. That man dies at the hands of the state. It’s over, finished. Done.

    Even today, I believe, in parts of the world where different, competing ethnic groups live together, but don’t get along together well; where there is an “eye for an eye” mentality among the people, I imagine that the ruling authorities trying to govern two or more of these groups, while trying to maintain any semblance of public order, would have an extremely difficult row to hoe if they could not resort to capital punishment.

  8. Kent Wendler says:

    “In today’s world, there are sufficient means to punish criminals and protect society without having recourse to capital punishment. ”

    Sorry, but this is facially not true. Two examples:

    Murders happen – even in a “super-max” prison, and more often in lower security lockups. Execution may often be the only way to prevent further murders by these persons.

    Organized criminals can order external “hits” from any degree of security – unless they’ve been executed. (No, I’m not advocating executing all imprisoned gang members.)

    It has been stated that preserving the murderer’s life will “give him sufficient time to repent”. I believe this unintentionally trivializes the power of God.

  9. dover_beach says:

    It has been stated that preserving the murderer’s life will “give him sufficient time to repent”

    They address this claim in the book, pp.73-5. They note the amazing power that a determined date of execution can have in focusing the mind, and they refer to Aquinas’s argument that if this does not assist the examination of conscience why would the criminal be more likely to repent given more time?

  10. WmHesch says:

    Perhaps if we meditated more on how deserving we are of eternal death, we’d be more clement toward those sentenced to a temporal end.

  11. mlmc says:

    Have ordered the book [I waited until I could get it thru the link here :) ] so I haven’t read it yet- I try to read almost anything by Feser. The one situation not mentioned here is the Gov Dukakis scenario- where the executive of the state, to curry votes from the criminal class (& their families), commutes all life sentences to 7 years maximum as a ROUTINE. This clearly circumvents justice for the victims. A second scenario is the fact that many consider life imprisonment as cruel (& worse than a death sentence)- how long before that option is removed by “progress” as well. Then the victims of murder will see little possibility of any justice by the courts. I can understand why many oppose the death penalty, yet find many opponents disingenuous. Witness those who opposed the death penalty in Arkansas recently b/c the prisoners were too unhealthy. How can you be too unhealthy for a lethal injection? They also opposed it b/c the drugs being used where approaching the end of their shelf life- a few days out of date will not have any significant effect. Such opposition hurts the cause of those who oppose it for well thought out reasons.

  12. CradleRevert says:

    Traditionally, the Church has given four rationales for the death penalty (1 primary rationale and 3 secondary rationales). The primary rationale being retributive justice; the three secondary rationales being deterrence, rehabilitation, and the protection of society. While the CCC is sound in-so-far as it addresses the protection of society, it’s curious that it remains silent on the other rationales, especially the argument of justice.

  13. Sword40 says:

    The way capital punishment is administered today gives anyone sufficient time to repent. Rarely, if ever, is a murderer executed in less than 10 years from the time of conviction.

  14. dover_beach says:

    Perhaps if we meditated more on how deserving we are of eternal death, we’d be more clement toward those sentenced to a temporal end.

    Why should the latter follow from the former? Why should we grant clemency to those have committed grave wrongs against their fellow human beings? Someone wronged might indeed forgive, that is within their purview, but society in attempting to right the wrong committed, among other things, needs to weigh more heavily on the requirement of justice. Although, this should not be done without mercy.

  15. Ages says:

    Geoffrey writes, ” Is it prudent for the state to have recourse to this right in today’s world?”

    My thinking is similar. If a single person can be wrongfully executed, then the process of determining guilt is unjust. The cost of a life wrongfully ended outweighs the justice of letting a criminal live. Or in other words: a criminal can be justly punished in various ways short of execution, while an innocent life can never be restored.

    I can’t comment on whether it’s just to execute a guilty person, or whether they should have such-and-such time to repent. But I can call it plainly unjust that an innocent person can be caught up in it. It is not worth the cost of a mistake. If we are imperfect and mistakes happen, then it’s better to not engage in risky behavior in the first place.

    Show me a system with a foolproof way of determining guilt, and a divine right to use the sword against its own citizens, and I will approve of the death penalty. Until that is shown, I cannot call such a system just. I am grateful to live in a state which does not have, and has never had, the death penalty.

    Kent writes, “Murders happen – even in a “super-max” prison, and more often in lower security lockups. Execution may often be the only way to prevent further murders by these persons. Organized criminals can order external “hits” from any degree of security – unless they’ve been executed. (No, I’m not advocating executing all imprisoned gang members.)”

    Then fix those problems. Placing innocent people in danger of life and limb is not more just than simply ensuring the prison system works effectively. In fact, if our prisons are in such poor shape that society is not safe from people in supermax prisons, then that is a sad state of affairs indeed. What are the prisons doing with all the money we give them?

  16. TonyO says:

    In today’s world, there are sufficient means to punish criminals and protect society without having recourse to capital punishment. This was the heart of St John Paul’s teaching on the matter.

    Even on the most kindly and generous of charitable readings of JPII, his claim here would NEVER have been any more than an approximation, and one that fails around the edges. There are always ongoing crimes, including murder, inside of the prisons. Other prisoners are at risk from murderers if murderers know there is no further punishment they can suffer. Execution is the answer for these, even in “today’s world”, where we cannot protect people from murderers without the death penalty.

    In addition, we also have crime syndicates, including gangs, that allow prisoners to reach outside prisons to direct further evil, and that allow allow gangs to reach inside prisons to accomplish their ends, like silencing a prisoner who will testify. Execution is the answer for these, even in “today’s world”, where we cannot keep society safe without the death penalty.

    Perhaps if we meditated more on how deserving we are of eternal death, we’d be more clement toward those sentenced to a temporal end.

    True clemency is always based on a one-on-one judgment by the merciful, in recognition of the actual needs and circumstances of the one in need. It is cannot be a uniform offer of lenient punishments just because granted to all. In some cases, for some hard-hearted persons, what they need is a hard wake-up call from the TRUE consequences of their actions, not to be forevermore insulated from reality by an injudicious rubber-stamp of leniency. But, setting aside the needs of the criminal himself, the needs of society are for its justice system to usually speak justice forthrightly and manifestly, not hidden under infinite layers upon layers of alteration and modification of justice for other purposes. If you never manifest justice, you don’t have a justice system.

  17. dover_beach says:

    If a single person can be wrongfully executed, then the process of determining guilt is unjust.

    The latter doesn’t follow from the former. That a jury may make a mistake in a particular case does not render either that trial or the justice system itself unjust. Further, your argument would apply to all modes of punishment, not only CP.

    Then fix those problems.

    One of those problems is the failure to give these criminals what is their due.

  18. Imrahil says:

    As this seems to grow in a combox discussion on the death penalty, I may come back to that later, but at first the following:

    The way capital punishment is administered today gives anyone sufficient time to repent. Rarely, if ever, is a murderer executed in less than 10 years from the time of conviction.

    Whatever to be said about death penalty in principle, to keep a criminal (whatever he has done) on the firm prospect of death by the executioner, but without knowing when, for ten years and more in prison on no other reason than shyness to execute his punishment is – well, as a German I say degrading to the human dignity present even in a murderer, and bordering on torture. As an American I would probably say cruel-and-unusual.

    If there are to be executions, then let all appeals, judicial reviews and treatments of begs-for-clemency and the like run at high-speed, once the death sentence is passed; and once they’re over, give him a couple of weeks to get his affairs in order, spiritual and otherwise, and then execute him. The whole process should take no more, I think, then the traditional period of “a year and a day”, but certainly no more than two years.

    By the way, the factor of deterrence, not unimportant, I hear, in the death penalty discussion, seems to have to do with swift application of punishment.

  19. TonyO says:

    Imrahil, you are not wrong about the importance of justice coming in a timely manner. Nevertheless, it is also essential to justice that it come with measured reason, which among other things demands time for passion to diminish. Like you, I have trouble seeing why this must take more than 2 years. Except that the judges who hear death sentence appeals also hear other appeals besides and spend way too much time on individual cases, often far more than they actually merit.

    You will never get the opponents of capital punishment to agree that their own intrusion into the process, eating up a decade and more of time, interferes with the criminal’s own welfare.

    In addition to the delay causing actually administered executions to diminish their effectiveness as deterrent, so also the high probability that a criminal may never be caught, or never convicted, or not sentenced to death, or have that sentence overturned on appeal (on whatever grounds) gives the superficial appearance that murder is NOT punished by death, in the common view.

  20. Curmudgeon says:

    I am the survivor of a murder victim. I’ve spoken with scores of other survivors. The sad truth is that resorting to capital punishment doesn’t assuage grief nor does it provide a sense of justice being done. It does usually drag families through years of legal procedures.

    Swift executions might be the answer, but what about those innocents sentenced to death? We’ve over 150 people who have been exonerated from death row in the United States. I’ve also become friends with several of them. The torture of decades on death row is not inconsequential. Also, they tell of men they knew there, who they were convinced were also innocent, but because they were poorly represented were executed.

    I’ll leave aside the critiques of how the poor get an overwhelming number of the death sentences in our country.

    In addition, studies have found that the death penalty is not a deterrent. In fact, the murder rates are higher in states that execute. If it was a deterrent, why didn’t the man who murdered my sister in Texas take note?

    I was privileged to hear in person Benedict XVI ask for an end to the death penalty in all countries. The CCC, several national bishops conferences and the last three popes have all spoken against the death penalty.

    I’m as shocked this book is published and endorsed as if it was one about assisted suicide or abortion.

    The Gospel calls for forgiveness and life.

  21. Imrahil says:

    Just for clarification, when I said “let the reviews run at high-speed” I did not, indeed, mean hastily. I did mean they could, perhaps, cut down on the formularity involved, if that is not indeed necessary for clear thinking, but most of all, give them a prerogative. Frankly, when a death penalty appeal arrives at an Appeals court, I do not see why ist judges should do anything else but set all other appeals aside, treat it, and then go back to whatever is not a death penalty appeal.

  22. dover_beach says:

    I’m as shocked this book is published and endorsed as if it was one about assisted suicide or abortion.

    This is a ridiculous statement. There is nothing about CP that is contrary to the Catechism, Scripture, Tradition, and so on, so to assert that a defense of CP is like a putative ‘Catholic defense’ of euthanasia or abortion is an abominable calumny on the Fathers and Doctors of the Church that have supported, including Popes, as it is of these authors.

    May be you could simply read the book before passing judgement on it and them. It certainly adequately addresses the claims you make above. Surely, that is a simple requirement of justice.

  23. joekstl says:

    I agree totally with Curmudgeon. Here in Florida we have executed 92 people since 1976. Florida courts have exonerated 27 men off of death row during that time – the highest ratio of exonerations to executions in the country. Our parish and Diocese hold a vigil against the death penalty opposite the Florida death house in Starke at every execution. I have been to every one since 2009. At these vigils we pray for the victims and perpetrators of murder.

    The imposition of the death penalty is uneven across the country – and especially in Florida where only a few counties account for the majority of the death sentences of the 390 people now on death row.

    Last year our parish hosted Sr. Helen Prejean for a weekend and my wife and I were honored to have her stay with us, as well as the mother of a murdered child. This mother spoke to the parish about why she opposes the death penalty. During that same weekend one of the men exonerated off of death row after 12 years also spoke.

    For a Catholic perspective on what makes the death penalty unjust I highly recommend two books by Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J. – Dead Man Walking (which won an Oscar for Susan Sarandon for her portrayal of Sr. Helen) and The Death of Innocents – in which she outlines a very good rejoinder to Justice Antonin Scalia who made a case for the death penalty based on the 13th chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

  24. dover_beach says:

    What was unjust specifically about the trial and execution of Jeffrey Dahmer?

  25. MBinSTL says:

    @Curmudgeon, evidence (and its exists) of a gravely malfunctioning justice system is strong motivation for a moratorium on the death penalty, until the problems are corrected. Certainly, the thought that there is a high probability of wrongfully accused persons being executed is horrifying, at best.

    But a moratorium on the death penalty is not the same thing as abolition of the same. And I would argue (haven’t read the book, maybe the authors draw the same conclusion) that abolition is not morally permissible, since death is the inherently fitting punishment for some crimes against human persons. If a justice system cannot ever impose the fitting punishment, then that system must necessarily tend toward injustice — a situation not compatible with the Catholic conscience and Christian society.

    “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.”
    – Genesis 9:6 [RSV]

    So, God Himself has told us why it is the fitting punishment for murder, and human nature was and always will be “in [God’s] own image,” so the fittingness is unconditional with respect to time and place. N.B. just because it is the fitting punishment does not mean it must always be the punishment that is imposed. Over and above the basic principle, there is and must be room for mercy, prudence (cf. “malfunctioning justice system” above) and other considerations, on a case-by-case basis and also in larger scopes.

    See also:

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

    – Pope Pius XII, Address to the First International Congress of Histopathology of the Nervous System (14 Sep 1952)

    “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.’ (Ps 101:8)”

    Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III, 5, n. 4

    Compare with:

    “The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value, and concerns both the innocent and the guilty, [and even criminals] maintain the inviolable right to life, the gift of God.”

    – Pope Francis, Sunday Angelus Address (21 Feb 2016)

    “[The death penalty] is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.”

    – Pope Francis, Message to the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty (21 June 2016)

  26. joekstl says:

    To Dover Beach who asks What was unjust specifically about the trial and execution of Jeffrey Dahmer? The method of application of the death penalty is unjust in that the same crimes are treated differently often depending on race, quality of the defense or the choice of the prosecution. A recent example here in Florida: a white man was convicted of capital murder for killing black teenagers because they were playing their car radio too loudly; no death penalty was sought.
    In Florida no white man has ever been executed for killing a black man – and that goes back to the time when Florida was a Territory.

  27. ccrino says:

    Dahmer was sentenced to life without parole in WI, which does not have the death penalty. He was killed in prison by another inmate.

    He was also severely mentally ill and he offered himself for examination with clinicians so that they could try and determine the causes and help others who were possibly suffering from similar compulsions.

    He agreed that he should not be Allison wed to be free.

  28. ccrino says:

    That’s ‘allowed to be free’ which the autocorrect changed twice to ‘Allison wed’. Go figure

  29. Mike says:

    Pope Francis, with all due respect, is off the rails on this one.

    At the same time, I recommend the film Thin Blue Line”, it will give you pause about trusting your local prosecutor.

  30. dover_beach says:

    joekstl:

    The method of application of the death penalty is unjust in that the same crimes are treated differently often depending on race, quality of the defense or the choice of the prosecution. A recent example here in Florida: a white man was convicted of capital murder for killing black teenagers because they were playing their car radio too loudly; no death penalty was sought.

    That only amounts to a criticism of CP in practice in certain circumstances, not an in principle objection to CP. Further, the same complaints are made regarding imprisonment, and other punishments, yet they do not undermine their usage.
    ccrino:

    Dahmer was sentenced to life without parole in WI, which does not have the death penalty. He was killed in prison by another inmate.

    Forgive me, I conflated his acceptance of the death penalty in his circumstance with his having received the death penalty.

    He was also severely mentally ill and he offered himself for examination with clinicians so that they could try and determine the causes and help others who were possibly suffering from similar compulsions.

    He was found to be legally sane. He appeared to modify his behavior according to the circumstances and the probability of being caught, so to the extent that he may have suffered ‘compulsions’, they were neither here nor there.

    He agreed that he should not be allowed to be free.

    He also agreed that he deserved CP, p. 75.

  31. TonyO says:

    I am the survivor of a murder victim. I’ve spoken with scores of other survivors. The sad truth is that resorting to capital punishment doesn’t assuage grief nor does it provide a sense of justice being done. It does usually drag families through years of legal procedures.

    Curmudgeon, the authors of the book have gone through the records of hundreds, not just dozens. And they give many examples of survivors who testify that the just punishment does assauge one aspect of grief, and certainly does provide a sense of justice being done. It’s in the book.

    As for it taking years: either we want the state to take extra care in grave cases or not. There can be no serious disagreement with the position that the state ought to pursue justice. If, in these cases, justice is harder to achieve because it takes more effort, saying that because it is hard we shouldn’t try is to say that the state is not even in principle ordered to justice. Or, one could say that we shouldn’t take any extra care in capital cases – then it wouldn’t be any harder – but of course all the lily-livers would scream in anguish about injustices creeping in. So: yes, it is hard. Real men of God do hard things. Dealing with hard cases comes with the territory, which consists in grave evils imposed on us by evil-doers, not by the state’s own choice.

    Both JPII and Benedict affirmed, very clearly, that in principle the state retains the right to put men to death in grave cases; the judgment that in these times and conditions the state would be better off not doing so is a prudential judgment the very nature of which the Church cannot assert as definitive, and the Popes did not attempt to assert that definitively. Benedict, rather, said that it is a judgment about which Catholics may licitly disagree. And it’s in the book, too.

  32. tominrichmond says:

    Someone cited Sr. Prejean… she is a radical leftist and a very dishonest author (see this review about her last book: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1205-mckenna)

    The good news for Catholics who seek to harmonize some of these “tensions” (ahem) in the current teaching regarding the death penalty is that the US is pretty much in compliance with the CCC.

    In 2015, the last year for which we have complete statistics, there were 15,696 murders in the US.
    That year there were 28 executions.
    Therefore, in the last year for which we have complete numbers for murders, we executed in only 0.17 percent of murder cases.

    In other words, executions were carried out in a tiny, under two-tenths of one percent of murder cases. Our problem in this country doesn’t seems to be out of control, indiscriminate use of the death penalty, but the devastating contempt for life expressed in the enormous number of murders committed by criminals who seem not to fear serious punishment.

    In short, recourse to the death penalty is “rare, if not non-existent.”

  33. Lusp says:

    I purchased the book and have read it. They argue in favor of the death penalty’s legitimacy from the perspective of divine revelation, the Father’s of the Church (those who wrote about the subject), all the popes up til the 1970’s, and of course philosophy. The latter section of the book (I assume written by Bessette), is a response to some of the more practical arguments against the penalty (broken justice system, racism, income disparity, etc). It is very balanced and well-written and is very respectful to JPII and others who called for abolition. I thought because I had had read JPII and the USCCB, and then googled a few Bible verses and had skimmed over some Augustine and Aquinas, I knew enough about the subject, but I learned a TON from this book. I highly recommend.

  34. joekstl says:

    Tominrichmond notes that someone referenced Sr. Helen Prejean. That would be me. How he comes up with labeling her a radical leftist is mind boggling. I read the book review referenced and find it is just one of many reviews of Sr. Helen’s arguments for the innocence of the two executed men who are the subjects of the book. Many jurists agree with her conclusions. One response to the cited review calls Sr. Helen “pro abort.” Not true. The review also argues against her response to Justice Scalia’s defense of the death penalty. What should be disconcerting is Scalia’s stated and written opinion that executing innocent people is not unconstitutional.

    Tominrichmond srgues that the death penalty isn’t used that often relative to the number of murders committed in the US. Don’t know what that proves but the US ranks fifth in world executions behind China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – not illustrious company.

  35. TonyO says:

    What should be disconcerting is Scalia’s stated and written opinion that executing innocent people is not unconstitutional.

    Joekstl, it is not disconcerting because it is NOT unconstitutional to execute people who have been found guilty through an intensively careful judicial process with highly intelligent people (including appeals judges) who have every desire to ensure the innocent are not executed doing their best.

    It is not unconstitutional for “the system” to make mistakes. Any constitution that tried to do so would be one written by insane people and would only be in force until people came to their senses. The number of innocent people executed since 1973 is somewhere between the number of fingers on one hand, and the number of thumbs on one foot. Arguing that this amounts to something “unconstitutional” is unbalanced.

  36. slainewe says:

    “Both JPII and Benedict affirmed, very clearly, that in principle the state retains the right to put men to death in grave cases; the judgment that in these times and conditions the state would be better off not doing so is a prudential judgment the very nature of which the Church cannot assert as definitive, and the Popes did not attempt to assert that definitively. Benedict, rather, said that it is a judgment about which Catholics may licitly disagree.”

    The problem is that papal teaching is no longer clear, so some Catholics read “licitly disagree” to mean that they can oppose the death penalty IN PRINCIPLE. Is this not the poisonous fruit of the heresy that all men are saved? [?] Do Catholics think applying the false mercy of life imprisonment to capital murderers in this life, can force God to apply His mercy to capital sinners in the next life?

    The bottom line is that they see themselves as more “merciful” than God. They think that if they can create a Hell-less world where no one is banished from the earth, then God can create a Hell-less eternity where no one is banished from Heaven. This is a truly horrendous sin: Man trying to remake God in his image!

    [That was really strange.]