PopeWatch: Violence in the Name of God

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Sandro Magister has an interesting look at a theological paper that has been released by the Vatican, which was initiated at the request of Pope Benedict in 2008:

“Heresy” and “dogma.” The two words in the Church that almost no one dares to say anymore – all the more so in this season of “mercy” – suddenly came back to the forefront on January 16, in their full meaning and in the most official form, on the front page of “L’Osservatore Romano.”

“As far as the Christian faith is concerned, violence in the name of God is a heresy pure and simple”: this is what the editorial in the pope’s newspaper calls the “unmistakable thesis” of the document of the international theological commission made public that same day.

And vice versa: “Scrupulous respect for religious freedom stems from that which is most dogmatic in the idea of God that the Christian faith has to offer.”

The international theological commission, instituted after Vatican Council II, is an arm of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, is headed by its prefect, and is made up of thirty theologians of various nations, appointed by the pope “ad quinquennium.”

The document made public on January 16 was ordered by Benedict XVI in 2008, in the context of his dialogue with contemporary culture, in order to reopen within it a pathway toward God, the true God. It was crafted over five years by 10 members of the commission, including the Chinese Salesian Savio Tai Fai Hon, today the secretary of “Propaganda fide,” the Swiss Dominican Charles Morerod, today the bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, and the Italian Pierangelo Sequeri, a leading representative of the theological school of Milan.

For now the complete text of the document is available only in its Italian version – elegant and incisive as rarely happens with theological texts, thanks to the pen and the mind of Sequeri, even if here and there it is not easy to read – while in eight more languages an introductory summary is ready, with the complete translation still to come:

> God the Trinity and the unity of humanity. Christian monotheism and its opposition to violence

The title provides a glimpse of the document’s motivation: to fight the widespread idea that monotheism, faith in the one God, is synonymous with obscurantism and intolerance, is an indestructible seed of violence . And therefore is to be banned from civil society.

Jews, Muslims, Christians are the target of this typically relativistic theorem, which demonstrates that it intends to replace monotheism with a moderate “polytheism” deceptively presented as peaceful and tolerant.

Jews are charged with having faith in a vindictive God “of wrath and war,” that of the Old Testament, and this is imputed to them with a preconceived hostility that the document says is present “even in sophisticated culture” (one recent example of this theological anti-Judaism is provided in Italy by Eugenio Scalfari, the ultra-secularist “interviewer” of Pope Francis.

Held against the Muslims – with the reinforcement of the facts – is “the order of Muhammad to defend the faith by means of the sword,” as Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos had denounced in his dialogue with the Persian sage made known around the world by Benedict XVI in the Regensburg lecture of September 12, 2006. And it is curious that, on the same day as the release of the document of the thirty theologians, a 36-page document appeared on the Huffington Post written by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the destruction of the Twin Towers and a detainee at Guantanamo, which cites Benedict XVI in order to refute the idea that the Quran legitimizes the use of force as a means for religious conversion, and justifies the attack of September 11, 2001 as an exclusively political revolt of the oppressed against the oppressor:

> Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Statement to the Crusaders…

But Christians are the main enemy to be overthrown, in present-day anti-religious polemics. And it is here that the document brings into play the concepts of heresy and dogma.

The mere thought – it affirms – that the Christian vision associates faith with violence is consummate heresy. While it is an irrevocable dogma that “the Son, in his love for the Father, draws violence upon himself, sparing friends and enemies, or rather all men,” and therefore, with his ignominious death confronted and overcome, “he annihilates in a single act the power of sin and the justification of violence.”

The document is rich with argumentation and effective both in its “pars destruens,” where it unveils the flimsiness of the modern condemnation of monotheism, and in its “pars construens,” where it highlights the Trinitarian nature of Christianity, which distinguishes it from the other forms of monotheism and is the basis of “the irrevocable seriousness of the Gospel interdict with regard to all contamination between religion and violence.”

The document is not silent about Christian concession to religious violence in history. But it urges the recognition of the present time as the “kairòs,” the decisive moment, of an “irreversible departure” of Christianity from such violence.

Go here to read the rest.  Only the introduction and a preliminary note have thus far been translated into English.  Go here to read it.  PopeWatch will refrain from commentary until it has been translated, except to note that while Christianity is a religion of peace and brotherhood, it has often taken swords, not infrequently wielded at the request and with the prayers of the Church, to ensure that Christians are not murdered wholesale.  While nonviolence is obviously the preferred mode for any Christian, it often is not an effective response to the violent, especially when the violent threaten the weak and helpless.

117 Responses to PopeWatch: Violence in the Name of God

  • “Scrupulous respect for religious freedom stems from that which is most dogmatic in the idea of God that the Christian faith has to offer.”

    Amen & amen!

    Looking forward to the full English translation.

  • We believe that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God. In And through Jesus Christ, God has taken upon Himself the suffering, sin, violence of the world and has become the means of reconciliation between God and man and man and man. So much did God respect His creature created in His image, so much did He love ‘man,’ that He took into Himself all that is opposed to both God and man.

    Jesus Christ in being the fullest revelation of God is the hermeneutic of God. Whoever sees Him, sees the Father. The Lord Jesus could have had countless hordes of angels to protect Him from His arrest and Passion, as well as a tempting jump at the suggestion of Satan. Yet precisely when He Himself renounced this ‘just’ use of force, He tells Peter, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword”. The ‘ethic of discipleship’ which He gave to all His followers likewise calls for the renunciation of violence as disciples.

    How a country that is tasked to protect its citizens from unjust aggression and harm etc is to act is a different if related matter. Christ’s teaching was directed to the Community of Disciples, the Church. Yes, there have been too many incidents in which violence has not only been used but ‘blessed’ by popes, bishops and priests-and not all were in self-defense. All were, however, given their ‘reasons’ that at the time sounded justified.

    The Church is renouncing all use of violence and is saying that no one can justify ‘killing in Name of God’

  • “All were, however, given their ‘reasons’ that at the time sounded justified.”

    And certainly often were justified if we didn’t want to become a remnant Church like the Copts in Egypt subject to casual murder by the authorities and constant repression. Too often current Church statements on violence and war betray a shocking ignorance, willful or otherwise, of history.

    In regard to Christ, he also advised the Apostles to buy swords, I assume for self defense when they were on missionary journeys.

    Saint Ambrose: “But He who forbids to strike, why does He order them to buy a sword? unless perchance that there may be a defense prepared, but no necessary retaliation; a seeming ability to be revenged, without the will. Hence it follows, And he who has not, (that is, a purse,) let him sell his garment, and buy a sword,”

    Venerable Bede: “For He does not train His disciples in the same rule of life, in time of persecution, as in the time of peace. When He sent them to preach, He ordered them to take nothing in the way, ordaining in truth, that He who preaches the Gospel should live by the Gospel. But when the crisis of death was at hand, and the whole nation persecuted both the shepherd and the Hock, He proposes a law adapted to the time, allowing them to take the necessaries of life, until the rage of the persecutors was abated, and the time of preaching the Gospel had returned. Herein He leaves us also an example, that at times when a just reason urges, we may intermit without blame somewhat of the strictness of our determination.”

    We also have the two swords theory of government promulgated by Pope Gelasius I, which seems appropriate to mention on Saint Valentine’s Day!

    “There are two powers, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests and the royal power. Of these that of the priests is the more weighty, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment. You are also aware, dear son, that while you are permitted honorably to rule over human kind, yet in things divine you bow your head humbly before the leaders of the clergy and await from their hands the means of your salvation. In the reception and proper disposition of the heavenly mysteries you recognize that you should be subordinate rather than superior to the religious order, and that in these matters you depend on their judgment rather than wish to force them to follow your will.

    If the ministers of religion, recognizing the supremacy granted you from heaven in matters affecting the public order, obey your laws, lest otherwise they might obstruct the course of secular affairs by irrelevant considerations, with what readiness should you not yield them obedience to whom is assigned the dispensing of the sacred mysteries of religion. Accordingly, just as there is no slight danger in the case of the priests if they refrain from speaking when the service of the divinity requires, so there is no little risk for those who disdain – which God forbid -when they should obey. And if it is fitting that the hearts of the faithful should submit to all priests in general who properly administer divine affairs, how much the more is obedience due to the bishop of that see which the Most High ordained to be above, all others, and which is consequently dutifully honored by the devotion of the whole Church.”

  • I have previously provided to fundamentalist pacifists the following quotation: “Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him (St. John the Baptist), ‘teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’”
    Luke 3, 12 – 14 – John preaches repentance; and counsels charity and justice.
    .

    From this I take away a diferent lesson: “. . . as well as a tempting jump at the suggestion of Satan.” Jesus responded saying, “Thou shalt not put the Lord, thy God, to the test.” It had little to do with pacifism or Charity – the two are not equivalent.
    .

    Should Pope Urban, Count Bohemund, et al have abandoned the Christians of Palestine to their muslim slavers and tormentors? Up to 1097, the 400+ year history of Muhammedanism is a litany of conquests, crimes, invasions, massacres, rapine.
    .

    Should Charles Martel have passively allowed the filthy pagans to destroy the Church and the peoples of western Europe?
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    Should St. Bernard de Clairvaux be de-canonized for his support of the Knights Templars and the wars to save Palestine?

  • “Violence in the Name of God” is an oxymoron. (I am always tickled by the word “moron” at the end of oxymoron.)
    .
    “You shall not go about spreading slander among your kinsmen; nor shall you stand idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the Lord. — Leviticus 19:16.’
    .
    A very great harm that came out of Vatican II was that the Old Testament was extinct. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. Ghandi said of “an eye for an eye”: “the whole world would be blinded”. Not so. An “eye for an eye” was to prevent anyone losing an eye when he kept the law.
    Armed force as the force given to St. Michael, whom we implore everyday to deliver us from Satan is Justice in action. Violence, as the word suggests, is a crime against the law and against humanity, the same humanity that armed force protects.

  • Mary De Voe,

    Mary, if anything, Vatican II brought out the Old Testament more. Those of us who participate in the Ordinary Form hear it as the first reading almost every single Sunday. I am old enough to remember that was not the case with the ‘older’ lectionary.

    Other than “we can agree to disagree’ I am not sure what to say to Donald, T. Shaw and to you Mary. The Church qua Church [I am not speaking about how a country needs to/should protect its citizens etc] is not going to seek a military, violent solution or even one that uses force against her external enemies. We did not begin armed uprisings, etc when Rome was persecuting us-and we are here, not the Caesars. You simply are not going to ever see it, it is that clear at this point.

    When heresy is being taught and or spread it will be by teaching, convincing etc, the weapons of the Spirit that the Church will take up. There will be no ‘capital punishment’ for teaching heresy or leading others into schism.

    I do want to make clear however, that the Church does not espouse pacifism for ‘states’ or Catholic citizens. That is a whole other issue and conversation.

  • “We did not begin armed uprisings, etc when Rome was persecuting us-and we are here, not the Caesars. You simply are not going to ever see it, it is that clear at this point.”

    Which is a complete break from the policy followed by the Popes from Constantine to well into the 19th Century. The current functional pacificism of the Church is a break with over fifteen hundred years of Church practice. Saint Thomas Aquinas who articulated the rules regarding just war underlines this:

    “As stated above (Question [23], Article [4], ad 2) every power, art or virtue that regards the end, has to dispose that which is directed to the end. Now, among the faithful, carnal wars should be considered as having for their end the Divine spiritual good to which clerics are deputed. Wherefore it is the duty of clerics to dispose and counsel other men to engage in just wars. For they are forbidden to take up arms, not as though it were a sin, but because such an occupation is unbecoming their personality.”

    http://ethics.sandiego.edu/Books/Texts/Aquinas/JustWar.html

    The Church of course abandoned pacifism almost immediately after the conversion of Constantine as the writings of Saint Augustine clearly indicate:

    “15. For if the Christian religion condemned wars of every kind, the command given in the gospel to soldiers asking counsel as to salvation would rather be to cast away their arms, and withdraw themselves wholly from military service; whereas the word spoken to such was, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages,” Luke 3:14 — the command to be content with their wages manifestly implying no prohibition to continue in the service. Wherefore, let those who say that the doctrine of Christ is incompatible with the State’s well-being, give us an army composed of soldiers such as the doctrine of Christ requires them to be; let them give us such subjects, such husbands and wives, such parents and children, such masters and servants, such kings, such judges— in fine, even such taxpayers and tax-gatherers, as the Christian religion has taught that men should be, and then let them dare to say that it is adverse to the State’s well-being; yea, rather, let them no longer hesitate to confess that this doctrine, if it were obeyed, would be the salvation of the commonwealth.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102138.htm

  • Donald,

    My first comment is this: ‘practice’ in the sense of policies etc. is not dogma/doctrine. I could argue that the Church since the time of Charlemagne etc ‘broke’ with the early Church’s stand on violence etc.

    Reading Thomas’ statement I concur with what he is writing. Clerics themselves definitely should not be taking up arms. It is their duty as pastors of souls to dispose and counsel their flocks concerning just war doctrine. Thomas does not say that clerics ought to be calling up a Catholic or Christian version of a fatwa or jihad.

  • What he is saying Botolph is that clergy have a duty to dispose and counsel other men to engage in just wars. How many priests, bishops and cardinals have failed in this duty over the past half century and how many innocents have died as a result?

    “I could argue that the Church since the time of Charlemagne etc ‘broke’ with the early Church’s stand on violence etc.”

    You could, but then your argument would not be with me but with such formidable debaters as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and a host of other saints, theologians and popes.

  • Donald,

    None of the Church Fathers was perfect nor was Thomas Aquinas. They are saints, and sure teachers but not in every single statement they make. Augustine’s theology gave us Catholic orthodoxy but also both Lutheran and Calvinist and later, Jansenist versions of the relationship of grace and human nature. [And I love Augustine!] Even the Fathers need to be read within the Tradition of the Church and at times balanced or even corrected by it. Augustine called in the Roman troops on stubborn schismatics who were causing him a major pain in the neck. Should we do that today? [If we even could?]

    Thomas Aquinas in his writings thought slavery was ok (preferable to executing people caught in battle). Shall we ‘fight’ for slavery? Thomas Aquinas was dead set against the growing (at the time) ‘teaching’ of the Immaculate Conception, should be we throw that out too?

    I have no problem with someone saying they disagree with the Church’s direction in this area. However, it is quite another to castigate the Church as if the present day Church is in some form of apostasy because she declares “killing in the Name of God’ is verbotin

  • “I have no problem with someone saying they disagree with the Church’s direction in this area.”

    Which direction Botolph? The Church seems to have gone in at least three directions on this question over twenty centuries. Additionally one cannot simply appeal to the Tradition of the Church when it is helpful in a debate but one must therefore stand with the Tradition of the Church when it is quite unhelpful. One of the weaknesses of current Church teaching is how little effort is made to reconcile current stances of the Church with the history of the Church. Often times no effort is made and faithful Catholics are left to experience during their lifetimes, for example, a Church that traditionally taught that the State could execute criminals to a Church now that is effectively anti-death penalty. Such rapid changes in teaching do the Church no good when zero effort is made to reconcile the two teachings.

  • Would it be correct to review the Catechism as the “official” stance, if, for instance, we would not regard Aquinas as authoritative in this situation?
    .
    If so, I know that “just war” is provided for within the Catechism. Further, the Catechism states that those whom are entrusted with protecting people would be under a “grave duty” to do so.

    2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
    .
    “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”
    .
    2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
    [...skipping a bit...]
    2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
    However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”
    .
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

    What I’m puzzled by is who, at least insofar as Catholicism is concerned, is arguing for “killing in God’s name”. Let me add: I think that saying “just war” is the same as “killing in God’s name” is a false equivalence. I don’t see where that is coming from in the text of the article.

  • John by any other name,

    The Catechism is a sure resource or compendium of the teaching of the Catholic Church. The Church still teaches ‘just war’ principles just as it continues to teach the social teachings/principles of the Church, etc. In each of my responses I have been very careful to state that the issue in question is NOT what the “State” needs to do or ought to do to protect its citizens etc, What is in question is what the Church herself, as Church ‘should do’ in the face of persecution etc or even ‘heresy’ etc.

    Donald,
    I think the two of us (as well as all Catholics) need to be clear when we speak in terms of the Tradition of the Church (with a capital T), traditions of the Church, the various eras of history in which the Church has journeyed, and her various responses etc. You and I for example are roughly the same age. I remember hearing two things all the time concerning the Church: the Church never changes and No matter where you go Mass is always the same.

    Donald, I was still an altar boy when I went to serve Mass in a Carmelite chapel [I of course assumed Mass was the same-I am speaking 'pre-Vatican II'] and the priest said that “My Mass is different than yours, you might find it hard to serve” He was not some heretic or liturgical experimenter, he simply was stating that he celebrated Mass according to the Carmelite Rite which was indeed quite distinct from the Mass I knew [Tridentine]

    In the ninth grade in social studies my teacher, who was a Maronite of Lebanese descent gave me a research topic: a survey of all the Christian churches and sects in the Middle East. I was stunned to realize that many of these churches were in fact in union with the pope yet had vastly different Liturgies, disciplines (priests could marry) etc. This also brought me to a preliminary awareness that the Church that I knew was while in substance [One Holy Catholic and Apostolic] the same, had taken on various forms in different parts of the world: Europe, Middle East, etc.

    The Tradition of the Church is always the norm, the rule. It is never up for grabs nor can it be conveniently forgotten when “I” want to. It is what has come down from the Apostles. This Tradition cannot change; only our understanding of it can develop under the guidance of the Magisterium. The traditions of the Church, while venerable etc. can and indeed do change. The Church of the Fathers was much more developed than the Church of the first few centuries. The Church of the Middle Ages was very ‘different’ from the Church of the Fathers. The Church after Trent [post-Renaissance and post-Reformation] was really very different from the Church of the Middle Ages, and we are going through another one of these major transitions right now. Same Church in substance but not in appearance

    I will totally agree Donald that the catechesis of the Church-with adults (I am not speaking of the catechesis of children-that is a whole other subject) has been sorely lacking-right from the first days after Vatican II. Official Church teachings do make the connection with the teaching of the Church down through the ages [that's the whole point of the hermeneutic of continuity]

    Augustine and Thomas-both great saints and doctors of the Church-would be the first ones to say-that in reading/quoting them we need to constantly keep in mind what the Church is saying etc Augustine went so far as to make this ‘radical’ statement: “I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so”

  • “Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.”

    How about some practical application to this Quaker-like theology? Police officers should no longer carry guns if they feel that they’re protecting the public as part of their obligations before God. (You could say, “In God’s Name.”) If a man feels called to a vocation in the military, he should refuse a combat role. He can’t use violence in God’s name after all.

    The Catholic Church does not do jihads, but we do believe that force and even violence are necessary parts of governing and living in a fallen world. Look up the Congo in the 60s for a convenient and recent case study.

    This muddy and esoteric theology needs to stop. Give practical examples. Perhaps the actual document will be more balanced than the brief, but still. . .

    Is this something that really needs to be discussed now. Why are the progressives atheists dictating the narrative? Why are we on the defensive? Perhaps the Church should call the progressives to account.

    If violence can never be done in the name of God, how can a good Catholic father make a morning offering and own a hand gun. Either I can give everything to God, or I can’t. I think a Catholic man should pray that God give him grace to develop good aim every time he goes to the range. Am I wrong? What is a gun or a sword for? For show?

    Santus Dominus Deus Sabaoth

    We should not be so eager to throw our ancestors and our betters under the tread of progress. Now is not an age or a place for level heads and wisdom to surpass the great saints of old. He already have a very complete moral theology regarding the use of force and violence. Let us not assume that the lenses of post-modernism will help us see these truths in such greater contrast as to make obsolete all past ages.

    Perhaps the Church should rather have a discussion about a Catholic man’s obligation to protect the weak. We are called to be meek. We are called not to count the cost. But we are not called to stand by as the innocent are raped and murdered. Tolstoy was wrong. Tolstoy was even a heretic. Rousseau was wrong. Courage is a virtue.

  • “Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.”

  • I will say it again and will keep saying it. I have not been speaking about a government, state or even a municipalities right, duty and obligation to protect its citizens, especially the weaker ones.

    The subject is “killing in the Name of God”-that is not, and I repeat, the same as the obligation to protect citizens by a State. However it is a particularly virilent and aberrant ‘ideology’ of at least a segment (if not the whole) of a monotheistic religion: Islam., The subject is about the Church’s response-not the State’s (any State for that matter)

    In respsonse to this virilent strain of monotheistic religion the Church has done the following:

    1) make the theological claim that no one can claim Killing in the Name of God as something willed by God or justified-that goes right to the heart of Islamicist ideology

    2) reiterating time again the principle of freedom of religion-which Islamicists oppose

    3) reiterates time and again the necessity of the distinction between organized Religion and the State-again this goes right to the heart of Islamic understanding of the relationship of mosque and state in Sharia law

    4)that it is inconceivable and to be opposed by all nations of good will etc that the Middle East does not have Christians living there in freedom etc

    5)carrying on dialogues with any and all governments who will listen concerning the above points-as the Vatican ambassador did just this week before Congress

    Non-violent is not passive-just ask Gandhi and Martin Luther King

  • “Non-violent is not passive-just ask Gandhi and Martin Luther King”

    Who would doubtless have ended up quickly in mass graves if they had not been dealing with Great Britain and the United States.

  • Sorry Botolph. The Church *has* organized wars. Ask Saint Dominic about the Albigensian Crusade. He supported that you know. Pope Innocent III called for it. Was that wrong? How about the Battle of Lepanto? Pope Saint Pius V set that up. Did he err? What has changed? This Church v. State distinction in diplomacy is clearly modern. If the Church can influence diplomacy for the better, it should. What you’re really arguing for is the idea that the Church, and Christianity as a whole, has no place in international affairs. That is simply not defensible. “Killing in the name of God” it imprecise as an idea. It is simply a modern rhetorical tool to attack the actions of our ancestors. The Holy League claimed to act in the name of God when they defended Christendom from enslavement. They killed men that day. To argue that times have changed and that we have “progressed” past such barbaric thought is beyond patronizing and leads inevitably to a hermeneutic incompatible with the teachings of the Church.

  • Saint Joan of Arc was sent by God, killing in the Name of God, those who would enslave France, those who would have driven God out of France.
    .
    Then, there was Judith who beheaded Holofernes.
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    And the prophet Samuel who hew Agag into pieces saying: “As your sword has made women childless, so your mother shall be childless.

    And George Patton who said: “Kill them with kindness.” in a war of usurpation and aggression.

    Justice is predicated on intent. Violence is evil intent. Armed force is necessary love of Justice and truth.

  • Great discussion guys! I would like to get to practical modern day reality. Since everyone seems to agree that a state can kill to defend its citizens–and since the Church (actually no Christian denomination anywhere in the world) has an army with physical weapons–WHO would do any killing in the name of God? What would be a real life scenario under which this would occur right now? And WHO would order (or give them the authority/justification) to do the killing “in the name of God?”.
    I guess it just seems like a moot point to me. I can’t recall a Pope in my adult lifetime ever sanctioning any war & saying that the killing was being carried out in the name of God. All I ever recall is the encouragement to end any fighting & restore peace.

    PS. If a priest knew how to use a gun & had access to one while members of his parish were being shot in cold blood with a shot gun in front of him (as happened with Southern Baptist Convention missionaries during a Wednesday evening church service in Ft Worth, TX in years past– at the hands of a lone, crazed gunman)–by all means I would WANT that priest to kill the gunman in the name of God & stop the slaughter–even though no state matters were involved.

  • In her “War & Murder,” Miss Anscombe pointed out the dangers of pacifism and of ignoring of the distinction between precepts and counsel.

    “The turning of counsels into precepts results in high-sounding principles. Principles that are mistakenly high and strict are a trap; they may easily lead in the end directly or indirectly to the justification of monstrous things. Thus if the evangelical counsel about poverty were turned into a precept forbidding property owning, people would pay lip service to it as the ideal, while in practice they went in for swindling. “Absolute honesty!” it would be said: “I can respect that – but of course that means having no property; and while I respect those who follow that course, I have to compromise with the sordid world myself.” If then one must ‘compromise with evil’ by owning property and engaging in trade, then the amount of swindling one does will depend on convenience. This imaginary case is paralleled by what is so commonly said: absolute pacifism is an ideal; unable to follow that, and committed to ‘compromise with evil’, one must go the whole hog and wage war a outrance…

    Now pacifism teaches people to make no distinction between the shedding of innocent blood and the shedding of any human blood. And in this way pacifism has corrupted enormous numbers of people who will not act according to its tenets. They become convinced that a number of things are wicked which are not; hence seeing no way of avoiding wickedness, they set no limits to it. How endlessly pacifists argue that all war must be a l’outrance! that those wage war must go as far as technological advance permits in the destruction of the enemy’s people. As if the Napoleonic wars were perforce fuller of massacres than the French war of Henry V of England. It is not true: the reverse took place.”

  • Botolph: “Thomas Aquinas in his writings thought slavery was ok (preferable to executing people caught in battle). Shall we ‘fight’ for slavery? Thomas Aquinas was dead set against the growing (at the time) ‘teaching’ of the Immaculate Conception, should be we throw that out too?
    I have no problem with someone saying they disagree with the Church’s direction in this area. However, it is quite another to castigate the Church as if the present day Church is in some form of apostasy because she declares “killing in the Name of God’ is verbotin”

    .
    Thomas Aquinas’ slavery was a penitential chain-gang, prisoners of an unjust war of aggression as Pearl Harbor. Without a prison system, penitential chain-gangs were all that good men have. More just than execution, as Aquinas says.
    .
    “Thomas Aquinas was dead set against the growing (at the time) ‘teaching’ of the Immaculate Conception, should be we throw that out too?”
    Until Our Lady, herself appeared and defined herself by saying: “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION” the “teaching” needed to be left to Our Lady. No one can say that Thomas Aquinas rejected the teaching of the Virgin Birth.
    .
    “killing in the Name of God’ is verbotin” Killing in the Name of God is not verbotin. Killing in the Name of God is called for by God. St. Joan of Arc, at Lepanto, at Lexington (remember the Redcoats stayed around to fire back. They did not engage pacifism.) and every unjust aggression.

  • Barbara Gordon: “I can’t recall a Pope in my adult lifetime ever sanctioning any war & saying that the killing was being carried out in the name of God.”
    .
    Pope Pius XII sanctioned the war against Hitler, but maybe you are too young. Pope Pius XII sanctioned the war against Hitler in a very subtle and silent way. He resisted, as all resistance was “underground.” No, Pope Pius XII never drove a Sherman tank into the barbed wire enclosures of the concentration camps, nor did he machine gun the cliffs at Omaha beach or drop the atom bomb at Hiroshima-Nagasaki. Pope Pius (peace) XII rallied the monks and nuns and officials to assist the innocent in every way possible, sending over 800,000 into Haiti, the only country that would accept Jews in the Western Hemisphere, hiding Jews even in the Vatican.
    .
    Maybe Hitler, raised Catholic, repented as he went down from a bullet in his head, or Stalin who was raised Christian and who died of an asthma attack two weeks after he executed his physician, too, may have repented.

  • Folks [since there are several of you at once I am attempting to catch up with lol]

    I really have been attempting to relay that “there can be no killing in the Name of God” has to do with
    1) the Church as Church’s response to the issue. BTW Pope John Paul was the first one to raise it immediately following the vicious 9/11 attack.
    2) while it attests to the Church as Church’s response, it also drives right to the heart of the Islamicist ideology which does hold that one can and should kill in the Name of God
    3) This has nothing to do with the Church’s ‘just war teaching’. That has not changed.
    4) This is not imposing ‘pacifism’ on anyone, although every Catholic needs to see themselves called to be peacemakers [a Catholic soldier can indeed do this etc]
    5) This has nothing to do with the State’s obligation to protect its citizens, especially its weakest-in any case the State would be killing in its own name not God’s

    Having set out those points, I want to address a few other comments etc. I am well aware that since the time of Saint Augustine segments of the Church relied on and used force and even violence against Her internal (heretics, witches) and external foes (Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, pogroms etc). The question is this: what doctrine of the faith were they based on? They were certainly ‘policies’ etc.. Those policies differed from the ‘policies’ of the early Church, just as some policies of the Church today differ from those of the “Medieval Church”. If indeed they were doctrines of the Church in faith and morals (and not simply applications of them) then the Medieval Church apostasized from the Early Church? [of course some think it did-I strongly disagree with that position]. So too, the Church in our day has not ‘apostasized’ from the Medieval Church simply because of a change in ‘policies’. if one insists the present day Church has then it is only logical and faithful to the facts that the Medieval Church did so in relation to the Early Church. Any one really want to go there?

    The whole story of Joan of Arc is indeed a case in point. Joan of Arc is called by the saints to raise up troops to defeat the English so that the Dauphin will be crowned King of France. However, a Church trial led by bishops under the thumb of the English, tried her as a witch and a heretic and burned her at the stake. For someone who thinks in black and white you have a saint being persecuted by ‘bad bishops’, but life is seldom that easy to discern. I would maintain that certainly Joan was attempting to fulfill her vocation. I would also maintain that the bishops and the ecclesiastical court, minus the English pressure, were equally fulfilling their vocations and given the times applied both force and violence on Joan.

    Whether we are speaking of Pope Urban II’s call for the First Crusade ( preached by none other than Saint Bernard of Clairvaux whose uncle founded the Knights Templar!), Pope Innocent III’s call for the Albigensian Crusade or Pope St Pius V’s call for the rosary to be prayed to back the Battle of Lepanto, they were Church men living within a certain ecclesial, social, political world and were attempting to do the best they could given what they had. I do not and will not condemn them, even if I have questions about their policies etc. [which as a human being and a Catholic I have a right to do]

    Now fast forward to 1870, Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council. Christendom was all but completely gone. Italian reunification was taking place at a breaknet spead and the Papal States were almost completely a footnote in history. The Holy Spirit guiding the Council Fathers declared the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra in matters of faith and moral [this makes it possible for a pope to make a doctrine a dogma-on the same level as an Ecumenical Council; it does not limit the pope’s infallibility to only this extraordinary level of authority. It does however stake out ‘the territory’ of the Church: faith and morals
    It is the First Vatican Council that actually redirected the Church toward the direction we see today. George Weigel has written an excellent book on this called Evangelical Catholicism. Since Vatican I, popes and the Church have been outspoken etc on issues of faith and morals. She no longer has the forces of Christendom to call up against her foes. She no longer has armies defending Papal States. Stalin’s cynical yet ironic question: “How many troops does the Pope have?” reveals where the strength of the Church lies. Stalin is not only in his grave but so is his Soviet Empire, brought down by peoples yelling in the streets, “We want God”

    As I mentioned before “No killing in the Name of God” is only one portion of a whole series of principles which the Church is making against the Islamicist ideology. We are not afraid of reason because the Logos through Whom everything came into being and continues in exitence has become flesh and is in our midst [whole point of Pope Benedict's Regensburg address]. No killing in the Name of God is another crucial piece. The distinction [distinction is not the same as separation] between God and Ceasar (Church and State, Mosque and State] was begun by Jesus Christ Himself, not the modern secular state-this is another key element which goes right to the heart of Islamicist ideology [Sharia Law, Islamicist States], Freedom of Religion is yet another.

    There are those who will criticize these. That’s ok, I have questions concerning the Church raising up troops in the Middle Ages etc. However, this is where the Catholic Church is and is going. All aboard………

  • Where are we at today? Should we have such courage to stand up to the evil in this world! If there is evil within our midst that endangers the lives of any human, even at the disgust of war we should deal with it swiftly, and while we seem to be catapulting into the den of Islam and depravity of every matter without nary a peep, as “sheep led to the slaughter”, our world is being “cast into hell by Satan and all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Semantics. As I have always said with the “abortion” wars for the last 40+ years, they fired the first shot. We were called into bloody action for a bloody murderous act. At lease Jesus gave Peter three cock crows. He has given the world millions of cocks crowing for 2000 years and we still don’t get it. To think that we as a world Church have succumbed through our own sinfulness and have been responsible for this non warring effort to teach as Jesus taught is beyond any amount of common sense that I can get my mind around. We have redefined right and wrong. Now we pay for the fruit of our semantic treatment of the true Word.

  • Jeanne Rohl,

    I am not sure what you actually mean when you said, “To think that we as a world Church have succumbed through our own sinfulness and have been responsible for this non warring effort to teach as Jesus taught is beyond any amount of common sense that I can get my mind around. We have redefined right and wrong” Jeanne, sorry but I am not sure what you are saying here, which I need to do before responding.

  • I hope I’m not off-point with this but when I defend my life against an attacker, I act in my own name. If I seek to save another from attack, I act in their name. If I serve in the army of my country, I act in her name. God does not need me to defend Him with violence but does expect me to so defend myself, my family, my neighbor, my country and even the Church when these are violently attacked by a person or entity.
    The circumstances, perceptions and situations have changed through the centuries yet are not the principles the same?

  • William P Walsh

    You are not off-point and you are not wrong. Killing in the Name of God has to do with a organized religion, more specifically a Monotheistic Religion stating it was good to kill in the Name of God. What the Church is saying is that this is wrong and that the Church will not be calling on anyone to kill in the Name of God.

    This is not a call to pacifism, a renunciation of such things as the right to self-defense, defending others, just-war principles and the like. Further while it marks a certain development within the Church’s consciousness-one that is not new with this papacy or even the Church of Vatican II etc. [When is the last time a pope called for or urged a crusade?] it is specifically aimed at Islamicist ideology and also certain ideologies found in nationalist Hindhus in India and even a certain form of Buddhism.

  • Thank you Botolph. I am both humbled and honored to elicit your response. There is indeed a vast gulf in the understanding of the nature of God by Christians and Muslims, almost to the point of whether we indeed worship the same God. Our God is Love. As to the history of the Church with her marks of beauty and, at times, warts: “He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old”. So there is development. The deposit of Faith is not discerned in an instant. It took me a long time to understand what I do at present-seventy-three years or so in fact. Luke tells us concerning Our Lord “And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men”. So His Mystical Body, the Church is much the same. Nonetheless, if Christendom were under attack now as it was in the Middle Ages, I think Francis I would take the same position as Urban II, Deus Vult.

  • Late to this discussion. We must remember any moral act has three components – the moral object, the intention (the end sought or the remote end) and the circumstances. The question in most of the above cases relates to the moral object – what is chosen (the proximate act) to achieve the end.

    When one repels aggression with force, the moral object is self-defense if this is what the intention of the proximate act (moral object) is. (In Aquinas, one cannot directly intend to kill the aggressor, otherwise this is killing which can never be directly intended even in self-defense). Even in capital punishment, the state does not directly kill. Rather, the moral object is defense against a criminal which cannot be deterred in other ways.

    So, from an analysis from the perspective, one may never kill for any reason. But one may engage in defense or repelling unjust aggression even to the point of (indirectly) killing another.

    In this sense, one may use force (violence?) in God’s name though one may never kill in God’s name.

  • Mary De Voe,

    I was indeed born over 2 decades after WW 2.

  • Philip

    St Thomas distinguishes between the public authorities, who may intend the death of those against whom they fight and an individual, acting in self-defence, where the death must not be directly intended, but a consequence of the measures taken to ward off the attack.

    “I answer that, Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (43, 3; I-II, 12, 1). Accordingly the act of self-defence may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in “being,” as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defence, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repel force with moderation his defence will be lawful, because according to the jurists [Cap. Significasti, De Homicid. volunt. vel casual.], “it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defence.” Nor is t necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defence in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s. But as it is unlawful to take a man’s life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (Article 3), it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defence, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defence, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin if they be moved by private animosity. (ST II II q 64 7)”

    Later theologians have pointed out that St Thomas’s treatment is not exhaustive – different considerations may apply to people in remote places, without government, ships at sea and so forth.

    Of course, the law may invest the private individual with a power to repress crime. Thus, Exodus 22:2 (which was the civil law of the Jewish commonwealth) provides that “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed” and the Roman law allowed the killing of a nocturnal thief; in the daytime, he could only be killed, if he defended himself with a weapon and if the person attacked called for help, “endo ploratom” to show he was not acting by stealth.

  • I am aware of this. I deferred further exploration of this point as theologians differ as to whether Aquinas meant one could directly intend killing on the part of a public authority or not (this is not a position I think is defensible but some many do.)
    I rather point out the current thought of the Church in that capital punishment may only be used in defense of society and thus it follows self-defense much more closely in that the intention is not killing but defense.

  • God is love. God needs someone to love. Jesus Christ, the Son of God is loved by God. The Son of God loves His Father. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, The Holy Spirit, is the love WHO proceeds from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.
    .
    Allah has no son.
    In Spain , the heretics and witches were given a choice: convert to Catholicism or leave. Those who insisted upon staying, stayed at their own risk and also violated state law. The Crusades were a just war against aggression in the Holy Lands.
    .
    Only for killing a man, must a man be put to death. Exodus 20?
    .
    This is essential, because Islam orders persons to be put to death for blasphemy. Jesus Christ was crucified for blasphemy. Jesus said that He was the Son of God.
    Here, we have a spectacular sight of separation of church and state. It has been noted that persons have been executed by the state for crimes against the church, or that the church has employed the state to execute offenders of religion. In every case, a sin against the church carries a crime against man. Blasphemy, real and true blasphemy scandalizes the soul and invites crimes against man.I do not know the particulars of many of the instances but the basic fact is that even when the Pope consents to execute the sinners, the Pope excommunicates himself by mortal sin and the state annihilates itself by executing an innocent man.
    At Nuremberg, the question was asked: “Where did we go wrong? and the answer came: “When you killed the first innocent man.”
    Violence, that is not just war or the security of the nation, through armed force, in the Name of God is the greatest blasphemy against God

  • Phillip: “I rather point out the current thought of the Church in that capital punishment may only be used in defense of society and thus it follows self-defense much more closely in that the intention is not killing but defense.”
    Capital punishment is defense but it is also the remedy to save the murderer’s immortal soul and let no one tell you differently. It is called bringing the murderer to Justice without which the murderer’s soul may not enter into the Beatific Vision, Who is Justice. Offering the murderer forgiveness which the murderer does not accept, is futile and violates the victim’s right to forgive or not to forgive. The state does not own the victim or the murderer. The Catholic Church does not own the victim or the murderer. God owns the victim and murderer and the Church and the state.(Render unto God what is God’s) Bringing the murderer to Justice is bringing the murder to God Who is Justice. So much of the state’s banality in capital punishment banning is nothing more than the imposition of atheism. “And may God have mercy on your immortal soul” is said no more. If a man is not willing to accept his punishment for capital one homicide, he is not a man, but cowardly demon and let him go to the gallows.

  • Father Robert Barron just released two pieces collectively entitled, “Extreme Demands, Extreme Mercy” which recognize the Church’s universal call to holiness for the faithful to live heroically virtuous and moral lives. Father analogizes the Church’s social teaching on sexual morality and “Just War” to illustrate the high bar set by the Church for its faithful to become saints and its merciful remedy for those who fall short of the ideal.
    .
    I would suggest that the Church recognizes for itself the highest bar (and a counter-cultural example) when it stringently departs from violence in the name of God…or as Father Barron says, “Does anyone actually think that a Church that is designed to produce saints ought to be dialing down its moral ideals?”
    .
    Father Barron describes the standards a State must simultaneously meet to merit a Just War:
    .
    1) declaration by a competent authority,
    .
    2) the presence of a just cause,
    .
    3) some proportion between the good to be achieved and the negativity of the war,
    .
    4) discrimination between combatants and non combatants,
    .
    5) right intention on the part of those engaged in the conflict,
    .
    6) last resort, and
    .
    7) a reasonable hope of success.
    .
    Sources: http://youtu.be/R0jpylnK2y8 and http://youtu.be/tC6WEWuXS4A

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: I have found the Old Testament and Moses’ law to be the foundation of all law. Atheism removing the Bible from the public square is no less than a violation of the inheritance of the people in pursuit of their Happiness. “No law is good law is nonsense.”

  • “Capital punishment is defense but it is also the remedy to save the murderer’s immortal soul and let no one tell you differently.”
    Disagree. The amount of time between the guilty verdict and the execution is an arbitrary duration chosen by the state. Not every convict has a change of mind and true repentance during that arbitrary time period. A lifetime sentence gives the convict his full natural life, as chosen by God, to decide whether to repent.
    .
    I also disagree with this: “Offering the murderer forgiveness which the murderer does not accept, is futile and violates the victim’s right to forgive or not to forgive.”
    Not only do I not agree, but the part about “the victim’s right to forgive or not to forgive” does not even make sense. The victim of the murderer is dead, and yet we know that forgiveness of a murderer is still possible.
    Murder is not only a crime against an individual, but also the victim’s family and against civilized society as a whole. Each of us is harmed (some more than others) by the murder of another of member of society, and we are all called to overcome that harm and forgive the perpetrator. No?

  • slainte: some comment on Father Barron’s take of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Monday night quarterbacking. Hindsight is 20/20. Are you going to kill me or are you going to only rape or rob me? to be asked of a drug crazed assailant who probably does not even know the answer himself. It is God’s law that Father Barron and St. Thomas are presenting. Extenuating circumstances are present.
    Two weeks before the United States dropped the atomic bomb, leaflets were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki warning the inhabitants of the bomb. The Japs (that is what they were called) were called on to surrender (many times). The Japs did not surrender.
    When the atomic bomb was first detonated, many scientists believed that the whole atmosphere would become a chain reaction and the globe would cease to exist. As attested to by the atomic tests on American soldiers, no one knew or could predict the power of nuclear fission. We knew that the atomic bomb could end the war. The kamikazes would be ended. The death marches would be ended. The slave camps would be ended. Just war theory. Some reasonable hope of success.
    I believe that the atomic bomb fulfilled all of Thomas Aquinas’ prerequisites. Many of the non-combatants may have carried the bloodguilt for the war, either consented to the war or did nothing to stop the war (resistance). There was horrible death and destruction on all sides.
    Must go to Mass return later

  • Spambot: ““Capital punishment is defense but it is also the remedy to save the murderer’s immortal soul and let no one tell you differently.”
    Disagree. The amount of time between the guilty verdict and the execution is an arbitrary duration chosen by the state. Not every convict has a change of mind and true repentance during that arbitrary time period. A lifetime sentence gives the convict his full natural life, as chosen by God, to decide whether to repent.”
    A repentant capital one murderer will expire with grief over the sin and crime. A living capital one murderer does not point to his innocence only his recalcitrance and arrogance before God.

  • “The amount of time between the guilty verdict and the execution is an arbitrary duration chosen by the state.”

    Not at this time in America. It is an almost endless cycle of appeals in which many of the convicted murderers die of other causes prior to being put to death by the State. Oklahoma recently executed a man for a heinous murder he committed in 1988. As to repentance under the death penalty, a fine example is Dismas the good thief. His companion thief of course is proof that some will not repent no matter what. A modern day example of conversion after being sentenced to death is French playboy cop killer Jacques Fesch who had a radical conversion to Catholicism, he serenely accepted his sentence of death as a just one, prior to his being guillotined on October 1, 1957.

  • Mr. McClarey writes, “…Not at this time in America. It is an almost endless cycle of appeals in which many of the convicted murderers die of other causes prior to being put to death by the State…”
    .
    For those who are wrongly convicted of capital crimes, I am grateful for a system of justice that exhausts an appeal process before permitting a state to deprive a person of life.
    .
    A friend and colleague who was certified for capital cases in NYS and who practiced exclusively in this area was convinced that many innocent persons were wrongly convicted, and executed, because of ineffective or imcompetent counsel.
    .
    Legal Aid attorneys were, and are, overwhelmed and understaffed which contributes to an inability, despite best efforts, to provide optimal legal services to the poor and indigent charged with capital crimes.
    .
    The appeal process represents one final opportunity to get justice right in those instances where error may have occurred in a lower Court.

  • Mostly I was disagreeing with the notion that we must not forgive an unrepentant murderer. To extract concessions from the sinner as a pre-condition of forgiveness can be explained as Darwinism in action, with no need for supernatural grace.

  • “For those who are wrongly convicted of capital crimes”

    Which excludes the vast majority of convicted murderers. Our appeal process for convicted murderers is a sick expensive joke that goes on for decades, almost always in cases where there is not a shred of doubt as to actual guilt.

    Kenneth Eugene Hogan who was on death row for a quarter of a century before his execution is a perfect example of the waste of time appeals that make a mockery of capital punishment:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/kenneth-eugene-hogan-exec_n_4655364.html

  • “A friend and colleague who was certified for capital cases in NYS”

    The last execution in New York State was in 1963.

  • “Capital punishment is defense but it is also the remedy to save the murderer’s immortal soul and let no one tell you differently.”

    That is one of the reasons that capital punishment has been argued as licit. However, with the Catechism, the Church seems to be ruling this out solely in favor of defense.

    Whether this is a definitive pronouncement, I will leave to others.

  • Mr. McClarey writes, “The last execution in New York State was in 1963…”
    .
    But….

    “…The death penalty has been abolished and reinstated several times in New York. New York’s death penalty was accidentally abolished in 1860, when the legislature passed measures that repealed hanging as a method of execution but provided no other means of carrying out a death sentence. The mistake was corrected a year later in 1861.
    .
    Lewis E. Lawes, the warden of Sing Sing Prison from 1920-1941, advocated for the abolition of capital punishment. Although he supervised 303 executions, Lawes believed that capital punishment was inequitable and not a deterrent. He noted that barely 1 in 80 killers was executed, and said “Did you ever see a rich man go the whole route through to the Death House? I don’t know of any.”
    .
    In 1967, a compromise law was passed allowing for a very limited death penalty. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated all death penalty statutes in the country in Furman v. Georgia. The New York legislature rewrote the state’s statute in 1973, providing for a mandatory death sentence for murdering a police officer, a correctional officer, or a murder in prison by an inmate serving a life sentence. In 1977, New York’s high court effectively struck down the death penalty for the murder of a police officer or a correctional officer, and a 1984 ruling struck down capital punishment for murders committed by inmates serving life sentences, effectively abolishing New York’s death penalty. From 1978 until 1994, measures repeatedly passed both houses of New York’s state legislature that would have expanded or reinstated the death penalty, only to be vetoed by governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo.
    .
    In 1995 newly-elected Governor George Pataki fulfilled a campaign promise and signed legislation reinstating the death penalty in New York, designating lethal injection as the new method of execution. In 2004, that statute was declared unconstitutional by the New York Court of Appeals, and in 2007 the last remaining death sentence was reduced to life, leaving New York with a vacant death row and no viable death penalty laws. In 2008 Governor David Paterson issued an executive order requiring the removal of all execution equipment from state facilities.
    .
    Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/new-york-1.
    .
    In the 1990s, when I was associated with a commercial litigation firm and feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I would reorient myself by visiting the “Tombs” in lower Manhattan (the Criminal Court at 40 Centre Street) where criminal arraignments occurred late into the night.
    .
    I observed first hand the Ass’t District Attorneys petition the Court and the Legal Aid lawyers respond in defense for bail and other forms of relief. On the evenings I attended, there were few privately retained defense attorneys. It was only then that I fully understood the heavy burden that was borne by the ADAs and the Legal Aid lawyers whose caseloads were voluminous. There appeared to be fewer Legal Aid attorneys thatn ADAs; yet the Legal Aid attorneys were responsible for representing many who were in fact innocent persons.
    .
    Likewise the ADAs had their hands full which no doubt benefitted accused persons better able to afford skilled, private defense counsel.
    .
    I believe Barry Scheck, Esq. began to work on the Innocence Project during the period when the death penaly was in effect in NYS to find alternative ways (ie., DNA evidence) to exonerate wrongly convicted prisoners as well as to offer a good faith defense for the accused. While I do not know Mr. Scheck, he became well known in connection with the OJ Simpson murder case.

  • Ms. McClarey writes: “…Which excludes the vast majority of convicted murderers. Our appeal process for convicted murderers is a sick expensive joke that goes on for decades…”
    .
    I do not advocate abuse of process. I support a convicted person’s right to a full and fair opportunity to appeal the holdings of a lower court to determine whether material error has occurred which would justify acquital. I defer to the Court to place reasonable limitations on this process which serve the interests of justice.
    .
    As a Catholic, I take seriously the Church’s admonition that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Any earthly authority that inserts itself into this process must be very carefully monitored and, where appropriate, countermanded to honor God’s ultimate authority as creator and judge.

  • What does the death penalty accomplish that life in prison without parole does not?

  • That no further murders will be committed by the convicted murderer, that life in prison will not be commuted to less than a life sentence, not an uncommon occurrence, and as a just penalty in a cases that cry out for nothing less. I recall a case in which I was involved in which a father, upset because he lost a custody battle, shot to death his little daughter and little son, along with his girl friend. He is currently serving a life sentence and in my view that is far too light a sentence for his crime.

  • “As a Catholic, I take seriously the Church’s admonition that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.”

    Capital punishment, when properly applied and with the above understanding, does not take away from the sanctity of life. Rather, it asserts that innocent life is to be protected from unjust assault – even if, indirectly, the life of the aggressor is taken.

  • Mr. McClarey writes, “…I recall a case in which I was involved in which a father, upset because he lost a custody battle, shot to death his little daughter and little son, along with his girl friend. He is currently serving a life sentence and in my view that is far too light a sentence for his crime…”
    .
    I am very sorry that you experienced that horrendous act of depravity; may God have mercy on the souls of the poor innocents. I pray for the man who murdered as he will one day stand before God and give account. Hopefully he will seek absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation.
    .
    I am a member of 40 Days for Life and have actively participated in opposition to the culture of death by praying outside abortion clinics. I try to practice what I believe.
    .
    I susptect we may compromise our ability to fight for the unborn if we justify exceptions to God’s sovereignity on the sanctity of life; although I do appreciate a bright line distinction between innocent life and that of one who has intentionally murdered another. My conscience tells me that God is in charge even when guilt has been determined to a certainty.
    .
    I say this respectfully to you and mindful of your experience. I will read your article on the death penalty…I wish ultimately only to honor God’s will as I know you do as well.

  • My comments will be brief (for a change lol)

    While every Catholic needs to believe that human life is to be respected and protected from the moment of conception until natural death, on the issue of the use of the death penalty there is genuine plurality. Both a pro-use of the death penalty and an anti-use of the death penalty can be genuinely held by pro-life Catholics

    As I have stated before on this blog site, I am not in favor of the use of the death penalty-with the stipulation that the person receives a life sentence without any possibility of parole etc. In Western countries with our judicial and penal systems, I believe the ‘state’ can genuinely protect its citizens without having to resort to the use of the death penalty

  • “In Western countries with our judicial and penal systems, I believe the ‘state’ can genuinely protect its citizens without having to resort to the use of the death penalty.”
    Botolph — For the most part I agree, but as Don and others have pointed out here before, prisoners and prison guards can and do really get murdered within our prison system by ‘life without the possibility of parole’ felons. For those most violent among the violent, the death penalty is likely our only option.
    .
    Don — indeed a good article by Father Rutler, but thankfully, fear or knowledge of impending death is not the only reason people repent of their sins. Prison ministries report conversions among those not on death row. Some (most?) of us repent for far less dire reasons.

  • Phillip writes, “…Capital punishment, when properly applied and with the above understanding, does not take away from the sanctity of life. Rather, it asserts that innocent life is to be protected from unjust assault – even if, indirectly, the life of the aggressor is taken…”
    .
    Could you administer the lethal dose or pull the lever on the electric chair? I once thought I could…I don’t think so any longer.
    .
    I could and would litigate to ensure that a life sentence with “No Parole” meant what it said and was final.

  • “I susptect we may compromise our ability to fight for the unborn if we justify exceptions to God’s sovereignity on the sanctity of life;”

    I completely disagree. Most pro-aborts I have encountered are also against the death penalty and I believe the issues are entirely unrelated, as the Church did until the day before yesterday historically speaking.

  • Donald, You observe that “Most pro-aborts I have encountered are also against the death penalty”. I observe the same and also that they against our right of self-defense in terms of the Second Amendment. It is illogical and perverse.

  • But is liberalism or Catholicism the underlying ideology/theology which informs those you know who are. Pro-abortion and anti-death?
    .
    Most pro aborts , anti-death penalty people I know are liberals.

  • Thank you Donald McClarey for Father Rutler’s explanation of capital punishment.
    .
    Botolph: “I believe the ‘state’ can genuinely protect its citizens without having to resort to the use of the death penalty.”
    The state cannot live life for the murderer, nor for the victim. Banning capital punishment only invites hatred for the innocent. (If you weren’t born, you could not be murdered. trouble maker. equality?) Not with atheism in the driver’s seat or on the judicial bench.

    .slainte: Some, maybe not all, capital one murders (capital one murderers lay in wait for and purposely execute their victim) will be executed. All, or none at all, is no excuse.
    “I susptect we may compromise our ability to fight for the unborn if we justify exceptions to God’s sovereignity on the sanctity of life;” Bringing murderers to God’s Justice is respect for Life.
    .
    Spambot 3049: Girl Scout cookies at church. Parents do not know that Planned Parenthood has infiltrated the U.N and the U.N is educating our Girl Scouts in sex as though man were an animal without a soul.
    .”The victim of the murderer is dead, and yet we know that forgiveness of a murderer is still possible.”
    .
    It is not in the power of the state to forgive sins. The Church forgives sins with the proper disposition. Each citizen forgives the wrong done to himself, but does not have the capacity to forgive the victim’s murder. To die like Christ is to be delivered from evil.
    .
    slainte: “For those who are wrongly convicted of capital crimes, I am grateful for a system of justice that exhausts an appeal process before permitting a state to deprive a person of life.”
    .
    Atheism has indeed taken over our nation. May God save this court is no longer the case.
    The executioner in every death penalty is the capital one murderer. Acting through power of attorney of the capital one murderer, the masked face and hands of a citizen executes Justice. To let a murderer live, any subsequent murders of the warden, guards, or innocent persons will bring condemnation on the people as enablers before the fact.
    .
    I can forgive my murderer, I cannot forgive your murderer without becoming an accessory after the fact. The state does not own the victim or the murderer and cannot waive Justice without impugning the innocence of the victim. (The victim deserved to be put to death) Even in the Sacrament of Penance, the priest says “in my power and your need”. Christ said:”Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” There are no get out of hell free cards. Without at least imperfect contrition, there is no absolution. Cheating God cannot happen. Atheism imposed by the atheist, secular humanists and plain ignorance has eradicated Justice from our midst.

  • Spambot3049: “Mostly I was disagreeing with the notion that we must not forgive an unrepentant murderer. To extract concessions from the sinner as a pre-condition of forgiveness can be explained as Darwinism in action, with no need for supernatural grace.”
    .
    Spambot, your wagon is before the horse. An unrepentant murderer cannot be forgiven until he repents. In the Sacrament of Penance, the penitent must give specifics to receive absolution. The idea of “extracted concessions” is against the Fifth Amendment for the state, but complete confession will include all facts in the seal and anonymity of confession, through a free will consent. Darwin did not believe in God so forgiveness wasn’t necessary and the criminal could go merrily on his way.

  • Animals are innocent because animals do not reason and have no immortal soul. The animal’s soul dies with the animal. Only the human being is gifted with a rational, immortal human soul. Darwin’s animals were innocent creatures. Man is disposed to sin, the violation of Justice and Love. Darwin has not caught up with the rest of us, yet.

  • Botolph: “The whole story of Joan of Arc is indeed a case in point.”
    St. Joan’s bishop confessed on his death bed that he was jealous of her and brought her to her death. Another self-excommunicated excommunicant.
    .
    “The Holy Spirit guiding the Council Fathers declared the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra in matters of faith and moral [this makes it possible for a pope to make a doctrine a dogma-on the same level as an Ecumenical Council (If the Pope speaks “ex cathedra); it does not limit the pope’s infallibility to only this extraordinary level of authority. It does however stake out ‘the territory’ of the Church: faith and morals” (If the Pope speaks ex-cathedra). Some clarification.
    .

  • “I can forgive my murderer, I cannot forgive your murderer without becoming an accessory after the fact.”
    .
    Mary, I am not an expert, but I doubt very much you would be capable of forgiving the person who murdered you. You can, however, forgive a murderer (of someone else) or any criminal for the harm done indirectly to you. If your neighbor’s car is broken into, that may affect you indirectly if you do not feel safe in that neighborhood anymore. You may forgive that criminal of the harm he did to you, and that does not make you an accessory after the fact. Nobody is asking you to refuse cooperation with civil authorities and nobody is asking you to discourage your neighbor from seeking restitution.
    You can forgive the unrepentant sinner with the faith that Divine Justice will ultimately prevail. You can forgive unreservedly in hope of being forgiven unreservedly. You can forgive in love for someone who may not know love.
    Your comments make forgiveness sound like an awful chore, performed as a ritual after the sinner expresses repentance, but I do not believe that to be the case.

  • E: Michael Paterson-Seymour’s comments: “Accordingly the act of self-defence may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in “being,” as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defence, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repel force with moderation his defence will be lawful, because according to the jurists [Cap. Significasti, De Homicid. volunt. vel casual.], ‘it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defence.’ Nor is t necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defence in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

    I am thinking about some practical realities here and do not mean any of the following comments to sound arrogant–but just factually honest. I don’t know how much experience any of those commenting have with guns and/or having been in a situation where their lives/the lives of others including children 2 and under were under direct threat.

    1. I keep a hand gun and a pit mix terrier to deal with any possible invader in my home at the current time. I have had some concerns related to the possibility of a stray bullet going into one of my neighbor’s home and injuring the innocent should I ever be in a situation where I needed to fire my weapon. In order to preclude the injuring of the innocent to the best of my ability, I have decided to keep a clip of hollow point bullets (they splatter upon impact vs. going in through a small hole in the front and potentially coming out through a larger hole in the back of a regular bullet)–that means that if I hit someone with a bullet, it should go into only them and stay there. Also, I have been trained to empty my gun into my target–b/c even those who practice all of the time hit their target an average of 1 in 5 shots–and a home invader will not be standing still waiting for me to take aim–a moving target is very difficult to hit. Unlike the movies/TV, bad guys do not fall down dead when they get shot the first time and the good guys don’t take the bad guys out with the first shot all of the time. The reason that I chose the weapon I have is b/c I want to stop any invader in their tracks–not try to wound them so that I potentially have a chance to get away!!

    2. I have also been in a home that was broken into in a bad part of town with several girls from my youth group at my youth leaders’ home while her husband was working the night shift. I was 18 at the time & the oldest of the girls. The youngest children were a 6 month old & a 2 year old girl–our youth leader did not have a gun in the house as they had just moved to our state from Chicago. The house was broken into by 2 men that night. I can verify that when your adrenaline is roaring through your blood stream–that time really does seem to slow down & you can seem incredibly calm and remember individual thoughts–know that things are going to happen even though you are trying to stop them in real time, etc. I can also verify that when your life and the life of small children are at risk that your survival/defensive/protective instincts kick in AND YOU WILL SERIOUSLY HURT SOMEONE!! There is no time for thinking about limiting your violence at any level as things are totally out of control–the police do not get there until things are well and done which is no help–and you will fight with anything that you have to protect babies.

    RE: Capitol punishment: I do agree that society has the right to kill people in order to defend itself from aggression. I do agree that in most instances that society can be protected in modern day America without anyone being put to death. I am concerned about the evil that murderers who are in prison can continue to carry out in prison and from prison. I am also concerned that many people who are not guilty are found guilty in our “justice” system thereby meaning that someone who is not guilty will be put to death and most likely have been already.

    I ran across this awesome video several days back. WOW! I had had another Catholic tell me that we might be executing people before they were brought to repentance in God’s timing as a result of not allowing them to live out their natural lives–at the time I didn’t get what he was saying–and then I watched this. It gave me great pause.

    http://liftbump.com/2014/01/8289-looked-eyes-sons-killer-wont-believe-said/

  • “Could you administer the lethal dose or pull the lever on the electric chair?”

    Could I pull a trigger while aiming at the head of an attacker in order to save my child? Yes.

    Could I execute someone? If duly convicted and if the person appeared to continue to be a threat to society – yes. Faithful Catholics have through the centuries.

  • Spambot3049: “Your comments make forgiveness sound like an awful chore, performed as a ritual after the sinner expresses repentance, but I do not believe that to be the case.”
    .
    I can forgive my murderer, as I have free will. I cannot forgive your murderer for that is your act of free will. If I forgive your murderer, I am trespassing on your right and privilege. Only the Sacrament of Penance and the priest in persona Christi may forgive the murderer. As a matter of state, for me to forgive your murderer for murdering you, I have no power or authority or power of attorney and I become an accessory after the fact giving aid and comfort, that is, support to the murderer. I become an enabler. My support would discourage proper contrition and the embrace of Justice. God’s Justice is perfect.
    It is much like me forgiving a thief who stole all your belongings. And you without your belongings and me helping to “fence” them. You will understand when you get there.

  • Barbara Gordon: “You are pardoned in the name of Jesus.” was what the mother of the victim said to the murderer of her son. In the Name of Jesus, every person is pardoned. This does not prevent the state’s duty to deliver Justice, which the state did in this case.
    Only Jesus can forgive the murderer. Capital punishment is the temporal punishment for sin. The Sacrament of Penance requires that the penitent accept the temporal punishment for his sin.

  • “Mary, I am not an expert, but I doubt very much you would be capable of forgiving the person who murdered you.”
    .
    Well, unless I went to hell, for then I could not, but If I went to heaven, I could forgive my murderer and the scandal he caused my soul. Now this is going to be off the cuff because it is: If I went to hell because I was denied my time to make my peace with God by the murderer, then the murderer would have to take my place in hell and let me return to make my peace with God. Right? Restitution? I really would like to read your response to that, Spambot3049

  • “If I forgive your murderer, I am trespassing on your right and privilege.” I do not understand why you believe your forgiveness of my murderer ‘would discourage proper contrition and the embrace of Justice’, but I am not arguing, just let me say this: I give you permission for ever and ever to forgive my murderer no matter how heinous the act. Don’t help my murderer escape justice, because I do not want him to be a danger to society and when faced with a fair trial, he may repent of his sin, but please forgive him and do not be afraid.
    .
    If I went to hell because I was denied my time to make my peace with God by the murderer, then the murderer would have to take my place in hell and let me return to make my peace with God. Right?
    Wrong. We all deserve hell. If you go to hell, you deserve it. If I go to hell, I deserve it. If your murderer repents, he may be saved.

  • Robespierre’s argument against capital punishment, delivered on 30 May 1791 to the Constituent Assembly, has always struck me as unanswerable: “Outside of civil society, let an inveterate enemy attempt to take my life, or, twenty times repulsed, let him again return to devastate the field my hands have cultivated. Inasmuch as I can only oppose my individual strength to his, I must perish or I must kill him, and the law of natural defence justifies and approves me. But in society, when the strength of all is armed against one single individual, what principle of justice can authorize it to put him to death? What necessity can there be to absolve it? A conqueror who causes the death of his captive enemies is called a barbarian! A man who causes a child that he can disarm and punish, to be strangled, appears to us a monster! A prisoner that society convicts is at the utmost to that society but a vanquished, powerless, and harmless enemy. He is before it weaker than a child before a full-grown man.”

    There was no inconsistency in his demand, on 3 December 1792, for the death penalty against Louis XVI: “Yes, the penalty of death generally is a crime, and for that reason alone, according to the indestructible principles of nature, it can be justified only in cases when it is necessary for the safety of individuals or the social body. Public safety never demands it against ordinary offenses, because society can always guard against them by other means and make the offender powerless to harm it. But a dethroned king in the bosom of a revolution which is anything but cemented by laws, a king whose name suffices to draw the scourge of war on the agitated nation, neither prison nor exile can render his existence immaterial to the public welfare: and this cruel exception to ordinary laws which justice approves can be imputed only to the nature of his crimes.”

    Does anyone believe Anders Breivik is a danger to anyone? The Norwegian government is pledged to ensuring that he is not and their resources are considerable.

  • “Does anyone believe Anders Breivik is a danger to anyone? The Norwegian government is pledged to ensuring that he is not and their resources are considerable.”

    Rubbish on stilts. Convicted murderers kill other prisoners and guards all the time, and arrange for murders outside of prison. Breivik spends eight hours a day writing letters and considers himself part of political movement, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he attracts some deranged followers. Additionally I doubt if he will actually serve a life sentence if you look at the Norwegian law under which he is being held:

    “The indeterminate penalty (civilian penal code), called “preventive detention” (Norwegian: forvaring), is set at up to 21 years’ imprisonment, with no eligibility for parole for a time period not exceeding 10 years. If the prisoner is still considered dangerous after serving the original sentence, the detention can be extended by five years at a time. Renewal of the detention every five years can in theory result in actual life imprisonment. Preventive detention is used when the prisoner is deemed a danger to society and there is a great chance of his committing violent crimes in the future.[2] However, after the minimum time period has elapsed, the offender can petition for parole once every year, and this may be granted if it is determined that he is no longer a danger to society.”

    No Norwegian prisoner since 1971 when Norway in effect abolished life imprisonment has ever been held longer than 21 years.

    Citing bloody Robespierre against capital punishment is as darkly humorous as citing Bill Clinton on the virtues of chastity.

    “If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs.

    It has been said that terror is the principle of despotic government. Does your government therefore resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed. Let the despot govern by terror his brutalized subjects; he is right, as a despot. Subdue by terror the enemies of liberty, and you will be right, as founders of the Republic. The government of the revolution is liberty’s despotism against tyranny. Is force made only to protect crime? And is the thunderbolt not destined to strike the heads of the proud?”

  • Donald M McClarey wrote, “Convicted murderers kill other prisoners and guards all the time” Unlikely, in Breivik’s case, as he is held in his own, specially constructed custody suite within Skien prison, with a guard room and two walls between him and other prisoners.

    As for Robespierre, on 17 September 1981, Robert Badinter, guarde des Sceaux under the Mitterrand government, in proposing his bill to abolish capital punishment, read Robespierre’s 1791 speech to the National Assembly. This time, it was more favourably received. The argument is essentially that of Evangelium Vitae.

    Of course, there are cases where capital punishment is appropriate: to forestall or repress a coup d’état, to put down a popular uprising, to maintain discipline in an army in the field or to keep order in a beleaguered city. These are all cases where the normal ability of the government to contain offenders is absent.

  • “Unlikely, in Breivik’s case, as he is held in his own, specially constructed custody suite within Skien prison, with a guard room and two walls between him and other prisoners.”

    Unless he is kept away permanently from guards and prisoners such precautions can be defeated. There have been murders at supermaxes here in the states that put to shame the security precautions of the Norwegians.

    “The argument is essentially that of Evangelium Vitae.”

    And not a scintilla more convincing in regard to capital punishment.

    “These are all cases where the normal ability of the government to contain offenders is absent.”
    Robespierre did not wish to contain offenders but rather to murder political adversaries. The idea that the only purpose of judicial punishment is to make certain offenders cannot offend again is absurd. If that were the only goal, the death penalty would be the only rational penalty.

  • The difficulty with Fesser’s (or anyone else’s theory of retributive justice) is it fails to give due weight to the danger posed or likely harm resulting from the offender’s actions.

    Is the murderer really at the top end of the scale? The deserters and draft-dodgers, the hoarders and currency speculators who were sapping the Republic’s ability to defend itself, after the fall of the frontier fortresses and the revolt in Lyon and the Vendée, especially when rendered formidable by numbers were, arguably, a greater danger to the public than a common murderer in an orderly society.

  • “were, arguably, a greater danger to the public than a common murderer in an orderly society.”

    Farcial. “Public” in that case meant those who had seized power in the State and were murdering anyone who stood in their way. There was nothing orderly about the French “Republic” under Robespierre and his banditti.

  • An excellent post by Edward Feser on the Church and capital punishment
    Never been a fan of Feser, but he does link to and agree with Cdl. Dulles’ essay on the subject of capital punishment, which includes this gem:
    “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.”

  • In California, life in prison was six years. Every criminal, murderer, rapist was let out after six years…until Charles Manson. The Attorney General, a Catholic, started a letter campaign to keep Manson incarcerated for life. Right now, life is 30 years. In Delaware, propositions to release older and sicker inmates are always influx. So, if Delaware releases a known murderer and he kills in another state, can that state sue Delaware for enabling the murder? With over crowded prisons, many criminals are let out when someone leaves the back door unlocked. No, the prison system is not adequate to protect society.
    .
    There is the case of Mumia Abu Jamal. Mumia Abu-Jamal, aka Wesley Cook, as all Black Panthers, declared himself a sovereign nation of one individual with diplomatic immunity and thereby severed himself from citizenship in America. When William Cook, a brother, was stopped by traffic patrolman Daniel Faulkner, in the city of Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal assessed the police stop as an act of war against his and his brother’s sovereign diplomatic immunity and executed the peace keeping officer by a bullet first to Faulkner’s back then four more shots to the fallen police officer as he lay on the pavement, including one to his face. Faulkner had got off one shot to Abu-Jamal and he was captured.
    Daniel Faulkner is a sovereign person, a sovereign nation of one individual who was attacked and killed for keeping the peace. As a peace-keeping officer, Daniel Faulkner represented the sovereign City of Philadelphia, in the sovereignty of the United States. It is one sovereign nation (Wesley Cook) disrespecting another sovereign nation (Daniel Faulkner) through an act of war and aggression against Daniel Faulkner and his sovereignty and diplomatic immunity. This case must be tried under the articles of war and aggression and perhaps even treason as this Abu-Jamal took advantage of this country and citizenship.
    Today, Mumia Abu Jamal, is in prison trying his case through appeals to Superior Court and has many supporters. Abu Jamal’s case must go to be tried by the war tribunal and Jamal as an enemy combatant, by his own choosing.
    This case goes to the heart of retribution. The killing of one sovereign person by another sovereign person. The court is the purveyor of Justice. Capital punishment is equal Justice for the victim.
    If I go to hell because I am scandalized by my murder, I am coming back. There is no brotherly love in hell. It isn’t vengeance, it is equal Justice.

  • Spambot3049: “”If I went to hell because I was denied my time to make my peace with God by the murderer, then the murderer would have to take my place in hell and let me return to make my peace with God. Right?””
    .
    “Wrong. We all deserve hell. If you go to hell, you deserve it. If I go to hell, I deserve it. If your murderer repents, he may be saved.”

    How can my murderer be saved when he deprived me of my time to repent, and caused the loss of my soul?

  • “There was nothing orderly about the French “Republic” under Robespierre and his banditti”

    Precisely why Carnot, the War Minister and executive head of the Committee of Public Safety, insisted on what Hilaire Belloc described as a régime of martial law and why it was abandoned shortly after the victory of Fleurus and the Reaction of Thermidor. Robespierre was little more than Leader of the House – the Committee’s spokesman in the Assembly, responsible for getting its business through and justifying its actions.

  • “Does anyone believe Anders Breivik is a danger to anyone? The Norwegian government is pledged to ensuring that he is not and their resources are considerable.”
    .
    The government does not own Breivik and does not live Breivik’s life for him or exercise his free will for him or will the government go to heaven or to hell for Breivik.
    How does a government run surety for a convicted and condemned murderer? A Pale horse named “DEATH”

  • How can my murderer be saved when he deprived me of my time to repent, and caused the loss of my soul?
    Mary, there are far better teachers around here than I, and I wish some of them would speak up, but regarding late conversions in life, I will simply point to the parable of the workers in vineyards in the Gospel of Matthew as the basis.
    http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/20
    ~~~~
    Here is JPII’s take:
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19910918en.html
    Another parable helps us understand that it is never too late to enter the Church. God’s invitation can be addressed to a person even at the last moment of life. This is the well-known parable of the workers in the vineyard: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Mt 20:1). He later went out several times at different hours of the day, until the last hour. Each of them was given a salary in which, beyond the limit of what was owed in strict justice, the landowner wished to show all his generous love.
    .
    In this regard, the moving episode comes to mind which was recounted by the evangelist Luke about the “good thief” who was crucified next to Jesus on Golgotha. The invitation was given to him as an act of mercy by God, as the thief said, almost breathing his last: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He heard from the mouth of the Redeemer and bridegroom, who had been condemned to death on a cross: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:42-43).
    ~~~

  • Mr. McClarey,
    .
    In the interest of advancing truth, the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. wrote a piece titled “Capital Punishment New Testament Teaching” which supports the death penalty based upon Church tradition. Father Hardon states in part,
    .
    “Nowhere in the New Testament is capital punishment outlawed. On the contrary, the New Testament not only recognizes the right of the State to exercise authority in the name of God, but enjoins obedience to the State in applying the laws of God to its citizens….”
    .
    “…Certainly Christianity, like Christ, is to be merciful. Certainly Christians are to be kind and forgiving. But Christ is God. He is, indeed loving and in fact is love. But He is also just. As a just God, He has a right to authorize civil authority to inflict capital punishment…”
    .
    “…St. Augustine explained St. Paul’s teaching on the State’s right to inflict capital punishment. Certainly the State may execute convicted criminals. But it should exercise Christian forbearance and thus temper juridical severity…”.
    .
    “…Pope Leo I in the fifth century and Pope Nicholas I in the ninth century made it clear that the Church herself could not be directly involved in capital punishment; but the pontiffs assumed that the State was divinely authorized to do so. So, too, the Councils of Toledo (675) and Fourth Lateran (1215) forbade the clergy to take direct part in the juridical process or sentencing of a person on a capital charge. But again, the councils took for granted that the State may condemn a convicted criminal to death and execute the sentence…”
    .
    “….in 1905, when Pope St. Pius X decreed the catechetical instruction to be given in the Catholic world, he mandated that the basis of this instruction should be the Roman Catechism. In dealing with the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, this fundamental catechism of Catholic doctrine declares:
    .
    There are some exceptions to the extent of this prohibition to killing. The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment, such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the state is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent life (The Fifth Commandment, 4)….”
    .
    “…In the twentieth century, Pope Pius XII provided a full doctrinal defense of capital punishment. Speaking to Catholic jurists, he explained what the Church teaches about the authority of the State to punish crimes, even with the death penalty.
    The Church holds that there are two reasons for inflicting punishment, namely “medicinal” and “vindictive.” The medicinal purpose is to prevent the criminal from repeating his crime, and to protect society from his criminal behavior. The vindicative is to expiate for the wrong-doing perpetrated by the criminal. Thus reparation is made to an offended God, and the disorder caused by the crime is expiated…”

    .
    Source: “Capital Punishment New Testament Teaching”, By Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm.

  • Mr. McClarey,
    .
    Father John A. Hardon, SJ offers an additional defense of Capital Punishment in his article “The Legitimacy of Capital Punishment” dated November 19, 1995 wherein
    Father states:

    “…According to the critics of capital punishment, there are only two possible grounds for capital punishment, namely defense and the restoration of the moral order.
    .
    Defense. It is said there can be no question of justifiable self-defense in executing a condemned criminal. Why not? Because the criminal is already apprehended. A recommended substitute is mutilation, which is said to be 100% effective in rendering a criminal harmless.
    .
    What the opponents of capital punishment forget is that crime is infectious. Mere mercy mutilation of a condemned murderer, for example, protects society only from that single criminal’s homicidal intentions. It does not protect society from the scandal he has given others, to follow his bad example.
    .
    Moral Order Restored. Equally useless, it is claimed, is the appeal to a restoration of the moral order. Capital punishment, it is alleged, desecrates human life and actually promotes the very mentality of the murderer. The convicted criminal is a helpless non-belligerent who is in effect being murdered by the civil authority.
    .
    The problem with this position is that it neglects a basic principle of the Christian moral order. Within this moral order, we believe that both justice and mercy are to be operative. It is not enough to so concentrate on the practice of merciful charity as to overlook or ignore the corresponding practice of justice.
    .
    Nor is it pertinent to say that “capital punishment does not in the least redress the injustice committed against the murdered victim or anyone else.” On the contrary, capital punishment does help to redress the injustice committed both against the murdered victim and, especially against the Someone Else who is God.
    .
    What the opponents of capital punishment ignore is that the primary rights offended by grave crime are the rights of God.
    .
    St. Paul made this clear. “The State is there,” he said, “to serve God for your benefit. If you break the law, however, you may well have fear; the bearing of the sword has its significance. The authorities are there to serve God; they carry out God’s revenge by punishing wrong-doers” (Romans 13:14).
    .
    Source: “The Legitimacy of Capital Punishment” dated Nov. 19, 1995 by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Faith_and_Morals/Faith_and_Morals_006.htm

  • MPS quotes Robespierre. “….There was no inconsistency in his demand, on 3 December 1792, for the death penalty against Louis XVI: “Yes, the penalty of death generally is a crime, and for that reason alone, according to the indestructible principles of nature, it can be justified only in cases when it is necessary for the safety of individuals or the social body. Public safety never demands it against ordinary offenses, because society can always guard against them by other means and make the offender powerless to harm it. But a dethroned king in the bosom of a revolution which is anything but cemented by laws, a king whose name suffices to draw the scourge of war on the agitated nation, neither prison nor exile can render his existence immaterial to the public welfare: and this cruel exception to ordinary laws which justice approves can be imputed only to the nature of his crimes….
    .
    Yikes MPS! Robespierre’s justification of the despicable act of treachery against King Louis XVI likely inspired a later coup of Enlightenment revolutionaries… the Marxist death squad’s 1917 savage annihilation of Russia’s Czar Nicholas, his Czarina, and their innocent children. Were they really a danger to the state?
    .
    Robespierre was a man, emptied of any heroic virtue, whose soul was stained by the blood of innocents murdered to effect the God-less revolution he supported.

  • Fallen human nature takes human life and fallen human nature decides who is worthy of death.?! It is instructive that when Cain committed the first murder, the murder of his own brother [after all-every murder is exactly this: the murder of one's own brother or sister], God marked Cain so that no one would touch him in retribution and or vengeance.

    Robespierre’s words reveal nothing more than the slippery slope ‘justified killing’ reveals.

  • “God marked Cain so that no one would touch him in retribution and or vengeance.”

    God also mandates capital punishment for numerous offenses throughout the Old Testament.

    “Robespierre’s words reveal nothing more than the slippery slope ‘justified killing’ reveals.”

    Not really. There is a world of difference between a George Washington for example and a Robespierre. The functional pacifism embraced by the contemporary Church, and the seeming inability to make elementary distinctions as to justified and unjustified killing that past generations of Catholics made with ease, does make the world quite a bit safer for true villains like “vile Robespierre”, rather like putting up gun free zone signs at schools to let maniacs know that no one inside will be shooting at them if they decide to engage in some multiple murder.

  • slainte: Thank you for John Hardon, S.J.’s work on capital punishment.
    .
    “”Thus reparation is made to an offended God, and the disorder caused by the crime is expiated …capital punishment does help to redress the injustice committed both against the murdered victim and, especially against the Someone Else who is God.””

    .This is the first mention of an offended God. God is not included by Robespierre, nor Avery Cardinal Dulles, not John Paul II. God is included with the acknowlegement of Abels’ murder by Cain. Cain took Abel’s life and now Cain has to live Abel’s life. The mark God put on Cain was “ABEL”

  • Is the Church’s “new” position that it cannot engage in violence in the name of God really any different from the following?
    .
    “…Pope Leo I in the fifth century and Pope Nicholas I in the ninth century made it clear that the Church herself could not be directly involved in capital punishment; but the pontiffs assumed that the State was divinely authorized to do so. So, too, the Councils of Toledo (675) and Fourth Lateran (1215) forbade the clergy to take direct part in the juridical process or sentencing of a person on a capital charge. But again, the councils took for granted that the State may condemn a convicted criminal to death and execute the sentence…”
    .
    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm#sthash.1jgsgfkS.dpuf

  • Mary De Voe writes about the offended God and expiation…
    .
    Mary I focused in on that same sentence as well…the image is almost sacrificial in nature…an offering to God of the convicted person for expiation of the sin committed against the Father. Very curious especially since it is the State which must carry this out. The Church did (and likely still does) view the State as God’s moral agent. I am so fascinated by the tradition of our amazing Church.

  • “Is the Church’s “new” position that it cannot engage in violence in the name of God really any different from the following?”
    .

    Yes it is since the Church is now seeking to instruct the State not to engage in capital punishment. That is quite different from what you cite.

  • Donald,

    You paint with far too broad a brush.

    The ‘contemporary Church’ (using your term) believes war, like murder are signs of mankind’s failure-is this not true? Is war (while justifiable under strict conditions) ever a good?

    The ‘contemporary Church’ believes every disciple, according to their particular vocation is called to be a peacemaker-that comes from the Beatitudes and is elaborated in many places in the Sermon on the Mount. A Catholic can indeed serve in the military-as did many ancient martyr saints (Sebastian, George et al) however even there the vocation is nonetheless to be peacemakers

    The ‘contemporary Church’ still teaches and holds to the principles of the just war and has not called for complete pacifism in any way in response to aggression etc.Based on those very principles of just war, there is a growing consensus (although nothing authoritatively declared that nuclear war on a total or limited level cannot be justified

    The ‘contemporary Church’ in promoting the respect for human life states that the “State” has an obligation to protect its citizens-[just as a third party must protect a second party from the aggression of the first party]
    -in promoting respect for human life Catholics may
    a) continue to advocate the State’s right to use the death penalty in very limited circumstances [not a blank check by any means---just as "just war" is not a blank check]
    b) believe that modern societies have the mechanisms in place to protect their citizens without having necessitating recourse to the death penalty
    c) Catholics who believe in a or b cannot in basing themselves on Church teaching say the other is wrong

    Finally, the ‘contemporary Church’ has stated that killing in the Name of God, as a religious act, can never be justified. Ever.

  • “…As far as the Christian faith is concerned, violence in the name of God is a heresy pure and simple”: this is what the editorial in the pope’s newspaper calls the “unmistakable thesis”…”
    .
    As the document has not yet been translated, I don’t know with any degree of certainty what Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI actually means by the aforementioned phrase.
    .
    However, I surmised that he wanted to clarify the Catholic Church’s position by affirmatively discouraging nation states from engaging in arbitrary acts of violence against innocent peoples, as is endemic in Islamic states, including Egypt.
    .

    On the issue of capital punishment, I am apparently imbued with liberalism and have lost sight of the fact that crimes are Sins against the Father. I viewed crimes as mere offenses against the citizens of a society requiring redress through the deprivation of a convicted person’s rights and liberties for a set period of time. Rousseau and Locke would be proud of me.
    .
    Father Hardon’s discussion of the supernatural consequence of sin as a form of violence against the Father which requires the state, as moral agent, to cause the expiation of sin through blood sacrifice of the convicted person is really quite shocking. I do not believe most Catholics or even priests understand this teaching.
    .
    But I do understand your concern now…especially if the Church is requiring States to stop a practice which would deny God what He demands and also appears to break with Tradition.
    .
    I still do not understand why the Catholic Church is prohibited from engaging in the juridical act which it delegates to the state?

  • Botolph,

    Please weigh in on the expiation of sin through sacrifice which Father Hardon discusses. Any clarification is very welcome. Thanks.
    .
    . “…In the twentieth century, Pope Pius XII provided a full doctrinal defense of capital punishment. Speaking to Catholic jurists, he explained what the Church teaches about the authority of the State to punish crimes, even with the death penalty.
    .
    The Church holds that there are two reasons for inflicting punishment, namely “medicinal” and “vindictive.” The medicinal purpose is to prevent the criminal from repeating his crime, and to protect society from his criminal behavior. The vindicative is to expiate for the wrong-doing perpetrated by the criminal. Thus reparation is made to an offended God, and the disorder caused by the crime is expiated…”
    .
    Source: “Capital Punishment New Testament Teaching”, By Father John A. Hardon, S.J. http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm -

  • Mary de Voe wrote, “This is the first mention of an offended God.”

    Indeed and the maxim of the Roman law is “deorum injuries diis curae” – Offences against the gods are the gods’ business. People require the protection of the magistrate; the unseen powers do not.

    The development of the law of murder is not without interest. In early times, murder was an offence against the sept or clan, which had been diminished by the loss of a member and the blood-feud was designed to redress the balance. To avoid the frightful consequences of such feuds, both Church and State combined to persuade or compel the kindred to accept reparation, in the form of compensation, known as an assythment or solatium; in this, the Celtic monks or Culdees appear to have been particularly active. From early in the 11th century, the emphasis shifted; murder of a vassal was seen as an affront to the superior, whose protection he enjoyed and who had been entitled to his services. The superior, as the person chiefly concerned, could pardon the offender. It was only in the reign of King David I (1124-1153) that the King’s peace or protection was granted to all the lieges, even to those with a subject-superior and it is from this that the royal prerogative of mercy stems. Even so, early pardons recite the granting of Letters of Slains by the party aggrieved or the assessment of an assythment by the Justiciar.

    Nowadays, in the very rare instance of a private prosecution (there were two in the 20th century and neither for murder), criminal letters are raised in the name of the Sovereign at the instance of the party aggrieved “with concourse of AB, our advocate for our interest…” the conclusion being that the accused “ought to be punished with the pains of law to deter others from committing the like crime in all time coming.” This means that if the private party does not move for sentence, the Lord Advocate may.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: Yours is a very fine mind. Thank you for the explicit facts for the prosecution of murder throughout the ages. My question is: Did the Roman gods give the Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit murder”?
    The Law of Moses, the Law of the Triune God predated the Roman gods and the Greek gods.
    What you have posited is the separation of church and state. For sure no Roman gods said to mankind: “Thou shalt not kill.” And therefore, the Roman gods were not offended. Neither did the gods create a human soul for man and redeem man’s soul with a cross and resurrection. Our God is human and divine and our God suffers for us and with us.
    When man’s soul is dispatched from his body through violence, our God is offended. God suffers the rejection of His Commandments and the violence suffered by the victim.
    I know you are talking about the formation of the law as the law comes to us, but using the law as does the Declaration on Human Rights of the United Nations without attributing the law to God, Who is Justice, is imperfect Justice or not Justice at all.
    As Thomas Jefferson says: “The rights the state gives, the state can take away.” Hmmm, the Romans sure did their “taking away”. ..and there was no god to prosecute the Lord Advocate or the king until the Magna Carta and now The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
    It is too bad that only the king or queen is acknowledged as “sovereign”. All men are created equal and sovereign, in sovereign personhood.

  • Botolph, It is you who paint with too broad a brush. So, we should let Hitler’s concentration camps go on?
    “Donald,
    You paint with far too broad a brush.
    The ‘contemporary Church’ (using your term) believes war, like murder are signs of mankind’s failure-is this not true? Is war (while justifiable under strict conditions) ever a good?”

  • “The ‘contemporary Church’ (using your term) believes war, like murder are signs of mankind’s failure-is this not true? Is war (while justifiable under strict conditions) ever a good?”

    Compared to the alternatives? Sometimes yes. Pope John Paul II called all war a defeat for humanity. I found that odd since without the victory of the Allies in World War II it is quite likely that he, along with virtually all other Poles, Jew and Gentile alike, would have been exterminated by the Third Reich, except for the few kept around as slaves. That was Hitler’s plan for the future of Poland, a plan only stopped by massive bloodshed in war.

    Traditionally the Church has looked upon war as Saint Pope Pius V looked upon it: as something that is sometimes necessary to preserve the good. That is why he put together the Holy League and thanked Our Lady of Victory for Lepanto in 1571. Similar examples could be taken from the history of the Church, and that is why I say that the contemporary Church has embraced a functional pacifism that is foreign to most of the history of the Church, and which owes more to a cultural death wish among many elites in Europe than it does to Catholicism.

  • slainte: “I still do not understand why the Catholic Church is prohibited from engaging in the juridical act which it delegates to the state? ”
    It is the duty of the church to forgive sins and to pray always, a promise made by priests who act in persona Christi. The ordained priesthood is sacred.
    .
    It is the duty of the state to prosecute crime. Banning the death penalty for those who deserve the death penalty or granting forgiveness is out of order for the state. I cannot forgive your murderer when I am a citizen of the state. You are a murder victim and the criminal who took your life needs to be stopped, permanently.

  • “Traditionally the Church has looked upon war as Saint Pope Pius V looked upon it: as something that is sometimes necessary to preserve the good.”

    Whis is why there is “Just” war. The fulfillment of justice requires defending one’s citizens or the citizens of other countries. It historically has also called upon redress of injustices through the use of force.

    John Paul II for all his philosophical brilliance was not a Thomist. It takes a Thomistic approach such as the moral analysis I present above, to understand that the moral object may vary on the intention one gives the object. One may intend to kill the aggressor or one may intended to deter his aggression. The former would be illicit but the latter licit. In the case of war, if one does so to protect one’s citizens (given all the other factors that go into a just war consideration), then such a war is not a failure in a moral sense. Rather, it is a moral good and gives glory to God.

  • Mary de Voe

    The Roman notion was simply that the gods could avenge their own wrongs, without the need of human assistance. That is why those thunder-struck or burned with fire from heaven were denied funeral rites, as accursed.

    “It is too bad that only the king or queen is acknowledged as “sovereign.” All men are created equal and sovereign, in sovereign personhood”

    “Sovereign” here simply means at the apex of the court system. In the Sheriff Court, letters run in the name of the judge. They can be stayed or suspended, which the Queen’s cannot.

  • “Is war (while justifiable under strict conditions) ever a good?”
    .

    Sometimes peoples need to be defended.
    .
    [SARCASM ALERT!]
    .

    Mongol-type warlord asks, “What is best in life?” Conan the Barbarian responds, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    Why that man never won an Oscar . . .

  • Thank you for your imput Mary. I have always held that one should not assign or delegate to others what one is not willing to do oneself.
    .
    But indeed the Church is the embodiment of the supernatural on earth and is thus charged with teaching and making saints of men, while reconciling them with God through the sacraments. All of the foregoing constitute higher and different tasks than that for which the state exists.

  • Phillip

    Miss Anscombe has some excellent remarks on intention. “From the seventeenth century till now what may be called Cartesian psychology has dominated the thought of philosophers and theologians. According to this psychology, an intention was an interior act of the mind which could be produced at will. Now if intention is all important–as it is–in determining the goodness or badness of an action, then, on this theory of what intention is, a marvellous way offered itself of making any action lawful. You only had to ‘direct your intention’ in a suitable way. In practice, this means making a little speech to yourself: ‘What I mean to be doing is. .’ This perverse doctrine has occasioned repeated condemnations by the Holy See from the seventeenth century to the present day. Some examples will suffice to show how the thing goes. Typical doctrines from the seventeenth century were that it is all right for a servant to hold the ladder for his criminous master so long as he is merely avoiding the sack by doing so; or that a man might wish for and rejoice at his parent’s death so long as what he had in mind was the gain to himself; or that it is not simony to offer money, not as a price for the spiritual benefit, but only as an inducement to give it…. It is nonsense to pretend that you do not intend to do what is the means you take to your chosen end. Otherwise there is absolutely no substance to the Pauline teaching that we may not do evil that good may come.”

    Of course, there is a legitimate distinction between the intended and merely foreseen consequences of an action. St Alphonsus gives the example of the man who jumps off the top of a burning tower; he intends to escape the flames, whilst his certain death is the foreseen, but unwelcome and unintended result. Were he to shoot himself instead of jumping, then his death itself would be his intended and chosen (and sinful) means of escape.

  • MPS,

    I am quite aware of Anscombe and her thoughts on intention. Again, as noted above, Catholic moral teaching notes the three aspects of the moral act – the moral object, the circumstances and the intention (end) of the act.

    The moral object itself lends itself to intention and the poximate act ordered to the end of the act. Thus Aquinas can make a distinction between defense and killing in using force against an aggressor. The moral object is determined to some extent by the intention of the moral actor. Do I shoot an aggressor to defend myself or to kill the aggressor. If the former, the act is moral. If the latter, it is not.

    This is not the purely intentionalist moralities which believe that the moral object is not important and only the end sought (the intention) is what matters. That is, whatever one seeks to do justifies what is done to accomplish that end. This is ultimately what Anscombe is arguing against – not classic, Thomistic thought.

  • That should read “…as the proximate act ordered to the end of the act.”

  • Not sure I will do justice to the various comments made in response to my last post however I will try:

    Mary De Voe: “too broad a brush” means (over) generalizing. The ‘contemporary Church’ is not pacifist. it still teaches the Just War principles. And no Mary of course I would not allow Hitler’s concentration camps to go on. See it would be one thing Mary, if we were just speaking about our opinions etc. We could have a field day using broad brushes etc over-generalizing our own positions or those with whom we are disagreeing. But-in most cases on this blog, and specifically here we are speaking about the Church, Church teachings etc. Broad brushes won’t work. Mary, my sister, you know where I stand on respect for life issues We differ in our application of the very same principles in this one area. That does not make me anti-life any more than it makes you pro-death, see what I mean?

    Donald, I asked if war was a ‘good’-not a relative good. We would both agree that in some cases [actually WWII is the closest I have seen in modern history] war is justifiable, and therefore a relative good [better than all the other options] I did not ask that, though and I think you know that. I asked if you believed war to be a good-something created good, to be sought at all times etc. War and Capital punishment are not ‘goods’ in this sense. To make them that way is a real distortion of the created order. They are ‘necessary evils’ , ‘relative goods’ but not ‘true goods’ in the sense that I asked it and mean it. Do you agree with that?

    Slainte,
    I have never heard of anyone stating what Fr Hardon stated concerning the state offering the death of the criminal as expiation for the crime. Putting to the side for a moment my own personal stand on capital punishment, the most traditional teaching of the Church concerning capital punishment from such sources as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas simply do not go there-no where near there

    Besides the State’s responsibility to protect its citizens-which remains even now the Church’s teaching [here is the continuity of teaching-on social justice] there is the issue of the chaos released by the sinner (each and every sinner does this on certain levels however I will stick with a murderer) That chaos has tradtionally been called “punishment due to sin”. God’s created order has been radically disrupted in the taking of an innocent human life. Justice, which is the harmony and balance of the Natural Order and Law must be regained, ‘satisfied’. Now how?

    Jesus Christ is the Only One Who can reestablish (satisfy) justice. As the author of Hebrews writes, “Jesus Christ, Mediator of the New Covenant, and he sprinkled Blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” [Hebrews 12.25] Abel of course represents all victims of murder. His blood cries out from the earth seeking justice. What Hebrews is saying specifically is that Christ’s Blood shed for the forgiveness of sins-is more eloquent (successful in communicating) justice. He is the expiatory sacrifice. In the Mass the Church unites ‘through Him, with Him and in Him” in offering this one eternal Sacrifice to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. I know of no way in which the State has any power to do anything comparable.

    However the issue still remains-how do we restore justice after a murder? The innocent death must be ‘satisfied’. The answer is that in and through Christ’s Paschal Mystery the murderer first can be forgiven his or her most grave sin. Also in and through Christ, the ‘absolved sinner’ can continue to do penance to ‘deal with’ the punishment due to sin. This may (and probably will) extend into Purgation (Purgatory)

    Slainte, hope this helps. BTW I like Fr Hardon’s work but this one really ‘threw me’

  • Botolph, thanks for the comprehensive response. I respect Father Hardon very much but the expiation analysis threw me also. I do view capital punishment very differently after these discussions.
    .
    Thanks also Mr. McClarey for the Edward Fesser and Fr. Rutler articles; there is still much misunderstanding about Natural Law principles which will no doubt increase with the now that “New” Natural Law. We are fortunate to have Revelation.

  • Slainte,

    You are very welcome. I believe discussions like this are not only healthy but necessary. We can all too easily sit back in our own cozy little nook of our perspective etc., criticize others, especially those who do not agree with us, and, especially with Church doctrine, transform faith into ideology. Remember the image of Blessed John Paul’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio. WE need both wings of faith and reason to rise up and soar.

    The Church’s Tradition is a great treasure. It grows and develops in its understanding as new questions are raised etc, while remaining substantially the same. It is helpful to keep in mind that the Tradition did not come to an abrupt halt with the death of the last apostle (New Testament times), or the last Church Father, or the Middle Ages or the death of Pope Pius XII. While I would say I have a good ‘sense’ of this Tradition I would never claim to have mastered it. No one has. Not even a Thomas Aquinas [remember what he stated toward the end of his wonderful life. Referring to his opus magnus he declared it to be all straw. None of us have mastered it, just as none of us have it in our back pocket.

    What we are witnessing on this blog-site are Catholics attempting to express their faith, and witness to it. In many ways, in the midst of all the sparring and jostling, the New Evangelization is taking place here. That’s why I take it so seriously

  • We are not surprised at the extent of discussion on this topic. It is after all a matter of life and death. Edward Feser makes a revealing connection to traditional versus modern progressive & liberal philosophical understandings. It is not coincidental that modern P&Ls oppose capital punishment but favor abortion; oppose self-defense but favor euthanasia. The Apostle Paul warns those who would do evil that not without reason does God’s minister carry the sword. “For it is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil”. John Paul II reserves capital punishment for heinous crimes but I have trepidations as to what progressives might consider heinous. Then I also have as much trepidation concerning what progressives consider government. The natural law and tradition are irreconcilable to a secular state based on atheism. The modern state is no longer God’s minister and the sword is in the wrong hands.

  • Mr. Walsh writes: “….The modern state is no longer God’s minister and the sword is in the wrong hands…”
    .
    In Belgium, it is in the hands of those who just passed legislation authorizing child euthanasia. In the post modern state, one no longer has to be be a convicted criminal to be subject to the death penalty.

  • P Walsh and Slainte,

    I have very grave doubts about the “progressive Western Democratic States” as we know them at this point, having a real sense of justice. As you state, Slainte, look at Belgium [the country which has the 'capital' of the European Union in it]. Progressives in this country are hell bent on transforming the United States into just another ‘state’ of the Europe. Forgetting for a second the fight for independence from British rule, I am even more concerned that our laws, culture etc are being transformed according to the principles of the more radical European mainland (France-Germany) Enlightenment rather than the Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment which founded this country [Locke, Burke et al]

    While I believe that human life needs to be respected from the moment of conception until natural death and based on this, ascribe to a non-application of the death penalty (except in most serious and heinous cases), I sit and watch the country I have grown up in be so transformed that I question whether we still hold to the first line of the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them being, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (originally understood as seeking the ‘good’ ) Do we really want this State having control over so much of our lives-even to decide who lives and dies?

  • My dear Botolph, you have taken my dark fears and given them expression. “Do we really want this State having control over so much of our lives-even to decide who lives and dies?” Perhaps the progressive’s aversion to capital punishment is a safety valve on the runaway boiler of their ever incremental totalitarian control. At least I won’t wind up being shot for my religious or political opinion.

  • “The Church’s Tradition is a great treasure. It grows and develops in its understanding as new questions are raised etc, while remaining substantially the same. It is helpful to keep in mind that the Tradition did not come to an abrupt halt with the death of the last apostle (New Testament times), or the last Church Father, or the Middle Ages or the death of Pope Pius XII.”

    That is very true. However, the analysis of the moral act (which has been the subject of moral theology for centuries) nonetheless was affirmed in the format I give (object, circumstances and intention) by JP II in Veritatis Splendor (particularly 76-79). Aquinas just happens to be the best explicator of this.

  • Philip,

    I certainly agree with your analysis of the moral act, arising from the great Tradition, elucidated by Saint Thomas Aquinas and most recently affirmed by Blessed Pope John Paul II. This is the Tradition being manifested right before our eyes

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