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Godzilla v. Bambi

 

 

Philosopher Doctor Ed Feser takes on Mark Shea on the death penalty in the biggest mismatch since Godzilla tangled with Bambi:

 

As Pope St. John XXIII once wrote:

 

The Catholic Church, of course, leaves many questions open to the discussion of theologians.  She does this to the extent that matters are not absolutely certain…

 

[T]he common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.  (Ad Petri Cathedram 71-72)

 

What Catholic could disagree with that?

 

Well, Mark Shea, apparently.  For no sooner does he acknowledge the truth of what Joe and I wrote than he proceeds bitterly to denounce Catholics who have the effrontery actually to exercise the right the Church herself has recognized to hold differing opinions on the topic of capital punishment.  After acknowledging the truth of our basic claim, he writes: “So what?” – as if Joe and I were addressing some question no one is asking.  This is followed by a string of remarks like these:

 

When it comes to taking human life, the right wing culture of death asks “When do we get to kill?”

 

The Church, in contrast, asks, “When do we have to kill?”

 

The death penalty supporter looks for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that he gets to kill somebody.  The Magisterium urges us to look for ways to avoid killing unless driven to do so by absolute necessity…

 

The term for that is “prolife”. You know, from conception to natural death. It’s what we are supposed to actually mean when we say “All Lives Matter”. Even criminal ones.

 

So it comes back to this: If you stop wasting your time and energy fighting the guidance of the Church, searching for loopholes allowing you to kill some of those All Lives that supposedly Matter to you, you find that you have lots more time and energy for defending the unborn that you say are your core non-negotiable. Why not do that instead of battling three popes and all the bishops in the world in a struggle to keep the US on a list with every Islamic despotism from Saudi Arabia to Iran, as well as Communist China and North Korea? Why the “prolife” zeal to kill?

 

Be more prolife, not less…

 

“I want to kill the maximum number of people I can get away with killing” is, on the face of it, a hard sell as comporting with the clear and obvious teaching of the Church and perhaps there are other issues in our culture of death that might use our time and energy more fruitfully, particularly when the immediate result of such an argument is to spawn a fresh batch of comments from priests scandalously declaring the pope a heretic, wacked out conspiracy theorists calling the pope “evil beyond comprehension“, and false prophets forecasting that “Antipope Francis” will approve abortion.  This is the atmosphere of the warriors of the right wing culture of death.  It does not need more oxygen.

 

End quote. 

 

Well.  What on earth is all that about?  And what does it have to do with what Joe and I wrote? 

 

Let’s consider the various charges Shea makes.  As to the “So what?”,  Joe and I are by no means merely reiterating something everyone already agrees with.  On the contrary, there is an entire school of thought with tremendous influence in orthodox Catholic circles – the “new natural law theory” of Germain Grisez, John Finnis, Robert P. George, and many others – that takes the position that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral and that the Church can and ought to reverse her ancient teaching to the contrary.  Many other Catholics, including some bishops, routinely denounce capital punishment in terms that are so extreme that they give the false impression that the death penalty is by its very nature no less a violation of the fifth commandment than abortion or other forms of murder are.

 

In our article we cited cases in which even Pope Francis himself has made such extreme statements.  We also suggested that the pope’s remarks should be interpreted as rhetorical flourishes, but the fact remains that they certainly appear on a natural reading to be claiming that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong – a claim which would reverse the teaching of scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and every previous pope who has addressed the topic.

 

Since Shea agrees that the Church cannot make such a change, to be consistent he would also have to admit that the more extreme rhetoric from the pope and some bishops and other Catholics is misleading and regrettable.  He should also agree that “new natural lawyers” and others who hold that the Church should completely reverse past teaching on capital punishment are taking a position that cannot be reconciled with orthodoxy. 

 

The late Cardinal Dulles, among the most eminent of contemporary Catholic theologians, has (in remarks quoted in our article) gone so far as to say that a reversal of traditional teaching on capital punishment would threaten to undermine the very credibility of the Magisterium in general.  Our primary motivation in writing our book was to show that the Church has not in fact reversed past teaching on this subject, and thereby to defend the credibility of the Magisterium.  Accordingly, Shea’s charge that Joe and I are in the business of “fighting the guidance of the Church” is unjust and offensive.  So too is Shea’s casually lumping us in with those who characterize Pope Francis as a “heretic” and “antipope.”  In fact we explicitly said that we do not believe that the pope wishes to reverse past teaching, and we proposed reading his statements in a way consistent with the tradition.

 

As to Shea’s other remarks, it is simply outrageous – to be frank, it seems as clear an instance as there could be of what moral theologians would classify as an instance of calumny – to suggest that Joe and I are really just “look[ing] for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that [we get] to kill somebody,” that we “want to kill the maximum number of people [we] can get away with killing,” that we have a “zeal to kill,” etc.  There is absolutely nothing in what we wrote that justifies such bizarre and inflammatory accusations.

 

Go here to read the brilliant rest.  I only have this piece of advice for Mark:

 

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

34 Comments

  1. The death penalty supporter looks for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that he gets to kill somebody.
    .
    Mark Shea is loathsome and unhinged.

  2. “The death penalty supporter looks for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that he gets to kill somebody. ”

    Shea thinks the best way to debate philosophers and theologians is to start out by showing himself to be a completely ignorant a**hole?

  3. LQC above, “At bottom, Mark Shea’s religion is liberal progressivism, and his Church the Democratic Party.” Truth, brother.
    ..
    Murray, Ken, Stephen: excellent.
    .
    Moron liberals (here I’m intentionally redundant) constantly project (Do shrinks call it “projection”?) on those with whom they disagree numbskull nonsense and heinous lies.
    .
    En fin, Bambi tastes better than Godzilla. You haven’t lived until you savored a venison back strap cut warm from the kill.

  4. The striking irony in Shea’s calumny is that death-penalty opponents are the ones looking for loopholes, against the plain meaning of Scripture and the clear, consistent teaching of the Church.
    .
    If God commands the death penalty for certain offenses, it cannot be intrinsically immoral. It can certainly be immoral under one set of circumstances or another, and that’s where prudential judgment comes in, but “intrinsically” means n all times and in all circumstances, in which case God world have been commanding his people to sin.

  5. I believe the new natural law theorists are promoting the perspective that capital punishment is intrinsically evil. One of the proponents of this perspective, Christopher Tollefsen, has written extensively to that effect. I cannot find a link but I believe it was Tollefsen who wrote that scripture was an obstacle to his conclusion.

    When a choice is between Scripture (not to mention tradition and the Church Fathers), go with Scripture.

  6. It is apparent that Shea’s rhetorical device of choice is the one referred to as “poisoning the well”.

    He has a great gift for creating sentences that make simple statements, but contain numerous vile and fallacious premises. I suspect he takes inordinate pride in this particular approach given that he never seems to use any other.

  7. ” Many other Catholics, including some bishops, routinely denounce capital punishment in terms that are so extreme that they give the false impression that the death penalty is by its very nature no less a violation of the fifth commandment than abortion or other forms of murder are.”

    More like virtually ALL bishops!

  8. I’m surprised Germain Grisez sees capital punishment as intrinsically wrong. He must like many have a swiss cheeze approach to the Bible….which is the opposite of St. Thomas Aquinas who such each verse as inerrant…exactly like Christ…”…and the scriptures cannot be broken”
    . I don’t agree with Feser that the Church…read catechism ….as in ccc 2267 is not in fact circumventing traditional teaching on the death penalty via its use of the phrase…” Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”. Laughable….prisons in the largest Catholic population, Brazil are nightmarish…famous for inmate murders as is Mexico, the second largest
    Catholic population. Heavily Catholic Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras have no death penalty and sky high murder rates. And all mentioned are non death penalty and one or two…rare death penalty. The Cardinal who wrote ccc 2267 was thinking only of the rarer Catholic situation like Austria who had forty murders in 2012 while Brazil had 50,674 murders that year.

  9. Shea is not worth the effort to read, follow or engage in discussion. His followers are not worth engaging either.

    I am tired of Mark Shea and his fellow travelers. They add nothing to my life nor do they do anything to inspire my Catholic faith. Their ignorance, willful at that, of Catholic history puts me off.

    It is best to ignore him completely and treat him as the irrelevant blowhard that he is.

  10. “It is best to ignore him completely…” Well said. Liberals are either ignorant or evil. In Shea’s case, he has proven over time to be invincibly ignorant. So, it is best to ignore him.

  11. Father of seven: I’ve been ignoring them (Shea, liberal bishops, progressive priests, et al) for many years.
    .
    Years ago, I resolved to ignore their heterodoxies, extra-scriptural opinions, false equivalencies, distortions, omissions, fabrications, detractions, ad hominems. . . .
    .
    Nate, They won’t listen. And, I’ve been attacked for trying.
    .
    Keep deplorable my friends.

  12. Robert T. George has the McCormack Chair of Jurisprudence at Princeton and is Pro-life, through and through. So, I am dumbfounded at his portrayal of the victim of homicide in the first degree as a non-existent disenfranchised individual.
    God does not contradict Himself.
    God gave men free will and God does not take His gift of free will away. ever….
    The capital one murderer in the first degree is brought to Justice and executed by his own citizenship in the state, the arm of God’s Justice. Every person had been in jeopardy of life when the murderer killed the first time. Now, every citizen is in double jeopardy of life as long as the murderer lives.
    Who? other prisoners, the warden, doctors, contractors and the possibility that the murderer might escape to kill more innocent persons who must be served in their innate human right to self-preservation and their civil human right to self-defense.
    The catechism of the Catholic Church was revised, had to be revised, to remove that error of the death penalty being practically non-existent inserted by Shoenborn. Priests, bishops and Popes do not execute the death penalty . The death penalty is the function of the state. As clergy, the priests are still citizens but are to serve the church…the principle of separation of church and state. The death penalty is executed through power of attorney of the condemned. Considering that the victim was denied his time to make his peace with God and was further scandalized by the murder. the murderer is given time to make his peace with God.

  13. Think about this. If a person is on death row he knows the date of his death he has time to think of heaven and hell. Chances are he will be sorry for what he has done and be saved.
    I know it can happen. I sat on a capital murder case the young man was sentenced to death. during the trial he had no remorse. After the trial I found out he was worse then what we heard at trial. I pray for him and the girls daily . I was able to find out that he repented before he paid the price. He was saved!

  14. “Robert T. George has the McCormack Chair of Jurisprudence at Princeton and is Pro-life, through and through. So, I am dumbfounded at his portrayal of the victim of homicide in the first degree as a non-existent disenfranchised individual.
    God does not contradict Himself.”

    George is one of the new natural law followers. Most (?all) followers of this hold that the death penalty is intrinsically evil.

  15. Heavily Catholic Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras have no death penalty and sky high murder rates.

    What do they have in the way of a working police force, a prison system, and a functioning court system? I don’t think you find many students of crime and punishment who will tell you there research indicates that crime rates are more sensitive to severity of punishment than certainty of punishment or celerity of punishment. New York City engineered an 82% cut in its homicide rate with only minimal changes to the state penal law (but a trebling of the prison census, a trebling of law enforcement personnel, and revised police tactics and strategy).

  16. Just me: Rehabilitation and repentance is the purpose of incarceration. The death penalty is the murderer being brought to Justice by his own citizenship. his own power of attorney executes him. The murderer in the first degree killed, taking God’s power over life and death. The murderer must restore the victim’s life to expiate for his crime.
    Philip: “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God” The Declaration of Independence. Natural law cannot exist without equal Justice and acknowledgement of “their Creator”, God. The condemned can turn to the church for mercy. The victim is dead. The condemned must restore his victim to life. The condemned meets his own equal Justice on the gallows. The condemned does it to himself. The death penalty cannot be intrinsically evil unless there is no eternal life of the soul. Both the perpetrator and his victim have immortal souls with a heavenly reward and perpetual hell. If the death penalty is intrinsically evil, and the murderer has inflicted the death penalty on his victim and the murderer is allowed to live, there is no Justice and there is no hell.
    Art Deco: In third world countries they have the AVENGER OF BLOOD. The nearest relative has 24 hours to pursue the murderer, no questions asked.

  17. To Robert T George: Do not put your hand to an innocent man. The death penalty banned as intrinsically evil says that the victim deserved to be put to death and the murderer acted as an agent of the state. New Jersey banned the death penalty. and released Jesse Timmendaquas from Avenel for sex offenders. Timmendaquas raped and strangled seven year old Megan Kanka. In solitary confinement for twenty years, with his own guard and his own recreation he is enjoying his life and his crime. The death penalty prevents the murderer from enjoying his crime and reliving his crime in his mind, and knowing that he got away with murder.

  18. P.S. The death penalty is the temporal punishment due to sin. The sins in the Sacrament of Penance may be forgiven but the penitent must be willing to do the penance. The penalty imposed by the state for murder in the first degree is death.

  19. It makes sense when you assume that their religion is progressivism not Christianity.
    .
    For Christians, it’s in Genesis: “Who spills man’s blood, by man shall his blood be split. For man is made in the image of God.”
    .
    On the carnal level, it’s punishment, prevention, and deterrent.
    .
    Next up in NYS is assisted suicide. Of course, it’s advanced by “pro-life” Democrats elected by (confused and doubtful) self-anointed “pro-life” Catholics.
    .
    Like they do to everything else, progressives subvert (distort, advance cognitive dissonances and false equivalencies, fabricate, misrepresent, willfully omit, etc.) Holy Scripture and Church Teaching to advance their vile agendas.
    .
    Regardless of political candidates’ stated positions (lies, anyhow) on Black Lies (intentional) Matter, capital punishment, the welfare state, open borders, peace, love, medical marijuana.(all matters of prudential judgment), if said professional liars support more than 1.5 million babies yearly murdered in their mothers’ wombs, those politicians are not pro-life and you are not pro-life, either.

  20. If the death penalty is intrinsically evil, and the capital one murderer in the first degree has inflicted an intrinsically evil deed on his fellow, then in equal Justice, this intrinsically evil deed must be inflicted on the condemned.
    Homicide in the first degree, laying in wait for, planning and plotting the murder of another sovereign person in cold blood, the capital one murderer, brought to Justice by his own citizenship must expire with grief over his sin. Ex.21:14 “But should a man dare to kill his fellow by treacherous intent, you must take him even from my altar to be put to death.” “my altar” is human compassion and divine mercy (all Justice is predicated on intent)
    An unrepentant first degree murderer living and breathing without the good will to expire with grief over his crime is a threat to humanity and the community; an offense against God in the first degree and a violation of our Founding Principles “…to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our (constitutional) Posterity.”
    The first degree murderer, unrepentant and un-rehabilitated, is condemned and executed through his own power of attorney because he refuses to honor his citizenship and this would be by expiring with grief over his crime and by forcing another citizen to do his dirty work.

  21. Wow! This is the first time I have heard of a “new natural law.” Can someone explain to me what that is vs what the “old” natural law is?

  22. As to Shea’s other remarks, it is simply outrageous – to be frank, it seems as clear an instance as there could be of what moral theologians would classify as an instance of calumny – to suggest that Joe and I are really just “look[ing] for loopholes and ways to enlarge them so that [we get] to kill somebody,” that we “want to kill the maximum number of people [we] can get away with killing,” that we have a “zeal to kill,” etc. There is absolutely nothing in what we wrote that justifies such bizarre and inflammatory accusations.

    Yes well that’s how Shea argues–it’s his brand. Although strictly speaking it’s not argument, it’s just invective, and after all this time I think it’s possible he really doesn’t know the difference.

    I only recently discovered the news of his firing from the National Catholic Register, in part from reading this site’s post and comments section on the event, since I graze here from time to time.

    I could never fathom the thought process behind Shea’s going after learned authorities–people who often have devoted years of their lives to deep learning in specialized fields–armed mainly by his minor flair for creative insult. Granted such learning doesn’t perfect anyone against error, but you must at least be well informed about the work you’re challenging and an honest broker about where you and your adversary disagree.

    In the decade and half I’ve been acquainted with his writing, lesson never ever ever learned.

  23. I guess in the new natural law, John Wayne Gacy is a hero, after all, he reduced the population by tens of minor citizens, who police found buried under his porch and in his back yard.

  24. Hello, Mr. Fotos. Have missed your writings the last 10 years.

    “want to kill the maximum number of people [we] can get away with killing,”

    That’s almost word for word a line he’s used against Tom McKenna (who, to be fair, never elaborates on his preferred criteria for categorizing homicide defendants).

  25. Phillip: Thank you. Here is my response: Jesus Christ is a perfect human being. Jesus Christ, in the Hypostatic Union, is a divine Person. Everything written here without the perfect human being, the divine person, Jesus Christ falls short of addressing the issue. All souls are created in perfection and are thereby deserving of perfect Justice, Jesus Christ. All souls created in perfection for our constitutional Posterity must be addressed in any political conversation.
    The married couple living and breathing conjugal love, sublimating their sexual desires to one another, transfixed in ecstasy over their conjugal act bring life into the world and into their lives and into themselves. SEE: The Kiss by Auguste Rodin.

  26. Phillip: I read the links. This response is posted on the Open Thread of Sept. 27
    To disenfranchise the Blessed Virgin Mary of her membership in the human race is irreligion = atheism. The NEW Natural Law is slithering, insidious, calumnious, disingenuous and dis-value =evil atheism. The only benefit from dis-value=evil atheism is that there is none. Evil must be avoided at all costs. Dis-value denies the original innocence into which all men in the human race are created. The Virgin Mary willed to sublimate her whole being to the will of God from the very first moment of existence. Created in original innocence as were Adam and Eve, as are all human beings, Mary maintained her original innocence in humble acknowledgement of God, her Creator. All future generations, our constitutional Posterity, are created in original innocence and must be accorded the benefit of community to maintain their original innocence. The purpose of the state is “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our (constitutional) Posterity.” The Preamble
    To disenfranchise the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the perfect human Person from gentile society is to bring forth brutes and bestial behavior. To disenfranchise God, “their Creator” from His Intellectual Property is the height of evil and is practiced by the devil.
    The devil is NOT an atheist. The devil uses atheism to seduce man into refusing to acknowledge God, “their Creator” and the perfect Virgin, Mary and the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ.
    With my apology to Professor Robert P. George whom I love and admire immensely. The New Natural Law theory brings to mind The Emperor’s New Clothes.

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