Rainbows and puppy dog tails…

I have found it difficult not to wade in on the recent anti-death penalty bra burning First World Kvetching editorial that was jointly–because ultimately birds of a feather–published by Our Sunday Visitor, The National Catholic Register, America, and The National Catholic Reporter. I agree with Boniface that this latest spectacle of woolly-headed moralizing is not even worth getting upset about, and I endorse his succinct response to the dogmatic bra burners:

The prime rationale employed by those who oppose the death penalty absolutely is that it is unjust to take a human life because of the intrinsic dignity of the human person. As a being made in the image and likeness of God, man possesses a certain inherent dignity, which — they say — makes it an offense against the dignity of the human person to take his or her life. …

In Genesis 9:6, the practice of capital punishment is instituted by God Himself. Note that He does not simply tolerate and permit capital punishment (as he tolerated polygamy and divorce in the Old Testament), but He actually institutes it by a positive decree. That alone tells you it could not be intrinsically evil.

But anyhow, look at the rationale God gives for instituting capital punishment:

“Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.” – Gen. 9:6

In other words, the very rationale God gives for instituting the death penalty is the same rationale now given to abolish it! Those who argue against capital punishment based on man’s intrinsic dignity as an imago dei are appealing to the same principle God did when He instituted it!

In any case, the heartfelt essay which finally tipped my hand to make even this much noise about the issue boils down to the idea that because what we do to prisoners is equivalent to what we do to Christ, therefore killing a prisoner is “killing Christ all over again”.

On that note, I shall be heading to my local jail this afternoon to bust out all those little Christs.

It is odd, though, that, in a parable (Matthew 25:34ff) which allegedly denies the power of the state to assign just punishments to wrongdoers, Christ would admit the reality of the state’s authority to imprison anyone. Odd, too, that Christ would endorse giving taxes to support the state, much less make a tax collector one of His Apostles, if it is the state itself which “murders Christ”. If “jailing Christ” is wrong, why not tear down the whole system? Why, it’s almost as Our Lord both affirmed the reality of the state to assign punishments and enjoined His disciples to comfort those who incur such penalties. Or is that too sophisticated a line of reasoning for Our Shiny Modern Age?


Even odder is the fact that Christ, while He was supremely revealing the mercy of God, would not have condemned the execution of the thieves on His right and left, one of which sounds remarkably like those today who reject the Church’s teaching on the state’s right to impose death upon wrongdoers (Luke 23):

39 And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us [from this death penalty]. 40 But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.

Odd again is how Christ called an apostle who could get it so wrong on such a supposedly obvious moral truth that “the death penalty is murder”. As that old buffoon wrote in Romans 13:

1 Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. 2 Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. 3 For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. 5 Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Sadly, the antediluvian oddness does not end there.

Why, even a solemn, ecumenical council of the Church was foolish enough to enshrine the heretical nonsense that state-imposed death is not at all equivalent to murder:

“Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: ‘In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.'”

Catechism of the Council of Trent

And of course, just when you thought the Church might have finally sloughed off its “worldly” errors–liberated by the Spirit in Our Shiny Modern Age, you see*–it was only July 2004 that the head of the CDF, who within a year’s time would become the Supreme Pontiff, had the unmitigated gall to spew such heresy as this:

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

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles” — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

But, of course, that was then. This Is Now.

Or something.

* David Gray, the author of the hand-tipping essay, claims that for 2,000 years “the Holy Spirit has been … purifying and liberating the Church” from worldly illusions, such as supporting the state’s right to punish criminals. Isn’t is neat how neo-Waldensian errors like those of Gray et al. was already answered as long ago as a.D. 1210? As Pope Innocent III decreed: “Concerning secular power we declare that without mortal sin it is possible to exercise a judgment of blood as long as one proceeds to bring punishment not in hatred but in judgment, not incautiously but advisedly” (DS 425)


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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49 Responses to Rainbows and puppy dog tails…

  1. Theodore says:

    I think that was one of your best pieces.
    “On that note, I shall be heading to my local jail this afternoon to bust out all those little Christs.”
    Was precious.
    People do not understand that by denying that there are times when the only way to answer the humble call of Justice is to exhort all the more strongly -that life IS worth defending even unto death, and that Justice demands that the criminal will forfeit his for a heinous act such as murder. Not attending that call, is far more degrading and an admission that innocent human life does not take precedent in dignity- when we equate its value to the life of a criminal who has perpetrated such an act upon another.

  2. J Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this brief moment of sanity in my day.

  3. David L. Gray (יוסף דוד)‎ says:

    Funny strawman. Punishment and Killing are two completely different things. Break Christ out of prison. Hilarious!

  4. Theodore says:

    David Gray,
    Strawman? Much wiser men who loved God more and better than you or I have or will ever, wrote, and believed what is written above. (Lots of citations as proof) Your piece suggests that there was some type of evolution that enlightened society to throw off the shackles of the Fathers whose shoulders we stand upon. I suggest that if anything Society is devolving and creating criminals deserving of punishment more than ever.
    In one sense we can better ascertain the guilt or innocence of a criminal who commits a heinous crime against another thanks to Science and DNA testing. Considering what is going on in our world right now, some might call that “providence”. Perhaps God has allowed these scientific advances so that when the state does impose the penalty of death, that the criteria be more certain than possible in the past thus insuring that justice be completed “on earth”.

  5. David,

    I’m glad you liked it. My favorite aspect of humor is that it conveys truth amidst the shadows of irony. Fining or confining an innocent man would be a temporal injustice. Executing an innocent man would also be a temporal injustice. Neither is an ultimate injustice sub specie aeternitatis, and both are disposed by God for expiation and conviction of souls in order to prepare them better for “meeting eternity”. This does not, of course, mean that any form of temporal should be trivialized, but it does show that the state has competence to employ both forms of punishment, and others, even despite what turn out to be errors of judgment. Meanwhile, do you claim that there have never been just executions?

    I understand that this is a pressing issue for you personally, and emotionally, but your unilateral rejection of the death penalty has no basis in the Catholic Tradition. http://www.catholicapologetics.info/morality/deathpenalty/punishment.htm

  6. David L. Gray (יוסף דוד)‎ says:

    Theodore, I’ve discovered that how you fall on this issue depends on life experience and there is no convincing people like you. Neither is there any convincing of people like me. Blessings and Shalom.

  7. “[T]his issue depends on experience. … [T]here [is no] convincing of people like me.”


    How’s that Mormon burning of the bosom working out for you? Have you ever read Pius X’s Pascendi, David?

  8. Theodore says:

    Not every person who has been the victim of a violent crime has the opportunity nor the wear with all to make their case in a public forum either, David. I thin

  9. Theodore says:

    (Have no idea why that happened) I think experience indeed plays a part, indeed, but the intellect is often called to work apart from experience, otherwise to a victim of a violent crime, every man would be a rapist, and every person behind them a robber. So I have to disagree with you there.

  10. Yes, I must say, David, you shouldn’t assume so much naivete about your interlocutors. Otherwise you end up debating caricatures, who can never match your own idea of moral maturity. How do you know that I or others here have no firsthand “experience” of the ins and outs of crime, law, punishment, and mercy?

  11. Patricia says:

    Dear David,
    Having changed my mind any number of times during my life based on rational argument, I cannot fathom how you can argue that we are imprisoned in our experiences and unable to change our minds. Believe it or not some of us are able to do just that.
    I challenge you to read at least something that Elliot suggested and come back with a real argument that would address Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers on the death penalty. Perhaps you could tell us how morality has changed such that the writings prior to the 20th century should be junked, including the very words of Our Lord. Because we are morally superior to those who have gone before us? This veritable cesspool of modernism that we are drowning in? Morally superior? I would love to hear real arguments, based on something other than emotion.

  12. Tony Jokin says:

    Very nice read!

    I agree that capital punishment is most certainly a valid means of punishment that a State can adopt. But is it also true that it is always necessary for the end of “preservation and security of human life”?

    I think opposing the capital punishment on the grounds that it is unjust is truly absurd given the Church teaching in favor of it. The argument that some pro-life groups mention that it seems inconsistent to support the death penalty while asking to value life, seems equally absurd.

    But is there a legitimate reason to oppose the death penalty? For an example, if we can correct a persons behavior and put them back on the right track (without any reasonable threat to preservation and security of human life), is it more beneficial to execute the person? Would witnessing such a thing scandalize society into belittling the value of life? If not, then wouldn’t it be OK to abolish the death penalty, at least for now?

  13. Pingback: Various & Sundry, 3/20/15 | The American Catholic

  14. David L. Gray (יוסף דוד)‎ says:

    Patricia ny articles on the death penalty that the author misrepresents does what you ask. My argument is that it is unnecessary and the Church ALLOWS the DP for states; the Church is not FOR it. I also explain at nauseum why in 2015, being that no one has superpowers we can keep the public safe without killing prisoners. No emotions.

    Perhaps you might actually read what I wrote before making ignorant assumptions.

  15. Tony Jokin says:

    Hi David,

    I was reading some of your comments and I think I understand your position better. In your own words taken from a comment you posted

    “I believe that if maximum security prisons cannot keep the public safe from someone dangerous, then YES execute him. This is an issue of defense and safety – not retribution or vengeance. That being said, we don’t live in a world with people who have mutant superpowers or aliens who can’t be confined. Should our ability to keep people locked away change, I will be in favor of executions for the of safety and defense.”

    As I wrote in one of my comments to you on your site, I did hold the exact position to yours sometime ago. But I think we both miss the importance of the death penalty acting as a deterrent for others to commit such crimes and communicating the gravity of the act that has been committed.

    The death penalty can have a more deterring effect than life imprisonment (which can look awfully rosy to someone who doesn’t have a place to sleep or go by weeks without a proper meal). The death penalty can also communicate the gravity of the murdering act in a way that life imprisonment cannot. So it does have those important properties.

    That being said, I think that some have noticed a trend where many people tend to easily refrain from such violent acts in developed places of the world. Some might even misunderstand this as humans have suddenly become radically kind and loving persons.

    So from that perspective, someone might conclude that we no longer need the death penalty. The effects that the practice of the death penalty bring about seem to be already present in society in a natural way.

    While I do agree to some extent with that observation, I do think that

    1) We must be careful because what we observe today as a trend is not very stable but something that seems to be due to a more wide spread prosperity level and emotionalism. Both of these are unstable and can start fall apart very rapidly. I think it just has to do with the illusion today that one is happy with material goods and an increased tendency to act emotionally. We see the facade start to collapse when people hit rock bottom (in relationships or financially) and then we see people act in radically evil ways (killing ones loved ones, for an example). We also see the facade drop as soon as people get offended and start to have negative emotions about someone as well. I would also argue that this is why we still see cases of murder, especially those that are emotionally charged or petty crime gone wrong.

    2) We must be careful that we communicate properly as to why we request the death penalty be put on hold or abolished for the time being. Because the way people are talking about this now, it gives the wrong impression that there is something evil about the death penalty.

    We should not request the death penalty today to be abolished because it is EVIL. We should only do so because its intended effects seem to be already present (deterrent and sense of the gravity of the act) and that seeing a reformed criminal lead a good and holy life is a GOOD. So if that GOOD can be accomplished safely, we should try it.

    My personal opinion is that we have bigger fish to fry. What we have today are people who are emotionally charged. They commit emotionally charged crimes that things like the death penalty cannot act as a deterrent for them. In our society, if they want in bad enough, they think they have a right to do whatever it is they want to do to accomplish it. I think we need to address those spiritual issues.

    If they are successfully addressed, we may not have criminals in death row to begin with.

  16. Mr. Gray, you can say that I’ve misrepresented your article, but, for one thing, you’re the fellow who flew over this post with a smarmy comment about my hilarious straw man, and, for another, people have eyes: they can read your article just as easily I can.

    In any case, the fundamental problem with your view is that your account of justice only considers prevention and correction, ignoring the essential role that retribution plays in justice. Punishment involves (R) retribution (moral restitution), (D) deterrence (social prevention), and (C) correction (moral reform). By suggesting that life imprisonment (LI) is, so to speak, just as good as the death penalty (DP), because it satisfies R/D/C just as well, you implicitly grant that a punishment of such a magnitude is acceptable in principle. If, however, you grant that the LI is not morally equivalent to the DP, then you grant that the state is not required to fulfill justice to the fullest extent it can. You recognize that execution is a more severe form of punishment than others, and you grudgingly recognize that the Church has ALWAYS granted the moral validity of execution (i.e. has always endorsed what is now being tarred as “intrinsically immoral”). By “swapping out” the DP (as a means of JUST RETRIBUTION) with a supposedly equivalent form of punishment (because it allegedly prevents further crime and reforms a criminal just as well as the DP), you render the scales of injustice incoherent.

    To be a little more concrete:

    Imagine that the DP equates to 100 “units” of “Justice”. Nowadays we presume that LI can achieve justice as well as the DP. However, if the severity of imposing 100 justice units on a criminal (by way of the DP) is “abhorrent” and “intrinsically immoral”, then so is imposing an alternative but equally “just” form of punishment. If a) life imprisonment is morally and penally equivalent to the death penalty, and if b) the death penalty is intrinsically immoral, then c) life imprisonment is also intrinsically immoral. An alternate form of an intrinsic evil is still just as evil. Conversely, insofar as life imprisonment is not intrinsically evil, and is, at least according to folks like yourself, morally and penally comparable to the death penalty, then (by modus tollens) the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral.

    The Church has always taught that the DP really is a fit punishment for certain crimes. Neo-Waldensians like yourself and Pope Francis not only reject this plain teaching, but also pretend that alternative forms of retribution restore justice to the same degree, and then go on to contradict that pretension by admitting that the DP is a, so to speak, heavier form of punishment. And why is it heavier? If the DP and LI both equally well achieve D/C, then why is the DP recognized as an even stronger expression of justice? Because it not only puts the retributive nature of justice front and center, but also involves a form of moral repayment (R) higher than that of LI. In other words, rejecting the DP truncates the order of justice by truncating the scope and merit of retribution as the basis of justice.

  17. Tony Jokin says:


    Reading your comment above, I was trying to understand the nature of retributive justice (as might be apparent, I am also guilty of committing the same error as David).

    So I was thinking of the following hypothetical case.

    Let us say that John Doe was guilty of murder, changed his life around and decided to live a normal life.

    I think what you are saying is that this would actually be wrong. John Doe should not live a normal life but live a life of trying to restore justice that was damaged due to what he did. So if he had taken the life of a parent, provide for that family etc.

    But even then, this form of restitution cannot be appropriately defined since human life is invaluable. So the death penalty remains something like a perfect way of fulfilling retributive justice.

    Am I understanding correctly?

    Can there be an argument that it is moral to opt for less than perfect restitution in some cases? Or is it always immoral to have recourse to a less than perfect restitution?

  18. Hi, Tony,

    I have a lengthy post coming up about all this, so stay tuned.

    For now, though, yes, the idea that just walking away from a grave crime as a new and better man, and never harming society again, still lacks something essential to justice: retribution, repayment, restoration.

    It is true that the state need not always employ the DP, but for neo-Waldensians to say that the state can never, in principle, resort to it, is just nonsense.

  19. Proph says:

    “Can there be an argument that it is moral to opt for less than perfect restitution in some cases? Or is it always immoral to have recourse to a less than perfect restitution?”

    Isn’t opting for less-than-perfect restitution just what mercy is? So, yes, an argument can be made for it, in some cases, but the making of it is a matter of prudence (it is prudent to be merciful to those whom you are reasonably certain are penitent; it would be imprudent to be merciful to a serial-killer who promises that he will kill again if released).

    Great post by the way Codg — capital punishment looks more and more like an issue on which the vast majority of mainstream Catholics have lost the ability to discourse honestly or intelligently. Mark Shea is especially repugnant in this regard; his arguments against the DP flirt with heresy, though he is quick to accuse anyone of dissent who reads the very oddly worded CCC 2267 differently than he does.

  20. In our day and age, I genuinely believe the greater mercy is practicing justice in a way that reminds people of their ultimate end. Mercy is how the Twitter age spells latitudinarianism, I’m afraid.

    Glad you liked the article. I have another one coming up which will flesh out more of the problems involved in all this neo-Waldensianism.

  21. Patricia says:

    David said: “Patricia ny (sic) articles on the death penalty that the author misrepresents does what you ask… Perhaps you might actually read what I wrote before making ignorant assumptions.”
    Actually David I don’t believe your article answered the questions I posed. Guess I’m just ignorant though.
    I’ll just use the same short quote Elliot used to illustrate one point: “the Holy Spirit has been… purifying and liberating the Church…” And I’ll ask you again for some evidence. How are we now so moral that we can dispense with capital punishment? Just some evidence of this moral superiority please.
    Because I did not address the rest of your essay doesn’t mean I don’t know your argument. You claim those who argue that the state has the right to use capital punishment use a false appeal to authority, like St. Paul!; yet that is your argument, appeal to authority of modern man and the innovations of those who have written within our own time (including CCC 2267).
    I continue to find your argument based on emotion and honestly rather insulting. To say that those who argue that the state has the right capital punishment have not seen the faces of those who have committed capital crimes and cared for them in prison is of course unfair; but then to go on to compare us to those who dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, so far beyond the pale words fail.
    Elliot has done an excellent job of explaining that justification for captial punish is not based on vengeance but retributive justice and I’d like to say I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into putting all this together as coherently as has been done here.
    Would also like to echo Rebecca. Thank you! There is not much in the way of sanity in our world today and it is encouraging to find it occassionally.

  22. Some of you here might like to know that I finally made time to address each of Mr. Gray’s claims in series, both at One Peter Five and at his own website. To wit…

    Mr. Gray, let me begin by noting how well you embody the principle of the development of doctrine. Why, in just a week, the number of supposed fallacies has swelled from four to five!
    As for the substance of your criticisms:

    The first fallacy you cite is not a fallacy. No defender of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment has ever claimed that it is a de fide matter. By propping up up such a straw man, you are echoing the longstanding dissident tactic of reducing “what Catholics believe” or “binding Catholic teaching” to only the most rigorously and explicitly defined dogmas. This is how dissidents get around birth control, male-only ordination, etc., and how you get around the Church’s teaching that a just application of capital punishment by the proper authorities is ordained by God. Thus, what you cite as a fallacy is in fact nothing more than an appeal to the universal and ordinary Magisterium.

    The second fallacy you criticize is in fact what is known as citing evidence. In response you commit a genuine fallacy by subverting patent evidence with appeals to hypothetical responses of those auctores if they were alive in our day. We don’t know how past authors and saints would react to life now, so, fortunately, we have to rely on things they actually said and did. That you call this adherence to actual vs. hypothetical evidence “cherry-picking” says more about your rational honesty than it says about the Church’s teaching.

    The third fallacy you claim to have found is not an appeal to inertia, but rather an appeal to doctrinal consistency. The problem is NOT that if the a Church changes on this issue, she might change on anything else (which is, again, a hypothetical concern), but rather that rejecting the death penalty in principle would AMOUNT TO a formal doctrinal corruption by the Magisterium.

    With the fourth so-called fallacy we reach the nub of the issue. By saying that imposing the death penalty on already convicted and incarcerated criminals is positively IMMORAL, you are saying that the Church has always condoned what is positively immoral as a function of the common good. This is a monstrous conclusion for a Catholic to arrive at, but it is the logical terminus of your “fresh” perspective. If killing criminals is morally equivalent to murdering Christ, and if the Church has always defended in principle the legitimacy of executing criminals, as a God-given power of the state, then you are asserting that the Church has always defended murdering Christ.

    Finally, the fifth “fallacy” that you want to criticize, which I suspect you added in response to comments I and others have been making on my own blog, once again misses the essential moral point. The basis of justice is retribution, not pragmatic appeals to deterrence and reform. This is why your fifth rebuttal focuses on pragmatic statistics, without ever addressing the Church’s teaching that in some cases fitting moral restitution can only come by way of depriving the wrongdoer of his life. The common good is secured by respecting and protecting the transcendent moral order, so, even if earthly goods are secured by mere deterrence and reform, rejecting retribution in principle is to reject the basis of why such measures are necessary in the first place.

    By the way, you consistently confuse the debate by saying that the death penalty has no place in the Church’s mission. Yet another huge red herring. The Church’s mission includes teaching the nations of their rights and duties before the Gospel, one of which has always been capital punishment. Aquinas defended it while rejecting the idea that clerics themselves should execute wrongdoers. The State, not the Church, carries the sword not in vain, as God has always willed.

  23. Murray says:

    Astonishingly, Mr. Gray replies to your lengthy and detailed comment thus:

    I really don’t see a criticism of the content here. I see a criticism of your spin on the content.

    It seems replies are disabled over there, so I’ll add my comments in this friendly place.

    Judging by his other responses in the thread (“LOL!”), this kind of weak non-argumentation seems to be his MO. But in this specific case, take his Fallacy 1 (which as you point out, is no kind of fallacy at all, since he just made it up). It reads, in part:

    The Fallacy of False Appeal to the Magisterium and False Assignment of Church Teaching arises here when [Catholics who support the traditional teachings on capital punishment] attempt have all or a very small portion of [CCC 2267] rise to level of being a Catholic Dogma, or a Solemn Doctrine, or a Definitively Proposed Doctrine, or an Infallible Pronouncement, when all that Paragraph No. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is is an Authoritative Teaching.

    In other words, he’s claiming that pro-CP Catholics attempt to portray the first portion of 2267 as de fide, but claims you’re “spinning him” when you point out this obvious fact and answer it.

    His second fallacy is exactly as you describe: conjectural musings on what certain saints would have thought about CP if they were alive today, combined with a breezy dismissal of their actual opinions (including St Paul!) because of their contemporary cultural context. Amazingly, he does not see the blindingly obvious point that this very same logic can be applied to every single jot and tittle of the Church’s magisterium. It’s universal acid. But no, you’re spinning his words!

    Third (why am I even doing this?). Gray accuses pro-CP Catholics of wanting to “stay the course” out of fear of “inveighing against” (perhaps he meant “impugning”?)

    the Authoritative Teaching that they assigned to be a Dogma or a Doctrine [non-Fallacy 1, remember], and against the saints who they appealed to as sources of authority. [“Fallacy 2”].

    Gray’s argument would greatly benefit from any actual examples of this argument being deployed in support of CP, but I’m pretty sure they don’t exist. As you point out, he has entirely mischaracterized the pro-CP argument by presenting it as form of personal neurosis. I’m pretty sure the “spinning” isn’t your doing here.

    Fourth: Let’s see, personal anecdote, personal anecdote, personal anecdote … ah, is that an argument? Unfortunately not. Instead, Gray gives us a truly vile, calumnious ad hominem likening pro-CP Catholics to the men who piloted Bockscar, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. (To make matters much worse, it is also a calumny against those men in the plane, who weren’t in a position to refuse to carry out the bombing.)

    But let’s break down your “spinning”. Gray’s title gives it away: Argument from Immorality. Gray openly and straightforwardly accuses pro-CP Catholics of immorality, of the objectification of human beings in order to more easily kill them. But morality doesn’t come with a timestamp, so if Gray is correct, it cannot possibly have been moral for the Church to favor CP in previous eras, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore the Church has erred gravely through the preponderance of its existence. As you point out, this follows directly from his argument. And it’s universal acid again: why could we not formulate a similar argument against the Church’s teachings on adultery, or contraception, or anything else? All you have to do is assert a trumping moral principle of your choice, accuse opponents of violating it, and voila!

    The Fifth “fallacy”, as you correctly point out, is just a collection of pragmatic arguments which have no bearing on the principles at hand. Even here, Gray cannot resist loading the dice, since the second argument he cites (“Better to Kill a Person than Feed them For Life”) is never presented in those terms. In fact, the economic argument is more often used by opponents of capital punishment, who claim that it is more expensive to execute a prisoner than to imprison them for life, once appeals, etc. are taken into account.

    My goodness, what weaksauce this man produces.

  24. Murray says:

    Correction: That fourth “fallacy” above should be Argument for Immorality; in other words, the accusation that pro-CP arguments advocate immoral behaviour.

  25. Tony Jokin says:

    So I have a bit of a question again.

    I think so far it is clear that

    1) Death Penalty is not intrinsically evil.
    2) Death Penalty is a valid way of satisfying retributive justice.
    3) One may choose to forgo the demand for satisfying retributive justice by showing mercy.

    So when should one forgo this demand and show mercy? Also, does there exist a case such that if one does not forgo this demand, it would be considered as lacking in mercy?

    If a criminal were to show remorse in regards what they did, is it sufficient to show mercy and forget everything? Is it also necessary in that particular case? What condition makes mercy necessary or sufficient for a person who has taken a life?

    Also, sorry if this is a stupid question. But in the OT, adultery was also considered as deserving of death. Would this mean that executing adulterers (for the sake of argument, lets say those who are unrepentant?) is also a valid way to go about satisfying retributive justice, even today? If it is no longer acceptable, what made the death penalty still acceptable for murder?

  26. Tony Jokin says:

    Sorry, I think my question at the end might sound different from what I intended to ask.

    What I am wanted ask was, what principle (theological or philosophical) made it possible to distinguish between death penalty being an evil to be applied to adulterers, while still being valid for murderers?

  27. Tony Jokin says:

    I found this by St. Thomas Aquinas from his Summa


    This seems to indicate that it would actually be lawful to execute sinners. But his argument seems to rely (at least from what I can tell), mainly on safeguarding the rest of the faithful from the sinner (lest he corrupt them or kill them I guess) rather than retributive justice.

    So could it be said, in the case of murderers, that if their threat to society can be negated (hypothetically), letting them live is the right thing to do (I am looking at the answer of St. Thomas to objection 2)?

    Also, since even traditional Catholics seem to have obviously moved away from even the idea of putting adulterers to death, is it possible that there is a legitimate development to be had in regards to the death penalty and murderers as well (given that they meet the requirements laid down in St. Thomas’s reply to objection 2)?

  28. Tony,

    The thing that people always gloss over in discussions like these is that development can move in two directions. Certain expansions upon the depositum fidei do not permit of reversal, while prudential matters can easily return to earlier forms. The point is that the state has the DUTY to support the Church’s mission and teaching, and has the RIGHT to link that support with penalties of many kinds. It is legitimate in principle for the state to punish sinners, because a state which cooperates with the truth will see that harming the common good and the moral order is a direct threat to the state itself.

    Does that make sense? I myself continue to learn about this issue, so I’m hardly being dogmatic. Suffice to say, though, that the Church for quite some time has not been able or willing to assert her moral authority; yet this does not negate the fact that IN PRINCIPLE she enjoys the right to do so.

  29. Tony Jokin says:

    I do agree with you Codg that the State definitely has a right and duty to punish sinners.

    But what I am having doubt about is how retributive justice and preservation of the life of others weighed into giving the right for the State to execute. Because, the reply to objection 2 by St. Thomas seems to indicate that if there is no immediate danger to others, the sinner should indeed be allowed to live.

    That seems to suggest that the State only has a right, at the time justice is violated, to determine if the individual poses a threat. It is only if the State answers in the positive, that the State would seem to receive the right and obligation to execute the criminal.

    So what I can make out is something like the following:-

    The violation of justice always relinquishes the rights of a sinner to life. But it is the immediate threat to rest of society from the sinner that justified and made it obligatory for the State to take advantage of it.

    From the perspective of doctrinal development, if the above is a valid way of understanding it, it seems to me like it would leave the principle itself intact. It would also seem to make it OK, for an example, that the Church does not put adulterers to death (but really should, in my opinion, foster a social aversion toward those who engage in it without remorse, or something else as a substitution) due to a prudent judgement that it would do more harm or that such a measure is not necessary.

  30. Tony Jokin says:

    I wrote my comment yesterday half asleep because I think I didn’t put down the actual point I was trying to make 🙂

    What I am thinking is the following. If the right to execute a sinner is given to the State only in the case where doing otherwise would be a threat to others, then it seems necessary that we do oppose the death penalty today. It would seem that the factor of retributive justice only allows the death penalty to be considered. But to justify and obtain a right to apply it in any concrete situation, the State must necessarily be certain that doing otherwise will cause more harm.

    So if the above is correct, opposing the death penalty today would actually be the right thing to do (given that one sees confining the criminal successfully as always viable, which in general seems to be true). There would also seem to be no contradiction with prior teachings.

  31. But deterrence (or risk prevention) is NOT the only basis for God giving penal authority to the State. Imagine if a technology or surgical procedure were invented that made it completely impossible for a criminal to repeat his crime. His only “punishment” would be submitting to that device/procedure. After that, he could live as a free man, no longer a threat to his neighbors. That would secure social safety, but it flout justice.

    In any case, Pope Francis has actually embraced the reductio by equating life imprisonment–even very lengthy imprisonment–with “veiled” death penalties.


  32. Tony Jokin says:

    I agree with you that the penal authority (including to execute criminals) is given to the State by God.

    If retributive justice alone was sufficient for executing a sinner, then it wouldn’t it appear that a State can execute every person guilty of grievous sin (without considering anything else) and be blameless? It would seem to be the case that there is no obligation or need for the State to be merciful.

    So I am not saying that the criminal fitted with the hypothetical device should always be freed into society. I think the State can and should enforce some punishment on him after considering other factors. But I do think the State certainly cannot enforce capital punishment in that case without being guilty of lacking in mercy. Because it seems that apart from neutralizing a threat to society, there seems to be no other necessary reason to execute a sinner.

    In the case of Pope Francis, I have completely given up trying to understand him! I am not even sure what he really even believes. In my experience, he says one thing today and in a couple of days or weeks, there will be something that he says that contradicts it.

  33. Tony:

    “it seems that apart from neutralizing a threat to society, there seems to be no other necessary reason to execute a sinner.”

    No. That’s my point. The traditional basis of capital punishment includes fitting retribution even apart from the effectiveness of deterrence or moral reform. The state has the right to take wrongdoer’s life if he places himself outside the moral order, precisely in order to “un-dent” the distortion his crime(s) has (have) caused in the larger moral order. While the state is not REQUIRED to impose the DP on serious criminals, failing to do so inculcates disdain for the moral order, and thus does NOT neutralize the threat that unpunished serious wrongdoing poses to the cogency and stability of the social order.

  34. Murray says:

    On the matter of the damaged social order, I will always remember a fascinating discussion that took place over on the late Lawrence Auster’s site about Vincent Li, a mentally ill man who beheaded another man on a Greyhound bus heading to Winnipeg in 2008 (We attended our first ever Mass that week, and I remember the date because our priest preached on the Gospel reading, which was the beheading of John the Baptist.)

    Li was found not guilty by reason of insanity (in this case, schizophrenia), which was reasonable enough, but the discussion revolved around the fact that he was to be assessed every year to determine whether he was fit to release into the community.

    You may not agree with what Auster writes (he was known for his uncompromising and stringent style, and for the many enemies he made), but it illustrates the point at issue in this debate:

    Auster wrote,
    “Will be reassessed every year to determine if he is fit for release…” Such is liberalism, which in its dessicated, rationalistic view of the good, and in its exclusive focus on the rights of the individual at the expense of the safety and well-being of society, reduces the evil of an evil act solely to the criminal intent of the actor. With the result that if the beheader and cannibal did not have the requisite guilty intent for society to hold him criminally responsible, and if some state-appointed board of psychiatrists (a profession notoriously lacking in an ordinary sense of morality) subsequently certifies that the beheader is not currently hearing voices in his head and is not at this moment dangerous, then society cannot hold him, he must be freed. Li could be on the streets, his own man, riding the Greyhound bus between Winnipeg and Manitoba, within a year. And if the Greyhound Company refuses to let him aboard, he’ll have a human rights case against them.

    The truth that society must understand—that it must go beyond liberalism to understand—is that an act of monstrous evil is monstrously evil in itself regardless of the perpetrator’s subjective state; that a person who commits a monstrous act is existentially a monster even if he lacks what the law calls a guilty mind; and that it is unspeakable for society to be forced to endure the presence in it of a known and certified monster. From which it follows that the agent of a monstrous act, even if “not guilty by reason of insanity,” must be confined and kept separate from society for the rest of his life.

    Laura Wood, in the comments, brings in a classical allusion:

    Guilt in the way you have defined it is an ancient and hallowed concept of Western civilization. “Drive me from here with all the speed you can to where I may not hear a human voice,” Oedipus says when he discovers he has committed an outrageous crime without realizing it. These words are the most beautiful, the most heart-rending evocation of the philosophical notion that guilt is the commission of an evil deed regardless of intention. Responsibility for even the most horrific acts can happen to people in the way cancer happens to its victims. Oedipus did it, and was no longer fit to be a member of the community. Is it possible that even Li is secretly horrified by his sentence? Don’t even the insane wish to live in a civilized world?

    To put it in your terms, Elliot, it’s difficult to see how you could “un-dent” a horrific beheading on a Greyhound bus, even if the attacker is himself not culpable. One might wish that Li would do an Antonio Serenelli and banish himself to a monastery, but we no longer live in those times.

    Vincent Li was granted unsupervised outings in February of 2014.

  35. Tony Jokin says:

    Given that any grave sin permits retributive justice, isn’t the sole principle of mercy based on not following through with that exacting such justice? If as you say, failing to apply DP is disdain for the moral order, then it would seem that there is no place for mercy in the moral order? If what you say is true, shouldn’t the State put to death everyone who has grievously sinned (for they deserve death)?

    It also seems to me that in what you have described, as soon as a need occurs for retributive justice, that need itself is the sufficient and necessary reason for exacting it. In this framework, I am not sure there can ever be a notion of mercy since exacting just retribution is necessary.

    I am also not sure how to the social order is disrupted by not executing a criminal. If a criminal can be kept from no longer committing the same crime, and society agrees and understands that what he committed was a crime that should never be imitated, then how exactly does killing the criminal do anything more to stabilize the social order?

  36. Tony Jokin says:


    Sorry, I think my questions in the comment above are probably not very clear.

    What I am asking are the following:-

    1) If it is true that a State that does not carry out the execution of grievous sinners inculcates disdain for the moral order, does it not suggest that exacting just retribution is actually required or necessary?

    2) How is there always a danger of inculcating a disdain for the moral order by not executing a grievous sinner? Would Jesus be wrong in sparing the adulteress for an example?

    3) If a criminal can be kept from no longer committing the same crime, and society agrees and understands that what he committed was a crime that should never be imitated, then how exactly does killing the criminal do anything more to stabilize the social order?

    4) On what grounds does one show mercy in this framework?

  37. Tony:

    I think you may be missing a crucial logical distinction here. Or perhaps I’m just failing to articulate it. Either way, let me try this again.

    By “outlawing” the DP, modern states are asserting that there is in principle no crime whatsoever which merits the death of the wrongdoer. (It’s basically the secularized form of the Protestant denial of “mortal” sins.) This denial is profoundly wrong, precisely because murder is a crime that especially merits the condign loss of one’s own life (cf. Genesis 9:6). However–and here is where the logical distinction enters–not enforcing the death penalty in every single case does not undermine the God-given right of the state to take a life in the way that outlawing capital punishment in every case does so.

    In the first case, which characterizes our modern world (and the lava-lamp-like mind of our current Pope), the renunciation of the RIGHT to take life as a form of justice negates an integral part of the common good and rightful authority. In the latter case, by contrast, where considerations of extenuating circumstances, profound acts of reparation by the criminal even prior to being sentenced, pardons by sheer fiat, and so on, do not undermine the coercive rights of the state, but actually REINFORCE that authority. It is a case of the exceptions quite literally proving the rule: by granting stays of execution, without renouncing its right and duty to restore moral balance AS A NORM, the state shows even more clearly that it is the sole agent who may decide such matters.

    The current rejection of capital punishment AS A (new) NORM is not about mercy; it is about decapitating the moral mountain by teaching that no crime merits death. Paradoxically, therefore, the denial that some crimes justly forfeit one’s own life hollows out the moral gravity of taking a human life. It also implies that this mortal life is our highest good, and therefore ending someone’s life is the greatest harm you can inflict on him.

    Consider the fact that a notorious tax evader or a serial criminal of some other non-lethal kind could be sentenced to life in prison, or something close to the end of his life–a form of punishment supposedly intended to show just how “bad” murder is. If such punishments do not differ from the punishment assigned to murderers, what does that say about our supposedly higher moral consciousness and respect for human life? (“Murder: Guys, Guys, It’s Not That Big A Deal Anymore”) The rejection of capital punishment IN PRINCIPLE is all a part of the widespread utilitarian leveling of morality, driven by the atheistic denial that destroying an innocent human life is destroying the image of God in Creation.

    I’m going to reproduce some comments I made at the 1P5 article Steve wrote.

    “Another kind of slaying is permitted, which belongs to those magistrates to whom is given the power of [condemning] to death, by the legal and judicial use of which they punish guilty and protect innocent men (Rom. xiii. 4), in which function, provided they act justly, they are not only not guilty of murder, but eminently obey this law [i.e. the Fifth Commandment] which prohibits murder; for as the end of this law is to consult for the life and safety of men, to the same end also tend the punishments inflicted by magistrates, who are the legitimate avengers of crimes, giving security to life by punishing and thus repressing audacity and outrage. Wherefore David says: ‘In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord’ (Ps. c. 8).”

    I grant that the former translation is certainly quite free, but both versions agree on the key point: namely, that “keeping society safe” is but one half of the basis of capital punishment; punishing the guilty according to their deeds (retribution) is the other half. For retribution (repayment/restitution) is the BASIS of justice; deterrence and reform are secondary dimensions of retribution. The social/common good rests on the larger moral order; penalties serve to reverse and repair imbalances in that moral order, one of which sometimes includes the death penalty. As Fr. Hardon writes:

    “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 [sic] 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.”

    Insofar as retribution is integral to justice per se, and precisely because the death penalty is a legitimate form of retribution (namely, in order to redress the taking of human life or other heinous crimes), the death penalty cannot possibly be rejected as an “injustice”, much less “murder” simpliciter.

    For fun, though, let me revise the passage from the Roman Catechism in order to make it accord with what Pope Francis has asserted:

    “[The death penalty] is [never] permitted. [It does not belong] to those magistrates to whom is given the power of [sparing all wrongdoers from] death, by the legal and judicial use of which they punish guilty and protect innocent men (Rom. xiii. 4), in which function, [even if] they act justly, they are … guilty of murder, [and] eminently [dis]obey [the Fifth Commandment] which prohibits murder; for as the end of this law is [solely] to consult for the life and safety of men, to the same end also tend the [non-lethal and moderate] punishments inflicted by magistrates, who are the [quasi-]legitimate avengers of crimes, giving security to life by punishing and thus repressing audacity and outrage. Wherefore David says: ‘In the morning I put to [work] all the wicked of the land, that I might [reform] all the workers of iniquity [in] the city of the Lord’ (Ps. c. 8).”

    Meanwhile, back in the Roman Catechism (QQ. XIV-XV):

    [S]o greatly does God detest homicide … that he declares that, for the life of man, he will exact vengeance [even] from the beast of the field (Gen. ix. 5) [a warning which holds a fortiori for a rational creature like another human being]…. For murderers are the worst enemies of the human race, and, consequently, of nature, destroying to the utmost of their power, the universal work of God, by taking away man, for whose sake God declares that he made all created things (Gen. i. 26, sqq.). … [H]e, therefore, who removes [God’s] image [by murdering a human being], offers signal injury to God, and seems, as it were, to lay violent hands on him.”

    As Fr. Fagothey wrote in 1959–back when the Church didn’t know no better, that is–, “[W]e must not so emphasize mercy as to destroy justice. … [R]evenge and and retributive punishment are not the same. … Retribution is not merely adding one evil to another, unless one were to hold that justice itself is not a good” (Right and Reason, p. 421).

  38. Tony:

    You asked why the moral order does not call for killing the wrongdoer IN EVERY CASE, so I thought you’d find this note by Fr. Rickaby in his condensed redaction of the SCG interesting:

    Writing later, St Thomas saw the need of qualifying this argument, which, taken absolutely, would make short shrift of lunatics and troublesome invalids generally, and would consecrate the principle of lynch-law. He puts in therefore these two qualifications:

    (1) “Man by sinning withdraws from the order of reason, and thereby falls from human dignity, so far as that consists in man being naturally free and existent for his own sake; and falls in a manner into the state of servitude proper to beasts. . . . And therefore, though to kill a man, while he abides in his native dignity, be a thing of itself evil, yet to kill a man who is a sinner may be good, as to kill a beast.”

    (2) “A beast is naturally distinguishable from a man: hence on this point there is no need of judgement. . . . But a sinner is not naturally distinguishable from just men; and therefore he needs a public judgement to make him out, and determine whether he ought to be slain for the benefit of the common weal.”

    The student should read [as you have!] the whole of Sum. Theol. 2a-2ae, q. 64, art. 2 and 3 (Aquinas Ethicus, II, pp. 40-42), whence these extracts are taken.

    I’m also going to reproduce another exchange I had at that 1P5 article.

    In his own words, Pope Francis has declared: “[T]he death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime of the condemned. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person that contradicts God’s plan for man and society.”

    This is utterly at odds with the Church’s teaching. That’s the crux of the issue. And that’s why we can be glad that popes are entitled to having faulty private opinions like everyone else.

    Paul Connors:
    Actually, to add back in the word you left out, what he said was “Today the death penalty is inadmissible.” He’s not making an absolute argument that applies to all times and circumstances.

    Honestly, that only makes him look worse.

    By your logic he also said that “Today the death penalty … contradicts God’s plan for man and society.” By calling it “inadmissible” he is asserting that it is not even POSSIBLE for the modern state to resort to capital punishment–it lacks any POSSIBLE right to do so. In contrast the Church has always taught that the state’s God-given right to punish wrongdoers up to the measure of killing them is INTEGRAL to God’s plan for man and society. He is literally saying that God’s will for the ordering of human society has changed because of modern developments.

    Pope Pius XII rebuffed this Modernist posturing quite clearly in an address to Catholic jurists:

    “The Church’s teaching on the coercive power of legitimate human authority is based on the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine. It is wrong, therefore, to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances. On the contrary, they have a general and abiding validity.” (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp.81-82)

    [LINK: http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS-47-1955-ocr.pdf%5D

    Vatican I is quite clear about this kind of chronological snobbery:

    “[The] doctrine of rationalism, or naturalism, … opposes itself in every way to the Christian religion as a supernatural institution, and works with the utmost zeal in order that, after Christ, our sole Lord and Savior, has been excluded from the minds of men, and from the life and moral acts of nations, the reign of what they call pure reason or nature may be established. And after forsaking and rejecting the Christian religion, and denying the true God and His Christ, the minds of many have sunk into the abyss of Pantheism, Materialism, and Atheism, until, denying rational nature itself, and every sound rule of right, they labor to destroy the deepest foundations of human society.

    “Unhappily, it has yet further come to pass that, while this impiety prevailed on every side, many even of the children of the Catholic Church have strayed from the path of true piety, and by the gradual diminution of the truths they held, the Catholic understanding became weakened in them. For, led away by various and strange doctrines, utterly confusing nature and grace [or Justice and Mercy, as it were], human science and Divine faith, they are found to deprave the true sense of the doctrines which our Holy Mother Church holds and teaches, and to endanger the integrity and the soundness of the faith. …

    If anyone shall assert it to be possible that sometimes, according to the progress of science [i.e. socially conditioned human knowledge], a sense is to be given to doctrines propounded by the Church different from that which the Church has understood and understands; let him be anathema.”

    Pope Francis is simply wrong in his personal opinion on this matter, and you should stop making specious excuses on his behalf. As Melchior Cano so wisely put it:

    “Those who blindly and indiscriminately defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff are the very ones who do most to undermine the authority of the Holy See—they destroy instead of strengthening its foundations. Peter has no need of our lies or flattery.”

    [Non eget Petrus mendacio nostro, nostra adulatione non eget. Qui summi pontificis omne de re quacunque iudicium temerè ac sine delectu defendunt: hos sedis Apostolicae auctoritatem labefactare, non fovere: evertere non firmare. — chapter 5 of De Locis Theologici]

  39. Tony Jokin says:


    Thank you so much for taking the time to write a detailed reply. It is very helpful. It will take a bit of time for things to settle down in my head and form the full connected picture. I will also have reread it a few times to grab all the information.

    At the moment though, I honestly cannot seem to see how executing a criminal is necessary for redressing the moral order. Maybe it is because I tend to consider the damage done by grievous sins as somewhat irreversible. So if a life was taken away, nothing can restore that life back and the things that person would have said and done are gone forever. So the injustice due to killing the person will continue to be present forever. From that mindset, executing the criminal looks somewhat equivalent, in terms of any restoration it might do, as removing him from society for the rest of his life.

    Maybe that is why I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of DP operating solely based on the demands of retributive justice when there is no need for it in the medicinal sense.

    But I will do some more reading of what you have written and perhaps it will be clearer.

    Thanks again! I really appreciate you taking the time to write those replies 🙂

  40. Tony:

    I’m glad my replies are edifying.

    If I had to boil it down to a sentence:

    While other forms of punishment may achieve security and reform, the fact of the matter is, sometimes being killed is simply what grave crimes DESERVE, as a matter of JUSTICE, and the Church has ALWAYS supported the State’s God-given right to dispense such justice as an act of social VIRTUE.

    (IOW, eye for an eye is not wrong–it is just ONE perennially legitimate way the State may fulfill its role.)

  41. Tony:

    Here’s another point. Notice how in ST II-II, 65, 3 St Thomas justifies imprisonment:

    “it is unlawful to imprison or in any way detain a man, unless it be done according to the order of justice, either in punishment, or as a measure of precaution against some evil.”

    That’s what the revisionists keep missing. The basis of punishment is just retribution; prevention and reform also play roles, but a legitimate use of authority is punishment per se.

  42. BTW, Tony, you MUST look into ST II-II, Q. 61, A. 4. That is how Aquinas threads the Scylla of retribution and the Charybdis of mercy.

  43. Tony Jokin says:

    Hi Codg,

    So I have been thinking and studying what you wrote. I also had a chance to look at Q61 in the ST that you recommended. It is a bit hard for me to understand due to some of the terminology and it will take me a bit more rereading of it to fully understand it.

    In the meantime, I did have few questions.

    Perhaps there is an error in my thinking in regards to another issue. I was under the impression that the damage done by any mortal sin to the moral order, merits death, both temporal and spiritual. Is this thinking incorrect?

    The reason I was thinking about the above is that If every mortal sin does deserve death, should we desire a State that enforces DP for all mortal sins? If this is true, does this not mean that anyone who has ever required the sacrament of confession (had sinned mortally), should ideally be put to death by the State to satisfy justice?

    If we should not desire such a State and we should oppose it if it were to ever come about, what makes it different in the case of the particular sin of murder? Why do we say that a murderer deserves death and a State should carry out the sentence but not for all other mortal sins?

  44. c matt says:

    a just application of capital punishment by the proper authorities is ordained by God.

    As a matter of principle, I have absolutely no problem with this teaching. My concerns in this age are with the ability of our judicial system to apply capital punishment justly. It’s more of a practical concern given my less than enthusiastic view of the quality of our government in general.

  45. You suppose it was possible in past ages to do so more justly, c Matt? If anything, I think the odds of just sentencing have increased, and yet the Church was not wrong in principle even back in those crude old days.

  46. c matt says:

    In past ages, I think there was a better Catholic sense among the populace and those who governed. Today, not so much. Leaders today have no qualms about abusing power, not even a residual “God will have His ultimate vengeance upon me” as they are mostly practical, if not professed atheists. Abortion is already an enshrined right. How far behind is CP for political purposes? Particularly for those who do not follow goodthink?

  47. c matt says:

    I suppose if you take the present only, then it is likely that just sentencing is more prevalent. But I do not like the trajectory of things. I would not be sad to see CP removed at this juncture, not because it is wrong in principle, or that it is particularly bad in practice compared to other eras, but because now is probably an opportune moment to take it out of the hands of the government and at least make it more difficult to re-institute for more nefarious purposes I sense coming down the pike.

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