Friday, September 23, 2016

A further reply to Mark Shea


At Catholic World Report, Mark Brumley comments on my exchange with Mark Shea concerning Catholicism and capital punishment.  Brumley hopes that “charity and clarity” will prevail in the contemporary debate on this subject.  I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, you’ll find only a little charity, and no clarity, in Shea’s latest contribution to the discussion.  Shea labels his post a “reply” to what I recently wrote about him but in fact he completely ignores the points I made and instead persists in attacking straw men, begging the question, and raising issues that are completely irrelevant to the dispute between us.

Before addressing these problems, though, it is only fair to acknowledge Shea’s very kind remarks about me and my work.  He writes:

Dr. Feser has now written a reply in which he gives his perception that I think him some kind of monster for arguing for the death penalty.  I think nothing of the kind.  He is a brother in Christ. He has done very good work arguing for theism against atheism.  He has written in the past against the excuses for the nuclear slaughter of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and I have written him to thank him for doing so).  And of course, he has taught Thomas to a world in desperate need of Thomas.  Bravo and may his tribe increase.

End quote.  I am happy to return the compliment and acknowledge that I have long admired and recommended Shea’s work in Catholic apologetics, such as his book By What Authority?, which is a fine exposition and defense of the Catholic position on the authority of tradition.

Regrettably, the standard of charity and clarity he exhibits in that book is not to be found in his treatment of the subject of capital punishment.  Let’s consider the problems with his latest remarks:

1. Shea misrepresents Catholic teaching

Noting that Joe Bessette and I argued in a recent Crisis article that the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is irreversible Catholic teaching, Shea emphasizes that recent popes and bishops have nevertheless urged that in practice it ought to be abandoned.  Characterizing Catholic pro-capital punishment views like the one Joe and I defend, Shea says:

“Yes,” goes the argument. “But that is not dogmatic teaching.”

To which the right and proper reply is, “So what?” It is not the case that the Church functions by the rule, “If it’s not dogma, feel free to blow it off” particularly when we are talking about a matter of life and death.

End quote.  Shea seems to think that my position is that as long as some teaching is not put forward as infallible dogma, then a Catholic is free to reject it.  However, not only is that not my view, I have several times explicitly criticized the tendency of some Catholics to suppose that they are obliged to accept only infallible teachings.

The trouble is that Shea ignores the fact that, in addition to (i) infallible and binding magisterial statements and (ii) non-infallible but still binding statements, there are also (iii) non-infallible and non-binding statements.  (In fact, as I have explained elsewhere, Catholic theology recognizes five categories of magisterial statement.)  And the currently dominant view among Catholic churchmen that capital punishment ought to be abolished is among these non-binding statements.

How do we know this?  There are several considerations that show this to be the case, which Joe Bessette and I discuss at length in our forthcoming book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty.  But one of them is that the Church herself has explicitly told us so.  Both the Crisis article and my first post responding to Shea quoted the 2004 statement by Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the CDF and the Church’s chief doctrinal officer, to the effect that “not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia,” and in particular that “there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about … applying the death penalty,” so that even a good Catholic could be “at odds with the Holy Father” on that particular subject.

Virtually identical language is used in the 2004 USCCB document “Theological Reflections on Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion,” written by Archbishop William Levada, later to become Ratzinger’s successor at CDF.  Levada wrote:

Catholic social teaching covers a broad range of important issues.  But among these the teaching on abortion holds a unique place.  Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.  For example, if a Catholic were to disagree with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion... While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment.  There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty, but not with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

End quote.  So, we have recent statements from both the CDF and the USCCB explicitly repudiating the notion that a good Catholic is obliged to oppose capital punishment, and explicitly repudiating the claim that capital punishment is comparable to abortion.  Yet Shea claims that a good Catholic and a consistent opponent of abortion must oppose capital punishment.  Who should Catholics listen to, Shea, or the CDF and USCCB?

Bizarrely, though the Ratzinger passage has been quoted in both of the articles Shea has responded to, he has completely ignored it, offering no explanation at all of how his position is consistent with it.  Why?  Shea solemnly cites other magisterial documents, presenting himself as humbly willing to submit to what they teach.  So how can he consistently ignore these particular documents?

In his comments on my debate with Shea, Mark Brumley quotes the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, which at section 43 states:

[I]t happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter.  Even against the intentions of their proponents, however, solutions proposed on one side or another may be easily confused by many people with the Gospel message.  Hence it is necessary for people to remember that no one is allowed in the aforementioned situations to appropriate the Church's authority for his opinion.

Unfortunately it seems to me that what Shea has done on the issue of capital punishment is precisely to try to “appropriate the Church's authority for his opinion” that any faithful Catholic must oppose capital punishment – an opinion which, again, the CDF and USCCB documents explicitly reject.

2. Shea ignores the excesses of some Catholic abolitionists

In our Crisis article, Joe Bessette and I argued that the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is irreversible teaching.  In his latest remarks, Shea says of the article: “Given that the Church has, effectively, reversed its teaching [on capital punishment] – calling for its abolition where it once permitted it – the article was misleading at best.”  This might seem to imply that Shea thinks the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is not irreversible teaching.  However, that is clearly not what Shea means.  For one thing, in his initial reply to the Crisis article he acknowledged the truth of its central thesis.  For another, in his latest post he repeats the point, writing: “Yes, it is true that the Church cannot say that the death penalty is intrinsically immoral as, say, abortion is.”

Now, demonstrating that very thesis is the only thing the Crisis article was concerned with.  So how exactly was the article “misleading at best”?  We did not deny in the article that recent popes have nevertheless been opposed to capital punishment in practice.  Indeed, we explicitly acknowledged that, and quoted some recent papal statements to that effect. 

What is truly misleading is the extreme rhetoric of Shea and too many other Catholic opponents, which lumps capital punishment in with abortion, euthanasia, and the like as equally representative of a “culture of death.”  No faithful Catholic can possibly take such a view, since scripture, tradition, and two millennia of papal teaching insist that the guilty do not have the same rights as the innocent, and that capital punishment, unlike abortion and euthanasia, therefore can be just.  That is why Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Levada insisted in their statements that capital punishment must not be lumped in with these intrinsic evils.

To his credit, and as I have already noted, Shea is sometimes careful to acknowledge that capital punishment can be legitimate in some cases and therefore cannot not be lumped in with abortion, etc.  Unfortunately, many of his fellow abolitionists are not so careful.  As I noted in my previous response to Shea, there are many Catholics who hold that capital punishment is immoral always and in principle, and that the Church can and should reverse past teaching on this point.  This includes not only theologically liberal Catholic opponents of capital punishment, but also “new natural law” theorists like Germain Grisez, John Finnis, Robert P. George, Christian Brugger, and Chris Tollefsen, who have a reputation for theological conservatism.  (Joe and I provide a thorough refutation of their arguments in the forthcoming book.)  Extreme statements are also often made by Catholic bishops, and as we noted in the Crisis article, even Pope Francis has made statements that seem to imply that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral – something which, as Shea himself admits, “the Church cannot say.”

Now, the eminent Catholic theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles – though he was himself personally opposed to resorting to capital punishment in practice – argued, in comments that Joe and I quoted in our Crisis article, that an outright reversal of traditional teaching on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment would undermine the credibility of the magisterium in general.  Accordingly, there are grave dangers in the extreme rhetoric some Catholic abolitionists resort to.  It gives the false impression that the Church’s teaching conflicts with scripture, tradition, and previous papal teaching.  This gives aid and comfort to Protestant critics of Catholicism, and also to extreme Catholic traditionalists who claim that the post-Vatican II Church has fallen into heresy.  It also gives aid and comfort to those who think that the Church can and should change her teaching on abortion, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, and other doctrines unpopular in contemporary secular society. 

So, the problem Joe and I were addressing in the Crisis article is a very real one.  And as I said in my previous response to Shea, upholding the credibility of the magisterium was our primary motivation in writing our forthcoming book.

Here too Shea completely ignores what I wrote.  But if he is serious about wanting to uphold Catholic teaching on capital punishment, then he should not ignore it, because the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment is itself part of that teaching, and a part of it that is currently under attack.  Shea thinks that some advocates of capital punishment go too far in their defense of it, to the point of bloodthirstiness.  Fair enough; no doubt some of them do (though not, I think, nearly as many as Shea supposes).  But it is also possible to go too far in one’s opposition to capital punishment, and those who denounce it as intrinsically immoral do so.  Shea ought therefore to be willing to criticize those among his fellow abolitionists who do this.  They damage the credibility of the Church, and they thereby damage the credibility of the Catholic abolitionist position itself.

3. Shea repeatedly commits the fallacy of diversion

A fallacy of diversion is committed when someone changes the subject by addressing some question that superficially appears to be the one that is at issue, but in fact is not.  It has two main forms.  The red herring version of the fallacy involves the attempt to defend some claim by arguing for some other, seemingly related but in fact distinct claim.  The straw man version of the fallacy involves the attempt to refute some opponent’s claim by attacking some other, seemingly related but in fact distinct claim.  Shea commits both versions of the fallacy, and in a pretty crude manner.

The bulk of Shea’s post is devoted to a long rant about the state of American conservatism, foreign despotisms, recent police shootings of unarmed black men, the for-profit prison system, Donald Trump Jr.’s recent remarks about terrorism, and so on.  What does any of this have to do with what Joe and I wrote in our Crisis article, or what I wrote in my initial response to Shea?  The answer, of course, is “nothing whatsoever.” 

One could consistently favor capital punishment under some circumstances even if one were to agree with Shea about the state of American conservatism, even if one opposes the specific manner in which capital punishment is implemented in the despotisms Shea has in mind, even if one agrees with Shea about the police shootings, even if one agrees with Shea’s objections to the for-profit prison system and Trump Jr.’s remarks about terrorism, etc.  Shea’s remarks thus amount to a long string of red herrings. 

Shea also attacks a straw man, and unfortunately, it is the very same straw man he attacked in his previous post and to which I called attention in my previous reply to him.  He writes:

[T]he whole point of arguments for the death penalty is that some lives don’t matter at all…

At this point, the custom is typically to argue that such lives do matter and the way of honoring them is to threaten them with death since hanging concentrates the mind of the sinner and direct him to attend to eternal things.  But, of course, that’s just as true for any sinner.  Yet nobody calls for death for car thieves.  No.  The real reason for the death penalty is that there are just classes of people we want to kill.  People whose lives don’t matter a bit…  

The death penalty… appeals to our darkest side…

It is contrary to the spirit of the Church to search for excuses for it.  

End quote.  So, once again Shea trots out this cartoon fantasy villain upon which he seems positively fixated -- the capital punishment advocate as someone who is simply desperate to kill someone and frantically looks around for a way to justify doing so.  Unsurprisingly, Shea never tells us just who it is, specifically, who fits this description.  Certainly Joe Bessette and I do not.

The reason Joe and I favor preserving capital punishment for the very worst offenses is that we believe that a dispassionate evaluation of the relevant philosophical and theological arguments and the empirical evidence shows that this is the best way to realize the four main purposes of punishment recognized by the Church, viz. retributive justice, deterrence, the reform of the offender, and the protection of society.

First, according to Catholic teaching, all just punishment rests on the principle that an offender deserves a punishment that is proportional to the crime.  When capital punishment is absolutely kept off the table even in the case of the most heinous offenses, this fundamental principle is undermined.  Society loses sight, first of the idea of proportionality, then of the idea of desert, and finally of the idea of punishment itself.  And when the idea of punishment goes, the very idea of justice goes with it.  The idea of securing justice is replaced by a therapeutic or technocratic model that treats human beings as cases to be managed and socially engineered, rather than as morally responsible persons.  (The understanding of punishment that we endorse was not only traditionally defended by Catholic natural law theorists and moral theologians, but was also given a very detailed and eloquent expression in some neglected discourses by Pope Pius XII, which we discuss extensively in the book.)

Secondly, we argue that there is very good reason to believe that capital punishment does indeed have a significant deterrent effect, and thus saves many innocent lives.  Third, we also argue that capital punishment is indeed necessary for the protection of society.  And fourth, we argue that capital punishment promotes the reform of the offender by prompting repentance.  Again, all of these claims are defended at length in the forthcoming book. 

Now, Shea mocks the suggestion that capital punishment promotes repentance, writing that “nobody calls for death for car thieves,” so that “the real reason for the death penalty is that there are just classes of people we want to kill.”  But as should be obvious to any fair-minded person, the reason “nobody calls for death for car thieves” is that this would not be a proportional punishment, whereas “the real reason” people do call for death for murderers is that that would be a proportional punishment. 

Furthermore, no one claims that a concern for motivating repentance should ever be the only consideration where any punishment is concerned, not just capital punishment.  For example, it would be wrong to inflict ten years of jail time on someone who merely stole a candy bar, even if this would motivate his repentance, because the punishment is simply out of proportion to the offense.  But it obviously doesn’t follow that we should therefore completely ignore the question of what might motivate repentance when deciding how to punish a candy bar thief.  Rather, what follows is that we should first make sure a punishment for that offense is proportionate before considering whether the punishment might also motivate repentance.  Similarly, the defender of capital punishment argues that since we already know on independent grounds that a penalty of death is deserved for some crimes (such as murder, but not for car theft), we have reason in those cases to consider also the question whether it might motivate repentance. 

Now, Shea would no doubt disagree with our claim that the death penalty best realizes these four traditional aims of punishment.  Fine; that is his right as a Catholic.  I invite him to read our book when it comes out and I welcome any reasoned objections he might raise against our arguments.  The point, though, is that it is our reasoned conviction that it really does best realize them – rather than there “just [being] classes of people we want to kill” so that we are “search[ing] for excuses” for doing so – that motivates our position.  As I noted in my previous post – in yet another point that Shea simply ignores – these are also the sorts of considerations that motivated defenders of capital punishment like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Peter Canisius, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Robert Bellarmine, Pope St. Pius V, Pope Pius IX, Pope Pius XII and many other saints, popes, and eminent moral theologians of the past.  If Shea were consistent, then he would have to hold that these thinkers were also motivated by a mere desire to find excuses to kill people.   If he does not hold that – and no faithful Catholic possibly could hold that – then he has to admit that contemporary Catholics who defend capital punishment might do so for the same, honorable (even if in Shea’s view mistaken) reasons these Catholics of the past did.

In response to a comment made by one of his readers, Shea appears to suggest that objections to his characterization of his opponents has to do with concern for “the tender feelings of people who want to put other people to death without mercy.”  But this is another fallacy of diversion.  The problem has nothing to do with “tender feelings.”  The problem has to do with calumny – with gravely unjust and uncharitable misrepresentations of the views and motivations of his opponents.

4. Shea repeatedly begs the question

Another fallacy Shea repeatedly commits is that of begging the question, or assuming, without argument, precisely the claim that is at issue with one’s opponent.  For example, he writes:

I cannot, for the life of me understand taking away one drop of time or energy from the fight against abortion to author books and articles bent on fighting the common sense of the Church when she calls for an end to the death penalty.  It is an immense squandering of time, money, and manpower…

End quote.  One problem with this, of course, is that it is quite silly to pretend that given time constraints, one simply has to choose between defending capital punishment and fighting abortion.  Some of us are quite capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.  

The deeper problem, though, is that defending capital punishment would be “an immense squandering of time, money, and manpower” only IF there were no significant good to be gained by upholding capital punishment or no significant harm that might follow upon abolishing it.  And of course, that is exactly what Joe and I and other defenders of capital punishment deny.  Again, we maintain that the extreme Catholic abolitionist position has done harm to the credibility of the Church’s magisterium and that abolishing capital punishment would seriously impede the realization of the main purposes of punishment.  Hence defending capital punishment is by no means “an immense squandering of time, money, and manpower.” 

Naturally, Shea would disagree with that claim, but the point is that his remarks about how best to use time and other resources simply assume, without argument, precisely what his opponent denies, viz. that there are no good reasons to devote resources to defending capital punishment.

Shea also repeats his assertion that being “more prolife, not less” requires opposition to capital punishment – completely ignoring, rather than answering, the objections I raised in my previous post to his appeal to the “pro-life” slogan.

Finally, as in his original reply to Joe and me, so too in his latest post, Shea also asserts that “studies indicate about 4% of those on death row are… innocent” and that “4 in 100… of them are killed despite their complete innocence.”  Now, I explicitly addressed this very claim in my previous post, quoting my co-author Joe Bessette’s explanation of how Shea had misrepresented the study he cited as the basis of his 4% claim.  Yet bafflingly, Shea once again completely ignores what I wrote and simply re-asserts the original claim, as if Joe hadn’t already refuted it!

I have noted how certain New Atheists exhibit a “Walter Mitty”-like tendency relentlessly to attack fantasy adversaries rather than engaging with what their real-world opponents actually say.  Even the most patient and thorough explanations of how their criticisms are aimed at straw men are completely ignored, and never distract them from endlessly repeating favorite talking points long after they have been refuted.  I am sorry to say that Shea seems to have a similar tendency, even if his targets are of course different from those of the New Atheists. 

It needn’t be this way.  Again, Shea has produced some excellent work.  I am sure that a treatment by him of the anti-capital punishment position that was executed with the kind of patience, care, and fair-mindedness that his best apologetics work exhibits would be well worth engaging with.

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Shea's published works, so I can only hope that they are better than his blog posts.

One of Shea's problems is that he repeats left-wing talking points without doing minimal investigation.
_________

(quoting Shea)

In addition to the fact that the state frequently gets away with cold-blooded murder of citizens in the “arrest” phase of the justice system (as Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice could attest, if they were not dead), there is also the fact that, not just police, but labs are deeply corrupt as well.
_________

Neither of these cases were "cold-blooded murder." While they might not have been police work at its finest, the fact is that in the Tamir Rice case the grand jury declined to indict and in the Freddie Gray case only one the officers was charged with murder. And the cases against the officers in the Gray case resulted in acquittal or mistrial, and in the end the prosecutor dropped charges against all of them.

The Freddy Gray case actually could have been used to by Shea to show the dangers of a lynch-mob mentality when it comes to the administration of justice, but that would have required some investigation by Shea.

-Neil Parille

Greg said...

I cannot, for the life of me understand taking away one drop of time or energy from the fight against abortion to author books and articles bent on fighting the common sense of the Church when she calls for an end to the death penalty. It is an immense squandering of time, money, and manpower…

There are more problems with this quote than suggested in the OP.

The philosophical argument against abortion is pretty well-developed and well-known. It has received multiple book-length defenses by Kaczor, Beckwith, and George and Tollefsen; briefer treatments are all over the place, such as in Oderberg and in Haldane and Lee. The authoring of another philosophical book on abortion is not what will lead to its (partial or complete) abolition, if anything does.

The pro-capital punishment position is articulated much more rarely. If it is correct, it ought to be articulated, even if abortion is in the scheme of things a much bigger deal. If it is incorrect, then it still should be articulated, as in that case the anti-capital punishment position can be sharpened. (The view that capital punishment is permissible in principle but ruled out in every case is, I think, also pretty rarely articulated in a philosophically sophisticated way. Whatever one thinks of the correctness of John Paul II's statements in Evangelium Vitae and of Pope Francis's off-hand remarks, they certainly raise a lot of questions about the position's defensibility. In scholastic fashion, then, the best possible objections should be brought against it.)

And if capital punishment is permissible in principle--even if it happens to be ruled out in every case--then that is because what makes it wrong is distinct from what makes abortion wrong. Most Catholics would have trouble articulating the distinction (and they are not helped by the prevalence of labels like "consistent ethic of life" and "seamless garment"), to which extent they must not understand the rationale either of opposition to abortion or of the permissibility-in-principle of capital punishment.

Anonymous said...

It's a silly argument. We all have our time and interests and, in the grand scheme of things, there is always something more important to do. Maybe Ed should stop writing books and articles on Thomistic theology and devote his life to preventing nuclear war. Maybe Shea should spend less time attacking the "right wing culture of death" for its support for support for executions (all of 28 last) year and spend more time fighting abortion.

Incidentally, Shea is rather question begging here. Why is the Church's opposition to death penalty based on "common sense"? I don't even know what the rationale is. It's not common sense to me that it isn't necessary today, while it might have been necessary 100 years ago.

And, as Dr. Feser noted, the Church's apparent reversal on the DP has been used by critics of the Church to argue against church infallibility, e.g., by the Triablogue crowd.

-NP

daurio said...

I can't wait to read Feser's new book.

I have never understood how individuals like Robert George and Christian Brugger (both of whom I respect) can claim that their view on capital punishment is orthodox. Their argument necessarily entails the "that wasn't a dogmatic pronouncement" line of reasoning. It reminds me of the pro-contraception theologians. So many Church Fathers, Doctors, and popes have upheld the permissibility of capital punishment that I sincerely cannot see how any faithful and informed Catholic can disagree. Do they even believe in the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church?

Anonymous said...

It must be peculiar to the U.S. that these issues go to and fro. I agree that Prof. Feser has put forward the better arguement in principle, and that Shea seems to be arguing around the point. In Canada and the U.K. Where I divide my time neither issue (abortion or the death penalty) is even remotely close to being put back on the agenda. It would be considered close to political suicide to attempt to legislate abortion which in Canada is dealt with in case law, despite the fact that those who would place some restrictions on it are likely in a majority. The death penalty is viewed at best as useless, at worst as monstrous. Myself I am against both but Shea does us no favours here.

Greg said...

@ daurio

I have never understood how individuals like Robert George and Christian Brugger (both of whom I respect) can claim that their view on capital punishment is orthodox. Their argument necessarily entails the "that wasn't a dogmatic pronouncement" line of reasoning.

Well, the point of Brugger's book is to argue that it wasn't a dogmatic pronouncement. I do not think they deny that someone looking just at tradition would find it to weigh heavily in favor of capital punishment's permissibility in principle, and they don't mean to argue against capital punishment in principle by pointing out that it wasn't a dogmatic pronouncement. They want to say that the tradition on capital punishment is, though weighty, defeasible; thus, because, they think, they have strong philosophical arguments against capital punishment in principle, they can propose its being ruled out in principle.

They also want to read Evangelium Vitae as something like a shift in principle. They acknowledge that, if the death penalty were permissible in principle, it would be odd that the only thing that could justify it is necessity. For that reason, they would tend to acknowledge the cases in which "it" is permissible as cases of what is really society's self-defense. Consistent with their approach elsewhere, they'd say that in legitimate "capital punishment," "when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society," death must be unintended.

And while it is true that they are for the most part theologically conservative, they are (I think) sometimes willing to say that the Church changes non-dogmatic teachings. In particular that is an approach I think that they take toward Vatican II on religious liberty.

jmhenry said...

Mark Shea: Yes, it is true that the Church cannot say that the death penalty is intrinsically immoral as, say, abortion is. But it is not the case the Church cannot say that the death penalty is such a bad idea, given the dangers it poses and the Church’s developed understanding of the dignity of the human person, that prudence declares it wisest to simply do away with it. [emphasis mine]

Shea has conceded this point before when discussing capital punishment: that it may be permissible in principle, but is not permissible in practice, given the "dangers" that capital punishment poses in the modern context of our justice system.

Interestingly -- and I noted this on his blog once -- the Church seems to be in the process of making a similar shift in language and argument with respect to war as well. That is to say, war is still acknowledged as something that can be just in principle, but remarks from recent popes have indicated their view that war may no longer be just in practice, given the dangers it poses in the modern context of its unprecedented destructive capability.

For example, back in 2003, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stated in an interview:

[G]iven the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war." [emphasis mine]

And in 1982, John Paul II said something very similar:

Today, the scale and the horror of modern warfare - whether nuclear or not - makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. War should belong to the tragic past, to history; it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future. [emphasis mine]

And in 2000, John Paul II also said:

The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people's dignity and rights. Wars generally do not resolve the problems for which they are fought and therefore, in addition to causing horrendous damage, they prove ultimately futile. War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed. [emphasis mine]

Just as capital punishment is viewed by many in the Church as perhaps just in principle, but no longer permissible in practice (given the dangers it poses in the modern context and the alternatives to it that exist, making the death penalty unnecessary), so too has there been a similar shift (or at least the beginnings of a shift) in how some in the Church speak of war. This shift seems to be saying much the same thing as the critique of capital punishment: that the unprecedented destructiveness of modern warfare has made war no longer just in practice (even if it can be just in principle), and that there are alternatives to war that exist that make war unnecessary.

So not only has the Church "shifted" from its teaching on capital punishment (at least in the sense of emphasizing its dangers and the alternatives to the death penalty), but apparently the Church is also in the process of shifting from its teaching on "just war" by emphasizing its modern dangers and contemplating alternative visions of war and peace.

Greg said...

There is something of a parallel shift on just war, that is right, although that Pax Christi conference is not typical of it.

The permissible-in-principle-but-always-ruled-out-these-days approach is also even more tortured in the just war case. People of good will, obviously, do not have control over all of the world's potential aggressors, and they never have. The point of just war theory is largely to say how one should engage in defensive war. And there is just no problem with defending oneself against modern warfare.

If it seems like "we're past" that point, then it should be said that it seemed that way before the 20th century too.

It is true that wars always result in grave evils, and thus it should always be hoped that they can be consigned to the past. John Paul II is right that they should not be "a means of settling differences between nations," if that means something like "a normal component of the negotiation toolbox." Ordinary "differences" should not be resolved by war. A nation should respond in kind if it is attacked, though.

Anonymous said...

What of the following argument: what makes it wrong to seek the death of another human person is instrinsic to the kind of being a human person is, a creature made in the image and likeness of God and whose dignity depends on that identity. Extrinsic qualities, such as criminal innocence, can be lost. Criminal guilt therefore does not, by definition, abrogate the intrinsic dignity of the human person and thus does not sanction the act of seeking the death of a human person.

Tom Simon said...

The trouble with that argument is that criminal innocence is not an extrinsic quality. Jesus himself drew the distinction with exceeding sharpness:

‘Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.‘ (Matthew 15:16–20)

Anonymous said...

I notice this tactic with Mark. He will make the sweeping statement: Those who ask 'when do we get to kill' or 'those who want to increase human slaughter.' When pushed by a person of note, however, he will always insist that he doesn't mean 'them.' It's not unpopular in Internet discourse. Making sweeping statements about a vaguely defined group and then insisting 'I didn't mean you' when push comes to shove. With lesser known people, Mark feels no such compunction and has more than once falsely accused his readers or those disagreeing with him of such things no matter how often they deny it. I just have to guess that among Catholics, there is a lower standard for basic behavior from its apologists since Shea is continually celebrated and praised. Either that, or calumny isn't a big deal after all.

Greg said...

Aquinas does argue, in response to what is basically the new natural law position, that by sinning a man can lose his dignity:

By sinning man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from the dignity of his manhood, in so far as he is naturally free, and exists for himself, and he falls into the slavish state of the beasts, by being disposed of according as he is useful to others. (ST Secunda Secundae, 64, 2, ad 3)

He qualifies this view against a retort that makes use of it in the next article, about whether a private man can kill a sinner:

A beast is by nature distinct from man, wherefore in the case of a wild beast there is no need for an authority to kill it; whereas, in the case of domestic animals, such authority is required, not for their sake, but on account of the owner's loss. On the other hand a man who has sinned is not by nature distinct from good men; hence a public authority is requisite in order to condemn him to death for the common good. (64, 3, ad 2)

I worry that this approach is, if not incoherent, then ad hoc. A sinner has "fallen into the slavish state of the beasts" in such a way that his life is no longer good in itself but good merely in the sense useful, but he has not literally descended to the slavish state of the beasts in that his nature is still a man's nature and not a beasts nature, and this latter fact is supposed to imply that public authority is still necessary for his execution. I don't see why this implication holds.

(It is also odd to think that punishment is justified because the sinner has fallen to the slavish state of the beasts because it is not just the deprivation of life that must be justified but the deprivation of liberty and property in lesser punishments. The loss of one's rational nature, it seems, would have to be all-or-nothing, whereas the various sins to which different punishments are proportionate are not. Surely the thief has not partially lost his rational nature. Further, it seems that any mortal sin suffices for man to depart from the order of the reason, but it's doubtful that every mortal fall from grace could be said to render his goodness merely useful.)

A more promising approach takes as its point of departure that humans' intrinsic dignity cannot be lost. Elizabeth Anscombe wrote that one of the marks of humans' rational nature is their moving "in the categories of innocence and answerability and desert". Even a sinner, that is, moves in these categories, and it is his rational nature that demands a proportionate punishment. Executing the sufficiently guilty sinner would then be something respectful of his rational nature.

(I still don't have a satisfactory account of what would be wrong with punishing a rapist with rape, though.)

DNW said...

" Anonymous said...

I notice this tactic with Mark. He will make the sweeping statement: Those who ask 'when do we get to kill' or 'those who want to increase human slaughter.' When pushed by a person of note, however, he will always insist that he doesn't mean 'them.' It's not unpopular in Internet discourse. Making sweeping statements about a vaguely defined group and then insisting 'I didn't mean you' when push comes to shove. With lesser known people, Mark feels no such compunction and has more than once falsely accused his readers or those disagreeing with him of such things no matter how often they deny it. I just have to guess that among Catholics, there is a lower standard for basic behavior from its apologists since Shea is continually celebrated and praised. Either that, or calumny isn't a big deal after all.

September 25, 2016 at 1:15 PM"



Several have referred to Shea as an effective apologist. I could not judge.

Others have mentioned that he tends toward invective and intemperance. That seems clear.

Anonymous said...

DNW,

Not to beat a dead horse, but that video also shows another glaring problem with Shea's approach. He spends half of his day attacking others for doing exactly what he does on a regular basis. The problem with his approach is beyond the purpose or scope of this topic, but it does explain the reason for the tone of this debate. At least where he is concerned.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Anonymous,

That is true on abortion, but, in Britain at least, bringing back capital punishment is perennially popular amongst the people at large. It is the politicians who are most opposed to bringing back the death penalty.

Tony said...

By sinning man departs from the order of reason, and consequently falls away from the dignity of his manhood,

Greg, I think you have to read St. Thomas with a little more specificity here. The "departs from the order of reason" refers to the man not insofar as his nature, but his operation. He retains the principle of reason (which is why man can repent and be healed of mortal sin, though it takes grace. If he departed from having a rational nature, his repentance would be impossible.) So, laser in on "order" as distinct from "nature". He departs from the "order" when he acts contrary to the order of nature: when he supplants God with some other good as his end. I think St. Thomas is arguing that this act, departing from the due order in act (but not in nature), is sufficient to render him subject to punishments that would be otherwise not condign to human nature. Any such punishment will be so in some measure, for it is in the nature of punishment that it be levied at the will of the state against the will of the offender.

It is impossible to retain punishment as a tool of the state without something of this sort. Since man is "left in the hand of his own counsel" (Sirach), that is, he is self-guiding, free to choose his path, it is always in a certain sense contrary to man's free nature to impose on him a punishment, for "punishment" includes within it that it be contrary to what one would will freely. In order for _any_ punishment to be licit (and St. Thomas's point deals with punishment in principle) it is necessary to argue that somehow he loses his right to say yea or nay to this imposition by the state - which is a way of "losing his dignity" in its original form.

The result seems to be that we must speak in terms of the "dignity of man" on 2 levels, one from his rational nature in such wise that it cannot be lost as long as he retains human nature, the other arising out of his nature but capable of being lost by disordered operation of the natural faculties (especially, choice). The new natural lawyers are right that we never lose the first. They fail to account for the latter, which MUST exist for punishment to be licit.

Tom Simon said...

Excellently put, Tony!

Anonymous said...

So innocence can be an intrinsic attribute? I don't think that works, since intrinsic attributes, by definition, cannot be lost.

Tony said...

Two different senses of "intrinsic" running here.

In one, "intrinsic" is being used as "from the nature", e.g. man is intrinsically a rational being.

As Tom Simon was implying with the quote from Matthew, "intrinsic" is being used as "from within" as opposed to "from without".

Both are valid ways to use intrinsic. To avoid confusion, then, you have to be more specific. For the former, "essential" or "by nature" might be less ambiguous.

What of the following argument: what makes it wrong to seek the death of another human person is instrinsic to the kind of being a human person is, a creature made in the image and likeness of God and whose dignity depends on that identity. Extrinsic qualities, such as criminal innocence, can be lost. Criminal guilt therefore does not, by definition, abrogate the intrinsic dignity of the human person and thus does not sanction the act of seeking the death of a human person.

Anon, you seem to contradict God's own testimony in Genesis:

Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. Genesis 9:6

The "for" says what follows accounts for what came before: God making man in His image accounts for the death penalty. The likeness of God in which He made man is precisely that reality that determines that the death penalty is a valid punishment, according to this declaration. Whatever it is about man's dignity that implies he is not to be harmed, THAT DOES NOT HOLD for the man guilty of murder. We can thus conclude that it is not, strictly speaking, his dignity as in the image of God in his nature alone that renders this result "a man is not to be harmed".

There are, in fact, 2 distinct ways in which we are made like unto God. In the first, God makes us in His image in making us rational beings, for it is by being rational that we can know Truth and Being, and thus we are theoretically capable of knowing Him as He is in Himself (in the Beatific Vision). That's the first way: in our nature. In the second, God raises us up beyond the dignity of human nature itself via sanctifying grace, in which God Himself comes to our soul and enlivens us with His own life, making us "children of God". In this latter reality, our likeness to God is now a supernatural likeness, not merely natural.

We lose the latter likeness by mortal sin, which repudiates God as our final end. In sin, then, we lose the dignity of being a child of God, and come under the "natural law". Indeed, God's warning to our first parents was that in the day that they sinned they would become subject to death. But the natural law provides that proportionate punishments apply to a rational being who mis-uses his right to make free choices: he loses such natural goods as his freedom, his possessions, or even his life. These punishments are condign to the dignity of one who has lost the supernatural dignity of being a child of God.

Anonymous said...

Interesting response. I think your explanation of mortal sin is problematic. Mortal sin does not remove our supernatural dignity of being God's child. (The Prodigal Son remained a son in the midst of his transgressions). I suppose we ought to establish whether the universal moral principle "thou shall not harm" derives from am intrinsic (by nature) or extrinsic attribute. I'm having difficulty seeing how one arrives at human dignity being granted from without.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

Shea is insane at this point.

Tony said...

I'm having difficulty seeing how one arrives at human dignity being granted from without.

Well, you might start by taking the question seriously: by calling it "human" dignity, you appear to have stacked the deck. Or, as they say, begged the question. The issue is just what KIND of dignity belongs to a person in virtue of human nature, and what kind belongs to him in virtue of supernatural grace added thereto.

I think your explanation of mortal sin is problematic. Mortal sin does not remove our supernatural dignity of being God's child.

You can, of course, disagree with my position, but I am pretty sure you cannot do so without rejecting Catholic doctrine. This Shea-Feser dispute is an intramural dispute about the death penalty: within the Catholic Church, there are ancient teachings about the death penalty, and recent statements by the Popes, and what is the relative status of the various things said.

Nate Winchester said...

Now, I explicitly addressed this very claim in my previous post, quoting my co-author Joe Bessette’s explanation of how Shea had misrepresented the study he cited as the basis of his 4% claim. Yet bafflingly, Shea once again completely ignores what I wrote and simply re-asserts the original claim, as if Joe hadn’t already refuted it!

That's ALL he ever does. As soon as you notice it on something you're informed about (like his repeating the "more in jail than the gulag" lie) you'll start noticing it on almost everything - ESPECIALLY if you go double check something he's stated just to be sure. (Dear thor, anything he posts on guns is a monument to ignorance.)

Maybe he's good on Catholic theology, but given how rotten his track record is on other facts, that gets to be a very hard sell to anybody not in the choir. To amend the phrase, "If you can't be trusted on the small things, how can you be trusted on the big things?"

darrenl said...

Shea has all the markings of a SWJ, or a very bad case of tunnel vision...but I repeat myself.

Nate Winchester said...

Others have mentioned that he tends toward invective and intemperance. That seems clear.

Did I... did I seriously hear Shea blow a raspberry in the middle there?

Carolus said...

"...he completely ignores the points I made and instead persists in attacking straw men, begging the question, and raising issues that are completely irrelevant to the dispute between us."

I think that could be a tagline for what Shea's blog has devolved into over the past couple years.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that Mark Shea could have written a good book. Judging from the rants on his website and his constant attacks on anyone who happens to disagree with him, I don't even want to bother reading it. Anyone, including me, who posts a dissenting view on his site is "Blocked" from responding. I can only assume that the man is a coward.

meunke said...


@ Anonymous
He has actually. I own two.

I think Mark's issue is he is one of those very sensitive, emotional people (and no, I'm not trying to be insulting here) who, once they pick a 'side' of something, usually emotionally driven instead of factual, they equate disagreement with those positions as evidence of evil or malice on the part of the person disagreeing. For them there is no rational reason for anyone to disagree with what they say, it must be because they are driven by malice only and not by honest disagreement. (Read his comments on his 'solar roadway' post for an excellent example)

Mark also takes this a step further: He VERY much wants to conform himself as close as possible with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is VERY admirable. However, because of this, he also comes to view any disagreement with him as also disagreement with the authoritative teaching of the Church. He so much wants to conform himself to the Church that he views disagreement to mean that the other person OBVIOUSLY doesn't want to conform to the Church, or else they would be agreeing with him. His discussion on the Death Penalty is a good example of this: He can't understand how ANYONE could disagree with him for any other reason than stupidity or malice. Also see his response to being fired: The Register listed a history of uncharitable conduct in social media and elsewhere as the reason, but his blog posts on the topic instead linked to articles of Catholics being persecuted for their faith and hinted that he was actually being let go due to persecution.

He's not the first Catholic commentator I've seen spiral down like this. I've watched, literally, two other minor commentators who started off well on YouTube go the exact same route. In the end, both left the Church. Well, they didn't say that, but they both, in their own, separate ways made the comment that it was the Church who left THEM.

Please pray for Mark. I would urge all of you too. He has a keen mind and, like I said, he was written MUCH that is excellent. Sometimes even the best can get confused.

Tom Simon said...

Distinguo: It is sad to say, but it appears to me that Mr. Shea had a keen mind. It would seem that he has not sharpened it for some time.

Greg said...

@ Tony

Thanks. That is a better way to read Aquinas's comments in 64, 2, ad 3.

Then man, in a state of grace at least, has a twofold dignity: in operation and in nature. The former dignity can be lost through mortal sin, but the latter cannot be lost.

Why, though, do we get to advert to the former dignity when arguing about the permissibility of capital punishment and to the latter when arguing against the permissibility of a private person administering capital punishment?

A2 said...

There are certainly excesses on both sides of this debate. I wouldn't compare CP with abortion conceptually. Although there is a validity to highlighting indifference to the injustices that happen in the real world towards innocent people condemned to death. It keeps happening.

I also do not reject that a state can in principle have someone killed (as I have said). I find the arguments in favor of the death penalty to be clever appeals to abstract considerations, which willfully make light of the real world application, and that really world application in the Christian context of justice AND mercy. Since character (good or bad) is formed through habit, I am at a loss to understanding how likely it is that the corrupt somehow are more likely to repent just because of death (when this seems highly improbable in most cases). Sure maybe a few times this might happen, but its an incredibly weak argument, from the Catholic perspective, in favor of the death penalty.

Timocrates said...

LOL. Shea banned me from his blog (after he made some ridiculous replies to a comment I made to someone else on his blog, leaving me without recourse to respond). For the record:

MarylandBill • 4 days ago

One of the things our civilization seems to have lost is the idea that principles must be maintained especially when it is difficult to do so. After Boston Massacre, John Adams, already leading patriot provided a vigorous defense of the British Soldiers and in fact was able to convince the Jury to acquit most of them.

Adhering to our most cherished principles in the face of a challenge does not make us weaker, it in fact makes us stronger. Unfortunately our current age of relativism has weakened our understanding of what principles even mean any more.

William Maximilien Dunkirk • 5 hours ago

"Real and Fake Americans?"

Listen to yourself! Statements like that are why "real" Americans are terrified of modern Leftist politics. I'm sick of every election cycle the Democrats successfully convincing so many people that the other guy is so evil as to be Hitler reincarnate and will spell the end of America. It just makes Leftists look like a bunch of mindless sensationalists.

Let me guess, you all plan to move to Canada if Trump is elected, right?

chezami Mod William Maximilien Dunkirk • 4 hours ago

And no, I'm going to stay and fight bullies and enemies of America and the gospel who would deny medical care and the right to trial to people.

chezami Mod William Maximilien Dunkirk • 4 hours ago

Boo hoo. Only in the diseased world of Trumpkinized right wingery am I a Leftist.


----

I'm sorry, but I smell fraud all over Shea!

Timocrates said...

Whoops, sorry, correction of above: it was in response to Shea's post, not a comment someone made.

The original post he made (after his reply to Dr. Ed) is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2016/09/two-brutal-enemies-attack-american-civilization.html

"The second [enemy of America] is Donald Trump, a primitive savage who hates that American civilization provides medical care and the protection of law to prisoners and would prefer that our civilization be destroyed and replaced by Bronze Age barbarism which leaves wounds untreated and men he hates lynched without benefit of trial.

Real Americans are proud of a country that treats even enemies with honor. Fake Americans like Donald Trump have not one clue what honor means.
"

Tony said...

meunke, well said. We should pray for Mark.

Hey, while you're at it, could y'all pray for me and my family? We could use some help, seriously.

DNW said...

" Tony said...

'meunke, well said. We should pray for Mark.'

Hey, while you're at it, could y'all pray for me and my family? We could use some help, seriously.

September 26, 2016 at 3:30 PM"



I'm kind of an outsider to all this in some ways. My interests, at least my express interests, are in moderate realism and its logical connection with natural law.

I can usually shrug at internecine religious squabbles. But this business with Shea has driven me back on my heels a bit. It's very curious. Usually I would be among the first to drive the figurative knife in to the hilt, and then twist it.

But there is something wrong there with him. Something off, or ulterior, or ... I don't know, wounded? ... that gives me pause. Here is a guy who by all accounts is an ardent Catholic, supposedly "enjoying it", and who speaks in authoritative tones of the primacy of prayer, fasting, and corporal works of mercy ... including I suppose, "charity".

And then you look at the guy; and whatever fasting he is doing is less than obvious, and whatever charity he expresses for his fellow Catholics seems to be directed only towards the left, and he doesn't seem to be loving it very much, if "enjoying it" has anything to do with a grounded generous spirit and even a touch of ordinate fun.

If he is not angry and bitter, then I have not seen barely suppressed anger and bitterness before.

I therefore personally feel an obligation to step back and leave it to you insiders to resolve. I would hate to think that I was one of the chorus of voices which caused him to conclude he needed to do a (Michael) Coren.

And, by the way, for Tony, for what it is worth, I'll keep it in mind.

Crude said...

But there is something wrong there with him. Something off, or ulterior, or ... I don't know, wounded? ... that gives me pause. Here is a guy who by all accounts is an ardent Catholic, supposedly "enjoying it", and who speaks in authoritative tones of the primacy of prayer, fasting, and corporal works of mercy ... including I suppose, "charity".

You are not alone. Something seems freaking off.

LorenzoCanuck said...

I have been reading Mark for over a decade, now, and though I agree with the substance of much of what he says his intemperance and wrath has been quite off-putting. I didn't really catch on to the substance of the criticisms against him though (mostly because they were being made in a fairly deranged way) until I read them here (which has a higher-than-average ratio of non-deranged people).

I continue to read and listen to Mark, despite my many reservations, because he's still the same apologist I came to appreciate all those years ago who occasionally has rough times. Unfortunately, this particular "rough time" has lasted over a year and a half, now, roughly coinciding with the rise of Trump. He will turn around, though, because he's done it before (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/?s=mea+culpa). His firing from the Register has occasioned much introspection too (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2016/08/getting-broken-has-been-strangely-good.html).

LorenzoCanuck said...

Really, I think the real problem is that Shea thinks that he has some duty to fight people who are Wrong On The Internet (https://xkcd.com/386/). The Internet, however, is not in any way representative of normal human conversation (the present space excepted!) which is why Shea has generated so much grief, mostly for himself, by continuing to gawk at the innermost armpit of the American right-wing.

Nate Winchester said...

Shea has generated so much grief, mostly for himself, by continuing to gawk at the innermost armpit of the American right-wing.

The thing is, if you actually find the people he's talking about and read what they actually say (before he deletes them of course), 99% of the time his estimation of what they say and mean is as accurate as his estimation of what Ed has said.

So it's hard not to reach the conclusion that the "armpit of the right*" is a boogeyman of his own imaging.

*Not that there isn't an armpit to the right or any other side of any gathering of folks, but when you've actually gone to some of those places, you barely find Mark Shea mentioned if at all. Save for one infamous incident it seems that most of them either ignore him or barely know he even exists.

Weouro said...

"You are not alone. Something seems freaking off."

He's an asshole, but that's not the problem. There's a definite niche for that in writing and public commentary. People are accepting of a jerk with wit. The problem is he's also a pussy. He acts tough then deletes and bans and doesn't engage when someone calls him out. He'll do that over and over until he has a periodic breakdown and issues a crying public general apology. I've seen it twice since I've been following Catholic media.

Crude said...

by continuing to gawk at the innermost armpit of the American right-wing.

Those deplorables are at it again!

So long as we're speculating, I'll offer another possibility: Mark Shea has fundamentally left-wing politics (not exactly unheard of in the Catholic Church), but the left-wing politics scene has increasingly become a religion unto itself. It used to be that otherwise loyal Catholics could have a place of honor at the left-wing political table, so long as they emphasized their welfare-state investment first and foremost.

But now left-wing politics has stirred a kind of religious fervor, and the price of admission for sitting at the table has gotten higher and higher. If you want to signal you're not one One Of Them (right-wingers), you better perform. And left-wing performance is fundamentally theatrics, hissy-fits, and complete meltdown-level rage at the right.

I liken it to how some Christians are absolutely obsessed with attacking creationism and ID. I don't mean merely rejecting, but attacking it with intellectual guns a-blazing, full of fury and spite and ridicule. Why? Because that was and is the cost for being considered a good, intelligent Christian in many quarters. One must earn their keep.

The alternative is to believe what you do and not give a rat's ass about the intelligentsia, and goodness, who could ever manage that?

Crude said...

He's an asshole, but that's not the problem.

I'm less sure of that. I think what defines an asshole is rudeness, being obnoxious, mockery - to good effect or bad. They tend to be pretty deliberate in their behavior, and generally self-aware. Shea's not self-aware, and he's not very deliberate. He's prone to freak-outs, overreach and ways of dealing with opponents that can frankly be described as 'hallucinatory'.

I'm just a nobody on the internet, but to me, he reeks of desperation. What the source of that is, I cannot be sure of. I'd say Trump-related hysteria, but this current debate is so far removed from that. Then again, when last I checked I saw a major political candidate and her media apparatus going to war with a cartoon frog. Maybe he sees a Catholic defense of the death penalty as just one more Act of Pepe or something.

Nate Winchester said...

So long as we're speculating, I'll offer another possibility: Mark Shea has fundamentally left-wing politics (not exactly unheard of in the Catholic Church), but the left-wing politics scene has increasingly become a religion unto itself. It used to be that otherwise loyal Catholics could have a place of honor at the left-wing political table, so long as they emphasized their welfare-state investment first and foremost.

You know Mark Shea has been published by National Review? Considering that he was also once a Protestant and now blames all of us for the evils of the world, it seems like the poor man just has a flat out habit of burning down bridges behind them and then shooting the ashes.

Not that it's mutually exclusive with your theory, just tossing more data into the model.

Crude said...

Nate,

You know Mark Shea has been published by National Review?

I wouldn't doubt it. But his politics are no secret, and they are also a major part of what motivates himself. That's putting aside how low of an opinion I have of NR. I'd expect NR published him for something relating to abortion or gay marriage.

But yeah, as I said, this is not the case of an asshole. He's too frantic for that.

Ian M. said...

Mark Shea quotes the Catechism in his post:

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.

But is it really true that the modern state can effectively render one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm without executing him? This seems to ignore the danger that a criminal prisoner poses to his fellow inmates. Violence and even murder are not exactly unknown within the prison system. And prison rape is a large problem, as are racial gangs that form in the prison system.

It seems like the sort of reasoning quoted in the Catechism ignores the lives of those in the prison system. Don't these lives matter? Or does Shea favor something like isolated confinement for dangerous criminals?

Nate Winchester said...

I wouldn't doubt it. But his politics are no secret, and they are also a major part of what motivates himself. That's putting aside how low of an opinion I have of NR. I'd expect NR published him for something relating to abortion or gay marriage.

They apparently had a cordial relationship waaaaaay back in 2004 and earlier.
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/80080/mark-shea-ramesh-ponnuru

Ok, I may have misspoken as I can't find anything authored by him on there now - maybe I misread a byline, maybe it's been removed after the parting of the ways. But there are a lot of mentions of him if you do a search for his name on the site.

Now you want MAXIMUM irony, read this:
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/73781/attack-social-cons-ramesh-ponnuru (but do not drink anything while you do so)

Unknown said...

One could make the argument that Life without parole in solitary could be used for the most extreme cases, but then the same people who are against the death penalty would be against that form of punishment as cruel and unusual as well. In general, standard life sentences, even for heinous crimes, are usually frowned upon by those who seek to end the death penalty too.

On the extreme end, you have someone like Breivik who was convicted of 77 counts of murder, terrorism, etc. He HAS to serve 10 years, but might be released after that. On the other hand you have some petty thieves in the US serving very long sentences for snatching a necklace that was a lot more valuable than they realized. I honestly don't know what the balance is.

I do think that, yes, all deserve a chance to repent. On the other hand, I also think there are people who are just... broken.

http://www.fredoneverything.net/yyCannibalism.shtml

Timocrates said...

Shea is a hackney. If you can't see that yet, well, sweet dreams.

I'm pretty sure as a Catholic I'm expected to be beaten, abused, tortured, etc., for my faith.

If you think Shea believes that, then you are just a stump of a mind.

Dr. Ed tolerates all sorts of craziness - including mine - I point out that Shea decided as Pope of Christianity in America that he decides what opinions will be allowed on his website, well he flips out.

I really want to know what the Democrat Part is paying wannabe Catholics these days. Enjoy being a wannabe man, Shea.

Timocrates said...

And not to be too sharp, Ed, but Shea and his phony website don't need any publicity. They can't stand one criticism without running away.

Shea is a Democrat hackney. That's reality. He's useless. Shea will not be there for you if you are down on your count. His god is liberalism.

Crude said...

I've been hit with Shea's banhammer too (unsurprisingly) but that part I don't care about so much. I would if he thereafter whined about being banned from other sites, but as far as I know this doesn't come up. On the other hand, I don't check Shea's site unless someone else mentions he's had another meltdown.

But I think I've stumbled upon who Shea reminds me of, and why alarm bells are set off.

Glenn Beck. A dollar store, Catholic version of him, granted.

LorenzoCanuck said...

I don't think the comparison is apt, Crude, but it's ironic that you mention Beck, nevertheless, because Shea generally despises Beck for being a phony (whether or not that's true I leave to others to decide). Shea is no phony, which is both a relief and a frustration. I also don't know if one can qualify as "left-wing" given his positions on abortion, radical Islam, the encroachment of the secular state, and SJWs/trigger warnings. Maybe his positions on economics are quite lefty but I find that economics is more ancillary that people suppose.

I can say from observation that he's calming down again, though, ever since his latest Mea Culpa. I wonder, though, having seen most of his posts and compared them to the criticisms levied against him, if people being personally offended by having their positions attacked (he aims wide but doesn't target any particular individual unless they call him out vociferously) is a factor is why he's angered so many.

Crude said...

Lorenzo,

Shea is no phony, which is both a relief and a frustration.

Depends on what one means by phony. I don't follow Shea enough to tell, but something rotten's coming off him. It's just a hunch, but I've learned to give those some credence.

I also don't know if one can qualify as "left-wing" given his positions on abortion, radical Islam, the encroachment of the secular state, and SJWs/trigger warnings. Maybe his positions on economics are quite lefty but I find that economics is more ancillary that people suppose.

He's a 'Social Justice' Catholic. When I say economic, I don't mean his stances on tax brackets. I'm talking about the general orientation towards those issues, and he's explicitly all-in on 'Being pro-life means supporting Obamacare and social justice and everything else on the left-wing platform, abortion is actually just a part, and an ever smaller part at that' schtick. His views on abortion more and more are brought up largely to attack other pro-lifers that oppose him on other issues. The way he deploys those issues looks less to me like concern and more like flashing ID to buy credibility to attack others.

It reminds me of the people who say 'I oppose both Trump AND Clinton', but then near-exclusively attack one side, and only bring up the other to defend them against this or that criticism because they feel it's unfair. One notices a pattern.

I wonder, though, having seen most of his posts and compared them to the criticisms levied against him, if people being personally offended by having their positions attacked

Criticism isn't a big deal. It's the lunatic way Shea does it, complete with over the top rhetoric. "You just want to KILL people and are LOOKING for ways to KILL people because you are in the CULTURE OF DEATH. MONSTER!" Tell me Feser earned that. Given Shea's multiple mea culpas and now his firing, I think his record at the least indicates he's prone to being unhinged.

And frankly, he also rips out with the Beck-style sanctimony like nobody's business - which goes a long way towards telling me something rotten is up. It'd be one thing if he shifted between 'hothead' and 'now he's calm and he's talking sensibly again'. That's not what goes on.

Crude said...

By the way, on the death penalty? I'm convinced by Feser's views, but I'm sympathetic to moral arguments against it, as well as practical ones.

Tell me the government is incompetent and western governments in general have robbed themselves of the reliable moral authority to distribute that lethal a form of justice, and I'll hear you out.

Tell me that the death penalty runs risk of treating death as a solution to problems (as opposed to the distribution of justice) and I'll hear you out.

I could give other examples. I don't think it's horrific to think that way in and of itself. Far from it.

But that's not how Shea operates, because reasoned discussion does not come naturally to him - he is, put frankly, bad at it. His game is sanctimony, posturing, and a pretty foul form of rhetoric. He does not operate by saying why his opponent is wrong. He operates by saying why his opponent is wicked and sinister, or utterly delusional, or anything else that lets Shea posture as authority (whether as righteous judge or wee quivering babe, only speaking the Light of the Lord, good sir) chiding the fallen. Pull him out of that frame and into the frame of 'Alright, Mark, now you have to make your case with arguments and evidence' and he's clawing for the exit.

Nate Winchester said...

Ironic watching one of the biggest demonstrators lecture others about one of his faults.

I also don't know if one can qualify as "left-wing" given his positions on abortion, radical Islam, the encroachment of the secular state, and SJWs/trigger warnings. Maybe his positions on economics are quite lefty but I find that economics is more ancillary that people suppose.

I see someone hasn't read him in awhile, as he hasn't been against radical Islam in awhile except in the same way most leftist are: "We're not saying Islam is great, but man local folk are just so bad, eh?" If you do a search for "encroachment" you find the latest article from back in 2012, instead most time is spent dismissing anybody concerned about it. SJW/trigger warnings? L.O.L. Not only has Shea converted his place into THE premiere safe space and well....
"You know who my most intensely interested reader is in things Catholic? It’s a profane atheist leftist pro-abort feminist programmer living out in Brooklyn."
Maybe that reader isn't a complete SJW, but man that's playing the long odds.

I can say from observation that he's calming down again, though, ever since his latest Mea Culpa. I wonder, though, having seen most of his posts and compared them to the criticisms levied against him, if people being personally offended by having their positions attacked (he aims wide but doesn't target any particular individual unless they call him out vociferously) is a factor is why he's angered so many.

Let's take a hypothetical. You seem like a Catholic fellow. If you came across stuff I had written and it was:

"I call for the surgical removal of the parasite called Catholicism because 'feelings over facts' is now the motto of the Roman Church. Pure postmodernism. The Church of Personal Responsibility has shown adamantine resistance to ever taking any responsibility for anything. We all know why:
'And he led Catholics to an exceeding high
mountain and showed them all the kingdoms of the earth, saying, “All
this will I give you if you will bow down and worship me.” And Catholics said, 'Awesome!'"

Now if you read all that, would you MIGHT have a cause to be angry? Even if upon challenging I said, "Well I'm not talking about you, specifically"? (and in case you're wondering, all I did with the above was grab a few phrases from Shea, swap "GOP/conservative/etc" with "Church/Catholic/etc" and then stitched them together with 5 additional words) I mean, would you be so understanding of someone that say... talked about other races in that way?

Crude said...

Nate, that link does a good job of distilling Shea's mindset:

Meanwhile, my experience has increasingly been that the fields are white for harvest on the Left and that there are people, genuinely committed to the common good and (mark this) genuinely and legitimately *scandalized* by the hypocrisy and hostility to real goods by the now-thoroughly politicized Republican Rite Church. People of real good will, faithful to the gospel (or, if not baptized, open to the gospel), but who approach it from a very different perspective, often due to the accident of race or socio-economic class.

Some of them (like Mary Pezullo) have been beaten down from their previous easy identification with Republican Rite Catholicism by the grinding experience of humiliation and disdain (due to their poverty) from fellow Real Catholics. Others (particularly ardent prolife Catholics of color) have experienced the long slow disillusionment of watching “prolife” white conservative Catholics turn a blind eye to the oppression that they have to live with every day. In my own case, it was the quadruple punch of watching “faithful” Catholics go all in for unjust war, torture, adamant worship of the gun after Sandy Hook, and finally, the choice of Barabbas over Jesus when presented with the contrasting gospels of Donald Trump and Francis that convinced me I had to seek Jesus in a larger Catholic Church than the one presented me by “faithful conservative” Catholics.


Gotta love how if you're a Catholic whose politics don't align with Shea's, you choose Barabbas over Jesus. But being a left-wing atheist in favor of abortion, feminism, and everything else? Well. You at least are interested in the common good! Reject the gospel? Well, you're open to it! I mean, Common Good and all. At least you're not one of those white conservatives. Ugh!

Keep in mind: this is Mark Shea engaging in a mea culpa. This is Shea in the midst of saying he's sorry for coming off so angry lately. He does so by squealing with rage at the right-wing - how DARE they disagree with him about gun control and Black Lives Matter.

I have an alternate explanation for Shea's 'transformation': he was always left-wing, but before he played a cagier game where he tried to do the 'lecture from within' thing. Recent developments have emboldened him to stop being subtle about it, and instead to go all-in as a left-wing lackey. If he ends up judging it as a mistake - 'Oops, it turns out those fields aren't so ripe for harvest, I don't have much of an audience or monetary opportunities now' - get ready for the third act.

I wouldn't lean on this guy for faith.

Sean W. said...

@ Crude -- he is, on other words, a kind of Manchurian Candidate of entryism.

Crude said...

Sean,

Along those lines. Probably not Manchurian candidate - a bit too grandiose for this guy, and he's not exactly skilled or subtle. It's more that his game changed; previously his preferred method for attacking people was, 'Watch me give a token criticism of the left... which gets me just enough criticism I need to REALLY attack the right.' The token criticism's gotten quieter, and the right-wing attacks have gotten more pronounced and furious.

And, being reminded of how he talks of Catholics, I'll add: if he sees fit to denounce 'white conservative' Catholics as choosing Barabbas over Christ (for the high crime of opposing gun control and supporting Trump over Hillary), I'll be equally frank. He's aspiring to be a 'Christian' kapo. His faith's importance is primarily evaluated in how much power and legitimacy it gives him in the Christian ghetto. If the answers becomes 'not much', he's looking for a new ghetto to slum it in.

Greg said...

@ LorenzoCanuck

I wonder, though, having seen most of his posts and compared them to the criticisms levied against him, if people being personally offended by having their positions attacked (he aims wide but doesn't target any particular individual unless they call him out vociferously) is a factor is why he's angered so many.

He angers people because his attacking of positions constantly takes the form of generalizing about the intentions of people who support them. I really could adduce no better example than the one from which Nate and Crude have quoted.

Even while apologizing, Shea doesn't know what his problem is. On the one hand, if you read that entire post and bear in mind all the while that it is supposed to be an apology, it is breathtaking. He starts off by saying that "I write best when I’m writing for an audience that, though it may differ from me, has a genuine will to hear and understand the truth–to seek it together."

When his writing gets bad, it is primarily his audience's fault, and secondarily his. But, the next fourteen (and more) paragraphs seem to argue, can you really blame him? With the monolithic gun-loving, Francis-hating, Trump-adoring Catholic Right (who arrogate the title of "Real Catholics" to themselves) the way it is, some anger is appropriate, and the worry is that it can get excessive. "I know my anger and frustration and confusion have shown in all this. It has been a constant subject of prayer and confession for me." When you're assessing him, don't forget how hard it is: "it’s hard because so much of what “conservative Catholics” now stand for is (to me) so transparently and obviously *wrong* (not just morally wrong, but factually and plainly wrong, like a bad math sum) that I become impatient at the mule-headed refusal to see the obvious."

All of that said, "None of this is to try to justify my sins of anger."

Shea's problem, and the reason he gets on people's nerves, and the reason why the discussion of most political topics leads for him to anger, is not impatience. His problem is that he lumps everyone who disagrees with him into one group, to which he ascribes the worst possible motives. Anyone who expresses so much as qualified disagreement with him on a topic like gun rights or the minimum wage is battling Francis and doesn't want to hear the fullness of the Gospel which, of course, they could find if they just listened to him.

Oh, you think he's talking about you? Never mind that he has made generalizations under which you would seem to fall ("supporters of the death penalty," "conservative Catholics"). Mark Shea doesn't target individuals, or if he does, it's just some crazy guy who commented on his Facebook page. Your attempt to disagree civilly with him was just the occasion of talking about all of the other awful people who disagree with him; he didn't mean to lump you in with them.

Crude said...

Greg,

Anyone who expresses so much as qualified disagreement with him on a topic like gun rights or the minimum wage is battling Francis and doesn't want to hear the fullness of the Gospel which, of course, they could find if they just listened to him.

And people who do outright battle not just Francis, but the Church - on abortion, on gay marriage, on this or that? Well, they're just lost sheep seeking the Common Good, and thus are receptive to the gospel. They're works-in-progress and, gosh darnit, their hearts are in the right place, let's not be so quick to write them off. Or, at worst, they're wrong but not as wrong as the right-wing, who are the REAL enemy, and thus we need to support them in their holy war.

Hence, the "profane, leftist, pro-abort, feminist atheist" gets cheered because... well, she likes Mark and she's interested in Catholicism. Catholics who disagree with Mark about the death penalty, however, are feverishly looking for an opportunity to slaughter Those Whom God Loves Most.

Nate Winchester said...

Do you think we should ask Shea if "conservative souls matter"?

(not just morally wrong, but factually and plainly wrong, like a bad math sum)

That line STILL bugs me to this day. Considering how often he gets math stuff wrong it's also the height of irony. And it wouldn't be so bad if he would heed and accept correction, but nope, everybody else is bad at math. That's why you don't understand his proof that 2 + 2 is 5.

Greg said...

@ Nate

There's so much wrong with that line. On the one hand, as you point out, he gets math wrong when he, for instance, in two consecutive posts and even after being politely corrected, infers "4% of people executed are innocent" from "4% of people on death row are innocent".

On the other, "factual" matters on which the mathematics of public policy are not at all "plain," and errors in social science are not at all as easily recognizable or resolvable as errors in computing a math sum.

What Shea often does not recognize is how questions depend on factual disputes that are difficult to resolve. Even if we grant Rawlsianism and think that our institutions should be shaped in such a way to help the least well off, it does not follow that we ought to have a $15 minimum wage rather than an $8 minimum wage, anymore than it follows that we ought to have a $40 minimum wage rather than a $15 minimum wage. Everyone agrees that increases to minimum wage are at some point offset by bad economic consequences, chiefly unemployment. So no matter how unwavering your commitment to the welfare of the least well off is, you have to hang your hat on an empirical question that is very contentious. (There still remains a serious problem of how one balances increased wages for some of the least well off with unemployment for others.)

Shea can't look at a question that way and say, "Perhaps someone reasonably disagrees with me over the facts on which this question depend." Maybe if you pressed him he'd say something like that. But if you bring up the minimum wage and suggest that you don't agree with him, he'll start quoting social encyclicals at you and suggesting that the true problem here is that American Catholics are fighting the Church. If you complain that he's generalizing, he might kinda suggest that by "American Catholics" he doesn't mean to include you, but anyway why are you so interested in fighting the Church on the minimum wage when there are other American Catholics who hate the poor?

I think Shea genuinely cannot see that he has this tendency. When people point out to him that he is making gross assumptions about their motives, it comes quite naturally to him to suggest that they are rationalizing or covering their baser impulses, or else to change the topic to broad trends about which they should be more worried and which (kinda sorta but with plausibly deniability) apply to them too. As Crude points out, he also does not recognize how asymmetric his generosity of interpretation is.

As others have mentioned, it is important to pray for him.

Jeffrey S. said...

Well, well, well -- looks like Mark has decided to bring a real philosopher into the discussion:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2016/09/had-an-interesting-conversation-with-robert-p-george.html

The problem I have with Robbie George's statement is that how the heck can I trust the Church on moral matters if they are supposedly proposing that the death penalty is now "intrinsically wrong" but not "infallibly" proposing this change -- it is one thing to say policy X or Y is prudentially unwise, but to say it is "intrinsically wrong" seems to suggest something much, much more serious for the average Catholic lay person and calls into question their previous judgement and moral reasoning.

Crude said...

You can’t kill him AS A PUNISHMENT, even if he’s Hitler or Osama bin Laden, once you’ve got him effectively and permanently disabled from committing further heinous crimes.

Such a state - effectively and permanently disabled - isn't available even in Western nations, unless we violate their established rights to an extreme. We have murder rates in prisons: they are low. Not non-existent. And that's only referring to murder, not other kinds of harm, even heinous.

Further, George - at least in Shea's snippet - gives no justification for his claims. Quoting the CCC:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

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."


No 'intrinsically wrong' anywhere there. In fact, it's justified - the Catechism just surmises that the need for it is rare.

Does the Church have the authority - spiritual or otherwise - to judge whether a judicial and incarceration system is adequate?

Greg said...

I don't find Evangelium Vitae or the Catechism as obvious as Professor George does on this point. Neither document tries to engage in NNL hairsplitting here, and both seem to say that, when it is necessary to have recourse to the death penalty, it remains a death penalty. That is how the Catechism describes it where Crude has quoted it, and this is how Pope John Paul II puts it:

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.

The pope is discussing the cases in which a punishment may have the nature of "executing the offender," that is, when a punishment may be the death penalty.

If the truth of the NNL account of punishment and ethics of killing were granted, and we had no choice but to attempt to square them with the tradition, then we could try to read these documents in light of that account without a huge amount of violence. In no sense, though, is there "no other way to read Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism."

On a related note, now that Mark has been told by someone who opposes the death penalty that the view he was vehemently defending is not what the Church teaches, perhaps he will issue a Mea Culpa explaining that he now realizes some of these topics are difficult, and reasonable people can disagree without being evil.

Jeffrey S. said...

Crude and Greg,

Thanks for the feedback. What is still troubling about the quotes you provide, and I'm sure it gives folks like Professor George ammo in their arguments, is the section in which the church (and Saint John Paul II) seems to qualify the 'penalty' aspect of death with these statements:

"...if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

and

"in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."

These seem to be the key phrases -- penalty and punishment are NOT the issue -- the issue is defending human lives and/or society. The death penalty becomes instrumental in protecting others, but not as a tool to punish the guilty. At least these statements seem to preclude any other uses for the death penalty.

For the record, I'm with Ed -- I just agree with him that these modern statements are unfortunate in the effect they produce in folks like Shea and in others who tend to preach that the death penalty is intrinsically wrong, which has NOT been the teaching of the church over the years.

Crude said...

Jeffrey S,

However controversial it may be to say, I think you're right in this sense: penalty and punishment are not the issue. In fact, Evangelium Vitae doesn't seem to touch on the issue of the just application of the death penalty at all. It deals with concerns of safety and a kind of pragmatism - legitimate to discuss, and I think that was essential to PJPII's view. He was addressing the death penalty as a means to an end, or as a grim but necessary utility.

The CCC, likewise, talks in those same terms. Justice is not discussed. And that's one of the terms you, and I, are speaking in. Tradition and historical teaching is, on that point, pretty clear.

Greg said...

Yeah, EV and the Catechism do not really address the question of justice. The response that someone looking to defend the older position can give, though, is that the retributive purpose of punishment has to be fundamental; it cannot be administered at all unless retribution is an acceptable reason to punish. Punishment is not to be justified by deterrence, reform, or defense, because without just retribution we cannot punish others in order to accomplish those. Those can be relevant considerations in devising a scheme of punishment, but they cannot be fundamental.

Is that sort of view of punishment mistaken? EV and the Catechism do not attempt to show that it should be abandoned. So the way to read those in light of the tradition is as offering prudential judgments.

Tony said...

Right, this is a point that is lost on many who don't read the passages carefully. The Church affirms the _primary_ end of punishment is justice, and includes the death penalty in that. Then she talks about safety, and there is not one single attempt in any of these documents to show that safety supercedes justice, or justice should be foregone if you can achieve safety, or any other premise along these lines. Nothing. After speaking about justice, she drops it, and then picks up safety, a different pursuit for the state. There is no attempt to relate the two goods. And without an attempt to relate the two goods, there is no way to read the parts about achieving safety as if they qualified / modified the objective of justice, no way to assert from these passages that the good of safety impinges on the good of justice in a specific way. And therefore there is no basis on which a Catholic can read these documents, and say that he now has a reason to forego justice when it is available, merely because he judges it is not needed in order to achieve safety. Right - not needed for safety, but STILL needed for justice, which is a pretty important good of the state.

David M said...

"justice should be foregone if you can achieve safety" - Actually, isn't that a pretty good paraphrase of JPII's intent, insofar as one holds that DP *is* often the most appropriate act of (penal) justice?

Crude said...

David,

The problem there is that JPII - at least given the documents in question - doesn't talk about justice. The appropriateness of the death penalty is discussed almost entirely in terms of safety. In fact, it's better to say that the real focus of the documents is 'When it's appropriate to use death as a solution to a problem'. That was a key concern with JPII, and a lot of what his Culture of Death talk was about: the use/abuse of death as a solution to problems.

But that pragmatic/imminent concern is distinct from the question of justice.

R.C. said...

Simply put,

The widely-shared ethos of Law and Order in a society is the primary defense of individuals in that society. It is supportive of the secondary defenses; and they tend to fail in its absence.

BUT, having society's punishments be just is the sine qua non for maintaining that ethos.

For in its absence, lawfulness itself begins to be perceived as a sucker's game, and police become an enemy to be outfoxed, not merely for criminals who know they're criminals, but for persons of unstained conscience. And no innocent person is long safe in such a society.

Justice, therefore, is required for the defense of the individual and society.

When we read quotes such as...

"...if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

...and...

"in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."

We should understand that injustice is never a good long-term strategy for defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. It is never a functional option for defending a society.

So there is a false dichotomy raised here. "Should we be just? (In which case, if rapists and robbers can be locked up for 10 years or more, the only proportionate response to a person who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and kills innocent children is to execute him) Or, should we defend society with a minimum of executions?"

Like so much in Catholic thought, it isn't either/or; it's both/and.

We should defend society with a minimum of executions, AND, that minimum definitely includes executing the worst offenders, in order to maintain justice, in order to provide the minimum requirements for protecting the society and the individuals within it.

Tony said...

"justice should be foregone if you can achieve safety" - Actually, isn't that a pretty good paraphrase of JPII's intent, insofar as one holds that DP *is* often the most appropriate act of (penal) justice?

David, I invite you to re-read the passages in question, such as Evangelium Vitae 56. He says death should be foregone if safety can be achieved. He does NOTHING AT ALL to relate this to justice. After talking about justice as the primary end of punishment, he just DROPS it as a topic and takes up safety. Nowhere does he explicitly attempt to relate the two ends, nor does he attempt to actually argue about how to rightly assess the need for justice in pursuing the other goods available (such as the life of the criminal). He never addresses it, never even nods at the concept, he just ignores it as if it didn't exist. It is perhaps the biggest lacuna in his writings.

The notion that you could have a sound justice / penal system, while systematically foregoing what you have ALREADY SAID is the primary purpose of that penal system, is fraught with many, many difficulties. R.C. pointed out some, and there are more. For example: the relationship between primary and secondary ends (such as reform) is more significant than the almost non-existent relationship between a primary end and mereincidental ends. The secondary ends cannot be pursued intelligibly except in virtue of pursuing the primary.

David M said...

I agree that there is an important lacuna in JPII's EV discussion of the DP. All the same, I think his intent is clear. The fact that he says what he says - all 'pragmatic' like - and ignores the question of justice pretty clearly implies, it seems, that he thought that DP is not ever demanded by justice. It's either that, or he was just a muddlehead on the issue (which is really what you seem to be implying, Tony).

Evangelium vitae, excerpts:

9. ... Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this. And it is precisely here that the paradoxical mystery of the merciful justice of God is shown forth. As Saint Ambrose writes: "Once the crime is admitted at the very inception of this sinful act of parricide, then the divine law of God's mercy should be immediately extended. If punishment is forthwith inflicted on the accused, then men in the exercise of justice would in no way observe patience and moderation, but would straightaway condemn the defendant to punishment. ... God drove Cain out of his presence and sent him into exile far away from his native land, so that he passed from a life of human kindness to one which was more akin to the rude existence of a wild beast. God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide".

40. ... The commandment regarding the inviolability of human life reverberates at the heart of the "ten words" in the covenant of Sinai (cf. Ex 34:28). In the first place that commandment prohibits murder: "You shall not kill" (Ex 20:13); "do not slay the innocent and righteous" (Ex 23:7). But, as is brought out in Israel's later legislation, it also prohibits all personal injury inflicted on another (cf. Ex 21:12-27). Of course we must recognize that in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life, though already quite marked, does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbour as for ourselves: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Lev 19:18).
...

David M said...

...
56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence".46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person".

David M said...

[For context I should have included:]

55. ...Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason. 45

56. This is the context...

Tony said...

and ignores the question of justice pretty clearly implies, it seems, that he thought that DP is not ever demanded by justice. It's either that, or he was just a muddlehead on the issue (which is really what you seem to be implying, Tony).

I do think you are right, David, that he thought that DP is not ever demanded for the sake of justice when safety can be ensured without it. That, I think, is his intent.

But it is equally clear that HE NEVER ARGUES THIS POINT. He never even attempts to frame the argument that justice is not an important enough good, even though it is the "primary purpose" of punishment. He never even begins to set forth the principles that would have to be used to prove as a general thesis that "one must not use DP to achieve the justice of proportionate retribution when safety can be achieved with a lesser punishment." The closest he comes - the discussion with Cain - is simply inadequate to the universal thesis: its context (like that of Christ and the adulterous woman) is a single incident, and nothing God says in its course presents us with a direct general conclusion like the "thou shalt not"s of the commandments or the "by man shall his blood be shed" of Genesis 9:6.

I don't think JPII was a muddlehead. I think he gave the best available basis for what he was pushing for, i.e. the position that DP is never "needed" for the sake of justice when safety can be achieved otherwise. It's simply that in the current state of theology and philosophy, there is no argument at present that takes on the needed issue head on. Nothing, for example, that takes on Genesis 9:6 head on and shows why it is not a generally applicable truth of human social order. No argument available that shows the relation between justice and the other goods to be sought, so that an ordering and hierarchy of goods can be laid out that makes sense and proves that the justice of proportionate punishment should not be sought when not needed for safety. He was facing what is effectively a blank slate of theoretical and general arguments, so he did the best he could: circumstantial arguments, probable arguments, hints and suggestions.

Some people say that he was engaged in the "development of doctrine". I say that this will be known clearly if and when we ever do develop the general principles, the universal arguments of the sort I mentioned above. At that point, we will be able to see his attempts as the first steps of a development. I would be more willing to grant the plausibility of a future development along these lines if it were not the case that (just to pick one reason) we get SO MANY people trying to justify the thesis (that DP is never needed other than for safety) via arguments that range from bad to worse, eg we get princes of the Church holding that DP is immoral in principle (!!) Or bishops who argue in one breath that our culture has "morally developed beyond" the need for DP in one breath, while with the next breath arguing that being saturated in this culture of death, our society is no longer able to see the proper dignity of the human person and that in this condition we are so unjust that we cannot licitly employ that gravest of just punishments. I don't think what we are seeing is how development happens.

Crude said...

David,

The fact that he says what he says - all 'pragmatic' like - and ignores the question of justice pretty clearly implies, it seems, that he thought that DP is not ever demanded by justice.

I don't think that's true. If that were the case, he wouldn't ignore the question of justice - he'd argue that the death penalty's application would be unjust.

JPII's discussion of the culture of death was centered heavily on pragmatism, because the pragmatic application of death was precisely the thing he was trying to counter. Justice wasn't discussed, because justice wasn't the concern - one way or the other.

David M said...

"he thought that DP is not ever demanded for the sake of justice when safety can be ensured without it." - Okay, Tony, but then it is not ever demanded for the sake of justice (period) - not as a punishment, anyway. It is only ever demanded as a defensive measure.

I sympathize with the view that he didn't provide much of an argument for this claim. But his rationale (against your objection, anyway) seems to be straightforward: the New Testament (in particular the Sermon on the Mount) presents a more developed awareness of the absolute value of human life than does the OT, so that according to the proper understanding of the fullness of Christian revelation justice (alone) never demands (or warrants) DP as a punishment.

Crude, I think you're right, in that he *doesn't* actually simply ignore the question of justice. He just takes a rather dogmatic position on it: that the DP is just only insofar as its application is not warranted *only* by the demand for a just (proportionate) punishment; it is warranted (demanded by justice) only as a necessary defensive measure.

David M said...

[And the further claim that it is NOT (any more) a 'necessary' defensive measure is an empirical claim, disputable on empirical (and prudential) grounds. But the principles seem explicit enough, even if not well-grounded.]

Crude said...

David,

But his rationale (against your objection, anyway) seems to be straightforward: the New Testament (in particular the Sermon on the Mount) presents a more developed awareness of the absolute value of human life than does the OT

The absolute value of human life is still no barrier to it being condemned to hell for all eternity on the NT view. Now, said value does mitigate against death-as-a-solution in the broad sense. Again, PJPII was very explicit about that. The question of justice, however, just is ignored by him altogether. And that's not even very surprising, because questions of justice are manifestly not the Pope's primary concern with regards to the culture of death.

So saying this:

that the DP is just only insofar as its application is not warranted *only* by the demand for a just (proportionate) punishment

...just doesn't fly. I don't think we can get his opinion on justice for free just by saying, well, he didn't discuss it, therefore clearly he meant... etc. It'd be one thing if we didn't have a very long history of church thought, teaching, and even action on this matter. But we do.

Jeremy Taylor said...

But his rationale (against your objection, anyway) seems to be straightforward: the New Testament (in particular the Sermon on the Mount) presents a more developed awareness of the absolute value of human life than does the OT, so that according to the proper understanding of the fullness of Christian revelation justice (alone) never demands (or warrants) DP as a punishment.

In the OT, doesn't God command the death penalty for certain acts? It seems quite a development to go from that to the awareness that the death penalty is never demanded or even warranted.

Tony said...

He just takes a rather dogmatic position on it: that the DP is just only insofar as its application is not warranted *only* by the demand for a just (proportionate) punishment; it is warranted (demanded by justice) only as a necessary defensive measure.

I am afraid, David, that this turns topsy-turvy the entire 2000 years of Christian teaching before him. It is one thing to say that we should not seek retributive justice when greater good would be harmed by seeking that justice, as can sometimes happen. It is another thing entirely to say that it is not just to seek retributive justice when not necessary for safety.

God Himself attests to the justice of the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for taking a life, and this not on account of ongoing danger, but rather "for man is made in God's image". God does not qualify the rationale by "when the danger persists" in any sense.

I have another thought about this "never unless needed for safety" approach. Actually, it's not mine, it's a friend's who is ABSOLUTELY opposed to the death penalty: It is NEVER needed for safety - it can't be. Think about it: when you execute someone, (i.e. not in battle on the battlefield), you are in complete control of him. You can and do by force put him on the chopping block, or in the noose, or in the chair. You had complete control of him during his trial, and after. You may have had handcuffs or chains on his arms and legs. You are not in immediate danger from him, he is not a danger RIGHT NOW. The only thing you can say about his being an ongoing danger is that he MIGHT be a danger in the future. Maybe. But that kind of "maybe" ONLY obtains if you choose to deal with him in ways that open you up to such danger - i.e. differently from now, because now he is no danger. You can, if you continue to spend enough effort, render him no danger to society. And, even if "something happens" later and he becomes an actual danger then you can kill him then, not now. There is no plausible argument that the possibility that he will in the future become a danger great enough to warrant killing him then in STRICT self-defense renders killing him NOW to be self-defense. That's not how self-defense works. So, there should NEVER be an execution (i.e. sober, measured, cautious, carefully applied action intended explicitly to KILL), there can be moral killing ONLY in self-defense, and only because in so acting you are unable to render him no danger to others by some lesser violence.

If the "safety" clause were valid as an argument to render "unjust" all executions other than those needed for safety, it would actually render unjust all executions altogether, and leave killing only in strict self-defense as morally licit. Which even JPII was unwilling to assert.

No, the best defense of the Pope's position is that while the death penalty is JUST, mercy is an even better route to take and we should not impose the just punishment of death when we can be merciful. This, at least, does not eradicate the entire human understanding of retributive justice. It is debatable as a proposition, at least.

Tony said...

The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence".46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.


Let me point something out here: in the second sentence the phrase "to regain the exercise of his or her freedom" presupposes a situation in which "to regain freedom" is not diametrically opposed to the "redress of the disorder caused by the offense". But that rules out life in prison, also. Same with "incentive to change" and be rehabilitated. In effect, the Pope's "safety" analysis ONLY WORKS in reference to crimes not severe enough to demand life in prison. Are we now going to invent a brand new theory that NO POSSIBLE CRIME could demand life in prison as the proportionate punishment?

The analysis used in this passage is a limited one. It takes as its context an assumption that the proportionate punishment could leave the criminal to "regain the exercise of his freedom" and an "incentive to change". It therefore cannot actually address the situation where the proportionate punishment does not leave these possible. It simply does not speak to that situation. When the Pope says "for these purposes to be achieved" he is, again, framing the context, a context in which these purposes - regaining his freedom and an incentive to change - are consistent with the proportionate punishment that redresses the disorder. IN THAT CONTEXT, his prescription is definitive. Outside of that context, his prescription does not come to bear.

David M said...

I still think my reading is right, and I see now that I'm agreeing with Robert George (that is, on the narrow question of what JPII is saying in EV).

Crude: "questions of justice are manifestly not the Pope's primary concern with regards to the culture of death." I'm not sure what you mean by that or how you would justify it, but it sounds antecedently implausible. Certainly justice is an essential concern here (for JPII and for us), even if somehow it's not primary.

Jeremy: Yes, well, there's also Moses and divorce. The general point is that the OT is historical (not irrelevant, just historical), in continuity with the NT, and that history is one of progressive revelation, God choosing and drawing a people to himself from within a particular culture, culminating in the definitive fullness of revelation only through the God-man Jesus Christ.

David M said...

Tony:
"It is another thing entirely to say that it is not just to seek retributive justice when not necessary for safety." - Quite right, but that was not my reading of EV. Rather, what JPII said there asserts a limit on the *kind* of retributive justice that is appropriate, namely: no DP when not necessary for safety.

Re. the claim that DP is in fact NEVER needed for safety, I sympathize with your argument, but I think that that was exactly where JPII was heading. He was in fact open to that interpretation. That, and only that, fact explains the word 'abolish' showing up in EV 56 ("abolished completely"). In fact, however, he clearly does leave room in principle for cold prudential calculation that some individual should be executed in cold blood, in cases where we have grounds for thinking it is 'necessary' (for safety reasons).

"Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom."

I think it's perfectly reasonable to read this as a defeasible "condition." It certainly doesn't negate the subsequent categorical claim:

"the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."

To read into this latter claim a general exception of cases involving punishment of murderers is clearly contrived and unreasonable.

Tony said...

"Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom."

I think it's perfectly reasonable to read this as a defeasible "condition." It certainly doesn't negate the subsequent categorical claim:

"the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."

To read into this latter claim a general exception of cases involving punishment of murderers is clearly contrived and unreasonable.


David, I don't understand what you are saying.

Would the Pope's qualifier "as a condition for the offender to regain... his freedom" allow for, or invalidate a sentence of life in prison as an impermissible penalty?

Which "this" are you claiming is defeasible - the condition, or the life sentence? If it is the life sentence, then it must be in principle appropriate as a matter of justice to impose a sentence of life in prison. While it is permissible for a state to revise a sentence out of mercy, it is not required in justice to revise a proportionate punishment that was justly imposed. What you seem to be suggesting (so far as I can guess, anyway), is that it would be JUST to impose a "life sentence" ONLY on the condition that the state re-consider the extent of the penalty and allow the criminal to regain his freedom if he is repentant and reformed. But this just is to say that no life sentence is a just and proportionate sentence. And that's just a road to confusion.

So, I don't understand what you are saying. How is JPII's "public authority must...to regain the exercise of his freedom" compatible with a REAL life sentence?

Tony said...

Re. the claim that DP is in fact NEVER needed for safety, I sympathize with your argument, but I think that that was exactly where JPII was heading. He was in fact open to that interpretation. That, and only that, fact explains the word 'abolish' showing up in EV 56 ("abolished completely").

David, I don't agree. First, his "abolished completely" was a purely _empirical observation_ that there is a "growing tendency" in society and the Church to call for it to be abolished. Whether this call is justified or not, the empirical observation is valid.

I also disagree that "this was exactly where JPII was heading." I don't think his phrasing

"such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

is compatible with the point I laid out. The position is that cold blooded execution is never self-defense, and that therefore execution cannot ever be justified as self-defense, and since we already have justification for killing in self-defense, there is no such thing as justified killing in cold-blooded execution. This is incompatible with "very rare, if not practically non-existent" in principle, because of course both "very rare" would allow some executions, and even "practically non-existent" allows a for the difference between "actually non-existent" and "practically non-existent".

There is also a red-herring aspect to the whole analysis if you try to take it down this road, too: if the REAL basis for the killing being licit is that the person is a real and current grave danger (i.e. calling for killing in self-defense), then it is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT that the prior crime is a crime whose proportionate punishment is grave enough to encompass the death penalty. If a person is convicted of drunk-and-disorderly and sentenced to 3 days in jail, but on the way to jail he goes berserk and appears to be truly endangering the lives of 30 other people (say he began yelling bloody murder, he knocked over one cop and grabbed a gun from another), the cops can licitly shoot to kill him. The fact that the crime of which he convicted is NOT one for which a grave sentence is proportionate is irrelevant to the killing, the current danger is what gives it its liceity. A severing of the licitness of the execution from the due proportion of punishment means that the due proportionate punishment has no bearing on the killing in self-defense, and the passage

Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime

becomes irrelevant to why he would be killed if he is indeed killed morally - under that position laid out. The state can kill someone if killing him is the only way to keep society safe from him, and it doesn't need to resort to "proportionate punishment" to justify that.

David M said...

Tony:
"Would the Pope's qualifier "as a condition for the offender to regain... his freedom" allow for, or invalidate a sentence of life in prison as an impermissible penalty?"

It's not addressing that question. It is just indicating what normally occurs, what the offender is normally (but defeasibly) hoping and aiming for (freedom), and making the point that an *adequate* punishment must be served/borne before that (regaining freedom) happens. JPII then goes on to make the assertion that DP is never necessary to constitute an *adequate* punishment, without addressing whether a (true) life sentence might sometimes be necessary (and I won't speculate on what his opinion was on the latter question - I really don't know, and if you think you do, textual justification for your view would be appreciated).

The "abolished completely" was not a purely empirical observation. It was a preface to JPII's enunciation of his own view about restricting the use of the DP. It situates his own view as one that has gained recognition and support in recent times. (I think that is clearly the most reasonable reading, anyway.)

Regarding your claim that cold-blooded execution can never be justified to defend society, that is clearly just wrong. If a society lacks the means to safely imprison a dangerous killer, then execution may be necessary to defend society. (And note, JPII never argued that a society *must* pour limitless resources into ensuring that it *never* lacks these means - he just believed that in fact most societies these days *don't* lack the means.) Such execution may be judged necessary and carried out in cold blood. That it is also a proportionate punishment is indeed irrelevant to why it is the punishment chosen - but that's just JPII's position. And that position in no way conflicts with the general requirement that punishments for various crimes be assigned 'proportionately.' It's just that there are other concerns that *also* must be considered. (Consider, for example, Feser's comments on the George post (in reply to James Chastek) on why certain 'medieval' (or modern 'Islamic') methods of execution are reasonably avoided, even though they may well be proportionate.)

Tony said...

Regarding your claim that cold-blooded execution can never be justified to defend society, that is clearly just wrong.

David, you are not taking seriously, or engaging seriously, the position laid out. The position (which I do not hold, but is a stumper for this tack on JPII's analysis) hangs on what it really means to kill in self-defense. The position reminds us that true (i.e. strict) self-defense is always "in the heat of the moment", that is, it is always at the immediate juncture of grave danger. It can never be strict self-defense if the danger is still a ways off into the future rather than imminent, or if it is probable rather than concrete. You cannot pre-emptively kill in self-defense before you are in grave danger. That's not self-defense.

The position goes on to assert: cold blooded execution is _never_ strict self-defense, and that therefore execution cannot ever be justified as self-defense.

So, when you simply claim that cold-blooded execution can never be justified to defend society, that is clearly just wrong., you are simply not engaging the thesis being maintained. As an example, one answer that springs from the position is to let the criminal go, put a sniper on him, and KILL HIM if and when he becomes an ACTUAL danger rather than a putative, possible, or future danger. That way killing him really will be self-defense. In any case, the implied meaning you are using for "defend society" has to be a definition that expands "defense" beyond strict self-defense to something broader. Once you do that, you cannot just assume that the same old moral standards for self-defense apply anymore.

You also lose any principled basis for objecting to expanding "defense of society" to EXACTLY the sense noted by R.C. above at September 29, 2016 at 11:36 AM. Which puts the death penalty right back in the spotlight, as the ordinary means of defending society from thick-headed men who NEED just and proportionate punishments to understand the dignity of each innocent man, the ordinary means of revealing the truth about man to himself in the context of protecting innocent life.

To repeat: if justice is the PRIMARY end, secondary ends like rehabilitation etc are achieved in relation to that primary end. That's what it MEANS to be a secondary end, rather than an incidental end: related as subordinate. You cannot intelligibly seek a secondary end by choosing ordinarily to forego the primary end, this is incoherent.

David M said...

"David, you are not taking seriously, or engaging seriously, the position laid out." -- Tony, I actually think *you* are not... Or at least you seem to be just not getting it.

"So, when you simply claim that cold-blooded execution can never be justified to defend society, that is clearly just wrong., you are simply not engaging the thesis being maintained." -- This is a misquote. (Just noting.)

"The position goes on to assert: cold blooded execution is _never_ strict self-defense, and that therefore execution cannot ever be justified as self-defense." -- You're right that it can never be justified as *strict* self-defence, but really, that's just obvious, and it's irrelevant. It can still be justified for the defence of society, which is self-defence in a broad sense. You're picking up on an irrelevant quibble about terminology and ignoring what is clearly the point.

"As an example, one answer that springs from the position is to let the criminal go, put a sniper on him, and KILL HIM if and when he becomes an ACTUAL danger rather than a putative, possible, or future danger. That way killing him really will be self-defense." -- Okay, good example. Except: *in principle* there would be nothing wrong with doing that. Indeed, doing something like that is very much called for in the case of someone who presents a clear and present danger to society, but who cannot be feasibly or justifiably arrested and locked up (consider the case of a murderer who has been falsely acquitted, but who... etc.).

Re. expanding "defence of society": JPII gave you the principle for not doing that. "The principle [is] set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church [and] remains valid: 'If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'" As for the empirical claim about what ordinary men need, I think it's extremely contrived and easily subjected to (perhaps equally contrived) counter-examples. It's not a helpful way to resolve this dispute.

David M said...

"To repeat: if justice is the PRIMARY end, secondary ends like rehabilitation etc are achieved in relation to that primary end. That's what it MEANS to be a secondary end, rather than an incidental end: related as subordinate. You cannot intelligibly seek a secondary end by choosing ordinarily to forego the primary end, this is incoherent."

And also to repeat: that is correct, but that is *not* what (my reading of) JPII's position entails.

Tony said...

PII then goes on to make the assertion that DP is never necessary to constitute an *adequate* punishment,

I don't think this reading of his position holds enough water to bear up. If you are suggesting that for every crime for which death is a proportionate punishment, there is also a lesser punishment than death that ALSO serves as punishment fully proportionate to the crime, this seems manifestly unsound and untrue. Since death is understood to be so much more grave than the other punishments available, it cannot be proportionate to the same crimes that those other punishments are proportionate to. That's just how proportions work. So if there is some crime for which death is a fit punishment in terms of proportion, then for that crime a lesser order of punishment is not adequate to serve to redress justice fully.

If, on the other hand, you are suggesting that there is no crime for which death is a proportionate punishment, this too is a poor position to take here, for 2 reasons. First, because it is manifestly unsound in its own right: there are crimes too evil for lesser punishments to be the fully proportionate redress. Secondly, because it makes absolute HASH of JPII's overall argument. If there is no such things as a crime for which death is the proportionate punishment, then THat'S what he should have been saying point blank, up front, explicitly, and then it would fall out as proven that we should never use the death penalty, ever, under any circumstances. However, this would mean his leaving theoretical room for our using it in a few cases "very rarely, or none at all" would have been wrong. If there are no crimes - if there cannot be crimes - for which death is the proportionate punishment, then it is WRONG to say "it is licit for the state to use the DP in those grave cases where the offender's guilt is fully established and where there is no other way to keep society safe." That would be wrong, but JPII does say that.

The only other option, so far as I can tell, is to adjust your comment so that what it means is that "adequate" here is taken to be already qualified by "not using death if not needed for safety". So, if we are willing to accept this lesser sense of "adequate", then yes, it is always possible to seek adequate punishment without death. To be perfectly clear, this sense of adequate entails a punishment that - in some cases - is not fully proportionate to the crime, and thus entails accepting that justice is not FULLY redressed. I note the scare quotes in your using "adequate".

I see no other way of taking your comment that it is "never necessary to constitute an *adequate* punishment,". Do you?

Nate Winchester said...

Imagine my surprise when i found a letter printed in "God in the dock" by CS Lewis that proved nothing has changed.

"But I still think the abolitionists conduct their case very ill. They seem incapable of stating it without imputing vile motives to their opponents."