Thursday, January 5, 2017

COMING SOON: By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed

I am pleased to announce the forthcoming publication by Ignatius Press of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, which I have co-authored with Prof. Joseph Bessette of Claremont McKenna College.  You can order it from Amazon or directly from Ignatius

From the promotional materials:

The Catholic Church has in recent decades been associated with opposition to the death penalty. It was not always so. This timely work recovers, and calls for a revival of, the Catholic tradition of support for capital punishment. Drawing upon a wealth of philosophical, scriptural, theological, and social scientific arguments, the authors show that it is the perennial and irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate – not only to protect society from immediate physical danger, but also for purposes such as retributive justice and deterrence. They show that the recent statements of churchmen in opposition to the death penalty are merely "prudential judgments" with which faithful Catholics are not obliged to agree. They also show that the prudential grounds for opposition to capital punishment offered by Catholics and others in recent years are without force.

The extreme statements made by some Catholics in opposition to the death penalty do grave harm to the Church by falsely suggesting a rupture in her traditional teaching, thereby inadvertently casting doubt on the reliability of the Magisterium. And they do grave harm to society by removing a key component of any system of criminal justice which can protect the lives of the innocent, inculcate a horror of murder, and affirm the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures who must be held responsible for their actions.

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed is a challenge to contemporary Catholics to move beyond simple-minded sloganeering to a serious engagement with scripture, tradition, natural law, and the actual social scientific evidence, and a faithful exercise of the "hermeneutic of continuity" called for by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Based primarily on the natural law, this excellent and much-needed book will be valuable to Catholics and readers of any faith who ask why capital punishment is justified.”
— J. Budziszewski, Ph.D., University of Texas

“At long last, we have a serious and intelligent look at all aspects of the death penalty — its causes, its justification, its consequences for the victim, the criminal himself, and for civil society.”
— James V. Schall, S. J., Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

“An illuminating study of a subject often clouded by emotions.  An essential read for anyone who wants to understand this thorny subject.”
— Robert Royal, President, Faith and Reason Institute

“The arguments in this book have clarified many of the contentions of this critical issue in my mind.”
— Fr. Robert A. Sirico, President, The Acton Institute


  1. Any book suggested by Budziszewski is worth reading.

  2. ΑναξίθαλῆςJanuary 5, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    book on the philosophy of nature when?

  3. Any hope of a Kindle edition? We DownUnderers have to pay triple (or more) the US list price for physical books, due to shipping - not to mention the difficulty for those of us with two-hour-each-way commutes of carrying more paper. I have hundreds of books on my Kindle and the train is an excellent place for reading!

  4. Congratulations, Ed and Joe!

    @John Jensen, I live in Australia with longish commutes, too. I'll be using Booko to locate the best price for Ed's book:

  5. John,

    One thing we can do is what I just did: go to the link Ed gave at Amazon and scroll down a bit. On the far right-hand side (just below "Editorial Reviews") you'll see a kindle image where it says, "Tell The Publisher..." Click on the "I'd like to read this book on Kindle" link there.

    At least they'll find out soon enough how many people want this work -- not to mention others Ed had authored -- in a Kindle format!


  6. book on the philosophy of nature when?

    Here's the book schedule:

    1. Capital punishment book out in March.

    2. Five Proofs of the Existence of God, which is finished, is tentatively scheduled to appear late this year. (As I've explained before, the "five proofs" do not correspond exactly to Aquinas's Five Ways. Been there and done that. This is largely completely new material and a general work of natural theology, treating the divine attributes in depth and not merely the theistic proofs. More about it in time.)

    3. The philosophy of nature book is in progress and should be completed late this year. Should be out next year. More on this too in time.

  7. Oh, man, Feser is the gift that keeps on giving.

  8. Hmm... responding to 'Anonymous' about Kindle, on my Amazon page I see the 'Editorial Reviews' section but no Kindle icon or 'tell the publisher' link that I can find.

  9. John,

    Hm. My apologies.

    Here's a pic of what I see.

  10. Thanks, Anonymous. All I get is a link trying to sell me Amazon Prime. It may have to do with my New Zealand IP address.

  11. Ed,

    It might depend upon the publisher and the like, but how long does it typically take to go from your completing a work to it being on the shelves? I've no feel for these kinds of things and was curious.

  12. Congratulations Ed! Thanks for info on the upcoming book schedule. Please come to Princeton, New York, or anywhere on the East Coast to speak about any of these books =)

  13. Congratulations on the new book! Thanks also for keeping us posted on your book schedule, I’m particularly excited about the Five Proofs book.

    Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year.

  14. Congrats Feser..

    But here is a request Plz change the name of Five Proofs of the Existence of something cooler sounds like a sloppy generic apologetics book name .

  15. Name suggestion:

    Just what is it you don’t believe?
    Five Proofs...

  16. But here is a request Plz change the name of Five Proofs of the Existence of something cooler

    After extensive polling* and focus groups* we can offer the following replacement names:

    "It is what IS". (Sorry: play on the trite "It is what it is" to reflect "I am who am".)

    "THE ONE for the Price of Five: 5 Proofs for God"

    "Yes, Virginia, There is a God: 5 Proofs for God Even More Compelling than the Case for Santa Claus."

    Bonus Offering: the title to an article overturning Lawrence Krauss's stupid nothing book:

    "You Ain't Got Nothing Yet"

    * Polling Sample Size: 1. Margin of Error: indefinably small.

  17. I wonder if there will be a chapter of the crucifixion of Jesus. After all He was lawfully tried and executed by the state as a deterrent to others who might promulgate ideas that would endanger order and peace.

  18. "lawfully tried"

    Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."

    The only sense in which it was "lawful" was that the Roman governor, as a foreign conquerer, had the "right" (i.e. the power) to put to death anyone he pleased / decided to kill. That's the kind of law that says "you do what I want and I don't torture you to death".

    I am pretty sure that sense of "lawful" isn't the main driver of the book.

  19. I'd like to see some thoughts on this article on speciation in biology:

  20. Anyone want to go in with me on buying a copy for Mark Shea?

  21. @ DrYogami

    Don't know what exactly you wanna see but this is related i think..

    Also regarding sorites paradox might wanna check out Timothy Williamson's defense of epistemicism .

  22. I actually really like the title 5 Proofs For The Existence of God. It's so matter-o-fact like N.T. Wright’s *The Resurrection of The Son Of God*. Dr. Feser could always add a subtitle to make it more dramatic, though it may start to sound like an action film or get cheesy at that point:

    5 Proofs For The Existence of God; When Finite Meets Infinite

  23. Great mission you gave yourself. The topic is connected to hell metaphorically. If you think hell is empty despite e.g. countless pirates and criminals dying as they fought law enforcement to the death for millenia,'ll probably side with the last three Popes all of whom sought abolition even though they permitted the catechism to allow super rare death penalty. But abolition denies even the super rare use.
    St. JPII and Benedict in minor venues sad we could not be certain Judas was in hell and Francis twice has preferred a statue in a church in Europe to Christ's consistently dire words on Judas...words not in keeping with those who reach purgatory. Fr. Raymond Brown and his school of biblcal scholarship got Catholic leaders to ignore verses they ddn't like whether on Judas or on the death penalty. You are working against a tidal wave of bible cleaner uppers....God be with you.

  24. Hi Ed,

    I'm looking forward to your forthcoming book, "Five Proofs for the Existence of God." I understand it's intended more as a defense of classical theism than as an attempt to prove God's existence. In that case, you might find this post of mine interesting:

    A handy summary of 16 controverted questions among Christians regarding the nature of God can be found here:


  25. I understand it's intended more as a defense of classical theism than as an attempt to prove God's existence.

    Hello Vincent, not sure why you say that. It IS an attempt to prove God's existence, via five arguments, as the very title indicates. What I was saying above is just that (a) it isn't a book about Aquinas's Five Ways per se, even though there is some overlap, and (b) it isn't limited to putting forward the proofs but also contains a detailed treatment of the divine attributes and other issues besides. That is to say, it is a general work of natural theology.

  26. Anyone want to go in with me on buying a copy for Mark Shea?

    You know, Jacob... I will. How much??

  27. I suspect this book in itself might tend to an extreme of excess i.e. that the death penalty is necessary and desirable. This is just as problematic as saying the death penalty can not be justified ever. I think many of the supposed positives of the death penalty are exaggerated.

  28. Re: “By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed”, by Edward Feser: I have more than a theoretical interest in this argument about the death penalty. I confess I have not read the book, only the review by OnePeterFive. I have always been personally against the DP in part because of my profession. I am now retired from the criminal defense bar; I have been a public defender for most of these years in both Louisiana and California. I have tried over 20 of them from 1978 through 1990. Most were affirmed in the facts of the case, but the DP was overturned in all but one, eventually.

    First,citing vengeance as a support for the DP is grasping at rhetorical straws – although I need to research the book's texts that appear to allow this.

    My main objection to this review (and, perhaps the book) is the elision of the rather stark fact that apparently in this country over 150 people have been executed for either no crime at all (which appears to be the case in, e.g., Kevin Cooper’s case pending in CA) or really guilty of a lesser returnable verdict which should have been the result. This horrible result, among many, of a system gone stark raving mad as evidence of the intentional killing of a human being, by itself, should, in my opinion, justify present efforts to eliminate the DP as not only a carbuncle on the face of human justice, but an obvious insult to the spiritual proposition that all life is precious.

    I have been, along with many DP clients, the victim of the so-called “just us” system, which is a travesty in many jurisdictions because our criminal justice system is rife with flawed human values, chief among which is the propensity for state prosecutors to hide the evidence ball that would have at least mollified the jury’s eventual decision to instead find the defendant guilty of a lesser crime, if not exonerate him or her completely based on the questionable nature of the yclept incriminating facts.

    I applaud the fact that Pope Francis has ventured into the morass with his conclusion that, as I understand him, the DP is unnecessary in this age and because it is always an intentional killing, similar to abortion, which is an intrinsically evil act per se. The fact that this intention is carried out by a state agency, to me, appears as a motivating reaction to the perceived callousness that state prosecutors have pursued DP verdicts for fallow reasons – advance their careers or garner media headlines for obtaining “justice” for those who most deserve it, in their eyes. Review of these cases is pretty much relegated to a review of the extant court record, usually pretty sparse because public defenders never did have and do not now have the resources to match the States’ and thus will always depend on the conscience of the individual prosecutor to level the playing field by revealing ALL the exculpatory information that would have saved the life, if not the liberty, of the accused. I have seen too many such cases that are a deplorable example of power abuse to feel ever comfortable in using the contrary arguments put forth here in support of a different opinion about the present merits of and use of the DP.

    I realize this is not a popular conservative Catholic position now, but I am surprised that the authors expend so much time and energy in propping up an archaic and useless social appendage in today’s supposedly enlightened morality, regardless of the staid arguments in favor of the status quo.

    I object in all humility, knowing that my struggle to oppose this legalized killing and get the Church to see it that way is probably a waste of time. I just needed to say this after forty-plus years in the trenches. Grace and peace, anyway, always… Phil Johnson