My recent Catholic Herald article about Pope Francis and capital punishment has gotten a fair bit of attention. Some of it has been positive, some of it less so. In a new essay at Catholic World Report, I respond to four critics – Austen Ivereigh, E. Christian Brugger, Mark Shea, and Robert Fastiggi.
Meanwhile, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, commenting on the current controversy and on By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, writes:
As we are getting accustomed to, the pope’s comments lack precision and his increasingly Anglican-style ambiguity allows for varying interpretations.
However, the debate on capital punishment is a good one to have and there are strong arguments to be made on both sides…
But instead of a vigorous debate or dialogue progressives seem intent on shutting down the discussion… Although I am not a death penalty advocate, I reviewed Feser and Bessette’s book in a balanced way for a centrist Catholic website, but as far as I know the review has not been published. Is dialogue on this issue to be desired or shall we all duck for cover as the “Roma locuta” flags are being waved and we are expected to march in lock step?...
Whether we like it or not, Bessette and Feser have made strong points, but their arguments are not being addressed with any seriousness or sound reasoning. There are plenty of people who can answer Bessette and Feser, and they should do so.
End quote. Concerns about the pope’s recent remarks have also been raised by theologian Eduardo Echeverria at Catholic World Report, by P. J. Smith at First Things, by philosopher Joseph Shaw at Rorate Caeli, and by theologian Fr. Brian Harrison at One Peter Five. LifeSiteNews interviews five Catholic scholars who find the pope’s remarks problematic.
"the latter would by the same token justify in principle the infliction of rape on rapists, were it not for the impossibility of imposing that without corrupting one's passions--a qualification that only special pleading can prevent from also rendering the imposition of the DP corrupting"ReplyDelete
Man has no inherent passion to kill. For sex? A different story. I can't imagine how seeing the obvious difference, and failing to account for autists who can't see the obvious difference, makes for an "astonishingly bad" argument.
Anyway, I wish we would do away with prisons altogether and go back to beatings (and for theft, repayment several times over). It'd be far more humane for criminals with children, for example, but even for others, confinement is maddening, totally against human nature which longs to be free, and is never found as a punishment in Scripture, besides which, recidivism rates for former inmates are more than enough empirical justification for throwing out the whole damn system.
...Anyway. You're doing God's work, Dr. Feser, and with the pope's recent statements, it seems that you must find yourself at the center of a whirlwind controversy that threatens to consume the entire church. What a trashy situation! I will keep you in my meager and insufficient prayers.
Excellent article Ed.ReplyDelete
Just one thing.ReplyDelete
Dr. Feser asks, "if the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, all previous popes, and even scripture itself in fact have (as Brugger’s view implies) been so wrong for so long about something as serious as capital punishment, why should Brugger or anyone else trust what these sources have to say about contraception, conscience, grace, marriage, and the like? How can the credibility of the Church be upheld on any doctrinal matter?"
I think the answer to this is very simple. If the doctrine of the Church makes sense, it can be trusted. If it doesn't, it can't.
That is the way we judge all doctrines. Now, if Church Doctrine teaches that the dignity of human life is absolute (I am not saying Curch Doctrine actually says this, I am merely stating a hypothetical if), then saying that Capital punishment is (sometimes) justified sipmply makes no sense at all. And if that's the case, the Doctrine of the Church on this matter can't be trusted.
That is a Protestant view, and not even universal within Protestantism. The medium high Anglicans had a stronger view of Church teaching than that. They thought it authoritative, if not infallible, thus giving a very strong presumption in its favor. Examples include Hooker, Laud, and Chillingworth. The popular expostion was Dryden's Religio Laici. (I have seen something similar from some Lutherans.)Delete
It is not a possible view for Catholics, or for that matter, for the Orthodox, though the latter do not place the authority with the Pope. So your point comes down to "non Catholics don't agree with Catholics"; hardly a revelation.
It's not a matter of Catholic views or Protestant views, it's a matter of consistent views.Delete
If it's the case that Catholic Doctrine is contradictory, then by definition Catholic Doctrine on this cannot be trusted.
Again, I am not saying Catholic Doctrine is contradictory on this matter, but if Catholic Doctrine Church Doctrine teaches that the dignity of human life is absolute and also teaches that Capital punishment is sometimes justified, then Catholic Doctrine is contradictory and, by definition, cannot be trusted.
I really don't see any way out of this conclusion if one accepts the first premise. Of course one can perhaps deny that the dignity of human life is absolute. And maybe that's compatible with Catholic Doctrine, in which case my argument fails.
Walter, twice you have used the phrase (posing a hypothetical) "the dignity of human life is absolute".Delete
What do you think "dignity" and, in particular, "dignity of human life" actually means.
Let me clarify. If Catholic doctrine explicitly said (and had said since the time of Christ) that "the dignity of human life is absolute and this absoluteness means that no person may ever be directly and intentionally killed under any circumstances whatsoever, including as self-defense, war, and punishment", then we would KNOW what sort of dignity is being claimed.
But, of course, Catholic doctrine has not claimed so in the past.
"Dignity" and "precluded from being put to death" are not MANIFESTLY in direct opposition. They occupy different categories, and it simply is not OBVIOUS that when a person claims "human dignity" they must, by that very fact, be claiming "free from capital punishment." It is simply not true that the concept of "dignity" is, per se, directly and immediately bound to the concept of "free from the death penalty" as to make it simply incoherent to even propose that a person can be killed.
So, what do YOU mean by "dignity"?
Is it equally plausible that a person with human dignity may not be locked into a cell? (See Edward Isaac's comments above.) Why or why not? Isn't human freedom just as natural to man as human life?
What of the arguments, from the dawn of the Judeo-Christian religion, that human dignity is COMPATIBLE with the death penalty. The people who argue this must simply have a different understanding of dignity than yours. Whose is right? It cannot be established, without actually drawing out the concepts and making the arguments.
For example, almost every person who rejects the death penalty "in principle" likes to rely on the fact that human dignity is based on our being made in the image and likeness of God: it's in our nature. But Genesis 9:6 takes that very fact, that we are made in God's image, as_the_very_basis for the rightness of the death penalty. So, are you working with a DIFFERENT kind of dignity than that of "made in God's image" as the reason human dignity gives a man immunity from being put to death?
What sort of dignity is it? Why does it grant man immunity?
I don't claim that the dignity of human life is absolute, all I say is that if the dignity of human life is absolute, it follows that Capital Punishment is unacceptable.
To e clear I did not say "human dignity", I said "the dignity of human life. So while it may or may not be so that a person with human dignity may not be locked into a cell (I don't wish to argue either way here), the dignity of human life has nothing to do with being locked into a cell or not. Dignity of human life is either absolute or not. If it is absolute, then, no matter what anyone claims, it cannot possibly be compatible with the death penalty.
Your argument is not per se wrong, but it de facto denies that the dignity of human life is absolute and I accept that if the dignity of human life is not absolute, the death penalty may be justified. And I agree that Genenis 9:6 can be intrepreted as saying that the dignity of human life is not absolute, in which case by man shall his blood be shed may be justified.
The point is that "the dignity of human life is absolute" is a radically ambiguous sentence. There are several distinct claims that someone uttering it could intend, and they are not all incompatible with the permissibility of the death penalty.
I don't agree that "the dignity of life is absolute" is ambiguous. To me "absolute" has a very clear meaning: without exceptions.
If someone wants to claim that the diginity of human life is compatible with the death penalty, that's fine with me, but the claim that the diginity of human life is absolute while the death penalty is acceptable is simply incoherent.
Walter, if I said "the absolute dignity of human life requires the application of the death penalty for pre-meditated murder", would I be uttering an oxymoron? You seem to be saying yes. I say no. The word "dignity" (even in the absolute) is not, conceptually, identical to nor does it entail "immunity from death penalty". You have to flesh out dignity to see whether my claim is right or not, you cannot simply rely on "absolute" to establish the point.Delete
Let's put it another way: "The absolute truth that two siblings being born of a man and a woman are thus related means that the siblings ought to be immune from fines, imprisonment, or being made to sit in the corner."
Well, of course that is not a true statement, even though the absoluteness of the truth that is the first part is valid. Why? Because "relatedness" of siblings though absolute, is not something that contains, implies, or entails immunity from penalty. The concept relatedness is not something that even speaks to the concept of immunity from penalty.
In not exactly the same way, people are asking "what, precisely, is it in the concept of 'dignity' that you think implies or entails immunity from death? After all, the "absolute dignity of human life" does not entail immunity from fatal disease. Nor from fatal accidents. Nor from punishments that will, with statistical certainty, shorten a person's lifetime by several years. When you start bandying about "absolute" and "dignity", it is not even clear that it is justifiable to put them together into the same expression without qualifiers (like "innocent", which JPII used to qualify the notion).
What about God, can God justly take away a human life due to a sin? If so, why does not "absolute dignity of human life" forbid it? Does "absolute" there mean something different from "absolute dignity of human free will", which God does NOT abrogate? Is it a kind of dignity that is both absolute and yet qualified?
The ambiguity is large and central.
As Ia sid , there is nothing ambiguous about the "absolute diginity of human life" It means that no-one under any circumstances has the right to take away a human life.
Diseases, accidents etc. do not imply anyone taking away another person's life.
What about God? Absolute dignity of human life indeed means that even God cannot take away human life. That why I do think that the dignity of human life is actually relative and that it may indeed not be justifiable to put them together into one expression.
But that doesn't contradict my point, which is that if human life has absolute dignity, the death penalty cannot possibly be justified. The death penalty can only be justified if the dignity of human life is not absolute.
Walter, thank you for trying to clear that up. You have made progress. This is certainly clearer that it was at the start.Delete
I fear that your version of what "absolute dignity of human life" means and what is meant by people like Francis, Brugger, and others are NOT the same (or even compatible). I am pretty confident that Brugger, at least, would assert that "absolute" for human dignity DOES mean that no human may be put to death by humans as a penalty for crime, but NOT that God may not put a human to death for a crime. Thus his notion of "absolute dignity of human life" would be different concept than yours. Perhaps he would be using the expression inappropriately, or perhaps just differently. Either way, anyone who agrees with him (which is a fair number of new natural lawyers) would find your meaning confusing, and thus at least in their circles it would end up being ambiguous - at least without the clarification you supplied above.
Your version would be very good grounds - possibly even definitive grounds for denying that there is such a thing as "absolute dignity of human life". Which those same new natural lawyers would be upset about.
But to make things even clearer, can you please expand on what you mean by "dignity"? I don't mean "absolute", just "dignity" by itself. What does "dignity" mean? How is it situated in that it might conceptually allow either for "relative dignity of human life" or "absolute dignity of human life"?
Maybe my version of human dignity is not shared by Brugger or Pope Frances, but their version will do for my argument. If the dignity of human life means that no man may be put to death by another human, the absolute dignity means that there is no circumstance under which a human being may be put to death by aonther human being.Delete
By dignity I simply mean that human life has an absolute intrinsic value such that no fallible human being has a right to take it away.
"I think the answer to this is very simple."Delete
No, the answer is even simpler than that. If they were wrong on something this fundamental for so long, they cannot be trusted - and neither can can the Church's Magisterium if it reverses course on this.
"By dignity I simply mean that human life has an absolute intrinsic value such that no fallible human being has a right to take it away."Delete
OK< but that smacks of Humpty Dumptyism. That is flat out not what the Church has ever taken it to mean. Nor is it what people have historically meant "dignity" to mean. For centuries, it was believed that there were ways to execute someone while respecting his dignity. E.g., when Adm John Byng was convicted by court martial (in the Seven Years' War), and sentenced to death, his friends were active in seeing that he was shot, as being a fitting and dignified death.
More obviously, the belief that death in battle was about as dignified a way to go as possible, has been more than common, it has been nearly universal. Yesterday was the anniversary of Trafalgar. Just search for "legacy of Horatio Nelson" to see an example. Or the earlier, Roman Horatio. Or...well, you figure it out.
What you are asserting is a personal, idiosyncratic definition. Meanwhile, it is central to the Church's concept of her magisterium that she is the one who defines these things.
Well, if that is flat out not what the Church has ever taken it to mean, it is obvious, at least to me, that the Church has never held to absolute dignity of human life.Delete
So, my argument still stands.
Yes, maybe it comes down to that. But, if "they" hold that the dignity of human life is absolute and also hold that the death penalty is justified, "they" were undoubtedly wrong and, indeed, they cannot be trusted on this, which is hardly surprising, since "they" are all fallible human beings, and so is the Church's Magisterium.
So, no, they cannot be trusted if by "trusted" you mean that their opinion is to be taken for granted and can never be questioned.
And that is a very good thing, since taking for granted something that is demonstrably false is the worst enemy philosophy can ever imagine.
That is not what is meant by ‘trusted’, and that is not what is meant by ‘dignity’. Your entire argument relies upon equivocation, and a particularly arrant form of equivocation in which you yourself assign the second meaning to words used by other people in their normal sense; and therefore it is unsound at the source.Delete
By dignity I simply mean that human life has an absolute intrinsic value such that no fallible human being has a right to take it away.Delete
See, that is not an answer. I asked for an understanding of "dignity" that does not require the attachment of "absolute" to it. You gave me "absolute dignity" all over again.
Extrapolating, maybe a person would say "by dignity I mean 'has intrinsic value' ". This could be supported in various ways. For instance, in identifying a human being as a "person", we signify that he is an unrepeatable, unique being whose nature means he may never be considered simply as a means to an end. He cannot be treated as a commodity or as chattel - he has intrinsic value, not merely value insofar as in use for X purpose.
This would be readily defended by the historic teaching of the Church, such as by St. Augustine. We could also support it by reference to Genesis, "made in His image."
The problem (for death penalty abolishers) is that the basis for this kind of dignity, while it may justly be called "absolute" in a sense because there is no gray area or gradation between "is a person" and "is not a person", it's either yes or no, yet it simply CANNOT be used to prove a thesis that being a person means having immunity from the death penalty. There is no commensurability in the concepts, they don't speak to the same issues. To be unique, unrepeatable, and having an immortal soul does not say anything about whether one has immunity from being killed. To be a person, not chattel and not an object or commodity does not say anything about whether one has immunity from being killed altogether it only says one may not be killed in the way of chattel. It is silent about whether one may be killed in the way we treat responsible, free-willed criminals who have justly incurred a penalty commensurate with death. "Dignity" may imply "worth", but it does not imply "worth beyond all censure".
Indeed, even adding "absolute" on top of "having dignity" does not clearly imply immunity from the death penalty: even if one were to say that the "absolute" means that the murderer's life is of infinite value, a response might be that just vindication of the innocent victim's infinite value ALSO has infinite value, in which case the second infinite good might outweigh the former in some other scale than their infinities. (Since "absolute" in reference to a human's life or dignity cannot mean "has more worth than everything, including God", there can in principle be other values that outweigh it because they are goods of another order.)
"Dignity" and "immunity from death" do not bear on each other in any simple, direct sense. They must both be referred to some other frame of reference in which they can be placed and evaluated in a hierarchical sense, and there is no givenness that the result MUST NECESSARILY mean that the dignity of human life is higher than the vindication of justice.
I am pretty confident that Brugger, at least, would assert that "absolute" for human dignity DOES mean that no human may be put to death by humans as a penalty for crime, but NOT that God may not put a human to death for a crime.
Actually, believe it or not, the new natural lawyers believe that even God may not cause the death of a human, though I could not point you to a place where this has been said in print.
It means that no-one under any circumstances has the right to take away a human life.
I am happy to grant that if no one can ever take a human life, then no one can ever take a human life in capital punishment. The Church has not taught that no human ever has a right to take a human life, so it has not taught that "the dignity of human life is absolute," so interpreted. When churchmen have uttered sentences similar to that one, they have meant something else, or they've been in error.
For my own part, I believe that it is part of man's dignity that he is accountable for his actions.Delete
If a dog were to kill a human, we would kill the dog, but we would not be punishing the dog. When we do punish dogs, it is for the sake of habituating them to act differently. Retribution in punishment is a response to man's dignity.
believe it or not, the new natural lawyers believe that even God may not cause the death of a human,Delete
If so, they should be declared heretics and we should be done with the lot. The position is certainly heretical. Ananias and Sapphira certainly show the thesis to be wrong.
Can you make a case for your understanding of "dignity" as being correct, rather than simply asserting it and reasserting it. I can see not case either from the inherent logic of it, or from the historical understanding of it, to back you up. And you certainly haven't offered one.
It's not enough to say "There's glory for you."
How would you apply the validity of seemingly necessary killings in "self defense" to your concept of absolute dignity?
If human beings have the "absolute dignity" you are describing, how then could a person kill in self defense?
Secondly, certainly at least some cases of capital punishment, if not all, are cases of societal self defense via complete and permanent removal of the aggressing individual from that society.
There is lots to reply to here, but I will limit myself to what I see as the most important criticisms.Delete
I take this as the key phrase in your comment
"They must both be referred to some other frame of reference in which they can be placed and evaluated in a hierarchical sense, and there is no givenness that the result MUST NECESSARILY mean that the dignity of human life is higher than the vindication of justice."
My point is that absolute diginity cannot be placed in a hierarchical sense to something else because IMO it makes no sense to say that X is absolute but Y is more absolute. So, the dignity of human life is not higher than the vindication of justice, rather the dignity of human life is as high as the vindication of justice and therefore, an absolute vindication of justice cannot entail killing a person.
As for self-defense, I don't believe someone really has the right to take another person's life even in self-defense.Delete
What I do believe is that a person has a right to defend himself by all means and that in some cases, the death of a person may be the inevitable result of that. That also means that, if there is another way of defending oneself that doesn't involve killing, that way is the only permissible way. Only if it is not possible to defend oneself without killing someone else should one kill another human being.
The point is that in the case of the death penalty, I don't think it is ever the case that there are no other ways to protect oneself (or society) from the criminal and I don't agree with Kyle that at least some cases of capital punishment, if not all, are cases of societal self defense via complete and permanent removal of the aggressing individual from that society. There are other ways of compmletely and permanantly removing the aggressing individual from society.
As for self-defense, I don't believe someone really has the right to take another person's life even in self-defense. What I do believe is that a person has a right to defend himself by all means and that in some cases, the death of a person may be the inevitable result of that.Delete
Interestingly, there was in early Catholic history a ventured opinion that one may not react to aggression with ANY sort of violence at all, as being contrary to "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies". And this POV would be consistent with your proposed sense of "absolute dignity of human life". However, the second comment, about using a means of defense from which death might inevitably result, is not. If you want to keep to the kind of "absolute" that you keep saying is really absolute, then one would not be permitted to use a means of defense (even if the _only_ way to save your own life) that would inevitably kill the aggressor, because then you would still be killing him. Nor with a means that probably would result in his death. Nor with a means that plausibly might result in his death. Nor with a means that could result in his death with small but real possibility. The only means you might use is a means that had no appreciable innate capacity to cause his death. My point is that absolute dignity cannot be placed in a hierarchical sense to something else because IMO it makes no sense to say that X is absolute but Y is more absolute.
Well, I guess that makes sense of your position that even God may not justly take away a human's life.
It also implies that the dignity of a human's life is as absolute as God's, for "absolute" does not admit of anything higher. (Or greater than God's, but we don't need to go there, do we?) Which implies so many errors and heresies that it's hard to know where to start.
Let's just leave it at this, Walter: You may find some random mention of some idea or other by some Christian author for that sort of "absolute" dignity of human life, but it has as much to do with Catholic teaching as the Easter Bunny has to do with the Catholic understanding of Easter. I see no point in bothering about it. Any Catholic who is trying assert this kind of absoluteness to the dignity of human life has FAR MORE (and more fundamental) problems to worry about than their position on the death penalty. And trying to argue about it with respect the DP while the more fundamental problems are left hanging is probably fruitless.
You should distinguish between my personal opinion and what I think the implications of the claim of absolute dignity of human life are.
For the record, my stance on self-defense is my personal opinion. i have never claimed that this is compatible with the absolute dignity of human life.
And yes, of course absolute dignity means what it means. Saying that X is absolute while Y is more absolute is, IMHO, completely incoherent, that's why I think that Catholics should never use the absolute dignity of human life in any argument at all.
Abortion and euthanasia may be wrong for various reasons, but if someone claims that it's because of the dignity of human life, he cannot claim the death penalty is justified. That is and has always been my argument.
Walter, I am sorry, but you have effectively constructed a straw man. On the one hand, if "absolute" is to mean "absolute in every respect", and is NOT ALLOWED to mean "absolute in one respect only", then you hypothesize a situation in which God is no longer the Lord of Life, He becomes a subject of a realm that does not submit to His rule.Delete
JPII, though, uses "absolute" differently. In Evangelium Vitae, he nowhere uses the expression "absolute dignity", but he does use "absolute respect" for life. But in that, he makes it quite explicit that such "respect" entails qualifiers, one being with regard to "innocence":
But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life.
Absolute respect for every innocent human life also requires the exercise of conscientious objection in relation to procured abortion and euthanasia.
The rationale and arguments for the respect regard one reason for the respect being a kind of absolute, without suggesting that it must be absolute in every single respect: humans are never merely a thing, a means to an end. Their person precludes treating them as if they were wholly and "absolutely" nothing but a means to some other end - they are an "end in themselves". But this truth does not mean that a human may be treated as the ULTIMATE end, only God can be treated so, He is the end in a way that no human can be considered an end. Hence there is a way of speaking of human dignity that places men as "absolutely" outside the category of mere means, though not "absolutely" the ultimate end of life.
When you go searching around the web, you will be hard pressed to find anyone with any authority using the phrase "absolute dignity of human life", and even if you do, it will probably be used in a way that clearly, probably even explicitly, precludes using it the way you have laid out.
So, maybe there is some plausible or arguable sense for "absolute" that is not compatible with how they are using it. Get over it: there is, also, a plausible and reasonable sense for how they ARE using it, so that's the sense we need to address.
"But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life."(blded mine)
JPII says there are two fundamental principles at work here. One is aboslute respect for human life and the other is protection of every innocent life.
he does not say that the "absolute" in "absolute respect" only refers to innocent life. If he did, he would virtually be saying that 1 + 1 =3, and, as I said before, in that case he could, by definition, not be trusted.
Again, if someone claims we should only have absolute respect for innocent life, that can be compatible with advocating the death penalty, but somenone who says that absolute respect for human life is a fundamental principle and at the same time defends the death penalty is simply irrational and cannot be trusted in that respect. And there are myriads of Catholics who do this. I think Popoe Francis definitely has absolute respect for human life and as a consequence, cannot possibly defend the death penalty.
If so, they should be declared heretics and we should be done with the lot. The position is certainly heretical. Ananias and Sapphira certainly show the thesis to be wrong.
I should note that Brugger seems to hold otherwise than I said in his review of Feser and Bessette at Public Discourse. Either the new natural lawyers don't have a uniform position on whether God may intend the death of a human, or he is not defending that view for retorsive purposes.
Fastiggi: A pope could never misinterpret scripture!ReplyDelete
Critic: But what if a pope were to contradict the way previous popes have always interpreted scripture vis-à-vis capital punishment?
Fastiggi: Er, well, then that would not be a true misinterpretation!
That reminded me, not only of Orwell, but also of Waugh.
Then again I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said 'It's going to rain', would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh, yes, Father.' 'But supposing it didn't?' He thought a moment and said, "I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'"
One thing that has long struck me is the close analogy between liberal Catholics' view of papal pronouncements and political liberals' attitude toward the Supreme Court's rulings. In some cases (Roe, Obergefell) the ruling settles the issue, and stare decisis is the rule. But looking at others (Citizens'United, Heller, Hobby Lobby), well, that's another story. Of course, the latter view IS defensible in the case of the Court; I don't think anyone would deny that. But the same attitude doesn't work at all for the Church.
"Anglican style" is apt. I didn't go to Rome to get more Canterbury. It's distressing.
One more thing. Am I in error in understanding that John XXII explicitly denied that he was teaching authoritatively about the Beatific Vision, and that debate was still open? If so, it was the only the last point which was objectionable, was it not? That is, he erred in thinking that the matter was not decided. But at least he clearly indicated that his view was not settled doctrine. That would seem a little less problematic than Liberius and Honorius.
Ever considered crossing the Bosphorus?Delete
That was the choice it came down to. But...Delete
1. The Latrocinium of Ephesus strikes me as a stronger case for the Pope than all the bad Popes have made against.
2. Frankly, the theology is often incomprehensible to me, or at least, the rationale for it. I do not denounce Palamism, but I don't see how it can be definitive. And as best I can see, it is far more definitive of Orthodoxy than Thomism has ever been.
I wonder how wide your response will be published - or if people will try to silence any discussion or dissent.ReplyDelete
There are 3 points from the other side you should address for your replies to be complete. I know this, because I have been trying to explain your points to people and been hit with these replies.
If you can answer these, then you will greatly strengthen your case.
1) Feser and Besette have not shown that the legitimacy of the death penalty has been infallibly taught. Therefore, it may just be a "common teaching" and is in principle reformable.
2) Feser argues that God could not command the Israelites to do anything intrinsically immoral. Therefore, the death penalty is in principle not intrinsically immoral. This argument is problematic since God commanded the Israelites to kill Canaanite women and children. Of course, there may be other interpretations of this. And that's what anti-DP folks will argue regarding DP supportive scriptures; namely, there are other interpretations.
3. Much like God regulates and permits divorce for a time, he regulated and permitted the death penalty for a time. But it was never the ideal.
3. is a non-starter, I think, since the former case has to do with the time before the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ. The latter does not; Christ Himself and His apostles and His Church have taught the latter. The only way out of that problem is to revert to a variation on 2., arguing over interpretation, this time of the New Testament instead of the Old. So 3. can be set aside.Delete
Thanks for the reply Rob. I agree that at the very least Feser will need to answer 2.Delete
It would be convenient for Ed to have, for reference, a blog post on slavery and usury. It is very frequently trotted out that the Church has reversed its teachings on those topics, and thus the Magisterium can go from uniformly affirming p to holding not-p.Delete
Also, it would be useful to understand slavery as it was understood by Aristotle and other ancients and as it was understood by moderns during its revival in chattel form; i.e., between natural slavery and political slavery.Delete
Yes, Greg, Ed does have posts where he discusses it. Try this one: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/07/msgr-swetlands-confusions.htmlDelete
For 2, one need not simply depend on Genesis 9:6, but can also turn to Romans 13:1-4. Paul does seem to present a case for the position that the state has they authority from God to execute criminals.Delete
People can respond to this by saying it's culturally influenced, like say, Paul's instruction on slaves and masters. the problem though is that in the latter case, Paul doesn't give a theological justification for the way things are set up (hence Paul's statements should not be taken as an argument for slavery, but on how Christian slaves and Christian masters should approach their state in life given the circumstances). On the other hand, Roman 13 pinpoints the carrying out of justice by the state as a means by which God carries out his own justice.
The Church Fathers had an understanding similar to Paul in that regards. However, many were weary of capital punishment, and the Church also had a tradition of advocacy for granting mercy even to the murderer for repentance. But what differs between them and modern people against the death penalty is that the decision not to use it was an application of mercy rather than mere justice, whereas from what I am seeing, people are claiming that the death penalty is unjust. JPII may have been reaching more into the sources of the past than people give him credit for.
I hope my comment may be of some help.Delete
1) Even as a "common teaching" (or also known as sententia communis, certa in theologia) it's still infallible since it's the unanimous teaching of the Theologians and denying it, according to Fr. Sixtus Cartechini, one commits a "mortal sin of temerity." So no, it is not reformable.
Let us listen to the great Moral Doctor, "Whether, and in what manner, is it lawful to kill a wrongdoer
376. Whether it is lawful for proper authority to kill a criminal?
376.—Response: Other than the case of necessary defense, of which more below, no one except public authority may lawfully do so, and then only if the order of the law has been observed, as is made clear in Exodus 22 and Romans 13.
. . . . The public authority is given the power to kill wrongdoers, and that not unjustly, since it is necessary for the defense of the commonwealth. (Killing may not be done outside of the criminal’s territory, neither is it presumed that another prince has this right.) They also sin who kill not out of the zeal of justice, but out of hate, or private vengeance. Similarly, a prince or magistrate sins (normally speaking), who orders a wrongdoer to be put to death without being properly cited, or heard, or adjudged (by public trial), even it if he has personal knowledge of that person’s guilt, because as a matter of natural law, a public act ought to be derived from public knowledge and authority. There is an exception to this rule if: (1) the crime is notorious, or (2) if there is a danger of sedition, or the King’s disgrace, if the cause proceeds juridically."
Ryan Grant is translating St. Alphonsus's Theologia Moralis into English, for more info go here https://mediatrixpress.com/?p=1672
If you can read latin then get them here https://isidore.co/calibre/browse/search?query=theologia+moralis
2) That issue has been answered elsewhere, check these posts:
I recommend the book "The Book of Non-Contradiction: Harmonizing the Scriptures" as well.
3) The thing is, God never commanded divorce but He did command the latter as you mentioned in (2). St. Thomas describes several types of permission and one of them (the one that is of interest to us) is the permission of tolerance. He defines it as, "some evil tolerated, lest it become worse." This why Christ said, "Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery" (Mat. 19:8-9).Delete
St. Thomas comments on this saying, "They had said that Moses commanded this; but he did not command, rather he permitted this to be done. Concerning the hardness of their hearts, it is stated: 'You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost' (Acts 7, 51)" and "But why does he only commit adultery if he marries another woman? It is because a thing is bound by the same things by which it is loosened. Hence, when a man has a wife that has been separated from himself, and not another woman, there is still hope that they can be reunited, either by sin just like her sin, or by mutual agreement; but when he has married another woman, then he has completely separated his heart, and withdrawn his marital consent from her. Another reason is that if a man could put away his wife for a reason other that fornication, it would sometimes happen that a man would charge his wife with a crime so that he might be separated from her, and she would be united to another; for that reason, the Lord willed that he might not have another wife. Hence, He expressly forbade that a man have different wives, because when he has put away one and accepted another, he commits adultery." The point is that our Lord was restoring the dignity of the marital bond to its original nature, how it was from the beginning, free from all perversity. However, as Catholics we know He didn't stop there.
The death penalty is different. Take two examples one from the Old and another from the New Dispensation:
St. Robert Bellarmine commenting at the end of Psalm 100 says:
"In the mornings" speedily, quickly, before vice could have taken root; "I put to death all the wicked in the land," all those who deserved death, and whose life could not be spared without danger to the innocent. And that was done by me in order "that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity," to restore peace and tranquillity to the inhabitants of God’s holy city, by weeding out all the disturbers therein. All the Psalm, though spoken by David in his own person, is more applicable to Christ, especially this last verse; for David did all in him lay to banish all bad members from the city of the Lord, but he did not succeed, and never could succeed therein; but Christ, in the morning of the world to come, will really and truly cut off and scatter all the workers of iniquity, and thenceforward the holy city of the heavenly Jerusalem will be what its name implies, a vision of peace.
"For if I have injured them, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die. But if there be none of these things whereof they accuse me, no man may deliver me to them: I appeal to Caesar" (Acts 25:11).
This comment has been removed by the author.Delete
St. Bonaventure has a good argument for the legitimacy of the death penalty from his "Collations on the Ten Commandments." I will try to post it when I have a chance. For those who have the book it's from pages 85-88.Delete
Jose, excellent comments, thank you very much.Delete
"That's what anti-DP folks will argue regarding DP supporting scriptures; namely, there are other interpretations." Obviously, anyone can produce interpretations; the issue is whether they are convincing. Some of the recent discussions on the Canaanite question include Paul Copan and Matthew Flanagan's "Did God Really Command Genocide?" and Joshua Butler's "Skeletons in God's cupboard." Both make a strong case that God did not order anything intrinsically immoral. Which interpretations of Genesis 9:6, the legal prescriptions of death by stoning, and other texts are you referring to, that regard them as not at least permitting the death penalty?
Thanks for the reply. I don't have specific interpretations in mind, but here's what the anti-DP folks are throwing at us when we present Feser's points (and I agree with Feser for the record). They will say:
There are clear passages where God commands the Israelites to kill Canaanite women and children. Killing innocent women and children is intrinsically immoral. So, apparently commands that are intrinsically immoral are not beyond God's purview or there are other interpretations (even if I can't tell you exactly what they are). Can you produce a convincing interpretation to the contrary? That's how I view Genesis 9:6 and other passages. They might seem clear, but if indeed the death penalty is intrinsically wrong, then there will be other interpretations.
It's a tough point to respond to. And the anti-DP folks are ready to make it.
Maybe you covered this earlier in the thread, but doesn't the Mosaic law explicitly "command" (rather than merely permit or tolerate)the death penalty for certain crimes? Also, historically, didn't the Israelites execute criminals according to those commands?
Also, given that the Church herself is the authority on the authentic interpretation of Scripture, and while She may have not given an official interpretation of the killing of the Canaanites (or has She?, idk) she certainly has time and again given authoritative interpretations of scripture on and promoted capital punishment. Just read Pius XII, for example.
When interpreting the Tradition and what popes are saying (especially when one pope says one thing and another says something opposite). Always go with the view that has been said by more popes, in more authoritative magisterial documents.
In light of that, Capital Punishment being legitimate wins out.
When the Church fathers are unanimous in how they interpretation of Scripture (when they do speak on a topic), then that interpretation is infallible. Feser has said in his interviews (I confess I haven't read his book) that whenever a Church father spoke unfavorably about capital punishment, it was always regarding the practical application. This is understandable, given the persecutions that were going on. They (the fathers) all thought of CP being legitimate, in principle.
I don’t know who these people are who are raising this objection, but it’s not a very impressive one at all. In fact, it’s nuts.
First of all, the notion of an act which is both commanded by God and is also intrinsically immoral makes no sense. It’s like talking about a round square. “X is commanded by God [who is of necessity perfectly good]” entails “X is morally permissible.” “X is intrinsically immoral” entails “X is never morally permissible.” Hence “X is commanded by God and X is intrinsically immoral” entails “X is morally permissible and X is never morally permissible,” which is self-contradictory.
Second, to assert that to obey God sometimes entails doing what is intrinsically immoral is blasphemous.
Third, the position in question entails that scripture might for all we know be absolutely full of injunctions to do what is intrinsically immoral. The skeptic can always say “Sure, God commanded it, but it might for all that be intrinsically immoral and thus something we can ignore now.” How the people you are talking to would reconcile this with the Catholic doctrine that scripture cannot teach error with respect to faith and morals, I have no idea.
Fourth, even if one could make it plausible that God might command something intrinsically immoral on some specific, narrowly defined and temporary occasion (such as killing the Canaanites, or commanding Abraham to kill Isaac – which, if your interlocutors are correct, would be intrinsically immoral even though God stopped him, since it is immoral for Abraham even to intend to do what is intrinsically immoral), the position on capital punishment that you are describing is more extreme than this. It entails that God commanded that something intrinsically immoral should be a daily part of Israelite life for centuries. How your interlocutors would reconcile this with God’s goodness, I have no idea.
Fifth, it is in any event simply false to say that the passages in question involve something intrinsically immoral. The reason is that it is not intrinsically immoral for God to take innocent human life. And the people in question were not taking life on their own authority (which would have been intrinsically immoral), but rather as divine agents or instruments acting under explicit command. It was, strictly speaking, God taking the lives of the people in question, via these agents. (Would this justify people taking innocent life now, claiming to be divine agents? Not at all, because those commands came as part of public divine revelation, and Catholic teaching is that such revelation ended with the death of the last of the Apostles.)
The view your interlocutors are taking thus has implications that would completely undermine the entire structure of Catholic moral theology. It astounds me how people are prepared to tie themselves in such logical knots, and essentially to burn down the entire building, rather than entertain the possibility that the pope may simply have spoken too loosely, which the Church has always allowed is possible when a pope is not speaking ex cathedra, and which has in fact happened before, even if very rarely. It’s truly insane.
In response to your first question (about the irreformability of the teaching on CP), the 100-plus page second chapter of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed is essentially one long answer to that question.
In response to your third question (about divorce), two things: First, the Mosaic law permitted divorce and regulated how it was to be carried out, but that is very different from positively commanding it. By contrast, CP is positively commanded many times. You can permit an evil, but you cannot positively command something evil.
Second, CP is in any event sanctioned both before the Mosaic law (in Genesis 9:6) and after it (e.g. by St. Paul), in passages that have always been understood by the Church to be sanctions of CP.
So, once again, another non-starter.
Thanks for the detailed replies! I will be using these points as I continue to defend your position.
Many Catholics are adverse to your position due to how we were raised (in the era of the catechism's prudential judgment). But if they see the reasonable arguments you and Joe present, I hope more can be persuaded.
Thanks for the comments.
Also, concerning who these people are, some of them are frequent commenters at the website www.calledtocommunion.com. The interactions have been on Facebook. Others randomly chime in.Delete
Your comments above are very helpful.
re: john d's and ed feser's commentReplyDelete
i think the most bruising objection comes from numbers 5:12 - the trial by ordeal known as the ordeal of bitter water.
1. can a trial by ordeal ever be a legitimate means to determine guilt or innocence?
2. this is the most relevant to the broader issue being discussed - the ordeal of bitter water was a way to test the fidelity of a wife suspected of adultery by her spouse. the woman would be brought before a priest and compelled to drink a solution that would induce an abortion if she was lying, and supposedly leave her unharmed if she was telling the truth.
if killing the innocent unborn is an intrinsically evil act, then the ordeal of bitter water poses a serious challenge to the very concept of intrinsic evil and god's moral nature.
Those are fine questions worthy of a detailed treatment, but what matters for present purposes is that they give no aid or comfort to any Catholic trying to justify the view that CP is intrinsically immoral. For the moment you say that God sometimes commands what is intrinsically immoral, or that scripture teaches moral error, or anything like that, it's game over. You've just undermined the entire structure of Catholic doctrine. One might as well go join the Unitarians or something and stop pretending to be taking a Catholic position.
I had this debate with my buddy Pete Vere and he made the same mistake you made.Delete
Technically "abortion" is not intrinsically evil. Murder is intrinsically evil. Murder is the unlawful killing of someone and that applies from conception till natural death.
God may take human life at will even unborn human life. He is the author of life and He alone may take it or authorize it's taking under certain circumstances. If God wants to judge an adulterous woman by taking her unborn child back to Himself how is that immoral?
The only reason CP is not intrinsically immoral is because God authorizes it. St Augustine said if a person without Authority to do so, takes the life of an evil doer he shall be counted a murderer before God for dare usurping what belongs to God alone.
God alone may take life. Governments and Civil Authorities may only us CP because God in Roman 15 grants them authority to do so. They don't have that right by nature.
All Life belongs to the Word of Life who may give and take it as He justly judges.
If God wants to judge an adulterous woman by taking her unborn child back to Himself how is that immoral?Delete
Because it seems arbitrary (the child qua agent has no moral properties which pick it out over thousands of other beings). Consider the case: God will judge if a man is really guilty of murder by destroying a small Inuit village half-way across the world.
Of course if one had the agenda of preventing possible contention via allegations of illegitimacy in the course of legacy and property disputes then having potential problem children die would be useful. That however is rather like asking God to assassinate someone for you (blasphemy and black magical). Or more accurately like shooting someone, shrugging and claiming 'God will let them live if they are innocent'.
The only reason CP is not intrinsically immoral is because God authorizes it. St Augustine said if a person without Authority to do so, takes the life of an evil doer he shall be counted a murderer before God for dare usurping what belongs to God alone.
Correct me if I'm wrong here but I thought that on the Thomist intellectualist account God cannot make something intrinsically immoral by licit command. This, together with apparent Scriptural counter-examples such as Isaac and Abraham, was one of the things which pushed Scotus and Ockham towards Divine volunterism.
All Life belongs to the Word of Life who may give and take it as He justly judges.
That God judges justly implies there is an external standard by which he judges e.g. what is good for human nature (a necessary truth about human essences grounded in the Divine Nature). If there is no such standard then we seem back at the crudest variant of Euthyphro Dilemma.
God alone may take life. Governments and Civil Authorities may only us CP because God in Roman 15 grants them authority to do so. They don't have that right by nature.Delete
Sorry, but this does not represent traditional Catholic teaching. That tradition has it that the DP is part of the natural law, and that all polities under a civil government have it (and rightly understood that they have it) without advertence to a special divine command or authorization. Roman's 15 doesn't dislodge this in the least. Romans 13:1-3 affirms what I have said:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
"For there is no there is no authority except that which God has established" shows that it is in connection with the natural law that God does this - for Jesus confirms that Pilate DOES have authority, (and that it comes from God), but there was never any special divine revelation and command constituting the Roman rule, it was done through the natural law. Then Romans 13:4-5 is, also, of the natural law:
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
The trial of bitter water would mean that the adulterous woman knowingly kills her child after lying in a trial. God commands against all three acts - adultery, lying (especially under oath), and murder. The woman is being coaxed out of lying under the threat of even more sin (meaning punishment) and loss of her child. It is HER act, even though compelled under legislation as a test. She knows what she is doing, and if she is willing to kill to cover up her crime, then she is wicked indeed. (Thus did the early local councils like Ankyra and Elvira give adulterous aborters the severest penances, such as bread and water while excommunicated, until the death bed, or after 10 years, or some other now-unthinkable length of time.)Delete
Because it seems arbitrary (the child qua agent has no moral properties which pick it out over thousands of other beings)Delete
Arbitrariness on its own can't be doing any work in a case like this, because both divine mercy and divine positive law by definition require precisely this kind of arbitrariness (and we are dealing explicitly already with an instance of divine positive law). There needs to be something about the arbitrariness that is rigorously inconsistent with divine goodness, which I take it is what you are trying to get at with your Inuit example; but Son of Ya'kov was already, in effect, asking for an argument that this case is inconsistent with divine goodness.
That God judges justly implies there is an external standard by which he judges e.g. what is good for human nature (a necessary truth about human essences grounded in the Divine Nature).
As stated, this is inconsistent with pretty much all of Catholic moral theology. That God judges justly implies that He judges according to justice itself. But God is justice itself; there is no standard external to God against which His justice can be assessed, because He is the standard against which all standards of justice are assessed. Judging from the Euthyphro comment and your prior claim, I think you are treating 'judging according to an external standard' as the opposite of divine voluntarism; but there are other positions.
You are making an unequivocal comparison between God and humans. That you a being with finite intelligence can judge God who sees all ends seems to me a bit daft.
There is no Divine volunterism here by nature God can take life and God can authorize it via Divine & natural law.
Which leads me to Tony. Thank you for pointing that out to me. So I would reformulate my statement to include God authorizing it via Romans 13 and Natural Law.
I was thinking in terms of divine providence. "The authorities that exist have been established by God.". Perhaps God could have created a world where authorities could not execute people. But if He did it would not be this world and the beings that occupy it would not be humans.
Anyway my point was all authority natural or not comes from God and without that authority it is never legitimate to directly take human life (& we both know how the "exception" of self defense works into this).
God gives governments authority to employ CP via natural Law but no such authority via natural law is granted by God to employ Haraam. That is the judgement by God where He orders whole populations whipped out which can only be given by Public divine revelation if we believe the Church Fathers and we do. Since the original question referenced the book of Numbers and the potion given by a Priest to a secret adulterous woman I would say God was via divine revelation authorizing the Priest to give a woman a potion that might end the life of her unborn child and that is not from natural law but divine law only.
Do you think I am wrong? Help me polish this up.
Aside from the random ad hominem you have given nothing to answer my point. Likewise your claim against Divine Voluntarism is just to restate Divine Voluntarism.Delete
On Thomism God does not issue Divine Laws that contradict or ground the Natural Law. What is good for a kind is determined by its nature and God cannot make it otherwise. God is responsible for the moral Law in that he freely chooses what kinds are instantiated.
Either CP is justified due to certain facts about human nature, in which case that justification can be known without recourse to special revelation or CP is wrong. The other option would be to deny Natural Law as an ethical position.
Regarding the analogy with the Crown Jewels, that is more akin to the Lockean theory where our duty to God is based on God having Divine ‘Property Rights’ over use. That is not and has not been the Thomist theory - Ed even makes a point of specifically contrasting the two.
Son of Ya'KovDelete
but no such authority via natural law is granted by God to employ Haraam. That is the judgement by God where He orders whole populations wiped out which can only be given by Public divine revelation if we believe the Church Fathers and we do.
I agree that this is not part of the natural law and can only be given by (special) divine command. I am hesitant to insist that it be by "public" revelation, because of the example of, say, Abraham who was told by God to kill Isaac. Later that story became public revelation, but it was not public at the time.
I am not as familiar with the trial by water concept:
“‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.
However, we must certainly take the passage as indicating that the death of the unborn is not due to natural causes, i.e. the use of water that of its own nature kills the unborn. That's not what happens. Therefore, the woman is not ingesting an abortifacient. The death of the child is due to the action of God himself, making effective the curse of the priest who is acting under God's orders in pronouncing the curse.
This reduces the case to that of "God causes a death". Which we have addressed: God has the authority.
OA I can't believe in Divine Voluntarism since I believe God may be able to order the death of nations He cannot order said condemned nations to be rapped or sodomized to death. So how can I believe in Divine Voluntarism?Delete
Maybe not rapped to death, but perhaps hip-hopped to death?Delete
That section of Numbers says nothing about abortion or an unborn child.Delete
The woman is merely suspected of adultery. Why would an ordeal be necessary if she were pregnant? Do all adulteresses become pregnant? It is nowhere said she must be pregnant to be put to the ordeal.
The ordeal would, if failed, kill the WOMAN. Check the translation differences. You will see euphemisms. "Make her womb to miscarry" is one interpretation of those euphemisms. Disembowelment is another.
Besides, Maimonides in his commentary said the woman would die. Nothing mentioned of a child or abortion.
Edward, I read a few offers of other interpretations, and I was not convinced by them that the passage is clearly meant to exclude the case of a pregnant woman.Delete
Why would an ordeal be necessary if she were pregnant?
If a man had relations with his wife the week before and the week after she had an adulterous liaison, he could know she was pregnant but not know if the child was his or not. If the woman were pregnant but very early stages, he might not know she was pregnant. Indeed, she might not know, either.
The literature on what happened to a woman who failed the ordeal is various, and allows for cases where it takes some time - such as her womb "rotting" and thus leading to her death. Some of it indicates that part of her shame is being barren thereafter - but of course that implies considerable time. But none of it clearly says that all this cannot take place if she is pregnant. Much of it strongly suggests that it CAN take place if she is pregnant.
As long as many of the interpretations of the passage refer to "miscarry", those of us who are not scholars of ancient Hebrew are justified in taking it as (at least probably) allowing for the case where the woman is pregnant. Euphemisms may be present, but language aside, the nature of the situation clearly could entail a case of a pregnant woman, and nothing is said to preclude her being tested.
thanks for your reply.
i completely agree. the jig is up if it can be conclusively demonstrated that the magesterium has reformed an irreformable teaching, or taught p and then not p at a later date.
that's what i appreciate about roman catholicism: it offers a clear and crisp criterion/test for falsifying its claims to
divine inspiration and guidance.
while the ordeal of bitter water isn't directly relevant to the cp issue, i believe it is the best candidate for showing that god commanded an intrinsic evil, namely, the abortion of unborn human life.
if you could address this issue in a future post i'd be eternally grateful.
I respond too you above. I had this discussion before.Delete
Re the bitter water test:Delete
Christian apologist Glenn Miller has an interesting article on it here:
Miller maintains that there is nothing in the text about pregnancy.
Here's Matthew Henry's (1721) Commentary on Numbers 5:
Rashi's Jewish commentary is here:
Dr. Feser (and everyone),ReplyDelete
I'm sure you'll be aware soon, but if you haven't seen yet, Brugger posted part 1 of a two part response essay. His thesis: Feser and Besette are wrong.
Also, I'm the same "JohnD" as above. I didn't mean to cause confusion in the comment chain, but I forgot how it posts when logged into gmail vs. not logged in. I will post as John DeRosa from now on to avoid confusion.Delete
The Waldensian bit is interesting. Apparently Brugger thinks the Pope can and has required affirmation of error as a condition of being Catholic. Can't wait for when Francis excommunicates everyone against abolishing the death penalty and that, apparently, settles nothing.Delete
"Whatever one thinks of the legitimacy of such acts under a divine command, if they were ever carried out, we can confidently say that killing non-combatant women, children, and infants is intrinsically evil."
So his position is that God does command intrinsically evil acts, but they're "legitimate" when commanded? If there's equivocation or vagueness on what "intrinsically evil" means the dialogue is going to have big problems.
I read through it and basically he argues that Genesis is an allegory, prior popes' opinions were merely personal, Paul's affirmation of the state's authority to use CP was his own belief (not a teaching), and the Fathers of the Church's unanimity cannot be confirmed because they didn't all address the issue. I think his arguments about scripture are rubbish for the reasons you all have been pointing out, but regarding the popes, St Pius V saw it fit to put it in the Catechism of the Council of Trent that CP is an instance of legitimately killing someone. That to me is a teaching document, not merely a pope's opinion. Maybe Brugger will address this somewhere else (or has already) but in order to make his claim, he has to focus on Pope Innocent's letter as his own opinion and ignore the fact that it was in the Catechism.Delete
So basically to simplify you believe Natural Law does not teach CP is permissible and that the only forms of CP that may be employed are from special divine revelation in the circumstances which it was issued?
Well I don't know that I agree with you? But your essay seems substantive. It will move the conversation forward.
"Unfortunately, as has become his wont in recent years, Shea completely ignores the actual arguments of his opponents and instead attacks straw men, indulges in ad hominem attacks, and drags in political controversies with which he is personally obsessed..." I think you give him too much credit!ReplyDelete
If human dignity is absolute and this completely bars any application of the death penalty under all circumstances (no one claims it should be applied under any circumstances) then how much more so does it bar punishments that serve to humiliate the criminal -- by, for example, calling him a fool, making him wear special clothing, forcing him to live apart, placing him in stocks, throwing rotten tomatoes at him, laughing at or mocking him, etc. Surely, mocking him is more an offense against his dignity than an honorable death! Let him bravely face a firing squad; or give him a sword and let him fight for his own life and at least praise his bravery in doing so. An honorable death may afford him more dignity -- if this "absolute" dignity is all it's cracked up to be.ReplyDelete
I responded to this below. You seem to completely misunderstand what I am actually arguing.Delete
Do you defend Aquinas's applications of the death penalty on other activities besides murder?ReplyDelete
That page is not very impressive. Reading it is like a College Biology major reading creationist arguments against evolution. Specifically a creationist with a 6th graders knowledge of biology. Whoever wrote this knows how to "prooftext" Aquinas but he doesn't understand him.Delete
It's not an argument against evolution. Try reading it again.Delete
You misunderstood Son of Ya´Kov's reply; he wasn't claiming your page was about evolution. He was saying that you don't understand at least one of the two people you're comparing. The first section of your page suggested to me that you are equivocating on "personhood" when you attack Dr. Feser's rejection of what he calls "theistic personalism." I won't say anything else, since I haven't read the rest of your page.
It is treason for a British Citizen to break into the tower of London & take the crown Jewels put it on their head and call themselves King or Queen. It is not treason if Elizabeth II takes the crown jewels puts them on her head and calls herself Queen because she is queen.ReplyDelete
I am not getting how God the author of Life does not have the intrinsic right to take human life as He sees fit?
God by a Public Revelation (which with the death of the last Apostle can no longer come about) can order whole populations exterminated and that is not intrinsically evil because it is never intrinsically evil for God to take life or order it to be taken. I see no logical reason why it would be intrinsically evil to do so just as I don't see how a charge of Treason can be brought against Queen Elizabeth II for parading around calling herself Queen which she is?Delete
Now God could not order whole populations to be rapped or sodomized to death as both those acts are intrinsically evil and God cannot & will not command them. But God can command the taking of human life.
Why is this so hard?
My guess would be because the old "might makes right" has been replaced by a more sophisticated system of ethics.Delete
I don't think that because you own a dog you have the intrinsic right to treat it any way you like. Likewise, even if God is the author of Life, that in itself does not give Him the right to to treat human life as he sees fit.
If I were to build a sentient android (say Mr Data) who is able to operate under libertarian free will, would I have the right to destroy it?
Actually animals have no right but arbitrary cruelty to animals for it's own sake is intrinsically unreasonable therefore sinful. So I cannot treat my dog however I like.Delete
I can't comment on Data because like Philosopher John Searle I don't think true hard A.I.'s are possible in principle.
BTW I did say God can command whole populations whipped out but he cannot command they all be rapped or sodomized to death.Delete
>God is the author of Life, that in itself does not give Him the right to to treat human life as he sees fit.
Actually according to His Nature He cannot command populations be rapped and sodomized to death. God cannot go against his nature. But He can order them killed.
Son of Ya'kovDelete
Wether true hard A.I.'s are possible or not is not relevant. It's an analogy meant to show why being an author in and out of itself does not give one the right to destroy a sentient entity.
That someone has a natural and unconditional authority over someone else has often been asserted, but I have never seen any decent, non question-begging argument for it.
>That someone has a natural and unconditional authority over someone else has often been asserted,Delete
God is a "someone"? God is not a "someone" unequivocally comparable to a human someone. You are making unequivocal comparisons between God and creature. For Thomists that is a no-no.
> but I have never seen any decent, non question-begging argument for it.
Well it's not "unconditional" in that God cannot go against His Holiness in His dealings with His Creatures. Just as the Queen of England cannot Reign and Abdicate at the same time and in the same relation. It is consistent with God's Holiness to take life or authorize it being taken via natural or divine law.
He cannot order people sodomized to death.
I think the burden of proof is on you too show how Being Itself is a moral agent in the first place unequivocally comparable to human moral agents.
Good luck with that my friend. Peace be with you.
But how does one define "intrinsically evil"? Taking a life, even an innocent one, apparently isn't intrinsically evil. Then why is somody or anything else intrinsically evil?Delete
Taking an "innocent" life is not evil for God just as it's not treason for Her Majesty the Queen too wear Her own Crown. But if you take an innocent life you are a murderer and if you put on the Queen's crown you are a traitor or a usurper.Delete
As to how to define something "intrinsically evil" I will leave that question to my betters till I formulate an answer.
My question is not why it isn't evil for God but why it isn't intrinsically evil. So, until you define what intrinsically evil actually means, you are begging the question.Delete
Keep in mind that "dignity" is dignitas, dignitatis, meaningDelete
"worth, position, rank; authority, office; self-respect, grace." It is opposed to humiliation, not to death. One may hold one's dignity absolutely, as did Roman patricians, Japanese samurai, or Southern gentlemen -- all of whom would rather face duels than lose face.
Earlier, someone had written, "There are other ways of compmletely and permanantly removing the aggressing individual from society." Unless this involves complete isolation and solitary confinement, it is hard to see how. Perhaps in a cell all by himself, with no guards, no other prisoners, no contact with orderlies or counselors. But it may be less cruel to simply kill the poor fellow outright than to deprive him of the last few targets for his own mania.
It is against the natural and divine law for us to kill the innocent sans a Haraam Command which is rarely given and now impossible with the death of the last Apostle and end of Public Revelation till the Second Coming.Delete
That is all I know.
I was talking about the absolute dignity of human life, or if that sounds too ambiguous, about absolute respect for every (human) life.
I was not talking about the absolute dignity of humans in every respect nor about absolute respect for everybody's preferences and needs.
There were also people who held to their dignity absolutely by preferring suicide to humiliation, yet, the Church explicitly forbids suicide.
So whether some treatment be less cruel than another has nothing to do with what I am arguing.
I was talking about the absolute dignity of human life, or if that sounds too ambiguous, about absolute respect for every (human) life.Delete
This seems a weirdly gerrymandered notion of dignity, in which you aren't violating it if you don't kill someone, even if you are humiliating them, ruining their livelihoods, treating them with contempt, and dishonoring their name.
No, this is not a gerrymandered notion of dignity. Of course humiliating, ruining a person's livelihood, treating them with contempt, dishonouring their name etc. violates a person's dignity but it doesn't violate the dignity of his life.Delete
Somebody e.g. may find that he looses his dignity by being fatally ill, not being able to enjoy things, being in horrible pain etc. , yet, according to advocates of the dignity of a person's life, ending this person's life, even if he really wants this, is wrong.
Yes, this is an obviously gerrymandered notion of dignity. A person's life just is the person living.Delete
A person's life is the fact that the person is living. So, there should be absolute respect for the fact that the person is living. that's one thing. but this in and out of itself says nothing about how this person is living or about how this person wants to be living.Delete
So, there is the dignity of the fact of being alive itself and the dignity (the one you seem to be talking about) of the way in which someone lives.
That's it. I enjoyed the discussion, but I fear there is nothing more for me to add.
This again seems to be simply something you have gerrymandered up:Delete
(1) Who, precisely, talks about the dignity of "facts" and "absolute respect for the fact that the person is living"? What, precisely, is the account of dignity in which it applies to facts as distinct from what the facts are about?
(2) Unless you are a platonist about facts, the fact that a person is living is in reality nothing else than the person actually living, as I said.
I have explained all this. My argument is that the absolute dignity of human life or absolute respect for human life necessarily entails that the DP is wrong.Delete
I have not claimed that everyone should have absolute respect for human life nor that the Catholic Church teaches absolute respect for human life.
But if someone were to argue for absolute respect or dignity of human life or if this were implied by his ideas, while also advocating the DP, this person would be necessarily wrong.
Now, if anybody has any serious objection to this I'll be glad to engage in a discussion.
Let me say that I think you make a highly persuasive case for the legitimacy of capital punishment.
I'd like to draw your attention to a remark you made above:
"Fourth, even if one could make it plausible that God might command something intrinsically immoral on some specific, narrowly defined and temporary occasion (such as killing the Canaanites, or commanding Abraham to kill Isaac – which, if your interlocutors are correct, would be intrinsically immoral even though God stopped him, since it is immoral for Abraham even to intend to do what is intrinsically immoral), the position on capital punishment that you are describing is more extreme than this. It entails that God commanded that something intrinsically immoral should be a daily part of Israelite life for centuries. How your interlocutors would reconcile this with God’s goodness, I have no idea."
And here's what you said in your response to Msgr. Swetland:
"There are many scriptural passages which positively approve of or even command capital punishment. For example, the Mosaic Law commands capital punishment for various offenses as part of the everyday system of criminal justice in ancient Israel. To be sure, that does not entail that those commands have application today, any more than other parts of the Mosaic Law do. But it does entail that, if capital punishment is (as Msgr. Swetland thinks it is) “intrinsically evil,” then we have to say that God commanded the Israelites to carry out intrinsically gravely evil acts as part of everyday life in Israel. It would be like God, through Moses, commanding the Israelites to perform abortions with regularity. How can this supposition possibly be reconciled with the Church’s de fide teaching that scripture does not teach moral error?"
There's a problem, however. In the Mosaic law, God commanded that men guilty of engaging in homosexual acts be put to death (Leviticus 20:13). Was this intrinsically wrong?
I mention this point because skeptics raise this objection frequently, and I'd like to see how you would address it.
God could not command us to commit sodomy. Sure God could have created a race of rational being that use the same bodily orifice to expel waste and receive genetic material for biological reproduction but the later would not be God commanding Sodomy for such creatures.ReplyDelete
The Death Penalty is consistent with natural law but executing non-criminals is not but God can will non-criminals no longer continue their existence with their souls attached to their bodies and act accordingly to bring about that change.
It is simply not wrong for God to kill or order killing.
The 3 levels of natural law would seem to come into play here... See Thomas' discussion, for example, in I-II q. 94 a. 2. This also solves the question of polygamy. When God commands something, one can choose it not under its normal aspect but under the special aspect of having been commanded by God (good).Delete
The "law" in general cannot be like this though.
Hi Son of Ya'Kov,ReplyDelete
The killing of homosexuals was not a one-off act, like the slaughter of the Canaanites, which (Ed has argued), was only permissible because it was commanded by God. Rather, this was a regular practice which continued over centuries, and was a part of everyday Jewish life. The clear implication is that it required no special dispensation from God to justify it. And that was precisely how the Jews interpreted the law. Philo, for instance, writes (Special Laws III.38-39):
"And it is natural for those who obey the law to consider such persons [i.e. effeminates] worthy of death, since the law commands that the man-woman who adulterates the precious coinage of his nature shall die without redemption, not allowing him to live a single day, or even a single hour, as he is a disgrace to himself, and to his family, and to his country, and to the whole race of mankind. And let the man who is devoted to the love of boys submit to the same punishment, since he pursues that pleasure which is contrary to nature..." (See http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book29.html )
Technically a Jewish Court can put two men too death for backdoor shenanigans. Which is ironic since there are no examples in the Talmud of any two men actually being tried, convicted and put to death for this act.Delete
The Rabbis made implementing the death penalty very hard if not near impossible.
There are multiple tales in the Talmud and Mishna of a lone Rabbi finding two dudes in the wilderness performing said backdoor shenanigans and having the dudes point out to the Rabbi since he is a lone witness he can do nothing about it. I recall the Talmud actually requires 4 to 6 witnesses because the Rabbis concluded backdoor stuff in public between men violates two commandments and a separate slate of 2 or 3 witnesses is required per commandment. Also there is the issuing of the warning so if the two dudes stop their man monkey luv before finishing they would not go to trial.
Of course according to the Talmud a Jewish man who commits backdoor shenanigans with a gentile woman in public may be executed on the spot by Zealots without Trial. Two gay Jewish dudes have to have a trial. Lesbians in principle cannot be put to death as they cannot go backdoor with each other.
That Philo takes a harsher view toward Pederasts(men who love boys) doesn't bother me.
So I am skeptical it is not a "one off",
The Skeptic is assuming we'd never dare to say that it was moral. But, unlike the Canaanites (or some of them at least), homosexuals are engaging in immoral acts. We can't say it was a legitimate punishment, I'm not sure. I suppose it isn't a good rhetorical stand today, but that doesn't affect its logical and moral legitimacy. The real issue seems to be whether legitimate punishment can vary so much that it can be okay for homosexuals to be executed in one society and for them to receive no legal punishment at all in another.Delete
*could say it was a legitimate punishment.Delete
There's a problem, however. In the Mosaic law, God commanded that men guilty of engaging in homosexual acts be put to death (Leviticus 20:13). Was this intrinsically wrong?Delete
Vincent, you seem to think you have raised a "problem", but I don't see one. Can you clarify? What problem?
Perhaps it is that it criminalizes being attracted to the same sex. Well, no. It doesn't, it criminalizes homosexual sex acts. Actions are moral behavior, and if wrong then they merit punishment.
Perhaps it is that you think the DP is too harsh a penalty for merely the crime of engaging in homosexual sex acts? Well, then that's a judgment call, and one where some disagree with the Bible's judgment, but one should hardly land on THIS crime as the one that stands out as the most horrifically over-punished. After all, adultery, too, is punished with death. A far more creditable argument, if this is where you want to go, is that (a) blasphemy, and (b) hitting your parent, are both punished by death in the OT.
But again, identifying the proper degree of evil in an act, and therefore its proper degree of penalty, is not something of which to argue "intrinsically wrong". If the OT incorrectly assigned the penalty, that would not make of it something intrinsically wrong, just "wrong". You would still have an enormous cliff to face in trying to argue that God assigned the wrong level of punishment, but at least you should argue the right issue.
The problem is that killing somebody for adultery, blasphemy or hitting your parent is considered intrinsically wrong despite the fact that God allegedly commanded it.Delete
In the case of adultery, Jesus revoked, Mosaic Law. It is, however, not clear,whether Jesus did the same in the case of blasphemy or hitting your parent or homosexual acts.
In fact, several people were executed for heresy and those executions were condoned by the Church. Even Thomas of Aquino defends the execution of heretics.
The question then would be, would it be wrong for Pope Francis to speak out against death penalty for homosexual acts, blasphemy, hitting your parent, heresy or atheism?
And if not, shouldn't the same hold for his take on the death penalty in general?
The problem is that killing somebody for adultery, blasphemy or hitting your parent is considered intrinsically wrong despite the fact that God allegedly commanded it.Delete
It's not considered "intrinsically wrong" other than under the "capital punishment is intrinsically wrong" umbrella, which is the heart of the debated issues. So it's not a different "problem", on those lines. I am pretty sure that Vincent was trying to present a distinct problem.
It is considered intrinsically wrong by, I hope, every civilized person in the world.Delete
It is considered intrinsically wrong by, I hope, every civilized person in the world.Delete
This seems blatantly false if one is not simply defining 'civilized person' as someone who already agrees with it. There are lots of people, civilized by most measures, who would hesitate to say that it was intrinsically wrong, rather than just usually wrong, or wrong under circumstances that usually come up. I suppose you could be regarding all utilitarians, social relativists, and the like as uncivilized; you'd have to, since these are positions that commit the holders to saying that, while many things can be wrong, no specific kind of action is itself intrinsically wrong. And that doesn't even count people who think things can be intrinsically wrong but are not as promiscuous as you are in labeling things as intrinsically wrong.
I really doubt that there are lots of people who would say that killing somebody because of heresy etc. is only wrong under circumstrances that usually come up. Under what circumstances would killing somebody for heresy not be wrong?Delete
Somebody who thinks that killing somebody for heresy etc. is not intrinsically wrong but think some other things can be intrinsically wrong should be able to answer this question too.
As for utilitarians, social relativists etc. who deny that anything is intrinsically wrong, they are not my concern here, because they don't claim that the death penalty is intrinsically wrong nor that not permitting the death penalty under any cicumstance is intrinsically wrong. They don't usually don't claim that anybody has the right to under some circumstances kill somebdy else for heresy or atheism etc.
If they do however, I regard them as uncivilized and so does the vast majority of people, at least in the Western world.
I teach ethics; I assure you there are quite a few people whose ethical positions are not as strict as you are assuming. When one actually works with them on ethical questions, as I do, one finds that the vast majority of people have very squishy and flexible ethics.Delete
It's also a bit odd that you say both that you are not concerned here with utilitarians, social relativists, and the like, and that you are talking about the "vast majority of people, at least in the Western world", given that both of these positions are very common in the Western world.
Under what circumstances would killing somebody for heresy not be wrong?
Issues like this are being discussed in the very comments thread to which you are contributing; it's not as if people haven't been addressing it.
I am well aware that most people have squishy and flexible ethics, but I am talking about people who think that God has carved some rules in stonethat have once and for all settled the question on e.g. the legitimity of the death penalty. I mean, people who use an ancient law as some sort of universal truth, but fail to take into account that in the same book there are also laws that say that somebody who happens to have a different opinion should be put to death. Nobody in his right mind is going to support that law in modern times. Thank God for that.Delete
And I am concerned with utalitarians etc. but their ideas are not relevant for this discussion apart of course from the fact that they share the concern of every civilized human being about a tiny minority, at least in the Western world, of intolerant fundamentalists who defend the idea that heretics and atheists should be put to death.
As for the circumstances under which someone would be justified in killing somebody for heresy, I have looked through this comment therad and I really don't see anyone defending that position. Anyway, as a teacher of ethics, it should be easy for you to describe one such circumstance.
You are not talking about "people who think that God has carved some rules in stone that have once and for all settled the question"; you explicitly stated that you were talking about "every civilized person in the world". When I questioned you on this in particular, noting that there were quite a few people who would usually count as civilized who would not agree that anything was intrinsically wrong, you qualified, and said you were not talking about people like utilitarians and social relativists, but the "vast majority of people, at least in the Western world". Then I pointed out that this seems just as dubious; you then conceded that "most people have squishy and flexible ethics" and then shifted your position again to saying, "Nobody in his right mind is going to support that law in modern times" -- which is a different position entirely, since people can refuse to support laws for reasons other than that they are intrinsically wrong.Delete
Thus all that we have established is that you are incoherent.
As for the circumstances under which someone would be justified in killing somebody for heresy, I have looked through this comment therad and I really don't see anyone defending that position.
I said that "Issues *like this*" were being discussed in the comments thread; use your brain and argue by parity.
I am talking about people who think that God has carved some rules in stone that have once and for all settled the question. That's what this thread is all about. And yes, every civilized person in the wold, including those people who think that God has carved some rules in stone that have once and for all settled the question, believes that for a human being to kill someone because he is a heretic, atheist is always wrong, under all circumstances. Even though most people may have flexible ethics, they are not as flexible as to defend the execution of people who happen to not agree with them.Delete
I agree that lots of people would not call this "intrinsically" wrong, but the vast majority agrees that it is wrong in all circumstances.
No, this is the course of the thread:Delete
(1) Vincent raised, in the context of a larger discussion, the question of Biblical capital punishment for homosexuality (23 Oct 11:57 AM); then Son of Ya'kov noted that the issue of how this plays out is much more complicated than it seems; then Anonymous put in his comment.
(2) Then Tony raised the question of whether there was actually a particular problem here (23 OCt 5:31 PM); it's only one of a general class of things involving capital punishment.
(3) Then you piped in (23 Oct 11:50 PM) that in all cases they were intrinsically wrong.
(4) Tony replied (24 Oct 2:09 AM) that this would only be so under the general principle that capital punishment is wrong; his point to Vincent would be unaffected.
(5) Then you replied (24 OCt 4:04 AM) that every civilized person in the world, you hoped, considers it intrinsically wrong.
Then I pointed out that this claim seems either to be obviously false or to be something you were getting only by stipulation. Then the rest happened as I said previously. Nobody was talking particularly about "people who think that God has carved some rules in stone"; literally the first time these people were mentioned was in your comment of 24 Oct 10:59 AM. Vincent has a completely different concern in view; Tony is responding to Vincent; I was pointing out the problems with your claim about civilized people; and even you didn't mention it except in response to me. You are deliberately trying to change the subject to get out of the fact that you have changed your claim all over the place, and that you are again ignoring the fact I previously noted, that very many people who would usually count as civilized have an ethics that makes it virtually impossible that specific actions are wrong in all possible circumstances, rather than just circumstances that are likely to occur.
The problem is that killing somebody for adultery, blasphemy or hitting your parent is considered intrinsically wrong despite the fact that God allegedly commanded it.
Precisely. And that was my point about homosexual acts, as well. The reason why I mentioned them was that I've just been debating an atheist about Leviticus 20:13. Suffice to say that he wasn't too impressed with my arguments that (a) homosexuality 3,000 years ago would have been predominantly pederasty, rather than between two consenting adults, (b) venereal disease was rife in those days, making the practice of homosexuality a menace to public health, and (c) in any case, the death penalty was very rarely, if ever, applied, for reasons pointed out by Son of Ya'Kov above (the difficulty of getting two witnesses). The atheist pointed out, perfectly reasonably, that Leviticus 20:13 refers to two men, rather than a man and a boy. And I can't morally justify the killing of two men for such a crime, any more than I can justify the killing of an adulterous couple.
I conclude that arguments for the death penalty (which I support) based on its continual application under the Mosaic law over a period of centuries are likely to backfire. The death penalty was imposed, but for crimes which don't merit death as such.
Ed's argument based on Genesis 9:6 has much greater force, as it applies to the whole of humanity, and attempts to water down the obvious meaning of this verse are (as Brugger admits) highly implausible.
In any case, the REAL focus of our criticism of the Pope's recent address on capital punishment should be on the fact that he's trying to invent a new kind of infallibility, in addition to the three we already have. First of all, the Pope is infallible when, speaking as Father and Teacher of all Christians, he defines a dogma of faith or morals to be held definitively by all the faithful. Second, ecumenical councils are infallible when they issue definitions which are approved by the Pope. Third,, the ordinary magisterium is infallible when the bishops unanimously teach that a doctrine is to be definitively believed by all the faithful. And now the Pope wants to say that he alone has the right to define a proposition as being part of the infallible ordinary magisterium of the Church, even though it is held (tentatively) by some (perhaps most) of the bishops, and even though none of them teach that it has to be definitively believed by all the faithful. That's creeping infallibility, and it's a theological novelty. I cannot believe that the bishops are taking it lying down, instead of putting the Pope in his place by pointing out that he has no right to say that. My two cents.
Vincent, that's a very good observation about Francis's approach to this issue: creeping infallibility. (Not to mention creepy.) I had not noticed this is what he is doing.Delete
I still don't see why you insist that we ought to regard the DP as "intrinsically" wrong applied to homosexual acts, or for adultery, or blasphemy.
Let us - for the sake of the argument - accept a claim that such a punishment is excessive. What then makes it "intrinsically wrong" rather than wrong?
If I am eating ice cream as my dessert when I am nearly but not quite full, and a right, due, proportionate amount is, say 3 ounces, that would imply that some higher amount is "slightly" too much - maybe 4 or 5 ounces. And some other higher amount might be "far" too much, say, 12 ounces. That 12 ounces is very definitely wrong doesn't make eating 12 ounces of ice cream "intrinsically wrong". If it were so, it would be intrinsically wrong even for someone with a much larger body (Andre the Giant), even when he is not nearly full, and has been exercising, and has the room and calories to spare... It just doesn't work that way.
If we go by what JPII said in Veritatis Splendor, things are "intrinsically wrong" because they are wrong by the very species of the act. But "eating ice cream" is not wrong in species, it is only wrong in the excessive degree. This is classically just exactly what we think of as NOT "wrong by its very species". When you have to apply a prudential judgment on "how far to go", in order to know whether the act is right or wrong, you are certainly not in the arena of "intrinsically wrong".
Let me ask you in return: what about rape? I feel that rape (true violent rape that had absolutely no sort of consent to it), merits the death penalty. So does the Bible. But most states that keep the DP no longer consider a single rape to merit the DP, not without aggravating circumstances. Surely there is a judgment call on whether this is a crime that merits death. Which implies that if you judge wrong, that is "wrong" but not "intrinsically wrong".
Even with murder: there are grades and types of different murders. Some very grave, some less so. Many states that retain the DP do not consider the DP the appropriate punishment for lesser sorts of murders, reserving it for only the more grave sorts. Surely this is a judgment call. If a judge (or a legislature) gets it wrong - if they assign too harsh or too lenient a punishment for the crime, surely this is wrong without being "intrinsically wrong".
I conclude that arguments for the death penalty (which I support) based on its continual application under the Mosaic law over a period of centuries are likely to backfire. The death penalty was imposed, but for crimes which don't merit death as such.
I am fine with dropping the defense of the DP based explicitly on the judicial law determined by Moses, since the Mosaic law was dispensed by Christ (except, of course, those parts that are part of the natural law itself).
I am not fine with taking our current cultural propensities as a reliable guide on what crimes really are and ought to be capital crimes in and of themselves. In the midst of a culture as degenerate as ours, as benighted and clouded as we are (who cannot even see fit to protect the unborn's life), in such a culture the horrific wrongness of adultery is not sufficiently visible to most people, and thus resorting to the DP for adultery would not make justice manifest to them. So, if it WERE the case that taking human nature in principle, adultery does indeed merit the DP, that would not make it the most prudent option in our culture.
I meant: defense of using the DP today in our culture, based on the fact that it was present in the Law of Moses. I did not mean getting rid of arguing that DP is morally licit based on its present in the Law of Moses.Delete
Vincent, there is also a distinction between what is rhetorically palatable in contemporary society and what is logically and morally defensible. You seem to be focusing almost entirely on the rhetorical appeal of the positions in questions. What you say may well be true in that context, but that doesn't necessarily mean these positions are false.Delete
I have no desire to quarrel about technicalities, but I stand by my claim. The death penalty for blasphemy, heresy etc. is not just a matter of the DP not being practical "in the midst of a culture as degenerate as ours" it is a matter of the DP being wrong in those cases. Intrinsically wrong may be the wrong expression, but I still stand by my claim that every civilized person, hopefully, things the DP for this is wrong in that there are no circumstances under which the DP can be justified in those cases.Delete
If anybody can present some possible circumstances under which the DP would be permissible in those case, I might "change my claim" , but up and until that happens, I stand by it.
I agree. The death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy, or adultery is usually wrong, but I don't know if I could say or prove that it is extrinsically wrongDelete
I would think that if it is only usually wrong this implies that it isn't wrong under some circumstances.Delete
If so, under which circumstances is the death penalty for those offenses not wrong?
Walter, as you did with "dignity", you are using "civilized" in a peculiar manner. However, in this case, your usage is at least common, if not very sensible. Effectively it's says little more than "good". But look at the facts; to uphold that usage, you must define, e.g., Socrates's Athens, Rome (Republic and Empire), and Europe from the 16th - 18th Centuries (you know, the Renaissance/Enlightenment era) as "uncivilized", as they all acted in the manner you deplore.Delete
@Vincent: I agree with Tony. "Creeping infallibility" is a good way to describe Francis's approach. Of course, something like that has long been a tactic of liberal Catholics, selectively, on those Papal statements they've liked, as in the days of the anti-nuke protests, just as with the DP today.Delete
But I'm doubtful about whether that's really Francis's intent. I frankly cannot see him as that shrewd. If he were, he'd be better at it. Rather, I see him as, to Popes, what Carter was to presidents. Bad enough.
Yes, Socrates' Athens, Rome, 16 to 18th century Europe etc. were uncivilized in this respect. Not only in tha respect. Rome, e.g. had slaves, and so did parts of Europe in the 16-18th century.
There wasn't too much social justice in Greece in Socrates' days I think.
That doesn't mean our society is better in every way or that there are no problems. We are facing huge problems today.
BTW, I did not use "dignity" in a peculiar manner, I used it in a consistent manner.
but I still stand by my claim that every civilized person, hopefully, things the DP for this is wrong in that there are no circumstances under which the DP can be justified in those cases.Delete
If anybody can present some possible circumstances under which the DP would be permissible in those case, I might "change my claim" , but up and until that happens, I stand by it.
I have no expectation of convincing you, Walter, because I don't think you and I share enough base in common. However, I offer you: Take a man who comes to hate a neighbor down the street for his (a) being a better man, and (b) having more popularity, and (c) a happy family. He decides to do him the worst evil he can: he decides to embark on a campaign to seduce his wife, get her to indulge in an adulterous affair, leave the husband and thus to wreck the family. And he succeeds. The woman's reputation and life is in tatters. The family is wrecked. The father takes to drink (though stops short of being a true drunkard), becomes depressed and barely able to keep his job. The kids become juvenile delinquents and in and out of mental health care. They engage in all sorts of aberrant and destructive life styles, and are a huge drain on society.
None of the results are (directly) criminally chargeable - except the adultery (back when adultery was still a crime, that is). I think that the evils produced by the crime warrant the death penalty. Certainly inducing a woman to repudiate her vows and betray her husband is gravely immoral, something that has a similarity to the malice of rape (which I mentioned above). But the further intentional destruction of the family, the innocent victim kids, that extra dose of intended evil warrants all the punishment that could ever be deserved by adultery. And I think that it is at least arguable that the death penalty is commensurate to this degree of malice intended and carried out. (Frankly, many of these evils suffered by the family are as bad as a simple death by murder. Destroying the psyche of a child is a sort of destruction that just keeps on giving.)
ut I'm doubtful about whether that's really Francis's intent. I frankly cannot see him as that shrewd. If he were, he'd be better at it. Rather, I see him as, to Popes, what Carter was to presidents. Bad enough.Delete
George, what a delightful comparison.
I cannot say that I have enough data to be justifiably confident in a diagnosis, of course, but going by what I do have, I think Francis is a little shrewder than that. He is clearly up to using the system to get what he wants. He is, for example, doing a much better job of appointing as bishops and cardinals men who are cut just in his mold, than either of JPII or BXVI did, (to their shame, frankly). And he is good at using the MSM to his purpose - though they want to be used that way.
I have just one thing to say. It takes two to tango.
Walter, that you use a term consistently does not at all make your usage less peculiar. An example: Anglo-Catholics use "Catholic" quite consistently, but mean by it "Anglican AND Roman AND Orthodox". That is a usage peculiar to themselves; no one else uses it just that way.Delete
That is analogous to your usage of "dignity". "Civilized", as you use it, is more common, but not much better. It takes a reasonably clear and useful word - one we can use to distinguish, e.g., 13th C China from their Mongol neighbors (and soon to be conquerors). Instead it simply becomes a term of approbation, a fate which befell "gentleman." (When Lizzie Bennett replies to Lady Katherine that "He is a gentleman, I am a gentleman's daughter", or when a cockney at the start of Pygmalion says "He's not a copper, he's a gentleman. Look at his boots." They are not referring to the manners or character of Darcy, Mr Bennett, or Professor Higgins.)
Let me give a clear example. I just contrasted the Chinese with the Mongols. The former often bound the feet of girls. No one today likes that. But to call it "uncivilized" is insane. It is quintessentially the vice of a highly civilized society. Only a very structured, organized, prosperous, and stable society could possibly choose to do so. It makes the girls virtually useless for most economic and household purposes, by seriously hobbling them. (Note that only upper class girls were so bound. No peasant or small shop owner could afford to lose the help their daughters would provide.) And certainly the Mongols didn't - until later, when they conquered China, and became the rulers, and some adopted it.
Civilized:uncivilized is not proportional to good:bad. And speaking that way makes communication harder and vaguer.
I have just one thing to say. It takes two to tango.Delete
Your response is nearly grotesque. But I will allow that "nearly" is not fully there, and so will answer you.
It is surely the case that both parties to adultery ought to be punished. This is absolutely true. (It is, also, one of the reasons that Christ answered the Pharisees the way he did with the woman "caught in adultery": the Law required that they stone the man as well as the woman, and yet they did not bring the man - they were not interested in following the Law to begin with!)
But it is not SURELY the case that they each deserve the SAME punishment.
In general, any evil, criminal act is a certain species of act, and the sort and degree of evil belongs to the nature of the act in itself. Thus theft, as a species, is less grave an evil than rape. In itself, it deserves a less grave punishment.
But the second piece of the picture of punishment is that the severity of punishment ALSO depends on the degree to which the criminal's will sits in opposition to the common good as protected by the law, in his choosing to commit the crime. If a man kills another, not as pre-meditated murder but in a fit of passion, we may reasonably presume that his will is not firmly seated in malice against the common good; whereas a man who plots murder surely harbors a concerted malice against the common good. That is to say, the latter criminal fully intends the full measure of evil entailed under the species of "murder" as a kind of behavior, whereas the former does not.
Hence, the latter criminal deserves the fullness of punishment, out of the range of penalties appropriate to the crime of murder, whereas the former may deserve only a portion of the fullness.
If the woman in my proposed scenario entered into adultery with eagerness and the first indication of opportunity, that would indicate a will fully engaged in the malice of "adultery" as a species of act.
But suppose the seducer had to achieve his purpose by a long-term plan of attack: a year of setting the stage as just "a good, kindly neighbor", and then a year as "a fine, charming fellow", and then a year as "a sympathetic ear" to her troubles, and so on, so that she was drawn toward him and away from her husband almost against her will. This would represent another thing entirely: the "almost" there prevents the act from being rape, as she really does consent to the adultery, but it shows that her will was not steadfast and eager to run in the way of evil. Thus she would not deserve the fullness of punishment allotted for the crime of adultery, but some portion of it.
But there is nothing special about this analysis: it pertains to everyone that commits an offense that deserves punishment: the desert depends both on the nature of the offense in itself, AND on the degree to which the will is bent toward evil in choosing the act.
Typo: "desert" should be "dessert".Delete
Let me add a note of clarification. I said above that I thought that rape deserves (or at least can deserve) the death penalty. One reason for this is that a full-on violent rape entails not just an out-of-order sexual lust, it entails a willingness to impose oneself on another. The violence (whether any overt physical force was used or just the threat of it) resides first in the will of the rapist in choosing to force what, in its own nature, ought to be a free gift. And the horror of rape resides not only in the woman being an object of lust (any girl at the beach in a bikini can the the object of lust - but that doesn't bother them), but the object of force ABOUT that lustful demand for what ought to be a free gift. It is this that damages the woman's psyche in the act of rape. And it is this damage - which is ongoing and may end up being nearly irreparable - that demands a very grave punishment. (Not to mention that since rape deserves a grave punishment in itself, the victim must necessarily fear for her life, so as to silence her testimony.)Delete
In my scenario with the adultery, I stipulated results that have a sort of similarity: the psyches of the woman, her husband, and her children are ALL gravely damaged by the adultery. So, even though her act is consensual rather than violent, there is a kind of similarity to the malice of the seducer intent on just those evils as to intent of a rapist. Not identical, no, but a like pattern to the malice. This is, I suggest, a valid reason for thinking that the crime is, also, a crime worthy of the death penalty. It is at least arguable.
The problem is that in the cases you use as an example, the daeth penalty is not because of the act of adultery, because in that case everybody guilty of adultery shoud recieve the death penalty. Rather, the DP would be a result of the intention behind the adultery. If it is truly the intention to harm somebody in a very serious way, then this may deserve the DP (if anything deserves the DP, of couse), but not the act of adultery itself.
When I use "civilized" I obviously only mean civilized in a moral context. Thats what we are talking about here.
Lots of "civilizations" were civilized in many way, but they were barbaric in other ways.
I consider the application of the DP in cases of adultery, blasphemy, heresy and atheism to be barbaric and I sincerely hope the vast majority of human beings agree with me.
It is essential to the nature of punishment that it "fit the crime". If the punishment exceeds in severity of evil "the crime" that it punishes, then it fails to be good just for that reason.
For that reason, one may lay out a punishment that "fits the crime" as to its species, in a kind of pure, undifferentiated sense, i.e as a punishment that is suited to someone who (a) fully intends the crime as to its nature, and (b) holds ALL of the malice that is attendant on fully intending that crime. This sort of theoretical penal determination would prescind from considering the concrete circumstances in any given example. This would be the normal punishment that fits the crime, with the understanding that in individual cases where the offender either had something less than fully deliberate will in choosing to commit the crime (maybe under pressure of some offsetting worry), or had in his will something less definitively malicious than the pure nature of "the crime" considered in its own species (i.e. considered not in light of circumstances that would aggravate or mitigate the moral choice), they may deserve only a portion of the "normative" punishment that fits "the crime" as to its species.
The concrete circumstances could either mitigate the moral act, or they could aggravate it by what amounts to additional crimes entailed in the concrete act. So, for example, rape with explicit torture is worse than rape alone because it aggravates the conditions of the crime. But these aggravated circumstances are then not by nature entailed in the simple crime considered in its own species: there is nothing about rape that in principle entails also inducing prolonged extreme physical pain.
What I set out to do is make manifest the evil that belongs to the mere nature of adultery considered on its own, without providing the circumstances of an aggravated crime that would - to a legislature - create reasons for a specially heightened category and therefore a heightened set of penalties (as they do for rape aggravated by torture).
Maybe I did not succeed in that, but my thesis is that adultery, considered by the very nature of the case, tends to the destruction of the family and thus to the resulting damage of the children. These belong to the normal consequences of adultery. Part of a family's core emotional, mental, and affective stability rests on the stability implied by the vows and intended by the permanence of those vows of faithfulness. (Part of the meaning of "marriage" is, specifically, a promise to the children who are the fruit of marriage a continuation of the unconditional love of the spouses, and to repudiate that promise amounts to a denial of the very ground of being that those children rest on.) All I was doing was to make it so that the evils naturally attendant on adultery were explicitly intended by the man, as his deliberate malice rather than a side-show to an excess of sexual desire. Thus he would deserve ALL of the punishment naturally due to the crime "adultery" considered as to its species, for he would have willed all of the evil naturally attendant upon it.
Fortunately, hardly anyone commits the sin of adultery fully intending to destroy the marriage and the children's psyches. And thus hardly anyone would deserve the full, complete punishment due for that sort of evil act fully willed.
Let's put the shoe on the other foot, Walter. For the sake of the argument, let's assume that the DP is appropriate for some crimes. Given that, do you think that it should apply to rape?Delete
I would develop that question through a follow-up: if a rapist were to intend, not only his own sexual pleasure, but also the violent mental and spiritual domination implicit in the act, and also intend the resulting long-term psychological damage to the victim that such violent domination tends toward...would that intention matter to "what the crime deserves" as punishment?
Would his explicitly intending that domination and that long-term psychological damage constitute distinct crimes for which he would be punished (in addition to being punished for rape), or would they constitute facts which manifest his complete embrace of the evil of rape and therefore is deserving of the full punishment due to rape?
And finally, is it "obvious" that no civilized person could possibly think that the due punishment for the crime of rape (as outlined) is the DP, or do you think that the issue is sufficiently gray that debate is reasonable?Delete
You have been asking several questions here, but, in the case of adultery, no, I don't think any civilized person could possibly think that the due punishment for the crime of adultery is the DP. that is even more so in the case of heresy, blasphemy or atheism.
I really don't think there is room for debate on this issue, and I strongly believe that you, once you get rid of your apologetic hat, agree with me.
The case of rape is more complex, so in that case, the issue might be suffiiciently grey (?) that debate is reasonable.
Unfortunately, I doubt, that what some people regard as Catholic Doctrine leaves much room for debate.
Just to add. while i think that adultery, especially if children are involved, in the vast majority of cases has a strong (negative) influence on those children, it should be obvious that while negative consequences may justify punishment, adultery in and out of itself does not generally lead to the death of those children, so the Dp is not a punishment that fits the crime.
The general idea, and I think that is also one of the reasons Pope Francis opposes the DP, is that only God can judge wich punishment fits any particular crime, because every crime and every person involved in it is different. So, in the absense of a clear command by God in the case of whatever crime X has committed, fallible human beings lack the wisdom necessary to sentence someone to death, because that punishment is irreversible.
The case of rape is more complex, so in that case, the issue might be sufficiently grey (?) that debate is reasonable.Delete
Yeah, I was asking about rape.
So, you see some gray area there. But I know people who absolutely don't. they say "no death of the victim, no death of the criminal". Period.
You ask them about "what if the crime was attempted murder, but failed? Their answer is "no death, no DP". You ask them about rape, same answer. And they are SURE in their hearts that there is no room for debate, that no civilized person has room to even consider the DP when no death occurs.
Other people, they are adamantly against ALL CORPORAL PUNISHMENT, of any kind. So, of course that rules out DP. And they too are sure that their thinking is "the only civilized point of view. Violence breeds violence, doncha know?"
My point, then, is that people's intuitive sense of what a civilized person can consider to be even possible, outside of which no reasonable debate is possible, lands differently for different people. You think rape is a gray area, some think it is obviously a capital crime, some think it obviously cannot be. You think adultery is clearly not a capital crime, other people think it's a gray area, and
then others think it obviously is a capital crime.
I am not a relativist, who says "well, if there's debate about it, then there is no truth. I think there is a truth about it. And that it can be known by understanding human nature. But in any case, whether rape is really a gray area or not, if DP is ever morally just, if a person can deserve the DP, you agree that pre-meditated murder would be a crime for which it is the fitting punishment, right? And yet you realize that some people think that such thinking is "not civilized"? Does that bother you? Does it make you revise your estimate?
The general idea, and I think that is also one of the reasons Pope Francis opposes the DP, is that only God can judge which punishment fits any particular crime, because every crime and every person involved in it is different. So, in the absense of a clear command by God in the case of whatever crime X has committed, fallible human beings lack the wisdom necessary to sentence someone to death, because that punishment is irreversible.Delete
Please don't interject the issue of whether it is a prudent course into a debate on whether it is a proportionate punishment of its own nature. There are way too many rabbit holes down there. Anyone who suggests that DP is wrong "per se" is not commenting on how we are so limited that we are unable to apply it with sufficient attention to justice, they are arguing something completely different. And the "per se" business is what we are on in this post.
The only reason we were talking about adultery here is because Vincent raised hommosexual acts that used to get the DP, and how that "raised a problem". I thought that showing adultery is in the same class of "problem" was worthwhile (i.e. not any problem at all other than claiming out the gate that all DP is wrong per se), and you objected. Fine. Then use rape as my example, it works just as well. Or use rape and torture of little children (that stops short of murder). Somebody commits these crimes, you as the judge sentence him with DP, and an objector claims "that was intrinsically wrong because the DP is too severe a punishment for torture and rape of a child that does not result in death - it's uncivilized!" Your response to them ought to be the same as mine was: "Madam, even if you disagree with my estimation of the fitting punishment, that does not make the execution 'intrinsically wrong', and your notion of 'civilized' appears to be different from mine."
Walter, I put the same to you. If you think that DP for adultery is wrong, feel free to make a case for it (preferably one that rests on your intuition alone). But calling it "uncivilized" just puts a name-tag on _me_ without advancing any actual thought about WHY it is wrong. It is an ad hominem attack. (As well as being beside the point, since the thesis holds just as well for rape, about which you admit of grey area. Actually, don't argue the issue for adultery, since nothing here rides on it. It is sufficient that it fits the crime of murder. )
preferably one that does NOT rest on your intuition alone. But don't bother.Delete
The fact that there might be grey areas (and I said "might") does not mean there are no black or white areas.
Even if rape is a grey area, the point is that adultery in and out of itself, that is in the absense of aggragating circumtances, is not among those grey areas. And blasphemy or heresy or atheism are defintely not grey areas.
Becasuse according to the universal declaration of huma rights "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right
includes freedom to change his religion or belief ... "
So while I agree that people's intuitive sense of what a civilized person can consider to be even possible, outside of which no reasonable debate is possible, lands differently for different people, there are some things that are not up for debate.
And the problem for your position is that those cases can also shown to be supported in the bible as well as in the work of Church Fathers etc.
Thomas of Aquino, among others, defended the death penalty for heresy.
So yes, if the DP can ever be morally just, itcould be permissible in the case of premeditated murder, it could perhaps even be permissible in case of rape, but it definitely is not permissible in cases of adultery and that is even clearer in the case of heresy, because that is not a crime deserving any punishment at all, on the contrary, it is a basic human right.
So, no, none of this makes me revise my statement.
Please don't interject the issue of whether it is a prudent course into a debate on whether it is a proportionate punishment of its own nature.Delete
Well, I argued for why the DP would not be permissible for human beings and my argument in that case comes down to "we as fallible human beings should not play God" IOW only God has "permission" to condemn someone to death. I think that is an important part of Pope Francis' approach. For a human judge, the DP does not fit for any crime becasue a human judge is not God. You could say this is merely a prudent approach but it is very similar to the offical Catholic stance on euthanasia, e.g.
And the problem for your position is that those cases can also shown to be supported in the bible as well as in the work of Church Fathers etc.Delete
X is only a "problem" for me if I happen to agree with you that X is inherently unconscionable - i.e. for all societies, for all times, regardless of circumstances - and it seems that the Bible is saying "do X" to us. Since I don't agree with you, it isn't a problem for me. Your conclusions about what is black and white, since you don't offer any rationale for it, cannot sway me where I differ from you. Just repeating over and over that DP is definitely not permissible for X isn't persuasive.
I think that is an important part of Pope Francis' approach. For a human judge, the DP does not fit for any crime because a human judge is not God. You could say this is merely a prudent approach but it is very similar to the offical Catholic stance on euthanasia, e.g.
It is a stance I have seen some people take, but not Francis, nor the bishops who also try to say DP is wrong per se. They are focused on a different point. That it is not possible for us humans to "play God" in the sense of making a sufficient assessment of guilt is utterly different from what they say about our not "playing God" about who gets to die right now from a disease and who shall live. Everyone (well, almost everyone) agrees that for the sake of justice, we both CAN and MUST make some judgment calls, we are obliged to judge guilt to the extent we can, to try to get it as right as we are able, for appropriate punishment as well as for other reasons, though we cannot do it perfectly. Judging guilt is something necessary for human society, even if we were to grant (purely for the sake of the argument) that judging capital guilt is too hard for us.
Nobody thinks that a euthanasia decision ought to be based on whether someone is too guilty to be DESERVING of life, for there are plenty of people who would deserve to remain alive but for whom we cannot make it happen. The decision that is being made is not that someone "does not deserve to suffer" - for the assumption is that NOBODY deserves to suffer. The decision being made is whether someone's suffering is sufficient to balance their enjoyment of the good of life - it's got nothing to do with deserving. True, it's "playing God", but about something other than just desserts and I don't think that it is "very similar" to the issue of judging capital guilt. On the one hand, we ARE supposed to judge guilt, we just have difficulty doing it well enough to assign capital guilt, whereas we are NOT supposed to judge (at all) whether "this level of pain is too much in comparison to that person's enjoyment of life".
This will be my final reply to you on this matter. you can have the last word if you want.
I don't think I will ever convince you but it is definitly false that i have offered no rationale for the position that something is not a grey area.
The universal declaration of human rights makes it clear that one of the things "ordered" by the Bible and interpreted as such by Church Fathers, Popes, theologians and prominent Catholic philosophers at least until the Age of Enlightenment is not even a crime, let alone a crime that could ever under any circumstances deserev the DP. The Catholic church apparently used to teach that someone could/should be killed for exercising a basic human right.
I do believe that is a huge problem for your position as wel as for the one offered by Dr. Feser et al.
Now, as I said, I'll leav you the final word on this.
I woud like to ad that I very much enjoyed this discussion
The Catholic church apparently used to teach that someone could/should be killed for exercising a basic human right.Delete
Walter, whether or not the Church and Bible has ever taught that someone could be lawfully and rightfully killed for doing what is actually a basic human right does not get at whether the DP is wrong always and everywhere because it is wrong per se or even "intrinsically wrong" and not just wrong due to conditions and circumstances and obstacles. The latter is what this post was about.
I grant you that people think that the "rights" laid out in the Convention seem to say something contrary to the late medieval and Renaissance practice of killing heretics, but whether that actually represents a serious "problem" for the Church is a much more complex issue than what this post is dealing with.
Even so, killing heretics is not something that the Mosaic law entertained, and I don't know anyone who maintains that adultery, blasphemy, and striking your parents are things that anyone "has a basic human right to do". Or that any modern Endarkenment "principles" support such behaviors as being a "right". So even if the medieval practice were a "problem", it would not necessarily convert into being the very same problem for the Bible. It does not do to treat unlike things as if they were the same.
I am fairly confident that you and I have some serious foundational disagreements, and that we could not settle this dispute that sits at about 10 removes from those basic foundations without addressing the deeper problems. So it makes little sense to keep at it here.
Brugger correctly argues that “we should hold that whatever the inspired authors or ‘sacred writers’ assert is asserted by the Holy Spirit” and that this means discovering “what the biblical authors intended to assert.” This in turn means analyzing the genre of Old Testament passages paying due attention to their Ancient Near Eastern setting.ReplyDelete
Brugger also rightly states, “God also apparently commanded Moses and Joshua multiple times to subject all inhabitants of cities in Canaan to the notorious war ban.” But now he ignores recent biblical scholarship into genres of Ancient Near Eastern war speeches (“totality” language not being literal, difference in perspective as to what counts as non-combatant etc.) and reading God’s speeches against the background of warning the Canaanites for 400 years, the reality of Canaanites being left alone if they either fled the land or did as the Gibeonites did, and many, many other factors. Several scholars conclude that God does not actually command what God apparently commands.
A larger problem is that Brugger conflates “killing of non-combatant women etc.” with “humans killing non-combatant women on their own authority.” The latter is intrinsically immoral but the former is not, because God may do this. Worse still is the gigantic leap between “killing of non-combatant women is immoral other than by divine command” to “capital punishment for murderers is immoral other than by divine command” which is what is needed for his comment that “one plausible conclusion is that the ceremonial and judicial precepts commanding the punishment of death were instituted by divine command for a time.” The vast majorities of societies throughout time have held the intuition that killing of non-combatant women is immoral but that executing murderers is not. You cannot leap from one to the other without argument.
Several scholars conclude that God does not actually command what God apparently commands.Delete
Heh, that't pretty funny. I suppose we should depict God coming down in a cloud of glory with a caption underneath saying "Gee, ya know, I didn't mean it like that guys! Lighten Up already! "
Yes, we should hold whatever the inspired authors meant by the passages. But if the inspired authors' meaning cannot be discerned but by centuries-long divergent hypotheses, and casting entrails, and casting horoscopes...then maybe that sort of reading the Bible isn't what we're supposed to be doing. How about reading it?
It would be effectively impossible to read out of Genesis that God told Abraham to kill Isaac, without completely gutting both the OT and the NT together, and all of the honor packed onto Abraham's shoulders for his faithful obedience. The Canaanites is no harder an example to explain - though on a vaster scale, anything that can solve if for Abraham probably solves it for the Canaanites. And the inspired writer DID mean that God blessed Abraham for his faithful obedience, for it was right and holy.
Regarding Abraham, I agree with you and that is why the point regarding the so called "Canaanite genocide" is moot. It is the least important of the points that I made.
But while we are on this, do you think that the days in Genesis are literal, that there is a worldwide flood and that Joshua conquered all of the Canaanites--these are what the text "apparently" says unless you allow for literary genre.
Tim, I don't think the "days" of Genesis are standard, flat 24 hour periods, because I don't think the author meant them that way, and I think this can be seen CLEARLY from the passage. He doesn't refer to days as time passing in our sense of minutes and hours, but as "evening and morning". Yet, "evening" and "morning", even MORE explicitly than "day", refer to the motion of the sun. But the author clearly puts the creation of the sun on the 4th day. So at the absolute least, the "evening and morning" for the first, second and third days could not possibly mean (in the author's intent) something based on the movement of the sun. They are, therefore, metaphors or figures for some other notion than sunset and sunrise to mark days.Delete
As to whether Joshua conquered Canaan: I don't know what the state of archeology is on what transpired in Canaan. But setting aside literary genre for the moment, I recall that for quite some time (centuries) people thought that the story of Troy's fall was "just a legend". Until Troy was unearthed. And (apparently) some responsible scientists think that there could well have been some version of the "Trojan War" real destruction of the city.
I feel quite free to retain doubt that literary genre re-thinking of Joshua is the primary model of understanding the book of Joshua, even if it is germane in some degree. I have very strong doubts that as a group the biblical "experts" who bandy about literary genre criticism do it reliably, because I have seen too many instances of building castles out of merest hints and hypotheses.
I see no reason to think that all reason for doubt about the idea has been settled.
Brugger adopts Megivern’s analysis of Genesis 9:6 as a proverb rather than as a legal principle or moral instruction. This goes against not just traditional Catholic interpretation but against traditional Jewish, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the passage. I also think it is faulty exegetically. There are commands in 9:1, a permission in verse 3, a restriction of a permission in verse 4, and further commands in verse 7. It seems far more likely that verse 6 is some form of directive (command or moral instruction, perhaps) rather than a proverb.ReplyDelete
But even if Genesis 9:6 were to be interpreted as a proverb, I don’t think that the consequences would be to Brugger’s liking. Proverbs have a normative aspect to them. The proverb “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov 10:4) entails that in a well-functioning society, the slothful will tend to become poor and the diligent will tend to become rich. A society in which that does not happen is not functioning as it should. Similarly, if Genesis 9:6 is meant as a proverb, it entails that a society in which murderers do not typically die violent deaths is not functioning as it should. Unless Brugger wants to argue that a good society is one in which murderers are murdered by others, this proverb would seem to entail that a good society is one in which murderers are either killed by God or executed.
The OFloinnOctober 23, 2017 at 12:53 PMReplyDelete
Keep in mind that "dignity" is dignitas, dignitatis, meaning "worth, position, rank; authority, office; self-respect, grace." It is opposed to humiliation, not to death. One may hold one's dignity absolutely, as did Roman patricians, Japanese samurai, or Southern gentlemen -- all of whom would rather face duels than lose face.
Earlier, someone had written, "There are other ways of compmletely and permanantly removing the aggressing individual from society." Unless this involves complete isolation and solitary confinement, it is hard to see how. Perhaps in a cell all by himself, with no guards, no other prisoners, no contact with orderlies or counselors. But it may be less cruel to simply kill the poor fellow outright than to deprive him of the last few targets for his own mania."
South Georgia Island with a 5 year supply of canned goods and sterno; fishhooks, line; and a couple packets of turnip and kale seeds. Which is probably all that will grow there.
Of course you would have to have a separate island for each malefactor because as much as they hate the human race, they cannot leave it in peace, and the presence of even one other would be enough reason for the perverted lunatics to gravitate together like a couple of neutron stars.
Have to find a way to keep the Quaker rescue flotilla away too.
Read Part 2 of Brugger's response to Feser and Bessette at PD, and then read this paragraph, which he wrote on February 22, 2017, also at PD:ReplyDelete
There can be no reasonable doubt that the Church’s teachings on the singular context of marriage for upright genital sexual expression and the wrongfulness of every form of freely chosen non-marital sexual behavior (e.g., masturbation, extra-marital intercourse, homosexual acts, contraceptive acts, etc.) have been taught by the bishops in universal agreement, always and everywhere, as clearly pertaining to the temporal and eternal welfare of the faithful, and so definitive tendendam.
One issue is that the Church doesn't have a high regard for the historicity of Genesis 1-11. One member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission famously compared the opening chapters of Genesis to Little Red Riding Hood. I'm not sure how that impacts the interpretation of Genesis 9:6.ReplyDelete
Of course Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 have to be taken quite literally, "When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
One issue is that the Church doesn't have a high regard for the historicity of Genesis 1-11. One member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission famously compared the opening chapters of Genesis to Little Red Riding Hood. I'm not sure how that impacts the interpretation of Genesis 9:6.Delete
I should think it doesn't impact the interpretation of Genesis 9:6 at all.
"the church doesn't have a high regard for the historicity of Genesis 1-11" is a nothing but misleading way of saying that the Church does not read every detail of Genesis 1-11 as part of a literal historical narrative. The Church does not doubt that Genesis 1-11 is inerrant taken in the sense intended by the scriptural author.
The Pontifical Biblical Commission is no longer a body that provides authoritative interpretations of the Bible. The authority was removed in the 1960s. They are, as far as I can tell, a bunch of experts who voice their opinions, sometimes collectively. They are not generally cardinals and bishops, but professors and theologians, hence with no innate capacity to speak authoritatively for the Church.Delete
Among faithful and orthodox teachers of biblical scholarship, it is well known that the Commission today hardly represents a thoroughly sound perspective on biblical interpretation. So when you get a comment by "a member of the Commission" you really have no reason to be confident that you are getting what "the Church" believes. At all. It's the opinion of a scholar.
Of course Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 have to be taken quite literally,
Heh, that's very droll. I love the humor there. :-)
Augustine & Philo of Alexandria based on their literal interpretation of Genesis 2:4-7 concluded Genesis 1:1-11 could not also be literal without contradiction and confessed the concept of simultaneous creation and said Genesis 1:1-11 ought be taken as allegory.Delete
Aquinas thought he favored a literal interpretation of Genesis 1:1-11 said that interpretation was a valid alternate opinion.
The reason Genesis 2:4-7 and Genesis 1:1-11 can't both be literal is the former has Man being created on the same day as the Heavens and earth and before the Animals where as the later has the Heavens and Earth created on the first day, Man on the sixth and the animals in between.
So by definition one has to be literal and the other not.
Mark Shea is a critic? Quelle Surprise!ReplyDelete
Also fyi Dr Feser, your blog is being slid by Bing.
From Catholic Answers:ReplyDelete
Tim Staples agrees with Ed on the death penalty.
Jimmy does not.
See https://www.catholic.com/audio/cal/8252 around 15 minutes in. Jimmy believes that no pope has infallibly defined on the death penalty. That infallible declarations are in fact, very rare. Therefore this teaching is reformable.
Jimmy Akin is making a mistake. Actually, a fairly simple mistake for someone in his position.Delete
There is more than one way for a teaching to be infallible than by an "infallible declaration" that "defines" the teaching as definitive. Akin ought to know this. Indeed, it is one of the most important tools in the tool box for arguing with dissenting liberals.
The Church certainly does teach infallibly when the Pope issues an infallible definition. The Church also teaches infallibly when, in Council assembled and with the pope, they solemnly define a doctrine. These are the extraordinary methods in which the Church teaches infallibly.
And in the third way, the Church infallibly teaches in the "ordinary" way: when the Church, from the Apostles through the Fathers of the Church, the Doctors and theologians, and the bishops throughout the world exhibit constant and universal agreement on a matter of faith and morals, the doctrine so taught is taught infallibly.
The ordinary magisterium teaches infallibly.
This is bedrock, required knowledge for someone in Jimmy's position. He either just forgot for a moment, or he is making a serious error and needs to be corrected by someone with the chops to speak to him.
The popes cannot reform just anything that has not been infallibly defined in an extraordinary exercise of the magisterial office, because all those things taught by the ordinary magisterium infallibly are irreformable. It is a constant ploy by those who dissent from Humanae Vitae to claim that Paul VI did not "define" the teaching he stated so clearly and forcibly in that encyclical, and so they are free to disagree. Whether they are right or wrong about whether HV having the character of a "definition", they are CERTAINLY wrong about having the freedom to disagree, because Paul VI was simply re-stating what had ALWAYS been taught by the Church, and already constituted irreformable doctrine.
Here is another text that seems to reiterate what Jimmy was saying on the show: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/identifying-infallible-statementsDelete
He does not talk about the ordinary magisterium as being infallible. Is this discussed in the book?
Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.
"Divine and Catholic faith" (or "theological") is the highest level of adherence, and is demanded both of Scripture and for certain other teachings "to be believed" definitively as from the deposit of faith, such as the articles of the creed. And are thus taught infallibly.
When the Magisterium of the Church makes an infallible pronouncement and solemnly declares that a teaching is found in Revelation, the assent called for is that of theological faith. This kind of adherence is to be given even to the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium when it proposes for belief a teaching of faith as divinely revealed. [Donum Veritatis, DV]
Note then, that this kind of adherence can be required even for truths taught under the "ordinary and universal magisterium", it applies not because it was "solemnly defined" but because it was taught "as definitively to be believed" as belonging to the deposit of faith.
But there is a second kind of adherence, lesser only compared to "divine and Catholic faith", but still definitive", on matters that are taught definitively and are "to be held" definitively,
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.
The second category, “definitively proposed statements on matters closely connected with revealed truth,” are not immediately contained in the sacred deposit. They are rooted in the primary points of the deposit of faith as “secondary truths” which necessarily follow from them either logically or historically, and which are needed to expound them faithfully: “When the Magisterium proposes ‘in a definitive way’ truths concerning faith and morals, which, even if not divinely revealed, are nevertheless strictly and intimately connected with Revelation, these must be firmly accepted and held.” [DV]
These too are infallible teaching. Dr. Ludwig Ott summarized the common position: “The totality of the Bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by all the faithful.”
The critical mistake Jimmy Akin is making is to equate "defined" with "definitively to be believed" as a category, where he limits "defined" to be teachings explicitly stated as "defined" in an authoritative document either by the Pope or by a Council. But this is too narrow. The range of teachings that are taught "to be held definitively" and infallibly is much broader than those that were "defined" by a pope or a council in a specific act. They include the teachings taught "by the bishops, dispersed throughout the world", who teach them as to be held definitively. You can hardly expect those bishops to go around stating these teachings in "solemn definitions", (because one bishop, acting on his own, does not have the authority to so define), and yet they certainly do teach them as to be held definitively.Delete
In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter....Consequently, when there has not been a judgment on a doctrine in the solemn form of a definition, but this doctrine, belonging to the inheritance of the depositum fidei, is taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium, which necessarily includes the Pope, such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly. The declaration of confirmation or reaffirmation by the Roman Pontiff in this case is not a new dogmatic definition, but a formal attestation of a truth already possessed and infallibly transmitted by the Church. [CDF's Doctrinal Commentary of 1989]
So, when Canon Law refers to a teaching being "defined" it seems to be referring to a specific ACT OF defining. But when the Church (in many documents, as cited above) talks about "definitively to be held", she includes both teachings that have been "defined" in specific authoritative acts and teachings that have been taught "to be held definitively" even though they have not been "defined" in specific authoritative acts.
This is Tim Staple's take on the topic:ReplyDelete
Anonymous, even though Jimmy Akin is wrong on his analysis, the supporters of Pope Francis could try to make a defense along these lines: When the Pope says that DP is "inadmissible" and "contrary to the Gospel", he could be taken as meaning that although the DP is just and licit in and of itself, now that we are in under the dispensation of the New Covenant, now that Christ has come to dispense mercy, we must NO LONGER resort to the DP". This thesis would be hard to hold as bearing on countries that have never been Christian, but it is at least conceptually an arguable position. Unfortunately, Francis himself seems to undermine the attempt by using the term "per se", which makes it particularly difficult to square with "it is just and licit in and of itself."ReplyDelete
(Not surprisingly, Francis manages to muddle even this phrase, since "per se contrary to the Gospel" is not an expression with a clearly determinable meaning. "The Gospel" includes many things that are merely historically determined. One might say that denying Christ is "per se contrary to the Gospel", except that right there in the Gospel we have Peter denying Christ 3 times, so obviously Peter denying Christ is "in the Gospel". Francis might have meant that the DP is "against the fundamental teachings of the Gospel", and that it is therefore never to be used, but "per se" is a strange way to carry that off - especially if Francis meant, specifically, the NEW revelations and dispensation set up by Christ in the New Covenant to replace the Old Covenant, rather than "contrary to the principles of the moral law". Indeed, if he meant the latter, he could well be interpreted as meaning that the DP was moral and licit and even appropriately used under the Old Law, and it would continue to be so even now had not Christ instituted a new dispensation which requires mercy to overcome the just claim of the DP.
The fact that the Church never said so in its first 1950 years, and rather said the opposite, still poses rather a problem for the theory, though.
>Unfortunately, Francis himself seems to undermine the attempt by using the term "per se", which makes it particularly difficult to square with "it is just and licit in and of itself."Delete
This assumes Pope Francis is always a literal and precise speaker. He isn't.