Is there still anything left to say about the death penalty? Yes, plenty. In the debate generated by By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, the focus has been on questions about the interpretation of various individual scriptural passages, and the level of authority of various papal statements considered in isolation. But the critics have failed to consider the sheer cumulative force of two millennia of consistent ordinary magisterial teaching. Some of them have also wrongly supposed that, even if capital punishment is legitimate under natural law, the higher demands of the Gospel might nevertheless rule it out absolutely. In a new article at Catholic World Report, I show that the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that the death penalty is legitimate in principle even as a matter of specifically Christian morality. No reversal is possible consistent with the indefectibility of the Church. There’s a fair amount of new material in the article that goes beyond what Joe Bessette and I say in the book.
Meanwhile, in the letters section of the February issue of First Things, Joe and I reply to Paul Griffiths’ nasty and question-begging review of the book, and Griffiths responds by doubling down on the nastiness and begged questions.
While you’re at it, take a look at Michael Pakaluk’s recent essay at Public Discourse criticizing the “new natural law” critique of capital punishment. Christopher Tollefsen replied to Pakaluk at PD, and Pakaluk then responded to Tollefsen at Facebook.
Your position on capital punishment has strengthened my conviction that it is outright dangerous to follow any dogmatic religion. In such matters, secular humanism is clearly morally superior to Christianity (including Roman Catholicism), Islam, etc. One might call this the morally intuitive (humane) argument against dogmatic religion. The same goes for mainstream Christian positions on animal rights, et cetera. This does not imply atheism, let alone physicalism, are true, but it creates serious problem for religions based on a holy scripture without allowing for liberal interpretations of that scripture. Titus RivasReplyDelete
lol go away and don’t come back until you’ve actually read the book, troll. Please nobody else feed it or we’ll only attract more stupidity.Delete
I was not talking about any specific book, but simply about the for me extremely repulsive idea that one can seriously defend capital punishment. On religious or any other grounds.Delete
While I deeply sympathize with your view, I think it should be noted that Feser and Bessette argue that Catholic Doctrine in some cases allows for capital punishment, at least in principle.
Although they undoubtedly believe that Catholic morality is superior to secular humanism, their intent in By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed is not a defence of Catholic morality against other moral systems.
So even if the secular humanist approach were intrinsically better, it would not undermine the central ideas in the book.
I have, however, a different concern.
If it is true that the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that the death penalty is legitimate in principle even as a matter of specifically Christian morality, if I am not mistaken, it is also true that the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that human life is sacred "from the womb to the tomb".
To me, that is a clear contradiction and i really don't know how a pro-capital punishment stance can be reconciled with the absolute sanctity of human life.
It's as if the ordinary magisterium had taught infallibly that circles can have four sides.
Walter Van den Acker, I agree that one can deduce a moral system from any set of moral principles and simply demonstrate that it follows from those principles, without implying anything else.Delete
Regarding the supposed incompatibility of an anti-abortion standpoint and a pro-capital punishment stance, I think that both positions could be reconciled by claiming that abortion typically concerns murder, whereas capital punishment would never involve murder. Much like the common response of Christians to the vegetarian interpretation of "Thou shalt not kill". In that the commandment refers to murdering fellow humans, not to killing animals, killing out of (individual or collective) self-defense, or even capital punishment.
I am not merely talking about the anti-abortion standpoint but about the claim that human life is sacred. It's not about the distinction between "Thou shalt not kill" versus "Thou shalt not murder". It's about "human life is absolutely sacred" versus "human life is sacred but there are exceptions". The latter may allow for the death penalty, but the fromer doesn't.
@Walter Van den AckerDelete
I would also like to point out that the Catechism, in Section 2267 (while discussing the Fifth Commandment), explicitly says:
"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."
It goes on to advise against the death penalty *in practice*, but this is totally consistent with Feser's position. So it will not do for you to quote the Catechism in support for an absolute prohibition on capital punishment, since the Catechism in fact teaches against an absolute prohibition on capital punishment. You say that the Catechism is clear about the sacredness of human life, and this is true, but it is even more clear that capital punishment is not absolutely off the table in all circumstances. No offence, brother, but I think in this case it is more likely that your understanding of the implications of the sacredness of human life is flawed, rather than the writers of the Catechism being so stupid that they did not notice that they were flagrantly contradicting themselves.
Re: "human life is absolutely sacred"Delete
As Kaltrop has indicated, your difficulty is that you seem to be assume that the principle of absolute sacredness might mean mortal life may not be intentionally ended. Yet the beasts consecrated for sacrifice under the Old Covenant were absolutely sacred. So too was the Bread of the Presence or "Shewbread" absolutely sacred -- yet the high priest gave it to David and his men. The Temple itself was absolute sacred, yet God announced through His holy prophets that it would be destroyed for Israel's sins.
I find no reason to believe that a thing being absolutely sacred means it cannot be intentionally destroyed -- especially if the thing owes its existence to God, who has the absolute divine right to delegate the power of execution as a punishment.
If you are against the use of capital punishment for any cause at all, you are anti-humane.Delete
Neither can I.
Indeed, given the truth of philosophical theism, let alone "dogmatic religion", I can think of few things so rationally repugnant as the idea that any creature can have any absoluteness whatsoever, sensu stricto.
Walter Van den Acker: It's as if the ordinary magisterium had taught infallibly that circles can have four sides.Delete
Sounds more to me as if the Church taught that some shapes are circular and some are four-sided, and then you claimed that she taught square circles.
But all right, let's for the moment take human life to be "absolutely" sacrosanct. That sounds pretty important. Human life must be really, really valuable. So taking a human life must be really really bad. What sort of punishment should we inflict for such a reprehensible crime? A slap on the wrist? A fine, maybe? Oh, what about a really big fine! Just what price do you put on the absolute sanctity of human life?
Walter Van den AckerDelete
Please, get the book!
You say "the ordinary magisterium has taught infallibly that human life is sacred "from the womb to the tomb".
To me, that is a clear contradiction and i really don't know how a pro-capital punishment stance can be reconciled with the absolute sanctity of human life."
From a Catholic and classic Natural law theory, the innocent has a distinct moral status than the guilty, they have lost their right to life.
To all of you.Delete
What you are saying is that the infallible teaching of the Catholic church is something like "human life is sacred from the womb to the tomb, but not really".
That's a contradiction.
And it's not about a moral status. Life being sacred is no moral status, it is a claim about the nature of human life. A nature can't be "lost", accept maybe if God takes it away.
No, what we are saying (I hope this solidarity's there) is that the word "sacred" doesn't mean what you take it to mean.Delete
The word sacred in the context of the catechism does mean what I take it to mean. There is no ambiguity in the word sacred. Human life is sacred and therefore abortion and euthanasia cannot be allowed.
I concur that the word as used by the Catechism is not ambiguous. It simply does not support shat seems to be your overall argument: if euthanasia and abortion involve desecration and cannot be allowed for that reason, it doesn't follow that killing is per se evil.
The word is used by the CCC in this context
"Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end."
If this is, as you say, not ambiguous, then it means exactly what I said it means, namely that people are not the lord of life and cannot decide how and when to end it.
So when the next part of the article states that "no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being"
If it is only about innocent human beings, it contradicts the first part, because that part does not mention that only innocent human life is sacred.
Moreover, non-innocent human life also from its beginning involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator.
There really isn't anything more I can say about this, so I am afraid we'll have to agree to disagree.
Perhaps it'd be better to discuss why you think that "sacred" implies "must never be destroyed under any circumstances whatsoever". If that were true, then self-defense would be illegitimate too, because the murderer's life is sacred also, is it not? But the Church has never regarded killing in self-defense as illegitimate *in principle* (though it does hold the need for proportionality, such that killing in self-defense can only legitimately be carried out if there is no reasonable, less-lethal alternative available, and if this lethal force is strictly necessary for the protection of one's own life or the lives of others (for instance, if the would-be murderer chickens out and runs, you may not shoot him in the back).Delete
See my reply to Georgy. There isn't anything more I can add to that.
Yet the Catechism also teaches that DP is in principle licit.
You probably know that charitable reading involves a readiness to at least try to resolve apparent contradictions.
I struggle to see even that here, however. Your entire argument rests on a reading of the word "sacred", which, however, simply doesn't mean "absolutely inviolable" (see my reply to you in different subthread). If it doesn't mean that, then there's no contradiction. But there is none, nor is the death penalty even capable of ending the relationship you seem to chiefly appeal to: death isn't annihilation. Nothing in the Catechism says that the relative fullness of this relationship is itself absolutely inviolable.
The fact that the Catechism limits the absolute condemnation to cases dealing with innocent life hints at what has traditionally been taught (something I already mentioned below): God -has- given the ruler the right to impose the death penalty. If God empowers a subordinate to do somethings with what is ordered to Him, surely He's well within His rights?..
I guess I should've this earlier, but there's also the fact that sacred things (churches, altars, consecrated persons) can potentially be desecrated. Rather plausibly that includes the case of a murderer, who desecrated himself by commiting a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.
"Yet the Catechism also teaches that DP is in principle licit."Delete
Hence the contradiction.
"Hence the contradiction."Delete
Only if you read something into what it says. E.g., '"sacred" means "absolutely inviolable"'. Which it doesn't.
You seem to accept that it doesn't, but argue that the context determines the meaning. Based on what precisely do you exclude the liceity from this context clause, pray tell?
How is my reading deficient, and if it is not that, why should we prefer your reading (postulating a contradiction) to mine (with no contradictions posited)?
I have explained all this, and I don't know what else I can add. The context in which the word "sacred" is used in the relevant part of the CCC is clear and unambiguous.
I stand by my position. This will be my final reply to you on this, since I do not see how we can make any progress here.
Thank you for the interesting discussion.
You have my thanks as well.
If you're right about the Catechism, well, too bad for it. But then, we have more of them, thank God!
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says this about the death penalty:
Execution Of Criminals
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.
Even the Compendium of the recent Catechism (which is supposed to be faithful to the CCC; it is unfortunately suboptimal, at least arguably) declares the per se legitimacy of the DP (p. 469ss).
http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html#The Ten Commandments
Then we have the Catechism of St. Pius X, which says the following:Delete
3 Q. Are there cases in which it is lawful to kill?
A. It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime; and, finally, in cases of necessary and lawful defence of one's own life against an unjust aggressor.
Human life is sacred. Okay. We also call the Eucharist sacred, which is destroyed when consumed or otherwise annihilated. We also call churches sacred, which we can legitimately destroy. We also call the Bible sacred, but to burn one as the only means of staying alive in the wilderness would certainly not be immoral. We call holy water sacred, but we can legitimately dispose of it (and other similar things) by putting them in the ground (or burning in the case of oils, for example). So just saying that something is "sacred" and therefore not allowed to be destroyed is a very, very bad argument. In some cases (like the offering of levitical sacrifices or purifying vessels after Mass), a sacred thing is SUPPOSED to be destroyed.Delete
Your initial statement suffers from a very dubious assumption, especially in a historical context. The earliest form of secular humanism to achieve great power gave us the French Revolution and its love of the guillotine. Those men were devoted to secularism, the "humane" values of liberty, equality and fraternity, and the philosophers of the Enlightenment. It is not secular humanism but a relatively recent sentimentalist humanism that satisfies your purported moral superiority. After all, secular humanism relies on Utilitarianism, and since judgements of what will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number can differ enormously, it is by no means clear that utilitarian arguments could not be made justifying executions.
Also, imprisonment is not really sufficient even to stop murderers being violent. Either one keeps them isolated from others perpetually, itself a form of torture, as older experiments showed, or one gives them access to other potential victims. Given the high rates of violence in prisons and the intrinsic evil of perpetual torture, imprisonment of the worst violent criminals is probably not sufficient to fulfill protective purposes.
I was starting from inalienable human rights more than anything, not from utilitarian considerations that could override such rights.
Regarding imprisonment, I'd say that most European countries do not have the death penalty while their murder rates are lower than that of American states with the death penalty. The generally rather humane European prison system must have something to do with this, I guess.
Also see this enlightening source: https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/)
Regarding the excesses of the French Revolution et cetera, I would say that this does not in any way invalidate the ideals. It would be like holding that the Roman Catholic Church (and its surprisingly open-minded Pope Francis) should be totally ignored because of the high rate of child abuse cases among priests.
I can understand some people's desire to conform to dogma, but I have a hard time imagining that they feel the need to rationalize the highly counterintuitive, where a simple "credo quia absurdum" would do. Witnessing someone rationalize the absurd causes vicarious shame in me.
I'm no expert, but perhaps it is legitimized by claiming that the people who deserve capital punishment are a threat to the absolutely sacred life of other, innocent human beings. Much like killing expansionist enemies in an unjust war or stopping someone from murdering someone else by force. It's not that their life is not inherently absolutely sacred in itself, but that their actions make it impossible to respect that sacredness in their particular case, because doing so would sacrifice the safety of the sacred human life of others. So, it is their own actions that make it impossible to respect the absolute sacredness of their lives. (I'm really defending the "devil" now ;-) , and I guess others would be better at it.)ReplyDelete
What is absurd about such answers of course, is that mankind invented prisons to protect people from dangerous criminals ages ago, which enable us to respect the absolute sacredness of both the criminal's and everybody else's life. Safety can never be 100% and if we take the value of anyone's life seriously, we should never sacrifice it to an unattainable ideal of perfect safety. But that is how it is from a rational standpoint, not from a dogmatic one, which was the point of my first comment.Delete
The point is that if human life is absolutely sacred from the womb to the grave, life can never be ended by a human decision, in that case, you are not even allowed to end your own life, even when you are in severe pain with no help of ever getting better.Delete
I am not claiming that human life is absolutely sacred, but if it is, it follows as an absolute truth that no human being may ever deliberately end it unless there is a clear and unambiguous command by God.
That is, BTW, also the satdnpoint of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/life-and-dignity-of-the-human-person.cfm)
"The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty.
What about killing soldiers in war?Delete
I'm glad they reject the death penalty of course.
Killing soldiers in war is a more complex matter which I prefer not to discuss here.Delete
My point is that we seem to have two infallible teachings that clearly contradict each other.
Walter, the Catholic teaching tenet that "human life is sacred" has never meant, and has never been TAKEN as meaning (except by you) to mean under the term "sacred" something that is soooooo heighted, reserved, protected, and revered that it must NEVER be placed at risk, the way you want to take it.Delete
If YOU PERSONALLY believe that's what we Catholics should mean by "sacred" in saying "human life is sacred", you can go around trying to make such an argument. But please, for the sake of clarity, STOP arguing as if that is what Catholic teachers, Doctors, and popes have meant by it. It most certainly is not.
The two teachings do not contradict each other.
Just take a look at my quote from the the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The very same sanctity of human life is used to argue against abortion and euthanasia.
The word "sacred" has a clear meaning, and yes, it does mean that human life is so heighted, reserved, protected and revered that no human being can deliberately end it."
The catechism of the actholic church is very clear on it.
"Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end"
There is no ambuity here.
No ambiguity...except that the first modern pope to try to get states to reject using the DP, JPII, ALSO stated insisted that (a) that state does have the right to take lives in the cases of horrific crimes, and explicitly supported the concept of using it when no other means was available for keeping people safe: in other words you INSIST on taking JPII, a great theologian, as not even noticing that he was contradicting himself in the space of 3 or so paragraphs.Delete
As for the US bishops, their "conference" documents are crafted by the bureaucrats at the USCCB offices, which are notoriously both extremely trendy-theologic and generally inconsistent with Catholic Tradition whenever they think they can get away with it.
Walter, are you a Catholic?
Whther JPII was a great theologian or not, if he claimed that human life was sacred and also claimed that human beings (state)have the right to take lives in the cases of horrific crimes, the he was contradicting himself .Delete
The civil common good can also said to be sacred, indeed, "better and more divine than the good of the individual." (as St. Thomas says citing Aristotle in his commentary on the Politics). The sword the prince bears is given him by God, being ordered to whom in a more immediate way just makes things sacred in the moral order.
Needless to say, the civil order prescribed by our social nature is also ordered to God as His creature (albeit a moral unity rather than a substance).
Sorry, but I don't see the relevance of your post.
The sacredness of a human life need not be understood as ultimate, and hence cannot be summoned to support an argument against capital punishment (at least without further argument): the authority to inflict it is given by God, clearly the master of all, including things sacred, to be used in pursuit of a sacred goal of justice.
Hence it is at least unclear why executions should be viewed as instances of profanation, as it were.
The point is that if human life is sacred, unless God unambiguously reveals that X deserves the death penalty, human beings lack the authority to make such judgment by themselves.
The sacredness of human life is not ultimate because the only being that is ultimately sacred is God and precisely for that reason, He is the only one who gets to decide who lives and who dies. Human beings can't do that. They can't kill a person who is in horrible pain and has no chance of recovering, not even if the person explicitly wishes to die.
According to catholic doctrine, the sacredness of human life rules out euthanasia in all circumstances.
And my point is that sacredness as such in no way necessitates such a reading. In its proper sense "sacred" means "(c)onnected with God or a god or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration" (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sacred). Thus God, in the proper sense, is not sacred, but rather holy
The history of this differentiation seems to be fairly long, but it is somewhat obscured in at least some of the modern languages: the Holy Roman Church in Latin is "Sancta Ecclesia Romana", the Holy Roman Empire is "Sacrum Imperium Romanum".
If something is sacred, that is, consecrated to God, then it shouldn't be profaned by either a "profane" (not sacred) agent or being put to a profane use. And I'm saying DP is vitiated/profaned by neither: civil authority as such is a divine ordinance, and justice, an "honest good" - as opposed to expediency, comfort, lack of pain or any other good that per se is merely pleasant or useful - isn't profane at all.
If Dr. Feser is correct, then it should simply be said that Catholic doctrine recognises that the state and the good of justice are both sacred in this sense (at least?) by natural law.Delete
If life is sacred, it is consecrated to God and God is the sole authority over it. That is one of the main arguments against abortion and euthanasia. Obviously, for that reason, civil authorities cannot allow abortion or euthanasia.
So, yes, sacredness of human life does necessitate such a reading.
yes, "holy" would be a better word in the case of God, but that doesn't mean that human beings can have authority over human life.
I distinguish: human beings cannot have authority over other human beings qua human beings - this I concede; that human beings cannot have such an authority in virtue of a divine commission to them through natural law - this I deny.
The common good is also sacred and ordered to God, and is indeed greater than any private good or their sum, and is something to which humans are ordered by God, and hence can virtiously kill and sacrifice their life in its preservation and defence. Euthanasia and abortion do not serve, rather, do violence to the common good, which includes justice and hence the protection of various sacra against profanation, sticking to your preferred terminology, including the killing of innocent non-combatants irrespective of their wishes or merely private goods without possible explicit divine commands.
Sacredness is entirely compatible with a hierarchy of things sacred. Your inference, it would seem, is unsustainable, at least as it is at the moment, I'm afraid.
An example: if a bishop, whose person is sacred, were to attack me, my right to life, which is sacred as well, would take precedence over his inviolability, empowering me to act in self-defense.Delete
Even if I'm wrong about this, and episcopal sacredness has priority over my life (though I don't think that's the case), the example still clearly serves to show that sacred things need not be equal in their sacredness.
Ugh... no edit option.Delete
You said, "If life is sacred, it is consecrated to God and God is the sole authority over it. That is one of the main arguments against abortion and euthanasia. Obviously, for that reason, civil authorities cannot allow abortion or euthanasia.
So, yes, sacredness of human life does necessitate such a reading."
You also said, "Killing soldiers in war is a more complex matter which I prefer not to discuss here.
My point is that we seem to have two infallible teachings that clearly contradict each other."
Not only have you failed to understand the variety of the meanings of the word "sacred" (see my other reply to you about the Eucharist, churches, etc. which can lawfully be (and sometimes should be) destroyed), but you reveal a grave lack of rigor in other ways as well. In what world is God the only authority over human life? Not this one... unless you think God demands that we avoid medicines or activities which risk shortening our life, or even medicines and activities which prolong it! After all, if God is the ONLY authority over human life, how could we ever licitly do anything to influence its continuance? (Life, of course, is not something limited to this world - you don't seem to bring this into the argument... It matters a whole lot. If bodily death was actually to destroy the entire human being, you would have a better foothold.) You say this is one of the main arguments against abortion and euthanasia, but that does not mean it is a good argument, even if you are right about it being a "main" argument. (It is a bad argument, in my opinion, because the major premise is untrue, and it begs the question at the same time!) You conveniently avoid an important apparent implication of your position, which is that nobody could ever kill another person intentionally (such as in war), which would be more Jainist than Christian, and it is a hole you do not seem to have any way out of. Finally, you assert that it appears there are two "infallible teachings that clearly contradict each other." Instead of implying that A, we who believe in capital punishment are all either stupid or are heretics who need to receive this gnosis from you, the one who has found the secret REAL meaning of the sacredness of human life which was lost on every pope and catechism who ever spoke on the matter of capital punishment until about 5 minutes ago, or that B, the Church can actually contradict Herself in real teachings, please consider the possibility that you are missing something.
I suggest that you depart from this conversation in general until you have actually read Dr. Feser's book. Your objections are puerile, your distinctions are confused or non-existent, and your general line of argumentation is absolutely pummeled in the text. You are wasting your own time and everyone else's.
Good day to you...
Dear Mr (or Mrs) CRSDelete
If you think reading my posts is a waste of time, then, by all means don't read them.
As for departing this conversation, I am a free human being and I depart from a conversation when I decide to do so or when Dr Feser asks me to.
Meanwhile, I see nothing of any relevance in your post, so, unless you have something substantial to add, there is no conversation between us.
So, don't worry, I won't be replying to you again, at least not on this matter.
You've used the "relevance" dodge a few times now... Interesting.
I made a suggestion to you to help you. You are free to ignore it - but be ready for impatience on the part of your interlocutors.
Anyway, if you really see nothing relevant in my post, then I don't know what to say, other than farewell...
I’m not sure what you mean when you say we can’t have 100% safety. This isn’t something you need to explain to conservatives. We are well aware of the fallen nature of the world we live in.ReplyDelete
Also, I’m not Catholic, but I think the position of many in high places, including Pope John Paul II is that the death penatly should rarely, if ever. be used, even though it’s legitimate in principle (the latter being precisely what the issue is about).
I mean that 100% safety is impossible. A prisoner may escape, an attempt to stop a murderer may fail, a babysitter may turn out to be a rapist, a husband may turn out to be violent, et cetera. If we want to avoid all risks, we really want to avoid life itself. Even if we wanted to live in a police state, we can't eliminate all risks. There it is inhumane to say some prisoners must die, because it would not be 100% safe to keep them alive. There can be no sound rational justification for the death penalty, in other words.Delete
The retributive argument for applying the death penalty is not about the chance that they might commit crimes again. It’s that they deserve to die, that executing them is inherently the just thing to do, not some utilitarian consideration.Delete
As in "an eye for an eye". I hope we agree that this retributive principle is too brutal to even be taken seriously in 2018. As a popular rabbi once said, about 2000 years ago: "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!"Delete
If human life is sacred, then executing someone can never be inherently just.Delete
There’s actually a debate about whether the ‘cast the first stone’ story is even biblical: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/aprilweb-only/without-sin-cast-first-stone.htmlDelete
Either way, what difference does it make that we are now in the year 2018? The moral law doesn’t change.
I'm not a Biblical scholar, just a philosopher who found this passage one of the most touching and appealing in the Bible.Delete
What I meant by 2018 is of course that we should all be glad that we aren't living in the primitive societies that supported the principle anymore. At least not in most Western countries. It would mean losing a lot of our Western civilization if we went back to such values.
The assumption that modern Western civilisations and their legal jurisdictions do not use the standard of retributive justice, that is, that the degree of punishment should reflect the degree of fault, is complete nonsense. Modern jurisprudence still accepts this principle, albeit qualified with other factors.Delete
Thanks for this latest article! It's a gem. I'm not sure if you're aware of Dr. Fastiggi's most recent responses in comboxes. There's a couple important arguments worth noting.
If you scroll to the bottom of that combox, you'll find a lengthy comment by Dr. Fastiggi. There, he makes the argument that your scriptural arguments are insufficient. His main example is that God commanded herem warfare in the Old Testament, yet Vatican II Bishops still condemned total destruction of cities and killing civilians indiscriminately. So, he argues, the OT does not necessarily apply to today.
You've explained (to me, thanks!) the answer to this in a previous combox. But, it may be worth to put forth your explanation in a future article. This line of argument is rampant.
In this combox, Dr. Fastiggi insists on a different interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger's 2004 memorandum. He insists that the legitimate diversity of opinion on applying the death penalty ONLY APPLIES to the judgment of whether particular cases meet or do not meet the criteria laid out by JPII. In other words, the Catholic (on Fastiggi's view) is no longer permitted to support the death penalty being used unless he judges that it is the *only possible means* of safe-guarding people against the aggressor.
Addressing these points in future articles will certainly help our side of the issue.
Thanks for another great piece!
Can you link to Feser’s combox “herem” reply? ThanksDelete
I have read "By Man Shall His Blood be Shed". While I found many of the arguments in the book compelling, particularly those concerning the teaching of the Church's Magisterium on the death penalty, others seemed less so.
In particular, the book seems to take the view that certain kinds of crime deserve certain kinds or degrees of punishment always and everywhere, without regard to the specific legal and social contexts in which those crimes are committed, and that public authorities should attempt to ascertain this objective desert and take it as their starting-point in deciding what punishments should actually be imposed.
This seems to be a view under which the extent to which the act is deserving of punishment for the purposes of the criminal law and the extent to which the act is morally wrong (for, as it were, "God's purposes") are regarded as equivalent. But this ignores the fact that acts are not crimes unless they are first designated as such by the criminal law, and the primary interest of the criminal law is usually not the intrinsic moral wrongfulness of the acts it criminalises but rather the threat they pose to social order. And what constitutes a threat to social order, and the extent to which it does, will vary from society to society. (See ST II-I, q 96 art 2 and q 97 art 1.) It is not difficult to imagine an unstable society in which, say, the holding of unauthorised rallies could be regarded (correctly) by the public authorities as posing a greater threat to the fabric of society than murder. In those circumstances, would not the state be justified in regarding the former as in principle more deserving of severe punishment, e.g. death, than the latter, even if social conditions (e.g., perhaps, the very same social instability) made the imposition of such severe punishment in practice undesirable? Conversely, in a society with lower life expectancy and living standards than those of the modern West, murder itself might plausibly be regarded as less actually harmful, whatever its intrinsic wrongfulness: one possible example of this is the weregild system of the early Middle Ages, which can be described in modern terminology as treating murder as a mere civil law matter rather than as a crime at all.
John Finnis appears to provide some support for this view in his essay "The Restoration of Retribution" (available in vol 3 of his Collected Essays), where he says: "Finally, for Kant retribution is both an unconditional, categorical imperative and a lex talionis, demanding like for like. [...] But on the classical and more standard view, represented by Aquinas for example, while it is clear that crime should ordinarily be punished, the questions of time, place circumstance and degree are a matter of pure positive law, and cannot be determined by abstract moral reasoning. (See, for example, Summa Theologiae I-II q.95 a.2) [...] Thus, while the retributive restoration of the order of fairness is the most specific and essential aim of punishment, it is not necessarily the most important aim in the practical sense of determining the forms and degrees of punishments." (pp 164-165)
One could conceivably take Finnis here to be going further than I have gone above by arguing that while all crime deserves punishment (and this fact is what justifies the state in imposing punishment), no crime deserves any particular kind of punishment except as provided for by positive law, and the assessment of what punishment ought actually to be imposed should be made by reference to pragmatic concerns only. But on either view, the perspective seemingly advocated in "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed" remains problematic.
Re: "But on either view, the perspective seemingly advocated in "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed" remains problematic."Delete
I'm not seeing the problem. Can you spell it out more clearly? It sounds like you're saying something like this:
1) Feser thinks public authorities should ascertain (as best they can) objective deserts and take these as the default starting point for deciding punishments.
2) But that's not how criminal law is actually decided in many cases.
3) Therefore, Feser's view is problematic.
Obviously, that's not a good argument, but maybe you mean something else. I am very unclear on the specifics of your objection.
When I say in the third paragraph of my initial post that "the primary interest of the criminal law is usually not the intrinsic moral wrongfulness of the acts it criminalises but rather the threat they pose to social order" I mean that as a normative claim, not a descriptive one.Delete
I am guessing that you thought I was making a descriptive claim and that that is the source of your confusion. Apologies for the lack of clarity. Perhaps rather than "is usually" I should have said "ought usually be".
But then don't your examples refute that normative claim? At least it it's viewed in a strong sense?Delete
A society whose criminal laws are based primarily on "threats posed to the social order" might end up criminalizing things and attaching harsh punishments to them that are not wrong at all (or at least not at all gravely wrong). It reminds me of "The Hook" in Cat's Cradle. Everyone gets death by "The Hook" no matter the nature of the moral offense, and as a result there is no social disorder and hardly any crime in the society.
I'm still confused because it seems the examples you give count against the view you are recommending.
But almost all societies do in fact criminalise things that are not in themselves wrong at all (e.g. driving on a particular side of the road, or not paying a certain proportion of your income to the state, or selling alcoholic drinks without a licence), and this is almost completely uncontroversial. The distinction between "malum in se" (wrong in itself) and "malum prohibitum" (wrong [because] prohibited) has long been recognised.Delete
I am not sure what is wrong with my examples. Certainly the weregild system might have been an insufficient response to homicide even given the social conditions of the time. Then again, it might not have been. If it was in fact sufficient, one possible contributing reason for this is that, in a society with lower standards of living and life expectancies than ours, homicide did actually do less social harm than it does in ours. Now I suppose a historian might vigorously dispute this, and I am admittedly beginning to regret not confining myself to hypothetical examples.
As regards the hypothetical unstable society, the purpose of this is simply to illustrate that there could exist a society with regard to which something which is relatively socially harmless in our societies is in that society more socially harmful than murder. So someone in that society who wishes to argue in favour of a universal, objective view of desert will end up committing themselves to the view that a less harmful act (murder) is deserving of a greater punishment than a more harmful one, which is counter-intuitive at best.
But my examples are only illustrations. My point is essentially that (while it might make sense to speak of objective desert as regards divine justice) when it comes to determining the proper nature and extent of criminal punishments there is no such thing as objective desert as far as merely human justice is concerned, but only desert relative to this or that particular ordering of society, and that this is evident from considering the proper purposes of the criminal law.
Re: "My point is essentially that (while it might make sense to speak of objective desert as regards divine justice) when it comes to determining the proper nature and extent of criminal punishments there is no such thing as objective desert as far as merely human justice is concerned, but only desert relative to this or that particular ordering of society, and that this is evident from considering the proper purposes of the criminal law."Delete
Thanks for this clarification. I now understand your point. I don't agree with it, but I will think more about it. I have not studied in this area, and amateurs are known to make easy errors, but here's what seems to me an obvious counterexample to that view.
If it's true that there is no such thing as objective desert as far as merely human justice is concerned, then there is nothing objectively unfair or unjust about chopping off the hands of kids who shoplift packs of candy. While you might argue this is imprudent or wrong on other grounds, if there is no objective desert, then there is no grounds on which to say this punishment is unfair or unjust or disproportional.
What am I missing?
But on the classical and more standard view, represented by Aquinas for example, while it is clear that crime should ordinarily be punished, the questions of time, place circumstance and degree are a matter of pure positive law, and cannot be determined by abstract moral reasoning. (See, for example, Summa Theologiae I-II q.95 a.2) [...] Thus, while the retributive restoration of the order of fairness is the most specific and essential aim of punishment, it is not necessarily the most important aim in the practical sense of determining the forms and degrees of punishments."Delete
Luke, I believe (with JohnD) that you are misunderstanding both Aquinas and what the "natural" part of "natural law" does as regards the matter of "how much" punishment.
Aquinas does NOT say that the specific determinations of how much punishment do not flow from the natural law - indeed, he says the opposite, they DO. What he allows is that they do not flow from the basic principles of natural law in the manner in which conclusions of science flow demonstratively from the principles. Instead, they flow from the natural law in the manner of determinations, that is to say, in the manner of MAKING CONCRETE AND DETERMINATE what is not completely determinate in the principles. But this does not mean that they are either arbitrary or that they don't flow from the natural law.
The difference is the application of the virtue of prudence. In addition to the root principle that illegal acts should be punished, there is the second principle that graver illegal acts should be punished by graver penalties. But neither of these SET THE AMOUNTS of penalty. Add in one more principle: the punishment should - to the extent feasible - in some fashion "fit" the crime. This one rather points us in the direction of a certain amount of fluidity and not-yet-determinateness. But it also gives us guidelines: a crime of a financial nature might be punishable by taking away the criminal's own money - at least, if it's a petty crime and it's only real effect is one of financial inconvenience. But a graver sort of financial offence (that involves other offenses, like burglary, or that raises the stakes beyond mere inconvenience by taking away a man's livelihood) should be punished by something more severe in kind than mere financial inconvenience. I.E. KINDS of penalty, too, weigh into the "determination" springing from natural law.
And, as you yourself suggest, so also does the relative impact GIVEN a certain social situation, both because it might reflect different degrees of damage to society, and because it might spring from different levels of repudiation of the common good for personal good. But taking note of these for making the "determination" just is employing the natural law in punishing.
Feser and Bessette are not claiming that there is some universal and ultimate standard that is perfect, complete, and applicable everywhere, that we might discover by perfecting our science. You mistake them in suggesting so. They are - like Aquinas - in support of principles that guide the determination while leaving the concrete determination to the judgment of prudence.
All they are insisting upon is that in principle, there are crimes grave enough to require the DP as proportionate. Possibly, in some strange culture there might be some weird factor that means there, actually using the DP might not be best advisable, but GENERALLY speaking murder is of such an evil as to warrant the DP if it was fully willed and deliberate. And if 'simple' murder is not quite proportionate to DP, there are other crimes even worse that certainly are.
I think the simplest reply would be that non-therapeutic mutilation is intrinsically immoral (I think this is the Church's position) and so could never be a just or proportionate punishment for any crime.
(I should perhaps note at the outset that the portion of my post that you quoted is not my own words but is itself a quote from John Finnis.)
I agree with most if not all of what you say regarding the method by which these decisions ought to be made. I am aware of the concept of making concrete and determinate what is not completely determinate in the principles of the natural law by the application of prudence, and I approve of it. Where we differ is in our view of what those principles are.
In particular, I would deny that, in general, "graver illegal acts should be punished by graver penalties" IF by "graver" you mean morally graver, which I suspect you do. Rather, the gravity which should normally be taken into account is the extent to which the crime disturbs the social order of the society in which it is committed, and of course the same act might disturb the social order of two different societies to two very different extents.
Further, I would deny that "the punishment should [...] in some fashion 'fit' the crime", at least unless someone can provide me with a compelling defence of this principle. At present it seems to me to be utterly arbitrary.
Two related points regarding your last paragraph:
"in principle, there are crimes grave enough to require the DP as proportionate"—Again, this only makes sense if we are talking about gravity in the sense of "the extent to which it disturbs the social order of a particular society" If, on the other hand, you are talking about simple, "God's-eye-view" moral gravity (i.e. sinfulness), then there are no crimes which are not grave enough in that sense to merit the death penalty in principle (since the moral gravity or sinfulness of an act of itself usually tells us nothing about what kind of criminal punishment it deserves). But of course that hardly tells us much of practical relevance.
"GENERALLY speaking murder is of such an evil as to warrant the DP if it was fully willed and deliberate"—This is on my view, for reasons that I hope are now clear, far too bold a claim to make without an intimate and detailed knowledge of the nature of all or at least most of the human societies that currently exist or have ever existed.
If that's the case, then the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was intrinsically immoral (since mutilation is suggested specifically as punishment). But, then, you have God commanding what is intrinsically immoral, which can't be right.
So, non-therapeutic mutilation is *not* intrinsically immoral. Of course, this does not mean it *should* be carried out, and in fact I don't think it should be.
However, if it's not intrinsically immoral, and (by your supposition) there is no objective desert regarding human punishment for crimes, then it seems we're stuck with the repugnant conclusion: it's not unjust or unfair or disproportionate for the state to chop off the hands of kids shoplifting gum, because on your view there is no objective desert and no standard with respect to which we can declare such punishment unjust.
In particular, I would deny that, in general, "graver illegal acts should be punished by graver penalties" IF by "graver" you mean morally graver, which I suspect you do.Delete
Nonsense. "Graver" means "graver" as crimes against the civil order. But this is, nearly always, parallel with gravity of a moral nature, because every voluntary free act that is a grave crime against the good of society is, by that very fact, a grave sin. It's not like "that which harms society gravely" fails to be reflected in moral gravity, since man is obliged to act for the good of society, as a norm.
far too bold a claim to make without an intimate and detailed knowledge of the nature of all or at least most of the human societies that currently exist or have ever existed.
You make "societies" out to be something that (a) we don't have much knowledge of except by "detailed" study, and (b) as if they were so wildly different that many of them might be found so departed from general norms of human nature as to have discarded or be unable to use the general norms of human nature in anything like standard ways. I deny it. In all societies, friendship and loyalty is good, betrayal of friends is bad. In all societies, telling truth to authorities is good, perjury is bad. In all societies, cutting off a leg of one you hate out of malice is bad, killing them out of malice is (all else being equal) worse. In all societies piety toward your parents is good, hatred of your parents is bad. Human nature does not admit of ENOUGH variation to find that there are many different society types* where there cannot be found a crime harmful enough to society to warrant the DP.
(*Note: I assume, for all these purposes, the society is whole enough (in the old legal sense, as a "perfect" society, rather than a partial society such as a clan), to arise to the level of some plenary political authority. Smaller societies, in not being the fullness of a polity, do not have all the authority of a polity.)
I admit of variation in circumstances that requires discerning and determination of the right punishment in each case. I deny that this implies that this creates some difficulty in saying that the DP is in principle morally licit. Yes, it is not licit in every case. It is licit in SOME, which is enough.
I am not sure that "an eye for an eye" etc. was meant to be taken literally. Certainly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "[e]xcept when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law." (para 2297)
But suppose that the Catechism is in error and non-therapeutic mutilation is not intrinsically immoral. Then I could simply say that it is highly unlikely that there would ever exist a society in which the enactment of a law providing for the circumstance you describe could ever be expected to secure a social good even remotely commensurate with the harm it would cause.
"But this is, nearly always, parallel with gravity of a moral nature"—If you were to replace ", nearly always, parallel with" with "related to" then I would agree with this paragraph in its entirety.
"Human nature does not admit of ENOUGH variation to find that there are many different society types where there cannot be found a crime harmful enough to society to warrant the DP."—What harms a society, and the extent to which it does, is determined at least in part by that society's conception of itself, and in particular by what the society considers to be aspects of itself worthy of protection and the extent to which it considers them so worthy. So while, say, the taking of innocent human life will undoubtedly harm any society in which it occurs to some extent, it will harm that society to a greater or lesser extent inasmuch as that society considers the sanctity of innocent life to be an aspect of itself worthy of protection. Now the public authorities of a society may take the view that neither innocent human life nor anything else within their society is considered by that society to be sufficiently worthy of protection to justify their using the death penalty to protect it. And it seems to me that one would not be able to say with confidence that those authorities have erred in taking that view without a fairly intimate knowledge of the society in question.
Anyway, even if that argument is atrocious (and it could be; I am quite tired) my main point still stands, on which it seems to me we could be largely in agreement. I hasten to add that I am not for a moment suggesting that the death penalty is intrinsically immoral.
You can ignore what I said about the Catechism; "on innocent persons" didn't register with me before posting. The rest of my post stands.
It's the wee hours of the morning here and I should definitely go to bed before I make any more silly mistakes.
it will harm that society to a greater or lesser extent inasmuch as that society considers the sanctity of innocent life to be an aspect of itself worthy of protection. Now the public authorities of a society may take the view that neither innocent human life nor anything else within their society is considered by that society to be sufficiently worthy of protection to justify their using the death penalty to protect it.Delete
They could only assert that the DP is not appropriate in their society on account of its own particularities. They could not assert it as a generality.
But in point of fact, the only ACTUAL societies of which we have a suspicion that there might be some sort of circumstance that could make DP an inappropriate penalty for them, are societies that are gravely degenerate in important ways, especially about life: ones that repudiate the protection of the unborn, or of the infirm, or ones who repudiate the retributive aspect of punishment itself, etc. That is, we know of no sort of particular circumstances that would make DP off limits for a whole society OTHER than ones that constitute derangement, and correction of the grave defects would effectively put the DP back into play.
So, it's not just that the DP is licit in principle, but that normatively it belongs in the arsenal of a sound society's punishments.
It also remains possible that one of the more or less probable pathways toward the correction of such a seriously defective society is the recovery of the DP as a punishment, for punishments TEACH what we ought to hold dear.
"They could only assert that the DP is not appropriate in their society on account of its own particularities. They could not assert it as a generality."Delete
"But in point of fact, the only ACTUAL societies of which we have a suspicion that there might be some sort of circumstance that could make DP an inappropriate penalty for them, are societies that are gravely degenerate in important ways, especially about life [...] That is, we know of no sort of particular circumstances that would make DP off limits for a whole society OTHER than ones that constitute derangement"
Even if your premise is true, which is at least doubtful, your conclusion doesn't seem to follow from it.
The general thrust of what you're saying might be true, but I don't think you've actually managed to demonstrate that it is anything more than plausible speculation.
I have a different issue with the "basic good" argument. Accept for the sake of argument that human life is a basic good. Yet God takes temporal life from each and every person, and in some cases he denies them eternity also. If life is absolutely a basic good, then this makes God immoral!ReplyDelete
Obviously this is false, because God has the authority and knowledge to make such calls. But once you grant that, the argument ceases to be about whether the (so-called) basic good can be denied but whether people can have the authority and wisdom to do so. And that is an argument that must be driven by revelation, not natural law
In your well-argued article, you write:
"The teaching of Lumen Gentium therefore implies that if some belief concerning faith or morals is virtually universal in the Church for millennia, then that belief cannot be in error. For persistence in theological or moral error for such a prolonged period of time would be the habitual kind which Lumen Gentium says the faithful as a body are preserved from...
"... The idea would be that when not only the ordinary magisterium of the Church, but even those Catholics most highly educated in matters of faith and morals, all agree for a very long period of time that something is part of the Faith, then they cannot be mistaken. The divine assistance enjoyed by the Church would not allow the Church for millennia to fall into a moral or theological error that is so deep that not only the Church's ordinary magisterium, but even the learned theologians who are called to assist the magisterium, would collectively fail to see it...
"... For again, the Church teaches that the ordinary magisterium cannot be "habitually" mistaken in matters of faith and morals, and it would have been habitually mistaken if capital punishment is either intrinsically contrary to natural law or intrinsically contrary to the Gospel.
"The gravity of the error into which the popes would have been leading the faithful, if capital punishment were intrinsically evil, is difficult to overstate. If capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, then it is a species of murder, which is nothing less than one of the "four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance."...
A few points:
1. You argue that a belief on faith and morals is virtually universal in the Church for millennia, then it cannot be mistaken. Why millennia? Why not centuries? Why not decades, or why not even say that if it is held unanimously at any time T, then it is binding? Where do you draw the line, and why?
2. In your opinion, is it enough that a belief be universally held, or must it be also taught unanimously by bishops and theologians as something which Catholics are obliged to believe, even though it has not been formally defined?
3. Ed, I know you disapprove of the death penalty for heretics. But in your article, you make much of Papal support for the death penalty, and the testimony of Doctors of the Church, including Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori. But the same arguments would show that the legitimacy of the death penalty for heresy was unanimously taught by Popes and Doctors of the Church for centuries (from the 13th century to the 19th) - including Aquinas and St. Alphonsus! How do you respond to this difficulty?
See the following:
http://strobertbellarmine.net/books/Liguori%20--%20History_of_Heresies.pdf (see pages 240-241, 253-255).
I don't think that anything in prof. Feser's argument or his general position commits him to holding the thesis that imposing the death penalty for heresy is in principle illegitimate.
I, for example, would like Russia to become a Catholic hereditary monarchy with an established religion and a Distributist economy, but I think that enforcing this vision as is would be, ceteris paribus, not merely imprudent, but gravely unjust, given the situation that obtains in reality, nor do I think all of these preferences are of equal importance or normativity. I think a good argument can be made that hereditary monarchy is the most perfect form of government, considered on a certain level of abstraction, but I don't think any country sins by being a representative democracy per se.*
*Except perhaps for Austria.
That is a joke.
The Romanovs and Orthodoxy!Delete
The Habsburgs [take your pick, really, no real preferences here; strict legitimism is nonsense anyway, though Catholic Romanovs would do just fine] and Eastern-Rite Catholicism!Delete
You write: "I don't think that anything in prof. Feser's argument or his general position commits him to holding the thesis that imposing the death penalty for heresy is in principle illegitimate."
I'm afraid Ed disagrees with you. See this recent comment by Ed here:
"No, the Church should not execute heretics. Nor do my arguments imply that she should. I haven't commented on it because it has only come up tangentially in the recent debate, and it's a red herring."
"- But do you think that the state should execute those deemed as heretics by the Church?
"I suppose I'd better add that The Punisher shouldn't execute them either. Nor should the Knights of Columbus. Does that cover everyone?"
I'm afraid Ed disagrees with you.Delete
Vincent, I won't speak for what Prof. Feser actually thinks about executing heretics. I will simply point out distance and divergence between
(A) The execution of heretics is intrinsically immoral; and
(B) We should not execute heretics.
I take it that Feser approves B. Does he approve A? If he does, he has not said it clearly, so we should not assume that's what he means. (Nor, I believe, has the Catholic Church said A.)
To make the divergence between A and B clearer, let me point out additional nuances on them that COULD be used by someone who supports B but not A:
(1) The execution of those who are heretics for sheer heresy itself is not clearly justified, but the state may legitimately hold that insisting on teaching others heresy to be an offence against justice as well as an offence against truth and thus to be a capital crime.
(2) Heresy is a grave offense against the faith, but it is not a grave offense against the civil order in a non-confessional state, because the THAT civil order prescinds from such determinations. Hence it should not be the subject of civil punishment in secular states. But this says nothing about whether it can be a grave civil crime in confessional states.
(3) The Church has for its purview man's eternal goal. She does not have within her purview the determination of civil crimes. Therefore, the Church should not interject itself into the case of heretics and "ask the state to execute them", as that is a civil matter and not an ecclesiastical one.
(4) Heresy, in a confessional state, can be a grave civil crime but not - as such - one that warrants execution. Hence "we should not execute heretics" would be broadly true. However, aggravation of heresy by other crimes could change the appropriate punishment, and one cannot completely exclude the DP as a possibility.
Since the Church's objections against executing heretics in VII and later documents are always situated in complex language that admits of various interpretive nuances like the above, it would be very hard to establish that the Church has been formally teaching A since VII.
I have read these comments, but I fail to recognise precisely how they imply the belief that executing heretics is per se wrong. The only bit that can be thus interpreted, seems to be "No. Jeez", and even this only because "the state" in the query can be understood in an abstract sense. The first quote is indeterminate at best, as "the Church" has a quite intuitive concrete referent, that is, the Church (prof. Feser's Catholic, and the debate that gave the occasion for the book is internal). The third bit mentions the Knights of Columbus, an American Catholic fraternal service organisation that is relatively recent and in no way an organ of state, nor is it a proper accident of the Church, which, coupled with the reference to a comic book vigilante, only allows us to infer a condemnation of illegitimate imposition of the penalty. Abstractly, this illegitimacy can be either per accidens (ignoring the law is ordinarily vicious, and hence vigilantism is ordinarily sinful; or, say, missionary concerns, cultural and political realities etc.) or per se (your reading), but the particulars clearly recommend the former.
There's also a possibility that there is some sufficiently ubiquitous accident out there that prof. Feser deems to be a sufficient reason for opposing the practice without denying the per se legitimacy of punishing heresy with death. I can't think of any particular reason, but surely that's no indication of anything.
It's clear that Dr. Feser does not think heretics should be executed. It's unclear that he has good reason to think so, given his argument. After all, some of the texts he appeals to show the Church supports execution are specifically discussing the execution of heretics.Delete
At the very least, it's a very awkward connection that should be clearly addressed. If you appeal to x to establish y, but x also supports z, it's incumbent on you to explain why ~z doesn't vitiate the force of x.
Thomas M. Cothran: If you appeal to x to establish y, but x also supports z, it's incumbent on you to explain why ~z doesn't vitiate the force of x.Delete
Let's see: you doubtless accept that the evidence available to astrophysicists establishes the existence of planets outside our solar system; and this supports claims of extraterrestrials (after all, if there were no other planets out there, that would heavily or completely undermine any claims of intelligent life beyond the Earth). Therefore it is now incumbent on you to explain why observing that there seems to be no such life doesn't vitiate astrophysics.
All right, that's not really fair — by "supports" you must have meant something much stronger than vague indirect circumstantial connections. If the existence of distant planets entailed extraterrestrial intelligence, then the lack thereof would indeed be a problem.
So presumably you meant that the morality of capital punishment logically entails that the Church is obliged to execute heretics. Which is a pretty bold claim... which apparently makes it incumbent on you to prove that claim. You may begin at any time.
I don't think that's a very fair argument. Thomas Cothran was not claiming that the morality of capital punishment logically entails that the Church is obliged to execute heretics.
Let x be the Church's teaching tradition (in particular, Papal tradition and the teaching of the Doctors of the Church).
Let y be the doctrine that capital punishment is justifiable in principle (i.e. NOT intrinsically immoral).
Let z be the doctrine that the death penalty for heresy is justifiable in principle (i.e. NOT intrinsically immoral).
As Ed has shown, x establishes y. But as I have argued, x also establishes z. However Ed, judging by a plain reading of his own statements, believes that z is false.
Thomas Cothran is correct: it is now incumbent on Ed to explain why the falsity of z doesn't undermine x (the Church's teaching tradition).
I, too, have no wish to read Feser's mind. But "a plain reading of his statements" does NOT imply disbelief in z. It implies no such thing. It's nothing that I wouldn't have said, and I accept z (though, perhaps like Feser, I can think of no modern-day polity where even civilly punishing heretics wouldn't be a greater fount of injustice and menaces to public order than forgoing it would be).Delete
As Dictatortot says, that doesn't seem a plain reading of Feser's comments at all. My interpretation of Feser's comments is that he accepts z, so long as that is truly held to mean execution of heretics is justifiable in principle and not necessary.Delete
The position Feser advances seems to me to be unable to recognize situations where the heavy weight of Christian tradition just gets it wrong. I can think of two clear cases where the Vatican II era rejects the weight of the tradition in favor of a better (and more modern) solution.ReplyDelete
The first in the civil right of conscience: that is, in the right to hold beliefs even if they are objectively mistaken, to worship on the basis of those rights (within due limits--no child sacrifice!), and to advocate those beliefs to others. Compare that to the standard position, more or less summed up in Gregory XVI's Mirari Vos, which denies the right of conscience and the right to publish one's views. For more detail, see Barry Hudock's book on John Courtney Murray and Vatican II.
The second, much darker, example is the history of anti-semitism in the Catholic Church. There are plenty of examples one might appeal to: the Fourth Lateran Council required Jews to wear clothes identifying them as Jews, prohibited them from going in public during certain times of the year, forbade them from holding public office, and declared that Jews who had been baptised should be restrained by force by the civil authorities from practicing their rites.
There were, of course, prohibitions on coercing unbaptized Jews into the Christian faith. But that is little comfort when you have a papal bull from Pope Paul IV, "Cum nimis absurdem", which opens with "Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery ..." and decrees the limitation of their legal rights, including requiring them to wear yellow hats, forbidding them from employing Christians, etc. See Robert Michael's "A History of Catholic Anti-Semitism" for the unpleasant chronology of Catholic anti-semitism.
The example I would appeal to, however, would not be the reversal of the more oppressive anti-semitic actions undertaken by the Popes and Councils, but rather the shift away from "hard" supercessionism to a "soft" supercessionism, which is a clear doctrinal shift. The "soft" supercessionism one finds in e.g., Pope Benedict enrages the SSPX crowd precisely for the reason it should be embraced: it is a stark break from the past.
Sometimes the councils and popes get things terribly wrong. More rarely, there are cases where they have got in wrong on the whole, where the strong weight of the tradition has not only been an error, but has been the expression of deeply ingrained moral evil. And, as Benedict famously advocated, there needs to be a process to make the Church's apology official: anti-semitism and the execution of "heretics" being two obvious cases. What I wonder is whether capital punishment is one of these cases.
1) Re: civil right of conscience due to human dignity.Delete
I distinguish: a right not to be persecuted by the state as such in the actual Divine economy - this I concede; the state acting as the Church's secular arm when empowered by her- this I deny.
Vide, e.g.: Council of Trent, 7th session, on baptism, canon XIV, Dr. Thomas Pink's thesis: https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-religious-liberty-and-hermeneutic-of.html
If Dr. Pink is wrong (and I think he isn't), so much the worse for Dignitatis Humanae and Vatican II, which do not enjoy priority over Mirari vos, unfortunate as that would be.
2) As to anti-semitism, and generally: you seem to be using the word "wrong" in a very general way. Given that Dr. Feser's book and subsequent contributions make a point about moral doctrine, not policy as such.
Would be so kind as to identify the moral doctrine of anti-semitism you take Catholic Tradition to be committed to?..
If you're talking about the policy, however, you should recognise the irrelevancy (at least, without further argument) of its items, given the nature of the discussion, even if your description and appraisal happen to be correct.
Perhaps you could explain how the civil practice of execution is a matter of moral doctrine, while the civil practice preventing Jews from employing Christians is not. If you actually read e.g., "Cum nimis absurdem", you will see that the justification for these policies turns, in part, on the notion that the Jewish people share a collective guilt. In the Fourth Lateran council, for instance, the justification for prohibiting Jews from holding official positions is in part because they are, by virtue of not converting, blasphemers of Christ.Delete
Anyway, if you read my post, you will see the specific example of a doctrinal innovation is the issue of supercessionism.
Perhaps you should show the slightest acquaintance with the basic concepts and distinctions you are discussing.Delete
I cannot help but notice that you avoided defining the supposed doctrinal anti-semitism.Delete
The question is whether something is taught as licit or not.
Dr. Feser establishes that the death penalty is per se licit. That makes it an available option for the ruler.
So is the death penalty for heresy - employing it in a Catholic state is an option available to the lawmaker, even if the measure itself is not a per se binding command (which nobody claims it is).
Why you'd think that religious tests are per se evil (presuming that you identified the nature of this discussion correctly), even in a Catholic state, I really do not know. Nor am I aware of any Magisterial documents that teach this intriguing doctrine.
Concerning the justification, I urge you to consult, say, "Romanis Pontificis provida" of Sixtus IV to find an expression of a general theological rule concerning documents that may seem doubtful (I sincerely hope this describes your situation, but more on that below). Surely you owe it to Paul IV to at least try to read him charitably. Should you follow me in attempting this, it will hopefully become apparent that "culpa" can mean "debt", as it does in discussions of original sin, say, which fact absolves the Pope from an imputation of a patently false view of individual responsability under correct presumptions.
If you think that individual Jews do not owe it to God to convert to Catholicism, or deny that, precisely because they are Jews, there's a perfectly reasonable sense in which they have a special duty to do it (corresponding to the peculiar gifts Providence accorded to them), or maintain that, objectively, expecting a different Messiah after Christ, for example, can under no circumstances be said to be blasphemous, I truly do not know what to say.
In this, just as with religious liberty and your suggested candidate for true doctrinal innovation, which I can grant you for the sake of argument, you seem to be in conflict with past Magisterium.
The problem is, in light of the nature of the deposit of faith, the smart money is not on an -admitted- innovation really belonging to the said Magisterium.
Just to be clear, are you saying the death penalty for heretics is (at least in principle) a permissible option?Delete
*...really belonging to the Magisterium.
I do apologise for the typos. This tablet thingie is killing me.
It is, so is death penalty for adultery, for example.Delete
If you think it isn't, please identify the principle that the permissibility thesis violates, in your view?
The first in the civil right of conscience: that is, in the right to hold beliefs even if they are objectively mistaken, to worship on the basis of those rights (within due limits--no child sacrifice!), and to advocate those beliefs to others.ReplyDelete
It is entirely possible to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae with Mirari Vos or Pius IX's Syllabus. The errors of those who construct unnecessary divisions between them are (sometimes) subtle, but there all the same.
Why millennia? Why not centuries? Why not decades, or why not even say that if it is held unanimously at any time T, then it is binding?
One answer (I do not pretend it is the only or primary) is that by covering millenia, we guarantee that the matter has been dealt with under several different secular orders. If the same teaching persists through the Roman order, and the early feudal order, and the late medieval order, and the Renaissance, and the transition to modern states, we can be certain that that teaching is not rooted in some error of the Romans or the medievals or the moderns. It cannot be due to the errors of (Romans) believing that subjugation of conquered peoples as slaves is natural or that serfdom is natural or that absolute right of kings is natural, if it persisted into the Modern period that rejected all of these. And so on.
And at least to an extent, this too answers Thomas Cothran's points: some of issues he raises were perpetrated only in one era and not supported across several, and thus as such fails to find that reassurance that comes especially as the fruit of long persistence with official approval. And (for this purpose) "long" requires more than 2 or 3 hundred years, it requires persistence through different eras of social or political order. It also requires more than legislative documents alone (though those are helpful as supports to the teaching documents), for saying "Jews shall wear distinctive clothing" is not tantamount to a declaration of a moral or theological principle true always and everywhere. (Even if it is tantamount to a statement "It is right to require Jews here and now to wear distinctive clothing", such a statement cannot be extrapolated to a general principle which Paul IV is "asserting" in so legislating.)
Whereas: the moral licitness of the DP (or at least, state-commanded killing in war and ambiguity about the DP) enjoyed at least tacit approval from very early times in the admission of soldiers to the Christian assembly, very explicit approval in the 4th century, and consistently straight through to Pius XII, in ever more clarity, definitude, and explanation.
What is, perhaps, strikingly notable, is that none of the most recent "teaching" positions of JPII, Benedict, or Francis against the DP make the slightest bit of effort to show why Pius XII, or Pius X, or Gregory, or Pius V, or Celestine, or Innocent, or Thomas or Augustine were wrong in their conclusions. It would be odd (to be ridiculously understated about it) that they intend to OVERTURN something that was certainly widely taught for so long but (they considered) reformable, without actually SAYING "we are correcting the former error...". What an irresponsible way to go about teaching THAT would be.
I'd hazard a guess about the primary reason why millenia matter: it's because we are yet to celebrate the 2000-year of Christian revelation and the Church, so at the very least it means most of Catholic history, if not all of it.Delete
Does the impiety of supposing that the Church had been led astray by traditions of men (or worse seducers) and wallowed in error for most of her history, with God's permission, really require an explication?..
> It is entirely possible to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae with Mirari Vos or Pius IX's Syllabus.
I've read attempts to do this, and they amount to saying that if you take Mirari Vos in a sense other than that which it is written, then it can be reconciled with 20th century developments. In other words, they amount to saying that, among the set of possible readings of Mirari Vos, there exist at least one that is compatible with Vatican II. What it does not address is whether that reading better coheres with what Mirari Vos says than the inconsistent readings. It clearly does not, either from the text or from the historical context. It may be traditional to tolerate, on pragmatic grounds, other beliefs and practices--what is entirely innovative is recognizing a positive right the state must respect on principle.
Second, I do think some of the considerations you raise are insightful as to determining what the Magesterium actually teaches. The "hard" supercessionism that I offered as an example, however, has been around from the beginning (see Tertullian and Augustine, for instance), and has been a more constant theme of theological and moral reflection than has the death penalty.
You're points are against Catholicism as such. Feser is assuming basic adherence to a Catholic understanding of the magisterium. What you bring up may be interesting (or it may be puerile and based in ignorance), but it isn't strictly relevant.Delete
I've read attempts to do this, and they amount to saying that if you take Mirari Vos in a sense other than that which it is written, then it can be reconciled with 20th century developments. In other words, they amount to saying that, among the set of possible readings of Mirari Vos, there exist at least one that is compatible with Vatican II.Delete
Thomas, I suspect that you have been reading the wrong attempts. Try the ones that go the other way: to read VII in the light of Tradition and earlier stable teaching, and push DH through that lens. As Catholics are required to do, since Church teaching develops and builds on itself.
At a minimum, we should not try to read a later teaching as formally correcting a wrong earlier one when the later doesn't SAY that it is correcting an earlier one. It is hardly likely that DH intended to correct the errors of the 19th century when it went out of its way to cite Leo XIII (including Immortale Dei, Libertas Praestantissimum) approvingly. And when the Council explicitly says things like "Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."
I have to say I don't find your answer to my "Why millennia?" question terribly convincing. You suggest that "by covering millennia, we guarantee that the matter has been dealt with under several different secular orders," such as the Roman order, the early feudal order, the late medieval order, the Renaissance, and the transition to the modern state.
There are several problems with this view:
(i) it is theologically novel. No theologian (to the best of my knowledge) has ever suggested that the binding force of a teaching of the ordinary magisterium depends on how many secular orders the Church has taught it under;
(ii) your proposal raises all sorts of boundary problems. What counts as a new secular order? Is the global community of the 21st century the same order as industrial Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century (viz. the modern state) or a different one?
(iii) your proposal would imply that even if millennia had passed, an unbroken tradition would not be binding on Catholics unless the secular social order had changed during that time, which is very odd;
(iv) your proposal would also imply that there was no teaching tradition of the ordinary magisterium that was binding on Catholics for the first 1,000 years of Christianity; and
(v) finally, your proposal overlooks the historical fact that during the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the fourth to seventh centuries, the Church's bishops and theologians appealed to tradition: what has been taught "always, everywhere and by all," as St. Vincent of Lerins put it. If you are right, such appeals would have been premature.
I argued that the legitimacy of putting heretics to death was universally affirmed by theologians from the 13th to 19th centuries - and by Protestant theologians as well. Thus the Reformed theologian, Hieronymus Zanchi, declared in a lecture, delivered at the University of Heidleberg:
"We do not now ask if the authorities may pronounce sentence of death upon heretics; of that there can be no doubt, and all learned and right-minded men acknowledge it. The only question is whether the authorities are bound to perform this duty."
Pope Leo X's Exsurge Domine, in its proposition 33, condemned Luther's teaching that the burning of heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit as one of a list of errors which are "either heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears." Then there's the Roman Inquisition.
And then, of course, there are the Doctors of the Church, who affirm the legitimacy of executing heretics. It seems to me that Ed needs to address this counterexample.
I accept, actually, the practice of reading the true meaning of a text (whether a book of the Old Testament or a papal pronouncement) in a sense incompatible with the author's original meaning. Whether it is to bring a writer in line with a later tradition, or negate the author's meaning on moral grounds, I certainly think a historically anachronistic hermeneutic can be appropriate.
However, I do not think this should be done by pretense about the author's expressed intent. In the case of Mirari Vos, it is a clear denial of a right of religious conscience:
"This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it."
The means of salvaging this that I have read have said that Mirari Vos rejects only absolutely unrestricted right to conscience, which includes actions that cause e.g., physical harm to others. But that's not the target, for the simple reason that no-one defends such an absolute right to conscience. The right to conscience that is in the cross-hairs of Mirari Vos is the civil right to hold a belief (and especially a religious belief), even if that belief is false or contrary to the Catholic faith. They are aimed particularly at the right of conscience articulated by Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais, who did not think the state should use force in determining how religious rites are to be carried out, what priests should wear, etc. Mirari Vos's concern is to pass coercive laws on beliefs (especially religious beliefs) and prevent the publication
of arguments in favor of those beliefs.
I have no objection to saying that we can read Mirari Vos otherwise than how it was meant--in light of later tradition or moral conscience--but we should not deceive ourselves or others about what we are doing.
(I would be interested to see if you can come up with a creative interpretation of Exsurge Dominine's explicit condemnation of the proposition that heretics should not be executed, now that Vincent brings it up. That one, in my view, is beyond the competence of the most generous hermeneutic and should simply be condemned outright on moral grounds.)
@ Thomas M. CothranDelete
Perhaps the reason you find it impossible to harmonise DH with past Magisterium is not because the latter allows no such thing, but rather due to the fact that -your- understanding of DH is incompatible with it? You've ignored me before, but here's a hint: the Church has never believed that the state has a native right to persecution (at least of the baptised) in the present divine economy. Rather, this power is (at least virtually) held by the Church due to her exclusive jurisdiction in matters concerning religion and her precedence in mixed matters (plausibly including the treatment of non-baptised individuals, a clear missionary concern). The negative right described in the DH corresponds to an ultra vires situation on the part of the State: the right is there because the state as such does not have that power. The Church, however, can commission the Christian state to take action she deems appropriate, rendering the latter her secular arm. Religious responsibilities are within the purview of the Church, no merely human authority. And DH explicitly denies treating the relationship of the individual to her.
Why you think "later traditions" are preferable, I have no idea. Your approach generally seems to dangerously resemble that of the Jansenists.
The spectacle of a Catholic seriously considering interpreting away magisterial documents is baffling enough.
A Catholic outright condemning a Papal bull based on his adherence to a proposition the very document in questions censures as "heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears", without at least briefly appealing to appropriate authorities?..
Weird. Odd. Absurd?..
But I do I eagerly await the specification of the principle and the the moral grounds you refer to.
Is he a Catholic? I would be surprised. What he (and Torley?) seem to be trying to attack Feser on is the idea that the Church can't overturn Church dogma. That's what it boils down to. But no orthodox Catholic can believe it can. The problems they raise are not one's that can be considered in intra-Catholic disputes, which is the context of Feser and Bessette's book.Delete
I stopped taking our exchange seriously once you began to defend the execution of heretics. I don't agree with Feser on everything, but I do agree with his comments which indicate that view that defending that position is about crazy as advocating comic book characters carry out the punishment.
I'm aware, of course, that you can find every sort of opinion on the internet. I'm not convinced they are equally worthy of engagement.
Thomas, go back to Mirari Vos and read it in light of this basic dictum: nobody has a right to do wrong.Delete
The "nuanced" version of that statement is more pleasant to modern ears: "nobody has a right to do what they know is wrong." But that's too narrow a fine-tuning, because people have this funny, fancy capability of blocking out what they don't want to know, so that people who are heretics, in some odd sense, DON'T KNOW that they are adhering to the wrong thesis.
The problem is that a formally declared heretic who adheres to his error in the face of a direct Church declaration that they are rejecting what must be believed can know, and should know better than to trust their own judgment over that of the Church, and thus they are culpably "ignorant" rather than invincibly ignorant.
For one who culpably "does not know" he is adhering to error, because he refuses to accept the teaching authority of the Church, it remains true that when you apply "nobody has a right to do what is wrong", they are "doing what is wrong" in the specific sense needed under the further qualification "what they know is wrong or what they SHOULD know is wrong."
Every person who was a sound and believing Catholic, who then becomes a formal heretic, proclaimed, and obdurate in the face of that proclamation, and teaching others his error, violates not only the ecclesiastical order (in rejecting binding authority), but also violates objective norms of justice and truth: he has no just claim to spread his error, and to take unawares the ignorant, because when he does so he objectively abuses the hearer's right to have proper evidence and due regard for authoritative teaching.
People do not become formally proclaimed heretics by (as DH commends as part of a human right) asking questions, proposing ideas, and debating and arguing for what seems reasonable. They can only become formal heretics by going further than that, and by (a) making some positive ERROR in their reasoning, and then (b) obdurately rejecting correction that they are obliged to respect. This is not innocent error. Anyone might make an error of reasoning. Heresy is a fault in the will, not the reason.
Vincent, do you recall that I EXPLICITLY said that it need not be the only or primary reason? All of your objections fall to the side if my reason is not the primary reason. You may think of my point as, say, the 'icing on the cake' reason - not formally necessary, just an added extra. Assume that the battles fought in the 6th and 7th centuries (say, iconoclasm), did not need to rely on my point. With another 1000 years beyond, we can claim even more solidity to what was before sufficient.Delete
What CANNOT be denied is that repetition is critical to the authoritativeness of the teachings made certain under the ordinary magisterium. It is not enough that you find the thesis in Cyril, or Ambrose; when you find it in many of the Fathers, and disputed by none, THEN you have something.
I leave it to you to consider whether, if repetition is a critical feature, whether 1500 years and 50 repetitions can provide anything beneficial that 300 years and 10 repetitions does not already give. (Hint: you mentioned boundary problems. I submit that the boundary issue is an ineradicable condition for this topic, not a deal killer.)
I'm about to stop taking this exchange seriously due to your visibly constant failure to allow for important distinctions.
Do I think (more importantly, do people who grant that DP for heresy is per se legitimate) that the US, say, should start executing heretics condemned by the Church? No. What about Russia? Nope. Lichtenstein? Well, it has the advantage of being a constitutionally Catholic state, but the Church is yet to empower the prince in the relevant way, so still no.
Do I think that, in a world where Catholicism is no longer integrally backed by entire societites and secularism is in the very air we breathe, mens rea requirements are easily met? No. Do I think that the policy in question recommends itself in thd context of to current ideological climate and contemporary mores? No.
All I think is that the DP for heresy, in moral theology terms, is not vitiated by having a per se evil object. This proposition is compatible even with a (probably very temerarious) position condemning all DP for heresy policies of the past (which I personally do not hold).
Now, if my position still appears crazy to you, given that this position is required by, say, Exsurge Domine, it should be easy to: 1) finally identify the principle which all sane men must hold fast to that Leo X and I fail to reverence properly; 2) explain why in terms of actus reus the position you defend here is not heretical in the strict sense.
Condemning (not having reservations, say, which is the case with many of the so-called radtrads) magisterial documents on unspecified moral grounds without even a shadow of an appeal to, say, higher -magisterial- authority, again, on the basis of a belief condemned as heretical by the document being condemned by the person, is the closest thing I've ever seen to (even materially) to a declaration of heresy (in the relevant sense).
I stopped taking our exchange seriously once you began to defend the execution of heretics.Delete
As Georgy is too nice to note, this is mere intellectual incompetence. The question that had been at question was not whether any particular case could be defended, but moral permissibility of the general kind of action. Moral permissibility of a kind of action is a notoriously weak assessment; it doesn't even imply that the action can in fact be done by a decent person, only that any wrongness arises from something other than its object.
Likewise, it is utterly intellectually dishonest to try to use this as an excuse to ignore a different argument on a distinct topic (in this case, on the magisterial position); arguments don't carry guilt by association.
My argument actually grants, for the sake of argument, most of what Georgy is saying. I agree that the method Feser uses to determine which teachings are irrevocable leads to the in-principle acceptance of the execution of heretics, however I, like Feser, regard that conclusion as absurd. My argument--and I don't think it takes any intellectual subtlety to grasp this--is a reductio aimed at those who reject the execution of heretics. You may find this link helpful:Delete
I do not think that I am obliged to argue with any position whatsoever that I disagree with. If I am so obliged, I simply do not have the time. I do not, for instance, spend time on Islamic extremist forums where views like Georgy's have a wider acceptance.
I agree with Feser's comparison of the absurdity of execution of heretics with the absurdity of thinking executions should be carried out by characters from the Marvel universe. If that is intellectually irresponsible, you may want to start condemning Feser as well. If you wish to be intellectually honest, that is.
By the way, Georgy: while I respect Pink's effort at explaining the apparent (but not real) contradiction between DH and (say) Exsurge Domine, I don't think the basic thrust of his position is successful. I think that there is at least one better line of support for there being no contradiction, and I also think that his thesis relies on a hidden premise that he fails to address sufficiently. But I admit I could be wrong about it.Delete
As Brandon and Georgy are seeing, I too see a distinct lack of sense.Delete
I agree that the method Feser uses to determine which teachings are irrevocable leads to the in-principle acceptance of the execution of heretics, however I, like Feser, regard that conclusion as absurd.
(1) Feser's argument for the authority behind the thesis that the DP is licit in principle is VASTLY stronger than any that can be made in support for execution for heresy. They may be both supported by traditional sources, but not equally. And so, while they both would refer to "the same sources", they are not equal arguments, and accepting one does not per se mean accepting the other.
(2) You keep insisting that Feser's position is that execution of heretics is intrinsically immoral, and also that the opposite is "absurd", but he has said nothing of the sort. Repeated insistence doesn't make a stronger argument, the repetition makes your position more disgusting.
(3) Your position seems tantamount to saying that the Catholic Church's claim to infallibility in the ordinary magisterium can be shown false by a reduction to the absurd. If that's indeed what you intend, you are yourself absurd for thinking that people here would accept your argument as sound.
In my experience, when some thesis is not merely implausible, but absurd, it's usually fairly easy to point out the (self-)evident truth the conflict with which renders the position absurd. But maybe it's just me.
Apart from making Catholicism absurd and/or crazy, as noted by Tony above, your position plausibly makes traditional Islam an -absurd- and/or a crazy religion (and not merely false, an opinion a Catholic should have, obviously; apostasy being viewed as a crime there and at least in principle punishable by the DP, if my understanding of the religion is correct; unless, of course, you think that heresy is in a serious way disanalogous to apostasy, but then I doubt that you think DP for apostasy is permissible in principle; you're welcome to clarify that), so you might consider dropping the "extremist" qualifier there. Perhaps it's my mental health again, but if your qualifier is something other than a simple nod to received wisdom about Islam, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that the actual extremists (at least pople widely referred to as such, at least: ISIL, the Taliban?) are not chiefly known for their defense of per se legitimacy of DP for heresy.
If this suffices to make one an extremist, I'm afraid you'll have to conclude that "mainstream religion" cannot rightly be called that if you refuse to limit yourself to contemporary realities (and why wouldn't you, precisely?).
Would you be so kind as to identify the hidden premise in Dr. Pink's argument?
I think one of the qualities of his reading is that it necessitates no violence to the text: if you keep the caveat in the beginning in mind, what follows, in my appraisal, can be said to be even gracefully written (if still relatively ambiguous).
I will allow myself to present a brief summary of this to help myself and potential readers.
What I think is of greatest moment is the reading of DH 2.2: the dignity in question is that of a potential Christian, who is called to the practice of the virtue of religion, the exercise of which the Church, rather than the state, is there to direct (as the latter would were the order of grace not established). If the Church has exclusive competence in this (an eminently Catholic position), the state can only have it (if at all) at the discretion of the Church. The Church also enjoys priority in mixed matters, and the treatment of non-Christians in religious contexts plausibly falls under that. So DH 1) formulates positively what heretofore has mostly been negatively done (the teaching about the lack of a relevant native power by the state); 2) enacts a policy of toleration, revoking "secular arm" status with its powers from existing states.
Other understandings of the grounding in human dignity that DH speaks of that I'm familiar with seem to understand religious liberty 1) as a natural right against all persecution done by humans, thus vindicating the position commonly defended by the critics of the perspectives of the "hermeneutic of continuity" or 2) as the same sort of right granted by divine positive law. I don't think 2) can be rationally held: not only is this not in the text of DH explicitly, in order to achieve continuity one would have to posit and identify numerous hidden qualifications in past magisterial pronouncements, and I don't think this can be done.
I used to hold 1) as probable, drawing a conclusion injurious to the status of DH as a document qualifying for ordinary Magisterium (a position not to be endorsed lightly), because I saw no other way of reading it. Dr. Pink's thesis offers one, and I believe myself bound to take advantage of it.
Needless to say, I think that adhering to 1) and drawing a conclusion in its favour at the expense of past Magisterium would also be unwarranted.Delete
I apologise for the poverty of my vocabulary manifested above.
Again, as I explicitly pointed out, your reductio requires the conflation of the moral permissibility of a kind of action and defense of particular actions, a conflation that is so untenable, your assuming it is incompetent. There is no major ethical position on which such a conflation is possible. Kantianism, which tries to narrow the gap as much as possible, still has maxims (the Kantian analogue of objects of actions) that are universalizable in themselves but whose willing in particular cases is not necessarily so; in utilitarianism, of course, all specific kinds of actions are morally permissible, but there are kinds of actions not justifiable in particular cases, or even never justifiable in cases a human being would be likely to be involved with; and every ethical position falls in between. Your "reductio" is based on an assumption so ridiculous that it is, indeed, incompetent. It is a mistake no one who can be taken seriously on ethical matters could possibly make.
Likewise, it is a paradigmatic case of intellectual dishonesty to dismiss an argument simply because you think the person who gives it holds different view that you find objectionable. Arguments don't carry guilt by association.
You are of course not obligated to talk to anyone you want whatsoever. But your stated reason for doing so established that in this case your reasons, which you yourself stated, were incompetent and dishonest.
This is even setting aside the fact that dismissing someone simply because they honestly answered your badly formed question (and we know it was badly formed because you've since established that you were making an extraordinarily stupid conflation) is disgraceful behavior.
"What I think is of greatest moment is the reading of DH 2.2: the dignity in question is that of a potential Christian <...>"Delete
"What I think is of greatest moment is the reading of DH 2.2: the dignity in question is that of a Christian (at least in potency) <...>"
if you keep the caveat in the beginning in mind, what follows, in my appraisal, can be said to be even gracefully written (if still relatively ambiguous).Delete
I think this much is fair enough. His basic thesis does a fair job of making DH come out as compatible with the older tradition.
that of a potential Christian, who is called to the practice of the virtue of religion, the exercise of which the Church, rather than the state, is there to direct (as the latter would were the order of grace not established). If the Church has exclusive competence in this (an eminently Catholic position),
I think this gets at the heart of my concern, (which, as I say, I am not 100% confident on, still working out how I look at it). In a human condition without the Church (say, in pre-Abrahamic China), there are natural law demands toward the virtue of religion, and these are obligatory in general: insofar as it can be known, to acknowledge the reality of a divinity; to honor and worship that divinity; to model one's life in accordance with it.
When you get the Church founded by Christ, this is an overlay on the natural law situation, not a replacement of it. The Covenant Christ founded in the being of His Church is another instance of "grace perfecting nature", not an instance of Christ taking away what nature provides. (For one thing, the Church does not establish the natural order, it must therefore RELY ON NATURE to provide a natural order on which it operates to elevate man by grace.)
Under the natural law, the state has the duty and therefore the necessary powers to protect the citizenry from many gravely unjust wrongs. Some of these, of course, would be unjust wrongs perpetrated at the behest of a false religion, i.e. at the hands of a religion known to be false on natural law grounds. Thus, if a state were to broadly (almost universally) be Aristotelian and hold to an Unmoved Mover who is the transcendent Being, they would on natural law grounds know that God is one and unique. This would be adequate grounds for the state to put a stop to the public practices of Moloch worship, (particularly, its sacrifice of children), and also in some measure to suppress proselytizing for Moloch worship by its adherents.
The addition of a Christian Church into such a society does not abrogate its natural law powers and obligations toward defending the citizens from what is known to be in violation of the natural law respecting our duties to the one God. It might to a degree channel the use of those powers, but that's all. To the degree that the state's (secular) powers bear, through addressing the temporal order and its goods, indirectly on the eternal order in the care of the Church, they BOTH have authority to act, and neither one derives that root authority FROM THE OTHER in principle.
I do not believe that the Catholic position is that the Church becomes the power with "exclusive" competence in all matters of religion, if the state in some sense "recognizes" the Church. For one thing, the notion of that "recognition" is subject to a lot of variation in degree and context: after VII, due in part to the probably grossly wrong machinations inside the Vatican secretariat of State (like the liturgical terrorism on the Mass), together with the (almost certainly grossly wrong) machinations in SECULAR state departments, virtually all confessionally Catholic states altered their constitutions to something decidedly unlike what had formerly been meant by "confessional". If the "Church" (i.e. the Vatican state weenies) and the states BOTH revise their positions to actually say something like "the Church no longer has the exclusive competence..." then it is hard to argue that in such conditions the Church has exclusive competence - and that, therefore, in principle only the Church can authorize acts that touch on the suppression of false religion.
In effect, then, Pink's assumption that the Church has "exclusive" power rests on a premise (which I think he fails to state, but I could be wrong) about the nature of the STATE itself, as a natural authority with its own distinct (and, in some sense logically prior) source of authority, and what that implies regarding the addition of the Church to a society. He insufficiently considers how that society must stand in relation to the natural law obligations toward religion, and that they cannot simply cease to exist.Delete
"Vincent, do you recall that I EXPLICITLY said that it need not be the only or primary reason? All of your objections fall to the side if my reason is not the primary reason... just an added extra. Assume that the battles fought in the 6th and 7th centuries (say, iconoclasm), did not need to rely on my point. With another 1000 years beyond, we can claim even more solidity to what was before sufficient."
Iconoclasm was actually an eighth-century heresy, but let that pass. My point is: if you were living in the eighth century and trying to decide which side was in the right, how else could you possibly do it, except by appealing to the Church's ordinary magisterium - i.e. what the Church has consistently taught down the ages? Like it or not, the Church's ordinary magisterium would have been the "only or primary reason" for people living through the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the fourth to seventh centuries, as the doctrinal points at issue had not been previously defined. But if, as you say, a waiting period of millennia is required to make an ordinary teaching infallible, then any appeal to the ordinary magisterium would have been pointless, because it would have been premature.
I agree that the strength of theological support for the liceity of the death penalty in general is considerably stronger than that of the theological support for the liceity of executing heretics. My point is simply that the latter is strong enough to make a good case that it falls under the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium.
Let me add that the Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique lists Exsurge Domine as one of a dozen or so papal documents which are "habitually, or fairly habitually, considered as containing an infallible definition":
There may be a satisfactory resolution to this question, but I'm blowed if I can see it. Cheers.
I think that there's a very serious sense in which the Church replaces the state in the actual divine economy.
I fully agree that in the state of pure nature the exercise of the virtue of religion would fall within the purview of state authority, in which matter the state would indeed be the highest authority.
I think that most societies in history recognised this to some extent, e.g. the monarch is fairly often the high priest in pagan cultures (China, Rome to name some; interestingly, ancient cultures who had high priests that were distinct from monarchs tended to be the ones that considered the latter to be divine or descended from divinity in a peculiar way, like ancient Egypt, imperial Japan or the Incas).
But even if we were to believe, say, Dr. Richard Wilhelm and Fr. Matteo Ricci SJ in recognising or at least allowing for ancient Chinese monotheism and a relatively successful preservation of natural law, it would still be deficient (so it would in the case of an ideal "merely A-T" state): the problem is that God in the actual economy, at the very least broadly, demands a supernatural religion of us. Especially with the coming of Christ, natural religion as such, that is, not elevated in grace, is in itself ultimately (objectively) not pleasing to God, even if it is practiced in good faith and with rational theology behind it. And supernatural religion is impossible without the Church.
I think that the Catholic view on the matter is expressed in the "Gelasian diarchy theory, vide, e.g.: https://thejosias.com/2016/03/03/integralism-and-gelasian-dyarchy/
The 'alienation' of the state's religious competence is based on the founding of a supernatural religion uniquely pleasing to God by Christ. It is also on account of sin, so this division of powers, that wouldn't obtain in the state of pure nature, is also there to teach us humility. But it is not a real alienation, just like the requirements of supernatural religion do no injury to natural religion: it's not as if natural law positively prescribed natural religion to the exclusion of the supernatural. What natural law requires is a religion pleasing to God, and Catholicism is, and exclusively, just that. What natural law positively demands is human agency on behalf of the common good, in this case, that of religion, and the Church is that too.
In the state of pure nature the state would have to become that because there would be no other suitable agents, whereas our situation is different.
Thus, there's no usurpation to speak of: ordinarily, the parish priest has primacy over the father in religious and moral education. This doesn't mean that the father has no duties of this sort, it's just that his exercise of them has to be done through the agency of the priest the parents entrust their child with, or at least under his supervision.
I think it's incumbent on all states to become confessional at least in the sense of recognising the exclusive truth of Catholicism and correcting the laws in accordnance with Catholic morality. But jurisdiction over the exercise of the virtue of religion (and hence failures in it) is still exclusively reserved for the Church. The "theologico-political" matters, in which the Church has priority, but not exclusive jurisdiction, are a much more complicated topic, but I think that the legal status of religious non-conformists rather plausibly is such a question, at least in so far as it does not concern public order primarily.Delete
Naturally, if we consider policies in both spheres, the rule about clear necessity applies. I'd say that the a hypothetical prince would have every right to suppress satanists in his realm even contrary to the expressed wish of the bishops or even the Pope, provided the danger to the souls of his subjects were clear and the reasons for episcopal reluctance insufficient, just as a parent would be empowered to catechise her children herself if the priest were to teach vile heresy and corrupt their mores. This would happen through "supplied" legitimacy/jurisdiction, though, and would do nothing to change the default legal norms concerning the "distribution" of authority.
"There may be a satisfactory resolution to this question, but I'm blowed if I can see it. Cheers."
Would you deem the resolution stating that the death penalty is per se morally legitimate unsatisfactory, and if you would, why, exactly?
I should probably add that I have a strong impression that any orthodox Catholic monarch, East or West, would be baffled by the suggestion that she isn't part of the Church. The throne is not a position within her sacerdotal hierarchy, to be sure, but any Catholic state is part of the Church. The arm is a part of the body, to be sure, but this parthood alone does not comprehensively determine what we are to do with it.Delete
Like it or not, the Church's ordinary magisterium would have been the "only or primary reason" for people living through the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the fourth to seventh centuries, as the doctrinal points at issue had not been previously defined. But if, as you say, a waiting period of millennia is required to make an ordinary teaching infallible, then any appeal to the ordinary magisterium would have been pointless, because it would have been premature.Delete
I emphatically do not say that "a waiting period of millennia is required to make an ordinary teaching infallible". I don't know anybody who says that. I offered that a waiting period of a millenium (with constant repetition and consent by Doctors and theologians) may make infallible what had before that been true but notionally reformable.
But your technique of pushing back a difficult question works JUST AS WELL before we can find a consensus of the Fathers: What would a Christian in Rome of year 60 do? Trust Peter. What would a Christian of year 150 in Smyrna do? Follow Polycarp, who had sat at the foot of St. John. For that matter, in what way did the people of 70 and 80 and 100 and 120 know which writings were those of God and were worthy to be read at Mass, and which were not? They did not have the Canon of Scripture, and the great Fathers had not yet propounded on the subject?
It is not that it is impossible to have had the truth, or "reliable" guides to truth, it is that the reliability might have been less than that of "infallibility" for some of those truths. The very statements of the Church's defined doctrine on the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium explicitly resort to criteria that require time. Those statements DO NOT specify millennia, but they create conditions in which doctrine may become infallibly taught over the course of a millennium: they don't state that the time involved DOES NOT involve a millenium, either. (Nor am I harping specifically on millennia as if 1000 years were some magic bullet: as said above, it is the REPETITION of the teaching, constantly and widely and over time, that is involved. There is no concrete rule on "how much".)
Georgy, I didn't have time to finish the article. But like Walstein I reject both the Augustinian radicalism and the more modern-liberal versions Whig-Thomism, and I have always read John Courtney Murray with considerable distancing.Delete
But in light of post-VII and the Church herself rejecting the former model of "confessional state" (whether for good or ill), the Church herself rejecting his model of integralism at least in practice if not in principle, I would argue that the Church has chosen to LET LAPSE any right to tell states how to carry out the requirements of the natural law - particularly those regarding the entirely natural law requirements of just public order - which includes suppression of some degenerate forms of religious practice.
Furthermore: while all states ought to come under the formal jurisdiction of the Church, not all states HAVE done so (notably, from history, states CANNOT do so until the Gospel is preached to that state) so it is necessarily a time- and condition- based obligation: I do not find convincing the more stringent versions that declares that Christ completely re-made the whole social structure by creating the Church, and (everywhere in the world) destroyed all kingship except as dependent on Her. In practice, if a state has not yet determined itself to be under the Church's jurisdiction, that state cannot have lost its primordial jurisdiction over religion to the extent of natural law. Whether a state can RECOVER that primordial jurisdiction, by repudiation of its subordination (and rejection of the Christian faith, obviously via sin), is certainly not made clear in Church teaching (so far as I have seen).
I do not think that such a general rejection or lapse is possible. It seems to me that the hierarchy can no more legitimately forbid states to be minimally confessional than refuse baptism to a convert, which ordinarily cannot be done. The right to judge states is proper to the Church and hence cannot be relinquished as well.
If a policy chosen by the Church is unjust, the usual rules of resistance to such measures apply. But again, this has no bearing on the normal state of affairs one should aim at restoring in resisting the unjust command (given her divine constitution, one cannot go further than that in the case of the Church, unlike constitutional re-modeling options possibly available in cases of rebellion against temporal rulers).
I'm not a "destructionist" with respect to temporal rule in the sense you describe above (and neither is Dr. Pink) in that I think that moral legitimacy of rule as such is not per se contingent on approval by the Church (Nero clearly did not enjoy the latter, but he was still emperor). I do think, however, that the creation of the Church diminished the goals and therefore powers of the state.
I suppose it's useful to keep in mind that the state is a moral unity: it emerges out of the duties humans have towards the common good(s). If God specifically created an exclusive authority to direct us in pursuit of something, there is quite literally no reason to subject oneself to something else in this sphere, and hence the state as a religious authority in its own right ceases to exist, objectively.
An invincibly ignorant person can not be held responsible for some material sin the evil nature of which she is ignorant of. It's bad nonetheless.
"Would you deem the resolution stating that the death penalty is per se morally legitimate unsatisfactory, and if you would, why, exactly?"
Even if one considers a heretic a threat to public order (e.g. in a Catholic state), there is always the option of exile. In the case of a serial murderer, by contrast, this would not be appropriate, as he has done something morally outrageous which cries out to Heaven for retribution.
Even if one considers a heretic a threat to public order (e.g. in a Catholic state), there is always the option of exile.Delete
So, it's OK for us to have him subject his evil on OTHER peoples? And, what if all other states are already Catholic?
I do think, however, that the creation of the Church diminished the goals and therefore powers of the state....If God specifically created an exclusive authority to direct us in pursuit of something,Delete
Georgy, did it do so for states that have not yet had real prospects for conversion to Christianity and become confessional states? Is the "God created an exclusive authority..." something that applies to them? If so, I must object: that's not connected to reality. If not, then the application DEPENDS not just on the mere existence of the Church (with its God-given role), but on other contingent facts of unfolding history and concrete events.
At some point that a state ACTUALLY became confessional, there must have been a sufficiency of conversion of its people to warrant this - some satisfactory degree of "the people of this state believe, and it SHOULD reflect that belief in the official obligations of the state." At some prior point, there almost inevitably had to be within reason to become confessional, but still also within some reason to doubt the prudence of it becoming confessional as a state "just yet." Uncertain. Maybe yes, maybe no. In that period, if the state remained not confessional, and thus retained its primordial authority over religion as per the natural law, it was doing so EVEN THOUGH IT COULD HAVE turned confessional and ceded that claim. In effect, for such a state it would actually retain its old authority even though (possibly, maybe), it SHOULD have ceased to retain it. This condition / state of affairs is possible. And it can go in the opposite direction:
If a state - like the US - is effectively spun off as a descendant of a state that AT ONE TIME was confessional and yet repudiated that confession and became (de-facto) insubordinate toward the Church, does the descendant "inherit" the parent state's disobedience AND also its former subordination? Or does it obtain primordial authorities of civil states when it became its own state with OTHER primordial authorities?
(Let me rephrase that: if a person was at one time a good believing Catholic, and then threw off Christianity to become a heretic and Buddhist, and has a child and raises that child to believe Buddhism: is that child a heretic? Is he in disobedience to the Church's requirement to trust her judgments and accept them? The answer, of course, is no. A person who was never Christian is not a heretic for not believing.)
Whatever Pink (and others) may say or think follows from their theory of state-Church fundamental relations, these matters are NOT determined (yet) by actual Church teaching. The Popes have not declared, the Councils have not declared, there are no bulls or decrees, there are no Fathers or Doctors who have prognosticated at length on it. There are, AT BEST, disputes among the theologians. And his thesis, while not bad, still has a lot of holes.
I would object to the dilemma you formulated. The divine ordinance in question is connected to reality (the will of God), even if the individual person is invincibly ignorant of it. I think it is entirely analogous to the "reatus" of original sin: you have it even if you do not know about it in good faith. Likewise, if the state doesn't yet know of the dimunition in question, the ruler cannot be blamed for his lack of recognition of this fact, but it is still materially bad. A Catholic subject of his would have to refuse to offer sacrifice to the Unmoved mover the philosopher-emperor of Aristotelia prescribes. :)
I think that the situation's different when it comes to duties of the state concerning public order even broadly understood (but not including religious error per se), and so I think a Catholic could ordinarily participate in their exercise even without explicit backing of Aristotelia by the Church, provided there's no legitimate condemnation by her. Given that this discussion is now mostly about positive law, the fact that the presumption in its favour can be overcome in cases of real necessity should disarm what seems to be your legitimate worry.
Moral entities exist as long as and to the extent respective rights and duties do. A joint-stock company cannot, say, morally bear the sword qua JSC, even if its stock holders and employees believe in good faith that their corporation is generically or specifically different (and so respective commands can be said to exist subjectively and morally bind the people so erring).
As the confessional obligation is there because of Christian revelation, it binds irrespective of constutional history, even if the state in question is to be absolved of positive rebellion against the Church (I think that the US is thus seriously analogous to, e.g., Ming China). There's nothing to cede, although erring about this in good faith is possible.
If my understanding of moral theology is correct, if you're in -doubt- concerning liceity of an order issued by your superior, you are bound to execute it anyway, as your doubt doesn't cancel out the superior's right to your obedience (see, e.g. St. Alphonsus on this in Lib. IV de praec. partic. etc. par. 47).
As far as I can see, all the doctrinal elements of Dr. Pink's thesis mobilised in defense of his reading, the "Leonine model", are clearly contained in past Magisterium. The manual I have at hand (Enchiridion theologiae moralis, Egger, Brixen 1904), citing Immortale Dei, distinguishes between powers over a. internal forum and/in things concerning the supernatural and the spiritual, where the Church has exclusive jurisdiction (unice ad Ecclesiam pertinet); b. temporal realities immediately and by nature connected to a., where the Church enjoys priority (primo et principaliter), such as public education and matrimonial causes; c. merely temporal things indirectly and per accidens connected to great spiritual goods in light of particular circumstances, concerning which the same power as in b. is enjoyed by the Church; d. temporal things considered in light of the temporal end (sub respectu temporalis finis), concerning which the Church is naturally powerless.Delete
If you happen to have a copy of Ott's "Fundamentals" at hand, I would like to ask you to find the exact theological note attached to all of this, but it is my belief that, on the basis of sources cited by Pater Edmund and Dr. Pink, this teaching is as good a candidate for the status of constant ordinary Magisterium as any.Delete
But to cite the document already mentioned here, in Immortale Dei Leo XIII writes:
<...> The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right. But, inasmuch as each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects, and as it might come to pass that one and the same thing-related differently, but still remaining one and the same thing-might belong to the jurisdiction and determination of both, therefore God, who foresees all things, and who is the author of these two powers, has marked out the course of each in right correlation to the other. <...> The nature and scope of that connection can be determined only, as We have laid down, by having regard to the nature of each power, and by taking account of the relative excellence and nobleness of their purpose. One of the two has for its proximate and chief object the well-being of this mortal life; the other, the everlasting joys of heaven. Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church. Whatever is to be ranged under the civil and political order is rightly subject to the civil authority. Jesus Christ has Himself given command that what is Caesar's is to be rendered to Caesar, and that what belongs to God is to be rendered to God.
(15.) There are, nevertheless, occasions when another method of concord is available for the sake of peace and liberty: We mean when rulers of the State and the Roman Pontiff come to an understanding touching some special matter. At such times the Church gives signal proof of her motherly love by showing the greatest possible kindliness and indulgence.
(16.) Such, then, as We have briefly pointed out, is the Christian organization of civil society; not rashly or fancifully shaped out, but educed from the highest and truest principles, confirmed by natural reason itself.
(17.) In such organization of the State there is nothing that can be thought to infringe upon the dignity of rulers, and nothing unbecoming them; nay, so far from degrading the sovereign power in its due rights, it adds to it permanence and luster. Indeed, when more fully pondered, this mutual co-ordination has a perfection in which all other forms of government are lacking, and from which excellent results would flow, were the several component parts to keep their place and duly discharge the office and work appointed respectively for each.
In light of all of this, and the fact that I cannot reconstruct your position on the status and teaching of DH in such a way that would be favourable to the document, I'd appreciate it if you were to state it.Delete
I adopt Dr. Pink's reading because I believe I have no right to select a reading of an authentic (that is, produced by the competent authority) document that posits a contradiction in it, unless it is impossible do avoid this rationally. If Dr. Pink's reading is the only one that succeeds at this (and I'm not aware of anything), I suppose we can add DH to the list of documents teaching the model described above.
If it fails, I would have to conclude that for all I know (and before correction of the document/official interpretation by Rome or a council) DH contains error and thus cannot be accepted in toto as it is.
So you grant that a) heresy can legitimately be criminalised; 2) it can be punished by severe penalties.
It would appear that you have already resolved the immediate issue: why would you need to cite the option of exile, if you contest the general permissibility of death sentences for heresy?
As to other problems, like the apparent conflation of doctrine and policy suggestions in the CCC, say, Drs. Feser's and Bessette's efforts can contribute to solving these.
Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church.Delete
Georgy, my sense of the model Pink constructs with all these documents is that he cannot preclude the following conclusion: since EVERY human (deliberate, voluntary) action of a man is either righteous or unrighteous, and thus is either ordered to God or ordered to some other end thus vitiating it, every such action falls under the jurisdiction of the sacred power.
Yet Leo clearly (from the rest of the passage) does NOT accept such a picture. Nor I. Everything affects the sacred order, because everything affects the ultimate universal economy of the created order directed by God to an ultimate purpose, but not everything is under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical power.
Not sure I can lay out in a few words how I would diverge from Pink and what model would look like. With Leo, I accept that each of the powers has its own proper sphere. "Each in its kind is supreme," and this does not leave much room for the concept that the civil is, simply, subordinate to the sacred.
I also accept from Leo that the civil must submit to the sacred in respect of certain acts, decisions, requirements, and so on, but this qualified submission is not simple subordination, or it could not ALSO be "supreme" in its own sphere. Hence the necessary model of interaction must leave room for the civil to exercise its own proper power not by reason of permission or grant from the sacred.
Perhaps my difference with Pink is something like this: There are civil matters - the sacred power does not have jurisdiction. There are sacred matters (e.g. sacraments) where the civil power has no jurisdiction. There are MIDDLE matters where both have a necessary role. My sense is that Pink would cede these to the jurisdiction of the sacred, whereas I would argue rather that the jurisdiction REMAINS shared: the civil power is required to submit to the sacred so much as is necessary for the purposes of the sacred ends to be achieved, but then RETAINS jurisdiction to act where its action does not defeat those sacred ends. In middle matters where both have a role, the civil power does retain proper authority to act where its decision is not in contradiction to the determinations of the sacred power. This is on a decision by decision basis, not on a "subject matter" basis.
As a practical result: if natural law would prescribe that the state should suppress satanism as being a violation of the natural law as known by the natural light of reason, and the religious power has not expressly restrained the state from taking this action by a positive enactment on account of a sacred good which requires such restraint, the state RETAINS the right to so act even though the matter, in addition to affecting the civil order, also affects the sacred order.
A Catholic subject of his would have to refuse to offer sacrifice to the Unmoved mover the philosopher-emperor of Aristotelia prescribes. :)Delete
A Catholic COULD offer sacrifice to the Unmoved Mover, for it is both the Unmoved Mover and the one true God. :-)
(He just couldn't offer sacrifice in such manner as objectively repudiates the sacrifice of the New Covenant, nor "replaces" it. After all, Catholics make sacrifices all the time that are not prescribed by religious law).
So you grant that 1) heresy can legitimately be criminalised; 2) it can be punished by severe penalties.
It would appear that you have already resolved the immediate issue: why would you need to cite the option of exile, if you contest the general permissibility of death sentences for heresy?
Personally, I think the idea of a society in which one's right to own property, vote and perform various other public functions depended on one's affirming adherence to an ideology (Catholic or otherwise) is a pretty daft one, but I can't think of any argument that would show such a society to be inherently unjust. In such a society, a public rejection of the prevailing orthodoxy would entail that one is no longer a member - in which case, one would have to leave. In so doing, one would presumably forfeit one's property, as well.
It would not follow, however, that one would thereby forfeit one's right to live. The reason is simple: the society into which a person is born doesn't own that person. Consequently, it has no right to dispose of that person, simply because they are deemed unfit to be a member of that society.
It is different when a person commits an act which places them beyond the pale in any society, such as a mass murder. Such a person then has no place on God's good earth, and may be legitimately executed as an enemy of mankind.
So, it's OK for us to have him subject his evil on OTHER peoples? And, what if all other states are already Catholic?
The "other peoples" whom you mention might be perfectly happy to have the heretic.
And I might add that while there is nothing inherently unjust in the notion of a Catholic state, it would be unjust to cover the entire world in such states, leaving no place for people of no religion or a different religion. That would be like a bunch of billionaires buying up all the property around your house, and then charging a $1,000,000 toll fee for you to pass through their property.
And I might add that while there is nothing inherently unjust in the notion of a Catholic state, it would be unjust to cover the entire world in such states, leaving no place for people of no religion or a different religion.Delete
Interesting theory. Follow it through: (1) if it is just for a state which is almost universally Catholic to be a confessional Catholic state; and (2) if it is good and worthy that as nearly as may be possible, EVERY person may hear the Gospel and become a Catholic; (3) it would not be right to withhold baptizing some persons or peoples into the Church if they freely want to become Catholic; and so (4) it is possible that in every country, nearly everyone could justly be Catholic; then (5) there is a possible condition in which every state in the world would justly be a confessional Catholic state.
This condition would be exactly what the early, middle, late medieval popes, and so on up through Pope Leo (and Pius XI), would say is the ideal state of the world, and everything else is a defect from that condition.
What VII demands, (and which is consistent with Leo XII), is that in such a condition, including confessional states, even people who are non-Catholic retain the freedom to act on their religious beliefs except to the extent that doing so is injurious to public order.
VII also explicitly retains the older teaching that God has granted to Christianity (and to the Catholic Church) such substantiation and evidences of its validity as are beneficial to an open, seeking mind and heart.
There are a number of opinions on how to ascertain what the Magisterium teaches, and they mostly are not simply a matter of creating a ledger of who holds a proposition to be true and who doesn't.
J.H. Newman's account, for instance, is enormously influential. But even among the most eminent theologians of the 20th Century who have thought in depth about the role of the Magisterium in theology (Karl Rahner, Hans urs von Balthasar, Bernard Lonergan, Benedict XVI, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar all leap to mind), there are a variety of opinions on how to engage the Magisterium, how to sort out dogma from speculative theology, etc. None of them are simply a matter of adding up yeas and neas.
I'm sorry, but that just misses the point. I'm aware of no reputable theologian who thinks the Church may simply do a volte-face on the teaching of either its extraordinary or ordinary magisterium. Newman certainly doesn't teach that. That would bring down the entire Catholic understanding of the Church and its teaching authority. Feser is defending the death penalty on Catholic grounds, mostly, whereas you seem to be, at least by implication, more concerned with questioning the very Catholic understanding of the Church and its teaching authority.Delete
(Karl Rahner, Hans urs von Balthasar, Bernard Lonergan, Benedict XVI, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar all leap to mind),ReplyDelete
Interesting list. I notice that ALL of them are considered among the mid-century "experimenters" and the "nouvelle theologie" types of the 20th century, not one like Garrigou-Lagrange or Charles DeKoninck, or Josef Pieper are mentioned. I wonder if there is a reason for that. I for one would not trust what Rahner, Congar, or de Lubac said about something unless they were expounding on a more trustworthy source.
None of them are simply a matter of adding up yeas and neas.
I agree that identifying "what the Church teaches" is not a matter of mere tallying. But identifying "what the Fathers taught" is easier, and identifying "what the Doctors taught" is easier, and even "what the theologians taught" is somewhat easier if we reserve ourselves to (a) pre-1850 theologians, and (b) to the matters OTHER than the famous disputed issues which each one was embroiled in, as counterpoint to the 95% which he taught in conformity with the rest of theological thinking.
Ironically, the scholars I mentioned, with the exception of Bernard Lonergan, all engaged heavily with the Church Fathers. Garrigou-Lagrange and Charles De Koninck, on the other hand, are interested in a much more restricted segment of Church teaching (certain Medievals + Augustine).Delete
Anyway, my list was intended on those theologians most influential on the course of 20th Century Catholic theology.
Anyway, my list was intended on those theologians most influential on the course of 20th Century Catholic theology.Delete
True, true. Very true. (weeping...) sadly true. More's the pity.
This book is helpful in understanding how to digest conflicting statements from the Magisterium. https://www.amazon.ca/Magisterial-Authority-Fr-Chad-Ripperger/dp/1503022420Delete
I think Griffiths just adds to making himself look a bit silly: "you ought at least lament [judicial execution]'s necessity if you wrongly think it necessary. That the likes of Feser and Bessette and Rutler do not even do this is the clearest evidence that they’ve abandoned Christian thought on the matter [eh??]. That causes me to grieve their hard hearts and their febrile longings for blood."ReplyDelete
Fr. George Rutler has it right: "The fact that Pope Francis considers capital punishment and even life sentences (“slow-motion capital punishment”) intrinsically evil goes to show that we are living in a dangerously neuralgic time."
Griffiths letter was incredibly silly and immature. Feser and Bessette's "longings for blood.". Give me a break. Griffiths presumably would replace "Feser and Bessette" with hunreds of popes and saints.Delete
I haven't read Feser's book, but I find myself somewhat conflicted on this issue. On the one side, I think the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral, and in fact I don't think it should ever be discarded as intrinsically immoral, and also I am inclined to believe that death penalty can be practiced today (going beyond mere principles) for the worst crimes. But on the other hand, personally, I am not convinced that the Church really teaches DP in a way that could never be overturned. It is the stronger thesis (that the Church absolutely cannot rule out the death penalty completely) that I don't accept, even though I think the Church *should not* rule out the death penalty completely. In that sense, I am glad Ed is defending the death penalty, and I strongly disagree with most of his critics; though I think it should be a regular moral/philosophical issue, not a theological oneReplyDelete
There needs to be coherence between the Natural Law (known through philosophy) and the Positive Divine Law, aka "Divine Revelation" (known through theology).Delete
Since arguments against capital punishment include arguments from Scripture and the Magisterium, Feser needs to counter those arguments on Faith grounds.
He needs to show that Fideism and Rationalism are false. He needs to reconcile Faith and Reason.
That is why he argues from philosophy and theology.
No, there is NOT anything new to say about the death penalty. How COULD there be as long as you have been babbling and blathering about it? Surely it is time to drop the dismal subject. There are literally an infinite number of other subjects NOW of greater importance and interest.ReplyDelete
Yeah I agree with you. Ed Feser needs to move on from his critics.Delete
Both wrong. Feser wrote a book dealing mainly with the argument from the Church. He could write an even longer book on the argument from natural law. And another still longer book correcting the wrong but somewhat sensible arguments made (in good faith) against it. And finally, an immensely long book on the senseless arguments and those made in bad faith against the DP.Delete
Modern sensibilities are causing unclear thinking. Thank you Mr. Feser for your rational defense of Catholic moral teaching.ReplyDelete
I am very skeptical when Bleeding Hart says that regardless of the natural law the "higher demands" of the Gospel prohibit, in principle, capital punishment.ReplyDelete
The Natural Law and the Divine Positive Law are both part of the "Divine Law". I don't think there can be a contradiction between them. Sure the Natural Law can be silent on something and Revelation command something, but a "contradiction"? I don't think that is coherent.
Can anyone produce an example that shows such a contradiction is even possible?
I think you're quite right if by coherence you mean the impossibility of contradiction between positive imperatives.Delete
If an angel appeared to us in a pub, declared that it is the will of God that you kill me, this being followed by a miracle sealing this revelation, if all of this were acknowledged by the ordinary, you would have to kill me and I would do my best not to resist, even if there were no explanation for the command.
If the angel in question would specifiy the reason as "God wishes to punish him for his innocence of this crime", one would do best to run and fetch an exorcist.
I don't think that people on the opposing side (I'm "pro") of the debate conceptualise their argument like this.
They seem to think that God revealed a positive duty to obstain from retribution of this sort (I take Hart to mean just that), and I think that if that were the case, obstaining from some action prescribed by natural law would be justifiable under double effect.
For example, the Christian duty to forgive irrespective of satisfaction is not something I think natural law establishes, indeed, satisfaction of some sort seems to me to be a perfectly just condition. Yet we are to forgo this.
I believe the problem is rather that in making this sort of argument the opponent presupposes that prescribing this Christ made no distinction between private and common goods, something neither the Sacred Scripture nor Tradition support, indeed, the latter directly condemns.
For example, the Christian duty to forgive irrespective of satisfaction is not something I think natural law establishes, indeed, satisfaction of some sort seems to me to be a perfectly just condition. Yet we are to forgo this.ReplyDelete
Actually, I only recently realized that this is not QUITE correct, and it is something that the "we are called to forgive" abolishers of DP fail to grasp altogether.
When we go to confession and get absolution, the priest, in persona Christi, forgives our sins. Yet there a temporal debt of punishment due for sin that is not relieved by the forgiveness of the sin.
Therefore, it is not true that in every respect "forgiveness" implies "no satisfaction need be paid".
I think that this also applies in personal relations between Christians. If someone takes 1,000 from my cash box, I am obliged to forgive him. I am not obliged to not ACCEPT BACK the repayment of the 1,000 that he stole. This is not what Christian charity demands. Indeed, in order for him to receive absolution from a priest, HE is required to make restitution (if possible), which implies that I am to receive back what was taken. It would make no sense that his absolution demands restitution but my forgiving him obliges me not to accept restitution.
Therefore, the Gospel demand of "forgiveness" in charity for an offence against one's person or personal effects does not entail repudiation of just recompense.
One can readily argue the parallel case for the state: when the Christian state employs charity as called for by the Gospel, doing so does not AS SUCH entail the repudiation of just recompense.
(A not-quite-similar case comes up when a man forgives his brother for doing wrong, but (because the sin is habitual) does not TRUST his brother not to sin again, and may even take steps to prevent it. Forgiveness of the past does not entail being stupid about the future.)
What we need is a more fine-tuned understanding of forgiving someone for an offence.
Right, apologies, I should've been clearer: what I think is not clear from natural law alone (at least to me) is the duty of, say, a former friend to become friends again with a person that wronged him even when 'full restoration' of the said friendship can reasonably be expected. But perhaps I'm wrong in thinking that Christianity modifies this scenario: the ethics of friendship is not something I have a decent grasp of.Delete
What I meant by "we forgo this" was "the right to insist on the condition of satisfaction as necessary for forgiveness".Delete
Now that I think of it, it was a fairly poor example to begin this: after all, I'm not prepared to argue that we have a duty to insist on the necessity of this condition being met.Delete
The reason I'm not is because it cannot be done. :)Delete
In the apparent conflict of duties, the primary wins, and examples like the seal of the confessional testify to the fact that common(est) good considerations are of primary importance here, even when it comes to the hypothetical higher standars.
I apologise for the silliness.
This lifted from Catholic World Review/ online ("Select Books for 2017"). Think what he's getting at, any thoughts:ReplyDelete
Christopher S. Morrissey:
"I wish that Feser’s natural theology book was getting more attention than his backwards-looking book on the death penalty. On that issue, I am more convinced by the prophetic approach of Johannes Ude, You Shall Not Kill (Wipf & Stock, 2016), which I read early in 2017. In any case, my deeper appreciation of the mimetic theory of René Girard has slowly changed my thinking on these and related issues."