Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Just say the damn sentence already


Suppose you are a Catholic who thinks the death penalty ought never to be applied in practice under modern circumstances.  Fine.  You’re within your rights.  Whatever one thinks of the arguments for that position, it is certainly orthodox.  However, that position is very different from saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically wrong, wrong per se or of its very nature.  That position is not orthodox.  It is manifestly contrary to scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the consistent teaching of the popes up until at least Benedict XVI.  The evidence for this claim is overwhelming, and I have set it out in many places – for example, in this article and in this book co-written with Joe Bessette.  Attempts to refute our work have invariably boiled down to ad hominem attacks, red herrings, question-begging assertions, special pleading, straw man fallacies, or other sophistries and time-wasters.

So, every Catholic is obliged to affirm, on pain of heterodoxy, the following sentence, which for ease of reference I will label

The Sentence: “Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.”

If a Catholic wants to add to this sentence – for example by saying “Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong; however, it is better never to use it, for such-and-such reasons” – then, again, that’s fine.  But a Catholic who dissents from the proposition conveyed by The Sentence is guilty of heterodoxy, and a prelate who refuses to affirm The Sentence is guilty of failing to uphold orthodoxy – and of course, it is the job of prelates to uphold orthodoxy.

Curiously, though, with a few honorable exceptions, few contemporary prelates seem willing to affirm it.  Many keep silent.  Many speak ambiguously, or even say things that seem to contradict The Sentence.  The latest example is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who in a recent tweet declared that in light of Pope Francis’s recent revision to the Catechism, “there now exists no loophole to morally justify capital punishment.”  (In response, one wag in Dolan’s Twitter feed said he was “looking forward to the USCCB publishing the CCC in the new loose-leaf edition.”  Canon lawyer Edward Peters has also criticized Dolan’s tweet.)  In an earlier article, the cardinal said that a “consistent” Catholic has to be against both the death penalty and abortion, and that it was “hypocrisy” not to be against both.

All of that certainly makes it sound as if Cardinal Dolan thinks that capital punishment is, like abortion, intrinsically wrong – that to execute even a guilty human being is morally on a par with aborting an innocent human being.  And that would contradict the clear and consistent tradition of the Church, which distinguishes between the innocent and the guilty.  This (rather obvious) distinction is the reason why the Church has for two millennia seen no inconsistency or hypocrisy at all in opposing abortion while permitting capital punishment, any more than there is any inconsistency or hypocrisy in opposing kidnapping while approving of the arrest and incarceration of the guilty. 

However, in the same article, Dolan says:

The decision of Pope Francis was not a change in Church teaching, but a development.  No Pope can contradict previous Church teaching.  He can modify, clarify, strengthen, reaffirm, and expand.  That’s development, not alteration.  The Pope is the servant, not the master, of God’s revealed Word as preserved and passed on by His Church. 

End quote.  Now, as the Dominican theologian Fr. Brian Mullady emphasizes in a recent article, a true development of doctrine cannot reverse past doctrine.  If you say “All men are mortal and Socrates is a man,” and I come along later and conclude from what you said that Socrates is mortal, that would be a development, clarification, or expansion of your claims – a drawing out from them of their implications.  But if instead I said that Socrates is not mortal, I would not be “developing” or “clarifying” or “expanding” your claims at all, but manifestly contradicting them.

Similarly, if Cardinal Dolan were to reject The Sentence, he would not be developing or clarifying or expanding on traditional teaching at all, but manifestly contradicting it.  So, if the cardinal really is serious about affirming only developments of past doctrine and never contradictions of it, then he will have to agree that capital punishment – unlike abortion – is not intrinsically immoral, in which case there can be at least some instances in which it is morally justifiable.

So, Cardinal Dolan’s statements are ambiguous.  If he were simply to affirm The Sentence, even with a vigorous “However…” annexed to it, the ambiguity would at once be removed.  Strangely, he does not do so.

Discussing the U.S. bishops’ proposed alteration to the language of their catechism for adults so as to bring it into conformity with Pope Francis’s revision, Bishop Robert Barron recently said that there is an “eloquent ambiguity” in the pope’s revision insofar as it “doesn’t use the language of intrinsic evil” but also “uses language like… inadmissible, morally unacceptable, etc.”  The U.S. bishops’ alteration, we are told, will also avoid speaking of intrinsic evil.  However, it seems that neither Bishop Barron nor the U.S. bishops acting collectively in their proposed alteration will utter The Sentence either. 

Why not?  After all, they don’t explicitly reject The Sentence.  On the contrary, like Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Barron and the U.S. bishops’ proposed alteration insist on “continuity” with past Catholic teaching, even if they leave it unexplained exactly how the new language is continuous with past teaching.

Moreover, the whole point of a catechism is to clarify what the Church teaches, whereas ambiguity (“eloquent” or otherwise) entails a lack of clarity about what the Church teaches.  Indeed, the whole point of having bishops, and indeed of having a pope, is for them to clarify to the faithful what the Church teaches, not to be eloquently ambiguous about it.  For catechisms and bishops to speak ambiguously rather than clearly is, accordingly, simply for them to be derelict in their duty.

Then there is the fact that, as the bishops well know, many Catholics are concerned that the pope’s revision to the catechism marks an implicit rupture with past teaching, and thus threatens to falsify the Church’s claim to preserve the deposit of faith undiluted.  Some are having their faith shaken, or even leaving the Church.  All the evasion and double talk is undermining their confidence, not reinforcing it.  There is an extremely easy way for the bishops to help fortify these doubting Catholics, which it is their sacred duty to do.  Here it is:  Simply utter The Sentence.  They can still go on to add whatever qualifiying “However…” they like and passionately oppose capital punishment in practice. 

Nor do they lack the authority to utter The Sentence.  Like the pope, they are successors to the Apostles with authority to teach the deposit of faith, and they need no special authorization from the pope simply to reiterate what has always and everywhere been taught.  Nor would they be contradicting the pope, since he has not explicitly denied The Sentence himself.  So why won’t they do it?

Just say the damn sentence already.  Like this: “Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.”  See how easy it is?

191 comments:

  1. Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.

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    1. Thanks, your Excellency. Now just say it non-anonymously. ;)

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  2. The cynic in me thinks that they don't really care all that much about capital punishment but don't want to say that sentence since it would remind people that orthodox Catholicism isn't consistent with the modern liberal zeitgeist. If you say that sentence, then there is a danger that other sentences might pop into people's mind such as "Valid marriages can not be broken." or "Homosexual relations are sinful." Contemporary strains of modernist Catholicism have a lot riding on the idea that you can contradict traditional teaching if you utter the magic incantation "development of doctrine" and refuse to address questions of logical coherence.

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  3. Feser's "Sentence" is inadequate to properly represent Catholic teaching. Instead: Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong, but it is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator.

    That extension of the Sentence would be properly consistent with all prior authoritative Catholic teaching. So when the recently modified wording of the Catechism says "no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible", it is correct because the seriousness of a crime is not relevant to whether the death penalty is admissible -- it is the perpetrator's threat to society which is relevant.

    So, JPII, Francis, and Dolan, are correctly teaching the Catholic faith, and Feser's position is lacking.

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    1. Paul Connors,

      You need to take a course in formal logic. The statement:

      Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong, but it is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator.

      is a conjunction, with "but" as the connective. And what it connects are the two propositions:

      (1) Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong, and

      (2) Capital punishment is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator

      Now, if a conjunction is true -- and you yourself hold that this conjunction is true -- then it follows logically that each conjunct is also true. That means that the first conjunct, (1), is true. So what's your problem?

      You might say "But we need to affirm (2) as well." Even if that's true, so what? I already conceded that someone who affirms (1) might reasonably insist on adding to it further qualifying statements. So again, what's your problem?

      Now, in fact, as Bessette and I show in our book, (2) is really merely a non-binding prudential judgment, rather than a binding doctrinal statement. But that is neither here nor there for present purposes. For again, even if it were true that Catholics were bound to affirm (2), the point of the present post is to note that Catholics should all affirm (1) -- as you yourself implicitly concede.

      You seem to be one of those readers who complains about a post on subject A on the grounds that it is not a post about some different subject B which you are more interested in.

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    2. This is not an issue of logic. There are two statements:

      (1) Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.
      (2) Capital punishment is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator.

      We both agree on (1). However, you claim that (2) is "really merely a non-binding prudential judgment". It is not. It is a principle guiding exactly how to use prudential judgment. In applying that taught principle, one will certainly use one's prudential judgment. But using that particular principle is not optional. It's binding. It's not a new principle -- for example, it's exactly how the Roman Catechism of 1566 defended the use of capital punishment, though apparently being inconsistent with the commandment not to kill. And it's the principle that JPII, Francis, and Dolan are still using.

      The point of your post was to attack Dolan, by claiming that Dolan is opposing (1). It's clear (because Dolan wrote back last August at greater length than the recent tweet) that Dolan is focused on opposing any view that the death penalty is a legitimate punishment for a past crime, no matter how serious. It's the application of (2) that leads to that conclusion.

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    3. So (1) capital punishment is not always wrong. However, (2) it is always wrong to use capital punishment AS A PUNISHMENT. Is this your position?

      If so, could you explain statement (1)? In other words, how would you (correctly) use capital punishment, if not as a punishment? In what circumstances would capital punishment be the correct action?

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    4. Paul Connors wrote:

      We both agree on (1).

      Great. That's all this post was about. So why you are going on about (2), I have no idea, since it has nothing to do with the very specific point of this particular post. Don't go to Domino's and then complain that they're not serving burgers.

      The point of your post was to attack Dolan, by claiming that Dolan is opposing (1).

      Can you read? I claimed no such thing. On the contrary, I explicitly said that his remarks are ambiguous about (1) -- which is different from saying that he actually opposes (1) -- and that he and other bishops should be explicit in their support for (1). Since you yourself support (1), you should agree with that much.

      However, you claim that (2) is "really merely a non-binding prudential judgment". It is not.

      As I said, Joe and I address that in our book. So unless you have something to say in response to those arguments, why are you wasting your time and mine making these unsupported question-begging assertions?

      But then, as I said, (2) is not the subject of this post in the first place. (1) is.

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    5. If you respond, "You may use capital punishment if there is nothing else you can do with the offender"--there is always something else you can do. So you are arguing that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with capital punishment, and, despite that fact, it must never be used, under pain of committing a wrong.

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    6. Feser: "I explicitly said that his remarks are ambiguous about (1)"

      You also raised issues of "evasion and double-talk" That goes very considerably beyond the mere claim of ambiguity.

      About proposition (2) you say: "Joe and I address that in our book".

      In the book you simply claim that (2) is a matter of prudential judgment, and by this means go on to reject what JPII et al have said. (2) is, however, a taught principle about how to use prudential judgment, and its acceptance allows what JPII, BXIV, Francis, and Dolan to be understood properly, without in any way contradicting prior authoritative teaching.

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    7. Craig Payne: "In other words, how would you (correctly) use capital punishment, if not as a punishment? In what circumstances would capital punishment be the correct action?"

      Suppose an unrepentant Hitler had been captured and imprisoned at the end of WWII, and still had numerous supporters who wanted to free him, who might even attack the prison, and thus boost a continuation of the Reich's horrible practices. I think he might be given the death penalty, because he would still be a real danger to society, despite being imprisoned.

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    8. Good luck Ed Feser. Paul Connors is one of those people who firmly shuts his eyes, puts his hammer-head down, and keeps ramming into the wall.

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    9. Ed wrote:
      You might say "But we need to affirm (2) as well." Even if that's true, so what? I already conceded that someone who affirms (1) might reasonably insist on adding to it further qualifying statements. So again, what's your problem?

      Here's a possible problem: (2) contradicts (1), when considered not merely as logical propositions but as the actual historical teaching of the Church.

      (1) Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong: this is based on the Church's historical teaching about actual cases of capital punishment.

      (2) Capital punishment is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator: the historical cases to which the Church has referred in teaching (1) contradict this caveat.

      So isn't that a problem?

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    10. The other problem with (2), as Paul's ridiculous scenarios show, is that it is essentially meaningless, since it clearly doesn't mean strictly "when there is no other way" -- there is always another way! ("But I'm really worried he might escape! -- what option do I have?" Gee, man, I don't know? Like maybe you could still focus on doing your best to make sure he doesn't escape? That's another way, isn't it!) So obviously it means "no other prudent way to defend society," which then opens up the field of prudential judgment to all of the traditional considerations, including retribution and deterrence.

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    11. Paul Connors wrote:

      You also raised issues of "evasion and double-talk" That goes very considerably beyond the mere claim of ambiguity.

      So? How does that show that I claimed that Dolan rejects (1), which is what you falsely accused me of? A person might be ambiguous, evasive, or engage in double talk, not because he rejects (1), but for some other reason (e.g. confusion, fear of saying something unpopular, fear of seeming to contradict the pope, fear that asserting (1) will give aid and comfort to supporters of capital punishment, etc.).

      In the book you simply claim that (2) is a matter of prudential judgment,

      You are aware, aren't you, that I wrote the book and thus know what is in it? And that many people who read this blog have read the book and also know what is really in it? In particular, they know that in fact I don't "simply claim" it. I give arguments for it. So why would you tell such an easily exposed lie? Or do you just have a really bad memory? Or an inability to read?

      Evidently TN is right and you are not arguing in good faith, so I will leave you to it. Bye.

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    12. David,

      Yes, as Joe and I argue in the book, one of the reasons (2) cannot be more than a prudential judgment is that scripture and tradition also teach that capital punishment can be legitimate for purposes other than defense against the aggressor. So, if (2) were claimed to be a development of doctrinal principle, it would not really be a genuine development at all but a reversal or contradiction of past irreformable teaching.

      We give other arguments too for the conclusion that (2) cannot be more than prudential (e.g. that Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly said that there was no development of doctrine here). Paul Connors' fib or bad memory notwithstanding.

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    13. Feser: "How does that show that I claimed that Dolan rejects (1)...?"

      You said: "Many speak ambiguously, or even say things that seem to contradict The Sentence. The latest example is Cardinal Timothy Dolan"

      You are quite correct in claiming that you have never precisely said that Dolan rejects (1). But I am not sure precisely what you consider the difference is between "rejects" and "seems to reject". In either case it requires that a reasonable interpretation of Dolan's words is a rejection of (1). And I deny that. He might (along with JPII, Francis) simply think that (1) is not relevant to his teaching.

      It's statement (2) which is relevant to current teaching, and several forms of prior teachings of exactly that principle, throughout history, are quoted by you in your own book! I looked through your book (yet again -- I have two copies of your book, and numerous notes about it) and still failed to find anywhere where you provided arguments that (2) was a prudential judgment, and not a principle to be used when making a prudential judgment (which it obviously is). The most you did was claim that it had to be a prudential judgment, else it would apparently contradict various other things -- which, in fact, it doesn't contradict. (Plainly, I'm not going to be able fit everything I might want to say into a blog comment.)

      As for the scriptural verse from which the title of your book is taken ("Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed"), we live under the New Law, not the unfulfilled Old Law. When blood must be shed, sufficient blood for everyone has already been shed.

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    14. You are quite correct in claiming that you have never precisely said that Dolan rejects (1). But I am not sure precisely what you consider the difference is between "rejects" and "seems to reject".

      One important part of the difference is that "seems to reject" does not imply "rejects".

      In either case it requires that a reasonable interpretation of Dolan's words is a rejection of (1).

      No it does. When people speak ambiguously, there can be multiple reasonable (read: understandable) readings of their words. And it may be that the evidence does not determine any one of them. Or it may support one but leave the other open. In any case further clarity is possible.

      He might (along with JPII, Francis) simply think that (1) is not relevant to his teaching.

      (1) is relevant to any teaching on the death penalty which purports to be in continuity with earlier teaching. It is also relevant to the teaching of anyone who accuses pro-life supporters of the death penalty of hypocrisy.

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    15. Greg: "When people speak ambiguously, there can be multiple reasonable (read: understandable) readings of their words. And it may be that the evidence does not determine any one of them. Or it may support one but leave the other open. In any case further clarity is possible."

      I don't particularly disagree with what you say there (though I am not sure that 'reasonable' and 'understandable' are quite the same thing). I just deny that a reasonable interpretation of Dolan's writings is that he rejects (1). (And the same for Francis.) I don't think that Dolan either rejects (1), or even seems to reject it.

      Greg: "(1) is relevant to any teaching on the death penalty which purports to be in continuity with earlier teaching."

      All that (1) says is that sometimes the death penalty is wrong, and sometimes it's right. It provides no real practical guidance in deciding when the death penalty might be used. In various teachings, at various times, the Church has provided something like (2) as the principle to be used (Feser's book shows this). Nothing Francis/Dolan has said contradicts (2). So what we end up with is a continuity of teaching.

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    16. I think that Paul Connors is saying that because statement (2) is "a principle to be used when making a prudential judgment," that therefore it means that there do exist circumstances where capital punishment is immoral, namely, circumstances where (2) is violated; in other words, Feser says "Not all CP is wrong," while Connors says, "Some CP is wrong."

      I say this to clarify, not to defend, because I think people are talking past each other.

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    17. The point regarding Dolan, et al is simply that repeated emphasis of (2) can, over time, create the impression that CP is actually wrong, in principle.

      For example, repeated assertions that Christians ought to be hospitable and welcoming to those that are openly gay can over time give the impression that the person making those assertions actually thinks that homosexuality isn't immoral. This would be an even more likely reading if (1) such assertions were always made in response to others saying that homosexuality is immoral, and (2) the person making the assertion never issued a clarifying statement to the effect that homosexuality is indeed immoral.

      The point here is that the statements are ambiguous and create a certain impression. That ambiguity needs to be clarified, especially when the ambiguity is coming from someone in a position of spiritual leadership. This same thing is happening with respect to CP: you have some leaders that only seem concerned with making prudential arguments against CP, and who never make clear, unambiguous statements that CP is at least sometimes ok.

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    18. JMM: ...with respect to CP: you have some leaders that only seem concerned with making prudential arguments against CP, and who never make clear, unambiguous statements that CP is at least sometimes ok.

      Last August, Francis approved a letter sent to all the Bishops. That letter explains the reasoning behind the recent clarification of the teaching on CP. It's the letter that Dolan is plainly relying on. The letter makes quite clear that any inadmissibility of CP is dependent on contingent historical circumstances. Hence it can't possibly be seen as any kind of repudiation of statement (1).

      So I don't see that the claims of ambiguity really hold up. Rather, I see that people have sometimes not grasped that the Church has always taught some form of statement (2), and that it is necessarily of a contingent nature.

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    19. Paul:

      Yes the letter ties "inadmissibility" to contingent historical circumstances. What is not clear to me is whether it's also tying it to something else, namely, the idea that CP is inherently wrong because it violates human dignity.

      It seems to me that it actually mixes and matches general moral principles with circumstance. For example, paragraph 2 stresses an "increasing understanding," a "deepened understanding," a "new awareness" that CP is, according to paragraph 6, an "attack on the ...dignity of the person."

      As a matter of fact, what it seems to me to be doing is tying the legitimacy of past administrations of CP to those past historical circumstances. The letter reads a lot more like it's saying, "CP is wrong and we shouldn't do it, but we understand that past historical circumstances made it acceptable."

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    20. Paul ConnorsJune 25, 2019 at 10:42 PM
      Feser: "How does that show that I claimed that Dolan rejects (1)...?"

      You said:
      "Many speak ambiguously, or even say things that seem to contradict The Sentence. The latest example is Cardinal Timothy Dolan"

      You are quite correct in claiming that you have never precisely said that Dolan rejects (1). But I am not sure precisely what you consider the difference is between "rejects" and "seems to reject".


      There is an obvious slippage here. You quote Ed on "contradicting" and dispute about "rejecting". The two are not identical.

      For instance, in the previous thread, I took issue with the notion of individuated forms, presented in one of the linked articles. I gave what I thought was contradictory about that view of hylomorphism*. But that does not mean I thought the author REJECTED hylomorphism. She did not. We are none of us perfect reasoners, and therefore the fact that we might contradict something does not entail that we thereby reject it. We sometimes will even contradict (unwittingly) our own avowed positions.

      Note that in the article Ed uses "reject" twice:

      Similarly, if Cardinal Dolan were to reject The Sentence, he would not be developing or clarifying or expanding on traditional teaching at all, but manifestly contradicting it.

      Why not? After all, they don’t explicitly reject The Sentence.

      Note that the former is a conditional, and does not entail that Dolan does reject it. The latter says that "they" don't do so, explicitly.

      IOW, Ed's position is not quite what you are disputing.

      *I'm old enough that that was the standard spelling when I was introduced to the idea.

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    21. JMM: "What is not clear to me is whether it's also tying it to something else, namely, the idea that CP is inherently wrong because it violates human dignity."

      It's not totally clear to me what the word "inherently" is meant to do there. If it's intended to have the same meaning as "intrinsically", then there's nothing in the Francis-approved letter to Bishops to support that idea. That letter has so many references to circumstances that the most you can get out of it is something like: "you can use the death penalty when there is no other effective way to protect society from the offender, otherwise you can't". (Which is essentially what statements (1) and (2) achieve).

      JMM: "The letter reads a lot more like it's saying, 'CP is wrong and we shouldn't do it, but we understand that past historical circumstances made it acceptable.'"

      And that summary isn't internally contradictory, provided it includes the understanding that CP isn't intrinsically wrong. We shouldn't do it because of the circumstances we are in.

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    22. George LeSauvage: "There is an obvious slippage here. You quote Ed on "contradicting" and dispute about "rejecting". The two are not identical."

      I am assuming that if an argument is contradictory, then the argument is to be rejected. Otherwise you run into fatal logical problems (ex contradictione quodlibet).

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    23. No. The question is whether if you contradict a proposition, you necessarily reject it. This is true only if you recognize the contradiction. But one may make statements contradicting things one believes; we see this every day.

      Therefore it will not do to infer from "Dolan contradicts" to "Dolan rejects".

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    24. George LeSauvage: "...it will not do to infer from "Dolan contradicts" to "Dolan rejects".

      To expand on my previous answer:

      If someone asserts the truth of some statement A, and the use of the laws of logic shows that the assertion necessarily means that some other statement B is false, then the assertion of A necessarily means that the truth of statement B is rejected.

      So, if some actual person asserts the same A, but simultaneously claims not to reject B, it can be useful to now add the concept of material rejection and formal rejection.

      Someone asserting that statement A is, following the laws of logic, necessarily materially rejecting B. If, despite this, they claim that B is true, then they are not formally rejecting B. However they must somehow modify their argument, so as to end up in a logically consistent state.

      So the statement "This person contradicts B" means at least "this person materially rejects B". It might also mean "this person formally rejects B", but that would be dependent on the surrounding circumstances.

      Now in the case of Feser's remarks about Dolan, Feser seemed quite open to the idea that Dolan had not just made some kind of an inadvertent error in his writing, but that Dolan was actually hiding Dolan's real opinion (I think this because Feser also talked about evasion and double-talk from Bishops).

      Given all that, I think that the statement "Feser says that Dolan rejects" is a reasonable summary of what Feser wrote. Of course, Feser might come back and say, "No, I'm only saying that Dolan's argument needs to change". But I really don't think that is where Feser is headed.

      I do understand your point, but in the given circumstances, I don't think what I said was unreasonable.

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    25. At most, "Feser says Dolan rejects..." is true as an approximation, as a kind of "no practical difference", but on the very same basis, "Dolan rejects ..." is ALSO true as an approximation, as a kind of "no practical difference". It is true that Dolan is mealy-mouthed enough that one can, if necessary, find some loophole or other that leaves room for him to say that DP is not intrinsically evil ... but broadly speaking it is also true that this is not the NATURAL and COMMON way of taking his loose and ambiguous phrasing, anyone but a lawyer would take him to intend that DP is wrong in a way that means that it is wrong always, not just in certain cases, because of what is inherent to its nature - a violation of human dignity. That he is also mealy-mouthed about THAT direction of his comments is just another instance of his being mealy-mouthed, but it doesn't prevent the ordinary hearer from hearing "wrong always" in his words. (It is also not Dolan's fault that Francis chose to be ambiguous and confused in declaring his new theory is "not a rejection" of past teaching while insisting on the language of "it IS [not "may be"] a violation". But it is Dolan's fault for following Francis down that ambiguous and confused rabbit hole without necessary clarifications, qualifications, caveats, distinctions, and so on.)

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  4. Dear Paul Connors: Please go back and read Feser's original article again. Dear God, please.

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  5. With respect to +Barron, is this a case such as Fr Z mentions where +Gomez is exerting some pressure on his auxiliaries to "keep it on the down low" or "don't rock the boat"?

    I mention this only because I've met and talked with +Barron and read much of his work and I think he's quite orthodox. But he is also quite a skilled politician

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    1. "Eloquent ambiguity" certainly sounds like politician's words to me!

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    2. Indeed they are. And perhaps when he has his own archbishopric or even perhaps a more senior position, he might have less "pressure" to be so select in his words.

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  6. Here's how I like to say it:

    Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong. On the contrary, on some occasions, even in the modern world capital punishment is advisable and uniquely efficacious. And, on some rare occasions, yes, even in the modern world, capital punishment is morally obligatory.

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  7. Nothing's easy for bishops these days. Last year Cardinal Burke could give an hour long speech in Rome about Quadragesimo Anno without once mentioning the confessional state. What a simple sentence that would have been. Now he's criticizing Pope Francis for dubious doctrine.

    Leaving out "difficult" doctrines makes the general position incoherent. One cannot speak of the death penalty in the name of orthodoxy one day, and defend liberty for false religions based on an invented and liberal notion that it's founded on human nature the next. Until this is straightened out the offensive against Pope Francis is just a load of bullshit.

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    1. Anonymous,

      One CAN speak of the death penalty in the name of orthodoxy, one day, and defend a certain qualified notion of liberty for persons to practice certain false religions, on the next.

      And if one is an orthodox Catholic, one not only can, but should.

      The reason is straightforward. Aquinas was right: A monarchy is best if the king is a wise orthodox Catholic. But if he is a fool or a heretic, it's (one of) the worst. Consequently, the virtue of prudence recommends a republic (not a democracy), and a subsidiarist and familistic republic (not a centralized and individualist or collectivist one). Since natural theology and natural law ethics are open to anyone (even ancient Greeks like Aristotle) without recourse to special revelation, it follows that the highest law of a good republic ought to enshrine the natural law tradition, openly stating that laws opposing the laws of nature and nature's God are invalid. And of course schoolchildren should be instructed in the meaning of these phrases, so that their brief sojourn in thinkers like Hugo Grotius and John Locke does not obscure their origin in Montesquieu, Suarez, Bellarmine, and Aquinas.

      Now in a republic, the people select representatives and delegate authority to them. This is an exercise, in tandem, of three of their natural rights: The right to unite in solidarity to organize their pursuit the good, the right to hire employees and delegate to those employees some portion of their own authority, and the right to forcibly defend persons against wrongful assaults on their life, liberty, property, etc. All this authority held by individuals comes ultimately from God who gives men their natures, and these natures with the concomitant rights are exposed to natural reasoning without requiring recourse to special revelation.

      Now God does grant men authority to forcibly defend persons against wrongful assaults on their rights by force or fraud (which is intellectual forcing).

      But God does not generally, in the Moral Law, warrant men to compel other men to abandon one religion (even a false one) and observe another (even the true one) except arguably in cases where, by special revelation, explicitly commands it.

      Consequently, barring some special revelation, no citizen of a republic can justly initiate force against his neighbor to compel his neighbor's religious practice simpliciter. (Obviously if his neighbor's religious practice includes human sacrifice, thievery as a sacrament, etc., then one can compel one's him not to practice that religion secundum quid.)

      But if a citizen of a republic lacks just authority from God to exercise that kind of compulsion, then he certainly cannot delegate such authority to his hired employee. (One cannot delegate authority that one does not have.) And this is not a matter of some decisions prudentially necessitating a quorum of disinterested parties to maximize careful deliberation. It is a matter of not attempting to compel the spiritual soul.

      Consequently, the people of a republic cannot delegate to their law-enforcers any just authority to compel men in matters of religion except where violations of the natural rights of men are involved. God has given them no such authority; they therefore cannot delegate any such authority to their representatives.

      No man has a Natural Right to practice a false religion. But he does, for certain false religions, have a Civil Right to do so, precisely because nobody else has just authority to compel him to do otherwise. He's still wrong in the eyes of God; he's perhaps still wrong in the eyes of most other men. But those men will sin if they point guns at him for following his (malformed, errant) conscience.

      Delete
    2. @Miguel Cervantes

      Go away.

      Delete
    3. @Anonymous, re: "@Miguel Cervantes / Go away.":

      Are you sure you're posting on the correct thread? I just did a Control-F to see if Cervantes has even posted anything on this thread, and it doesn't look like he has.

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    4. R.C., Miguel Cervantes is the first anon.

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    5. R.C.

      You wrote that no man has a natural right to practice a false religion. Yet this is just what Cardinal Burke supports, though in this, he is simply repeating he new concept promoted in Dignitatis Humanae. That's why Pope Francis will not be too troubled by any of this. Inconsistencies spell death to any campaign based on orthodoxy.

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    6. RC,
      YOu state the American-Lockean theory:

      "Now in a republic, the people select representatives and delegate authority to them."

      But does it conform to the Catholic idea of state, government or republicanism?
      There were Catholic republics--Venice, other medieval Italian city-states--did they hold to your theory of authority of a republic?

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    7. R.C., you wrote: "... God who gives men their natures, and these natures with the concomitant rights are exposed to natural reasoning without requiring recourse to special revelation".


      In fact, the final arbiter of natural rights is not individual reason but the Church. Even though many aspects of natural law are attainable by human reason, it is fallible and in the Christian City most definitely must have recourse to the Church as certain interpreter of natural law.
      The state, whether republican or not, should recognise the true religion and Church as revealed by God. There is no right based on human nature to profess or promote false religion any more than there is to consume or sell cocaine for recreational uses.


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    8. A lot to which I ought to reply!

      Re: Cardinal Burke: I suspect there's an equivocation either between "Natural Rights" (as real goods permitted or commanded by God) and "Natural Rights" (where the latter may refer to other things easily confused with the former; e.g., things erroneously believed to be Natural Rights through non-culpable error, which though erroneous do not justly merit a forcible response).

      Re: Persons posting as "Anonymous": How on earth can anyone discern that one person posting as "Anonymous" is Miguel, and another person posting as "Anonymous" is not? (Except, of course, when the second person is replying directly to Miguel, and we're all presuming that Miguel isn't having a conversation with himself?)

      Re: Historical Italian republics and how they viewed the idea of a republic: I don't know. (And I also don't know whether their view, seen from the perspective of history, looks plausibly true.) Can someone direct me to some historical primary sources (preferably in translation!) wherein the Venetians, etc., explain how they viewed their republicanism?

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    9. In reply to Miguel, re: "In fact, the final arbiter of natural rights is not individual reason but the Church." Well, sure, yes, inasmuch as the Church can (when teaching in such a way as to exercise the relevant charism) teach infallibly on such matters, and human reason is prone to error. We -- Catholics -- know that when there's daylight between the Church's understanding (defined as emanating over time without rupture from the Magisterium, not from some off-the-cuff recent papal blather) and that of human reason, the folks disputing against the Church were the ones who went askew. Fine.

      But, while that observation is quite vital for you and me as Catholics, it doesn't really address the issue because it doesn't incorporate any distinctions between times when you may point a gun to compel obedience from someone who suffers from honest error, and times when you have no just authority to compel him, but may only exhort him. This distinction always becomes primary when governments are involved, since force is intrinsic to what governments are.

      So, when you say, "[t]he state, whether republican or not, should recognise the true religion and Church as revealed by God," of course I agree that, ideally, it should. And of course it would, if every person in that society held that view.

      But what are we to do about it when they don't? If, hypothetically, some subset of the population embraces some form of pre-modernist Anglicanism, is it just in God's Moral Law to compel them either to declare publicly their belief in the Petrine Office, Magisterial Infallibility, and Transubstantiation, or else to suffer some legal penalty?

      If it is just, surely not just anyone can take it upon themselves to initiate that compulsion. Who can, and why that person, and not another? Authority comes from God; but at what point, and on what basis, did God reveal that He had delegated authority to that particular person to initiate the use of force, for that purpose, on His behalf?

      I could see it if you were arguing that Saul or David (or David's heirs right down to his final royal heir, Christ Jesus) were authorized by God to have heretics burned at the stake. You could say that when Samuel anointed them as shepherds over the people of God, God granted that authority to them and their heirs.

      But I don't see evidence in divine revelation that God ever delegation that authority to any post-Ascension human ruler. (And why should He, really? The Davidic king, Jesus, still rules. Why should God anoint another king with redundant authority? Why should God authorize Charlemagne, William of Normandy, Elizabeth I, Josef Stalin, or Kim Jong-un to burn heretics without a charism of infallibility when Christ Jesus already does it regularly, at the hour of their deaths, with perfect eternal justice?)

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    10. Argh. I meant to say "delegated," not "delegation," in that last paragraph, obviously.

      Homer nods.

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    11. I do not see how, if you base "Natural Law" fundamentally on the Church's Magisterium, you are still talking about Natural Law. Yes, the former is a higher source, no doubt. And yes, we humans are imperfect reasoners. But that doesn't change the fact that "Natural" here must refer to that which is accessible to those without Divine guidance. Otherwise the distinction collapses, doesn't it?

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    12. Dear George LeSauvage: I take your point. However, many things are in principle accessible to those without Divine guidance, as you write, but still need to be pointed out, highlighted, and explained.

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    13. George LeSauvage:

      I think the principles to use in uniting Natural Law and the Church's Magisterium are as follows:
      - There is one truth about the Moral Law, not two truths;
      - The Church does not err when she teaches infallibly those moral truths which are inaccessible to Natural Reason but are revealed in Apostolic Tradition (but these, being revealed, are not relevant to Natural Law);
      - The Church does not err when she teaches infallibly those moral truths which are accessible to Natural Reason;
      - Moral truths which are accessible to Natural Reasoning without recourse to revelation do exist and indeed cover most of the daily moral duties of men;
      - To say that the truths of the Natural Law are accessible to right reasoning sans revelation, and even accessible sans error-checking against the teaching of the Catholic Magisterium, doesn't deny that errors occur. In practice you'll only be error-free if you error-check regularly against the Magisterium (kinda like an answer key). But in a sane culture where solid metaphysics is taught, careful thinkers will get them right 90% of the time. And in an insane culture where bad metaphysics is taught, even the best thinkers will be wrong half the time (or worse, on tougher questions).

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    14. LeSauvage, the distinction doesn't collapse. St. Thomas points out that the certitude of the faith is greater than that based on philosophy. He also pointed out that where reasoning and the faith do not coincide, there is a fault in the reasoning, a reexamination of which is necessary.

      Natural law does not exclude divine guidance per se. Societies in history which lacked divine guidance never succeeded in following natural law free of error. It doesn't mean human reason cannot attain any of it, just that history shows that it was difficult and patchy.

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    15. Replying to R.C. A confession of Faith by the government doesn't mean individuals in society are forced to profess or believe anything; the government in this case acts corporately on behalf of society.

      When Theodosius the Great first made the Roman Empire confessional, it contained a population that may still not have had a Catholic majority (in any case the pagan and heretical minority was very large). Church was favoured and other religions limited, but this public confession did not in itself force people to convert.

      To what degree the Church can be favoured these days depends, but the confessional state does not require unanimity or even a majority (depending on circumstances of course). Of course not just anyone can act corporately on behalf of society; only its established government.

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    16. @R.C.

      Miguel Cervantes is a known troll with some beef against Dr Feser, a liking for equivocation fallacies, and a very bad grasp of logic.

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    17. Hang on. Aren't you the troll? This is getting complicated.

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    18. Miguel,

      Re: "A confession of Faith by the government doesn't mean individuals in society are forced to profess or believe anything...,": Fair enough, but in what way, then, is the government's "confession of faith" an active influence on its governance (which is to say, on its exercise of the use of force)?

      If its "Catholicism" has no influence on the government's exercise of force, then its "Catholicism" would appear to be a sham, since to be a "government" just is, definitionally, to be the group of persons in a society selected for wielding force.

      I suspect you really mean that the government's use of force will be impacted (because all legislation is inherently an expression of moral values, and Catholicism teaches moral truths. I suspect you're really just assuring me that the use of force will be moderate and indirect rather than obnoxiously high-handed.

      Now, that sounds fine to me. But here's the catch: Will the moral content of Catholicism which impacts the legislation be drawn from revealed truths not accessible to natural reason (e.g. Trinitarian theology or the Real Presence)? Or will the moral content which impacts the legislation be drawn from the moral truths taught by Catholicism which are accessible to natural reason (that is, from Natural Law)?

      I think it's the latter. If you're not going to command profession of Catholicism, if you're merely intending to outlaw abortion while allowing Jews to build synagogues and arresting any skinheads who try to harass them, then it looks to me like truths unique to revelation aren't really in play. The moral content of the law, which guides the state's exercise-of-force, will all come from the Natural Law side of the ledger.

      But in that case, the state need not confess Catholicism specifically. It will do as well, or nearly as well, to insist on Natural Law Ethics as foundational to all its laws (while relying on a high percentage of faithful Catholics in its population to persistently remind the non-Catholics what Natural Law Ethics is).

      Re: "Not just anyone can act corporately on behalf of society; only its established government.": It's "established" government, you say? What makes it validly (or invalidly) "established?" Can you articulate how a government is properly (or improperly) established, and with what powers, and how and when were those particular powers delegated from God to those particular persons?

      I ask because a Subsidiarist, Constitutional, Democratic Natural Law Republic has a very plain and straightforward set of answers to those questions. By contrast, I don't see that a conventional monarchy can answer those questions nearly half so well (at least by Catholic Natural Law standards).

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    19. In reply to "Anonymous" posting June 27, 2019 at 3:12 PM:

      You say, "Miguel Cervantes is a known troll...."

      Okay, that may be, and I try to avoid feeding trolls. But I'm frankly unable to keep track of which names are the names of trolls and which are decent interlocutors. It's especially difficult when half of one's interlocutors are labeled "Anonymous."

      * cough *

      So, lacking a ready-made blacklist, my inclination is to respond charitably when addressed charitably. If the manner-of-address changes, so too will my style of reply (or lack thereof).

      Also -- I must tell the truth and shame the devil, here -- Miguel's earlier posts gave me an opportunity to try expressing some ideas I'd been thinking about. I'm hoping that if I'm wrong, someone will show me why; and if I'm right, someone will back me up or even be persuaded. Or at least not bored!

      Cordially,
      R.C.

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    20. R.C.
      issues of how a government is properly or improperly established and how its powers are delegated from God are a matter of opinion. I like St. Thomas Aquinas, Suarez, Bellarmine and Botero on the subject.

      In Quas Primas, Pius XI says "... the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men". Then he illustrates how this empire was rejected:"the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them".

      Pius XI asks for Christ and his Church to be given recognition by society and governments. He doesn't envisage the observation of natural law as fulfilling this requirement. Indeed he specifically rejects a "natural religion" set up in place of "God's religion". The answer to your question is therefore that it revealed religion that government is required to confess.



      What Pius XI calls "God's religion" is one. Some of its truths can be attained by the use of reason and others can't. That's interesting but what the Church asks society to confess is one.


      I thought your definition of government as the employment of violence pretty strange. Certainly it reserves to itself the use of violence (though even the state monopoly of legitimate violence is quite recent in fact), but is the reduction of its nature to this a classical definition?

      It's true that prudential decisions based on reason make up most of what government does. However, a confessional government, without needing to consult the Catechism every five seconds, will have provided itself with its big picture as well as its mission statement. This is the sort of thing which is now provided for societies by false ideologies, philosophies and other constructs of the mind without God. If we try to reconcile the Faith with these things in order to appear "realistic", it will be crowded out and obscured.


      Obviously the Church and its members should want such an outcome for it to work. A profession of the Faith by government and society is not a sham, even if they don't live up to it. The banner of Christianity should be tightly held by sinners as well as the almost perfect - it helps both them and society change for the better. It's also not optional.

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    21. Hang on. Aren't you the troll? This is getting complicated.

      Come on, Cervantes, now you're just being childish.


      R.C., anon is right. Miguel Cervantes has been banned by Prof. Feser for engaging in that type of behavior for far too long. Eventually, you'll notice for yourself he's indeed just equivocating on the meanings of words, reading his opponents uncharitably, decontextualizing and misquoting them, and even downright lying. And all of this intermingled with traditional jargon and some other Church teachings, in order to give it the appearance of orthodoxy. Which is the worst kind of deception, since it can become hard to spot.

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    22. Hard to spot? More like hard for some to bring themselves to give a straight answer. You'll find probably that most people react reasonably when they are dealt with reasonably. Others might try to avoid unwanted discussions by engaging in girl-slapping and accusations like troll, liar or whatever.

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    23. Well, there's a reason why you were banned. And it sure wasn't for trying to engage in a bona fide dialogue.

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    24. One critical distinction I'd like to make, in response to this comment from Miguel: "I thought your definition of government as the employment of violence pretty strange. Certainly it reserves to itself the use of violence (though even the state monopoly of legitimate violence is quite recent in fact), but is the reduction of its nature to this a classical definition?"

      I think I probably went too far -- that in the interests of brevity I oversimplified to the point of error -- in saying that being a government "just is, definitionally" to be the group of persons in a society selected for wielding force.

      I think I erred in using the word "just" which, in context, sounds like I meant merely: As if there were nothing else to be said on the topic, at all. Mea culpa.

      There are in fact several things to be said about the relationship of the use-of-force (or threat thereof) to government.

      To be a (human, secular) government, one must be a subset of the persons in a society who, acting in concert, wield force (or the threat thereof). So the use-of-force is intrinsic to government; one can't be a human secular government without exercising forcible powers.

      (I use the terms "human, secular" in order to prescind from discussing the governance of Jesus Christ through His Church. To include His government into a discussion of secular government would complicate things tremendously and risk easily-misunderstood generalizations.)

      Every time a (human, secular) government acts, it does so backed by the use of force or the threat thereof. Sometimes this threat is very indirect and thus the forcible nature of the government activity is greatly attenuated. Nevertheless it remains a critical distinction between the activity of the government and the activity of any other person or organization in society.

      So one way to distinguish a government acting in society from any other organization acting in society is to ask whether the activity is backed by force. That alone doesn't make it government (or else a criminal gang would be government), let alone a legitimately authorized government (or else a conquering tyrant would be "legitimately authorized"). And even a legitimately authorized government isn't necessarily a good government. But if it doesn't have the forcible character, it isn't even government.

      Indeed, there must be a minimally-sufficient power to exercise force, to qualify: Plausible control of a territory and ability to plausibly keep it. You can pass laws and issue passports all you like, but if people in "your" territory can ignore those laws entirely and invaders can enter and leave with impunity, it isn't "your" territory and you're not the government.

      Given the above clarification, there shouldn't be anything "strange" about my highlighting the intrinsically forcible nature of human secular government.

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    25. Thanks R.C. for you comment.

      I take your point and would like to make a couple in reply. Christ governs through civil society as well as through the Church. They are different societies, but Church does teach that He is head of both.


      It's true that the modern state has tried with more and more success to acquire a total monopoly of the use of force. This is problematic, and not just because in the past there were all kinds of organisations and authorities apart from the state which legitimately exercised force (from military orders to nobility and the Roman pater familias, with the right of life and death over those under their jurisdiction).


      The head of a family should have the right to a proportionate use of force if necessary, particularly in the raising of children. The modern state's obsession with monopolising force has led it to challenge this, which cannot be accepted.
      So certainly, force is necessary to political society but the idea that this is an aspect of the state exclusively is a modern one based on ideology. It seems to be breaking down in recent decades, but PC legislators are working overtime to counter this.

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  8. Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.

    There are probably certain clear extrinsic circumstances under which it is always wrong, though. I can’t help thinking, for instance, that it is always wrong to apply it to such a minor offence that the penalty is grossly disproportional. To wit:

    a) jaywalking
    b) parking violations
    c) failing to put a wet floor sign on top of wet floor
    d) copyright violations
    e) eloping
    f) public drinking

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    1. Certainly!

      The death penalty is a use-of-force;
      Disproportionate uses-of-force are immoral;
      Ergo, disproportionate uses of the death penalty are immoral.

      In general, uses-of-force are only morally authorized to oppose certain kinds of evil, distinguished by their nature, their gravity, and their directness.

      Nature: The more forcible (prone to disable a man's rational capacity to freely pursue his telos) that an evil is, the more we gain warrant to oppose it forcibly.

      Gravity: The more grave the evil is, the more we gain warrant to oppose it forcibly.

      Directness: The more direct (both in causation and intent) the evil is, the more we gain warrant to oppose it forcibly.

      With the increase in warrant comes a corresponding increase in the degree of force we can use.

      Premeditated murder is directly intended-and-caused, a grave evil, and is forcible. It is reasonable that men be executed for premeditated murder.

      Jaywalking is a violation of a positive law of an arbitrary regulatory nature, which was enacted to reduce the risk of collisions between cars and pedestrians. But jaywalking (successfully) doesn't immediately or directly cause any harm to anyone, let alone grave harm, nor is any harm intended, nor does it involve a use-of-force. Anything more than a fine is disproportionate.

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  9. When discussing this with other Catholics, I have realized that many of them uncritically reason as such:

    1) No Pope can contradict previous Church teaching.
    2) Pope says x.
    3) ergo x does not contradict previous Church teaching.

    If a Pope declared that abortion was not only not intrinsically evil, but a mandatory obligation these Catholics would uncritically call this development of doctrine because "no Pope can contradict previous Church teaching".

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    1. The real problem comes when this is extended beyond very formal statements to hints, winks and nods, or even charades.

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  10. Ed, you might have a little more luck if you asked some Catholic bishops to say the sentence.

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  11. "Cardinal Dolan’s statements are ambiguous."

    Ambiguity--the ecclesial currency of the day.

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  12. Professor Feser, they won't say it because they've got too much to lose. A lot of clery obviously love their privileged positions in modern society and don't want to jeopardize that by speaking real Truth to power. They'll say something about not wanting to alienate souls or whatever, but they just don't want to give up the galas and palaces. Cardinal Dolan is exhibit A. The Met Gala? The Al Smith Dinner? Here's a man with so much to lose in this life he can't get through the eye of the needle.

    That being said, I've been a little unfair, Cardinal Dolan has said the sentence; from Wikipedia: "Where President Bush would have taken positions on those two hot-button issues that I'd be uncomfortable with, namely the war and capital punishment, I would have to give him the benefit of the doubt to say that those two issues are open to some discussion and are not intrinsically evil... in the Catholic mindset, that would not apply to abortion."

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    1. Mind you, that was back in the year 2001, I guess BC, before Our Lord ushered in the New this and that we're experiencing now.

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  13. "So why won’t they do it?" Seriously, though, why won't they? What's the answer, or the best guess at one, for this question? It sometimes feels difficult to not get frustrated by this whole situation. I mean, these are prelates being discussed here. How can anyone enter into such an occupation without the firm desire to preserve and preach the full orthodox doctrine of the Church to the best of his ability, and with the greatest care and caution? Are the prelates in question giving their best attempt, or are they holding back knowingly? And if so, why? Why even take up such a noble office without the intention to perform its duties to the fullest?

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    1. They are holding back because "perfect fear casteth out love."

      The accused-and-guilty child molesters are afraid that if they repent and show signs of conversion-of-heart, they'll have outlived their usefulness. The dirt on them withheld by their superiors as an "insurance policy" will be turned over to the authorities, and they'll spend the rest of their days in an endless succession of investigations, headlines, trials, and prisons.

      The accused-but-innocent child molesters are afraid that if they speak up against modernism, they'll have outlived their welcome. The false accusations previously covered-up for their benefit will be leaked to the press, to ensure that they're hounded into a disgraced retirement, or else subjected to an unjust mob-trial and convicted without evidence, like certain Australian cardinals I could mention.

      The ones who gleefully engage in spiritual incest with their brother clergy and prey on seminarians are afraid that the good times will abruptly cease to roll, that they'll lose their pensions and their Miami beach houses and their stashes of cocaine and gay porn.

      The ones who know where the secret stashes of money are hidden and laundered are afraid that if they start looking like a liability, they'll simply be shot or poisoned.

      The careerists are afraid that, if they anger the Peronista Pope Francis or the perverted mafiosi that surround him, they'll be shuffled off to a posting above the Arctic Circle.

      And the faithful shepherds are afraid that they'll be yanked out of their parishes and dioceses and replaced with a member of one of the above other groups, who will prematurely halt the orthodox reforms they were attempting, promote the bad priests they were suppressing , and that the souls they were trying to save in their parishes and dioceses will be lost.

      That, Archstanton, is why so few will speak with bold orthodoxy. Who's left? It's pretty much Vigano, Athanasius Schneider, the Good Tobin (not to be mistaken for Nighty-Night Tobin), Burke, and a few others.

      And Burke was already "Burked" by Pope Francis for getting undiplomatically uppity. (This is the hierarchical equivalent of a jurist being "Borked.")

      (I find Schneider especially amusing: Once again, it's "Athanasius contra mundum," as Our Lord looks sidelong at us with a wry smile saying, "Behold, I make all things new.")

      At any rate, they're mostly men who got into their current positions mostly by not rocking boats and by being soft-spoken and diplomatic. They're not constitutionally prone to risk taking.

      And now, in one way or another, they're all afraid.

      The truth about these matters seems to fall somewhere between what's discussed by Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon in their #TnT podcasts and YouTube videos, and the reporting done by Michael Voris and the Church Militant news crew. Five years ago -- heck, two years ago -- I'd have called most of what they're saying wild-eyed fantasy. But now that most of it has been independently confirmed, I guess I've been red-pilled.

      So: Are there not prelates who still love the Lord Jesus and His Church? Sure there are. But near-perfect fear is doing a near-perfect job of casting out love.

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  14. I think today’s prelates are governed by sentiment and perhaps they are not entirely culpable in the matter. All the more reason we need this continuous injection of reason.

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  15. capital punishment is not always intrinsically wrong (I omitted the "and" because it doesn't sound grammatical).

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    1. But that is a different sentence, because ‘always’ then modifies ‘intrinsically’ instead of both modifying ‘capital punishment’. It leaves you open to saying things like, ‘Most of the time CP is intrinsically wrong’ or ‘CP is always wrong but not intrinsically so’. The trouble with both those sentences is that they are strictly meaningless, because they play invalid games with the meaning of ‘intrinsically’. (That, to the average Modernist, is not a bug but a feature. If you want to deny the Catholic faith without appearing to do so, it helps to keep your statements seemingly profound but actually meaningless. Claptrap is your friend, logic your resolute foe.)

      However, I would still make so bold as to criticize The Sentence, and on similar grounds. Strictu sensu, what Dr. Feser is saying is that CP is not wrong both always and intrinsically; a sophist might twist that so as to reduce it to one of the nonsense statements above. ‘Not (A and B)’ is compatible with ‘A or B’. What we need here is a statement of the form ‘(Not A) and (Not B)’: ‘Capital punishment is neither always wrong nor intrinsically wrong.’

      Hair-splitting, I know, but if we leave a loophole too small to pass a hair through, the Devil will split that hair just to sneak it through in two goes.

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    2. Capital punishment is neither always wrong nor intrinsically wrong.

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  16. Well, I'm perfectly willing to be honest and say that the legitimacy (in principle) of the death penalty was the traditional teaching of the Church.

    The question is, who else will be honest and admit that Pope Francis has flat-out contradicted that teaching, not as a private person, but as Pope (Ordinary Magisterium)?

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  17. Okay, I'll say the sentence.

    "Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I'm only falling apart."

    PS: If "Here Comes the Bride" is the intro song for weddings, then "Total Eclipse of the Heart" is the intro song for divorce court.

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    1. "My guitar wants to kill your mama"--a problematic dating situation?

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  18. Paul Connors said:

    "Suppose an unrepentant Hitler had been captured and imprisoned at the end of WWII, and still had numerous supporters who wanted to free him, who might even attack the prison, and thus boost a continuation of the Reich's horrible practices. I think he might be given the death penalty, because he would still be a real danger to society, despite being imprisoned."

    This is rather more disturbing than accepting the death penalty qua punishment, and perhaps Paul Connors did not realize this was a very bad example. Whether one permits the death penalty for punitive or safety reasons, the reality is that any just action against a person is, by definition, owed to them. It is that person's "ius." The Hitler example given by Paul Connors would confer a ius upon a man on account of others' actions, rather than of his own. Why can't those who resist the death penalty qua punishment not consider it as a sort of penance? The temporal guilt will be remitted here or in the hereafter. The tendency for many to insist that a punitive motive must always be a motive from bitterness or unrighteous wrath is simply a projection of their minds, I'm afraid. It would undermine all punishment, ultimately, as well.

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    1. The Nuremburg trials and resultant executions were legit. No serious Catholic, no prelate, no Pope objected or attempted to intervene. Case closed.

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    2. There are three virtues to consider here: justice, charity, and prudence. Justice says (quite emphatically) that Hitler deserved to die, regardless of whether he repented or not and regardless of whether or not he was a threat to the public. After all, 90+ year-old fugitive Nazis are still sought out, even though they are obviously no longer a threat to anyone. So execution would definitely be on the table for Hitler. Now charity means we need to forgive him (this requires divine help!), but it does not necessarily remove all consequences; prudence also comes into play. If it is clearly just to execute him and clearly imprudent not to, ... there is not really any question what should be done.

      Now it might seem that it is a terrible thing to have the leniency of his punishment held hostage to prudential concerns, but that is EXACTLY what the Pope means to do when he holds out the possibility that if we just delay punishment long, the guilty will repent. Not only does this make justice a hostage to a kind of prudence, it actually rewards impenitence ... which is not particularly prudent.

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    3. tom in Ohio: "The Nuremburg trials and resultant executions were legit. No serious Catholic, no prelate, no Pope objected or attempted to intervene. Case closed."

      Actually, after the war the German Bishops (with support from Rome) campaigned to have the Nuremberg death sentences commuted to incarceration.

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    4. Moviegoers: "The Hitler example given by Paul Connors would confer a ius upon a man on account of others' actions, rather than of his own."

      I was assuming that a fair trial of Hitler would find him guilty of murder, and by indicating that Hitler was unrepentant, I meant that Hitler was entirely open to the idea of being rescued and resuming the practices of the Reich. So the death penalty would be applied because of Hitler's own actions and beliefs and threat.

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  19. For the life of me, I have never understood why people opposed to the death penalty have not concentrated on mercy and forgiveness instead. Those, however, are absent from both the newly revised passage in the Catechism and the earlier passage that it replaced. The sentence for that would be something like, "As persons who hope to receive mercy and forgiveness themselves from God, rulers are obligated to show as much mercy to the guilty as is compatible with the necessity to prudently safeguard the public." I say "rulers" because I do not think that mercy can be provided by a machine, and legislation is a kind of machine; mercy has to flow from one person to another. Note that my sentence also has the advantage of not being limited to the death penalty. Again, it seems strange to insist that execution is incompatible with "human dignity" (which seems poorly understood, but that is another topic), but incarceration, or for that matter ANY form of punishment, is not.

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    1. You're the first other person I know of besides myself who has wondered this, and I agree with you.

      Arguments against the death penalty from mercy also have the advantage of patristic support and do a much better job of reconciling all the aspects of church teaching throughout the ages.

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    2. My guess is they do not trust people (themselves included?) to be merciful. That is indeed a risk. To eliminate that risk by eliminating all possibility of both justice and mercy is, however, a cowardly and dehumanizing response.

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    3. The sentence for that would be something like, "As persons who hope to receive mercy and forgiveness themselves from God, rulers are obligated to show as much mercy to the guilty as is compatible with the necessity to prudently safeguard the public."

      Because "safeguard the public" is not the extent of the duty of the rulers, their duties extend to all the other aspects of the common good, including preserving goods that exist and need to be preserved and pursuing goods that do not exist and need to be brought into existence. Safety is NOT the be-all and end-all of the common good.

      After a crime, one of the goods that does not exist in full is justice, and restoring justice is part of the duty of the ruler. This entails imposing on the offender something contrary to his will, proportionate to the offense - this is precisely what restores the state to a condition of justice.

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    4. And in addition to that good, there are many aspects of inter-related goods that work together with safety and justice, which require that the ruler be seen to impose proportionate punishments to work, such as (just for instance) teaching the body public on the relative weights of various goods by properly weighted punishments.

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    5. So Howard, to answer your question: I have myself called for someone to work out and publish an intensive analysis into how justice and mercy work together, and how these play out in ALL THE OTHER goods served by punishment, for determining how to balance all those goods together. To date, I have not seen even so much as an attempt (good or poor) to do so. All I have ever seen (on the one side) is, effectively "we are called to be merciful, so no DP" as if that settled anything. Well, it would be just as logical to say "we are called to be merciful, so no punishment at all, of any sort, in any situation". That is, just as ILLOGICAL, just as ruinous to the common good.

      My suspicion is that when the necessary balancing is done, even in a totally sound and healthy Christian society, there will remain a class of crimes at the far end of the scale for which the law should say "for crimes in this category, the DP is the normative punishment, and a lesser punishment is allowed only on special condition." That is, taking mercy into account fully and properly, the DP would still be necessary for some crimes.

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    6. 1. Safety is not the only good to be pursued by public officials, but if you're looking for support for capital punishment for property crimes, you'll have to try elsewhere. There's not much that is proportional to a man's life except another man's life. Likewise, the only prudential concern that should negate the possibility of mercy that spares a man's life is a serious and concrete threat to the lives of others.
      2. Mercy is not the same thing as sloth. If the police are too lazy or too corrupt to arrest criminals, or if the courts are too corrupt to hand down sentences proportional to the crimes, that is a completely different matter than acknowledging the crime and its just punishment but showing mercy. God did not react to human sin by saying, "OK, whatever. It's all good."
      3. Mercy might be reliable, but it cannot be automatic. Consider the sacrament of Confession. Aside from a few crimes reserved to the Holy See, regardless of your sin, you can be pretty confident of absolution if you make a good confession. But the absolution must come in person from a priest; it cannot be given through an app. Furthermore, I don't think the Holy Spirit would even allow a Pope to declare ALL sins venial, which would certainly "solve" a number of problems -- and hey, what is more contrary to human dignity than Hell itself? Putting the emphasis on mercy is not wordplay; it has a different meaning.

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    7. but if you're looking for support for capital punishment for property crimes, you'll have to try elsewhere.

      I have no disagreement there.

      Mercy might be reliable, but it cannot be automatic.

      I agree completely. For this reason, I argue that it seems impossible to get rid of DP, to wipe it off the legal books altogether, on the basis of "we should use mercy". You can prescribe punishment by class (sort of a wholesale estimation) because it is supposed to be proportionate, but mercy needs to be tailored to the individual circumstances, and it seems contrary to that to simply make a general rule that "we will always apply mercy to reduce a deserved punishment of death to something lesser" as if we knew in advance that this comprised the right solution. We DON'T know in advance, that's one of the things that makes mercy a person-to-person act.

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    8. OK, I don't think there is any substantive disagreement between us. I would NOT take the death penalty off the books: I think it is important for the sentence to be proclaimed, even if it is subsequently commuted. And there would be rare times when actual executions would occur. I started to say that hopefully the process would be more clearly thought out, but then I remembered what universe I live in.

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  20. A discussion of the practical matters is long overdue.

    Take the real case of the Spanish Civil War, for example. When Franco defeated the Republicans - remember, the ones who burned down churches and crucified priests and nuns? - he interred the remaining republicans in camps. He then executed the leadership.

    Whether Franco went overboard in the executions is an open questions. But are we infer that he should not have executed any of them? If he hadn't taken out the leadership is it not likely they would have restarted the war at some point? And is this not a fairly typical phenomenon, especially in civil wars or guerrilla wars?

    Of course, there are practical matters for the other side to contend with too. Such as the fact that you will always execute a certain number of innocent people. That is actually quite disturbing. But I've gotten flak for raising that here before.

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    1. Here are two other practical considerations.
      1. The public demands justice. If a government were to say that, being wiser and holier than any person who has lived in previous centuries, they now know that all punishments for crimes are contrary to human dignity, and therefore "inadmissible", the public would still demand some kind of justice, and so would either overthrow the do-nothing government or form vigilante groups and lynch mobs. None of these "solutions" are desirable, by the way.
      2. Also, it is VERY IMPORTANT to remember that "the death penalty" only refers to killing that takes place after some sort of trial. Governments kill people all the time with NO trial, even if they officially have no "death penalty". In fact, there are already far more deaths by police shootings than deaths by legal execution in the USA. Would eliminating "the death penalty" result in the government killing fewer people, or would it merely mean they get no chance to defend themselves in court?

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  21. Something in the NT about not fearing those who kill the body but not the soul. rather fear those who can kill body & soul.

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    1. You're on the computer already. WHY do you refuse to use Google to find the passage you would like to quote? It's not hard. You would find Matthew 10:28: "And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." Note there is only one who "can destroy both soul and body in hell", not "those". And heck, you could actually look up some commentaries to explain what it is about -- for instance, the Catena Aurea.

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    2. And WHY are you posting anonymously? It's hard to keep track when several participants do that. It's easy enough to plug in any old name for ease of reference.

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    3. Bill, I posted anonymously because my Google account has a strong password that I can only access through PasswordSafe, and I was on a computer that did not have access to that.

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    4. @Howard

      Understood, but Blogger allows you to plug your name when away from your computer. Anyway...hello, Howard.

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    5. @Bill -- If we're talking Blogger etiquette, please confine your comments to the substance of the debate, or at least to comments in response to you.

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  22. Cardinal Dolan thinks abortion is intrinsically evil? I wish he would make that a little more apparent to the Governor of his diocese.

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    1. Excommunicate Governor Cueball of NY.

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    2. In all seriousness though, and with all do respect to the Cardinal, it seems that he is the one guilty of hypocrisy. Even if, per impossible, capital punishment WAS intrinsically evil, you would think his rhetoric against abortion would at least be proportional to his rhetoric against capital punishment. I just wonder if by some miracle New York got a conservative governor who led efforts to enforce a harsh (but just) capital punishment policy. Let’s say capital punishment was permitted for first time pre-meditated murder charges, aiding and abetting pre-meditated murder, and for serial forcible rape charges. I imagine the Cardinal would express strongly condemnatory remarks towards those actions with an emphasis on the need for mercy, etc. However, when a law is passed that allows for a far greater amount of people, and innocent people at that, to be killed, we do not hear the same kind of harsh condemnations. I pray that our bishops take the sin of abortion more seriously.

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  23. I think Aquinas would have to be the authority on this issue.

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  24. "They" (opponents of capital punishment) forgot to eliminate this section of the catechism.

    Catechism #2260
    "The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God’s gift of human life and man’s murderous violence: For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning:
    Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. Gen 9:5-6. The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. Cf. Lev. 17:14. This teaching remains necessary for all time."
    ------
    And then how do "they" get around this direct quote from Jesus Christ in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

    Matthew 18:6 - “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

    Would this not refer to abusive clergy and the bishops who protected them?

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    1. I have never seen an analysis of the Hebrew in Genesis 9:6.

      Does “shall” in that context carry the weight of a command, or is it a prediction (which would be better translated as “will”)? If it is a prediction, it would be more akin to Christ telling Peter “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” in Matthew 26:52.

      I know Dr. Feser makes the case that the Church Father’s support the command interpretation (although I have yet to read Dr. Feser’s book).

      However, I would like to see a modern Hebraic exegetical interpretation.

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    2. In Jewish law it is a command. But the hebrew for future and command is usually the same. However the is a direct form of command like סע [travel!] but that is not what is going on in genesis.

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    3. @Scott

      There's not much analyze here. The sentence is an imperative command making the punishment obligatory.

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    4. @Bill

      Matthew 18:9 is an imperative command. Have you plucked out your eye? Have you cut off your hand?

      It is a dangerous thing to take any single sentence from the Bible and treat it in isolation from the rest of Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the whole corpus of Magisterium.

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    5. Howard,

      I agree. However, arguments like this are typically a cumulative case. It helps to do the analysis with regards to the original Hebrew and how the first readers of Genesis would have interpreted the text. Even if Dr. Feser is right on all of his other points (which I believe he is), an analysis of the original Hebrew (even in isolation) would still be helpful.

      Avraham’s comment was helpful. However, it would be more helpful if he would provide a source or qualification for his analysis.

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    6. @Howard

      I wasn't constructing an argument; I was answering a question on whether the sentence is predictive or imperative.

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    7. In any case he authoritative text is the Vulgate.

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  25. OTOH that fact none of them want to clearly say the Anti-Sentence "Capital Punishment is intrinsically evil" merely tells me the Holy Spirit is doing His job.

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    1. It merely tells me that they avoid making clear statements with unambiguous terms. Ambiguity is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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    3. Philip -- I agree. It should be a penalty if a member of the offensive unit is in motion towards the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Read Song of Solomon.


      To translate: DON'T SAY "I AGREE" AND THEN PUT DOWN RANDOM THOUGHTS UNRELATED TO THE CONVERSATION SO FAR.

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    5. Philip -- OK, so you don't understand football, either. Regardless, your statement about "a church order" (which, given the total absence of any citation, might have been a homily by a parish priest, if that) was not an "agreement" with what I had said about ambiguity. It was a totally unrelated argument. Don't try to hijack my support by pretending that you are expanding on what I said.

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    7. The date and the name of the Pope are, together, enough to start hunting down the document. That wasn't the one I was complaining about, though. "A church order in around 200 AD" could be just about anything, of any weight, issued anywhere, by anybody.

      Without your explanation it would never have been clear what you meant to draw attention to from the Epistle of St. Jude.

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    8. Philip,

      What was the order? Who issued it, and what authority did it have?

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    9. Philip,

      The Canons of Hippolytus were written around A.D. 340, not A.D. 200. I also do not see any mention of capital punishment on Wikipedia. Do you have a direct quote and location of the quote? That would be very helpful. Thank you!

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    10. From https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/canons-hippolytus : "They are wrongly attributed to Hippolytus,* whose Apostolic Tradition was one of the sources for them. Until this century the canons were regarded as a genuine production of Hippolytus and thus thought very valuable as a source for the early history of the church. ... Scholars now regard them as having only minor importance."

      Even so, I have not been able to find a hit for "Canons of Hippolytus slay" or "Canons of Hippolytus kill" that has anything to do with the death penalty.

      The closest I've found is https://ancientchurchorders.wordpress.com/category/canons-of-hippolytus/ :
      "He notes canon 18, with the restatement of levitical purity both for women and for their midwives after childbirth, as well as minor adjustments to regulations regarding candidates for baptism found in TA. [Note: TA is regarded as an earlier text of the "Canons", and CH as a later text.] Thus when it is stated in TA that a soldier who might kill should not be accepted, CH clarifies that a soldier might be bound with the 'sin of blood', and that purification (in the form of what would seem to be a penitential process) should be undergone. It moreover clarifies (canon 19) TA’s requirement for the postponement of the baptism of a menstruating woman by stating that she should wait until she is purified."

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    11. Pretty much all the authentic works of the Church Fathers are online now. The work you cited is not, because it is bogus. Feel free to find something authentic if you want to be taken seriously.

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    14. Okay I think calling people anti-Christ is not the best way to carry on a dispassionate debate.

      If Jesus Christ is Life, then to reject him is to reject Life. Don’t you think those who reject Life by way of killing others deserve a proportional and just punishment?

      I know people like to emphasize the mercy of Christ, but we must remember that grace elevates nature; it does obliterate nature. Similarly, mercy elevates justice insofar as mercy rises above the demands of justice for the good of the person being judged. But if mercy elevates justice, then it presupposes justice. If capital punishment is intrinsically evil, then the only way we can show mercy to murderers is by giving them short prison sentences. It is ironic that people use Mercy and Life to condemn capital punishment, but in reality, by doing so, they degrade both the value of life and the value of mercy.

      One great scene from a movie I would encourage you to watch is from the movie Les Miserables (1998). The scene I am referring to is where Liam Neeson’s character steals silverware from an Anglican priest who takes him in. He is caught by the authorities and brought back to the priest. The authorities say that Liam Neeson’s character claimed the priest gave him the silverware. Upon discovering this, the priest says, “Yes, but why didn’t you take the candlesticks as well? That was very foolish of you”. He then whispers to Liam Neeson that he is buying his soul to bring back from wickedness. The fact that the material was silver was not an accident. Without justice, however, there would be nothing particularly special or praiseworthy about the priest’s actions. He almost would have been required to do that. It is only in light of retributive justice and in affirming it that we can be moved by the power of God’s mercy.

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    15. it [grace] does NOT obliterate nature. I really wish blogger would let you edit comments.

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    16. Second correction, it is a Roman Catholic Bishop, not an Anglican priest haha. I think the English accent threw me off. Great acting nonetheless.

      One Youtube commenter (Derek Thomas) summarized my words perfectly,

      “Notice how the Gendarme represent justice, the bishop represents Christ, and Jean Val Jean represents all of us. Notice how the bishop does not hate justice (the gendarme) he offers them wine. Yet because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, he can show Jean mercy. Justice does not rob mercy, and mercy does not rob justice.”

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    17. The psychology of Javert is completely tangential to the point I am making. I would say that he is more obsessed with legalism than natural law. You clearly must not know much about natural law, because if you did, you would now how diametrically opposed to natural law suicide is. So Javert is actually a terrible example of natural law or Thomism. But if you just want to make smart ass quips in response to genuine attempts at dialogue, I guess that is your prerogative.

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    18. I don’t think I need to read the entire book to draw a single example about the interrelation of justice and mercy. Again, your conversation about Javert is completely tangential even if it is a legitimate analysis, which I doubt that it is. Again, natural law absolutely forbids suicide.

      Furthermore, are you saying we should live free from reason? We should be irrational? Again that is your prerogative. I personally worship the Logos (Jesus Christ) which is Truth incarnate. So I really don’t want to free myself from the best way to ascertain that Truth, that is reason. I am sure you are one of those people who think that faith and reason are diametrically opposed as well. Of course the Thomist would say that faith elevates reason just as mercy elevates justice.

      If you are outright rejecting reason and rational discourse along with it, I suppose there is no point continuing the conversation. I pray that you see the value in reason (and justice) in the future. Until then...

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  26. Response to the BASIC thesis of Paul O'Connor above, namely (2) that DP is morally licit only when necessary to keep the people safe from this perpetrator.

    Even aside from whether this thesis (2) is true (I believe it is not true), the problem is that This thesis IS NOT taught in the Tradition of the Church. It isn't there. Go look. It isn't in the Bible. Find me a Father of the Church, or a Doctor, who teaches it. I have looked, and can't find it. The closest you can come will be passages by Fathers indicating that lesser punishments are often to be preferred, and requests to authorities to be merciful and not use DP. Later Fathers, and virtual unanimity in the Doctors, indicate that the DP lawfully and uprightly serves MANY purposes besides safety, and that the DP should be used when it advances the common good more than a lesser punishment would (which, necessarily, assumes that is is, first, deserved due to the gravity of the crime). The WHOLE common good is the measure, not merely safety.

    In addition, the vast weight of doctrine by the Doctors and by the Popes supports the opposite thesis to (2): Because of the complex and heavily intertwined nature of the many goods served by proper punishments, including (especially) goods served by proportionality, proportionate punishments tend towards the common good of society in general. They point out MANY ways that DP can and does serve the common good. As a result, it is practically impossible to universally take off the board the licit and proportionate punishment for the class of grave crimes and to be sure that prudentially this can meet the needs of the common good.

    The people who argue (2) never seem to either (a) try to present the position of the Doctors and the vast body of theologians from Innocent IV through to Pius XII who say DP positively promotes the common good (used judiciously), nor do they (b) make substantive arguments that successfully show that the DP does not serve the common good in other ways than protecting people from this perpetrator.

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    1. Tony: "This thesis [statement (2)] IS NOT taught in the Tradition of the Church. It isn't there. Go look. It isn't in the Bible. Find me a Father of the Church, or a Doctor, who teaches it. I have looked, and can't find it."

      You are not going to find it explicitly in many places, because they didn't live in the historical circumstances that we do, but it is there implicitly in all the places you mention. There are numerous statements to the effect that the death penalty (by which I mean the execution of someone as punishment for a prior crime) necessarily must have the purpose of keeping society safe.

      So, if you are faced (as we are, in our historical circumstances) with the choice between choosing the death penalty, which is a great evil (since it means losing a person from society), or choosing indefinite incarceration, which is a lesser evil, then we must choose the lesser evil.

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    2. There are numerous statements to the effect that the death penalty (by which I mean the execution of someone as punishment for a prior crime) necessarily must have the purpose of keeping society safe.

      Show me. Get the examples. Let's see them.

      Because, what I have found is that when the Fathers and the Doctors talk about "keeping society safe", they include within that meaning (i) the deterrent effect, keeping other criminal-like persons from committing murder and other grave crimes out of fear, and (ii) teaching the citizenry what are just and normative moral boundaries, and even (iii) helping to produce in the citizens greater virtue so that they DON'T WANT to unjust and immoral things.

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    3. I think we can take deterrence off the table. Even in a state like Texas, a criminal has a comparable or greater chance of being killed by police in the process of arresting him or killed by other inmates while in prison than of being executed as the sentence handed down from a trial. If those other considerations do not deter the criminal, neither will capital punishment. Besides, I suspect most people who commit capital crimes are either acting under the influence of extreme emotions (or drugs) that prevent them from properly considering the consequences of their actions, or they think they are clever or lucky enough to avoid punishment, or both. Sober, risk-averse people are not committing many murders.

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    4. Lest you seize too quickly on the last sentence, the same applies to other capital crimes. Back when piracy and forgery were capital offenses, people only turned to them because they either thought they would get away with the crime, or because they calculated that they would live longer by committing the crime than by risking the king's wrath. Probably more soldiers would have deserted if they did not know the penalty for desertion was death -- but probably not very many more, because there would still be consequences, not least of which was to be publicly identified as a coward at a time when duels were fought for much, much less.

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    5. Just say the damn sentence already. Or at least, say some damn sentence, not a sentence fragment filled with pronouns that lack antecedents.

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    6. The actual effects of deterrence are long-debated, complex, and a definitive conclusion cannot be had yet. (In part, because it depends on the particulars of a specific society: it does little good (for deterrence) to say "if you murder, we will put you to death" if only 1 in 100 murderers are caught, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, because (a) many are not caught, (b) many get off on a technicality, (c) and most of the rest are given lesser sentences anyway.) My point was that this is what the Fathers and the Doctors say. THEY include deterrence in the permissible purposes of DP, THEY include training up citizens to respect law and to inculcate virtue as licit purposes of punishment, including DP.

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    7. If some Church Fathers thought the DP has a deterrent effect, but you acknowledge that "[t]he actual effects of deterrence are long-debated, complex, and a definitive conclusion cannot be had yet," and you also acknowledge that it "does little good" in the circumstances actually found in society today, why even bring it up?

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    8. Because we are discussing whether DP is in principle required to be restricted only to those cases where it protects people from further depredations by this specific perpetrator, or for other reasons.

      If it is an open question whether DP works as deterrence in THIS society as currently structured, judges or legislators might reasonably conclude that "it can work if we re-structure X" or conclude "our society is different enough that concluding it DOES work here is reasonable". DP cannot be taken off the table altogether on the basis of its not having a deterrent effect unless it can be proven its deterrent effect is not valid.

      The Fathers and Doctors taught that DP serves many good ends, not just that of protecting persons from this perpetrator, and it is the whole kit-and-caboodle of goods served that must be weighed to determine whether it is good or not good in this case. Limiting that analysis to only that of protection from this perpetrator's further acts of malice is certainly not adequate for what the Fathers and Doctors said.

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    9. Paul Connors: "There are numerous statements to the effect that the death penalty (by which I mean the execution of someone as punishment for a prior crime) necessarily must have the purpose of keeping society safe."

      Tony: "Show me."

      Here's a section (dealing with the Fifth Commandment) from the Roman Catechism of 1566. "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."

      Some points from this: Firstly, this section is explaining why it can be permitted for the civil authorities to kill someone when, on the face of it, killing is forbidden by the Fifth Commandment. It is pointed out that the purpose of the Fifth Commandment is "the preservation and security of human life". Then it is pointed out that lawful executions tend to the same end, since they give "security to life". So the two are reconciled, because they have the identical goal.

      But, if the civil authorities kill someone for some other purpose than: "the preservation and security of life", then they are not acting consistently with the Fifth Commandment, and are liable to the charge of being murderers.

      So, if they were to say "Kill him, because he deserves it", then they are acting as murderers. Or if they were to say "Kill him, because it is proportionate punishment", then they would be acting as murderers. Or if they were to say "Kill him, because it will give the families of victims a sense of closure", then they would be acting as murderers.

      Several good things may indeed occur, as side-effects, because of capital punishment, but it is necessary that the purpose and intention and goal of the execution be the preservation and security of life. Any other purpose makes it murder, because of the inconsistency with the end of the Fifth Commandment.

      Also, when you act with the goal of the preservation and security of life, you morally must pick the method that includes the least harmful side-effects. Since (in modern circumstances) incarceration has less harmful effects than the death of the guilty party, it is necessary to choose incarceration.

      Although it seems otherwise to you, Francis is teaching entirely consistently with (e.g.) the Roman Catechism of 1566.

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    10. Paul, I pointed out, (and many Fathers and Doctors have pointed out - which is why I did), that "the preservation and security of human life" is served by multiple pathways, not ONLY by "preserving us from the further depredations of this perpetrator". Punishment serves to make men safe and secure by deterring would-be criminals from carrying out their evil desires. It serves to make men safe and secure by instilling in still-forming youth a fear and detestation of violence to get their way. It serves to make men safe and secure by being one more brick in a complex structure supporting virtue, in which men want the good for all men, wherein they willingly serve the common good and submit to authority for that good.

      Further, various Doctors have explained how it is that the proportionality of punishment is part of how punishment serves these purposes, and that lack of proportionality will undermine serving these purposes.

      Therefore, it is NOT TRUE that the passage you cited in the Roman Catechism teaches that DP can only be used to protect people from further depredations of this individual perpetrator.

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    11. Also, when you act with the goal of the preservation and security of life, you morally must pick the method that includes the least harmful side-effects. Since (in modern circumstances) incarceration has less harmful effects than the death of the guilty party, it is necessary to choose incarceration.

      In addition to what I said above: God does not desire the death of the sinner, but his conversion. That is to say: God does not desire that evils per se be visited upon sinners, but that evils which have a purpose for the good - in this case, evils that will draw the sinner away from his sinfulness toward repentance, confession, and absolution. Nor is it PHYSICAL death that is the greatest of evils a person can suffer, but spiritual death followed by eternal hell. It is well known that being justly sentenced to death for a truly grave crime can turn a person away from the evil of his act toward God and forgiveness. It is also well known that our current incarceration system is not a very successful paradigm for changing minds and hearts away from evil: in the case of minor criminals, it seems rather to be a training ground for becoming still worse. It is, therefore, not a simple and closed question as to whether the DP or life in prison is, actually, what will be the best punishment for a person convicted of very grave crime. What the Fathers and Doctors said is that like God, we must follow the 5th Commandment by not intending death for the sake of evil as such, but the ruler may lawfully intend death in DP for the sake of good, and this includes protection of society from the criminal-minded, as well as moving most people to love the good and avoid evil, and turning the offender away from his sin toward repentance.

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    12. Roman Catechism of 1566: 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.

      Paul Connors: Several good things may indeed occur, as side-effects, because of capital punishment, but it is necessary that the purpose and intention and goal of the execution be the preservation and security of life. Any other purpose makes it murder, because of the inconsistency with the end of the Fifth Commandment.

      The Catechism characterizes its topic as punishment and as vengeance. Punishment and vengeance are harms inflicted specifically in return for wrongdoing; where the minister does not intend to make a return for wrongdoing, no punishment or vengeance is taking place.

      You take the claim that just punishment "naturally tends" to safety and preservation of life to suggest that safety and preservation of life needs to be the end of the minister of the punishment. But the use of "naturally tends" as opposed to some other formula suggests rather that it need not be anyone's conscious intention. It is rather that safety is one of the natural, non-accidental effects of justly punishing wrongdoers. That is why justly punishing wrongdoers is consistent with the end of the Fifth Commandment.

      If your (2) were at work in that passage, then that passage would need to be arguing that capital punishment is permissible because it is necessary for the preservation and safety of human life. But that is clearly not how it is arguing. It is clearly taking it for granted that punishments are proportionate returns for wrongdoing, and then it is pointing out that they serve the preservation and safety of human life. The thought that they are justified when they are justified by their necessity does not play any role.

      And Tony is totally correct that 'preservation and safety of human life' is not understood as narrowly as you need it to be.

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    13. Tony: "Punishment serves to make men safe and secure by deterring would-be criminals from carrying out their evil desires.

      That's not a useful argument at all. If some good G occurs after taking some action A, that goes nowhere to show that action A is good.

      Tony: "the ruler may lawfully intend death in DP for the sake of good"

      The Fifth Commandment rules out taking any life intentionally, for any reason, by anyone.

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    14. Greg: "But the use of "naturally tends" as opposed to some other formula suggests rather that it need not be anyone's conscious intention.

      Intention is an intrinsic part of moral theology, and can't be left out. And the wording "naturally tends" (translated nearly a hundred years ago), means something closer to "aimed in the same direction" -- i.e. consciously aimed, and not accidental.

      Greg: "If your (2) were at work in that passage, then that passage would need to be arguing that capital punishment is permissible because it is necessary for the preservation and safety of human life"

      I have already said that I don't expect to find the issue explicitly addressed in most prior teachings. I am pointing out that if the safety of human life can be achieved by less harmful means than killing, then less harmful means must be chosen -- else it breaks the Fifth Commandment.

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    15. The Fifth Commandment rules out taking any life intentionally, for any reason, by anyone.

      For goodness sake! You already SAID that the ruler may take the perpetrator's life if needed for the sake of keeping people safe from him:

      "Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death

      Do you imagine that when the ruler orders him executed, that the ruler doesn't intend taking his life? Do you imagine that the executioner, when he puts the noose around his neck and drops the hinged door in the floor, he doesn't intend taking his life? It isn't properly called "slaying" if the intention is other than taking his life.

      It turns out that the position you are trying to push is the extremely controversial position of the New Natural Law on DP, proposed by the New Natural Lawyers such as Germaine Grisez, Chris Tollefsen, and Robert George. Well, you should DECLARE when you are taking this extremely controversial position for the sake of clarity in the debate, because the NNLawyers themselves have admitted that this position cannot be found in the prior teaching of the Church, and one can only get to it by (what they hope is) a development of ideas. Their hope is vain, because the novel concept requires reversing prior teaching, such as the very one you cite in the Roman Catechism and in a thousand other citations throughout 2000 years. St. Thomas, for example, explicitly said the ruler lawfully intends the death of the criminal when he executes him, IIRC.

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    16. Intention is an intrinsic part of moral theology, and can't be left out. And the wording "naturally tends" (translated nearly a hundred years ago), means something closer to "aimed in the same direction" -- i.e. consciously aimed, and not accidental.

      "Intention is important, so it must be what's relevant here" is a bad line of thought.

      You are simply wrong about what the words mean. Among the scholastics, natural tendencies are commonly ascribed to non-psychological phenomena, and the Catechism's usage is going to be closer to ours than to theirs.

      That the activity in question is a human one does not undermine the point. Consider St. Thomas's understanding of recreation:

      Now such like words or deeds wherein nothing further is sought than the soul's delight, are called playful or humorous. Hence it is necessary at times to make use of them, in order to give rest, as it were, to the soul. (II-II q. 168 a. 2)

      It is all right to engage in playful activities; in fact one ought to do so, because humans need to rest if they are to get back to more important things. So recreation has that point or end, based in need, in human life.

      But Aquinas also characterizes playful activities precisely as those "wherein nothing further is sought than the soul's delight." That end which is the justification of recreation in general is not what the person engaging in recreation consciously intends in the particular case. Joking around is indeed just for fun. You can joke around without subordinating it to contemplation.

      I have already said that I don't expect to find the issue explicitly addressed in most prior teachings. I am pointing out that if the safety of human life can be achieved by less harmful means than killing, then less harmful means must be chosen -- else it breaks the Fifth Commandment.

      If you admit that we don't find the notion of necessity from (2) at work in the Catechism of 1566 and elsewhere, then my work here is done. Obviously at some level of abstraction "something like" your (2) (to use your earlier terminology) is present in the tradition; for instance, the idea that sometimes it is prudent not to execute someone who deserves it, is "something like" your (2), but consistency with that element of the tradition on capital punishment does not come close to sufficing for continuity with the tradition (as merely believing that Christ was a man does not suffice for continuity with the Church's teaching on the Incarnation).

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    17. 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.

      There is just no way to paraphrase this sentence as saying that just punishments are always done with the intention of protecting life. The justification (what follows the "since") for the claim that proportionate punishments "naturally tend to this end" is efficient causal: it is a generic statement about the typical result of such punishments. We know about the intention of the minister only through the characterization of the punishments as punishments.

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    18. Paul Connors: "The Fifth Commandment rules out taking any life intentionally, for any reason, by anyone."

      Tony: "For goodness sake! You already SAID that the ruler may take the perpetrator's life if needed for the sake of keeping people safe from him...

      It's double-effect. The three cases where death may occur (self-defense, just war, execution of a criminal) are examples of double-effect.

      Tony: "It turns out that the position you are trying to push is the extremely controversial position of the New Natural Law on DP"

      Absolutely not. I am 100% a Thomist.

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    19. Greg: "If you admit that we don't find the notion of necessity from (2) at work in the Catechism of 1566 and elsewhere."

      All I've claimed is that the people in 1566 were in different historical circumstances than we are, so they are not going to make explicit statements about what would seem like science-fiction to them. But we can still make ordinary deductions from what they say, and apply it to our own circumstances.

      Greg: "..naturally tend to this end.."

      As I also pointed out elsewhere, that is a hundred-year-old translation into English of the original Latin. The original is better translated as "aimed in the same direction". I.e. if the ruler is not aimed in the direction of preserving life, then it will break the Fifth Commandment.

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    20. But we can still make ordinary deductions from what they say, and apply it to our own circumstances.

      (2) does not follow from anything they say. It is not present even implicitly. The most that could be said is that it is vaguely similar to what they say, as are lots of other mutually inconsistent theses. Which is to say the text offers no support to the claim that (2) has been taught by the Catholic tradition.

      As I also pointed out elsewhere, that is a hundred-year-old translation into English of the original Latin.

      Please drop the pretense. The translation is not archaic English. 100 years is fairly recent in the English language. 500 years is more recent in Latin than the major medieval philosophical authors. "Naturally tended" has never been idiomatic for "intended consciously." Your focusing on that phrase also ignores that my point is about the logic of the rest of the sentence. Even if we substituted in your favored translation, the 'since' clause would not fit.

      Not to mention, the recreation case is a counterexample to the principle that agents must intend the ends to which activities naturally tend; so is sex.

      Your reading of this text is desperate. If you don't have anything new to say, this will be my last comment.

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    21. Greg: "'Naturally tended' has never been idiomatic for 'intended consciously.'"

      You're now making a universal claim about translations? Who has even said, or shown, that the translation was an attempt at being 'idiomatic'? Traduttore, traditore; at any time.

      More significantly, have you looked at the original Latin, and translated that? I did. What did you find?

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    22. Absolutely not. I am 100% a Thomist.

      Then kindly stop twisting concepts around to flip Thomas's teaching on its head.

      It's double-effect. The three cases where death may occur (self-defense, just war, execution of a criminal) are examples of double-effect.

      Double-effect doctrine applies to an action that is of its own nature lawful, which in a given case has multiple effects, one of which is evil. The critical point is that the act, by its species and object, is lawful in itself (though, like ANY action, can be wrong due to circumstances being not appropriate). The person who uprightly does an act that has evil effects does it because he (a) does a species of act that is lawful, i.e. an act whose object is a good, (b) has an intention / end that is good, and (c) its circumstances are such that the good effects outweigh the anticipated evil effects. The evil effect cannot be in the species of the act, then it is evil intrinsically and double effect principle doesn't apply. So the evil effect has to be anticipated as a side effect of the act, not in the definition of the act.

      In punishment, the very nature of the act is to impose what is contrary to the offender's will, in that his offense consisted in his will being in disordered by willing his own satisfaction in excess of the law. Now the will desires what is good, thus "to impose something contrary to the will" is to impose an evil. But punishment (done by the authority) is a GOOD ACT, in that it imposes what is an evil (of a lower order) as an act of re-creating moral order, justice, and the good. Thus the object of punishment is "to impose an evil qua restoring moral order". The evil ALONE is not the object, but the evil qua being restorative of justice is. Thus imposing the evil is in the very definition of punishment, it is not an ancillary side effect.

      The act of killing a criminal in carrying out a sentence of death has as its object the imposing death on the criminal, and its species is in the genus "to kill", namely, "to kill as punishment". It's intention is good, i.e. the restoration of justice, the deterrence of crime, the virtue of the citizens, and the reformation of the criminal's will so that he can be restored to union with God.

      In no wise can the death of the criminal be characterized as being apart from the object of the act. It is the very nature of the act as a species of punishment: a punishment whose penal imposition is proportionate to such a grave offense as to call for the offender's very life. The death is not a SIDE-effect of the act, is is given in the very species of the act. Thus the principle of double effect is not germane here.

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    23. You're now making a universal claim about translations?

      No, what you quoted is a claim about the English language, not about translations.

      Who has even said, or shown, that the translation was an attempt at being 'idiomatic'?

      I thought you were insinuating that the English translation is misleading because it is 100 years old. That the translation is 100 years old would only be relevant if those 100 years marked a shift in English usage of the relevant phrase. I took it that this was your point because you did not claim that the translation is in error but rather that "the wording 'naturally tends' (translated nearly a hundred years ago), means something closer to 'aims in the same direction' -- i.e. consciously aimed, and not accidental." That is, your claim was about the English phrase 'naturally tends', not about the Latin, which you have never provided.

      If you meant to refer to the wording in Latin for 'naturally tends', and if your view is that 'naturally tends' has always been a bad translation for it, then no wonder I missed your meaning. In that case you might have pointed out that you thought the translation you introduced to the discussion was bad.

      Your point is also naturally taken as one about English usage given that, despite claiming a couple times that you have consulted the Latin, you have declined to produce it.

      More significantly, have you looked at the original Latin, and translated that?

      I didn't, since I initially could not find it online and I don't put any stock in bare assertions about how a text is best translated by anyone who does not produced it in the original.

      Here is the Latin:

      Cum enim legi huic finis is propositus sit, ut hominum vitae, salutique consulatur, magistratum item, qui legitimi sunt scelerum vindices, animadversiones eodem spectant, ut, audacia, & iniuria suppliciis repressa, tuta sit hominum vita.

      "The punishments ... naturally tend to this end" translates "animadeversiones eodem spectant," lit. 'the punishments look to the same' or 'the punishments pertain to the same'. The ut+subjunctive seems to me to be more plausibly read as a result clause than a purpose clause, because
      (a) 'The punishments look to the same [end, that is, the protection of human life] in order that they protect human life by repressing outrage and violence'
      does not make sense, while
      (b) 'The punishments look the same [end] so that they protect human life by repressing human life by repressing outrage and violence'
      does. That would support my initial thought that the reasoning establishing the consistency of capital punishment with the end of the Fifth Commandment is, as I said, "efficient causal."

      However, my Latin competence is not much to speak of, so someone may know better than I.

      Anyway, given the impersonal subject, I think "spectant" is fairly translated, as you have, with "aim," or else with "tend," in this context. But also because of the impersonal subject, the use is an impersonal one, as is consistent with the use of the word elsewhere. It doesn't imply that a minister merely (say) administering proportionate punishments, without consciously intending the named end, is acting unjustly.

      And even if it did, your (2) would only follow if you understood "protection of human life" in a narrower way than the tradition does, as Tony has pointed out.

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    24. Here's my translation of the original Latin:
      For this law [Fifth Commandment] is put forward so that the life and safety of man is protected; thus also the authorities, who are the legitimate punishers of crime, see to punishments with the same purpose, so that outrage and injury are prevented by the punishments, and guard the life of man.


      So, I have no real idea why the other translators came up with "naturally tend". And I note that the translation doesn't refer to deterrence: it's the punishment itself (in this case, the death penalty) which must guard the life of man, else it breaks the Fifth Commandment.

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    25. To Tony:

      (a) No evil effect can ever be intended.
      (b) God does not desire the death of any man.

      Therefore, from (a) and (b) any intended killing is at variance with God's will.

      That conclusion is backed by the Fifth Commandment, and by the Catechism ("The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful".)

      So I don't understand why you say, in relation to the death penalty that: "The death is not a SIDE-effect of the act, is is given in the very species of the act."

      If it's in the species of the act, then it's intended -- which is not permitted.

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    26. thus also the authorities, who are the legitimate punishers of crime, see to punishments with the same purpose

      I mistyped the Latin, it is magstratuum, not magistratum. In either case it is not in the nominative as your translation suggests. The subject of 'spectant' is not the authorities.

      So, I have no real idea why the other translators came up with "naturally tend".

      I suspect it is the presence of the result clause and the fact that 'spectare' is a rather elastic verb which tends to acquire a more specified sense from context.

      And I note that the translation doesn't refer to deterrence: it's the punishment itself (in this case, the death penalty) which must guard the life of man, else it breaks the Fifth Commandment.

      ??? Surely we can agree that the text is saying that the punishment is compatible with the Fifth Commandment because it represses violence and that the repression of violence is somehow related to the fulfillment of the end of the Fifth Commandment. If punishment in general (let's set aside the death penalty) represses violence in two ways (by removing violent persons and by deterring would-be violent persons from being violent persons), then surely those are just two ways in which punishment represses violence? Why then is only one of those ways relevant if it is in fact the connection to repression of violence which renders punishment compatible with the Fifth Commandment? Where in this text do we get this bizarre thesis that it must be "the punishment itself" and not one of its classically recognized characteristic effect? My head is spinning just from anticipating the gymnastics.

      I'm sorry, but this text is actually not that interesting and it does not contain your view explicitly or implicitly.

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    27. Tony: "The subject of 'spectant' is not the authorities."

      'Spectant' goes with the prior 'qui', which refers to the authorities.

      Tony: "Why then is only one of those ways relevant if it is in fact the connection to repression of violence which renders punishment compatible with the Fifth Commandment?"

      It's because a perpetrator has to be deemed an unavoidable threat to life, and thus qualify for the death penalty, otherwise it runs afoul of the requirement that the Fifth Commandment be obeyed everywhere and at every time.

      Two examples which are a bit in the same line, to see if I can get over the point. (Probably not, but I am excessively optimistic!)

      If I steal $100 from you, it's no good me saying: "I didn't really steal from you, because I left you an IOU note saying I would pay you next year." It's still theft.

      Similarly, if I claim self-defense by killing someone on Monday, it's no good me saying: "But I thought he might attack me on Friday, and by killing him on Monday, I made sure he couldn't attack me on Friday. And see! It worked! He didn't attack me on Friday!" The self-defense has to be in response to an actual attack.

      It's like that for the death penalty. The perpetrator has to be an actual threat, right here and now, to life in society, for him to be legitimately executed. That worked in some prior historical circumstances, but it doesn't work now, because we can incarcerate them.

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    28. (a) No evil effect can ever be intended.
      (b) God does not desire the death of any man.


      You claim to be a 100% Thomist, are you aware that Thomas addresses this?

      Prima Pars, Q 49, A2:

      But the evil which consists in the corruption of some things is reduced to God as the cause. And this appears as regards both natural things and voluntary things. For it was said (Article 1) that some agent inasmuch as it produces by its power a form to which follows corruption and defect, causes by its power that corruption and defect. But it is manifest that the form which God chiefly intends in things created is the good of the order of the universe. Now, the order of the universe requires, as was said above (I:22:2 ad 2; I:48:2), that there should be some things that can, and do sometimes, fail. And thus God, by causing in things the good of the order of the universe, consequently and as it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things, according to 1 Samuel 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive."

      Thus God DOES will the death of men.

      But he goes on to clarify:

      But when we read that "God hath not made death" (Wisdom 1:13), the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake.

      Thus God wills some kinds of evil, but not for the sake of evil per se, but for the sake of good. And thus God wills the death of men for the sake of good. He wills this in a general way, in that he wills a universe that has corruptible beings, and wills that some things corrupt and die. But he also wills their deaths in a more definitive way as well:

      Nevertheless the order of justice belongs to the order of the universe; and this requires that penalty should be dealt out to sinners. And so God is the author of the evil which is penalty, but not of the evil which is fault, by reason of what is said above.

      This completes his comment about God willing evils (such as death) both in natural things and in voluntary things: he wills corruption that is death in the natural order, and he wills death as punishment for fault, but does not will fault. Thus we see, in the Old Testament, that sometimes God himself delivers the death penalty to evil men, such as in Moses’ time when God killed Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, when they were being disobedient.

      But He does not limit it to the Old: in the New Testament, Peter calls down the death penalty on Ananias and Sapphira, and God fulfills it.

      Thus St. Thomas shows that God DOES will the death of men when considered carefully, and he makes special mention of it in reference to punishment as willed for the sake of good.

      Later he reaffirms that when the authority punishes, he IMPOSES an evil but WILLS the good: thus the evil imposed is contained in the object of the act as a necessary aspect, while delineated as pertaining to a good. This exactly characterizes what God does in punishing. God does it when punishing by death, or by some other punishment such as damnation in hell, or by sickness, etc. The good that is the object is, primarily, the good of the whole order (as Thomas says), i.e. the proper relation of all the parts. Punishment restores orderliness precisely in the correction by which the offender’s will is “offended” in being handed an evil to suffer.

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    29. Paul, you said above:

      Tony: "The subject of 'spectant' is not the authorities."

      Greg is the one debating with you on Latin.

      It's like that for the death penalty. The perpetrator has to be an actual threat, right here and now, to life in society, for him to be legitimately executed. That worked in some prior historical circumstances, but it doesn't work now, because we can incarcerate them.

      I want to point out something in relation to this concept of using the death penalty as a "necessity". Pope Francis pointed this out, as far as I know the first prelate to mention it as a problem for the "death penalty as necessary for safety" idea: when you put him to death, he is not attacking.

      Ever.

      That is, it is NEVER the case that when you execute someone "in cold justice" as it were, that you are dealing death because he is right now attacking you. He isn't. He is tied up, or has chains on, or has handcuffs on, or is 10 feet away and unarmed while you have a gun. He is not an immediate threat. This is true now, but it was JUST as true 100 years ago, and 1000 years ago, and 2000 years ago. It is ridiculous to think that, over all those centuries, the Church permitted civil authorities to kill murderers as "punishment" because it was "necessary" for safety in the sense of self-defense, when the guy was (in every case) under restraint and not, at that actual moment, a threat. He was only a potential FUTURE threat if you handled him with kid gloves, more or less. Francis uses this as an ARGUMENT AGAINST the death penalty altogether.

      Now, if DP can only be used in the form of strict self-defense, it is a good argument. But saying so turns 2000 years of Church teaching on its head, including that of JPII and Benedict.

      The only way to resolve this is to read the Fathers and the Doctors, in interpreting the Bible passages, as allowing DP for the sake of the common good, which encompasses justice, deterrence, reform of the criminal, and several other goods that flow from it; and in which there is a hierarchy of goods, with safety of persons from this criminal's further acts of malice is actually pretty low on the list. The DP should not be used when it is overall more harm than good, but it SHOULD be used when it is overall more good than harm, and this it tends toward, for many of the goods, through proportionality.

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    30. Greg,

      I made a cut-and-paste error, and erroneously addressed a reply to Tony, which was in fact intended for you. It's here.

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    31. Tony: "Thus God DOES will the death of men." And, "...the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake"

      The usual way of being very careful in this area is to say that God does not positively will anything except good, but allows evils. Thus, God does not positively will the death of any man.

      (A similar thing occurs with punishments: God does not positively will that punishments hurt, but rather positively wills their medicinal value.)

      So when you said "The act of killing a criminal in carrying out a sentence of death has as its object the imposing death on the criminal", its hard to interpret that as anything except the authorities positively willing the death -- which would not be allowed.

      Tony: "That is, it is NEVER the case that when you execute someone "in cold justice" as it were, that you are dealing death because he is right now attacking you. He isn't. He is tied up, or has chains on, or has handcuffs on, or is 10 feet away and unarmed while you have a gun. He is not an immediate threat."

      When the authorities have someone in front of them who has committed murder, and is thus thought to be entirely capable of killing again, but the authorities (in their historical circumstances) have no way of restraining them indefinitely, then they have a problem. The problem is standing right in front of them. That's immediate enough. The idea that the person has to be actually waving a knife about is an excessive claim about what 'immediate' must mean.

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    32. 'Spectant' goes with the prior 'qui', which refers to the authorities.

      'qui' does refer to the authorities. That doesn't mean the text will bear reading 'spectant' as a verb of the relative clause, however.

      First, tu quoque, you yourself placed what translates 'spectant' outside of the relative clause. You made its grammatical subject "the authorities," which also is outside of the relative clause (for it is its antecedent), clearly attempting to translate what I erroneously put as "magistratum" and what is really "magistratuum". (I say this is clear because you very linearly translated "magistratum item, qui" as "the authorities, who".) Neither of course can be the grammatical subject of "spectant," as the one is n. s. and the other is gen. pl.

      If you tried to move the spectant inside, then you need to say what "magistratuum" is doing other than modifying "animadversiones". But there is not really anything else for it to modify.

      There is also the problem that, as far as I can tell, the commas are original and are not editorial. (They are in the 1614 edition of the Catechism from which I pulled the text.) And the commas seem to very straightforwardly set off the relative clause from the rest of the sentence. Using them as our guide, the relative clause appears to end with "vindices".

      Moreover if we try to read the 'spectant' into the relative clause, then the clause contains two finite verbs with no conjunction coordinating them.

      It seems simpler to me to just opt for a grammatically permissible reading.

      Similarly, if I claim self-defense by killing someone on Monday, it's no good me saying: "But I thought he might attack me on Friday, and by killing him on Monday, I made sure he couldn't attack me on Friday. And see! It worked! He didn't attack me on Friday!" The self-defense has to be in response to an actual attack.

      Preemptively killing an innocent person is not what anyone means by 'deterrence'.

      There are multiple ways a merely imprisoned murderer might imperil human life. He might break out and kill someone, for instance. He might kill another prisoner or a guard. And his going inadequately punished might also weaken the sense that the law is responsible for and capable of giving wrongdoers their just deserts, that it is inexpedient to do wrong; and that sense being weakened, crimes, including murder, may be perpetrated with greater impunity.

      It might be true that we can lessen each of those risks by imposing the death penalty on some criminals. That is not a case of executing any innocents and it is not the case of preemptively punishing would-be murderers. It in fact helps any would-be murderers who do not become murderers.

      It should go without saying, but Catholics have traditionally ascribed massive importance to the last function of law, as teacher.

      Anyway, we can drop this line of discussion since I was more expressing awe at the fact that you think you can get such a determinate principle as that to be executed "a perpetrator has to be deemed an unavoidable threat to life" out of the Catechism text we are looking at. Whatever the outcome of our textual debate, the text contains generic claims about the ends of punishment and its role in society.

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    33. Correction: (I say this is clear because you very linearly translated "magistratum item, qui" as "also the authorities, who".)

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    34. Greg: "clearly attempting to translate what I erroneously put as 'magistratum' and what is really 'magistratuum'"

      I never translated that text from what you typed, I got the original from a book.

      The sentence begins by talking about the purpose of the law [Fifth Commandment]. Then there's a significant semicolon (which you also missed out) and it continues "likewise of the authorities, who...". It's making a comparison with the law set up by the authorities, i.e. "likewise [the law] of the authorities, who...". Given the semicolon, that 'qui' clearly refers to the authorities. And makes no meaningful difference to my translation.

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    35. I never translated that text from what you typed, I got the original from a book.

      I did not mean to say you did. I said you were "clearly attempting to translate what I erroneously put as 'magistratum' and what is really 'magistratuum'"--that is, that you were attempting to translate "magistratuum". (I was just preempting any claim that "also the authorities" was translating anything other than "magistratuum item".)

      The sentence begins by talking about the purpose of the law [Fifth Commandment]. Then there's a significant semicolon (which you also missed out) and it continues "likewise of the authorities, who...". It's making a comparison with the law set up by the authorities, i.e. "likewise [the law] of the authorities, who...". Given the semicolon, that 'qui' clearly refers to the authorities. And makes no meaningful difference to my translation.

      There's no semicolon before "magistratuum" in the 1614 edition. I (still) don't know what edition you have, but I would hazard a guess that the semicolon is erroneous, as "sit" in the portion talking about the purpose of the law is in the subjunctive, so the cum-clause is a dependent clause, and "stabant" is in fact the main verb of the whole sentence.

      But the semicolon would have no bearing on whether "qui" refers to the authorities. It is clear that it does, and I said that it does. I was objecting to what you rendered as the subject of "spectant". You have by this point presented us with a three alternatives, despite writing as though you have been consistent throughout. Your translation made the subject "the authorities". But "magistratuum" does not agree with "spectant". Then you suggested that the subject is "qui". But that does not work for the reasons I identified. Now you are suggesting that it has an elided subject "the law". But that also would not agree with "spectant". There is not an implied "they" referring to the authorities, because then "magistratuum" would become awkward.

      A better version of your most recent proposal would be that there is an implied subject "[the laws] of the authorities". I don't think the text warrants that, as the the shift from a divine commandment to an positive laws would merit an explicit subject, especially given that it is distant from the verb and given that there is another noun available to serve as subject "animadversiones". The proposal would also requires us to take "animadversiones" as the object of "spectant," which would make sense if its subject were the authorities, but not if its subject were the laws.

      I also believe that we'd want a preposition with "eodem" to get the sense you're going for, of "the laws see to/aim at punishments with the same [end]". That would also be true if the subject were "the authorities".

      Anyway, none of this matters, because even if we granted you your preferred translation, the theses you try to extract from it are gratuitous. This'll be my last comment on the matter as this discussion is tedious and pointless.

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    36. Greg: "There's no semicolon before "magistratuum" in the 1614 edition."

      Indeed, there are variations over the years, all of the editions being official. The earliest editions don't have the semicolon, likely because the modern use of a semicolon marker didn't even arrive until the late 16th century. One of the editions has a mistyped 'magistratuu'. The later editions have the semicolon (and numerous other changes).

      Greg: "But "magistratuum" does not agree with 'spectant'."
      "But that also would not agree with 'spectant'."

      You're looking for some kind of rigid textbook agreement between a verb and its subject. Language doesn't work that way. Everyone reading "; Magistratuum item, qui ... spectant" would understand right away that the topic of this part of the sentence is the authorities, and 'qui' refers to the authorities, and the 'spectant' also goes with the authorities.

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    37. The usual way of being very careful in this area is to say that God does not positively will anything except good, but allows evils. Thus, God does not positively will the death of any man.

      (A similar thing occurs with punishments: God does not positively will that punishments hurt, but rather positively wills their medicinal value.)


      If you want to make the distinction in what God wills, you have to get the whole treatment Thomas has. He said this, above the part I already quoted about punishing, in answering that good is the cause of evil:

      If you want to make the right distinction in what God wills, you have to get the whole treatment Thomas has. He said this, above the part I already quoted about punishing, in answering that good is the cause of evil:

      In proof of this, we must know that evil is caused in the action otherwise than in the effect. In the action evil is caused by reason of the defect of some principle of action, either of the principal or the instrumental agent; thus the defect in the movement of an animal may happen by reason of the weakness of the motive power, as in the case of children, or by reason only of the ineptitude of the instrument, as in the lame. On the other hand, evil is caused in a thing, but not in the proper effect of the agent, sometimes by the power of the agent, sometimes by reason of a defect, either of the agent or of the matter. It is caused by reason of the power or perfection of the agent when there necessarily follows on the form intended by the agent the privation of another form; as, for instance, when on the form of fire there follows the privation of the form of air or of water. Therefore, as the more perfect the fire is in strength, so much the more perfectly does it impress its own form, so also the more perfectly does it corrupt the contrary. …
      Evil has no direct cause, but only an accidental cause, as was said above.. …
      Evil has no direct cause, but only an accidental cause, as was said above.


      Applying this: When God wills the good of the natural order, which has animals growing by consuming food, he wills the growth of animals, and God is the cause of the corruption of the prior thing (i.e. that of the food) precisely insofar as he is the cause of the good of the animal which is what is directly intended. He does not will the corruption of the food for its own sake, but he is both the cause of the corruption of the food, and wills the corruption insofar as he wills the good that _entails_ the corruption. You want to say that God does not “positively” will the corruption, what he positively wills is the good that comes to be by it and only "allows" an evil. What St. Thomas says is that He primarily wills the whole order which is an order that includes therein the good of animals which grow by corruption of food. The animal’s growth is not, in this case, the very same thing as the corruption of the food’s prior being, but entails it, and God wills the latter as for the sake of the good. What cannot be ascribed to God is that he wills evil for its own sake. Thomas says “the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake”, implying that what God does is he wills death not for its own sake but for the sake of good.

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    38. In punishment, what God wills primarily is the order (of justice), and wills specifically is the correction of the disorder by an operation. What operation? It is that of reversing the disorder (i.e. what is an excess) by imposing a deficiency – or rather, what would OTHERWISE be a deficiency, but is here a correction of excess. God positively wills the good order of justice, and positively wills the imposition of the correction, and the nature of the imposition is that of deficiency (i.e. an evil, but only considered locally, not absolutely), but God only wills the defect insofar as it is only a defect in a manner of speaking, for properly speaking its imposition produces order, not defect. This is GENERAL, and applies across all types of punishment.

      Man, directed under God’s authority to be a ruler and to work by human law, is also an enforcer and punisher. Man, too, operates to punish like God does: the ruler who punishes wills primarily the order, and wills to restore the order (after a crime) by an imposition which reverses the disorder by a corrective “deficiency”. But he does not will defect as such, he wills the good order and wills here what would OTHERWISE be deficiency because here that corrects an excess. So, like God, the ruler wills the defect in a manner of speaking but wills the good simpliciter.

      This applies equally to the DP as to any other punishment. There is no principle that separates the DP from other punishments in this: the ruler wills not the death AS DEFECT, but he wills the death AS CORRECTIVE to an excess. He does not will evil (defect) for its own sake, but insofar as willing good.

      This is not an example of the principle of double effect (PDE). In the PDE, the evil effect is neither in the object nor the intention, and cannot be part of the essential causal chain by which the agent produces the good intended. In punishment, the “defect” is indeed intrinsic to the causality of the good, which is good order: the “defect” is, precisely insofar as it corrects the excess, essential to the good intended.

      All evil is reduced to an accidental cause, because there is no such thing as being that is evil essentially. Hence when Thomas says that God is the cause of evil accidentally, he does not mean the same thing as that God’s causality is contrary to his intention, like when we do something “by accident”. But the evil which consists in the corruption of some things is reduced to God as the cause. He clarifies: when one form (e.g. fire) is perfected in matter, the prior form is corrupted, but that water is corrupted is entirely accidental to the form of fire. But it is not “accidental” in that it is contrary the intention of the agent who brings about the fire.

      It cannot be said that because God does not will death for its own sake, He does not will death in any sense when He directly brings about a death as punishment. This would be ridiculous. Yes, what God wills primarily is the good order, but He wills the death in a manner of speaking insofar as he wills to correct the excess by imposing death. And there is no reason to separate the human ruler from the same principles: he wills in the same manner as God, wills the good order primarily and wills the evil accidentally as being included in the order.

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    39. You're looking for some kind of rigid textbook agreement between a verb and its subject. Language doesn't work that way. Everyone reading "; Magistratuum item, qui ... spectant" would understand right away that the topic of this part of the sentence is the authorities, and 'qui' refers to the authorities, and the 'spectant' also goes with the authorities.

      Everyone... except the author of the English translation you introduced to this thread, who is a more competent Latin translator than either you or me?

      Latin is, in fact, a language, and a rather serviceable one. What English does with word order, Latin can do with case. Your suggestion that we can understand Latin well enough without attending to how it employs case is like a Latin speaker's saying that he can understand English without worrying about word order. Sorry to say, but no.

      It's true that a good translation is not one that simply mirrors the syntax of the original language. Good translations are made by people who comprehend the sense of the original and are able to express the same (modulo certain other considerations) in another language.

      But when there is a question about the meaning of a sentence and what its implications are, there is a huge facility in being able to say how the sentence works in its home language, and the adequacy of the translation is still answerable to the original. You have not demonstrated sufficient Latin competence to claim that this or that feature of Latin is irrelevant to the meaning of this sentence. Anyone can translate each word and paste them together in the way that seems intuitive.

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    40. Not to put too fine a point on it... if you are studying Latin and you start translating our sentence/clause/whatever by saying "The authorities, who...", your instructor would cut you off and ask you to identify 'magistratuum'. In heavily inflected languages, speakers are in fact not at all indifferent to agreement. It is what Henry Frankfurt called bullshit to suggest otherwise. Anyone who has read a couple pages in such a language knows this.

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    41. Tony,

      In the two paragraphs beginning "In punishment..." you describe punishment as a correction, to remedy a prior injustice. I don't think I have a problem with them. (Though, I would use different wording, which would amount to the same thing.)

      However, you go on to claim that "This applies equally to the DP as to any other punishment."

      But it can't. Claiming it doesn't make it so. What you say may apply to many punishments, but it can't apply to the death penalty. That's because it runs into the flat contradiction of the Fifth Commandment. There's no divine command against imprisoning someone, or fining them, or whatever. But there is against killing. You've tried to show how things might be worded differently but, at the end of the day, any punishment which is selected because it specifically includes the death of the criminal is an intended killing. And thus forbidden. Nothing you said remedied this fact.

      Also, imposing the death penalty on a criminal (e.g. for a murder) is not a correction. Other punishments are applied in the hope that the perpetrator will be corrected, and change behavior after the punishment. But the death penalty is not a correction, but a termination of correction. As Aquinas says (ST suppl. Q99): "...those punishments, whereby certain persons are wholly banished from the society of their fellow-citizens, are not intended for their correction; although they may be intended for the correction and tranquillity of the others who remain in the state."

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    42. Paul, you equivocate on "correction". The "correction" you are talking about here is the correction of the offender's disposition, in that he is willing to harm the common good for his own good. Once corrected, he will not act to harm the state AGAIN, i.e. in future acts. (This could, incidentally, take place without punishment, before his crime is even detected, hence it is not essentially connected to punishment. It also might not occur: after we are done punishing him, he might retain his bad will.) This is called the reform of the offender. It is per se a secondary end of punishment.

      This is not the correction implied of its very nature in punishment. Punishment as such addresses itself to the fact that THERE IS a disorder in the state, in respect of his PAST act: the excess of his action satisfying his own will against the common good. The punishment corrects that excess. It happens when the punishment is proportionate, regardless of whether the criminal reforms, (e.g. punishment in hell will not correct the offender). This redress of the disorder that persist from the guilty act is the primary end of punishment, as the Doctors (as well as JPII and Benedict) taught. This is the correction of which I was speaking.

      However, you go on to claim that "This applies equally to the DP as to any other punishment."

      But it can't. Claiming it doesn't make it so.


      Paul: saying "it can't" doesn't make it so.

      Your position, in order to be consistent, requires outlawing the DP even when 'necessary' for safety. If DP consists in willing death contrary to the 5th commandment, then using it when safety requires it remains contrary to the 5th commandment. And if willing death is wrong always, then it is wrong to will death in order to achieve a good effect: Do not do evil that good should come of it..

      The Roman Catechism shows that the kind of intending that occurs in the DP is not contrary to the 5th commandment. Thomas's explanation of punishment, wherein the ruler wills good, not evil, explains why. This explanation of punishment applies to God as much as to man: When God punishes, he wills good primarily and wills "an evil" only in a sense, as corrective of a disorder. So also when man punishes. There is no principle that separates that the imposition of death from other kinds of punishments: they are, always, an evil considered in themselves, but a good considered as remedy to excess. If God wills good when he kills in punishment, so does man will good when he kills in punishment. If there is an explanation that shows that "God does not will death" when He kills the offender as punishment, that same explanation shows that the "the human ruler does not will death" when he kills the offender as punishment - in either case, the ruler wills "an evil" in a sense but wills the order primarily.

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    43. And to be clear here: in ALL punishments, the ruler wills such a "defect" as is adequate to remedy the excess. That is, he doesn't merely will a vague and nebulous "some deficiency, any kind will do". He necessarily wills to impose a deficiency in determinate form, e.g. loss of honors, a fine, 10 years hard labor, etc. he wills to impose something concrete that is to be suffered by the criminal. And he wills that concrete penal imposition precisely in that it is an adequate (proportionate) redress of the evil of the crime - not just ANY imposition is proportionate, the ruler has to will something determinate in order to will proper redress. This applies in all punishments, by God or by a human ruler. When he wills what is a specific, concrete imposition, the ruler wills what is evil in a sense, but is good here, being a remedy for an excess. So, while God does not "will evil" when He imposes what is (otherwise) an evil as remedy for an excess, He necessarily wills THIS IMPOSITION in concrete form precisely because it is proportionate to the degree of excess. Thus the ruler cannot will to punish without willing this specific penal imposition as proportionate redress. When God wills to impose death as the redress, He does so because death is penal redress for the evil of the offense.

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    44. Tony: "Paul, you equivocate on 'correction'."

      I shall be more precise. Correction attempts to fix disorder. The disorder occurs both in the offender and in society as a whole. One is not secondary to the other, because the offender is, all along, part of society. The two aspects of correction (to the offender, and to society) are two aspects of the same thing, which is redressing the disorder.

      Any part of the correction that is imposed on the offender is a punishment.

      Imposing the death penalty, in the way you describe, is acting on the offender in a way that is not corrective (as Aquinas says). (Thus the death penalty differs in principle from other punishments.) So, there needs to be an explanation of the motive for this action, since it fails to be aligned with the goal of correction.

      I am not all denying that after the death penalty has been enacted, knowledge of it might be used as a deterrence to others in society. But the death itself is not corrective, and imposing it definitely requires explanation and a different motive.

      Tony: "Your position, in order to be consistent, requires outlawing the DP even when 'necessary' for safety. If DP consists in willing death contrary to the 5th commandment, then using it when safety requires it remains contrary to the 5th commandment."

      No. In fact, my position is that the death penalty can only be justified when it amounts to a self-defense of the rest of society against a threat to it. Which is permitted because it amounts to a double-effect self-defense -- the killing is in no way intended (under the usual conditions of legitimate self-defense).

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    45. One is not secondary to the other, because the offender is, all along, part of society. The two aspects of correction (to the offender, and to society) are two aspects of the same thing, which is redressing the disorder.

      This theory of yours has absolutely no support in the Catholic literature, all the way back to the Fathers, which clearly distinguishes reform of the offender as a distinct end from that of the retributive end.

      No. In fact, my position is that the death penalty can only be justified when it amounts to a self-defense of the rest of society against a threat to it. Which is permitted because it amounts to a double-effect self-defense -- the killing is in no way intended (under the usual conditions of legitimate self-defense).

      This too is not supported by the history of Catholic teaching, which is that the state as an agent of death is not intrinsically evil, i.e. it is neutral in itself. This means that it is evil, when it IS evil, from the end or the circumstances. If, to oppose this, you want to say that it is intrinsically evil, then it is wrong in self defense also, because intrinsically evil acts are wrong in all cases whatsoever. Double-effect only applies to an act which is morally neutral in itself, it never applies to intrinsically disordered acts - as JPII said in Veritatis Splendor.

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    46. Tony: "...which clearly distinguishes reform of the offender as a distinct end from that of the retributive end."

      Whatever retribution is due is included as part of correction. (I referred to correction as what attempts to fix the disorder; I didn't say that correction was merely reform of the offender.)

      Tony: "...the state as an agent of death is not intrinsically evil, i.e. it is neutral in itself"

      And that I agree with. But neither is the state entirely free to decide its own criteria for when the death penalty is appropriate. It can legitimately do so when there is no less-harmful way of protecting society against a deadly threat.

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  27. Howard

    Philip Rand is a lunatic from the Strange Notions blog who is an Atheist & basically a weirdo. Don't feed that troll.

    >It merely tells me that they avoid making clear statements with unambiguous terms. Ambiguity is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    Rather in this case its the Holy Spirit keeping them from clearly teaching error. Nothing more.

    I never said the Holy Spirit wants to be ambiguous but I think if it is a choice between ambiguity vs clear error then ambiguity is the lesser evil.

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    1. Sorry, I did not mean to imply that you thought that the Holy Spirit wanted them to be ambiguous. On the contrary, ambiguity in important moral matters is a sign that one is not working closely with the Holy Spirit.

      As for the idea that the Holy Spirit is restraining them ... I'm not sure. The Church does not teach that the Holy Spirit prevents individual bishops from engaging in heresy; in fact, many prominent heresies are named after bishops (for example, Nestorianism) or priests (for example, Arianism and Lutheranism). Additionally, there is FAR too much evidence of the depths of sin to which a cleric can fall. When anyone avoids sin, even partially, no doubt the glory goes to God, but I'm not convinced there is anything extraordinary about the graces given to clerics to avoid sin or heresy.

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    2. But he is clearly restraining the Pope and the bishops collectively in union with the Pope can be infallible.

      As for sin I don't see how that is relavent to my statement?

      Pope Alexander VI sinned with women but nobody believes his sin constituted positive doctrinal teaching on the morality of fornication.

      while the so called "Prophet" of the Mormon Church came up with a divine revelation polygamy was OK(most likely as a cover for him having an affair with his house keeper).

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    3. OK. Sorry, I don't know you, and I was just excluding the ridiculous from deference to bishops. So long as we all know they can be guilty of any sin whatsoever, including heresy.

      I have to admit, though, that since "The Pope + All/Most/Some of the Bishops" can be infallible under some circumstances, and "The Pope + Nobody Else At All" can be infallible under maybe the same circumstances, I'm not really sure what the role of the bishops is in establishing an infallible truth. But look recently at Archbishop Milingo. May God have mercy on us both, but he has gone off the deep end. If the Holy Spirit did not restrain Milingo, I see no reason to think the Holy Spirit is restraining Dolan.

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    4. Nor did the Holy Spirit restrain the large majority of Eastern bishops at the time of the Arian crisis. While we can be sure that the Holy Spirit will not let ALL of the bishops become heretics and go spouting heresy as definitive doctrine (hey, the Pope is a bishop too, right?), we cannot be certain about any given one when he is being wooly-pated and confused.

      What gets me about the bishops today on this topic (the average bishop in the US and Europe, not Burke and Schneider), is WHAT they think the Church used to teach on DP, and why? Do they even have a clue? Have they even tried to research it and discover what was said, and by whom? Or are they all reading from the same play-book that was written starting in about 1969? Are they completely unaware that the Church's treatment of DP as licit in principle was not some accidental accretion of mere juridical, prudential choices, but doctrinal, carefully worked out, and thoroughly connected to the Bible and the Fathers? The way they talk it's as if they don't have a clue of the traditional language used to discuss the issue.

      I also think that they seem to have completely swallowed the "dignity" modernist meme, but this says more to the squalidity of their education than anything else. They seem not to have noticed that Genesis 9:6 is based on the dignity of the human person.

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  28. There's great news. In the "Declaration of truths" signed by several cardinals and bishops and supported by this blog, one finds, in addition to point 28 (on the legitimacy of the death penalty), several other points:

    "29: All authority on earth as well as in heaven belongs to Jesus Christ; therefore, civil societies and all other associations of men are subject to his kingship...

    11 The gift of free will with which God the Creator endowed the human person grants man the
    natural right to choose only the good and the true. No human person has, therefore, a natural right to offend God in choosing the moral evil of sin, the religious error of idolatry, blasphemy,
    or a false religion.
    9 The religion born of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God and the only Savior of
    humankind, is the only religion positively willed by God."

    Cardinal Burke signed the document. Together with his disowning of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute as well as Steve Bannon the other day, it represents a wonderful clarification of his position. Alleluia!


    Bannon has praised to the sky the letter to Catholic Bishops accusing the Pope of heresy. He also supported Martel's characterization of the Vatican as controlled by a homosexual cabal, "with no accountability to the laity". This fellow's use of "cultural Catholicism" and talk of a Tea-Party "impeachment" to manipulate the problems in the Church for the political advantage of - - - obviously became too much for the cardinal.

    Now that Cardinal Burke has made manifest his opposition to liberty for false religion based on human nature, perhaps this blog (which has stated its support for human nature-based liberty in such matters - following Stork's thesis) will now follow suit.
    Good on you, Cardinal Burke!

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  29. It looks to me like what's going on here is largely a matter of pragmatics. (By pragmatics, I mean the branch of linguistics that concerns itself with how we rely on our experience to interpret and use language.) A rough analogy--and I realize this is rough and breaks down if pressed too far--is the Black lives matter debate. There are a lot of people who are reluctant to say, "Black lives matter," not because they don't believe that black lives matter but because they don't want to affirm the movement or to associate themselves with the movement. They feel more comfortable saying something like, "All lives matter" (which logically entails that black lives matter) or "Black lives matter, but so do white lives and yellow lives." Of course, people in the Black lives matter don't like that. They want people to say "Black lives matter--period."

    I think some Catholics feel the same way. They believe the church's tradition that CP is not intrinsically evil, but they're reluctant to affirm that statement without the conjuctive clause "but should be used only when no other means exist to protect society" because they don't want to be aligned with the conservative branch of the church. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the way I see it as a rhetorician.

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    1. So, some people are unwilling to say "Black lives matter" because it leaves too much unclear, right?

      Frank, you could be right about some of them, but the great majority of the bishops and theologians who refuse to acknowledge the thesis cannot be explained this way, in my estimation. For, not only are they unwilling to "say the damn sentence already", they are ALSO unwilling to be clear and non-obfucatory when they DO state what they say. They insist on using obscure and confused language about it, such as Francis's hopeless attempt at reformulation for Paragraph 2267 (attempting to bestride contradictory theses, in using a bunch of language that is primarily used for the prudential language of "in this time and place with our circumstances" and then using language that is primarily used for intrinsic evils). Or, what they say is in OUTRIGHT contradiction to what JPII said only 22 years ago. So, I suppose we need to be cautious about painting ALL of them with the same brush, but most of them are refusing to say the sentence because they reject the thesis, or because they reject clarity about it, not wanting to make clarifying distinctions like you suggest. I suggest that for a goodly share of the latter, when you dig down deep enough, they don't want to be clear precisely because they reject the thesis itself and the don't want to ADMIT that they reject it, because they fear that it (the sentence) really is what the Church has always taught. I think this would imply that they are heretics, but I could be corrected on that.

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  30. Why is it that our worthies do not hesitate to condemn that which has never been forbidden,capital punishment, and yet not condemn but passively tolerate that murderous organization, the democrat party? I seem to recall that such as these will encounter a millstone about the neck in extreme justice.

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  31. Perhaps a bit contrarian, but here's another perspective.

    Modern Leftism, despite all the rhetoric, has turned out to be quite a bit less merciful and compassionate than advertised. They are dredging up things from 30 years ago to get people fired and deplatformed, even though these people are clearly different people today.

    And it's the case here. According to traditional theology, if I am not mistaken, the condemned criminal, in fully accepting his sentence of death in expiation of his crimes, is in fact able to expiate ALL of them in a single act. That is in fact a very great mercy, which today's "compassionate" Leftists would deny him.

    Of course, it does mean a little different perspective than seeing the death penalty only through the lens of justice.

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  32. Re: "...it does mean a little different perspective than seeing the death penalty only through the lens of justice."

    I understand why you say that, and I agree with you.

    But I think there's an even more-important perspective to embrace on this topic: "God's Mercy Is God's Justice."

    Now that phrase is a logical conclusion derived from the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity, in which His power is His mercy is His love is His vengeance is His intellect is His justice is His et cetera....

    Consequently, any understanding of punishment as necessarily and intrinsically in opposition to mercy is a false understanding and incompatible with the Christian religion.

    In pursuing doctrinal orthodoxy, one has to become accustomed to looking for occasions where apparent opposites are shown only to be apparently contradictory, but on a deeper level, unified. This is the case both of true doctrines (e.g., Jesus is 100% man and 100% God) and of false doctrines (e.g., Luther's view of justification seems opposite to Pelagianism, but on a deeper level they both emerge from a similarly-faulty understanding of the relationship of grace and nature, and each one's faulty view of nature springs from a still-more-fundamental identical failure to distinguish sanctifying grace from actual grace and operative actual grace from cooperative actual grace).

    So when we see someone say, "You can't do the death penalty, that's not merciful"; and someone else replies, "no, you have to, otherwise it's not just," our mental alarm-bells should start ringing. This is a classic either-or fallacy, and experience should tell us that Christian orthodoxy commands a both/and response.

    So, YES, the condemned criminal can benefit from his execution. OBVIOUSLY.

    And, equally obviously, an execution which produces both just repayment for his wrongdoing -- such that a penalty of justice no longer hangs over him -- and allows him an expiation which fundamentally submits to God's Moral Law through moral heroism, can obviously become an occasion of saintly merit.

    Now that's mercy!

    So rather than viewing this as a "different perspective" through which to see the death penalty, I'd prefer to adopt a "unified perspective, in which there is one lens: When we're both understanding and doing these things correctly, we are being 100% Just and 100% Merciful.

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  33. We all know that Pope Francis and some bishops have taken it upon themselves both to say and commend unwise and near-to-heresy things in relationship to capital punishment.

    Since Pope Francis, Cdl. Dolan, et alia have been so cavalier about rewriting the Catechism to match their ideological and emotional whims, I thought I'd try my hand at it:

    2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, especially when the gravity of the offense is such that to impose lesser penalties would implicitly contradict the dignity of the offender as a moral agent, or the that of his victims, or both.

    The moral law permits the death penalty for proportionate offenses. Furthermore, the death penalty may, in some dire circumstances, be the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. In such cases the death penalty may be morally obligatory.

    Consequently, in accordance with Holy Scripture and the constant tradition of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, the Church did not err in teaching that the civil power may lawfully exercise capital punishment on malefactors where this is truly necessary to preserve the existence or just order of societies.

    However, when bloodless means are sufficient to punish justly, to commend to all both the value of human persons and the dignity of the aggressor as moral agent, to defend against the aggressor, and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good.

    In some places and times the moral character of the populace and the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, may reduce the number of cases requiring the death penalty until such cases are '...very rare, if not practically non-existent.' But in other places and times such desirable conditions do not obtain. Consequently, the Church holds and desires that the use of the death penalty should be comparatively rare, everywhere in the world, but does not foresee a time, prior to the Second Advent, wherein the death penalty can be abandoned altogether.

    That's my rewrite. It's a bit wordy, but it's hard to be precise without a lot of qualification.

    What do you folks think? Anything I need to tweak? I think it beats the heck out of the Bergoglian Rewrite, in any case.

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  34. However, when bloodless means are sufficient to punish justly, to commend to all both the value of human persons and the dignity of the aggressor as moral agent, to defend against the aggressor, and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good.

    R.C., that's pretty darn good. I would just adjust it a slight bit, in the paragraph I pulled out, as:

    "when bloodless means are sufficient to punish justly, to adequately deter other grave crimes, to sufficiently teach about the hierarchical order of justice and the good, and to lead the citizens to internalize justice as a virtue, then..." It is the SUM TOTAL of goods served by punishment that is proportionate that must be the measure of the good, not one of them, or even two of them.

    It should probably be included in an earlier paragraph, like 2266 or 2263, that the proportionality of punishment itself serves several of the above-mentioned goods, and not only the retributive end. Hence an entire regime of punishment that fails proportionality by being too lenient about one class of grave crimes tends to undermine the goods served by proportionality. Such tendency would have to be offset by other goods in order to be justified as policy. As far as I know, neither the past Church nor the current hierarchy ever argued (directly) that the good of the offender's life per se meets that test. The current hierarchy (mostly, but not universally) tries to imply that claim, but without ever trying to argue it at all, so far as I have seen. (In)Famously, they DON'T argue it explicitly, and I cannot imagine a reason other than the fact that they don't have an argument for it.

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