Catholics debating the death penalty generally do a bad job with Scripture. One side of the debate cites isolated texts, leaving themselves open to the accusation that they cannot see the texts in relation to the whole thrust of Scripture. The other side of the debate refers vaguely to “the Gospel” as a way to avoid dealing with any particular text of Scripture at all. Neither side appears to have a living relationship with God’s word.
I can’t work through all the relevant texts on this blog, but I would like to offer an example of what’s possible by dealing with the big text everyone mentions: Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” I have already dealt with the context of this verse at greater length elsewhere, but I was not talking about the death penalty then. Here I’ll condense the discussion to highlight what is most relevant to the death penalty issue. Continue reading “Bringing Scripture back into the death penalty debate”
Dr. John Joy has written such a fine piece on the Catechism controversy that I wanted to dedicate an entire post just to linking to it. He tracks my own thought quite closely:
It is hard to avoid the conclusion, therefore, that this text suffers from serious ambiguity (inasmuch as it seems to be open to multiple interpretations) or even incoherence (inasmuch as it seems to assert contradictory propositions).
Do read the entire article: The Magisterial Weight of the New Text of the Catechism on the Death Penalty.
One thing I just love about Pope Francis is that he makes us think about how the Magisterium works. I have seen more claims this way and that about what is or is not magisterial or authoritative since he began his pontificate than in the decade previous.
With regard to his recent change to the Catechism, my old classmate Alan Fimister has argued this way: if it is not a change in doctrine then it is merely a prudential change, but if it is merely a prudential change then it is outside the purview of the Magisterium: Continue reading “The Church’s merely prudential judgments”
In a previous post, I said that what was not an attack on human dignity in one situation could be in another. I further claimed that such could be the case with the death penalty. I think I owe it to anyone reading to go back and flesh out what I had in mind.
St. Thomas has an interesting perspective on the purposes of punishment in any human community (thanks to Fr. Joseph Bolin for collecting these texts): Continue reading “How standards of justice can change”
A few thoughts occurred to me last night about the death penalty debate. Leaving open the ultimate prudential question of whether the death penalty can be morally used in our time, I want to examine the arguments used in the CDF’s letter explaining the recent change to the Catechism. (Please see my last post for context.)
The central thread in this debate is justice. Now, justice only exists between rational creatures, i.e., creatures made in the image of God. We don’t seek to restore the scales of justice against a tree that fell on someone. We try to prevent animals from stealing, but we do not incarcerate them for it. Justice has to do with the relationships between persons as such. Continue reading “Justice and Punishment”
While I have not blogged in a long time, I have been reading and thinking. I never did finish my series on the death penalty, because I reached a point where I needed to complete my own ethical philosophical formation. But in light of the recent news that Pope Francis updated the Catechism to oppose the death penalty more clearly, I thought I should toss up a few comments. Continue reading “The new Catechism text on the death penalty”