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”
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”
Over the past year, I have made slow progress toward deepening my grasp of moral philosophy. As a philosopher, I am still not ready to join all the discussions that swirl around the Internet.
But when people began to wrangle about Pope Francis’s comments on the death penalty, I noticed a few points that I could contribute as a theologian. Here are some key lines from the Holy Father’s remarks:
It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity. It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which—ultimately—only God is the true judge and guarantor.
This is a strong argument, to be sure. I hope to do some justice to the strength of the argument below. But as a Catholic biblical scholar, I see three points that might deserve consideration: Continue reading “Three notes on the death penalty”
When Amoris Laetitia was first released in all the various modern languages, the geeks among the onlookers were frustrated to find that no Latin text was available on the Vatican website. Months went by, and eventually a Latin text appeared, long after the debate over Amoris Laetitia was underway. Just looking at the Vatican website, one would suppose that the Latin text was not the original text but was created some time after the various modern language editions.
Is this true? I became curious. Now that there is a Latin text, we can check. If the Latin is original, then one will expect to find that the various translations render the Latin various ways, with the Polish sometimes agreeing with the Latin against the Spanish, and the Spanish sometimes agreeing with the Latin against the French, and so on. But if the Latin was later, then one would expect to find sometimes that the various translations all agree with each other against the Latin, and one would expect to find this in a situation where a given phrase is especially hard to get into the Latin. Continue reading “A note on the Latin text of Amoris Laetitia”
By chance, I received a copy of the Pope’s new apostolic exhortation yesterday, about nine hours before it was published. So of course I started skimming it, if only to enjoy my brief time of being “in the know”: never forget, all you bloggers and blog readers, that when it comes to Amoris Laetitia I’m nine hours ahead of you. And I always will be. 😉
On a quick first-skim, I think there are two things to say about the document: Continue reading “Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis on Marriage and Family”
Over at Patheos, my good friend Joseph Susanka maintains a blog that people actually read. So it was an honor when he posted (with permission) some words of mine about reading the Pope’s new encyclical, Laudato Si. Feeling in a strange way at one remove from myself, I quote my own words from Joseph’s blog:
I am in the middle of reading the encyclical myself, so I can’t offer you anything detailed yet, but one thought weighs on me as I read.
Everyone who finds the encyclical troubling should start by listing the “I like it” elements and the “This bothers me” elements. Then he should do one more thing: write down at least ONE element in the encyclical that genuinely challenges him, that is, one way in which he feels this encyclical may change his mind on something he has thought for a long time.
The Spirit leads the Church through weak human beings, and yet we have to be on the lookout for God in the midst of it all. As Fulton Sheen once remarked, Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on an ass. If we don’t make a real effort to find ONE element in an encyclical that changes our attitude or conviction, then we have failed as readers.
Maybe a Catholic makes a real effort and can’t find it. If the effort was real, that’s not a failure: God asks for our ears, not for our accomplishments. But I would be surprised–shocked, even–if most readers could not find at least ONE element in this present document that falls neither in the “I like” or the “I don’t like” columns, but in the column titled, “This hurts in a good way.”