Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do you want the good (Cath)news or the bad (Cath)news?

Firstly, the good (Cath)news:

Apparently His Eminence Cardinal Pell had some involvement in the A.L.P.’s abandonment of its policy unambiguously in favour of a Bill of Rights. This is a most welcome development, and one that invites some reflection on the notion of ‘human rights’.

The Christian acknowledges that everything he has is from God, and recognises that God is entitled, therefore, to impose such duties as might please Him. From these duties we can infer corresponding ‘rights’, e.g., ‘thou shalt not kill’ implies a right to life (with certain qualifications, as I shall examine shortly). But the basis for ‘human rights’ is rather shaky in the secularist world-view. It seems that for the secularist, ‘rights’ are not ‘rights’ as a Christian conceives of them, but that the term in fact has no absolute foundation but is just a convention for referring to some of the agreed implications of the principle that we should all be able to seek pleasure, constrained only by the pain that obtaining our pleasure might inflict on other pleasure-seekers (the harm principle). This, of course, is basically preference utilitarianism, and seems to me to be the only internally coherent (though nonetheless false) atheistic world-view, since humanism, for instance, asserts things like the uniqueness of mankind and ‘man as the end of all things’, which have no basis in the (false) evolutionary world-view, since man is just one species among many, and many of these other species can feel pain too (speaking of pain, that’s why it’s call ‘preference’ utilitarianism, since some people, namely sadists, quite enjoy pain, thankyou very much). Now the harm principle is nonetheless every bit as arbitrary as any humanist principle, but as an ordering principle for society, it has proven quite good (in the U.S.A.) at preventing complete anarchy, by enshrining rights in law. But nonetheless, it is a completely inadequate way to order a Christian society, since some who cannot feel pain enjoy, nonetheless, a right to life (as well as all the rights that the fully sentient enjoy) because of their innate capacity for God—their ontological dignity.

Now for the bad (Cath)news:

We see that Rev. Fr. Frank Brennan S.J. has reiterated his universal, in-principle stand against the death penalty. This goes by the name of the 'seamless garment approach', the idea that abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and unjust wars are all to be rejected for being anti-life (ignoring the fact that only innocent life has a right to life). It would be regrettable if any readers inferred from this that the Catholic Church has somehow changed Her ancient teaching on the matter, especially if an alleged change were part of a compromise ('we'll oppose the death penalty if you'll oppose abortion') with secularism, meeting it on secularism's terms as so many clerics are keen to do. See Dr. Peter Chojnowski’s essay at the American S.S.P.X. home-page (in the ‘against the sound bites' section, as I recall) for the timeless truth. Now let me be clear that I do not support the death penalty being applied to ‘drug-running’, since it is not in the worst category of crimes and since, as practised in some South-East Asian countries, it treats the destruction of human life as a means to an end, namely deterrence, when it can only ever be taken in this manner as an end in itself, i.e. for justice’s sake.

Now some (many, I suspect) will object that it is not licit to impose the death penalty except when it is impossible for the offender to be prevented from doing more harm. They base this on the relevant section of Evangelium Vitæ. But when one thinks through the situation that His late Holiness John Paul II envisioned, it becomes clear that he made a category mistake. Think about it: we have a criminal who is, purportedly, so psychopathic and violent that it is impossible to restrain him safely, and so he must be executed. So evidence is gathered, the trial is convened, a jury empanelled, witnesses gathered, the jurors have their deliberations and give their verdict, and the judge considers and hands down his sentence. But the criminal was restrained the whole time! All John Paul II was really doing was reiterating the liceity of using lethal force against an unjust aggressor. Capital punishment is not self-defence; it’s a category mistake. The death penalty is to be applied whenever no other combination of imprisonment, corporal punishment and financial penalty can balance the scales of justices. At the very least, then, murderers must receive the death penalty. To deprive a man of his liberty for life (life imprisonment) is an inadequate substitute for depriving him of life itself. To which one might object: that’s an eye for an eye! We’re more civilized than that! But ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is true in principle, it’s just that if one, say, puts someone else’s eye out intentionally, justice can be satisfied through some combination of imprisonment, corporal punishment and financial penalty; it is not necessary literally to put the offender’s eye out in order to satisfy justice. But no such combination of other non-lethal punishments can ever compensate for the injustice of murder.

One might raise an even more fundamental objection, though: the very conception of justice involved. Many in the legal fraternity will argue that we have ‘outgrown’ retributive justice in favour of the presently-fashionable ‘restorative justice’, in which punishment is only ever a means (and one of a range of means) to one or another of a range of ends (rehabilitation for offenders, closure for victims, deterrence for potential offenders). But the essence of justice is giving to someone what he is owed. If the situation of the ‘scales of justice’ being balanced means a situation where good deeds are properly rewarded and bad deeds are properly punished, then as far as the ‘bad deeds’ side of the ledger is concerned, justice is retribution. Rehabilitation for offenders, closure for victims, deterrence for potential offenders, among others, are all worthy ends, but they are subordinate to justice.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

20 comments:

dudleysharp said...

Thank you.

Pope John Paul II: His death penalty errors
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
(contact info, below)
October 1997, with subsequent updates thru 5/07

The new Roman Catholic position on the death penalty, introduced in 1997,  is based upon the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, whose position conflicts with reason, as well as biblical, theological and traditional Catholic teachings spanning nearly 2000 years.
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty writings in Evangelium Vitae were flawed and their adoption into the Catechism was improper.

In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church decided to amend the 1992 Universal Catechism to reflect Pope John Paul II's comments within his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). Therein, the Pope finds that the only time executions can be justified is when they are required "to defend society" and that "as a result of steady improvements . . . in the penal system that such cases are very rare if not practically non existent."
 
This is, simply, not true.  Murderers, tragically, harm and murder, again, way too often.
 
Many issues, inexplicably, escaped the Pope's consideration.
 
First, in the Pope's context, "to defend society" means that the execution of the murderer must save future lives or, otherwise, prevent future harm.  
 
When looking at the history of  criminal justice practices in probations, paroles and incarcerations, we observe countless examples of when judgements and procedures failed and, because of that, murderers harmed and/or murdered, again. History details that murderers murder and otherwise harm again, time and time again -- in prison, after escape, after improper release, and, of course, after we fail to capture or incarcerate them. 
 
Reason dictates that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and/or murder again than are executed murderers - an obvious truism overlooked by the Pope.
 
Therefore,  the Pope could err, by calling for a reduction or end to execution, and thus harm more innocents, or he could "err" on the side of protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions.
 
History, reason and the facts support an increase in executions based upon a defending society foundation. 
 
Secondly, if social science concludes that executions provide enhanced deterrence for murders, then the Pope's position should call for increased executions. 
 
If  we decide that the deterrent effect of executions does not exist and we, therefore, choose not to execute, and we are wrong, this will sacrifice more innocent lives and also give those murderers the opportunity to harm and murder again. 
 
If we choose to execute, believing in the deterrent effect, and we are wrong, we are executing our worst human rights violators and preventing such murderers from ever harming or murdering again - again, defending more innocent lives.
 
No responsible social scientist has or will say that the death penalty deters no one.  Quite a few studies, including 16 recent ones, inclusive of their defenses,  find that executions do deter. 
 
As all prospects for negative consequence deter some (there appears to be no exception),  it is a mystery why the Pope chose the option which spares murderers and sacrifices more innocent lives. 
 
If the Pope's defending society position has merit, then, again, the Church must actively support executions, as it offers an enhanced defense of society and greater protection for innocent life.
 
Thirdly, we know that some criminals don't murder because of their fear of execution.  This is known as the individual deterrent effect.  Unquestionably, the incapacitation effect (execution) and the individual deterrent effect both exist and they both defend society by protecting innocent life and offer enhanced protections over imprisonment.

Fourth, furthermore, individual deterrence assures us that general deterrence must exist, because individual deterrence could not exist without it. 

Executions defend more innocent lives. 

Fifth, actual innocents that are convicted for murders are better protected by due process in death penalty cases, than in non-death penalty cases. No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the US death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

Again, offering more defense of innocents and, thereby, a greater defense of society.

The Pope's defending society standard should be a call for increasing executions. Instead, the Pope and other Church leadership has chosen a position that spares the lives of known murderers, resulting in more innocents put at risk and more innocents harmed and murdered --  a position which, quite clearly, contradicts the Pope's, and other's, conclusions.
 
Contrary to the Church's belief, that the Pope's opinion represents a tougher stance against the death penalty, the opposite is true. When properly evaluated, the defending society position supports more executions.
 
Had these issues been properly assessed, the Catechism would never have been amended  --  unless the Church endorses a position knowing that it would spare the lives of guilty murderers, at the cost of sacrificing more innocent victims. 
 
When the choice is  between

1) sparing murderers, resulting in more harmed and murdered innocents, who suffer through endless moments of incredible horror, with no additional time to prepare for their salvation, or
2) executing murderers, who are given many years on death row to prepare for their salvation, and saving more innocents from being murdered,

The Pope and the Catholic Church have an obligation to spare and defend more innocents, as Church tradition, the Doctors of the Church and many Saints have concluded. (see reference, below)
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty stance was his own, personal prudential judgement and does not bind any other Catholic to share his position. Any Catholic can choose to support more executions, based upon their own prudential judgement, and remain a Catholic in good standing and they can also, thereby, defend more innocents.
 
Furthermore, prudential judgement requires a foundation of reasoned and thorough review. The Pope either improperly evaluated the risk to innocents or he did not evaluate it at all.
 
A defending society position supports more executions, not less. Therefore, his prudential judgement was in error on this important fact, thereby undermining his sole point in reducing executions.
 
Sixth, defending society is an outcome of the death penalty, but is secondary to the foundation of justice and biblical instruction.
 
Even though Romans and additional writings do reveal a "defending society" consideration, such references pale in comparison to the mandate that execution is the proper punishment for murder, regardless of any consideration "to defend society."  Both the Noahic covenant, in Genesis 9:6 ("Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."), and the Mosaic covenant, throughout the Pentateuch (Ex.: "He that smiteth a man so that he may die, shall be surely put to death."  Exodus 21:12), provide execution as the punishment for unjustifiable/intentional homicide, otherwise known as murder.
 
These texts, and others, offer specific rebuttal to the Pope's position that if "bloodless means" for punishment are available then such should be used, to the exclusion of execution. Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement does not trump biblical instruction.
 
Seventh, most telling is the fact that Roman Catholic tradition instructs four elements to be considered  with criminal sanction.
1.  Defense of society against the criminal.
2.  Rehabilitation of the criminal (including spiritual rehabilitation).
3.  Retribution, which is the reparation of the disorder caused by the criminal's transgression.
4.   Deterrence
 
It is a mystery why and how the Pope could have excluded three of these important elements and wrongly evaluated the fourth. In doing so, though, we can confirm that his review was incomplete and improper. 
 
At least two Saints, Paul and Dismas, faced execution and stated that it was appropriate. They were both executed.
 
The Holy Ghost decided that death was the proper punishment for two devoted, early Christians,  Ananias and his wife, Saphira,  for the crime/sin of lying. Neither was given a moment to consider their earthly punishment or to ask for forgiveness. The Holy Ghost struck them dead.
 
For those who erroneously contend that Jesus abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament, He states that He has come not "to abolish the law and the prophets . . . but to fulfill them."  Matthew 5:17-22.  While there is honest debate regarding the interpretation of Mosaic Law within a Christian context, there seems little dispute that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect and that Genesis 9:6 deals directly with the sanctity of life issue in its support of execution.

(read "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
 
"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000)
 
Saint Pius V reaffirms this mandate, in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), stating that executions are acts of "paramount obedience to this [Fifth] Commandment."  ("Thou shalt not murder," sometimes improperly translated as "kill" instead of "murder").  And, not only do the teachings of Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine concur, but both saints also find that such punishment actually reflects charity and mercy by preventing the wrongdoer from sinning further.  The Saints position is that execution offers undeniable defense of society as well as defense of the wrongdoer.
 
Such prevention also expresses the fact that execution is an enhanced defense of society, over and above all other punishments.
 
Eighth, the relevant question is "What biblical and theological teachings, developed from 1566 through 1997, provide that the standard for executions should evolve from 'paramount obedience' to God's eternal law to a civil standard reflecting 'steady improvements' . . . in the penal system?".  Such teachings hadn't changed.  The Pope's position is social and contrary to biblical,  theological and traditional teachings.
 
If Saint Pius V was correct, that executions represent "paramount obedience to the [Fifth] Commandments, then is it not disobedient to reduce or stop executions?
 
The Church's position on the use of the death penalty has been consistent from 300 AD through 1995 AD.  The Church has always supported the use of executions, based upon biblical and theological principles.
 
Until 1995, says John Grabowski, associate professor of Moral Theology at Catholic University, " . . .  Church teachings were supportive of the death penalty.  You can find example after example of Pope's, of theologians and others, who have supported the right of the state to inflict capital punishment for certain crimes and certain cases." Grabowski continues: "What he (the Pope now) says, in fact, in his encyclical, is that given the fact that we now have the ability, you know, technology and facilities to lock up someone up for the rest of their lives so they pose no future threat to society -- given that question has been answered or removed, there is no longer justification for the death penalty."  (All Things Considered, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 9/9/97.)
 
Ninth, the Pope's position is now based upon the state of the corrections system -- a position neither biblical nor theological in nature.  Furthermore, it is a position which conflicts with the history of prisons.  Long term incarceration of lawbreakers in Europe began in the 1500s.  Of course, long term incarceration of slaves had begun thousands of years before --  meaning that all were aware that criminal wrongdoers  could also be subject to bondage, if necessary - something that all historians and biblical scholars -- now and then --  were and are well aware of. 
 
Since it's inception, the Church has issued numerous pronouncements, encyclicals and previous Universal Catechisms.  Had any biblical or theological principle called for a replacement of the death penalty by life imprisonment, it would have been revealed long before 1995. 
 
Tenth, there is, finally, a disturbing reality regarding the Pope's new standard.  The Pope's defending society standard requires that the moral concept of justice becomes irrelevant.  The Pope's standard finds that capital punishment can be used only as a vehicle to prevent future crimes. Therefore, using the Pope's standard, the moral/biblical rational -- that capital punishment is the just or required punishment for murder -- is no longer relevant to the sin/crime of murder. 
 
If defending society is the new standard, the Pope has decided that the biblical standards of atonement, expiation, justice and required punishments have all, necessarily, been discarded, with regard to execution.
 
The Pope's new position establishes that capital punishment no longer has any connection to the harm done or to the imbalance to be addressed.  Yet, such connection had always been, until now, the Church's historical, biblically based perspective on this sanction.  Under a defending society standard, the injury suffered by the murder victim is no longer relevant to their punishment.  Executions can be justified solely upon that punishments ability to prevent future harm by the murderer.

Therefore, when considering executions in regard to capital murder cases, a defending society standard renders justice irrelevant.  Yet, execution defends society to a degree unapproachable by any other punishment and, therefore, should have been fully supported by the Pope.
 
"Some enlightened people would like to banish all conception of retribution or desert from our theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself.  They do not see that by doing so they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it?" (quote attributed to the distinguished Christian writer C. S. Lewis)
 
Again, with regard to the Pope's prudential judgement, his neglect of justice was most imprudent.
 
Some Catholic scholars, properly, have questioned the appropriateness of including prudential judgement within a Catechism. Personal opinion does not belong within a Catechism and, likely, will never be allowed, again. I do not believe it had ever been allowed before.
 
In fact, neither the Church nor the Pope would accept a defending society standard for use of the death penalty, unless the Church and the Pope believed that such punishment was just and deserved, as well.  The Church has never questioned the authority of the government to execute in "cases of extreme gravity," nor does it do so with these recent changes. 
 
Certainly, the Church and the Pope John Paul II believe that the prevention of any and all violent crimes fulfills a defending society position.  There is no doubt that executions defend society at a level higher than incarceration. Why has the Pope and many within Church leadership chosen a path that spares murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives, when they could have chosen a stronger defense of society which spares more innocents?
 
Properly, the Pope did not challenge the Catholic biblical and theological support for capital punishment.  The Pope has voiced his own, personal belief as to the appropriate application of that penalty. 
 
So why has the Pope come out against executions, when his own position -- a defense of society -- which, both rationally and factually, has a foundation supportive of more executions?
 
It is unfortunate that the Pope, along with some other leaders in the Church, have decided to, improperly, use a defending society position to speak against the death penalty.
 
The Pope's position against the death penalty condemns more innocents and neglects justice.
 
copyright 1997-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or part, is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharp(at)aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 
 
homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx
 
www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
joshmarquis(dot)blogspot.com/
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_contents.htm  (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

dudleysharp said...

Re: Pro-life

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
 
Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
 
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
 
Although this is, obviously a truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
 
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
 
Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
 
That is. logically, conclusive.
 
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
 
A surprise? No.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.
 
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
 
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
 
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
 
Reality paints a very different picture.
 
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of convicted capital??murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
 
In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
 
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher,are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
 
6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence. An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.
 
The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
 
To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.
 
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
 
If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
 
Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
 
Unlikely.
 
Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
 
Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
 
(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

copyright 2007-2008, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

dudleysharp said...

Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
 
Religious positions in favor of capital punishment are neither necessary not needed to justify that sanction. However, the biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.
 
Many of the current religious campaigns against the death penalty reflect a fairly standard anti death penalty message, routed in secular arguments. When they do address  religious issues, they often neglect solid theological foundations, choosing, instead, select biblical sound bites which do not impact the solid basis of death penalty support.

The strength of the biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty is, partially, revealed, below.
 
Some references:
 
(1)"The Death Penalty", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, by Romano Amerio, 
 
Thoughtful deconstruction of current Roman Catholic teaching on capital punishment by a faithful Catholic Vatican insider and expert theologian.
 
http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html
titled "Amerio on capital punishment "Friday, May 25, 2007 
 
 (2)  "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", at http://www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx

 
 (3)  "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective", by Emmanuel Valenza (Br. Augustine) at
http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm
 
 
(4) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)", by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 200
http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4
 

(5) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?", KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp
 
 
(6) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS" , KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp


(7) "God’s Justice and Ours" by Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022

 
(8)  "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
 

(9) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm
 

(10) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.

---------------------

70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans  favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.

copyright 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 

Louise said...

Perhaps Mr Sharp has already answered this objection above, if so, I apologise, but I am pressed for time.

The main reason I am happy enough with being free of the Death Penalty here is that mistakes are made in the courts and it is possible that an innocent person in executed.

Otherwise, I am generally in favour of the Death Penalty.

In any case, I didn't think that JP2 was absolutely against the Death Penalty, just that he thought on the whole it should be used sparingly.

Cardinal Pole said...

Dudley Sharp and Louise,

Thankyou both for your comments.

In particular, Mr. Sharp, I am grateful for the apologetical material that you provide. I think you encapsulate the injustice of withholding the death penalty when you say that:

"Tenth, there is, finally, a disturbing reality regarding the Pope's new standard. The Pope's defending society standard requires that the moral concept of justice becomes irrelevant. The Pope's standard finds that capital punishment can be used only as a vehicle to prevent future crimes. Therefore, using the Pope's standard, the moral/biblical rational -- that capital punishment is the just or required punishment for murder -- is no longer relevant to the sin/crime of murder."

Clearly, it is the moral/biblical rationale that should take priority over utilitarian ends, worthy though they might be. But this sort of confusion is to be expected when, as in most Western countries, the 'justice' system is nothing more than an arm of the welfare system.

May I ask: how did you come across my blog? You are most welcome here, of course.

Louise,

Mr. Sharp alludes to your concern in his material. Clearly, in the secularist world-view, the fear of wrongful execution cripples any application of the death penalty because it is seen as the absolute destruction of a life (and of course for them, earthly life is all there is), whereas we know that at the separation of the soul from the body, life is changed, not ended.

Furthermore, the presumption of innocence rather than of guilt keeps wrongful sentences to a minimum. The misapplication of any sentence is not, in itself, sufficient reason to withhold that sentence.

Louise said...

Yes, well, reading the papers, one sees any number of people who could do with being hanged.

Clearly, in the secularist world-view, the fear of wrongful execution cripples any application of the death penalty because it is seen as the absolute destruction of a life (and of course for them, earthly life is all there is)

Yes, certainly, this is the main thrust of their concern.

But surely it is also a matter of justice. It is, I should think, unjust to execute an innocent person. That's the bit I can't get around.

dudleysharp said...

Louis, you cannot "get around" that more innocents are at risk without the death penalty. In the US, as in all countries, there are nearly countless policies that put innocents at risk. In the US, there is no proof of an actual innocent being executed, at least since 1900. Should the US banish all other government or privately regulated practices which do have proof of innocents killed, within those pratices?

How many tens of thousands have been harmed or murdered by those criminals under the government supervision of parole and probation? What about all the children drowned or brain dsmaged in swimming accidents? Etc., etc.

Sydney Vacantist said...

This is completely deplorable and reminds me why, although I am a Traditionalist, I never feel comfortable in the midst of "Conservative" Catholics.

God is the giver of life: He decides when it may end, not human agents, courts, laws etc. No doubt the commenters above will dismiss my comments as emotionalism divorced from reason.

To all those who favour Capital Punishment, I recommend that you enlist as executioners immediately and see what it is like to extinguish life given by God - even the life of a notorious killer. If you think putting someone to death is pleasing to God, then I fear that ideology has triumphed over mercy.

Remind me never to visit this site again and be sullied by its bigotry.

Louise said...

Mr Sharp, I am a girl, my name is Louise.

Should the US banish all other government or privately regulated practices which do have proof of innocents killed, within those pratices?

Non sequitur. We are not speaking of activities in which a person may accidentally be killed.

The question is one of intention. There is not intention of drowning children re: swimming pools. Unless one is a murderer, in which case we get back to "how should we deal with such persons?"

Sydney Vacantist's reply was certainly emotional, but it had one important point - the executioner. What does it do to a person's humanity to be an executioner? I wouldn't wish to be one.

How many tens of thousands have been harmed or murdered by those criminals under the government supervision of parole and probation?

This is a very reasonable rejoinder to my argument regarding the possible execution of innocent persons, although it sounds a bit utilitarian.

Also, does the end justify the means? Never. So, if it were wrong to execute people, it would be wrong, regardless of circumstances.

The question is simply whether it is good or right to execute a convicted criminal. I am in two minds about this.

Louise said...

Oh, and Fr Frank Brennan is the "honorary chaplain to the zeitgeist" as one wag put it, so, I'm not inclined to listen to anything much that he says about anything.

Anonymous said...

Sydney Vacantist,

Please, please, please, don't be a halfwit.

If God delegates the doing of justice to human agents, they are permitted to inflict whatever sentence justice requires.

And why stop there?

Why not claim human judges have no jurisdiction to resolve civil distputes, on similar principles?

The only bigot here is you.

James.

P.S.: I know what I'm on about, unlike you, when I talkd about justice. I'm a lawyer.

dudleysharp said...

Louise:

My apologies, I missed typing the "e".


In context, it not a non sequitur, because I am looking at the issue as innocents killed as a product of government error. So it is quite germane.

You are looking at is as an intentional killing, where an error is made.

For you, it must be "intentional".

To state the obvious, there is no intent to execute and innocent. The intent is to execute the guilty murderer.

I understand what you mean - which it the "intent" of killing, not the unintended execution of an innocent.

I am not sure why you concentrate on intent. The issue is wrongful execution, which is an error of the government. Whether accidental or intentional, the problem is, for me, the killing of the innocent.

At least, in part, you seem to agree. You have not concluded that execution of murderers is wrong. As you write. "I am in two minds about this."

So, you haven't concluded that the intent of killing is wrong.

It appears that you agree that the execution of an innocent is wrong, not truly because it is an intentional act, but because an innocent died - a breakdown of government procedure.

Or, I don't see, clearly, your objection.

David said...

As they say on the radio, I'm a first time reader, first time commenter!

Great post! Another great piece is Justice Anotin Scalia's piece on the morality of the death penalty in first things:

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022

I'll post a link rather than the full article. He addresses the whole abortion vs death penalty issue in the context of Catholic morality. Bottom line, JPII is wrong, and numerous saints are right...

David said...

I reckon we should make Mary I a saint, too....

Cardinal Pole said...

Sydney Vacantist,

I am more than willing to debate the theory and application of the death penalty, but you give me very little to go on.

1) You say that you are a Traditionalist. So am I. You then express your discomfort around 'conservative Catholics'. I ask you: what is your understanding of Tradition, and why do you consider the death
penalty to be (implicitly) antithetical to it? Your discomfort around 'conservative Catholics' is curious to me since it is they, and not Traditionalists, who tend to be anti-execution. And what exactly do you find deplorable?

2) God's undisputed sovereignty over life and death is insufficient reason to reject the death penalty. God, the First Cause, can exercise His authority through second causes.

3) Your recommendation for me to volunteer as an executioner is certainly nothing more than an appeal to emotion. Substitute 'soldier' for 'executioner' and we have a classic argument of the humanistic pacifists. Do you subscribe to humanistic pacifism as well?

4) "If you think putting someone to death is pleasing to God, then I fear that ideology has triumphed over mercy."

This is a non-sequitur. Ideology has nothing to do with it. Justice is a cardinal virtue. Mercy pertains to Charity. What is your definition of mercy? Is it, for you, nothing but the arbitrary withholding of justice? Charity is giving to someone of what is your own; justice is giving to someone what he is owed. There is no opposition between the two virtues. I think that the satisfaction of Justice is pleasing to God. If someone does not expiate his sins in this life then he will do so in the next life.

5) "Remind me never to visit this site again and be sullied by its bigotry."

Bigotry?!? I have tried to reason things out, and you have failed to engage with my arguments.

Finally, I ask you: what is a just punishment for cold-blooded murder? What, for you, is the essense of Justice?

David said...

Sydney is a dumbass rather than a traditionalist.

I take as my starting point Fr Ripperger FSSP's article in Latin Mass Magazine about the difference between traditionalist and conservative Catholics. The former are attracted to the traditional faith and magesterium, the latter will bend to whatever the Pope says. They are "magesterialists". Idiots like Sydney would worship Baal if Cardinal Levada said it was a good idea. JPII = death penalty bad, therefore opposing the death penalty is Catholic tradition. What a lot of shite. Saints thoughout history have supported the ultimate sanction - St Paul - for instance, and he wrote a lot of the New Testament - St Thomas More (patron Saint of lawyers) imposed it, and heavily, and because of a couple of ambiguous (and badly argued) paragraphs in an encyclical devoted to contraception and abortion, we chuck out St Paul?

And yes, Sydney, I would have no fear of "putting on the black cap" or "pulling the lever".

A friend of mine was at the sentencing to death of the last man hanged in this state. He told me he is (in principle) opposed to the death penalty, but rejoiced when Valace took the drop in '64. Valance shot a man and raped his wife amidst the husband's splattered brains.

Nothing in the Catholic faith, as handed to us by the Apostles and their successors, prevents the execution of such a man. As Justice Scalia argues, the relevant paragraph of evangellium vitae actually speaks in favour of imposing the death penalty more, rather than less often.

Sydney, you are not a traditionalist Catholic, but rather an anglican who likes dressing up and the smell of incense, no?

Cardinal Pole said...

No foul language or excessively graphic crime descriptions please, David.

Sydney Vacantist, you are still welcome to argue your case here, but don't just talk about 'bigotry' or make appeals to emotion.

I can see no reason, based on logic or revealed truth, to withhold the death penalty.

David said...

Apologies. Colourful language is a tendency to sin I'm trying to wipe out. The Valance story was described to me so vividly by a man who was there, that It's just stuck in my mind. The man threatened to kill everyone in the court room, including the stenographer, before they dragged him out to Adelaide Gaol...

Nevertheless:

"Unlike such other hard Catholic doctrines as the prohibition of birth control and of abortion, this is not a moral position that the Church has always-or indeed ever before-maintained. There have been Christian opponents of the death penalty, just as there have been Christian pacifists, but neither of those positions has ever been that of the Church. The current predominance of opposition to the death penalty is the legacy of Napoleon, Hegel, and Freud rather than St. Paul and St. Augustine."

As for the whole "executing an innocent man" thing, well, “Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.”.

Cardinal Pole said...

Apology accepted.

Interestingly, although Napoleon, Hegel and Freud might have been anti-execution, Kant, for one, recognised the necessity of the death penalty, despite arguing from a non-Christian point-of-view. There is more on this at the S.S.P.X. article that I mentioned in the main post.

Louise said...

Thankyou for your reply, Mr Sharp.

In context, it not a non sequitur, because I am looking at the issue as innocents killed as a product of government error. So it is quite germane.

Well, it's now pretty late and my braincells are rapidly packing it in for the day, so I'll take your word for it!

I suppose I can't see why guvvermints should get involved in matters where people will only die through an accident (eg drowning) - unless it's just to encourage safety principles, such as pool fences. I couldn't quite see where the connection was between someone drowning in an accident and an innocent person being sentenced to death. I still can't really, but perhaps I'm just dense.

NOw, I have never thought (nor did JP2 teach) that the Death Penalty is wrong. My only question was whether it was perhaps better to do without it. This is what I'm in two minds about.

To state the obvious, there is no intent to execute and innocent. The intent is to execute the guilty murderer.

Yes, certainly. I suppose I just don't like the idea of an innocent person accidentally being sentenced to death, that's all. If they were sentenced to life imprisonment, that would still be bad, but they might have a chance to be freed if ever they were found to be innocent. Not much of an argument, I suppose.

Really, I'm just in the process of nutting this out.

At least, in part, you seem to agree. You have not concluded that execution of murderers is wrong.

No indeed. It seems rather fitting than not.

It appears that you agree that the execution of an innocent is wrong, not truly because it is an intentional act, but because an innocent died - a breakdown of government procedure.

Yes.