Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fr. Harris on the death penalty

http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=9899

In today’s edition of CathNews, Rev. Fr. Tim Harris, the Brisbane pastor of Messrs. Scott Rush and Michael Czugaj (two of the ‘Bali Nine’ drug runners), has protested against the death penalty, saying that it “is not the answer for drug traffickers or for the Bali bombers”. But the article provides an illustration of the confusion inherent in the so-called ‘seamless garment’ approach to life issues. The first problem is that it is the innocent who have a right to life, not those guilty of truly execrable crimes, since, as Pius XII taught, murderers forfeit their right to life by their crimes. Fr. Harris says that

"Our government needs to speak consistently on the death penalty for all," Fr Harris told AAP.

"It can't say 'Save Scott and kill the Bali bombers'.

"It is saying this and I believe is putting Scott's life in danger as a result."

Fr Harris said the Bali bombers should face a harsh punishment, but the death penalty was not the answer.
But to speak consistently means to speak consistently of apples and oranges respectively, not to toss them all into the same basket and speak of them without regard to their essential differences. Why ever can’t the Australian Government say “'Save Scott and kill the Bali bombers”, when drug running is manifestly not in the worst category of crimes, while mass murder is clearly about as bad as it gets? The South-East Asian governments tend to use the death penalty for utilitarian reasons, as a means to ends such as deterrence, when capital punishment should only ever be used as an end in itself (i.e. I am talking about capital punishment strictly so called, capital punishment qua punishment, not merely lethal defence of oneself or of others, which few doubt is licit). That is why we should protest against the way they use it, not because it is intrinsically wrong.

And given that Fr. Harris agrees that the Bali bombers ought to face a harsh punishment, how can he reject the death penalty for them, when it would be absurd to deny that there is a due relation between the crime of murder and the punishment of execution?

Furthermore, Fr. Harris says that he has “ the utmost contempt for what the Bali bombers have done but I will never lower myself to their level”. But how is the death penalty ‘lowering oneself to their level’, when the death penalty can be a just and judicious use of the State’s power over its subjects, whereas the Bali bombing was a heinous and utterly unjustified wanton taking of innocent life? If it is by the bare fact that both acts involve the taking of a human life that Fr. Harris thinks of capital punishment as ‘lowering himself to their level’, then is Father also opposed to just wars, in which one takes up arms against an enemy and thereby, superficially at least (as in the case of the death penalty), imitates the enemy?

It seems to me that the so-called ‘seamless garment approach’ that has taken hold among many Churchmen and layfolk is another example of what Prof. Amerio called a ‘loss of essences’ that has spread during the post-Vatican II years, whereby people fail to make the essential distinctions among different things, and is evident in the secular world as well, such as in the following quotation from a Ms. Helen Pitt writing in The Sydney Morning Herod’s Good Weekend magazine of October 11, 2008, on Mrs. Sarah Palin:

[Mrs. Palin's town is] a place where guns and God are treated with equal reverence; where "right to life" applies to a foetus but not to a fawn.
But just because many fail to understand the meaning of justice, retribution and the pro-life cause is no reason to pander to their ignorance. Catholics ought to stand up for the timeless Traditional teaching on the liceity of the death penalty as a just punishment.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
5.XI.2008 A.D.

3 comments:

dudleysharp said...

Father Harris' claim that execution is lowering oneslf to the level of the mass murderers has become a common, thoughtless pronoincement by anti death penalty folks around the world.

They use a standard saying:

"Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

Even Bishops now use it.

Let's answer the question.

We don't.

Even with no sanction, most folks know that committing murder is wrong.

We execute guilty murderers who have murdered innocent people.

For those who don't know the differrence between crime and punishment, guilty murderers and their innocent vicitms, this may be confusing.

For the rest of us, it is easy to understand.

The moral confusion exists when people blindly accept the amoral or immoral position that all killing is equal.

For those who believe all killing is morally equivalent, they would equate the slaughter of 12 millinon innocents (including 6 million Jews) with the execution of those guilty murderers committing that slaughter. They would also equate the rape and murder of children with the execution of the rapist/murderer.

Fortunately, most folks really do know the difference.

It really does make you consider, do those, like Fr. Harris, who speak such blatant nonsense, actually believe what they are saying?

I have to answer that they can't, unless they think such cooments make could soundbites for their cause.

But, that can't be the case.

Morally and rationally, what they are saying has no credibility. I honestly don't know why otherwise intelligent people would spew such idiocy.

Cardinal Pole said...

Notice: I have had an edited version of this post published as a comment at CathNews.

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