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Thursday, November 29, 2012

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BroKen

Just a comment on the graphic that goes with this piece: "Why do we imprison people who imprison (kidnap) people to show imprisoning people is wrong?" makes just as much sense.

Rick

Ummm... Kidnap and imprison have different meanings... Kill and kill do not...

Morgan K Freeberg

One of the most effective ways of fooling intelligent people into making the wrong choice, is to confuse them about which choice is the moderate one and which one is extreme. This is particularly easy to do with the death penalty which, by its very nature, is as drastic as any penalty gets...

It doesn't take too much inspection to see what's tricky about it: When we speak of individual cases, proceeding with the death penalty is extreme, and finding some alternative is moderate. However -- when we speak of the policies themselves it's the reverse. Banning the death penalty, knowing nothing about what future cases will come to pass, what cruelties they will entail, what kind of darkness in human nature we will be seeing years or generations down the line, there's no other way to look at it, out of an entirely feelings-based conviction of right-and-wrong, that is extreme. And it goes considerably beyond the CCC you have cited.

To simply leave it on the table as an option, is the essence of moderation.

If we were arguing about whether the death penalty should be used as often as possible, then the moderate position would be to side with those who are opposed. But of course that is not what is being discussed; what is being discussed is to have it available, as an option, at all.

Rick

It is interesting Morgan that on second look, the Pope seems to be over-reaching the Catechism teaching which suggests there should be recourse but that it should be rare...

Hmmm...

Morgan K Freeberg

Well, I do think I agree with the Pope in the sense that, if you're going through 'em like Darth Vader through a bunch of slow-thinking dim-witted Admirals, there's something terribly wrong that needs fixing on a different level...but then I don't think that's controversial, pretty much everyone would go along with that.

One of my bosses, one much younger than me, commented on Saddam Hussein something like "I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I'd make an exception in that case." He wasn't joking, and I was left sitting there wondering waitaminnit...how do you square that circle. If it's as wrong as people say, it's wrong all the time, right?

I've since come to see it as about exactly that: We're arguing about the exceptions. From this point of view, the CCC cited does a great job of summarizing the pro-death-penalty position, before it gets all distorted. Remember that cartoon of the crocodile stretched out on the psychiatrists' couch, and he says "You know those baby birds that sit in a crocodile's mouth, all trusting & everything? Lately, doc, I've been goin' through those things like they're Tic Tacs." I think that's how anti-death-penalty see pro-death-penalty people, except without the sense of guilt/contrition. It simply isn't a correct assessment.

BroKen

To be fair then, the graphic should ask, "why do we execute people who murder people.....?" "Murder" and "execute" have different meanings but the graphic conflates them into one word "kill". That is why it makes no sense. In truth, we do not kill (execute) people who kill people (soldiers, police, self-defenders). We execute some people who MURDER. The graphic confuses categories. It makes no sense.

chuck aka xtnyoda

To allow a cold blooded, premeditating murderer of a totally innocent person ... to live ... is to cheapen the value of human life.

Rick

There's the heart of my struggle Chuck... I understand the sentiment, and it remains strong in me... But God created, and loves, every human life. He desires redemption for every human life because of that value.

Each and every human life created by God has value.

Should there be an exception to that notion?

I'm positing reluctantly that there should not be if we look at this with consistency.

BroKen

Yes, look at this with consistency. You seem to feel that executing a criminal cheapens the value of that criminal's life. It does not. But keeping him in a cage? That just might. Or perhaps we could just rehabilitate or re-educate since clearly he is just a clockwork... not a moral agent who chose to do evil. What kind of humanity does re-education value?

You feel the cry for justice for the innocent. You feel the desire for mercy for the criminal. That makes perfect sense to a Christian. Yet, as I said in another thread, there is a measure of grace in telling a person, especially a guilty person, "On this day you will meet your Maker. Be prepared!" That sentiment values their humanity more than putting them in a cage for the rest of their natural life.

The death penalty does not have to be about revenge though it is about justice. The death penalty is not devoid of mercy, either. Thinking consistently about human nature and the death penalty would not ban that penalty. We are not making an exception and devaluing the criminal's life. We are honoring the fact that they are a moral agent who bears the weight of guilt for their decisions. It is a severe mercy.

As you think about how modern societies can isolate a criminal in order to protect innocents, consider The Onion Field and watch how a criminal can use that modern society to play a victim like a violin. It is neither justice nor mercy.

Rick

I think it's more accurate to describe my concern with consistency as a concern with devaluing human life in general, not particularly the life of the criminal.

It has been a particular concern for mine far longer than the time that has passed since my return to Catholicism.

I've considered myself pro-life for most of my adult life but thought I was being inconsistent when favoring the death penalty. It continues to be difficult for me to hear of those who on the one hand are against abortion, and vehemently so while just as vehemently for the death penalty. I realize, because I've done this myself, that the argument is that one is about protecting the innocent and the other about punishing the guilty, but I know, as I'm sure most of you do, there have been times when the state has executed an innocent party... and who is it that we're to protect the most?

Again, I'm acknowledging that this is far from a settled matter in the eyes of most.

What I'm choosing to do, and struggling while doing so, is trusting the Church's teaching.

The death penalty should be a most rare punishment doled out when no other option is available.

I admit that the Pope seems to be taking a stance that is counter to the spirit of that taught in the Catechism (and I thank Morgan for making that more obvious to me). I suspect we'll hear more about Pope Benedict XVI's statements.

When I think further about this, I wonder if Christ would execute a death row inmate who repents... and I think the answer to that is no.

Granted, He would know above any of us the genuineness of that repentance but then... doesn't that underscore all the more our need to default to a non-lethal position, particularly as Christians?

Again, that's the heart of my sruggle with this.

BroKen

I began merely pointing out the nonsense in the graphic you posted in support of this post. I hope you can see how foolish it is... even if it seems to support your position.

You thought, or think, it is inconsistent to defend the life of the innocent while supporting the execution of the guilty. I am baffled. Where does this thinking come from?

I understand the "culture of death" that you want to stand against. I do, too. Personally, I would gladly see the death penalty repealed in exchange for fetal personhood legislation. But as Morgan points out, the death penalty is already relatively rare. Abortion is not. There is no way the culture would accept that trade. No, we will accept the offer to free the murderers while maintaining the right to kill the innocent.

You agree that there are times when the death penalty is appropriate. So, why ban it? Because we might make a mistake and kill and innocent person or repentant murderer? Society must have pure hands. If murderers run free, at least we aren't the ones doing the killing. I don't think so. "Due process" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" are pretty high standards. Are they perfect? Hardly. You want to 'fix' the system? Have at it. But seeking to ban the death penalty while admitting that, in principle, it is sometimes appropriate... is muddled thinking.

Rick

I've not sought to ban the death penalty... the Pope seems to be despite the Catechism teaching that the Church "not exclude recourse to the death penalty." My hope is that we'll get some clarification on this soon.

And BroKen... you reference murderers running free... before you accuse me or the Pope of engaging in muddled thinking, perhaps you should take a gander at the mirror for nowhere am I, nor is the Pope, clamoring that murderers should run free. Quite the contrary.

Have the integrity to pull that crap sandwich back before suggesting that anyone here is a muddled thinker.

chuck aka xtnyoda

Just one more little tid-bit from me about locking up a murderer until they die. Is that not still a death penalty? If so we are now just talking about what time the death happens. It is still the state executing the person, just in a longer time frame?

Good discussion.

BroKen

Rick, I have eaten plenty of crow (or crap sandwiches, as you say) in my time. I'm willing to eat this one, if necessary. Still, you seem to be taking offense when none is intended or really even expressed. For example, you yourself say that you hope to get some clarification on the pope's position. I'll just say, "needing clarification equals unclear equals muddled." It does seem like we agree. There is no reason to fight.

I'll also say that a little voice told me not to send that last post. I should listen more carefully. I think it clear that I have pushed too hard. I'm sorry about that.

Still, my gripe is with the graphic. Look, every crime inflicts or threatens to inflict pain on someone else. That is what makes it a crime. Every punishment inflicts some kind of pain on the convicted. That is what makes it punishment. So, why do we inflict pain on people who inflict pain on people to show that inflicting pain on people is wrong. The graphic is silly sophistry dressed up as a profound thought. It is wrong.... just plain wrong!

Chuck, I don't think it is the same. I've been in prisons. I've met murderers, repentant ones, even. While their life is not one I would recommend to anyone, it is life and it can even be fulfilling. There are some who seem to thrive (and they are not all repentant) in that environment. Life in prison is NOT the same as death.

Yes, it has been a good discussion.

Rick

We may very well agree in the end Ken but the path to that agreement seems strewn with muddled thought, the Pope perhaps, but your own as well. This is merely what I'm communicating. You seemed to suggest that the muddled thinking was the result of people thinking unlike your own thinking.

I hope someone pushes Pope Benedict for clarity. He's known for many things, but muddled thinking isn't one of them.

In the end, I'm in agreement with the Catechism on this.

The death penalty should be an absolute last resort, avoided where at all possible to respect human dignity and to protect life's sanctity.

The Pope will have to explain why he seems to be suggesting something counter to the Church's teaching.

I suspect he will.

Bradley

Pope...Schmope....*opens Bible*....hmmm here it is... "And if he smite him ... so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death."(Num. 35:16)
"Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death."(Num. 35:1)
"But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."(Rom. 13:4)

Love the site Rick.

Kinda glad I'm not a Catholic though.

Rick

Bradley,

I appreciate your love for the site and in fact am most grateful...

However, if something I alone am saying makes you glad you're not a Catholic, then I'm troubled...

Yet...

Its tough for me to look at two OT verses and one NT verse and from that make the case for the death penalty.

On this first day of Advent, a season of waiting on the Lord's return, I can't help but reference the verse that speaks to God not wanting anyone to die but instead desiring all to repent... I take it you and Ken and others would exclude those on death row from God's desires...

BroKen

Rick, I have never, would never, suggest that I hold the market on rational thought. But I do think rational thought is what is necessary in debate as well as life. I admire the Pope and imagine him much more skilled at reason than I am. But even the best of us are prone to irrationality at times. That is one small reason we need each other to hold us accountable and point out our errors.

You are much more willing than I am to give the Pope the benefit of the doubt and wait for clarification. I call them as I see them. I ain't always (or maybe even often) right, but that is why you and others are here to set me straight. :)

Now, if my thoughts about the graphic are misguided or erroneous, I would think it would be possible, maybe even easy, to point out my error. You tried with the different definitions of "kidnap" and "imprison" but I think I showed how that really makes my case. "Murder" and "execute" are different, too. That is what the death penalty is about, not merely killing.

Look, the graphic isn't foolish because I say it is. It is foolish because it is nonsense. I have explained why it is so, not from my personal perspective, but by reason. If you think it makes sense, explain it to me. Point out my error and I will be grateful. If you can't, I would think you would "have the integrity" to take it down or put a disclaimer on it... or something.

Rick

No disclaimers are necessary and I think it complete crap to suggest I take the graphic down.

You say murder and execute are different... Which would mean you've never read of a murder beings described as an execution? Seriously?

I think at this point your concern for the graphic is much less than reason-able and now bordering on the absurd.

An execution is killing. Murder is killing. Yes, one can be considered legal but so what... Does it diminish the death in some way, or elevate it?

A legal killing is killing... In fact, isn't abortion, which is legal, the killing of the unborn? Or would you force us all to say the execution of the unborn?

This isn't reason... It's semantic pedantics...

chuck aka xtnyoda

Ultimately I have a scriptural question about the 'right' of government to have a death penalty. Romans 13:4, "For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong." (HCSB)

It has always seemed to me that the idea of government carrying the 'sword' is the same as what we would refer to as capital punishment.

I know we haven't breached the topic of capital punishment as a deterrent for murder, but it would seem to me that if we were to remove the 'sword' from the hands of government then there would be less caution about committing murder?

And, yes I did read Bradley's comment. :-)

Bradley

Hey Rick! Please understand it's not something you're saying necessarily it's just the very idea of getting all worked up over the opinon of a european socialist (or any other human being, no personal disrespect to Joseph Ratzinger, a good man by all accounts) about the death penalty (or any other issue) when it is fairly clearly spelled, and exampled in the Scriptures just goes against the grain for me.
And as to the Lord desiring that none should perish and all should come to repentance, I share that desire, as should anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. However humans, by God's design, have the power of choice and can and do chose to brush off the outstretched hand of mercy and 'count themselves unworthy of eternal life'.
Also the fact that life is so precious,particularly innocent life,it deserves to have the ultimate penalty as a recompense if it is violated.

It's not about deterrence, it's about justice.

But hey, it's only my opinion right?

BroKen

Okay Rick you stand by the graphic because killing is killing is killing. The Mafia does execution style killing. They might even have a ceremony. Therefore it is the same as a state execution. Is that what you are saying? You are saying a state execution is essentially a lynching by a mob with more rules and therefore it takes longer? The execution of Ted Bundy was essentially the same as his killing those women. It was just one bloodthirsty guy verses a bloodthirsty society. That is what the graphic says. And you still stand by it?

Tim Chesterton

Can I just say, in support of Rick, that quoting Bible verses without paying attention to the broad sweep of biblical teaching is very bad biblical exegesis for Christians.

Yes, there are Old Testament verses that approve of the death penalty. But they don't just approve of it for murderers, do they? They approve of it for those who curse their parents too. If we take the one as being the authoritative 'word of the Lord' for us today, on what basis do we refuse the other?

The fact is that Jesus has massively reinterpreted the Old Testament for Christians, and there is a difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. To say this is not rampant liberal socialism but New Testament Christianity according to the epistle to the Hebrews.

Yes, Romans 13 does talk about the 'authority' bearing the sword. But Romans 13 assumes that the 'authority' is not Christian. Read it carefully; you will see that the apostle never uses 'you' language when he's describing the 'sword' function of the 'authority', but only 'he'. The 'you' language is in Romans 12, and in 13:8ff. And what do we find there? 'Do not repay anyone evil for evil' (v.17); 'Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord"' (v.19).

Interestingly, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (usually dated around 215 A.D.) reflects this different calling of Christians - the idea that whatever the world may do, we Christians are called to a different standard. In chapter 16, in a section dealing with who may be admitted as catechumens to the Faith, we read these words:

A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out. Nor must he take military oath. If he refuses, he shall be rejected. If someone is a military governor, or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected (you can read the whole chapter by going to The Apostolic Tradition and scrolling down to chapter 16).

Rick

Brad... did you mean to imply that the Pope is a European socialist? I'm thinking it'd behoove you to check a tad more into his writings, particularly his opposition to 'European socialism'... it's out there as he's prolific... I can help if you're having trouble...

Ken, you complain about the Pope's muddled thinking and yet, I can't for the life of me understand where you're attempting to go with the graphic... I guess I'm simply stupid...

The Pope has opined (and it's an opinion, it's not an ex-cathedra proclamation that all Catholics must obey) that the death penalty should be abolished... in that context, I include a graphic that I thought cut to the mustard as to at least of part of the man's thinking... in light of Christian mercy and forgiveness...

You take that graphic and have made it your hill to die on... so die on it...

I'm not budging from my perspective that what it says is meaningful and relevant to the post... and I'm certainly not going to take it down because of your... meandering... thinking about it...

You have yet to answer my points about it... Is abortion, which is legal, the killing of a child in the womb? Or would you instead call it a state sanctioned execution and force the rest of us to call it the same... and oh by the way, to the baby in the womb, does it freakin' matter because she/he is dead? If, in your thinking, it should be called a state sanctioned execution, then what right do we as Christians have to argue against it since government, God sanctioned government, has deemed it legal?

If the death penalty is seen to be nothing more than an act of justice, are we truly arguing that justice is only meted out by putting the person to death? There is no other way to mete out that justice?

And answer the question in the light of God's notion of mercy and forgiveness which I'd think are the hallmarks of Christ's teaching...

Bradley

Tim, I'm a little confused on your point. No one is advocating that the Church execute anyone. It is exactly the duty of the state as instituted by God.

"'Do not repay anyone evil for evil' (v.17); 'Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord"' (v.19). With God's vengence being brought about by the God instituted authority of government through the death penalty or whatever punishment for whatever crime.

Tim Chesterton

Brad, you have a much more institutional view of 'the Church' than I do. You are correct that the institution of the Church is not executing anyone. But the institution of the Church did not exist when Paul wrote Romans. The Church as a community, as the Body of Christ, existed, as it still does today across many institutional boundaries.

How is this relevant? Well, in your country and mine there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who work for 'the State'. Some of them are involved in the justice system. Some of them condemn criminals to death. Some of them, for all I know, carry out the sentences. In that sense, yes, the Church is indeed executing people. And I'm not even going near the question of whether or not the Church is executing people by its votes.

'Do not repay evil for evil' is not a command that Christians can leave behind when they go to work in government offices. Wherever we go, we are the Church.

chuck aka xtnyoda

I still don't understand how the reality of a death penalty being a deterrence is not a viable consideration?

I think it was BroKen that referred to many prisoners not considering incarceration as any real deterrent to crime. As a sworn in reserve deputy in our county sheriff's department for over the last 20 years I can concur that many criminals do not fear incarceration one iota. Some even see it as a badge of honor.

The more we have focused incarceration on being about rehab, the higher crime has soared, not to mention the murder rate.

BroKen

I am content to die for the truth, Rick, on the hill of this foolish canard or any other. I have not meandered on my comments about its folly. I have consistently argued that it conflates justified killing (execution) with unjustified killing (murder), treating them as the same when they are not. I have tried to show the absurdity of making the same kind of statement in other contexts like imprisonment for kidnapping or generally inflicting pain as punishment for inflicting pain. Then I had to deal with your assertion that some murders are called "execution style" as if that pertains to my point. I am not meandering, my friend. I'm just trying to nail some jello.

To answer your point about abortion, it is unlikely that any abortion would be called an execution because everyone knows the child is innocent. "Executing the innocent" is an oxymoron. It is non-sense. Well, perhaps our society could get to such an irrational stage of calling it an execution... still it would not be right. It hinges on guilt and innocence. So, no, in my thinking it is NOT; abortion cannot be a "state sanctioned execution". The question of the death penalty is not about its legality but about its justice. No doubt a state can commit murder. But the graphic implies that all executions are the same as murder. Do you really believe that?

You have not answered my point. Was the execution of Ted Bundy essentially the same as his murder of those women? That is what the graphic implies.

You tell me, what is the way for society to mete out justice in the case of the women Ted Bundy killed? I am fully aware that Jesus died for Mr. Bundy and took all his heinous acts upon Himself on the cross. I even hope that Bundy repented and accepted the grace offered to him. But I'll ask again, what is the way for society to METE OUT JUSTICE in the face of such evil actions?

Rick

Clearly, you think the only way for society to mete out justice is to kill the offender.

I think society could mete out justice by locking the offender up for life, humanely, but starkly and in a minimalist way, a way that is seen to be punishing and fitting to the crime.

I don't know if this analogy will work for you Ken... and frankly, I expect it will not... you're writing things I'm simply not understanding so I'm imagining I'm doing the same for you but... here goes...

Hell is scripturally considered to be a place where justice is meted out. I think we can agree.

If God however, from your perspective, were to mete out justice rightly, he would not use a form of punishment that is eternally agonizing (say like a life sentence here on Earth) but would instead, simply snuff the offender out. Period.

If Hell is a place where justice is meted out... and it's a place where punishment is agonizing and eternal...

Then wouldn't it seem appropriate that an offender, on this side of the life/death barrier and the meting out of God's true justice on the other side, suffer a punishment that is lengthy (and presumably humanely agonizing) until that time this offender meets up with God's true justice?

The other piece to me is this.

God does everything He can to give us all one chance or another to avoid his meting out of justice. Everything to include the killing/execution/murder/death of his own Son.

Why wouldn't we who follow that Son, not do everything to avoid an offender facing His final justice?

And if we say we shouldn't do everything possible to help someone avoid that final justice, then how are we different from those who faced 'meted out justice' under the Old Covenant?

Would this mean that there is no New Covenant?

BroKen

Tim, I was fascinated by your link to Hippolytus. Clearly, his was a very different time. Actors are not to be accepted in the church. Hmmmm. Could it be that the government was so corrupt that service in it was considered unacceptable? Seems likely. The minority and persecuted status of the church of that day seems to inform his statements on military service.

It also seems to me that your proscription for the church is to "go Amish". I can respect that... but do you think it is the only option for the church? I asked you a while back about a young man I know, a state trooper, who killed a man in the line of duty. Do you think his action was unacceptable for a Christian? Is it unchristian to use deadly force to protect innocents? If not, is it at least possible that it is acceptable to use deadly force to METE OUT JUSTICE for innocents who have already been killed?

RandomThoughts

Is it unchristian to use deadly force to protect innocents? If not, is it at least possible that it is acceptable to use deadly force to METE OUT JUSTICE for innocents who have already been killed?

What indeed of the policeman who kills a man in the line of duty? Or the soldier? I'm trying to square the "no kill" approach with what I know of Scripture, and my understanding of the Hebrew word "ratsah" used in Exodus, which isn't the same as the English "kill" but rather "murder." Two very different concepts.

BroKen's objection to the graphic makes sense to me, because at the core the argument you make, Rick, is apparently that all killing is murder. Which means the policeman and the soldier are murderers too, no?

Rick

The image on the post is there to support solely the subject matter of the post.

Nothing more.

Catholic teaching does not forbid killing in defense.

Rick

More time at the moment to address RT's reply... here's the fuller exposition on Catholic teaching for self defense, straight from the Catechism:

Legitimate defense

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:


If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."68

More here.

Tim Chesterton

It's not a quarrel I want to spend a lot of time on, since I know that I'm unlikely to persuade the majority of people on this site, and really, we've all probably got more pressing duties the Lord requires of us! So I'll simply point out that in my view the quotes Rick gives from the Catechism of the Catholic Church are not, in fact, 'the traditional teaching of the Church'. As an Anglican, I share with the Catholic Church a respect for the teaching of the early Church Fathers; to me, they are the primary repository of 'the traditional teaching of the Church'. And it is clear from the quote I gave from Hippolytus that in the Roman church, where he wrote about 215 A.D., it was considered illegitimate for Christians to be involved in professions that required them to use lethal force, even at the command of the State.

In response to Ken's question, I'm not sure I know enough about the Amish to know what 'going Amish' would mean; I've noticed that a lot of people think they know what the Amish teach and then find out that, in fact, they don't! But if it means the Church being 'a light for all the world' and 'a city set on a hill' (Matthew 5:13-16) - with a different calling from the world and an observably different way of life whose chief characteristic is the imitation of our heavenly Father who sends his rain and sun on good and bad alike (Matthew 5:43-48) - well, yes, I plead guilty to the charge of believing that this is indeed the call of the Church.

But I have to say that I'm encouraged by the direction that Pope Benedict is taking. I know that the Catholic Church is not a 'pacifist church' but stands in the just war tradition. One of my criticisms of the just war churches has been that in fact they do not uphold the church's traditional criteria as to what is in fact a just war (ensuring that civilians are not killed, for instance, which would have ruled out carpet bombing in WW2, and the use of land mines that stay around for generations and kill and maim civilians). I see the just war tradition as a friend to pacifism, not an enemy. I know that Rick's original post was not related to the war question, but to the death penalty, so it's encouraging to me to see the Pope moving beyond the teaching of the Catechism to consider the whole question of whether the death penalty is truly 'just' - knowing that in the main stream of biblical teaching, justice is a servant of reconciliation, not of vengeance.

Right - I'll bow out now and continue working on my sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent! Blessings to you all!

BroKen

Rick, If I am writing things that you are not understanding, you would do me a great favor by pointing specifically to what you do not understand in order to allow me to clarify. As it is, you make assumptions about my position that are unwarranted. For example, I am not sure that killing the offender is the ONLY way to mete out justice for a heinous murderer. But I am pretty sure that merely locking him up, humanely but starkly, even if seen as punishing, would never be fitting to the crimes of Ted Bundy.

But let's move on to your analogy to hell. Several problems there. I think hell is probably much more complex than "a place where justice is meted out." In fact, it is likely a place completely void of justice, which is one reason it should be avoided at all costs, even your life. Jesus made it clear that the loss of this physical life is no big deal compared to what is called in Revelation, "the second death." An execution is hardly the worst thing that can happen to a guilty person or even death to an innocent one (as if there are any who are innocent). As I've said before, I'll say again, "There is a measure of grace in telling a person, especially a guilty person, that on this day you will meet your Maker. Be prepared."

Then you seem to think that I think that death is annihilation and since hell isn't annihilation, then execution is inappropriate or unjust. But physical death is not annihilation, so... Look, it is more like we tell the convicted murderer, "We would like to set you free. But under the circumstances we cannot. So, we are going to send you off to the Higher Court. That Judge has access to mercy beyond our puny understanding or ability. May God have mercy on your soul." You seem to think that this is a terrible thing to do. Why?

Let's try some definitions.

killing: to take another person's life

executing: the state taking the life of a person guilty of a capital crime

murder: the intentional taking of an innocent person's life

Now the graphic asks, "Why do we kill one who kills to show that killing is wrong?" It is a silly question, but here is the answer.

Executing a murderer is the right thing to do.

Perhaps you ask, but how can two wrongs make a right? They don't. Executing a guilty person is not a wrong. That is the whole point.

Here is an analogy that might help you see why. Imagine two brothers playing a video game. In the middle of the game, the older grabs the controller from his brother and won't let the younger play. In comes the father and takes the controller from the older, gives it to the younger and says don't be so rude and selfish. What would motivate the older brother to complain, "Why do you take the controller from me when I took it from my brother in order to show me that taking the controller is wrong?" Wouldn't that be an accusation that the father is being rude and selfish just like he is? And that is a lie.

You ask, "Why wouldn't we who follow that Son, not do everything to avoid an offender facing His final justice?" Because we can't and it is folly to imagine that we can. The only person who can do anything to avoid God's final justice is that person.

Rick

Ken, my first reaction when reading your last is to ask a question, a simple one... did a member of the Trinity get replaced? By you?

There seems to be little room in your mind for anyone to disagree and moreso, anyone who disagrees is engaging in folly. Now, it's one thing to see me as foolish because I'm sure there've been times when that shoe fits me. But the fact is that there are many, over the ages, who don't see things the way you're seeing them and who are anything but foolish. So I ask the question again, is it Father, Son and Broken?

It seems foolish to me to compare the extermination of life with kids fighting over video games... it's foolishness I can't begin to understand but hey, I'm just a guy on a blog spouting opinions.

You're arguing with Catholic teaching that's been around a little longer than yours truly or, perhaps if I can give you the benefit of the doubt, you're arguing with my attempt to espouse that teaching. At least that's my hope. Because if it's the former and not the latter, and the former is seen by you to be folly... well... I'll just move along.

When I look at definitions for murder, execution and killing, they all have a common theme and in fact, according to Dictionary.Com, their usage can be interchangeable.

The common theme is the ending of a life. Not fighting over video games or engaging in a kidnapping. The ending of a life.

As I've said in the post, I've struggled over the years with the notion of the death penalty and I've done so because I see life to be precious. All life.

What I don't see is life as something that I can decide casually to snuff out... or to, as you've put it, casually decide that life ought to be ended so a higher court can decide that life's fate. That, to me, seems to be the essence of playing God. And I know I'm not a member of the Trinity.

You say that I'm making assumptions about your positions. No, I'm reading your words and using my deductive reasoning skills to draw conclusions. Which, by the way, is exactly what you're doing as to my words.

I think at this point we should simply agree to disagree because I'm not about to remove a graphic that within the context of the post it's embedded in makes complete sense to me. And I'm certainly not going to add a disclaimer of some sort that would reference how you think it to be silly or nonsensical or whatever.

Murder is killing. Look it up.
Execution is killing. Look it up.

And within the context of a post pointing out the Pope's personal opinion on the death penalty (the execution/killing of a human being) and a brief exposition of the Church's teaching on the subject... I find it relevant.

You disagree. You find it silly, nonsensical and foolish.

Okeydoke. Good on ya.

I don't. Period.

And though I don't know what the Catholic position on the graphic is in any authoritative sense... I know the Catholic position on the death penalty... and I know the Pope's opinion on the same.

And to me, the graphic is relevant.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it because quite simply and succinctly, I'm not changing my mind on it.

Foolish me.

RandomThoughts

I think that perhaps there's a subtext to this disagreement that I'm missing.

I'm coming from as neutral a perspective as possible, reading as a teacher of English for whom words carry power, and their careful use is crucial. I tend to find graphics like the kill one trite, because they attempt to fold complex issues into a clever little package. Invariably they fail, at least for me.

That said, it's only a graphic. But it bothers BroKen. And that he is bothered by it bothers you, Rick, enough to be aggressive in its defense...which seems to indicate the graphic means more to you than BroKen does.

And I'm a bit bothered by that.

But hey, I'm just a guest here, trying to get a handle on what it means to be Catholic. I'll go back to sitting in the bleachers now (wrapping myself in my non-denominational evangelical stadium blanket 'cause there's a sudden chill in the air).

Rick
I tend to find graphics like the kill one trite, because they attempt to fold complex issues into a clever little package. Invariably they fail, at least for me.

That said, it's only a graphic.

I found that graphic in less than two minutes... it resonated, for me, and so I chose to use it for the post...

Does it fail to best represent Catholic teaching on the subject matter? Of course... but that's not the graphic's purpose... it's purpose is to draw the reader deeper into the post itself...

That's it. Nothing more.

I am indeed bothered by the focus on the graphic. Bothered more by the implication that its alleged foolishness is an indication of the folly of Catholic teaching on the subject. That is, in my firmly held belief and opinion, the largest of crap sandwiches.

Now, I don't think more of the graphic than I do BroKen. I do think more of Catholic teaching than I do BroKen's attempt to make that teaching out to be something it isn't. And I think that thought passionately.

BroKen and I go back more than 10 years now. We've disagreed before. We'll disagree again while agreeing more times than we don't. The heat experienced in the exchange I think is the product of two people who simply believe what we believe confidently.

I apologize for the discomfort caused and I hope to better represent what it means to be Catholic on this blog as I continue to learn what it means. Perhaps in this exchange, I've failed.

But I won't give up.

BroKen

Rick, do you see what you are doing here? First, ad hominem. "Ken, you are an arrogant SO... gun!" That may be so (though accusing me of blasphemy is a bit over the top, don't you think?) but it has nothing to do with whether my argument is true.

Then you say my analogies are foolish, that there is nothing to be learned by examining systems of justice involving murder or kidnapping or video game infractions, since they are so different. Yes, they are different. But they all involve justice. Taking a video game from one who has taken a video game involves justice, doesn't it? Imprisoning one who kidnaps involves justice, doesn't it? Isn't it possible that killing one who kills involves justice?

Then you put words in my mouth. That, besides being unsanitary, is rude. When did I ever describe execution as "casually decide that life ought to be ended"? I never did. I never would. Why would you say that?

You wrote, "You say that I'm making assumptions about your positions. No, I'm reading your words and using my deductive reasoning skills to draw conclusions." Yet, I do not recognize the positions you describe as mine. There must be a problem somewhere; reading or reasoning. Which is it?

Rick, you say murder and execution are both killing. Yes, we agree. But look at this.

All rectangles are quadrilaterals. All trapezoids are quadrilaterals. But all trapezoids are NOT rectangles. Trapezoids and rectangles, though they are both quadrilaterals ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Similarly (though with much greater moral import) murder is killing. Execution is killing. But Execution is NOT MURDER. To say they are the same is a LIE. It is the lie of the graphic. It is a lie with great moral import.

You say you found the graphic in a couple of minutes and it resonated with you. Of course it did. It is a very clever bit of sophistry. Now you have thought about it and argued over it. You've made up your mind that the graphic makes sense. If so, then you ought to be able to defend it reasonably. Please, have at it. Explain why the state's execution of Ted Bundy is really no different than his serial murders.

Rick
Rick, do you see what you are doing here? First, ad hominem. "Ken, you are an arrogant SO... gun!" That may be so (though accusing me of blasphemy is a bit over the top, don't you think?) but it has nothing to do with whether my argument is true.

Ken, I'm guilty of sarcasm to make a point. I'm thinking you've engaged in the same for the same purposes but whatever, I'm sorry for pointing out that you seem to leave no room for someone disagreeing with you on this, for pointing out that you are adament as to your point of view being the correct point of view, for pointing out that anyone who doesn't see it your way is practicing folly. Yes, I'm guilty of concluding that someone with that point of view might just have a mild God complex and yes, to point that out, I wondered aloud whether you had replaced a member of the Trinity. I thought it was funny. Still do.

Then you say my analogies are foolish, that there is nothing to be learned by examining systems of justice involving murder or kidnapping or video game infractions, since they are so different. Yes, they are different. But they all involve justice. Taking a video game from one who has taken a video game involves justice, doesn't it? Imprisoning one who kidnaps involves justice, doesn't it? Isn't it possible that killing one who kills involves justice?

The Catholic perspective suggests strongly that in fact, more times than not, it does not. That Catholic perspective is well thought out and not folly.

Then you put words in my mouth. That, besides being unsanitary, is rude. When did I ever describe execution as "casually decide that life ought to be ended"? I never did. I never would. Why would you say that?

Because you wrote this:

"We would like to set you free. But under the circumstances we cannot. So, we are going to send you off to the Higher Court. That Judge has access to mercy beyond our puny understanding or ability. May God have mercy on your soul."

That's about as casual and as shallow as anything you purport the graphic to be and so cheapens the dignity of a human being and life in general in my view. You call the graphic sophistry. I call your comments here sophistry. Now, what differentiates me from you on this is I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on those words because I'm sure there's more you might have to say (and have said) to substantiate your position. I'm just wondering why you can't do the same with the graphic.

You wrote, "You say that I'm making assumptions about your positions. No, I'm reading your words and using my deductive reasoning skills to draw conclusions." Yet, I do not recognize the positions you describe as mine. There must be a problem somewhere; reading or reasoning. Which is it?

I'll posit a third problem. Denial.

Rick, you say murder and execution are both killing. Yes, we agree. But look at this.

All rectangles are quadrilaterals. All trapezoids are quadrilaterals. But all trapezoids are NOT rectangles. Trapezoids and rectangles, though they are both quadrilaterals ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Similarly (though with much greater moral import) murder is killing. Execution is killing. But Execution is NOT MURDER. To say they are the same is a LIE. It is the lie of the graphic. It is a lie with great moral import.

It's not a lie Ken. It's a perspective that differs from your own. Period. It's telling the truth on a level you simply don't want to acknowledge because doing so weakens your position. If execution is killing, and when looking at the fact that a human life is ended at the hands of another, and it is (as you yourself have said), then the graphic, on the level I intended to use it for, is far from a lie. Get over it.

You say you found the graphic in a couple of minutes and it resonated with you. Of course it did. It is a very clever bit of sophistry. Now you have thought about it and argued over it. You've made up your mind that the graphic makes sense. If so, then you ought to be able to defend it reasonably. Please, have at it. Explain why the state's execution of Ted Bundy is really no different than his serial murders.

In the sense that human life has been taken at the hand of another human, it's really no different and I think the graphic, as a result, is relevant.

In the Christian sense that every human life has dignity and worth, it's really no different and I think the graphic, as a result, is relevant.

In the sense that New Testament Scriptures emphasizes grace and mercy over punitive judgment, it's really no different and I think the graphic, as a result, is relevant.

I'm going to, in the next comment because this one is so long, link to some additional Catholic commentary that I hope will be deemed something other than folly, if not by you, hopefully by those who are still reading this thread.

chuck aka xtnyoda

Just for a little more of a chuck tid-bit ... :-)

Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament suggests nor endorses any form of incarceration as a just means of ... justice. From the bible, justice was built around the concept of restitution, not incarceration.

There were certainly cultures the people of God lived around and among at times that used incarceration, but it was never God's design for His people nor His Kingdom.

chuck aka xtnyoda

The notion of a criminal repaying a "debt to society" is not scriptural. Criminals were required to repay their debt to their victims, not to society.

Rick

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with comments related to the death penalty:

The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. . . . I renew the appeal I made . . . for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.
—Pope John Paul II Papal Mass, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999

Twenty-five years ago, our Conference of bishops first called for an end to the death penalty. We renew this call to seize a new moment and new momentum. This is a time to teach clearly, encourage reflection, and call for common action in the Catholic community to bring about an end to the use of the death penalty in our land.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

While the Old Testament includes some passages about taking the life of one who kills, the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ in the New Testament call us to protect life, practice mercy, and reject vengeance.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

When Cain killed Abel, God did not end Cain's life. Instead, he sent Cain into exile, not only sparing his life but protecting it by putting a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight (Gn 4:15).
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

When the state, in our names and with our taxes, ends a human life despite having non-lethal alternatives, it suggests that society can overcome violence with violence. The use of the death penalty ought to be abandoned not only for what it does to those who are executed, but for what it does to all of society.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

Our faith and Catholic teaching offer a moral framework for choices about the use of the death penalty. A principled Catholic response to crime and punishment is rooted in our convictions about good and evil, sin and redemption, justice and mercy. It is also shaped by our commitment to the life and dignity of every human person, and the common good. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis teach that every life is a precious gift from God (see Genesis 2:7, 21-23). This gift must be respected and protected.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

Each of us is called to respect the life and dignity of every human being. Even when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior. Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts. Punishment should be consistent with the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

In Catholic teaching the state has the recourse to impose the death penalty upon criminals convicted of heinous crimes if this ultimate sanction is the only available means to protect society from a grave threat to human life. However, this right should not be exercised when other ways are available to punish criminals and to protect society that are more respectful of human life.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

We also share the hurt and horror, the loss and heartache that are the result of unspeakable acts of violence. We have presided at the funerals of police officers killed in the line of duty and have consoled parents who have lost children. We have heard the anger and despair of victims families who feel ignored by the criminal justice system, society as a whole, and, at times, even the Church. Our family of faith must care for sisters and brothers who have been wounded by violence and support them in their loss and search for justice. They deserve our compassion, solidarity, and support spiritual, pastoral, and personal. However, standing with families of victims does not compel us to support the use of the death penalty.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

For many left behind, a death sentence offers the illusion of closure and vindication. No act, even an execution, can bring back a loved one or heal terrible wounds. The pain and loss of one death cannot be wiped away by another death.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

The death penalty arouses deep passions and strong convictions. People of goodwill disagree. In these reflections, we offer neither judgment nor condemnation but instead encourage engagement and dialogue, which we hope may lead to re-examination and conversion. Our goal is not just to proclaim a position, but to persuade Catholics and others to join us in working to end the use of the death penalty. We seek to help build a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill.
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

That last comment rings familiar to me... and like more sophistry I imagine to others.

More at the link.

Zoe

I think you both (Rick and broKen) have good points..
However, I must side with broKen on the justice aspect of it. It may not bring people back from the dead or undo a great harm that is committed, but it brings closure.
And the possibility of the perpetrator being a harm to himself/herself as well as others. Would that not fall into the self defense category?
And wouldn't killing in self defense be..well, killing?

Rick
It may not bring people back from the dead or undo a great harm that is committed, but it brings closure.

That Zoe is not a given.

And as a Christian, as difficult as the concept is, particularly when a loved one has been murdered, I'm of the belief that we are still called to forgive. I also know it would take a miracle for me to forgive anyone who murders my wife or sons or family members... a miracle... but still, it's an ideal to strive for and, yes, defend.

And the possibility of the perpetrator being a harm to himself/herself as well as others. Would that not fall into the self defense category? And wouldn't killing in self defense be..well, killing?

Two reactions to that.

1) I'm of the belief that perpetrators today can be imprisoned for life (without parole) and that this can be accomplished while mitigating the risk the perpetrator brings to others.

2) There are convincing arguments showing that life sentences without parole are actually cheaper than executing (killing) them due to the appeals process and its length.

chuck aka xtnyoda

We have a very fresh case going on here in our state right now. A 19 year old entered a home, stabbed to death a stepfather and his 4 and 6 year old stepdaughters. Left them to be found by the girls mother when she got home later that evening. Happened last Thursday.

Murderer is now locked up, traced by his hand print in blood on a door and a phoned in tip. Mum is the word about any motive other than that it was probably a robbery attempt.

Just being honest, I have a very difficult time with cases like this. We are praying for this devastated mom and wife.

As a sheriff's chaplain I've made too many death notifications and sat with too many devastated survivors. Too many.

It is just going to be a hard sell to convince me that a death sentence as a deterrent is not some justification for having one. Just my gut. I'm like, "If serving the death sentence would cause just one would be murderer to have second thoughts about killing a 4 and a 6 year old girl, then so be it."

Sorry, not trying to be argumentative, just where I am. I invite anyone reading this to offer up a brief prayer for this dear mom. God knows who she is. Thank you.

Rick

Father God, send your ministering angels, even now, to this wife and mother, comfort her, console her, miraculously show your love to her, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the name of Your Son Jesus... And Mother Mary, join us in praying for her. Amen.

Crader Barger

I am also against death penalty. Only God-the giver of life has the right to take our lives back no matter how bad and notorious the person is.

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