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Catholics emboldened to abolish death penalty

Discussion in 'One Bread, One Body - Catholic' started by Michie, Jun 29, 2019.

  1. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The comments of Paul Connors, and the back and forth between Connors and Feser really help in understanding this.

    "There are two statements:

    (1) Capital punishment is not always and intrinsically wrong.
    (2) Capital punishment is only to be used when there is no other way of defending society against the perpetrator."
     
  2. Davidnic

    Davidnic Well-Known Member Staff Member Site Advisor Supporter

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    Another nuance to it is that how an action may not be intrinsically wrong but it can be made wrong by the intention.

    Many supporters will state an intention of vengeance.

    So if you put it in the normal formula of most moral theology questions:

    Objective act: Capital punishment
    Intention: Legitimate defense of society
    Circumstance: There is no other recourse
    Judgement: Allowable

    But if you change intention to vengeance or circumstance to there are other means... Even a not intrinsically evil act becomes unallowable.

    These are the things that Pope Saint John Paul II view took into account that the current change does not.
     
  3. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Was vengeance ever considered by the Church to be a justification for putting someone to death after being convicted of a felony crime?
     
  4. Davidnic

    Davidnic Well-Known Member Staff Member Site Advisor Supporter

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    Never.

    But I've talked to many Catholics who follow the line of

    "A person guilty of (insert horrible crime here) are less than human and should die. Besides the Church used to allow the death penalty and it is not evil in and of itself."

    The Church would never have agreed with that view.
     
  5. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    I think it would be very hard to answer this question in the negative. The idea that justice is always an insufficient motive for capital punishment is simply foreign to the tradition of the Church. Feser and Besette look at this question historically in their book.
     
  6. Romans 13:3

    Romans 13:3 Newbie

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    Feser is awesome. It seems to trying to argue logic with him would be like wanting to trade punches with Senator Paquiao on his best day. Gutsy move, but not particularly well advised; you'll probably have some swelling in the morning.
     
  7. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One would have to show that justice means vengeance for this to be so. Can you show that?
     
  8. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Vengeance:
    • Punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense : RETRIBUTION (Merriam-Webster)
    • Punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong (Google dictionary)
     
  9. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    So are retaliation or retribution Catholic values?
     
  10. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Retributive justice is a basic principle of penal law, and the Church has recognized this for ages. The pejorification of certain words is not an argument. It comes down to this: actions have consequences, some actions deserve punishment, and some crimes are proportionate to a punishment of death. Retribution--in a non-pejorative sense--is most certainly a Catholic value, for the Church values reason and the natural law.

    It is worth noting, though, that according to modern dictionaries the words vengeance, retribution, and retaliation simply do not carry intrinsically pejorative connotations, especially in the primary definitions.
     
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  11. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    JPII's analysis actually doesn't fit the traditional object/end/circumstance model as provided here. Your circumstance is simply not valid. "No other option" isn't a circumstance. Desperation is never a necessary circumstance on the traditional model. According to the traditional Dionysian approach, an act is only evil if the object, end, or circumstance are evil. This means that if the object and end are not evil, then any non-evil circumstance results in an acceptable act. This is also why Paul Connors' points in Feser's comments are so shaky. It is extraordinarily difficult to hold that x is only allowable as a last resort, while at the same time holding that x is not intrinsically evil. Something which is not allowable in any other circumstance doesn't become magically licit when you're in a pickle.

    If you want to apply traditional moral philosophy to JPII's analysis then you would need to make use of the principle of double effect, wherein an act that will necessarily bring about an evil outcome can be legitimately carried out with a good intention in view of some other outcome--in this case, the safety of society. Thus the principle of proportionality comes into play: when the desired intention can be brought about without causing the evil outcome this option must be preferred.

    But if we're honest the rationale behind the changes to the death penalty do not come from Aquinas or the long tradition of the Church. Instead they come from Germain Grisez and the New Natural Lawyers. As far as I can tell, Grisez' emphasis on the dignity of life is much different than Aquinas', and I believe that current representatives such as John Finnis are open about this fact.
     
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  12. Rhamiel

    Rhamiel Member of the Round Table

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    That idea seems to be an innovation and a novelty created by modern minds

    Historically the Church, both Clergy and members of the laity with civil authority, understood that some crimes deserved death

    1, justice demanded capital punishment
    2, that a firm set date for the death could motivate repentance of the guilty in a way that a vague notion that they will someday die does not
    3, having the civil authority put criminals to death is a form of preaching the importance of justice to the society at large


    Nothing about being a last resort to protect people seems to be in the historic teachings on this topic

    Just more innovation and confusion from post councilor pastors
     
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  13. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oh, it's older than that. Cain killed Abel but was not killed in response. God, in fact, marked him so that no man would kill him. If justice demands capital punishment then Cain was killed for his offense. But that's not how the Bible describes it.

    And the 'innovation' is one of practicality and not ideology. We do not have to kill a criminal to protect our society in most parts of the world. Formerly this was not so, and to protect society the only safe thing to do was to execute certain criminals. Practically this is not necessary very often. Where it is necessary it should be used. On that pope Francis is dead wrong.
     
  14. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie Supporter

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    Another reason to exact the death penalty is to bring to mind for the society at large, and those contemplating crime, that some crimes will indeed get you killed. It's a pretty good deterrent.

    Human life is precious. If you take life, maliciously, the State has the God-given right to end your life. Saint Paul, I think, alludes to this.

    Romans 13:1-4
     
  15. Rhamiel

    Rhamiel Member of the Round Table

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    What Catholic used Cain as an example of how to deal with the death penalty before 1920?
    Just because you think it makes sense does not mean it is not a novelty
     
  16. Michie

    Michie Human rights begin in the womb. Supporter

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  17. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    But how does the story of Cain and Abel support principle (2) from your post here? I don't see how the story of Cain and Abel supports that principle in any way whatsoever.

    But no one has claimed that capital punishment is necessary for every case of capital offense. What has been claimed is that it is a permissible punishment for certain offenses, even apart from considerations of societal safety.
     
  18. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I don't know. Perhaps IF Cain had decided he was going to kill Adam and Eve and every one of his siblings it would have been proper to kill Cain to protect the rest of humanity. But he didn't, and it looks like he may have not been a serial killer. So I suspect it was circumstantial that God did not kill Cain nor permit anyone to kill Cain. What I take from the Biblical story is a preference for life, for all life meaning even the life of a murderer. Not that it is totally absolute.
    I think John Paul pushed that so that it is only permissible for purposes of societal safety. Which is fine by me. And Francis removed even that. Which is not fine by me. He blew it. You seem to say John Paul blew it as well.
     
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  19. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Maybe I'm the first Catholic ever to draw the connection to Cain. I don't know. Why did God spare Cain?
     
  20. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Okay, I agree.

    I actually wrote a detailed post on my opinion of the matter here. Although I don't like John Paul II's decision, my primary aim in these discussions has been to tease out the fact that John Paul II's teaching was a substantial revision of the long tradition of the Church. I think more people need to admit that fact. That's not to say the revision was intrinsically illegitimate, just that it was in fact a revision.
     
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