Capital punishment...again


I’d like it if the advocates of this were the ones to personally house or live next to such men. It would tremendously increase their credibility.


That has as much merit as if we were to request that pro capital punishment supporters performed the executions.


In the Pentateuch, there is a phrase that is used repeatedly whenever death is prescribed for a certain act.

It is the phrase “Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.” or something similar, like “the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.” and “the man and the two women as well shall be burned to death, so that shamefulness may not be found among you.

I’m suggesting that punishment is not the purpose of the death penalty, and I’m providing scripture to you as well.


Not really. The impact of allowing murders to eventually go free is on other innocent people. There is no shortage of people willing to carry out executions. No one is being forced to do that. But people are being forced to live with released murderers.


I volunteer my house. They will have to share the guest bedroom with the undocumented migrant, however. Does that give me credibility?


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Perhaps you didn’t read far enough. After the passage you ended with, Bellarmine goes on to say this:

In the law of Moses there are many precepts and examples. “He that striketh a man with a will to kill him, shall be put to death.” And Moses himself, Josue, Samuel, David, Elias, and many other very holy men put many to death. And as for “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” these words cannot be rightly understood except in this sense: Every one who commits an unjust murder ought in turn to be condemned to death by the magistrate. For Our Lord rebuked Peter not because a just defense is unlawful, but because he wished not so much to defend himself or Our Lord, as to avenge the injury done to Our Lord, although he himself had no official authority, as St. Augustine correctly explains, and St. Cyril also. Besides, “If thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister.” St. Paul says that the sword is given by God to rulers to punish evildoers, therefore, if like men are found in the Church, why may they not be put to death?

What he was doing was explaining how the death penalty is supported by Scripture. He was not speaking merely in a general way about a Mosaic Law that was no longer applicable. It was after all Bellarmine who said it was a heresy to believe Christian states lacked the right to apply capital punishment.


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It is indeed a strange interpretation on the section on vengeance, which Aquinas defines as “the infliction of a penal evil on one who has sinned”, to believe it refers to God’s judgment and not man’s. This is doubly mysterious in a section titled “Whether vengeance should be wrought by means of punishments customary among men?” There are three objections Aquinas addresses containing these statements:

  • Obj 1: …Therefore sinners should not be put to death.
  • Obj 2:
  • Obj 3: … Therefore it seems that the punishment of death should not be inflicted for a sin.

These objections are followed immediately by his response:
On the contrary, These punishments are fixed by the divine law as appears from what we have said above (I-II:105:2)

If we look at I-II 105:2 we find this (response to objection 12):

Because the slaying of a heifer, which is a useful animal and full of strength, especially before it has been put under the yoke, signified that whoever committed murder, however useful and strong he might be, was to forfeit his life; and that, by a cruel death, which was implied by the striking off of its head; and that the murderer, as vile and abject, was to be cut off from the fellowship of men


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Those who follow this topic and are inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt can be assured that, while I may very well misinterpret something (and Aquinas is especially challenging), I would never deliberately take anything out of context or misrepresent the statements I cite. Aside from personally being disinclined to do that, there is simply no need. After 2000 years of addressing the topic the church has left a plethora of comments that support the position I am attempting to defend.


Why does this have to get so nasty? And why would you simply accept those uncharitable charges when there is no reasonable argument to support them? If you think I’ve taken your comment out of context perhaps you should rethink it. That was your charge. I never intimated to what it pertained so your complaint that it really referred to Reason A instead of Reason B seems immaterial.

And, if you’re such a stickler for accuracy, there is absolutely no way to categorize my comments as “cavalier”. I provided several responses from serious writers who reached a different conclusion. I consider those positions you refer to as refuted, not dismissed, and certainly not “cavalierly dismissed.”

No one has caught me manipulating quotes, despite the number of times this has been alleged. The arguments to support those charges are without any merit. Even your case is weak. I was referring to the many charges leveled against me, of which yours was only one of many, just like the charges of manipulating quotes. I have to deal with that a lot. Perhaps I should take some consolation from the fact that this is where debates end up when better arguments are hard to come by.


But what is that , Exnihilo?
Nobody is advocating for releasing anyone who will be murdering…
Please think, that except a list of countries you may find even in Wiki, the rest of us who have abolished it do not advocate for “peace , love and rock’n roll” if you know what I mean …
So part from our responsibility for the common good ,not from the idea that the rest of the world has lost its senses…
You have great resources to restore people to society and the families, or make every possible attempt. You really do.
I have heard of people in prison who have made incredible progress thanks to all the help and support received when in prison.
Keep that up… you ve got very valuable people to help people in prison in many ways.
Do not be afraid…it isn’t t just releasing anyone anytime whimsically what the church is advocating,that is out of the question. It is about not putting person to death.
And the following day, the sun will come out as usual and there may be a chance to making real improvement in the treatment of victims and persons imprisoned to step by step give society and families new hope of something better.
As it is being mindful of how important our families are,and how important that time to listening,playing,sharing with our children is to help them grow healthy in mind, body and spirit.
May Jesus help us always with our families…


The Church is not 50 years old.


Even the CCC (the version corrected by Francis) also makes it clear that one can kill in self-defense, or in a just war.
And catechism concil of thirty (which is an official catechism) say that we can kill:

  • in self defense
  • in a just war
  • in the execution of a death sentence
  • when God orders to do it


Of course the Holy Father didn’t say that - it would be heretical to say capital punishment is intrinsically evil.

The Holy Father defined that in light of today’s circumstances in the developed world, the use of capital punishment can no longer be justified; therefore, when capital punishment is used in the developed world today, it is immoral. Which means that we as Catholics and pro-life people, have an obligation to pray and work for the abolition of capital punishment in today’s developed world.


Thank you for that link, but you didn’t answer the question I asked: “is what was true in 2016 still true today?” Which if any of those five statements Archbishop Gomez made then is no longer valid now?

As for his new statement, this comment seems significant:

The Catechism is not equating capital punishment with the evils of abortion and euthanasia. Those crimes involve the direct killing of innocent life and they are always gravely immoral

If abortion and euthanasia are always immoral, and capital punishment is not equated to them doesn’t this indicate that capital punishment is in fact not always immoral? Otherwise how would it differ from them? But, again, if capital punishment is not always immoral then the objections to its use can only be prudential, as in “It is immoral in this instance…” as opposed to “It’s use is always immoral.”

Personally I don’t see anything in his new statement that contradicts anything he said just two years ago…which I don’t find surprising. It is what I would expect to find.


Yes. It is a matter of simple justice which is common to everyone.

Yes again. I have never held otherwise.

I disagree. While it is true that the belief about the severity of particular crimes is locally dependent, the actual severity (for at least the crime of murder) cannot change and is independent of how a particular society responds to it. Life may have been more cheaply held in the past, but murder was no less evil in such times than it is in ours.

While I accept that any particular society is free to make this determination, they are no more free to bind future societies by their prudential judgments than they were bound by the judgments of their predecessors.

Why does disagreement have to be condescension? Can’t we disagree without being disagreeable?


I absolutely agree with this. In fact I posted a comment earlier from Edward Feser saying exactly the same thing:

The faithful would be confronted with the dilemma of having to dissent either from past or from present magisterial teaching.

This is a very non-trivial concern.


I should be ungrateful indeed to take offense at one of the politest disagreements I have yet encountered, and for demonstrating that disagreement does not rule out civility.

Ah, well if you have been following this discussion you will have seen how much trouble I’ve gotten into without flatly saying “The Holy See is apparently in error.” You should be able to imagine the response I’d have gotten for that. Not wanting to be banned from the forum it seemed more prudent to take a different approach.

So, ahem, I disagree with your assessment that the question about the meaning of “inadmissible” is odd. It seems to me that everything turns on why capital punishment is now seen as inadmissible: does it mean it is always morally wrong, or does it simply mean it is now judged to be universally unwise and socially harmful?

I keep trying to show that it is the latter, because if that is the case then I don’t see there has essentially been a change since the proclamation of JPII - which I also took to be prudential.

In any case, it is a real pleasure to be able to argue our differences without it turning personal.


Ah, rehabilitation is a valid objective of punishment, but as you say, it is not primary. Also, I think rehabilitation means more than just making someone fit to rejoin society. The church would clearly include ones eternal salvation under that objective, an objective that can clearly be achieved via capital punishment.


Separating the death penalty from the concept of punishment simply makes it incoherent, as is the argument that capital punishment is somehow not…punishment. The only thing that justifies punishment in general is sin.

“Nothing but sin deserves punishment.” (Aquinas)

The only thing that justifies capital punishment in particular is that the severity of the sin requires an equally severe punishment.

2266 Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

One cannot “purge the evil from your midst” unless the evil deserve it, and because it is a just punishment for their actions. This is an issue of justice by which sin and punishment are inextricably joined.

A penalty is the reaction required by law and justice in response to a fault: penalty and fault are action and reaction. (Pius XII)


Yes, because it is only within the concept of crime and punishment, which is an obligation of justice, that any of this makes sense.

I think of the church’s teachings as all interconnected and try to see them that way. Make whatever case you can and I will respond to it.

Sorry, I’ve responded to so many objections it’s hard to keep up with them all. Either repeat your argument or point me to the post where you made it and I will deal with it, but I really wish you wouldn’t introduce the term “state killings” because that suggests it means something other than “capital punishment” or “the death penalty”, and I’m at a loss to imagine what that might be.

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