Capital punishment...again


Unbelievable post @Emeraldlady :slight_smile:

And I also like your post very much @graciew very good points.

The theory of practice and the practice of theory.


You seem to have missed my observation.

The point I am making is not that you are clearly wrong here Ender (though I note you have provided no source or authority other than your own fallible powers of reasoning to back your assertions they are perfect synonyms etc).

The point is that intelligent and educated persons who disagree with you (the last four Popes and the theologians responsible for writing the Catechism in this area) are not clearly wrong either.

Do you disagree?

If you agree then why would you, a loyal son of the Church, prefer to go the way of disharmony and strongly and publicly lobby with certainty for your own fallible take which conversely means you are implicity telling others the CCC is in error and at least Pope Francis is in heresy?

I dont believe I misread your current position which I have closely studied on CAF given you have been vocal on this topic for many many years now.


That it is evil to disable my attacker by using more force than is necessary is a moral judgement at the level of principle. It is a moral teaching, a doctrine if you will.

Deciding whether Policeman Smith did so when he killed a drug dealer at a raid is a prudential judgement.

I am sorry Ender but you dont seem to understand what a prudential judgement or judgement re a moral principle is in the discussion.

As I say,

This is all about an explicit judgement at the level of principle.

The toleration of State Killings has been more limited at the level of principle. That is:
States never kill justly if a lesser penalty can be used to defend the State. They didnt know that in the past, now they do. Its now explicitly defined.

This is not a prudential judgement because its truth is not verified from assessing any concrete cases, its derived from reason and natural law…or divine revelation.

The prudential judgement is when I personally decide whether the King of Zambia had any lesser penalties available to protect the State when he hanged 5 murderers last month. Maybe not. Therefore by the above principle the State killing is just.

In the USA I may well prudentially judge the prision system is a lesser penalty that can so protect. In that case a State killing must, on the above principle, be unjust.

All fairly straight forward.

I get it you disagree with the new principle…but you are not the Pope and its his charism to make such determinations re natural law.

He sees no contradiction with other statements in the CCC, therefore if you do then your interpretation must differ.
If you think other theologians support you then it seems likely your interpretation of them is also somehow mistaken. You are a theologically untrained layman I believe? If so it is not surprising if you get the wrong end of the stick when interpretting theologians having never received an integrated theological education.

Nobody here sees the certainties in your quotes and interpretations of them that you see. That again suggests it is possible that the intellectual conflict between you and Pope Francis is in your reasoning and interpretation skills. I am not being impolite but simply taking the facts and hypothesising how this contradiction could be explained.

It seems to me over the last however many years you have been trying to explain this contradiction you always seem to end up saying others are wrong (ie the CCC or Francis).
Are you able to accept even the possibility that it is your weaker reasoning skills or lesser theological training or weak interpretative skills that may be the cause?

Is it “trivially insulting” of your person to suggest this understandable weakness in your powers as a hypothesis? I dont believe so.

It seems unreasonable and inconsistent from an intellectual analysis (which is all I really mean by “not intellectually honest”) to me that you talk like you deny the possibility…and you get upset when someone hints at the possibility.


Francis’s accompanying talk makes it fairly clear he is defining a universal moral principle I think.
Ill have to check your sources re how previous Popes judged the universality of the position thanks.


This is no different than what I said: morality does not change.

1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;

If capital punishment was moral before (as clearly it was taught to be), and it is deemed immoral today, then what are we to say about immutability of natural law?


Good, then nothing has changed, and what we are dealing with in the new version of 2267 is a personal judgment that capital punishment is harmful in today’s societies. That has been my position all along.


When you think about morality, start with the good the morality refers to.
And when you can see that good and apply morality in reference to it, it is clear no moral principles have changed.

The Church affirms the sanctity of all human life. That is immutable. And we can talk about moral evaluations from there.


I am not disagreeing with popes; I am disagreeing with your interpretation of what they said, just as you are disagreeing with mine.

Again, I am disagreeing with you and explaining why any interpretation that has capital punishment being declared immoral would be to accept a position that was declared heretical by the church. Asserting that capital punishment should not be used because it is harmful to the society that uses it is a very different argument than saying it should not be used because it is immoral. There can be legitimate practical objections to its use, just not legitimate moral ones.


We are saying nothing against the immutability of natural law principles.

Polygamy was always against natural law principles but it is not so evil as to be intolerable under certain conditions and so allowed (or even commanded?) by God in special cases.

Likewise all (direct) killings (not just the innocent) are against natural law principles and always have been. Yet killing is not so evil as to be intolerable or even commanded by God under certain conditions making it just.

In all such cases we can explain the toleration of the evil by the PODEffect and the pursuit of a proportionate greater good sought, just as the CCC states.

We get it you cannot accept this is the reason put forward by Pope Francis as the sole reason for justifying past and present (unlikely on prudential grounds) State Killings.

Nevertheless it is a logical, non self contradictory and internally reasonable position regardless of whether or not, according to your fallible interpretations, it is at odds with Dulles, Belarmine or Aquinas.

I do not believe his position is theologically assailable by a theological moral analysis. It would be odd if an untrained layman could gainsay it after being vetted by numerous Vatican theologians and a commission over 6 months or so I would think.


Ender even this statement in intellectually flawed.
All interpretations are possibly valid hypotheses in the face of a personal insoluble contradiction that cannot be resolved. It doesnt matter who makes the interpretation. If it isnt internally illogical or so far from the agreed conclusions that have caused the contradiction then its on the table.

Francis has condemned all modern State Killings as unjust. You hypothesise the only solution to “square this circle” (which you personally cannot accept as consistent either with the deposit of faith or with established unbreakable moral principles) is that Francis and now the CCC is in error.

You will not go so far as to say he is in error at the level of moral principle (ie doctrinally) so your only other acceptable logic is to say he is in error “prudentially”.

I am observing your position is not “intellectually honest”. I am not insulting your person I hope. It is simply an objective way of saying that the above position, if I represented you accurately, is inconsistant in a number of ways that you seem unwilling to reflect on and see for yourself it is so and that you need to reflect more on other hypotheses that do not suffer from such internal inconsistencies.

You may not like to reflect on other hypotheses because you are nursing your own one still and you like it.

But that too is not an “intellectually honest” approach it seems to me.

Why? Because your one publicly denigrates the Pope and the CCC. If there is a hypothesis (regardless of whose it is) that still honours the CCC and Pope Francis then surely a loyal son of the Church would seriously consider it?

And that hypothesis involves the possibility that your interpretative and theological and reasoning skills are not up to the job of fully understanding/interpretting Aquinas nor Augustine nor Catholic moral philosophy/theology in this area.

Those of us who are formally trained do not see the many minor conclusions or interpretations you have reached as in any way intellectually coersive. Equally logical and plausible alternative interpretations are available for each and every allegedly silver bullet quote or source or alleged contradiction you have raised.
(In fact counter problematics have been raised against you that you simply decline to engage such as why has CP for adultery been acceptably commuted to lesser penalties).

That would give most untrained laymen pause for thought when facing off with a Pope’s new teaching.


Can you not see that Pope Francis is saying any State killing that does not use an available lesser penalty (that still protects the State) is already always and everywhere immoral?

Its a new moral principle.

It now newly affects any prudential judgement we then go on to make about use of the death penalty in Zambia as compared to the US.

Before this moral principle was defined such prudential judgements in these two countries could never have differed.

Now they well may.


If you mean by ‘personal judgement’, the Magisteriums ‘prudential judgement’ that the death penalty is morally inadmissible today, then we are in agreement.


Yes. Morally inadmissible.


There is ambiguity in your term “protects the state.” If all you mean by it is what provides protection against future crimes then in no way can that be right. Even, however, if you mean whatever is in the best overall interest of the state, I’m not sure that is acceptable either, not unless justice is at the top of that list.

Protection is not the primary objective of punishment, so punishments determined solely by that criterion cannot be just except by accident.

Ah, I have trouble with that concept as well.

The Pope cannot impose commandments on faithful Catholics because he wants to or finds it expedient. Such a modern, voluntaristic concept of authority can only distort the true theological meaning of the papacy. (Cardinal Ratzinger)


A prudential judgment can tell us that something is unwise, but not usually that it is immoral. Otherwise this would not be true:

Any Catholic is entitled to question the hierarchy’s prudential judgments about anything, as long as it is done in good faith and good taste. (Msgr George A. Kelly, founder of Fellowship of Catholic Scholars)


Taking the life of a person is immoral. We already have the command.
Say self defense. We have every right to stop the aggressor, but not to kill . It isn t like even in a case of self defense our societies or even our judges take the taking ( sounds odd sorry) of a life merrily and lightly.
So unwise is not precisely the word with which we evaluate matters about life or death.
Somehow to stop an aggressor for example became a license to kill in some people’s mind. But I think that today as an example it is wise and somehow responsible to have alarm,dog, a lock , connection to a central police station,for example where I live because to kill sb who breaks into my house is from the bottom of my heart sth I pray never happens. So in a way I have the peace of mind that there are many barriers before sb is st the point of my having to kill a person . God help us…
Jesús didn’t go once against persons but objects…
That some of our( where I live) prisons are a shame with insects,old ,damp, dirty, a hole instead of a toilet , a mattress on the floor and an indescribably shameful habitat , I am sure you would not consider unwise, but inmoral and you would be right . There isn t one excuse to such a shame today, not one…and it is with shame that I say this about some of our prisons where I live…
I know I won’t change your mind, Ender because I already know what your basic premises are, just that looking at it from a different perspective may add to our mutual understanding and usual mutual respect.


Not exactly. There are times when taking a person’s life is justifiable and therefore not immoral. The church has always taught this.

We have a right to use methods we know will be lethal. What we don’t have is permission to intend a person’s death as an objective, and end. As long as defense is the end, we are justified in doing what we must do to achieve that end.

Do not assume from my comments that I am unconcerned with the fate of others or with the hardships they endure. In fact it is best not to assume anything at all about my feelings. Take my words exactly as I present them and deal only with what I say, not with what you think might be inferred from my comments. I try to shape my arguments carefully, which means I’m saying a lot less than people assume.


I don’t. I remember our conversations. If I had to put our differences in a nutshell I would say you are more of retribution and I am more of restoration.
What I do not always know and have to discern at times is my own fears.I have to deal with them in these matters. We are human…
I have to help my husband repair something but I will take my time later to read peacefully the rest of your answer, Ender.
It is a beautiful day here to be outdoors.


I can’t disagree with this. I will point out, however, that the church teaches that retribution (retributive justice) is the primary objective of punishment, and that while rehabilitation is an important objective, it is but a secondary one.


You welly exemplify here some of the objective critique I just made of your intellectual approach.

Your lay interpretative and theological skills I hypothesised may not be capable of accurately guaging the weight of past positions and this interferes with a balanced interpretation of what Pope Francis is saying.

Additionally you seem to have a set position re your personal interpretation of past positions and your words above (“in no way can that be right”) seem to indicate you will not accept the hypothesis that Francis does not have your interpretation and is therefore free to modify a long held position that was never canonised in the way you personally believe it was.

Because you cannot accept that hypothesis you conclude Pope Francis could not have said what I observe he has said. Therefore you take this off the table by saying I have Pope Francis wrong re “protecting the state”.

And yet it is plain as day to everybody here except you what Pope Francis means.

Pope Francis clearly means the containing of these criminals so they may not continue to harm ordinary citizens again. That is, the modern development of better detention systems that guarantee protection of citizens from their violence.
Do you disagree he means this?

Regardless you have not responded to the more important challenges I put to you above re hypotheses as to your lay intellectual training and scholarly skills which may well be the cause of your seeing of teaching error in both the CCC and Pope Francis…and why you, a loyal Catholic, would rather choose to loudly and publcly choose a hypothesis that puts the Pope in error rather than yourself.

My simple challenge to you is to advise us whether you accept this hypothesis is a valid one and just as likely as your hypothesis that concludes Francis and the CCC is in teaching error?

You seem to keep side stepping the question or get very upset that fellow contributors are insulting your person which I hope is not what I am trying to do.

Dakota: Its a new moral principle.

Ender: Ah, I have trouble with that concept as well.

I dont understand, he is the Pope.
It is his role and charism to explicitate the implicit moral principles in revelation and natural law or even define new teaching and dogma just as Popes before him have done re principles of contraception and the Assumption.

No Catholic is being forced to refrain from using condoms (and 40?% of Church going couples use contraception in the US) in the privacy of their own bedroom and they still remain Catholic.

However if we get up in public and say the objective teachings on contraception are in error you can expect tears because that is the Popes role to define.
How you as a loyal Catholic disagree with that I do not know :open_mouth::open_mouth::open_mouth:.

Did you mean something else?

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