This is your usual bunch of typical theo profs from mainstream American campuses, and yes, we all know what that means in terms of orthodoxy.
Among other observations these "theologians" make on their website are the following:
*Tea-partiers are "right wing" ideologues who are harming the common good by resisting raising the debt ceiling.
*The "Occupy" movement protesters are "supported by Populorum Progressio and CST [Catholic Social Teaching] in general.
*Asking "Are We All Michael Vick," we are told "to rethink our relationship with the factory farming of non-human [sic] animals".
*Decrying the "social sin" [sic] of the alleged criminalization of poverty and issuing "a call to restructure and expand the safety net", i.e., government benefit programs.
*Criticizing Abp. Chaput of Philadelphia for terming the battle over legitimizing homosex marriage "the issue of our time," arguing that instead, that issue is really local and global poverty.
* Regarding future federal budgets we learn that a "just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice [who else uses that euphemism?] by all, including raising adequate revenues [umm, would that be another euphemism?], eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly."
* In relation to the budget debate and our economic crisis, a Catholic should ask, "would you deny Jesus foodstamps" as a guide to the continued viability of our welfare programs.
So, we get the flavor, which is that this group is a pretty trendy bunch, and this of course follows in their treatment of the death penalty.
These college profs assert that with regard to the execution of Troy Davis, "serious doubt remains about Davis’ guilt." Well, the jury of seven blacks and five whites, the numerous state and federal courts who reviewed the case closely, and the facts of the case itself all give the lie to this assertion.
The college profs dramatically continue their "theology" by asserting that "the horrific legacy of lynching in the US casts its evil shadow over current application of the death penalty. Studies have shown that black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty." Ummm, yeah, not so much. While blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death, in states like my Virginia there is no evidence of racial bias in capital sentencing. Since blacks commit more capital-eligible crimes, proportionally, than whites, the existence of a proportional disparity in execution rates proves exactly nothing.
Then comes this whopping bunch of outright lies:
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “the sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity…” In earlier eras, Roman Catholic tradition acknowledged the necessity of capital punishment, in rare cases, to protect citizens from threats to the common good. In recent times, with more secure prison facilities that give us the means to offer such protection without executions, our church leaders have affirmed the need to eradicate the death penalty.Where to start? First, it is flat out moral error to claim that the death penalty violates respect for human life and dignity, and to the extent that our Bishop's conference asserts it does, they are in direct conflict with 6,000 years of Judeo-Christian moral teaching, and with the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself which clearly admits of the moral validity of capital punishment, ("the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty") while delimiting the circumstances of its just application.
The profs then amazingly assert that in Catholic tradition the death penalty was limited to rare cases! I challenge the whole lying lot of these dissenters to produce evidence for the claim that the Church ever in the past as a universal principle urged that the death penalty be used only "rarely," much less that She ever viewed capital punishment as a mere tool for protecting society from threats. In fact, this is the novelty of the modern teaching that is precisely the bone of contention between orthodox Catholics and those who want to change the Church's moral teaching. You can see a summary of what the Church really used to teach here. Suffice it to say, the Church taught that capital punishment is not simply a practical, last resort necessity for the defense of society, but rather that its use is a vindication of the sanctity of life, a requirement of the Fifth Commandment, and a component of a truly just system of criminal punishment.
Lastly, these luminaries allege that it is because of our nifty modern secure prisons that we must cast off capital punishment. This of course is a reference to #2267 of the contemporary Catholic Catechism, which says,
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 definitively 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 non-existent."But the problem is that this passage glaringly fails to identify precisely which "possibilities" exist for a modern state to render offenders incapable of doing harm (it certainly can't be suggesting solitary confinement for life, which would surely be viewed as cruel). And as we've catalogued at some length here, in the US at any rate, even life without parole does not render offenders harmless.
So in sum, the college profs Shea relies upon: 1) are not really engaged in theology at all, but in dime-store criminology and sociology, large parts of which they are flat out wrong about; 2) they are attempting to deceive people about what the Church has taught in the past, and about what it teaches now; and 3) they put their own, unwarranted, unsupported gloss on #2267 of the CCC, which nowhere explains what "possibilities" exist for rendering offenders harmless, but as I've shown, certainly can not mean life without parole, which demonstrably does not render offenders harmless.
That a group of American college teachers and some American bishops think we ought to get rid of capital punishment does not in my mind trump the perennial moral teaching of the Church.
I can only hope that Papa Shea and his ilk will stop their dissent on this issue and return the bosom of Holy Mother Church.