"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inmate Didn't Read American Bishops' Statements, Kills Despite Imprisonment

Imprisoned violent thug kills behind bars.

A South Dakota inmate who acknowledged killing a state penitentiary guard in a failed escape attempt asked a judge on Wednesday to sentence him to death,
saying his one regret is that he did not kill another officer and that he will kill again.
Eric Robert, 49, pleaded guilty in September to killing Ronald "R.J." Johnson on April 12 — Johnson's birthday — in an attempt to sneak past other security.
Robert told [Judge Bradley] Zell during his pre-sentencing hearing that he was so full of anger and hungry for freedom on April 12 that he would have killed anyone who stood in his way.
"Brad Zell, if you stood between me and the door of freedom, I would kill you," Robert said.
Robert said the one regret he has from April 12 is that he did not bring the pipe with him to the gate to kill the officer who stopped him. Once he realized his plan was going to fail, Robert said he began climbing up the wall of the prison — not to escape but to try to reach for the rifle of an officer on the lookout. "I would have shot that weapon until it was empty," he said.
Lynette Johnson [Ronald's widow] called Robert "evil" and a "coward" and has a hard time responding when one of her six grandchildren ask about their papa.

Unfortunately for Lynette and many other victims of remorseless thugs like Robert, there is an incessant agitation by many to spare people like Eric Robert and enable their continued violence behind bars.

Prison does not render violent offenders harmless; it just shifts the victim population to those inside the prisons, guards, staff, and other inmates.

R.I.P., Ronald Johnson.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"You go see Jesus"

These were the last words Christopher Johnson uttered to his infant son, after bludgeoning and smothering him to death. Johnson was executed yesterday by the state of Alabama. He spent a relatively short six years on death row, and according to his brother, "he has great grief for what he has put upon his family, his wife, all of his in-laws and the rest of his siblings. He's answered to man's laws, now he'll answer to God's laws."

Indeed.

Johnson pled guilty to murdering his infant son, Elias, who was struck 85 separate times breaking his ethmoid bone, which is in the sinuses, and causing his sinuses to fill with blood. His brain had hemorrhaged as a result of blunt-force trauma. Elias had hemorrhages in both eyes and had injuries to his inner lips and nose that indicated that he had been forcefully smothered. Johnson testified that he intentionally murdered his son because he hated his wife, and would have left her long before the murder if it had not been for Elias. He was afraid his wife would have him jailed over alimony or child support. Johnson stated that his final words to Elias were: “You go see Jesus.”

Two points of interest: First, the anti-capital crowd, so very vociferous over the execution of cop-killer Troy Davis, was and is curiously quiet about Johnson's execution. Could it be that Johnson's crime is particularly heinous, and that he does not fit the "profile" for the agitators, i.e., he's a white man, so the "system is racist" meme doesnt fit?

Second, Johnson's brother related that Johnson "had become deeply religious while he was in prison. Johnson and his brother spoke extensively about their faith during the days leading up to the execution." Hmmm, that sounds curiously like the point St. Thomas Aquinas makes about capital punishment:

[Condemned criminals] also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers.
Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146.
This point has been borne out before, most notably in the case of Patrick Sonnier of "Dead Man Walking" fame, who, if he had not been sentenced to die for his crimes, probably would not have met Sr. Prejean, and probably would never have come to take responsibility for his crimes and sought atonement. Shortly before his death he received Holy Communion and recited with Sr. Prejean Isaiah 43, “I have called you by your name, you are mine.”

Knowing the moment of your death is not necessarily a bad thing, after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Too Close to Home

President Barry coming to the firehouse up the road from my house, but curiously not welcoming the public.

Despite campaigning on how he'll create jobs, local businesses negatively affected by visit. "'I'm losing a whole day's worth of work,' said Mary McCullough, who owns the Hair on Broadway salon" next to the fire station.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Capital Punishment Heresy

For a good belly-laugh, check out Papa Shea's current justification for dissent from Catholic teaching, wherein he asserts that abolition of the death penalty is what Catholic teaching requires, and in support of his dissent has reference to this group of "American" Catholic theologians who *surprise* don't like capital punishment and call for its abolition.
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.