"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

Friday, March 08, 2013


Archbishop Lori of Baltimore recently testified against the death penalty before the Maryland General Assembly.

Nothing unusual, the bishops of this country have been advocating on behalf of capital offenders for years.

But with all due respect to his excellency, he did not couch his opposition to the use of the death penalty in Maryland solely in terms of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (i.e., there are other options to render offenders harmless and therefore resort to the death penalty should be "rare if not non-existent.") but rather, he said

Catholic opposition to the death penalty is founded upon the idea that "every human life is sacred and to be protected," the archbishop stated, stressing the protection of life and the human person "from the moment of natural conception until natural death."
He added that Catholics hold the "reasoned belief" that "every life comes from God and is destined to return to God as our final judge" and that this teaching drives the protection of all life, as well as other aspects of Catholic outreach.
So, according to the Archbishop, the death penalty is inadmissible because every life is sacred and hence inviolable.

But one cannot posit that the death penalty is intrinsically immoral because it takes a human life without running seriously afoul of two millenia of Judaeo-Christian teaching.  Cardinal Avery Dulles give a good thumbnail sketch of this perennial moral teaching here.

So, no, Archbishop Lori, you are free to represent the Church as claiming that there are prudential reasons not to have recourse to capital punishment (the informed, often better informed laity, can of course disagree with your prudential assesment);  you are not free to misrepresent the Church as having a philosophical or moral or theological objection to capital punishment. 

It would be a shame if an eminent Catholic Archbishop fell into the error of the Waldenses, who denied the right of the state to execute offenders.

1 comment:

bill bannon said...

The mass conformism that accepted this two Pope turnaround in Catholic teaching is what bothers me most. And it is partly economic...ie if your income is dependent on Catholicism, the unwritten law is that you don't criticize sitting or recent Popes.
In reality the US death penalty is so delayed in those states that have it as to be a quasi death penalty. But to watch Catholic authors call out Protestants for giving in to the world at Lambeth in 1930 without noticing that we are doing that very thing on this topic ( and did so on usury in 1830) is depressing. We are a herd now in the non infallible and that prevents some very intelligent groups or individuals from converting. Imagine a head line in the NY Times..." half of Yale's faculty convert to Catholicism". You can't because while primitives accept herd think, high IQed people do not in normal times. But we're satisfied because numerically Africa supplies the big convert numbers so who is noticing that Japan has few.