Now, I don't know anyone who hangs their hat on this passage alone, or even as a mainstay of the obvious and overwhelming approval of the death penalty in Scripture. It is, however, one more place in Sacred Scripture where the death penalty is either merely assumed to be moral or expressly stated to be so.And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
It's significant, if not decisive, that St. Luke added this detail, and did not record any rebuke of Our Lord to the Thief's claim that the two criminals were being justly executed. In fact, the Lord right after the Thief's statement assures him of Paradise.
And after all, when God Himself says in Genesis,
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own imageit's pretty clear that He approves of the death penalty precisely because of the inherent dignity of man (almost the direct opposite conclusion drawn by our contemporary clerical class, which argues, against Scripture, that the dignity of man means that the death penalty is immoral).
And while Shea smears those who cite this passage of Scripture in Genesis as "quot[ing] Scripture like a fundamentalist," he may not realize that he is smearing folks like Cardinal Avery Dulles, not a noted fundamentalist as far as I know, and a man whose education, erudition, and judgment I certainly find more convincing than Shea's.
I've laid out the strong Scriptual basis for the death penalty here in summary fashion; and Shea doesn't really deny it, in fact he has tacitly conceded that there is no Biblical basis for his abolitionism. And Catholic Sacred Tradition is absolutely unambiguous about the morality of the death penalty in Natural Law, in Scripture, and in Tradition. This can't be emphasized enough, because charlatans like Shea are devoted to making us forget about anything prior to 1969.
Hell, Shea doesn't want people to remember anything prior to 2011 apparently, because in the distant past, i.e., four years ago, the same author, so far from arguing that the "Catholic" position was abolition, wrote a defense of the limited use of the death penalty versus the supposed "death penalty maximalists" who he excoriated. In that article, he clearly laid out the current teaching and some of the Tradition of the Church, which is that the death penalty is morally admissible, though it should be used rarely, if at all these days. As he well put it, "with the death penalty, as the Catechism makes clear, the Church has always recognized that Caesar may use the sword to punish serious crime."
But now Shea wants us to believe that even the limited use of the death penalty which was Magisterial four years ago is moot, because of "the call of the last three popes to abolish it."
It must indeed be difficult to shore up one's positions to keep up with the constantly shifting sands of the fickle ecclesiastics whose notions about hot button political topics like the death penalty and "global warming" are always in flux depending on their national, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. I would recommend avoiding getting bogged down in these constantly shifting sands by standing firmly on the revealed rock of the perennial Magisterium.
In the same confused post, Shea also resorts to his old tactic of conflating the just and measured use of the death penalty as it is practiced in the Christian West, with the horrible excesses and murderous injustice of Islamic dominated regions, as though the due process, years of appeals, and extremely limited use of the death penalty in this country could be comparable to the wanton, reckless, and arbitrary use of barbaric methods of death imposed by the Muslims.
It's the logical fallacy of association and the bottom of the barrel resort for those who lack rational arguments. In short, it's a cheap huckster's ploy and a demagogic device. It's a losing argument's last resort.