"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

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Education of a Pundit

So at long last we have educated Mark Shea to the point at which he now no longer denies the Church's teaching on the death penalty, admitting 
So yeah the Church cannot reverse its teaching on the death penalty and say that what is not intrinsically immoral is intrinsically immoral. 
A breakthrough! Not that it should be so difficult to get someone to admit what is patently obvious. And yet, our prodigal says,
So what? It can still say that it is unnecessary and need not be done.
Yes, and the point is, this practical, prudential judgment about when it is necessary or not, when it needs to be done, or not, is not a doctrinal one, it is one upon which reasonable people could disagree. Now who is in a position best to discern when concrete circumstances necessitate resort to the death penalty? Is it a local bishop, trained in theology, or philosophy, or canon law. who has a thousand duties proper to his office to which he must devote the vast bulk of his time and attention?
Or is it the "Justice and Peace Ministry" of the diocesan chancery office, ordinarily populated with staff educated in social work, theology, or pastoral studies?

Or is it the bishops' conferences, which are unauthoritative collections of individual bishops aided by a permanent staff, also educated ordinarily in one of the aforementioned fields, with perhaps an administrative expert or two thrown in?

Or is the Pope himself who can judge the practical and prudential realities in the criminal justice systems of hundreds of states and countries, and come to sound conclusions, based upon his training in theology, philosophy, or canon law, the primary educational backgrounds of modern popes?

Or is it perhaps Mark Shea, or other semi-professional bloggers and "pundits" who achieve notoriety by attracting followers on the internet, and may or may not have any particular educational qualifications, and definitely have never worked in the fields of law enforcement, corrections, law, or penology?

I suggest that since, as Pope Benedict elucidated in the quotation which is cited in the masthead of this blog, there can be a legitimate diversity of opinion about application of the death penalty, i.e., it is an entirely prudential question as to when the circumstances are such as to call for the death penalty, that in fact lay Catholics and others who are actually in position to assess particular facts and circumstances and who have the professional knowledge, expertise, experience, and education to assess the complexities of our criminal justice system, are the individuals most qualified and in best position to assess whether the death penalty is reasonably called for in a given state or country.

This notion is not new, in fact, in  the 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church it is recognized that:
568. The lay faithful are called to identify steps that can be taken in concrete political situations in order to put into practice the principles and values proper to life in society. This calls for a method of discernment, at both the personal and community levels, structured around certain key elements: knowledge of the situations, analyzed with the help of the social sciences and other appropriate tools.
And the same Benedict just referred to had this to say in 2005 in Deus Caritas Est  #29:
The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility.
So rather than Popes, bishops, collections of bishops, social justice ministry offices, and bloggers, it's actually Catholics who know something about law, about criminology, about the penal system who are best suited to assess the necessity of the death penalty in a given state, country, or region, informed and guided by the teachings given us by Christ through those Popes and bishops.

And as noted here before many times, it's a simple factual reality that the US is certainly not a place where we can render offenders harmless (the sole condition given under which we must dispense with the death penalty) through mere incarceration (or any other method that would be recognized as lawful and moral, for that matter).

So bravo to Shea for getting on board the Catholic teaching about the death penalty. But there are a few more points he also needs to be educated on.

Shea yet again repeats the lie that innocent people have been executed in the US since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976, a lie that has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked. Is it not the case that if the Left had one convincing case of a factually innocent person being executed, we would all know that person's name, there would be a Hollywood movie about him, and his name would appear in every high school and college text book as an example of a martyr to American injustice?

For good measure Shea throws in yet another oft-repeated smear of his that we shouldn't have the death penalty because some really bad countries do. As refuted here, the short reply is that the logical fallacy of association is not a convincing argument against capital punishment. Those countries presumably outlaw rape and murder, also, but I imagine Shea would not argue that's a reason to abolish our own laws outlawing rape and murder.

The good news is, we know Shea can learn. Let us hope he continues to do so.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Nothing New Under the Sun

Well, sadly, the purveyor of propaganda against the Church's teaching on the death penalty is back on his blog and at it again.

Not much new this time around, though his "tag" is a story about a Philippine bishop who dramatically and daftly offers to allow himself to be killed to underscore his opposition to the death penalty, the reintroduction of which is under consideration by the newly elected president, former prosecutor and crime fighter Rodrigo Duterte, who won election on a platform of being tough on crime and the rampant corruption in the country.  

Duterte is a colorful and crude character, with definite tyrannical tendencies.  When he was mayor of Davao, he transformed the city from the murder capital of the Philippines to what is now ranked as the world's fourth safest place. He's tacitly approved vigilante killings of criminals, and promised to continue to
Duterte, exercising good trigger discipline
kill criminals as president.  Although born a Catholic, he claims to have been sexually molested by a Jesuit priest as a child (I wonder if the bishop who offered to be executed supervised that priest, who was in fact a notorious abuser, in which case his offer might be in order, since our Lord said something about millstones and scandalizing children), and once said "if  I listened to the Ten Commandments or to the priests, I would not be able to do anything as a mayor."  And despite his liberal public use of profanity, he's restricted alcohol sales, tobacco use, lowered the speed limit, and enacted what's been called a "Magna Carta" for women's rights.


The country's bishops are apoplectic about Duterte's desire to reintroduce the death penalty, which was abolished in 2006.  There is widespread support for its reintroduction, following stories of gruesome murders, and in light of the fact that the murder rate increased after abolition, to the surprise of no one.

Perhaps the good bishops should consider whether in their situation, it would not be better to have the judicial system determining death sentences, rather than vigilante squads. One way to address the lawlessness of vigilantism would be for the government to do its primary job, securing the safety of the citizenry.

At any rate, the decision whether to have capital punishment among the tools of criminal justice in a given country is a decision for the civil authorities to make, not clerics. It's odd indeed that the same churchmen who wanted to throw away the Catholic state in Vatican II's Dignitatis Humanae, now want to direct the criminal justice decisions of their respective countries. You can't have it both ways, your excellencies.  As good Pope Francis said just the other day in an interview with La Croix, “Confessional states end badly…I believe that secularism accompanied by a strong law which guarantees religious freedom provides a framework for moving forward.”  Why do you oppose the Holy Father, bishops of the Philippines?

As for the Trump of the Catholic blogosphere, his inanity and illogic is again on display, as he once more conflates any support of the teaching of the Church on the legitimate use of the death penalty with supporting tyranny:
Once you commit to battling the Church to maintain the death penalty (alongside newly elected President Duterte who calls the Holy Father a “son of a bitch”), you commit to a willingness to kill a few innocent people in your quest for bloody “justice”. You clasp men like Duterte to your bosom as you fight the Church to keep the US on a list including every Islamic despotism in the world, plus Communist China and North Korea.
The CathoTrump claims that "innocent people (roughly four percent)...have been executed in your lust for blood." An absurd claim with no relation to reality.  In fact since the reintroduction of the death penalty in the US in 1976 there have been exactly ZERO actually innocent people executed.  The Left keeps looking for their holy grail, that one person they can point to as proof of an innocent person having been executed, but they cannot find one. If they had, believe me, we would all know his or her name.  I've dealt with this tired canard before.

I've also dealt with CathoTrump before on his attempt to conflate the death penalty anywhere with the death penalty in tyrannical regimes:
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.
They just can't come up with anything new, so the same lies come out again and again.  It's getting boring. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 45

Escaped murderer is killed by the mother of a family, including a 5 year old child, he had taken hostage with a bloody knife.

Incarceration did not keep this violent man from violating other people.  We do not possess adequate means to render some, probably most, violent offenders harmless to themselves, prison staff, and the public.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 44

Three inmates escaped from a Southern California maximum-security jail by cutting through half-inch steel bars and rappelling from the roof by a makeshift rope, authorities said Saturday as they continued hunting for the men, who include an alleged killer.
[...]
 The inmates include 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, who had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. His case is believed to be gang-related.
Hossein Nayeri, 37, had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary. Nayeri and three other men are accused of kidnapping a California marijuana dispensary owner in 2012. They drove the dispensary owner to a desert spot where they believed he had hidden money and then cut off his penis, authorities said.
After the crime, Nayeri fled the U.S. to his native Iran, where he remained for several months. He was arrested in Prague in November 2014 while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family.
The third escaped inmate, 43-year-old Bac Duong, was being held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and other charges.
Nice bunch.  I hope none of the American bishops in their cushy residences have to come face to face with one of these savages.  But some poorly paid schlep in blue will have to do the job, and risk his life in the process, something our clerical elites cannot seem to notice in their rush to be kind to the vicious predators our cops and prison workers have to deal with.

There is no reliable way to guarantee society's safety from violent criminals.  Prison is, at best, a place where we can hope to restrain them for a time.  Religious fantasies to the contrary, many violent offenders are not deterred, controlled, or rendered harmless by mere incarceration.