"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, May 12, 2017

Mr. Shea: Right All the Time?

Mr. Shea, taking a pause from his anti-death penalty series, opined about the latest remark by the Pope  delivered during a homily, wherein Francis, speaking of slavery, termed it a "mortal sin," and claimed that, like slavery,  capital punishment "for a time...was normal. Today, we say that the death penalty is inadmissible."

To which Mr. Shea modestly reacts, "I hate being right all the time." 

He then repeats his previously unsupported claim that "three popes, all the bishops of the world, and the rest of the civilized world" support abolition (untrue) and that supporters of the Catechism and all Catholic and Christian history are a mix of "Communist China, North Korea, a smattering of backward Islamic Bronze Age despotisms and the reliably wrong about everything postmodern America Right and its court prophets of conservative postmodern Christians both Evangelical and Catholic."

Now it's just false that three popes support abolition. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae and in the Catechism promulgated during his pontificate expressly reaffirmed "the traditional teaching of the church" which "does not exclude recourse to the death penalty-" admittedly, under much more stringent practical restrictions than the traditional teaching, which did not really enter into the contingent practical conditions which would render recourse to the death penalty unnecessary. 

Pope Benedict, of course, famously acknowledged, “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty.” Got it? Applying the death penalty, which necessarily implies the traditional belief that capital punishment is perfectly moral under the correct circumstances.

So no, Mr. Shea, there are not three popes who embrace abolition or believe the death penalty is inherently immoral. What we're left with are some public but not magisterial statements from the current Pope expressing his view on the issue. Does it need explanation that not every public utterance of a Pope is doctrine?

As to “all the bishops” denying the morality of the death penalty, I’ll cite just one counter-example, which disproves the assertion: Cardinal Raymond Burke, in  a wonderful document about civic responsibility, said this:
Although war and capital punishment can rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil; neither practice includes the direct intention of killing innocent human beings. In some circumstances, self-defense and defense of the nation are not only rights, but responsibilities. Neither individuals nor governments can be denied the right of lawful defense in appropriate circumstances (CCC, Nos. 2265 and 2309).

As usual, Cardinal Burke perfectly and precisely lays out Catholic teaching. Why can’t Mr. Shea and his fellow dissenters accept this teaching?

The rest of Mr. Shea’s comments, alas, are like his former statements on this issue, positing a false choice between fighting abortion or supporting the death penalty, and claiming that Catholics merely want to slaughter people indiscriminately:
Forgetting, yet again, the “to natural death” part of the sanctity of human life, they will again siphon off all their time and energy from the battle against abortion to argue that we need to kill people who do not need to be killed and to strive to make sure that the largest gulag on planet earth makes sure to maintain a system of slaughter predicated on the insistence that it is better the innocent should die than that the guilty receive mercy–even though the guilty will be kept behind bars for life.
Of course, it should not need stating that since the US executes only about a "rare" number of .05% of killers in very limited circumstances, after fair trials and years of review by multiple different state and federal courts, it cannot credibly be claimed that mere bloodlust leads death penalty proponents to toss overboard any reasonable discernment of which cases call for the ultimate punishment. It’s a mere ad hominem smear and a mortal sin, if I can borrow that old fashioned term from Pope Francis, of calumny.

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