"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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Executions Continue to Be Very Rarely Carried Out in US

We're on pace in the US to execute more criminals this year than last year, something that hasn't happened in a decade.

Yet in absolute terms, we're still executing very rarely.

In 2015, the last year for which we have complete statistics, there were 15,696 murders in the US


While executions will likely rise slightly in 2017, the murder rate will likely rise significantly as well, following a tragic upward trajectory in the last few years.

Of interest to those who believe executions should be "rare," I can report that in 2015, again, the last year for which we have complete numbers for murders, we executed in only 0.17 percent of murder cases.

In other words, executions were carried out in a tiny, under two-tenths of one percent of murder cases. Our problem in this country doesn't seems to be out of control, indiscriminate use of the death penalty, but the devastating contempt for life expressed in the enormous number of murders committed by criminals who seem not to fear serious punishment.

Seems like death penalty occurrence is "rare, if not non-existent" to me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Guns, Criminals, and the *Real* Victims

In an update on an earlier "Rendering Offenders Harmless" post here, I'm happy to note that the two vicious murderers of Georgia prison guards Chris Monica and Curtis Billue were apprehended... by a gun-toting homeowner.
A Tennessee homeowner held two escaped inmates wanted in the killing of two prison guards at gunpoint Thursday until authorities arrived and made the arrests.
Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Bill Miller said late Thursday that the homeowner caught Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose trying to steal his vehicle.
Miller says the escaped Georgia inmates had crashed a car while being chased by law enforcement and fled on foot into woods along Interstate 24 near the rural community of Christiana.
Miller says something alerted the homeowner that people were outside his home and he saw the men trying to steal his vehicle. The trooper says the homeowner held the two at gunpoint with a neighbor he called until the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department could get there to arrest them.

Since people like Mr. Shea wax eloquent about violent murderers being the "victims," it's important always to remember and acknowledge the actual victims of these horrendous crimes:
Sgt. Chris Monica was "a man who loved deeply, shared abundantly and laughed often," his niece, Brooke Lawson, told mourners Tuesday during Monica's funeral.
 [He was] dedicated to his job, but his favorite part of each day was going home to his family, said Baldwin State Prison Warden Cedrick Taylor. Monica was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend, and a constant source of support to his family, Lawson said.
Among his survivors are his wife, Denise Monica; two daughters, Ashley Rae Thurston and Zoey Rae Monica; two grandchildren, Kelsey and Keylan Barnes; and a sister, Laural Mixon. His mother, Mary Moyers Thomas, and a brother, Robert Anthony Monica, preceded him in death.
He was proud to be a "dance dad" to Zoey Rae and invited his co-workers to her "Nutcracker" performances every year, Lawson said. He enjoyed accompanying his grandson to Boy Scout activities and teaching his granddaughter how to swim.
Monica loved to tell stories, entertain, pull pranks and joke, and he used his sense of humor to diffuse difficult situations, Lawson said. He was a terrible cook but a great taste tester and a food lover, the Rev. Mac Efinger said. He was kind, giving and genuine to everyone he knew.
"He was in the prime of his life," he said. "He knew what mattered in life. He gave his very best self to every day. He worked hard, and sometimes he played hard."
Hopefully now swift justice will be done, and these killers will be charged, convicted, and sentenced to the death they so richly deserve for cutting short the lives of the two men attempting to render them harmless. They've proven that incarceration will certainly not protect others from their animalistic devotion to violence. Frankly, I care more about the lives of these two peace officers than about keeping their killers alive in the hope they won't murder again.

RIP, Officers Monica and Billue, and may their loved ones have peace.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fisking Mr. Shea, Part X, or "Development: I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means"

At long last, we come to the final part of Mark Shea’s meandering series on capital punishment, which originally seemed to promise an explanation on how Catholic doctrine on the death penalty has “developed” so as to require us to believe that abolition of the death penalty is required.

Mr. Shea first veers off into a discussion about torture, and likens proponents of the traditional teaching of the Church on the death penalty to supporters of torture. No, really. He claims both positions are “driven entirely by politics.” Now, how Mr. Shea knows that all the defenders of Christian orthodoxy concerning capital punishment are just being political hacks is unclear. But it's hard to see a connection between Moses, David, Jesus, the Church Fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent, and various Popes up to and including Benedict XVI and the American "conservative Catholics" Shea despises. The only politics I can detect is Shea's nauseating sucking up to his Australian readers for their country's decision to drop the death penalty and his apologetic "America is a backward land of hicks" tone. This is delightfully ironic, since the Australian Labor Party, under which the federal ban on death penalty laws was enacted in 2010, is socialist, pro-"LGBTQ," and pro-abortion. But for Shea, civil pacifism trumps all that. 

After spending some five paragraphs rehashing his past battles against “torture” proponents, he concludes that both torture and the death penalty come down to the Church never asking “’when do we get to kill’ just as it never asks ‘when do we get to torture?’” Now this is an odd statement, since Shea consider what he defines as torture to be always and everywhere immoral. But he’s admitted throughout this series that capital punishment can, given certain conditions, be a moral choice. His attempted equivalence between torture and the death penalty, then, falls short even by his own reckoning.

But is he wrong of course when he asserts that we should not ask “when do we get to kill?” Now, he puts the pejorative “get to” in that question because of his (subjective) belief that proponents of the death penalty are *really* just engaging in panting bloodlust. But of course, the moral theologian, and the public official who must in the last analysis make the decision to pursue the death penalty, rightly ask, “when is it permissible to execute an offender?” This question is not a sign of unhinged bloodlust, but one that has been conscientiously asked by committed Christians for centuries. And the Church has answered these honest questions with a deeply thought-out reply based on the Church’s understanding of God’s commandments in Scripture and tradition, and of human nature and natural law.

Yet, hysteria rising to new heights, Shea repeats many of his oft-rehashed non-sequiturs, ad hominems, and logical fallacies in one heaping paragraph of steaming…error.
In what conceivable universe is it wise for Christians to side against the Magisterium and with Communist China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and a handful of other barbaric Islamic despotisms? In what world does it make sense for Christians to urge a sword into the hands of a rapidly de-Christianising Caesar and beg him to slay those he deems to be a threat to his power? And how, above all, is it prudent for those who champion the Church’s teaching on the dignity and sanctity of human life in the question of abortion to divert a single second of our time and energy away from that to fight against the Church so that we can maximise the shedding of human blood in the largest gulag on Planet Earth? 
It's a credit to Mr. Shea that he can compact so much baloney into so few lines. We’ve debunked many times his logical error of association (“y country executes criminals; bad country x executes criminals; therefore execution in y country is bad). Does Shea imagine that the death penalty can only be used in morally perfect society? That the Fathers who approved the practice lived under perfect societies? If justice had to wait for the perfect society, we’d never have even a bit of it and should close all courts immediately. But no, Our Lord Himself recognized that Caesar deserved his due and should be obeyed in all morally lawful activities. And of course, it’s inane to suggest that we don’t have time or ability to reason about what uses of the death penalty are moral because "abortion!" Shea's America is a bloodthirsty gulag state, imprisoning the innocent, victimizing the criminals, and randomly seeking the death of folks who really, after all, deserve mercy.

He begins his last peroration with the grandiose and utterly unproven claim that “Retributive punishment is ordered toward redemption, not toward some abstract karmic code of justice that rules like Javert’s fixed stars even over God.” Again with the slur that justice=karma, and the flushing of over 6,000 years of Judeo-Christian understanding of the natural virtue of Justice, which, of course, being a reflection of the divine law, does not bind God, but binds *us.* Shea’s profound ignorance and rejection of natural virtue needs an entire article to address (and perhaps stems, as does his anti-intellectualism, from his Evangelical background), but it’s enough here to note that any Christian who claims that the Church’s moral teaching can be at odds with natural virtue is knowledgeable about neither. Grace builds on nature, and does not destroy or contradict it.

But Shea is not finished, and says, “shifting from ‘Life can be spared sometimes’ to ‘Life should be spared as often as possible and we now have the technology to always spare it’ is simply to move in a direction the Church was already headed.” Ah, we must be “on the right side of history,” apparently, as the Left urges us. But he again assumes without proving that the Church has actually said what he claims it says. The Church has never, even now, claimed that we can “always” avoid the death penalty because of “technology.”

As I’ve noted before, the Church’s current position is that when means exist which can render offender harmless, then use of the death penalty should be rare if not non-existent (hardly Shea’s “always”). In other words, the “rare” part is contingent on the “means to render harmless” part. But this is exactly where “prudence” actually enters the picture--not the phony strawman “prudence” Shea mocks-- but the real-world business of figuring out what these “means” are, because the Church has never identified them.  Shea assumes without proving that the “means” are “technology” of some unspecified kind, but cannot point us to what technology renders offenders harmless so that we don’t have any further need of capital punishment.

Nor would I expect him or anyone not deeply involved with penology or the criminal justice system to be able knowledgeably to speak to any such means. I’ve produced many counter-examples showing that such means do not in fact exist in the real world and have never seen a specific, detailed claim as to what “means” would keep killers from acting violent in jail or escaping to do harm. It happens frequently.

Now if use of evidence, facts, and real-world observations reveal that “means to render offenders harmless” do not in fact exist, then one is not thumbing one's nose at the Church, as Shea sneeringly suggests. But he wants none of it, and in his frenzy of  slander, continues: “Christ thirsts not for blood, but for love.” Yes, that’s right. If you disagree with Mark Shea, your Christ is bloodthirsty and if you agree with Mark Shea, your Christ is one of love. Whatever else he is, subtle he’s not.

Lest there be any mistaking his despising of those who adhere to the traditional teaching, he concludes his series:
Jesus Christ, King of Death Penalty Victims, pray for us that we may wisely and prudently distinguish between this real development of doctrine and merely clinging to sinful vengeance and the love of death.
(emphasis added).
Got it? The victims in Shea’s universe are not the innocent women, men, and children, some raped, some tortured, some mutilated, whose right to live out their lives was cut short by some “enemy of the species” (as the Council of Trent labelled murderers). The victims aren’t the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, friends, and others left to grieve and deal with the psychological scars from their loved-ones' suffering and violent deaths.

No, for Shea, the victims are the barbarous killers, rapists, and torturers who have figuratively “laid violent hands on God Himself” (again in Trent’s words) in presuming to take the life over which He alone is Lord.

On the one hand I’m glad to see, at the end of this series, the endurance of the Church’s teaching that a just and measured use of the death penalty is entirely appropriate and morally justified when we can’t have reasonable assurance an offender will be rendered harmless by the only means we really have, incarceration. It's a conclusion I'd come to some time ago, based on my study of Scripture, sacred tradition, and natural law. In fact, I'm not surprised to see Shea fail to show a development towards abolition, because the "old" teaching and the "new" are really not much different. And if you truly understand the newer teaching, it's abundantly clear that America's use of the death penalty does not conflict with Church teaching at all.

I’m genuinely saddened, on the other hand, to witness a twisted effort to pervert basic justice and observance of God’s own approbation of capital punishment into some kind of “sinful vengeance” and “blood lust.” Rather than offer proof through citing authority or intellectual argument, he seems rather more concerned to peer into others’ hearts and make universal and public conclusions about their interior dispositions, even (especially?) those who he does not even personally know. Such a cavalcade of name-calling, ad hominem, and mockery is presented as an “argument” but is rapidly seen for what it is: a cartoon presentation by one who has demonstrated himself to be a intellectual cartoonist.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fisking Mr. Shea, Part IX

Mark Shea began this series to tell us why and how the Church has “developed” it’s teaching on the death penalty to assert that abolishing the death penalty is the only true Catholic position.

But now, in the latest installment, we learn that after all, as Pope Benedict said (as quoted at the top of this blog), there can indeed be a legitimate diversity of opinion on the death penalty in the Church.

Mr. Shea actually cites the very words of Benedict. But, he says, “Benedict did not say ‘You can ignore the Church on the death penalty and still be a good Catholic.’” Now, as with many of his assertions, this one smells strongly of straw-man. The main project of this blog has been to demonstrate that a just and measured use of the death penalty, like what we have in the US, is in total conformity with even the last ten or twenty years of Papal commentary on the death penalty.

I’m happy to report my agreement with Mr. Shea’s admonition that:
it is not an exercise of “prudential judgement” to say, “The Church is just dead wrong about the death penalty. In fact, we need to fight the Church’s teaching and make sure the death penalty is inflicted to the maximum extent possible and battle to make sure this development of doctrine is ignored as error.”
I don’t know anyone who thinks capital punishment must be inflicted “to the maximum extent possible.” Just the right amount will do, namely when it’s required to protect us from offenders who seem very likely to continue to be violent, or when the justice of a given case cries out for it. There are plenty of examples to be had of both kinds of cases.

But what Mr. Shea has claimed in various places, is that the Church magisterially teaches that Catholics must support abolition. He assumes and gratuitously asserts, as I’ve noted earlier in the series, that the call for abolition is in fact a magisterial teaching of the Church.  But the burden is his to demonstrate the binding, magisterial nature of Francis' and some bishops’ claims that the death penalty ought to be abolished. His mere insistence is not proof.

Abolition is not magisterial teaching, of course, and Mr. Shea tacitly acknowledges as much when he shifts gears and spends his entire column claiming that some unknown, unidentified Catholics oppose the Catechism’s position that because of unspecified “improvements” in penology (we’re left to assume), capital punishment should only be used “rarely.”   

Yet I know of no Catholics who deny the Catechism’s position that, *if* we could keep offenders from killing other inmates, guards, prison staff, or escaping or being pardoned so they could kill or harm again (the condition precedent in the Catechism and John Paul II’s own teaching), then we would need have recourse rarely, if ever, to the death penalty.

I do know of Catholics, like myself, who both seek to reconcile the new teaching with the old, and respectfully question what to make of this new position ignoring the whole question of justice, and focusing solely on public safety. I think it’s fair to ask the Church to clarify what has become of the justice consideration which weighs so heavily in the 6,000 prior years of Judeo-Christian teaching on this subject.

Pope Benedict could, as Shea acknowledges, admit the possibility of diversity of opinion about application of the death penalty precisely because abolition is not a magisterial teaching. Whether circumstances render the death penalty virtually inadmissible (the “new” or “developed” teaching) is precisely what we have Christian freedom to have a diversity of opinion about.

So, if Benedict could clearly foresee reasonable disagreements about the existence of circumstances which might render the death penalty more or less permissible (a position never specifically rejected by Francis), why can’t Mr. Shea accept the Pope’s teaching and stop insisting that Catholics must insist on abolition?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rendering Offenders Harmless, Part 49

Donnie Russell Rowe, 43, and Ricky Dubose, 24, overpowered and disarmed the two guards around 5:45 a.m. as about 30 inmates were being driven between prisons, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said in a news release. One of the two inmates then shot and killed both guards, Sills said.The Georgia Department of Corrections identified the guards as Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue, both officers at Baldwin State Prison. Monica had been with the department since October 2009 and Billue since July 2007.
How can this happen? That expert on the criminal justice system and penology, Mark Shea, just the other day informed us that "advanced prison technology" now renders offenders harmless, such that the death penalty is not "absolutely necessary to protect others from harm."

Officers Billue and Monica, and their surviving loved ones, were not available for comment on Shea's claim that we can now protect people from violent convicts.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Fisking Mr. Shea, Part VIII

In his latest installment Mr. Shea rightly observes that with respect to the death penalty, “Pope John Paul II and the post-concilliar (sic) Church downplays ‘retributive justice’ and focuses only on preventing danger to the community.” In fact, it’s more than a “downplay,” the “new” or supposedly “developed” teaching simply omits ANY mention of natural justice at all in its treatment of the death penalty, focusing entirely on the public safety issue.

But, pace Mr. Shea, the objection is not that “there is some necessary demand that murder be met with death;” the traditional Catholic (which is to say, the Catholic) wonders where 6,000 years of teaching about the death penalty being in accord with right reason and justice suddenly went. His oft-rehashed straw-man that Catholics who adhere to the Church on this issue simply want to execute every murderer is so laughably false that it hardly merits mention. As Shea’s own comments about ancient ecclesiastical discipline demonstrate, the Church was never surprised that some murders went unpunished by death.

Moreover, the use of right reason to discern the outlines of the virtue of justice in this regard is not, as Mr. Shea insinuates, a resort to “abstract fulfilment of karmic balance to which the sovereign omnipotent God himself is subject.” No, we Christians who have always spoken about the virtue of justice are not pagan philosophers, and are not dealing with karma. (Karma, for Mr. Shea’s information, has nothing to do with “payback” for deeds done in this life, but relates to the Buddhist notion of explaining current inequities and evil tendencies by, in part, wrongdoing or evil committed in one’s prior incarnations).

But at the very moment he disparages and attempts to jettison the Christian notion of justice as “karma,” Mr. Shea has to hold on to it, as he gratuitously asserts “life in jail is sufficient retribution since retribution is ordered toward redemption.” He seems unaware or unashamed that his very argument about what constitutes “sufficient retribution” is itself an argument based in the language of justice.

Why does Mr. Shea think that “justice” is suddenly a dirty word, that must be equated with karma, and that is somehow antithetical to a Christian understanding of civil punishment? Perhaps, not being educated philosophically, he simply does not even know what justice in this context really is.

After all, Augustine, as the Christian thinkers who followed after him, far from rejecting it as a form of pagan karma, placed justice among the four “cardinal” or central virtues, and he defines it simply as “the virtue by which all people are given their due.” So important is justice, and so connected with the moral law derived from revelation, that Augustine could famously claim that “an unjust law is not even a law.” And it was the same Augustine who began to articulate the just war doctrine that has endured: he was no pacifist, either militarily (war) or civilly (capital punishment).

For St. Thomas, justice “stands foremost among all the moral virtues, for as much as the common good transcends the individual good of one person. On this sense the Philosopher declares (Ethic. v, 1) that ‘the most excellent of the virtues would seem to be justice, and more glorious than either the evening or the morning star.’” (ST II, II, Q.58, art. 12).

Of course, as we’ve seen before, Aquinas also was not a civil pacifist, and clearly taught the compatibility of capital punishment with the virtue of justice.

So justice cannot, as Mr. Shea attempts to do, be severed from the discussion, since, as he himself perhaps unknowingly admitted by referring to “retribution” having “redemption” not “karma” as its end, this virtue is part of human nature. As such, God, as the author of that nature, intends men and societies to act in accordance with it.

After getting past his philosophical confusion about justice, Mr. Shea begins a somewhat incoherent discussion about another straw-man of his creation, that a central argument of Catholics who accept the Church’s teaching about the death penalty is that sinners will likely repent in the face of execution, so the death penalty is good.

He spends the next several paragraphs fighting that idea, which has never been a central argument in my view, although it is certainly a common-sense observation, and was borne out in the famous “Dead Man Walking” case, where pacifist nun Sr. Prejean witnessed the movement of the criminal in that case from unrepentance to repentance while on death row. But I won’t spend more time on the rabbit trail that Mr. Shea heads down.

At last, at the end, Mr. Shea gets around to the actual issue of his entire series, when he tries to answer the objection that the pacifist position is not binding dogma:
True enough.  Almost everything the Magisterium teaches is not binding dogma.  Indeed, even most Scripture, inspired though it all is, is not binding dogma.  For instance, when Paul writes to the Corinthians about marriage, he makes a distinction between the words of Jesus (“Not I, but the Lord…”) and his own views (“I, not the Lord…”).  And yet though Paul does not lay down a dogma, he still speaks with authority.  Something similar obtains here.  The Pope, by virtue of his office, says, “Don’t execute people unless it is absolutely necessary to protect others from harm.  In the first world, what with advanced prison technology, that effectively means, ‘Abolish the death penalty’.”

He should have stopped at “true enough.” The rest of the paragraph is utterly misleading. While it is true that not everything the Magisterium teaches is binding, Shea has not shown that pacifism is taught by the Magisterium. He simply begs the question.

But then, as he has during the whole series, he repeats the actual current teaching and immediately contradicts it, and calls the contradiction authoritative teaching. Yes, the Pope indeed has said “don’t execute unless absolutely necessary.” But Shea, hand in the cookie jar, adds his own gloss to that: “In the first world, what with advanced prison technology, that effectively means, ‘Abolish the death penalty.’”

First, the Pope to my knowledge has never identified “advanced prison technology” as the reason we must abolish the death penalty. In fact, he speaks in moral absolutes about the death penalty, not in contingent language of whether penology has controlled offenders, when he calls capital punishment:
inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed...It is an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God's plan for man and society, and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.
 So Shea is just misinformed or refuses to acknowledge the truth: the Pope is philosophically a pacifist on this issue, and is not grounding his statements in the teachings of the past, even the 'yesterday' of John Paul II, the Catechism, and Benedict XVI.

Second, I’m aware of no official teaching of the Church that has connected the “possibilities” for rendering offenders harmless, which is the condition precedent for abstaining from use of capital punishment, to “advanced prison technology,” whatever in the world that might mean.

Perhaps in the next part of his series Mr. Shea might illuminate us as to what these “technologies” are that have rendered offenders harmless so that we shouldn’t resort to capital punishment. Part of his assignment is to explain how my extremely incomplete representative counter-examples, which show there are no such means, are inapplicable.


Friday, June 02, 2017

Fisking Mr. Shea, Part VII

As we plod along, through Part 6 of Mr. Shea’s epic series on why the desire for death penalty abolition on the basis of its immorality is a development of Catholic doctrine, we see he begins by reminding us that the movement of history has been from public, barbaric execution methods, to non-public, more humane methods.

This, to Mr. Shea, demonstrates the But isn’t is equally plausible that while Christians admit the moral and just of the death penalty, we also recognize that it should be used only in serious cases, and without undue pain and suffering inflicted on the offender? Other than Mr. Shea’s ipse dixit, why conclude that Christian “squeamishness” about the propriety of the death penalty per se accounts for the tightening of the use of it and how it is carried out?

Next, we’re told (yet again, as this is a regular canard used by Mr. Shea) that since unsavory countries use the death penalty, our use of it must be somehow tainted. But I’ve made the obvious response before, that this is a very basic, junior-high level logical error of association. If my neighbor is a thief and wife-beater and recycles his garbage, and I also like to recycle, the fact that a bad guy likes to recycle does not logically implicate recycling at all.

Mr. Shea also makes the risible claim that now, at long last!--the Christian world  “wonders if it has made some fundamental mistake, and starts to rethink what ‘made in the image and likeness of God’ could ultimately mean and whether there is a better way to think about this.” As if the modern, blood-soaked world is somehow more sensitive about the value of life than those barbaric authors of Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the Popes. As if the Church has never wondered about the morality of the death penalty before 1988, or encountered the argument that human life is so precious that it can never be taken, whether, as the Waldensian heretics claimed, by capital punishment, or as the Quaker heretics claim, by even a just war.

Of course the Church has always been the guardian of the truth of the value of human life, and while extirpating human sacrifice and private killing (such as dueling), nevertheless, has always and everywhere acknowledged that societies rightly protect themselves and avenge wrongdoing by just wars and capital punishment. The Church has always rejected pacifism, and the related error propounded by Mr. Shea, the “civil pacifism” of death penalty abolition. After all, if the state can defend itself by a just war, it must be that it can defend itself from violent men within.

Mr. Shea, after complaining about the high incarceration rate in the US and suggesting (without evidence) that racism is responsible for “people of colour” (sic) being disproportionately incarcerated, informs us that,
The obvious priority – particularly for a gospel that proclaims liberty to the captive – is not 'How can we send as many people on death row to their doom as quickly as possible?' but 'Might we be making a mistake somewhere? Is it worth the life of a single innocent human being to slake our thirst for the blood of the guilty?'

Now, this is interesting, because we are to believe that there are “possibilities” for rendering murderers and rapists harmless short of execution. What might such “possibilities” include, if not life imprisonment? At least that is what some have suggested as a reason why we no longer need the death penalty. Yet the Christian Left complains about incarceration rates. Is Mr. Shea suggesting, then, that the "gospel proclamation of liberty" (which is of spiritual liberty of course, not liberty to sin or be free from jail when you commit a crime) means we shouldn’t even impose lengthy incarceration? Indeed, he’s strongly suggested just this before, as a necessary corollary of “mercy” and “turning the other cheek,” which he claims applies not just to individuals but to states.

Note, too, his oft-repeated claim that our choice is either pacifism or being a bloodthirsty mob seeking out people to send to their doom. Is that really the only possible choice open to us? The Church has never presented its affirmation of the propriety of capital punishment in those terms.

He concludes this Part by saying that,
 since [the Church] was never under a divine demand for the death penalty, she finally concluded that while it is not intrinsically immoral, refraining from inflicting it is still the best and most prudent course of action whenever possible.

Again, I’m a bit confused about Mr. Shea’s entire project, which began by proclaiming:
Abolish the death penalty. It is poisonous vengeance, not justice. it is, as the Church makes clear, essentially unnecessary. It makes us worse, not better. No Catholic on the planet should be fighting the Church to defend it.

Sure sounds like he's saying the death penalty is an intrinsically immoral practice. And,

the Church’s actual teaching on the death penalty [is] that it should be abolished. 

Supposedly, it is a “bronze-age concession” to bloodlust and is withering away in our enlightened modern age.

Yet he repeats at the same time the actual teaching of the Church, which is that the death penalty is not immoral and “ought” to be resorted to only in rare cases.

I’m afraid, then, that we won’t see the actual proof that a development of doctrine has occurred mandating abolition of the immoral death penalty. At best, it seems, we’re to believe that our modern age is beyond the need for such barbaric methods of crime control.

That whole justice thing the Church has used to justify the death penalty? Mr. Shea says he’ll tell us in the next installment why that’s a bunch of hooey.

Can’t wait.