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A View of Pope Francis and the Death Penalty, with Something to Offend Everybody

In yet another piece of evidence that the current occupant of the Chair of St. Peter is unwilling to think with the full reservoirs of Catholic tradition, Pope Francis recently announced that the death penalty is a violation of our inviolable human dignity and that the Catholic Church must campaign for its abolition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church will now reflect the teaching that “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.” This “new understanding” is comprised of the following elements:

increasing understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes, the deepened understanding of the significance of penal sanctions applied by the State, and the development of more efficacious detention systems that guarantee the due protection of citizens have given rise to a new awareness that recognizes the inadmissibility of the death penalty and, therefore, calling for its abolition.

In so doing, Pope Francis repudiates 2000 years of tradition in scriptural and natural law reflection on capital punishment by Catholic prelates, theologians, and saints. Luminaries ranging from the earliest of the Church Fathers and Doctors to later modern authorities such as St. Alphonsus Liguori (the announcement was made on Liguori’s feast day), John Henry Newman, Pope Pius XII, John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus acknowledged the moral permissibility of the state wielding capital punishment, even if the latter two thought that the necessity for its use is rare, if not non-existent. With this pronouncement, Pope Francis once again makes a mess.

Where precisely, though, does this new understanding come from? New theological reflections on the Gospel? An array of natural law thinking helping us come to terms with the heretofore hidden depths of human dignity and how it should be reflected in the positive law? Has this Pope penned them? His allies in the senescent German Church? His outspoken supporters in the North American hierarchy? Like you, dear reader, I have not stumbled on these publications either. What is instructive is to turn to our more rigorous Catholic thinkers who have addressed this subject in its full theological and political aspects.

Cardinal Dulles’ Wisdom

The admirable Avery Cardinal Dulles who passed in 2008 anticipated Pope Francis’s argument for the inadmissibility of the death penalty because of the inviolable nature of human dignity. The good Cardinal opposed the death penalty prudentially but knew the folly of denying that the state always legitimately can wield the sword in defense of the common good, even if that sword should mostly remain sheathed. In a wise 2001 essay in First Things that touches on theology, natural law, and prudential legal judgments, Dulles first reminded us that this absolutist position on the death penalty, favored by progressive clerics for the past few decades, is not new and is not built on deep and prayerful theological reflection and development of doctrine. Rather, Christian condemnation of the death penalty as a violation of human dignity stretches back over the centuries to include pacifists, Waldensians, Quakers, Hutterites, and Mennonites, among other Christian denominations and sects. And their aversion to the death penalty emerges from a rather extreme disfavor of governmental authority unlike the traditional Catholic approach that views the state having a necessary role in securing justice for citizens. Moreover, “The mounting opposition to the death penalty,” Dulles observes, “since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life.” Secularism, liberalism, and the therapeutic mentality have led to the “evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith.” The belief in only an earthly life has made it harder to condemn criminals generally, and more difficult to believe that certain crimes violate a created order of goods that must be vindicated with retributive justice.

The something new that Pope Francis invokes arguably feeds into this loss of faith. It’s more likely, Dulles notes, that the contemporary inability to accept the death penalty for heinous crimes owes more to secular liberal thought than it does to the “deeper penetration” of the Gospel in European countries. For this reason, at least, the pontiff should have taken greater care to distinguish the perspective and motives of his view from that of the secular world.

Accompanying that loss of faith, Dulles further states, is the sense that the political and legal order is itself rooted in natural standards of justice. Absent these we ask ourselves: Who are we to judge anyone with such finality? Dulles also reminds us, though, that while the Church must start from the center of theological and Biblical reflection, when it presumes to speak to the civil authorities it must do so with awareness of the purposes of the law itself.

The Secularization of the Secular State

Fully cognizant of the law and the state on this score is the great French political theorist Pierre Manent. He actually has addressed the issue of capital punishment in his writings, especially in his 2001 book Democracy without Nations. He is that rarest of combinations in Europe, a professing Catholic, a deep conservative analyst of the political order, and a man fully persuaded of the unbearable lightness of Europe’s reigning secular religion of unencumbered individualism and universalist humanitarianism. A centerpiece of the latter is the EU’s abolition of capital punishment.

Manent notes the political argument made by his European contemporaries for the immoral and unnecessary character of capital punishment, even though a traditional liberal argument was that private acts of lethal violence breach the social contract of the state, which protects citizens from the anarchy of the state of nature. The perpetrator recalls this violence and must be condemned on that basis. Because of the anarchy and ensuing carnage of the state of nature, individuals yield their right to execute the law of nature to the state.  In so doing, they charge it with defending them from assaults, lethal and lesser.  However, today’s anti-capital punishment proponents then make a further move.  Because its size, resources, and complexity, the state is unthreatenable, it can render any convicted offender of a heinous crime an impotent threat to society by imprisoning him. Since it is unnecessary, it is unjustified.  And all right-thinking Europeans know that the individual has dignity and can be reformed, so no need to be cruel and all that. Manent says this is the political argument, but it sounds remarkably similar to Pope Francis’s press release last week, one supposedly suffused with Christian understanding.

Manent must remind his fellow Europeans of the implicit moral exchange within the social contract basis of the modern state. That exchange demands that we citizens refrain from being the self-executors of justice as we surely are in the state of nature when attacks are made on our property and security. The state will act in our defense and do so in a manner far more conducive to public order and justice, allowing us to focus on bourgeois pursuits. But sometimes the exchange is temporarily suspended when our fellow citizens are the victims of horrible crimes. Our standing down hurts us or others because it seems to have been in vain. Still, we do it because we are confident that the state will exact the right punishment.

What happens, though, to the authority of the modern state when it definitively leaves behind the death penalty? Heinous crime shows us, Manent argues, that we have not left the state of nature behind, but the state that rejects the death penalty pretends to have moved beyond it. However, the state of nature, Manent correctly notes, is the legitimacy of the modern state. If its reasons for achieving statehood are no longer present, then what does that mean for the prestige of the republic and for the force of its laws? Manent teases out the following question as one example: Can I risk my life for the government when it will not kill the worst of criminals in retributive justice? Will I see it worthy of my devotion when the worst of men are suffered to exist? Have not their crimes placed them beyond the city walls and the contract that built those walls?

The question, Manent says, is one of “high politics,” but this time involving the relationship between the Church and the nation-states of the world, of Europe especially.  The state has always needed to legitimate itself in some way before the church. And many times that effort has been salutary for justice and the rights of its citizens. But the church before the liberal modern state has announced that it will only intercede in the political sphere in an indirect manner. Manent suggests that the church’s stance on the death penalty combined with its general pacifism on war is a most striking intervention, one that diminishes “the spiritual legitimacy of these bodies,” rendering immoral both the interior and exterior defenses of political order. What Pope Francis seems not to have recognized is that “the secular state is itself becoming secularized.”

The secularized state does not claim its origins in nature, or as an agent that protects the God given rights and liberties of dignified persons. The secularized status of our democracies means that they are increasingly unable to provide reasons for their continued existence. Secular reason can scrutinize what interests we should pursue but cannot offer a justification for our life as a constituted people. For that, we require a justification that affirms our shared political existence as a good thing, one that makes our lawful dependency on one another a source of common strength.

Pope Francis is fully conversant with the terms of our liberal humanist experts, but he does not seem to understand that in taking their counsel he drains the spiritual life from his church and the liberal political order.

Reader Discussion

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on August 09, 2018 at 10:06:22 am

testing again!

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gabe
on August 09, 2018 at 10:16:40 am

Nicely constructed by both Manent and Reinsch!

Interesting that “the secular state is itself becoming secularized.” - as is the Roman Catholic Church under (borrowing from Prof Paulsen here) the "mal-administration" of this Leftist Pontiff.

What else shall this fakir in a pointed hat deem to have "evolved"?, to NOW be contrary to centuries of teaching / belief / practice?

Francis is rushing headlong on the same path taken in recent decades by Mainline Protestantism and doubtless will soon find itself as irrelevant and unable to sustain a deep affection amongst its members.

Making matters worse:

"For that, we require a justification that affirms our shared political existence as a good thing, one that makes our lawful dependency on one another a source of common strength."
In a time when we cannot, or more precisely, WILL NOT justify our political community as a good thing, indeed, its very nature and foundations are under constant assault, we do not need another institution, and a moral institution at that, eviscerating its own foundational precepts.

This man is a disaster for the RC Church and as Reinsch and Manent have shown his reformulations will not have a salutary effect upon the political community.

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gabe
on August 09, 2018 at 10:31:23 am

And as further evidence of the unfortunate effects of a State failure to enforce its sanctions against criminal behavior, we have this from Mayor Khan's London(istan):

https://www.breitbart.com/london/2018/08/09/khans-london-97-percent-moped-crime-goes-unsolved/

Of course, nobody wants to talk about the failure of Chicago authorities to enforce the law (natural or otherwise) where we find that not one single arrest has been made for any one of the 70 shootings / 12 homicides occuring this past weekend.

Hmmmm!

Leave it to the State to protect us, kiddies!

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gabe
on August 09, 2018 at 13:28:11 pm

With the naming of jorge mario bergoglio to be permanent resident of the Vatican, the elders made a huge mistake by not looking at his past agendas. We do not have an acting pope! We have an agenda driven politician that is trying to bring down the laws established 2,000 years ago, " with a pen and phone " he acts in his dictatorial seat and undoes the laws and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. He reminds me of another dictator that ruled in the US from 2008 to 2016, they are both the same, extreme socialist that create their own laws as they go along. I cannot say what I would call him in this website, but it is clear in my mind.

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Abelardo Aguilu
on August 09, 2018 at 13:55:13 pm

Excellent analysis.

Francis, consumed as he seems to be by a so-called, "western secular humanism", in this move, (at best, just stopping short of calling capital punishment an intrinsic universal evil), fails to observe or acknowledge that not every nation of this planet, has thus far attained a level of western economic and governmental affluence and equal access to the technological sophistication, as to render the capital punishment obsolete.

More troubling (from a Catholic perspective) is the implication that 2000 years of Doctrine has been in error.

This analysis, of course, presupposes in this action, a lack of ulterior motive, as inherent to theological expression, but endemic to political expression, and therefore, necessitates instead, as explanation, a presumption in Francis, of theological ignorance.

Alternatively assessed, discounting such presuppositions, one must ask, “Why now?” And, the clarification (CHANGE!) of doctrine then might be seen as an advance guard and precursor, aimed at crippling resistance to more significant pre-conceived “developments” (PERVERSIONS!) of doctrine to proceed from October 2018’s Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment”, most particularly relating to Magisterium on contraception, same-sex unions, and divorce and remarriage.

This latter explanation appears to me the more plausible. And, it has become all too apparent, to at least this Roman Catholic, who has lost all but total faith and confidence in the current pontiff and his immediate hierarchy, but who does still retain complete faith and confidence in the Office and Church to which he and they are temporarily entrusted, that this portrayal of opposition to capital punishment as imperative to a so-called, “consistent ethic of life”, also referred to as a, “seamless garment of life”, is but another stitch, as has become emblematic of Francis’ pontificate to date, of an ever expanding seamless garment of ambiguousness and sophistry, woven specifically for the purposes of pulling over the eyes of unsuspecting lay faithful and cleric, alike.

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 14:13:55 pm

Richard,

There's a little more than two thousand years to this. "Thou shalt not kill" at Sinai was about 3200 years ago.

As for your "natural law," it's bogus. The only thing natural about it is the plain ordinariness of people claiming that their own opinions come from something greater than their own mouths, in this case the goddess Nature.

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David Lloyd-Jones
on August 09, 2018 at 14:35:57 pm

Thus spracht the elitist, secure no doubt in the confidence that Nature is *female" and that were it not for the *plain ordinariness* of those deplorable foul smelling boobs, all would be well with MAN'S (exuse me, WOMEN'S) world and *SHE* could go about reconstructing it in HER image.

And BTW: There is nothing plain nor ordinary about my Little Smurfs. They are "Natural" as natural can be!

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gargamel rules smurfs
on August 09, 2018 at 14:47:21 pm

Not being a catholic myself, what pope Francis says or does has no more importance to me than what any other spiritual or temporal leader of consequence says or does. Still, to the extent that the death penalty, which I find a symptom of barbaric, cruel, coward and ignorant views and customs, is still practised in most countries, his opinion matters. I can't decide, nor want to dig into the matter, if doctrinally he is right or wrong, but in this matter he is definitely being pro civilization against primitivism. Unless of course one thinks that my home country, Portugal, which has abolished the death penalty during the forties of the nineteenth century, and is catholic to the tune of well over 90% of its naturals, has something to learn religion wise, civilization wise, security wise, criminality wise, with murder states.

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José Meireles Graça
on August 09, 2018 at 15:34:29 pm

#MeToo

I'm with Dennis Prager on this one:
https://townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/2018/08/07/pope-francis-rewrites-catholicism--and-the-bible-n2507438

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 09, 2018 at 15:46:56 pm

Just when one thinks the head of the serpent's last spawn has had its head irreparably crushed under foot, the mere mention of natural law, and like clock-work, a reincarnated Law-Dog sprouts anew from Medusa's scalp.

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 15:52:52 pm

Shazzam! as Gomer Pyle would say.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 09, 2018 at 16:09:15 pm

Indeed, Portugal on more than one occasion boldly took a pro-civilized stand against primitivism when it demonstrated its distaste for violence of every kind, by its having duly managed to remain neutral for greater part of one world war, and for the entirety of the next, so that she may rightly assert her moral superiority here.

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 16:20:26 pm

You're in good company.

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 17:13:18 pm

Portugal had no business envolving in a war (the II, in the first her colonies were perceived as being at risk) where she was not attacked. So did the USA till the moment they were attacked, when the UK was almost completely exhausted. Unfortunately, the USA, to avoid a new war,, allowed the Soviet Union to invade and keep most of East and Central Europe. All this and much more requires context, at the time things looked differently. What does not require context, because it is contemporary, is that standing for the death penalty nowadays, with the excuse of doctrinary subtle explanations, is revulsive. This is of course a long discussion with infinite arguments on both sides. It is however futile: someone needing to be explained why I've used the word "revulsive" cannot understand the explanation.

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José Meireles Graca
on August 09, 2018 at 18:01:49 pm

This moral logic presumes circumstances in all countries are equal to those in Portugal, the same presumption Francis seems to make. I won't concede that. I will concede however, that all people of all countries are beholden to not only a universal natural law, but to a fallen human nature.

Beyond this, not to be contradicting or confrontational, I will only respectfully submit, it is very probable that Portugal, did indeed have very much business "envolving" both World Wars, (as did the other compatriots in neutrality), and that in each case that business proved to be quite lucrative. In fairness, the U.S., until its entry, also likely reaped large war-effort profits, only to have later bled those profits many times over in human life and capital.

You may be correct in your assessment that " the USA, to avoid a new war,, allowed the Soviet Union to invade and keep most of East and Central Europe", however, you will forgive me if I find it startling that someone eminating from such a highly civilized, and passivistic, nation as Portugal should find the avoidance of new war to have been "unfortunate".

Finally, whereas I do not note anywhere in your original commentary the use of the word , "revulsive” , I can only respond that I find it odd that you should find me wanting of its explanation. Unless, of course, your apparent superior intellectual capabilities have not only elevated you to a plain morally above the common gent, but has also given you from that elevation, the gift of prescience.

Peace brother

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 19:30:18 pm

Peace indeed, you have made your point and I mine. Just some remarks: Portugal, with a population, at the time of the II World War, of scarcely more than 6 or 8 million (I can’t remember, and didn’t bother to check), wouldn’t make much of a difference, except for the use of the Azores islands, where there is today an American base. This base was used by the Allies because the UK invoked an alliance of England with the kingdom of Portugal in the 14th century (still extant in the forties of the 20th century, as still extant today, a curiosity). In reality, Churchill invoked the Alliance as a formality, the Allies would have taken the islands anyway, should Portugal have said no. The dictator of the time, Salazar, whose regime was expelled in 1974, had a hard time gambling with the Axis and the Allies. These small bits of history to correct the impression, which I may have left, that nations have morals, rather than interests, circumstances, culture and history. However, the culture can and does evolve, and that’s where the death penalty comes in: from Hammurabi mankind has changed a lot, and at least in many, if not yet most, Christian countries, death penalty has been recognized not only as barbarian but also as counter-productive. Regarding the use of the word “revulsive” for describing the death penalty, I merely pointed out that the fact that I use that word is something you simply cannot understand because, if you did, you wouldn’t be for the death penalty in the first place. A little convoluted, perhaps, let me excuse me by saying that English is not even my second language.

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José Meireles Graça
on August 09, 2018 at 20:14:30 pm

No, indeed, Sir, your English is quite good! And, much better than my Portuguese, which is to say, my ability, except for detecting in it some resemblance to Spanish and Italian, for which I have some limited comprehension, I otherwise have none.

Additionally, you presume wrongly that I am "for the death penality", I am not for it in the vast majority of circumstances, for the reasons best articulated by Pope St. John Paul II. But, as to it being an absolute moral and intrinsic evil, comparable to abortion and euthanasia, even in contemporary times, (at least according to Catholic doctrine), I do not subscribe, as Francis seems to imply by his revision to that doctrine.

Regards -Paul

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Paul Binotto
on August 09, 2018 at 20:21:58 pm

Jose:

Question:

would you find abortion "revulsive"?
Surely, the killing of an innocent is to be much more lamented than that of a brute; yet, today we consider it quite proper. I guess you are correct. so much HAS changed since Hammurabi!

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Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on August 09, 2018 at 20:34:00 pm

The notion on its face is factually and historically ludicrous that capitol punishment was once morally permissible because life imprisonment was not practicable but became morally impermissible when life imprisonment became practicable. When did the shift occur? What changes in prison technology or management or engineering or in human nature are responsible for the change from impractical to practical? The answers: never and none.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 10, 2018 at 04:30:15 am

Garg,

You blither, wishing you could strut.
You speak for what, Saudi Arabia, Burundi and ten thousand Hannities?

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David Lloyd-Jones
on August 10, 2018 at 08:24:19 am

Shouldn't that be "Hannanites?"
Go check your Pentateuch.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 10, 2018 at 08:26:03 am

Though a former Portuguese colony, Brazil, which does not have the death penalty has a sky high murder rate:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/a-devastating-scenario-brazil-sets-new-record-for-homicides-at-63880-deaths/ar-BBLJONo?li=BBoPRmx

Clearly Brazil is not a "murder state" in that it does not impose the death penalty. But it is a murder state in that it has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Would reinstituting the death penalty there reduce homicides? A point of contention but here is one summary:

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/01/04/how-and-why-the-death-penalty-deters-murder-in-contemporary-america/

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Phillip
on August 10, 2018 at 11:55:08 am

There are no ancient Portuguese colonies accepting the death penalty (Brazil, independent since 1822, by the way, still accepts it in wartime for certain crimes, and so did Portugal till some decades ago), except maybe nowadays Macau, returned to China in 1999, and Goa, annexed by India in 1961. The fact that Portugal, one of the safest and less crime prone countries in the world, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea Bissau and those already mentioned enclaves have rates of serious criminal offenses totally different between one another, all having belonged to the Portuguese empire for centuries, shows (in my view) that there is a correlation, but not a causality, between the death penalty and the decrease in crimes. One tends to believe that these matters can be dealt with simplistically, Phillip. They can't. I, for one, have no a ready-made portfolio of solutions, but I'm sure the death penalty is not one of them.

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José Meireles Graça
on August 10, 2018 at 13:18:41 pm

BTW:

Just for the record. Portugal has double the amount of police per 100,000 population than the US.
Hmmm!
What does it all mean? could it be that it is harder to commit crimes there?

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Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on August 10, 2018 at 13:29:01 pm

I agree there are no simplistic solutions. The problem is that arguments against the death penalty tend to be simplistic, ignore reality and Revealed Truth and do nothing to solve problems

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Phillip
on August 10, 2018 at 16:11:38 pm

"More troubling (from a Catholic perspective) is the implication that 2000 years of Doctrine has been in error."

That's a keen remark.

In light of the Pope's new occurrence, he may want to start his revisionism with Mark 12:1-10, Jesus's teaching that the lord of a vineyard shall "come and destroy the husbandmen" who killed the lord's son and servants in the husbandmen's intent to perpetuate a swindle. The Pope inevitably would have to conclude that Jesus's teaching "attacks the dignity" of assassins (here, the husbandmen).

Of course, conducting the incipient revisionism requires the Pope to disavow the encyclical Fides et Ratio because from "[a] reading of the sacred text [...] what emerges clearly is a rejection of all forms of relativism".

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Iñaki Viggers
on August 10, 2018 at 19:03:38 pm

Them too, I suppose. Both the clones and the epigones.

Hannity himself, however, in this context brings to mind the reply to a heckler by (the Reverend) Tommy Douglas, "Sir, I have always been opposed to abortion, but in your case I would be happy to make it retroactive."

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David Lloyd-Jones
on August 10, 2018 at 19:30:04 pm

José,

One problem with depicting the death penalty as "barbaric/cruel/coward/ignorant" is that neither the suppression of death penalty compensates the tragic losses a murderer causes, nor does the suppression of that penalty prevent him or her from committing similar crimes again. Capital punishment certainly won't restore a victim's life, but at least putting the criminal to death (1) ensures that henceforth no one else will be killed by that rotten individual, and (2) prevents debauched judges from releasing the criminal at some point during the multi-year proceedings, which essentially focus (let's not fool ourselves) on deliberating what is best for that criminal.

I suspect that you have not (yet) experienced judicial corruption. But many of us have endured judges who favor wrongdoers and criminals; judges who blatantly suppress vast amounts of evidence and the established laws that they were sworn to enforce; judges who themselves turn out to be criminals even outside the court (see judge felon Carol Kuhnke [1]). I cannot imagine the recurrent indignation a victims' family must suffer each time the convicted criminal makes yet another push to be released from prison. Seeing that --under pretext of due process-- a judge entertains each new attempt must be an insult and an unwarranted source of distress to the families.

For all the impunity they create in the court, these judges are the ones who deserve the adjectives of barbaric, cruel, coward, and ignorant. Not us, the law-abiding civilians who expect these judges to act with integrity. Not us, who wish for an Irreversible and Effective retribution when someone commits an offense or a serious wrong.

In consideration of your non-catholic status, I need not discuss the inadequacy of the doctrine of the "afterlife" retribution. But the notion that a thief/mass shooter/genocide who adjudicates to himself a "right" to kill others may still retain his right to continued life --henceforth coupled with judicial protection-- is untenable. It defrauds all the civilians who decline taking "justice into own hands" under a failed promise of an ordered civilization.

[1] http://www.oneclubofjusticides.com/2018/04/felon-carol-kuhnke-seeks-reelection-as.html

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Iñaki Viggers
on August 11, 2018 at 10:08:50 am

Iñaki,
You have strong and well established beliefs on the matter, as I do, and of course we won’t find any common ground, for the same reason a believer and an atheist cannot agree, or a communist and a supporter of democracy, or a socialist and a believer in free market. Still, some remarks: i) the laws are not designed to protect murderers, they are designed to ensure no innocent is convicted, even if that can mean sometimes, for lack of convincing proof, that a murderer walks out free; ii) describing many judges as corrupt comes as a surprise to me because I’m not ignorant of the American politics and news, and if that phenomenon was usual surely it would be frequently referred. It isn’t, and that probably means (forgive me for this intention process) that you consider as corrupt judges who simply are far more lenient than yourself in criminal matters; iii) “Irreversible” retribution is precisely one of the reasons why the death penalty should not exist, because the list of past wrong convictions is huge. Of course I could go on and on, and so would you. P.S.: Your Christian name seems Basque, am I right?

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José Meireles Graça
on August 12, 2018 at 12:41:27 pm

This Pope continues to focus on minimalist issues that have near zero impact, while the world goes to Hell in a hand basket in human degradation, abysmal poverty, and tyrannical oppression. It is such a sad waste of the human and other resources of Roman Catholics, and the vast ability of the Church to communicate so broadly to so many. He's on a personal belief crusade, and that kind of personalized power and indifference to mankind's fundamental need is what caused the Reformation. So this old order Lutheran thinks.

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George Barnett
on August 12, 2018 at 14:54:14 pm

José, I'll address your remarks.

"i) the laws are not designed to protect murderers, they are designed to ensure no innocent is convicted"

In the U.S. there are possibly thousands of cases where the convicted murderer appeals not the verdict of guilty, but the sentencing. That is, murder is not disputed. Thus, clearly those are not instances of an innocent person being convicted.

In other instances, the murderer is even glamorized in the decades subsequent to the murder(s) and conviction (example: Charles Manson). Looking beyond U.S. cases, it is hard to reasonably argue that individuals like Karadžić or Mladić "might be innocent" on charges of genocide during the Balkan wars.

"ii) describing many judges as corrupt comes as a surprise to me because I’m not ignorant of the American politics and news, and if that phenomenon was usual surely it would be frequently referred"

What you see in the news is hardly representative of the day-to-day reality in many U.S. courts.

Much of the judicial corruption goes unnoticed because the average attorney prefer to remain in cozy/comfortable terms with the judges (of course, at the expense of due justice), lest the attorney fall off the grace of judges and be de-facto forced to relocate his law practice. For that same reason, in many courts where judges are elected, the only times other attorneys contend for judicial office is when the judge announces he or she will no longer seek reelection. Attorneys are frightened by the prospect of judicial retaliation.

I encourage you to read the post in the link I included in my previous reply. My blog/site and other material linked thereto expose just a tiny fraction of the immense corruption of the Michigan judiciary. In a recent post there, I address the judicial ineptitude in an unrelated case, and how the "justice" in the Michigan Supreme Court essentially sided with a judge (of name Lisa Gorcyca) who extorted, terrified, and jailed (for 17 days) three innocent kids for their refusal to have lunch with their father. In its effort to protect the brutal judge, the Michigan Supreme Court preferred to label those kids as "blatant".

Another thorough, well-written article[1] addresses the horrible dynamics of one courthouse (in Michigan), and nothing guarantees that all other courts are any better (see the aforementioned matter of Gorcyca).

If you prefer briefer, more generic material, I encourage you to see a report[2] denouncing the malpractice that judges tolerate in family courts notwithstanding their babbling of terms such as "expediting justice" and "judicial economy". From there, a little bit of additional search on Youtube will lead you to similar denouncements about courts of other states.

"iii) “Irreversible” retribution is precisely one of the reasons why the death penalty should not exist, because the list of past wrong convictions is huge"

In my response to i) I mentioned just few instances where the argument of wrong convictions is inapplicable.

"P.S.: Your Christian name seems Basque, am I right?"
Yes, that's correct.

[1] http://www.theannmag.com/perverse-justice-politics-and-hubris-inside-the-washtenaw-county-courts/
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPgUMxoxFD4

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Iñaki Viggers
on August 21, 2018 at 11:10:41 am

Let us not forget the murder rate within Brazilian prisons as exhibited horrifically in recent riots. That plus frequent cases of imprisoned crime bosses such as el Chapo continuing to control their gangs from prison to continue their reign of crime, including murders, do not seem to substantiate Francis' claim of more efficacious penal systems. Where is the "dignity" in those cases?

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R O
on August 21, 2018 at 11:38:23 am

I should also mention that the Brazilian prison situation, similar to US prisons at least, is their general descent into such internal criminalization in which hard-core prisoners, and their internal gangs, control the internal "social structure" to an increasingly appalling degree such that the prison "administration" is afraid to neutralize their power. I would offer the idea that perhaps this situation would not be quite so endemic if the worst offenders had not been executed in accord with former punishment practices.

Overwhelmed prisons are increasingly spinning out of the control of the authorities, and are breeding crime instead of reducing it, and the reduction of capital punishment has to be at least partly to blame.

This is why, too, it is important not to incarcerate first time offenders with such "exemplary" teachers in the fine art of advanced crime and general viciousness, and I hope Trump's initiative in prison reform will have more civilizing results in truly rehabilitating those convicts who are open to it, before they can be hardened by those more advanced in criminality.

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R O
on August 21, 2018 at 12:43:29 pm

Correction:
...perhaps this situation would not be quite so endemic if the worst offenders HAD been executed in accord with former punishment practices.

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R O
on August 24, 2018 at 04:55:05 am

Hello, yup this article is actually good and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging.

thanks.

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ucminiapp.in
on January 02, 2020 at 09:36:06 am

[…] Lerner: Right. I think this leads into actually in your essay you connect the death penalty or Europe’s attitudes for the death penalty through the work of […]

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Liberalism and the Death Penalty

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