Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Death penalty question

I have noticed several discussions (here, here, here, and here) regarding the application of Catholic doctrine and practice regarding the death penalty in general, and as applied to the execution of Saddam Hussein in particular. This is an interesting discussion regarding what is dissent and what is not, but if we wrench back to the particular question... these discussion miss the larger point. Let me quote from Evangelium Vitae #56
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person".
Come on now... is there anyone who actually believes that Iraq is capable of providing this level of protection to it's citizens for what would have been the rest of the natural life of Saddam Hussein?

The teaching as we receive it from E.V. and the Catechism CCC 2267 enunciates conditions that clearly are not acheivable in Iraq, yet discussion goes on as though this were a universal given. It is not.


  1. Not only are the conditions enunciated in Evangelium Vitae not achievable in Iraq, they're not even achievable in the United States! In fact, they're not achievable anywhere outside the fevered imaginations of the anti-death-penalty crowd -- especially in a world filled with liberal judges prepared to overturn capital convictions on technicalities.

    It pays to consider the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Just before his execution, the spokesman for San Quentin said Williams was still consorting with criminals on the outside -- an admission that the authorities can't even protect society from inmates on death row.

    Nor will the authorities ever be able to afford such protection. No liberal judge is ever going to uphold the constitutionality of confinement conditions that would keep murderers completely isolated from the outside world.

  2. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor...

    It comes down to the evaluation of "If," which is the prudential decision which must be made by those in authority.

    I won't be judgemental in this case, those to whom the responsibility has fallen have done so.

  3. But this suggests that the protection of society is the ONLY reason for capital punishment. Antonin Scalia points out that this idea is an innovation.

  4. And that is an unfortunate and perhaps unintended consequence of a partial enunciation of a doctrine. Bp. Vasa addresses this in his editorial of 11/22/2006, regarding the Bishop's document on the worthy reception of Holy Communion,
    Church teaching, based on eternal reality, challenges us.

    A partial enunciation does not release one from making a decision based on the full doctrine, as you well know. Unfortunately, most do not seem to be well enough informed to know the full doctrinal content, or even worse, consider that if not included it no longer applies...