Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This is the single most disgusting moment from tonight's Republican presidential debate:

I'm not sure what's worse: Governor Perry saying he's never lost any sleep over the idea that Texas might have executed some innocent people, or the audience clapping at the mere statistic that Texas has executed 234 people under Perry's watch.

Note to my fellow Catholics: pro-life people don't CLAP for the deaths of 234 people. Even if you think that some particular case meets the rather strict criteria in the Catechism and that the death penalty is thus justified in that case because society can't be protected otherwise, the fact that someone must be strapped to a gurney, an IV placed in his arm with (at first) harmless fluids in it, and that then a dose of lethal poison must be injected such that the person gasps a few times in a vain struggle to breathe before his heart stops should always be seen as something tragic and deeply regretful, not something to celebrate with applause.



Siarlys Jenkins said...

Of course, you are absolutely right Erin.

The questioning was weak. They should have asked specific questions about the Willingham case, and the case that inspired "The Thin Blue Line," in which the innocent man was not QUITE executed, but for years, the man who shot a police officer was accepted as the star prosecution witness to convict a man who did not.

The problem with liberals is that they let the likes of Perry come off like this in response to spinelessly vague questions.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, I don't support the execution of innocent people, either. No sane person does. Yet you're position has major problems.

First, you're saying that because the death penalty shouldn't be used against innocent people, it shouldn't be used against, say, convicted murderers like Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 168 people...and whom Pope John Paul II wanted to receive clemency from Pres. Bush.

Second, God commanded that murders be executed (Genesis 9: 5-6). Until JPII's arbitrary revisionism concerning capital punishment, the Church supported that position. Don't believe me? Read the following:

You talk about "pro-life" people not clapping for the deaths of 234 people. Well, I rejoiced over the death of bin Laden. I rejoiced because a mass murder got what he deserved. Our parents and grandparents rejoiced at the defeat of the Germans and Japanese (unquestionably evil regimes) in WWII. What would you say to them?

I so rejoice because I know that more innocent people will not be victimized by these bastards.

The catechism's statements on capital punishment contradict not only Scripture but Tradition, as well. The people who approved and published it -- and, yes, I know I'm talking about the current Pope and his immediate predecessor -- are no different than those people who work for the Ministry of Information in Orwell's 1984. They bend truth and distort the past to promote whatever agendas they want to promote.

If you want to know why Catholicism is going to Hell (both figuratively and literally), that's the reason.

Red Cardigan said...

Joseph, forgive me if I'm wrong here, but you have left the Church, have you not?

Charlotte said...

Agree, Erin.

Deirdre Mundy said...

My only solace here is that IF Perry is our next president, he'll be in a job where he's not executing people. Of course, given Texas's record you'll probably just get someone MORE trigger happy to replace him.....

Of course, maybe we'll get REALLY lucky and the Dems will ditch Obama and nominate a pro-lifer... so we'd get a real competition for a change.....

But that's...highly unlikely.....

Chris-2-4 said...

I believe he says he does not lose any sleep over yada yada executing some innocent people because he firmly believes everyone executed under his governorship was guilty. I simply don't see how you can hold that against a non-catholic christian who has deep (and yes, biblical) beliefs about the justice of the death penalty.

The clapping is quite troublesome, I could forgive them applauding his answer, but applauding the question about executing 234 people? I don't think that's right even for an evangelical. Even if you believe the death penalty is just, it's not something that should be relished.

Kimberly Margosein said...

Joseph, since you're going all OT, how do you feel about the death penalty for those you eat Shrimp De Jonghe, or wear a blended cotton-linen shirt, or drive a hybrid car?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Mr. Margosein has a valid question for Joseph, and for Chris, as far as Biblical injunctions go. We are ALL revisionists about something or other in the Bible. The more astute Christians base this on the divine mandate having altered when God sent his only begotten son.

Joseph might learn something from a comment made to me once by a minister who said, "If I killed a man who was about to rape my wife, it would be justified, but it would still be a sin." Sin is about what it does to the person who commits the act. It is true enough that we had to kill bin Laden. It is also true that we, as a people, would have been closer to God if we hadn't had to do that. It is nothing to rejoice about. That may be true for some executions, but we should indulge in that measure only with the greatest hesitation for what it does to our own souls.

Kelly said...

I completely agree with you.

StevenD said...

Now I realize Obama and virtually all Democrats are for the legalized killing of pre-born humans at the tune of > 1 million per year and I also realize we are suppose to vote as catholics to prevent a greater evil from occuring. But I just found out that a few republicans voted for gay marriage in NY, so I'm not going to vote for either party. I want for a pure candidate with no flaws.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Kimberly, God gave to Noah the injunction regarding the execution of murderers (Genesis 9:5-6) centuries before He gave the Law to Moses. Moreover, the Law was meant solely for Jews. Since Noah and his family were the only survivors of the worldwide flood, the injunction was meant to be universal and incumbent upon humanity for all time.

Remember, we're talking about capital punishment for murder, not for adultery or lesser crimes.

Siarlys, you cite someone who said, "If I killed a man who was about to rape my wife, it would be justified, but it would still be a sin." Do you know why it would be sin? Because God never meant for justice to be executed by individual parties but by due process untainted by corruption. The whole notion of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" was not to encourage vigilantism, as many Catholics believe today, but to discourage vigilantism and to encourage punishment proportional to the offense.

Again, the issue I'm raising is capital punishment for murder, not for rape.

Erin, the fact that I have lost tremendous respect for Catholicism and believe it has no moral credibility does not prevent me from commenting on this or any subject.

May I also remind all of you to stop using diversionary tactics and red herrings, and start confronting the issue like intelligent people.

scotju said...

Erin, I find nothing wrong with Gov. Perry's position on the death penalty or the clapping for his statements on the same. People who unjustly take another persons life forfeit their right to life. People who are tired of murder and murderers going unpunished, will applaud someone who says life must be taken for a life that was taken. The last time I looked, the Scriptures and the true traditions of the Church demanded that.
The preacher who said it would be a sin to kill someone who was trying to rape his wife is IMHO a wimp first class. Rape was almost always punished by the death penalty is nearly all civilized societies. It would be no skin off my nose if I thought it was nessasary to kill someone who was raping my wife or my child.

Red Cardigan said...

Joseph, I'd like to remind you (and those commenters who may not know this) that you are commenting here on sufferance. Our past interactions have usually ended with you being banned when you cross the line and start bashing other commenters or other bloggers. So long as you can be civil you may remain, but I'd caution you to remember that I do demand civility towards other commenters here.

It is your opinion that because God commanded Noah to execute murderers all nations at all times are under the same command. But the Church does not agree with you, and it would indeed be strange if mercy were to be positively forbidden to Christian leaders, would it not?

The real problem is that your opinion is not magisterial teaching, and no amount of argument will make it such. The Church in her wisdom recognizes that though the death penalty may be permissible in rare circumstances where no possibility of protecting society exists otherwise, it is not the best way to treat those convicted of murder or any other crime.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, it is not "my opinion" that God wants murderers to be executed. Scripture demands it. The teaching of various scholars and Popes reflects that demand. To wit:

The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ for the representative of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to the Law or the rule of rational justice. (St. Augustine, "The City of God")

If a man is a danger to the community, threatening it with disintegration by some wrongdoing of his, then his execution for the healing and preservation of the common good is to be commended. Only the public authority, not private persons, may licitly execute malefactors by public judgment. Men shall be sentenced to death for crimes of irreparable harm or which are particularly perverted. (Aquinas, "Summa Theologica")

The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers. (Aquinas, "Summa Contra Gentiles")

When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live. (Pope Pius XII, 1952)

All of these statements contradict the Catechism's current "teaching." Do you not think that if God is the Author of life, then He has the prerogative to delineate the conditions under which it might be taken?

Besides, the current "teaching" is leading Church leaders and priests to show more sympathy to the perpetrators of evil than to the victims of evil, This, truly, is moral inversion -- if not perversion -- of the first magnitude. Go back to my first post on this thread and paste the link into your browser.

The fact that Pope John Paul II -- who led the revisionist course -- was highly admired and respected, and even beatified, does not make him right.

By deliberately ignoring centuries of previous teaching, the Catechism is forcing Catholics to choose between that teaching and its published revisionism. By choosing the revisionism, the faithful risk coming into direct conflict with divine revelation. The late Pope and his successor (who issued the catechism) will face judgment by a Higher Authority for their carelessness and deceit.

Red Cardigan said...

Joseph, none of those statements disagree with current Church teaching; they all teach that a man *may* justly be executed, not that he *must* be.

I could, if I were less busy today, pull a handful of other ancient quotes recommending mercy for the condemned--but that would not mean that the Church was wrong ever to permit capital punishment, either. Perhaps when I have more time I will center a blog post around these quotes.

The teaching has not changed. What has changed is the ability of man to protect society from the guilty aggressor without resorting to killing him. The Church rightly and justly points out that a good society will limit itself to non-lethal means when these means are sufficient.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, the teaching has never been based on the state's or society's ability to protect itself. It has been based on the idea that murder is the ultimate desecration of the divine image in humanity. That is a completely different criterion. If the criterion has changed, then the teaching has effectively changed.

Again, Genesis 9:5-6 states that murderers must be executed. Don't confuse the diplomatic language of theology with variance in teaching. The Church cannot compel sovereign states to act in its accord. That's why the language is used.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

By the way, while you're at it, I suggest you read the following:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, Erin once pointed out in response to a string of cherry-picked Biblical citations, "This is not a sola scriptura web site." You remind me of the ex-Catholic Lutherans and the ex-Lutheran pseudo-Pentecostals I sometimes run across. Always trying to be holier than what you just were not long ago.

When it comes to the Old Testament, I always go with what a Talmudic scholar says is the meaning of the original Hebrew. God did not give the O.T. in English, German, Latin, Greek, or even Aramaic, except for portions of Daniel and Esther. I am thus informed that not only did all executions have to be approved by the Sanhedrin (yes, you did endorse due process), but a Sanhedrin that approved two executions in a year was called a "Sanhedrin of Blood."

The understood meaning was that the written law emphasizes how serious the offense was, but the ultimate penalty was to be actually carried out very sparingly. As to the law NEVER changing, I am informed that until sometime after the mabbul (it was so much more than a flood), mankind was forbidden to eat meat. But that was CHANGED. And I recall Jesus saying "But I give you a new commandment..."

scotju, in your haste and blindness, you miss two very critical points:

Gov. Perry talked blandly about those GUILTY of certain offenses getting what they deserve, but he tip-toed through the tulips around the substantive question, does it ever worry you that you might have executed someone INNOCENT. He has, as a matter of fact, and blithely denies it.

You also do the minister I mentioned a great disservice. He did not say he would refrain from killing the rapist. He certainly would kill him. But he would recognize, after doing what he had to do, that it was, nonetheless, a sin.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, criticizing "sola scriptura" is a cop-out. When Catholics do so, they're really ignoring what Scripture has to say. I didn't make up Genesis 9: 5-6. Nor did I make up Romans 13: 1-6, where St. Paul declared that the state "does not bear the sword in vain."

The fact that you site Talmudic scholars does not negate the idea that Doctors of the Church supported the execution of murderers.

As far as humanity being forbidden to eat meat before the flood, have you considered the possibility that the change was to signal a new era, that situations that applied before the flood no longer apply?

Finally, regarding "a new commandment I give you...," the context was Jesus' final meeting with His disciples (John 15:12). That meeting began with the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in God's kingdom. Jesus' response was to wash their feet, something only a slave would do, to let them know that true Christian leadership involves service, not personal ambition or competition for privilege. Jesus' "new commandment" reflects His model for leadership.

Besides, Jesus never abrogated any part of the Mosaic Law. He lived in perfect compliance with it. That was the only way He could be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Before reflexively criticizing "sola scriptura," Siarlys, perhaps you should study it in depth so you don't take things out of context.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Always trying to be holier than what you just were not long ago.

Siarlys, that's a cheap shot. It sounds like something that would come from an anti-evangelical or anti-Protestant bigot...which you well might be, I don't know.

It's also false. This isn't a matter of being "holier" than I used to be. This is a matter of disagreeing with prevailing Church "teaching" because it contradicts what it previous taught for centuries.

If anything, it's the Catholic Church that's acting "holier than God" by this revisionist teaching. Have you every thought of that?

scotju said...

Mr Jenkins, if a man or God forbid a woman were to attack me, my wife, or her children in my presence, I would not hesitate to use deadly force to put an end to the attack. It is not a sin to defend yourself or an innocent person against a brutal assault. If you kill the attacker, it's called justifiable homicide. In plain language, it's right to kill that person and not a sin. That preacher who told you that it was a sin was, IMHO, full of liberal bull hockey. If he was faced with a life and death decision like this in real life, with this mentality, he would be guaranteeing his own death for sure.
Also, why should Gov. Perry lose any sleep over wheather Texas may have executed innocent people? "May have" is a whole lot different than "we did" execute an innocent person. "May have" is so very ambiguous and indefinite. "We did" is unambiguous and to the point. For example, if I saw a man running away from a freshly killed corpse, and I shot him, assuming he was the murderer. Then, anywhere from a few days later to many years later, a new investigation proves the runaway I shot wasn't the murderer. Would I feel bad about it? Of course. Would I lose any sleep over it? Probably not. I was going by the best available evidence that I had at the time. The suspect was running away from the scene of the crime. I had a moral obligation to stop him, because all the available evidence pointed to him being the killer. It's sad things can turn out that way, but the police and a criminal jury have to go by the best available evidence, and sometimes honest mistakes are made analysing it.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

To the two loud mouthed rhetoriticians who are too busy listening to the sound of their own voice to engage in a dialog:

As a matter of fact, I am Protestant. One reason I am not Roman Catholic is that I adhere to Wycliffe's teaching that man has no earthly spiritual overlord but Jesus. That being the case, my own reading of Scripture is as authoritative as yours, no more, no less. Therefore, it is a bit trite for either of us to hit each other over the head with Scripture. If you want to codify the meaning of Biblical passages into some mandatory spiritual straight jacket, you will need to set yourself up as an anti-Pope, and cultivate an anti-Magisterium to sustain your authority. As I sometimes say to Pentecostals, if you are so fixated on "obedience," you should return to the Roman Catholic church.

The minister I have quoted on killing a man intent on raping his wife was ordained over half a century ago by one of the most conservative Protestant churches there is. I'm not eligible to take communion in his church any more than I am in a Roman Catholic church. And you have plainly missed the point. He would be no slower on the trigger than you would be. But he would know better how to make his peace with God afterward. You are a sorry self-righteous mess.

scotju said...

So you believe yo have no earthy spirital overlord except Jesus? Golly, you must not have read 1Pet 5:5 where it says,"submit yourselves to the elders". As for your reading of scripture being authoritive as mine, nope! Only one of s can be right. and since you're a Protestant, you're not! Indeed, since there are sooo many Protestant churches who can really claim to have the truth? Yes, as it was said in the Japanese film, "Rashomon' Who's truth is the truth?"
As for having to make peace with God after killing a man, if the man I killed was trying to take innocent life, he's the one (if he had enogh time) who need to make peace with God, not me.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, the matter of interpreting Scripture on the issue of capital punishment isn't as complex as, say, transubstantiaion v. consubstantiation, or sacrament. v. ordinance concerning Communion. Nor is it as complex as discerning the meaning of the imagery in the Book of Revelation.

This is Genesis 9: 5-6, from the New Living Translation:

And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life....And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.

What part of that can you not understand?

On another front, if you don't insult or make snarky remarks about other commenters, then you won't receive the same in kind. As somebody who proclaims to be a Christian, I thought you would understand that.

Then again, it is the fool who substitutes personal attack for sound argumentation. Exhibit A-Z: Mark Shea.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, what exactly is your authority to decree that this cannot change, and has not changed? Did you have a direct vision from God?

My reading, for what its worth, which is no more and no less than yours, is that God changes not, but God has adjusted the rules as humanity has matured and become capable of something more nuanced.

I once asked a young man who had a reputation as "the gay Christian," (and not a liberal - he had graduated from Bob Jones University before figuring out that he was gay), how he answers reference to Biblical proscription of lying with a man as with a woman.

He said, oh, you mean in Leviticus? If I'm asked by a Christian, I ask if you eat crabs, lobsters, and shellfish. Now I can't use that on Jews or Muslims, because they do adhere to the Levitical prohibition.

In the Ten Commandments, it says the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons to the third and fourth generation. But Ezekiel was told "you will have no more need for that Proverb in the land of Israel."

If all the Lord requires of us is to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, where does the balance of justice and mercy fall? Does it fit into a rigid rule?

The punishment for adultery was to be stoned to death. Jesus said "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone." Shall we apply that criterion to the death penalty?????

You continue to speak as if you, and perhaps you alone, know the true meaning of each verse of Scripture. If my choice were limited to you or the Chair of St. Peter, I would choose Rome, because at least the Pope has to consult several centuries of precedent, embodying the understanding of many generations of thoughtful scholars, not just his own mind.

Further, you have yet to address responsibility for executing the innocent. By strict reading of the Bible verse you quote, the blood of Perry is required for the blood of Willingham.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

First of all, as I mentioned before, equating the injunction given to Noah with the Mosaic Law misses one point: The Mosaic Law was designed for Jews since it represented their covenant with God. The injunction to Noah was meant for all humanity because 1) Noah and his family were the only people who survived the flood 2)The Jews, as such, did not exist, yet.

Nevertheless, the Mosaic Law does reflect the mind of God in this matter, as well, in greater detail. That detail involves the demand for at least two witnesses at every trial, scrupulously fair due process and cities of refuge for those who commit manslaughter.

The specifics might apply to the Israelites but humanity would be well-advised to heed the general principles for jurisprudence that the Mosaic Law reveals. The whole point is to replace ad hoc retribution with due process, to protect the innocent and to teach that human life has value.

By bringing in other issues (eating shellfish, the sins of the fathers falling to the third generation), you are dodging the main point: God demands murderers -- those who act with premeditation -- to be executed because murder ultimately desecrates God's image in humanity.

More to come....

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Regarding Jesus' comments about adultery, Jesus was responding to Pharisees who had caught a woman in the act and wanted Him to pass judgement. What they did was illegal, according to the Law, because both the woman and the man involved had to be tried. Besides, they were trying to trap Jesus. If He said that she shouldn't be executed, they could say that He opposed the Law. If He said that she should, not only would they accuse him of lacking compassion but fomenting rebellions against Rome, since the Romans were the only authority that could perform executions in first-century Palestine (that's why the Pharisees went to Pilate to crucify Jesus; they couldn't do it themselves).

Jesus' answer did not excuse the sin. It pointed out the Pharisees' own trechery...and the Pharisees knew it; just look at their immediate reaction.

Moreover, no sane person today would equate adultery with murder, which is the whole point of my position on this discussion.

You ask where the balance of justice and mercy should fit. A fair question. It should fit in with uncorrupted due process, and with adherence to the principles outlined in Scripture for the protection of the innocent from crime, and even the protection of the guilty from ad hoc retribution by wronged parties.

I will not comment on Perry and Willingham because I don't know the particulars. I also neither support nor oppose Perry. Of course, the execution of the innocent is a travesty. But using that possibility to oppose the execution of people like Timothy McVeigh and Saddam Hussein (which the Vatican opposed) not only shows a lack of moral discernment but a willingness to exploit the innocent for political agendas -- especially now when DNA testing is quite sophisticated.

You ask me to cite my "authority." I have no special authority of my own. My authority is God Himself through His inspired Scripture. All Christians have the responsibility to read and study Scripture for themselves. That doesn't mean Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox will read it the same way, of course. But as I said before, capital punishment for murder is one of the least complex issues in Scripture. Why are you so intent on making it more complex than it needs to be?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

One more thing, Sialys. Your (and Erin's and the Catholic Church's) focus on capital punishment marks a major shift in Catholic moral thinking. That shift is from the nature of humanity in God's sight to the ability of the state to protect society. IOW, the focus has shifted from a law regarding the fundamental nature of humanity and its relationship to God (whihc is unchanging) to the ability of any particular nation's judicial system to protect its citizens (which varies from nation to nation and from time period to time period). This is going from moral bedrock to moral sand.

Red Cardigan said...

Joseph, you really have set yourself up to be your own Magisterium on this. I mean, can you find any Magisterial teaching from the Church prior to Vatican II (since your problems with the Church seem to start there) in which the Church solemnly teaches that all States, because of Genesis 9:5-6, have a duty always and everywhere to execute every single convicted murderer? If not, then you are bound to realize that the Church has always found it permissible for the State to administer mercy as well as justice--the question becomes one of degree, not of doctrine.

In investigating pre-VII writings and teachings about the death penalty, I find that at no time does the Church--or even theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas--argue that the State has a positive duty to execute all murderers in the light of Genesis 9:5-6. In fact, the writers seem to limit themselves to the question of whether capital punishment *may* be used without sin. Yes, say the writers, when it is justified, necessary for the preservation of society, and not done in revenge. That seems to me to be exactly what the Church is still saying!

In fact, if the Church is saying anything new, she is saying: we now have in the modern state the possibility of incarcerating people for life in such a way that they are no further threat to society, and thus the state will limit itself to this means of punishment when death is not necessary.

In the Church of Joseph D' Hippolito (population: 1) the state must execute ALL murderers or be in violation of Genesis 9:5-6. But the Catholic Church has NEVER taught this, and I defy anyone to demonstrate otherwise. We are not, then, talking about whether mercy toward the condemned is incompatible with Christianity--we are talking about the degree to which the employment of mercy in treating condemned prisoners is compatible with Christianity. Those who believe that mercy toward murderers is totally incompatible with Christianity are incorrect.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

"You ask me to cite my "authority." I have no special authority of my own. My authority is God Himself through His inspired Scripture."

That is exactly what the Bishops of Rome have been claiming for at least 15 centuries. Perhaps they are right. If so, listen to them. Perhaps they are exceeding what God has in fact granted to any man or institution. If so, then you are NOT speaking with the authority of God Himself. You are offering YOUR understanding of what God has said through the Scriptures.

As far as the Old Testament goes, I rely on Jewish Talmudic scholars, because the content was given to Jews, mostly in Hebrew, in a Jewish cultural context. One thing I have learned is that the entire Torah, the first five books, were given to Moses. So, while Genesis may REFER to commands given to Noah, Noah did not have Genesis. It was first given to Moses. Another is that the written text cannot be properly understood without the much longer Oral Torah, which was never to be written down, but which was committed to writing as the beginning of the Talmud, because Judaism had been scattered and barred from Jerusalem. Perhaps most important, of the 613 mishna mandated for Jews, only seven apply to the gentiles. These are called "Noachide," but they do not mandate execution for every homicide.

As for the tortured verbal calisthenics by which you try to "explain" what the story of the woman taken in adultery "really meant," you may be right, but I doubt it. In this you have definitely spoken on your own authority, not God's. Nothing you say is found in the Gospels, only in your own mind trying to understand the Gospels in a manner that would reinforce your own prejudices. (I say prejudice in the objective sense: pre - judice, you have judged before examining the evidence).

Mark P. Shea said...

Golly, you must not have read 1Pet 5:5 where it says,"submit yourselves to the elders".

Gotta love the hypocrisy. Shorter scotju: "You foolish Protestant, you don't have our awesome superior Magisterium--which I ignore when it teaches about the death penalty."

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, there's a vast difference between saying that "capital punishment *may* be used without sin" and "we now have in the modern state the possibility of incarcerating people for life in such a way that they are no further threat to society, and thus the state will limit itself to this means of punishment when death is not necessary."

You don't see the fundamental difference? Really? In the first, the Church is allowing the state to act. In the second, the Church is compelling the state to act in accordance with the Church's wishes...regardless of the merits of the individual cases. That's why JPII could petition Pres. Bush for clemency for Timothy McVeigh. That's why the Vatican protested the exectution of Saddam Hussein, though nobody in his right mind would assert that either acted w/o malicious premeditation.

Besides, the Magisterium is wrong to assume that once a murderer is incarcerated, he no longer remains a threat to society. Here in California, one death-row inmate successfully put out a hit on somebody who testified against him. Prison gangs do such things all the time to innocent people.

By shifting the focus from the nature of the crime to the nature of the punishement, the Church effectively has sided with the perpetrators of evil over the victims of evil.

As far as being a "Magisterium of one" is concerned, I'd rather think for myself than be a moral ostrich...which, Erin, is what you're effectively advocating.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, I am not talking about all homicides. I'm talking about murder, which is a unique category. Manslaughter is homicide but is not murder. No first-year law student would equate "homicide" with "murder."

Regarding my "tortured verbal calistenics," here's a section of commentary from InterVarsity Press (which, as a Protestant, would be credible to you).:

There is no evidence that this law was carried out with any regularity, so (the Pharisees) are raising a question in the name of loyalty to Moses, using a part of Moses' teaching that they themselves most likely have not kept. Furthermore, since the law says both the man and the woman who commit adultery are to be killed, we are left wondering why the man was not brought in as well. It may be that he had escaped, but the fact that only the woman is brought raises suspicions and does not speak well of their zeal for the law of Moses; for if they were really committed, they would have brought the man as well. Indeed, the law makes it clear that stoning could only take place after a careful trial, which included the chance for the condemned to confess his or her wrong (m. Sanhedrin 6:1-4). The hypocrisy of the opponents is evident.

This situation is apparently just an attempt to entrap Jesus (v. 6). If he is lax toward the law, then he is condemned. But if he holds a strict line, then he has allowed them to prevail in their ungodly treatment of this woman and has opened himself up to trouble from the Romans, for he will be held responsible if the stoning proceeds. The leaders of Israel are putting God to the test in the person of his Son, repeating the Israelites' historical pattern on more than one occasion in the wilderness at Meribah and Massah (Ex 17:2; Num 20:13; cf. Deut 6:16; Ps 95:8-9; 106:14).

When Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone he accomplishes several things: it relieves him from the charge of having instigated a stoning; it ensures there will not be a stoning, since none of the accusers will want to take responsibility for it; and it causes them to reflect on their own sinfulness before God....Those who came to condemn ended up condemning themselves by not casting a stone.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Mark, you can say "this is the teaching of the Magisterium and you must assent if you're a good Catholic" all you want. That doesn't make it sound teaching. That doesn't make it moral teaching. Indeed, this teaching has resulted in Catholics not only confusing vengeance with due process, but in showing more sympathy for the perpetrators of evil than the victims of evil.

This revisionism is nothing less than the Ministry of Information in Orwell's 1984 going from saying that Oceania has always been at war with East Asia to saying that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

If you are saying that this is genuine Catholic teaching, Mark, then you are saying that the Church has abandoned divine revelation for its own intellectual vanity. If JPII and Benedict have been the chief promoters of this revisionism, as you suggest, then they will face severe judgment from a Higher will you for supporting it (and them) blindly and arrogantly dismissing all who dare to see and tell the truth.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Finally, everyone, let me pose this hypothetical: Suppose I take an AK-47, go into a restaurant and gun down as many people as I can, killing more than a few. Why is it fair or just that I should retain my life after arbitrarily denying people their God-given rights to live, to enjoy His handiwork in the universe and to contribute to the benefit of society?

scotju said...

Mark, I accept the teaching of the magisterium on the death penalty; what I don't accept is the modernistic teaching that contradicts 1900 years of oral and written tradition.
I do submit to the elders, but I can only follow them as they follow Christ. Christ, either in his own words, or through his apostles or the Church Fathers, never condemned the rightous use of the death penalty. Indeed, since Christ will sentence all unrepentant sinners to eternal death in hellfire, I fail to see how he (or any Christian) could be against the use of the death penalty in this life.
The Protestants are heretics who reject partly or wholey what Christ and his Apostles taught. Our magisterium is superior because it is true. However, in the last 50 years, many false teachings and distortions of the truth have been taught as magisterial. Thankfully, the garbage of the last 50 years of the springtime that never existed is being shoveled away and the truthes that have always existed is being brought to the men and women in the pews by a new generation of priests who refuse to bow the knee to the Baal of liberalism. I hope you can someday be a part of this real renewal Mark. It would be a shame if you missed it.

Mark P. Shea said...

I accept the teaching of the magisterium on the death penalty; what I don't accept is the modernistic teaching that contradicts 1900 years of oral and written tradition.

Translation: I don't accept the teaching of the Magisterium.

The task of the Magisterium is to develop as well as conserve the Tradition. The Magisterial develop regarding the death penalty does that, just as the magisterial development regarding slavery (long a permitted evil in the Christian world, not categorically rejected) does. You don't submit to the Magisterium. Just the bits you like. Welcome to Protestantism, scotju.

Mark P. Shea said...

"magisterial develop*ment*"

"*now* categorically rejected"

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Mark, how does the Magisterium's current teaching on capital punishment "preserve the Tradition," especially since the Vatican's effective de facto position is abolition, which the Vatican never previously advocated? By your own admission, Benedict advocates abolition.

Saying it doesn't make it so. Insulting people who disagree with you doesn't make it so. Adults use facts and logic to make their points.

One more thing: "Protestant" isn't a pejorative....unless you're a bigot.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Joseph, like you, I'd rather think for myself. Therefore, I am no more willing to take your word for it than I am the Pope's. Either God gave us an authority to teach us the meaning of the Scriptures, and God's will for humanity, or, he did not. You cannot deny one authority, then claim another and beat people over the head with it.

Why, therefore, should InterVarsity Press be credible to me? Are you insinuating that all Protestants share a common canon, a common authority, have commonly accepted texts interpreting the meaning of Scripture? We can't even agree on a single translation of the Bible -- and with good reason, all translations change the meaning, each in a different way.

I know nothing about InterVarsity Press, and further, the ignorance of the authors is evident. Jesus didn't say anything about the man being brought in as well. He told the woman "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." This mess, like most such messes, is the result of someone dragging in whatever they can find in order to "prove" their own prejudice. Its like trying to "prove" the abomination that ha-Giladi (aka Jeptha) did so offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice on the altar.

Now, as to the hypothetical of the AK-47, please take note, you have totally abandoned any claim to Scriptural or canon authority. You are simply asking "why is it fair or just?" You want my opinion. Its not fair or just. Nothing in the hypothetical you offer is fair or just. I'm not, I don't think anyone here is, opposed on principle to ever executing anybody for any reason in any circumstances. Would I impose a death sentence in that situation? Not without all the information available to judge and jury I wouldn't. Then I might.

My concerns are:

1) Innocent people are often executed.
2) People guilty of murder repent in ways that make them contributing members of society; since their death cannot restore life to the murdered, that's a net plus.
3) What is technically "murder" in the eyes of the law may have its justifications, e.g., the man who shot a gang-banging neighbor who threatened to rape the wife of the man who shot him. Pre-meditated, but understandable.
4) The best justification in our present condition: some people who kill and go to prison will kill again, guards, fellow inmates... what else can you do? Give them a second life sentence? Even attempted murder would justify execution in such circumstances. But we must be careful with such laws; people can technically be accessories who had no intention of killing anyone.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, I share your concerns about the innocent being executed. I'm also concerned about the guilty not being punished, and ostensibly moral people providing aid and comfort to the evil. This is why I oppose the Catholic Church's revisionist stance.

In 2001, JPII wrote to Pres. Bush, asking him to grant clemency to Timothy McVeigh. Kathleen Treanor – who lost her daughter and two in-laws in the Oklahoma City bombing – told Associated Press:

Let me ask the pope, ‘Where’s my clemency? When do I get any clemency? When does my family get some clemency?’ When the pope can answer that, we can talk.

In 1997, John Paul and Mother Teresa were among those advocating clemency for Joseph O’Dell, a Virginia man convicted of raping and murdering Helen Schartner in 1985. O’Dell’s fiancĂ©e manipulated public opinion in Italy to such a point that Gail Lee, Schartner’s sister, told Associated Press:

We’re all very fragile at this point. It’s just like the Italians hate us. They in essence have said to my family, ‘You are worthless. Helen’s life doesn’t matter.

McCarrick displayed his own self-righteous indifference when he talked to the Washington Post about McVeigh’s execution, which only victims’ relatives could see via closed-circuit television:

It is like going back to the Roman Colosseum. I think that we're watching, in my mind, an act of vengeance, and vengeance is never justified.

McCarrick thus equated the grieving, vulnerable relatives of murder victims with the hardened, barbaric masses of ancient Rome who found the bloody agony of gladiators and religious martyrs entertaining. He also shows genuine confusion between due process (which McVeigh was not denied) and vigilantism (which, by definition, is not due process).

more to come...

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Let me address your other concerns:

1. The fact that the guilty often repent does not relieve them of the debt they owe society. If life imprisonment were the only possible punishment for first-degree murder, would you advocate the release of a convict who not only claims repentance but has solid documentation? Besides, as Aquinas said....

The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers.

2. It's possible to bring up various examples that could stretch the legal definitions of murder. I'm not a lawyer so I can't comment on them knowledgeably. The fundamental issue, beyond legal definitions, is humanity's basic God-given dignity and humanity's bearing of the divine image. Theologically, murder has been described traditionally as the ultimate desecration of that image. The Catholic position shifts the emphasis away from humanity's bearing of the divine image to humanity's ability to protect society w/o resorting to execution. That's why the Catholic position disregards the seriousness of murder.

3. Regarding the passage about Jesus and the adultress, not even Sister Helen Prejean, one of the most popular opponents of capital punishment, contends that the abolitionist position has biblical roots, as she admitted in her book, Dead Man Walking:

It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical ‘proof text’ in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this. Even Jesus’ admonition ‘Let him without sin cast the first stone,’ when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) – the Mosaic Law prescribed death – should be read in its proper context.

This passage is an ‘entrapment’ story, which sought to show Jesus’ wisdom in besting His adversaries. It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment.

Regarding other commentaries on this passage, I suggest you do your own research.

scotju said...

Mr Shea, the last time I looked at the oral and written traditions of the church they all upheld the death penalty. IMHO, you can no more "develop" the death penalty as a doctrine that you can "develop" doctrine that will allow a legitmate marriage to be dissolved. Yep, Pope JPII said with all the power he had as pope, he could not annul a legitamite marriage. And he could not, in spite of all his subversive efforts to do so, annul a law that has been in force since Noah got off the ark. Thankfully, most people, wheather they are Catholic or not, understand that life must be taken for a life taken,for man is made in the image of God, and once a life is taken (by murder) it can never by restored (in this life) like stolen property. The only people who fail to understand this simple principal are those who have swallowed the liberal, modernistic line. that line says rehabilitate, don't kill1 The only problem with that is that most criminals, including murderers don't want rehabilitation, they want to be criminals. The only thing that has a chance of wising them up is severe punishment that will take all the pleasure and allure out of the criminal lifestyle. Heavy fines, corporal punishment, and the death penalty work better than all the rehab programs developed by misguilded fools who have no real undrstanding of human nature.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

For starters Joseph, one person I would not have executed was Karla Faye Tucker. The brother of one of her victims agrees. The same victim's husband exulted in the pending execution. Family can have a lot of opinions. Frankly, I don't believe that how the family feels should have much to do with the sentence, although presently in most states it does. Execution is not done to make the family feel better.

I would not have let Tucker out anytime soon either. Repenting for a horrible crime doesn't equal a get out of jail free card. After all, repentance can be faked, especially if the reward is that good. It takes years to be sure. Most of the Manson followers should have been paroled years ago -- Manson himself, from what I have read, should not. Of course if it was my decision, I would have to read the entire file before making a pronouncement.

Kathleen Treanor doesn't get any clemency because she hasn't been indicted for a crime. She's mixing apples and oranges. If executing Timothy McVeigh makes her feel better, that's pitiful. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't have turned out for a candle light vigil to protest McVeigh's execution, nor Ted Bundy's.

When it comes to the law, I don't much care what murder is theologically described as. I'm also not clear that desecrating the image of God twice makes the first time all better.

As for Sister Helen Prejean, add her to the list of people whose personal understanding of Scripture differs from mine. I have never, since I first heard that story in Sunday school, doubted that Jesus found something wrong in executing the woman, no matter what the prescribed penalty might be. Protestant means never having to take anyone else's word for it -- although it is always good to listen and consider. God MAY have given you an insight I haven't grasped, or vice versa.

c matt said...

well, Joe, how do you answer God's rather direct statement to Cain that should others try to punish Cain by death for killing Abel, God would heap even greater punishment on them for doing so?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

c matt, the injunction to Noah that I mention earlier in this thread came centuries after God's dealing with Cain. God was trying to prevent vigilantism, not arguing against due process. Again, most Catholics and modern Christians don't understand the difference between the Siarlys' most recent comments attest.

Siarlys, my point about Sister Prejean concerns her interpretation of the passage, which is the same as that taken from the reference I cited earlier. Again, if you're interested, do further research on your own.

I agree with you that execution is not designed to make the family feel better. But I think your comments about Kathleen Treanor show no compassion for her grief and loss. That's exactly what's happening in the Catholic Church because of this revisionist nonsense. The people who (for lack of a better term) deserve the compassion don't get it from the prelates and clerics, and the murderers do. This is bass ackwards, regardless of the theology involved.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Besides, c matt, God rendered everything from the pre-flood era null and void. That one aspect of the significance behind God allowing humanity to eat meat once Noah and his family disembarked.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I seldom find myself in such accord with cmatt, but to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Joseph, you seem to forget that time is a dimension of the material universe, not a restriction on God, who being transcendent is outside time as well as matter and space. Whatever God's mandate to his half animal, half spirit hybrids on this little planet may be, He is not limited to doing things in a chronological order.

If God didn't want us to consider what he did with Cain very carefully, the story would not have appeared in Genesis, which was given to Moses at Sinai. Now what exactly God meant us to learn from the tale is not plain on its face. But it was not "superceded" by an event that also happened some time BEFORE the Five Books were given to man.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Siarlys, have you considered the possibility that, concerning Cain, God wanted to minimize (if not eliminate) the possibility of vigilantism? Later in Genesis, a man named Lamech kills someone for wounding him. Lamech proclaims to his wives, "If Cain is avenged seven-fold, then Lamech shall be avenged seventy-seven fold!" Lamech was proclaiming on himself what God proclaimed on Cain, something Lamech had no right to do.

Why did God effectively institute government when Noah disembarked (which is one of the ideas behind Genesis 9: 5-6)? To prevent people from taking the law into their own hands, which was what Lamech was basically doing! The whole purpose behind due process is to prevent people from doing just that!

Siarlys, the fact that you and c matt even ask the kind of questions and make the kind of challenges you do shows that you do not understand the basic difference between vigilantism and due process. The fact that you dismiss the grief of a woman who lost her daughter to a murderer -- and that an apostate idiot like McCarrick can dismiss the grief of Kathleen Treanor's fellows -- shows that you care more about theological distinctions than compassion for victims.

Woe to those who call evil "good" and who call good "evil"! Woe to a Catholic Church that has sacrificed the patrimony it received from God on the altar of its own intellectual vanity!

Word verification: cocca

A truer adjective could not be found to describe this Catholic revisionism.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

For a moment Joseph, you were talking like a sane man. Now you're going off the deep end again, like a wild-eyed man with a long flowing beard raving about whatever you want to decree in the name of God. All you said boils down to "Did you ever consider I could possibly be right about all this?" Well, sure I have, but it seems highly unlikely.

You make axiomatic statements without any authority but your own vision:

"God rendered everything from the pre-flood era null and void."

"Lamech was proclaiming on himself what God proclaimed on Cain, something Lamech had no right to do."

"God effectively institute[d] government when Noah disembarked."

"you do not understand the basic difference between vigilantism and due process"

"you dismiss the grief of a woman who lost her daughter to a murderer"

Says who?

And then you condemn the entire Roman Catholic Church for not seeing everything your way.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

First, Siarlys, I will retract what I said about you not knowing the difference between due process and vigilantism.

Regarding my comment about your dismissing another person's grief, I remind you of this statement you made on this same thread:

Kathleen Treanor doesn't get any clemency because she hasn't been indicted for a crime. She's mixing apples and oranges. If executing Timothy McVeigh makes her feel better, that's pitiful.

For you not to see the tremendous sense of emotion in her statement is beyond dense.

As far as the rest goes...well, you're an intelligent man. How do you interpret the passages I cited?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I consider grief and retribution to be two different things. I can very sincerely offer a shoulder to cry on, or assistance in coping with a situation, without also joining in the cry "Let's kill the #######." I said she doesn't get "clemency" because clemency is precisely for people who have committed a crime. She should feel proud to be ineligible for clemency. That said, clemency may, or MAY NOT, be appropriate for the convicted person in question -- but that doesn't turn on how bad she feels. Of course she is hurting. Any of us would.

As for Genesis 9:5, it seems to me closely connected to the preceding verse, which is a variation on the command (central to kosher meat preparation) that man can eat the flesh but not the blood. For example, those who use French recipes in which the blood of a chicken is saved after butchering and poured into the gravy, are in violation.

Verse 6 could be connected to verse 5, but its not related so well to verse 4. Verse 6 is not limited to human beings, it could even require that if a horse fatally throws its rider, it shall be shot (which is in fact common practice).

Mostly, I find these verses sufficiently ambiguous that I don't trust them as clear ringing commands for jurisprudence for all time. I'm not sure I or you know their full implication. I would ask a rabbi, and I might well be told, "This is way off, and the original Hebrew is so different from English I couldn't translate it."

As for Lamech, I don't see much evident meaning in it at all. Perhaps it is more chronological and anecdotal than giving clear commands. In which case, again, it is dangerous to say "Aha! This verse is telling us to..." It is especially dangerous to read such a verse, pontificate on what it means, and pronounce the matter closed "by the Will of God."

If I wanted certainly, I would be Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox. Protestant means always continuing to search, knowing that I can never be sure.