Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Response (The Big Bologna)

So over the last few days I have received multiple comments, emails, facebook messages, and everything else about my decision not to vote from my Catholic friends. These ranged from supportive of my decision to and excellent post emphasizing the duty of voting to those who have been unceasingly trying to convince me that I must vote for John McCain. So, here is a response to the latter of the two.

First of all, as per voting. I also believe that I have a duty to vote. In fact, the catechism says (2240) "Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country".

That's pretty plain, and I think I mentioned that in my post before last, when I said I felt it was my civic duty as a Catholic (and as a Knight of Columbus) to vote, and I will. I will walk in the booth with a voting ballot and I will make the selections that I can morally make with my own conscience. However, my conscience will not allow me to vote for someone who supports an evil that puts life at risk without good reason. I cannot vote for Obama because of his stance on abortion. I cannot vote for McCain because of his stance on the war (where many innocent children are dying every day, something that I truly believe to be intrinsic evil) and his stance on the death penalty, which the Catechism describes as only morally acceptable only when there is no other way to prevent the person from harming others. Capital punishment, in the words of Pope John Paul II is morally acceptable only very rarely, if ever at all in our modern society.

Now let's talk specifically about the Republican Party for a little while. I'm not convinced that John McCain is the "lesser of the two evils". We have had Republican Presidents in 28 of the last 40 years (yes, only 12 years of Democratic presidents). Guess what has happened in that time? Roe V. Wade, the growth of abortion, and an increase in the intrinsic evil that all of us hate. If abortion was illegal and did not exist in the country, how many votes do you think the Republican party would receive? Very few. So, what's the best way to keep winning elections? Keep the issue of abortion on the table. It drives us away from a party who cares more for the poor and has traditionally been anti capital punishment (the current lackluster candidate notwithstanding). Republicans can stomp and scream and shout about gay marriage and anti abortion amendments till the cows come home, but eventually they have to do something about it.

So, sorry but I can't vote for either one. I might, however, find one of these candidates that I can vote for.

Update: I think I've found my man and he's actually more conservative on the abortion issue than McCain (not that hard to do).

4 comments:

dudleysharp said...

Please reconsider your perspective on the death penalty.

Pope John Paul II: Prudential Judgement & the Death Penalty:
the good Pope's death penalty errors
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
October 1997, with subsequent updates thru 5/07
 
SEE ADDITIONAL REFERENCES AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT

The new Roman Catholic position on the death penalty, introduced in 1997,  is based upon the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, whose position conflicts with reason, as well as biblical, theological and traditional Catholic teachings spanning nearly 2000 years.
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty writings in Evangelium Vitae were flawed and their adoption into the Catechism was improper.

In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church decided to amend the 1992 Universal Catechism to reflect Pope John Paul II's comments within his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). Therein, the Pope finds that the only time executions can be justified is when they are required "to defend society" and that "as a result of steady improvements . . . in the penal system that such cases are very rare if not practically non existent."
 
This is, simply, not true.  Murderers, tragically, harm and murder, again, way too often.
 
Many issues, inexplicably, escaped the Pope's consideration.
 
First, in the Pope's context, "to defend society" means that the execution of the murderer must save future lives or, otherwise, prevent future harm.  
 
When looking at the history of  criminal justice practices in probations, paroles and incarcerations, we observe countless examples of when judgements and procedures failed and, because of that, murderers harmed and/or murdered, again. History details that murderers murder and otherwise harm again, time and time again -- in prison, after escape, after improper release, and, of course, after we fail to capture or incarcerate them. 
 
Reason dictates that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and/or murder again than are executed murderers - an obvious truism overlooked by the Pope.
 
Therefore,  the Pope could err, by calling for a reduction or end to execution, and thus harm more innocents, or he could "err" on the side of protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions.
 
History, reason and the facts support an increase in executions based upon a defending society foundation. 
 
Secondly, if social science concludes that executions provide enhanced deterrence for murders, then the Pope's position should call for increased executions. 
 
If  we decide that the deterrent effect of executions does not exist and we, therefore, choose not to execute, and we are wrong, this will sacrifice more innocent lives and also give those murderers the opportunity to harm and murder again. 
 
If we choose to execute, believing in the deterrent effect, and we are wrong, we are executing our worst human rights violators and preventing such murderers from ever harming or murdering again - again, defending more innocent lives.
 
No responsible social scientist has or will say that the death penalty deters no one.  Quite a few studies, including 16 recent ones, inclusive of their defenses,  find that executions do deter. 
 
As all prospects for negative consequence deter some (there appears to be no exception),  it is a mystery why the Pope chose the option which spares murderers and sacrifices more innocent lives. 
 
If the Pope's defending society position has merit, then, again, the Church must actively support executions, as it offers an enhanced defense of society and greater protection for innocent life.
 
Thirdly, we know that some criminals don't murder because of their fear of execution.  This is known as the individual deterrent effect.  Unquestionably, the incapacitation effect (execution) and the individual deterrent effect both exist and they both defend society by protecting innocent life and offer enhanced protections over imprisonment.

Fourth, furthermore, individual deterrence assures us that general deterrence must exist, because individual deterrence could not exist without it. 

Executions defend more innocent lives. 

Fifth, actual innocents that are convicted for murders are better protected by due process in death penalty cases, than in non-death penalty cases. No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the US death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

Again, offering more defense of innocents and, thereby, a greater defense of society.

The Pope's defending society standard should be a call for increasing executions. Instead, the Pope and other Church leadership has chosen a position that spares the lives of known murderers, resulting in more innocents put at risk and more innocents harmed and murdered --  a position which, quite clearly, contradicts the Pope's, and other's, conclusions.
 
Contrary to the Church's belief, that the Pope's opinion represents a tougher stance against the death penalty, the opposite is true. When properly evaluated, the defending society position supports more executions.
 
Had these issues been properly assessed, the Catechism would never have been amended  --  unless the Church endorses a position knowing that it would spare the lives of guilty murderers, at the cost of sacrificing more innocent victims. 
 
When the choice is  between

1) sparing murderers, resulting in more harmed and murdered innocents, who suffer through endless moments of incredible horror, with no additional time to prepare for their salvation, or
2) executing murderers, who are given many years on death row to prepare for their salvation, and saving more innocents from being murdered,

The Pope and the Catholic Church have an obligation to spare and defend more innocents, as Church tradition, the Doctors of the Church and many Saints have concluded. (see reference, below)
 
Pope John Paul II's death penalty stance was his own, personal prudential judgement and does not bind any other Catholic to share his position. Any Catholic can choose to support more executions, based upon their own prudential judgement, and remain a Catholic in good standing and they can also, thereby, defend more innocents.
 
Furthermore, prudential judgement requires a foundation of reasoned and thorough review. The Pope either improperly evaluated the risk to innocents or he did not evaluate it at all.
 
A defending society position supports more executions, not less. Therefore, Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement was in error on this important fact, thereby undermining his sole point in reducing executions.
 
Sixth, defending society is an outcome of the death penalty, but is secondary to the foundation of justice and biblical instruction. See some references, at bottom.
 
Even though Romans and additional writings do reveal a "defending society" consideration, such references pale in comparison to the mandate that execution is the proper punishment for murder, regardless of any consideration "to defend society."  Both the Noahic covenant, in Genesis 9:6 ("Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."), and the Mosaic covenant, throughout the Pentateuch (Ex.: "He that smiteth a man so that he may die, shall be surely put to death."  Exodus 21:12), provide execution as the punishment for unjustifiable/intentional homicide, otherwise known as murder. 

These texts, and others, offer specific rebuttal to the Pope's position that if "bloodless means" for punishment are available then such should be used, to the exclusion of execution. Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement does not trump biblical instruction.
 
Seventh, the Roman Catholic tradition instructs four elements to be considered  with criminal sanction.
1.  Defense of society against the criminal.
2.  Rehabilitation of the criminal (including spiritual rehabilitation).
3.  Retribution, which is the reparation of the disorder caused by the criminal's transgression.
4.   Deterrence
 
It is a mystery why and how the Pope could have excluded three of these important elements and wrongly evaluated the fourth. In doing so, though, we can confirm that his review was both incomplete and improper. 
 
At least two Saints, Paul and Dismas, faced execution and stated that it was appropriate. They were both executed. Jesus invoked capital punishment on several coccaisons and never challeneged it.
 
The Holy Ghost decided that death was the proper punishment for two devoted, early Christians,  Ananias and his wife, Saphira,  for the crime/sin of lying. Neither was given a moment to consider their earthly punishment or to ask for forgiveness. The Holy Ghost struck them dead.
 
For those who erroneously contend that Jesus abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament, He states that He has come not "to abolish the law and the prophets . . . but to fulfill them."  Matthew 5:17-22.  While there is honest debate regarding the interpretation of Mosaic Law within a Christian context, there seems little dispute that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect and that Genesis 9:6 deals directly with the sanctity of life issue in its support of execution.

(read "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
 
"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000).
 
Saint Pius V reaffirms this mandate, in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), stating that executions are acts of "paramount obedience to this [Fifth] Commandment."  ("Thou shalt not murder," sometimes improperly translated as "kill" instead of "murder").  And, not only do the teachings of Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine concur, but both saints also find that such punishment actually reflects charity and mercy by preventing the wrongdoer from sinning further.  The Saints position is that execution offers undeniable defense of society as well as defense of the wrongdoer.
 
Such prevention also expresses the fact that execution is an enhanced defense of society, over and above all other punishments.
 
Eighth, the relevant question is "What biblical and theological teachings, developed from 1566 through 1997, provide that the standard for executions should evolve from 'paramount obedience' to God's eternal law to a civil standard reflecting 'steady improvements' . . . in the penal system?".  Such teachings hadn't changed.  The Pope's position is social and contrary to biblical,  theological and traditional teachings.
 
If Saint Pius V was correct, that executions represent "paramount obedience to the [Fifth] Commandments, then is it not disobedient to reduce or stop executions? Of course.
 
The Church's position on the use of the death penalty has been consistent from 300 AD through 1995 AD.  The Church has always supported the use of executions, based upon biblical and theological principles.
 
Until 1995, says John Grabowski, associate professor of Moral Theology at Catholic University, " . . .  Church teachings were supportive of the death penalty.  You can find example after example of Pope's, of theologians and others, who have supported the right of the state to inflict capital punishment for certain crimes and certain cases." Grabowski continues: "What he (the Pope now) says, in fact, in his encyclical, is that given the fact that we now have the ability, you know, technology and facilities to lock up someone up for the rest of their lives so they pose no future threat to society -- given that question has been answered or removed, there is no longer justification for the death penalty."  (All Things Considered, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 9/9/97.)
 
Ninth, the Pope's position is now based upon the state of the corrections system -- a position neither biblical nor theological in nature.  Furthermore, it is a position which conflicts with the history of prisons.  Long term incarceration of lawbreakers in Europe began in the 1500s.  Of course, long term incarceration of slaves had begun thousands of years before --  meaning that all were aware that criminal wrongdoers  could also be subject to bondage, if necessary - something that all historians and biblical scholars -- now and then --  were and are well aware of. 
 
Since it's inception, the Church has issued numerous pronouncements, encyclicals and previous Universal Catechisms.  Had any biblical or theological principle called for a replacement of the death penalty by life imprisonment, it would have been revealed long before 1995. 

Tenth, the levels of incarceration security and lengths of criminal sentences vary, wildly, throughout the world. Therefore, there is no uniform state of the criminal justice system, making the Pope's position even less universal and less responsible and much more problematic.
 
Eleventh, there is, finally, a disturbing reality regarding the Pope's new standard.  The Pope's defending society standard requires that the moral concept of justice becomes irrelevant.  The Pope's standard finds that capital punishment can be used only as a vehicle to prevent future crimes. Therefore, using the Pope's standard, the moral/biblical rational -- that capital punishment is the just or required punishment for murder -- is no longer relevant to the sin/crime of murder. 
 
If defending society is the new standard, the Pope has decided, based upon secular standards, that the biblical standards of atonement, expiation, justice and required punishments have all, necessarily, been discarded, with regard to execution.
 
The Pope's new position establishes that capital punishment no longer has any connection to the harm done or to the imbalance to be addressed.  Yet, such connection had always been, until now, the Church's historical, biblically based perspective on this sanction.  Under a defending society standard, the injury suffered by the murder victim is no longer relevant to their punishment.  Executions can be justified solely upon that punishments ability to prevent future harm by the murderer.

Therefore, when considering executions in regard to capital murder cases, a defending society standard renders justice irrelevant.  Yet, execution defends society to a degree unapproachable by any other punishment and, therefore, should have been fully supported by the Pope.
 
"Some enlightened people would like to banish all conception of retribution or desert from our theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself.  They do not see that by doing so they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it?" (quote attributed to the distinguished Christian writer C. S. Lewis)
 
Again, with regard to the Pope's prudential judgement, his neglect of justice was most imprudent.
 
Some Catholic scholars, properly, have questioned the appropriateness of including prudential judgement within a Catechism. Personal opinion does not belong within a Catechism and, likely, will never be allowed, again. I do not believe it had ever been allowed before.
 
In fact, neither the Church nor the Pope would accept a defending society standard for use of the death penalty, unless the Church and the Pope believed that such punishment was just and deserved, as well.  The Church has never questioned the authority of the government to execute in "cases of extreme gravity," nor does it do so with these recent changes. 
 
Certainly, the Church and the Pope John Paul II believe that the prevention of any and all violent crimes fulfills a defending society position.  There is no doubt that executions defend society at a level higher than incarceration. Why has the Pope and many within Church leadership chosen a path that spares murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives, when they could have chosen a stronger defense of society which spares more innocents?
 
Properly, the Pope did not challenge the Catholic biblical and theological support for capital punishment.  The Pope has voiced his own, personal belief as to the appropriate application of that penalty. 
 
So why has the Pope come out against executions, when his own position -- a defense of society -- which, both rationally and factually, has a foundation supportive of more executions?
 
It is unfortunate that the Pope, along with some other leaders in the Church, have decided to, improperly, use a defending society position to speak against the death penalty.
 
The Pope's position against the death penalty condemns more innocents and neglects justice.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES
 
(1)"The Death Penalty", by Romano Amerio,  a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
 www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html
 
titled "Amerio on capital punishment ",   Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum,   May 25, 2007
 
 
(2)  "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", at
         www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx
 
 
(3)  "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective",
          by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
         www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm
 
 
(4) "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice", Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September     2004 found athttp://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml
 

(5) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at
         www.ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm
 
 
(6) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987.
           The definitive  biblical review of the death penalty.
 
 
(7) "Why I Support Capital Punishment", by Andrew Tallman
          sections 7-11 biblical review, sections 1-6 secular review
          http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/search?q=Capital+punishment
 
 
(8) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty"
          by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007
          www.tfp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=957
 

(9)  "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
 

(10) "God’s Justice and Ours" by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
         www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022
 

(11) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)",
        by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003 http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4



(12) Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray
 http://books.google.com/books?id=phoqAAaGMpUC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA114&ots=mFvByHqGSy&dq=Murray+%22It+is+the+sanctity+of+human+life+that+underlies+the+sixth+commandment.%22&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=ACfU3U1b0mdM3BfpNSXnhrwFYXaE_9Ij9A


(13) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?",
         KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER,   Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
        www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp
 

(14) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS",
          KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
         www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp
---------------------

70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans  favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.

copyright 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

dudleysharp said...

"Capital Punishment: New Testament Teaching", Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. Father Hardon, S.J. is considered one of the most prominent Roman Catholic theologians of (the 20th) century.

http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm

"There are certain moral norms that have always and everywhere been held by the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Although never formally defined, they are irreversibly binding on the followers of Christ until the end of the world."
"Such moral truths are the grave sinfulness of contraception and direct abortion. Such, too, is the Catholic doctrine which defends the imposition of the death penalty."

"Most of the Church's teaching, especially in the moral order, is infallible doctrine because it belongs to what we call her ordinary universal magisterium."

"Equally important is the Pope's (Pius XII) insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity." " . . . the Church's teaching on 'the coercive power of legitimate human authority' is based on 'the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.' It is wrong, therefore 'to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.' On the contrary, they have 'a general and abiding validity.' (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2)."

mel said...

Wow, all of that was really long.....glad to see you back on the blogosphere....still in semi-sabbatical but have some things to jot down later on....oh and BTW, I'm on Facebook....

The Catholic Journeyman said...

Not sure this comment will ever get read being down here in the subterranean...anyway Joseph, I see you made some progress and, you're in good company as well....Mark Shea is voting 3rd party (If you may know that..forgive me)
Nice Job, Sir!.
-Dave