Let’s not kill one another in print, virtual or otherwise, over the death penalty. That was a main point of my recent comments regarding the re-emerging debate on that topic. We’ll see what happens as the debate heats up.
I mentioned the forthcoming book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, by Drs Feser and Bessette, to be published by Ignatius Press, in which the authors restate the case for capital punishment, drawing on philosophy, Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterial teaching, as well as a careful social analysis, in support of the Church’s traditional teaching on the subject. As I noted, I am not an enthusiast for killing people, as if I’m just waiting for someone to give me an argument to justify my lust for blood. But I am an enthusiast for understanding the debate over the death penalty and for a full-bodied Catholic discussion of an issue that bears on the consistency of the Catholic magisterium, as well as on questions of justice and human dignity.
Recent popes and a number of bishops and bishops’ conferences have opposed the death penalty, even while still allowing, in principle, for its use under certain circumstances. If Catholics aren’t obliged to oppose the death penalty, what should they make of statements by popes and bishops urging them to do so? Are their arguments, in the practical order, persuasive?
I also referred to recent articles by Feser and Bessette, published in Catholic World Report, one of which articles was reprinted in Crisis, and to the critique of the article by Mark Shea. Dr Feser replied to Mr Shea. Now Mr Shea has replied to Dr Feser and Dr Feser has responded further.
Charity and clarity are both important in this discussion. You, O readers, can decide for yourselves how things are going in that regard. And you can assess whether you find either side of the debate persuasive. Who, in your opinion, has the better argument, if you think either side does? How does this judgment on your part affect your thinking about the death penalty?
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!