Aquinas taught the principle that a punishment ought to be proportionate to the offense, where death is a proportionate punishment for the gravest crimes.
It’s three times more likely that you’ll die of lightning than that Aquinas will turn out to be wrong about something. The same cannot be said of New Natural Law philosophy.
E. Christian Brugger is wrong: neither scripture nor tradition could justify a reversal of the Church’s millennia-old teaching on capital punishment
Arguments against the death penalty can be made not only on the basis of theology but also on the basis of natural law philosophy. The first in a two-part series.
It is philosophically and theologically defensible for Catholics to believe that the death penalty is intrinsically wrong.
The presumptive starting point in the natural law and, more specifically, Christian tradition is one of absolute opposition to intentional killing of beings created in the image of God, for which exceptions must be earned; but the traditional justifications for such exceptions fail.
While not explicitly denying the principle of proportionality, Tollefsen implicitly rejects it, leaving his argument not only counterintuitive but incoherent.
Nothing that a man does can change his nature as man, and so, considered in himself, it will always remain wrong to kill him. This should be the final judgment of practical reason when brought to bear on the question of capital punishment.
If one accepts the legitimacy of punishment and the principle of proportionality, then it is impossible to claim that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong.
Intentional killing is always wrong, and support of capital punishment often stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of human dignity.
Reason operating without error judges that no human being should ever intend the death of another human being for any reason whatsoever. No achievable good can justify such a choice. And that is the foundation for the case against the death penalty.
There is a genuine tension, not just in Aquinas but in Church teaching more generally, between claims about the intrinsic goodness, sanctity, and inviolability of human life, and claims about political authority to kill. The second in a two-part series.
Showing mercy to Dylann Roof by refusing to impose the death penalty would respect the acts of both his victims, who showed him welcome, and their families, who showed him forgiveness. In this way, good could be drawn from evil, and the sinfulness of Dylann Roof’s actions could be overcome by love.
Joseph Boyle was a colleague, mentor, and friend to many associated with Public Discourse and in the broader academic community. He will be sorely missed.
There are often great temptations to violate the absolute norms against intentional killing and against lying. On the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs over Japan, we should remember what is at stake in such decisions and how agents constitute themselves in their choosing.
Rather than simply denouncing Truman for his decision to employ the atomic bomb, his critics need to confront the harsh reality of war and seriously consider the lack of viable alternatives available to him.
Moral absolutes are not “mere” restrictions on our actions. Nor should they be suspended even when upholding them might bring about grave consequences. They are essential for protecting human wellbeing.
The recent publication of the Torture Memos and of the International Red Cross report on the treatment of high-level detainees in the aftermath of 9/11 has returned to national prominence the discussion of the morality of torture and “enhanced interrogation” techniques. It is important to be clear, as a moral matter, on what boundaries should be accepted in interrogation of human beings; a responsible and non-politicized discussion is essential on this difficult issue.