In a first-time feature, the editors of Public Discourse respond to the editors of Commonweal.
We should prefer natural law thinking to utilitarianism -- here's why.
Americans know how to talk of progress in terms of consumer goods, individual liberties, and power over nature, but have no use for the language of communal health and the idea of discipline. Wendell Berry provides a way forward.
Promoting a sexually permissive pop-culture in the Muslim world gets the true foundations of ordered liberty wrong. In defining our ideals by rejecting our enemy’s, we go from one extreme to another, and miss the virtuous mean.
America’s abortion laws may inspire a dangerous provision in Kenya’s new constitution.
Andrew Koppelman’s claim that red states and the religious right increase abortions doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Biological reductionism doesn’t disprove the notion of free will.
A new book warns against the political consequences of abusing language.
On August 2, 2018, Pope Francis announced an update to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, making a prohibition on the death penalty official Catholic teaching. Prior to this change, many scholars believed that the historic teaching of the Church did not declare capital punishment intrinsically immoral, even if the practice is, as a matter of prudence, not required in countries with modern prison systems that can safely isolate dangerous criminals. Other scholars argued that the natural law duty to respect all human life does in fact render any intentional taking of human life morally unacceptable, and that this development of doctrine does not contradict any infallible teaching. The articles below lay out this debate, with clear summaries of the arguments on both sides.
Intentional killing is always wrong, and support of capital punishment often stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of human dignity.
If one accepts the legitimacy of punishment and the principle of proportionality, then it is impossible to claim that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong.
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.
While not explicitly denying the principle of proportionality, Tollefsen implicitly rejects it, leaving his argument not only counterintuitive but incoherent.
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.
Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette’s new book asserts that Catholics cannot legitimately reject the death penalty as wrong always and everywhere. They are wrong. Part one of a two-part essay.
Four conditions must be met for a teaching of the Catholic Church to be considered infallible. Acceptance of the death penalty meets none of them. St. John Paul II laid down theoretical markers that provide a clear basis for a Catholic teaching rejecting the death penalty in principle. Part two of a two-part essay.
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.
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.
E. Christian Brugger is wrong: neither scripture nor tradition could justify a reversal of the Church’s millennia-old teaching on capital punishment
If E. Christian Brugger is right, then the Church has been teaching grave moral error and badly misunderstanding scripture for two millennia. Nothing less than her very credibility is at stake.
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.
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.