Author: John Finnis (John Finnis)

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Intentional Killing Is a Usurpation of God’s Lordship Over Life: A Reply to Edward Feser

Public Discourse is launching two new features: short book notes and long form essays. They'll run occasionally, on Saturdays and Sundays. Today is our first longform essay. Enjoy.

Permission to own slaves and suppress false religions was taught by the Old Testament, never denounced by the New Testament, and accepted in word and deed for very long periods by popes, bishops, and saints. And yet the Church eventually repudiated such permission. So, too, with intentional killing in capital punishment. The fact that death is deserved and proportionate does not license the state or any human being to intend to impose it.

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The Church Could Teach That Capital Punishment Is Inherently Wrong

Nothing asserted in Scripture read in light of the New Testament excludes the conclusion that capital punishment is inherently wrong. Nor does any definitive Church teaching. But the new revision of the Catechism, while removing from view an evident instability, remedies none of the underlying tensions and seems likely to obscure the only path to a teaching fully stabilized by adopting that conclusion authoritatively, as an authentic development of doctrine. And the revisionary documents are in other ways disconcerting. Part two of a two-part essay.

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Intentional Killing Is Always Wrong: The Development Initiated by Pius XII, Made by John Paul II, and Repeated by Francis

The Catholic Catechism’s new section on capital punishment makes no substantive change of teaching. Nor did the 1997 amendment of that section. The 1992 Catechism did change traditional teaching on killing, whether in war, police actions or judicial executions. That authoritative change, partly initiated by Pius XII, has sufficient theological warrants, but it is little understood and needs much more attention. Its logical conclusion is that capital punishment is inherently wrong. But that has not yet been taught. Part one of a two-part essay.

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The Profound Injustice of Judge Posner on Marriage

The equality that demands same-sex marriage demands that all social recognition of the distinction between mothers and fathers—of the paternal and the maternal, the masculine and the feminine, and of the sexual identity of everyone as male or female—must be systematically expunged, to be replaced by the lies and seductions of “gender identities” on the ever more blurry rainbow spectrum.

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The Other F-Word

In an article adapted from his debate last week with Peter Singer and Maggie Little on the moral status of the “fetus,” Professor Finnis explains that outside of medical contexts use of the word “fetus” is offensive, dehumanizing, prejudicial, and manipulative. It obscures our perception of moral reality. Moral status is not a matter of choice or grant or convention, but of recognition, of someone who matters, and matters as an equal, whether we like it or not.