By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment
Edward Feser & Joseph Bessette
Ignatius Press, 2017
Sometime in the mid-1990s in Colombia, Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos lured a 6-year-old boy into an isolated spot and sodomized and murdered him. There were bite marks and other evidence of “prolonged torture” found on the boy’s body. The boy’s head was discovered some distance from his torso; the boy’s penis was severed and stuffed into the corpse’s mouth. This act might have occurred while the boy still lived.
Cubillos, unaffectionately known as La Bestia (The Beast), confessed to the crime.
He also confessed to a second crime where he sodomized and tortured a young boy to death. And then a third. And a fourth. And fifth, sixth, seventh…
Altogether, La Bestia admitted to sodomizing, maiming, torturing, and murdering 147 boys, but he admitted that his memory was hazy. Some say the real total approaches 300.
Cubillos was arrested, tried, and found guilty of murdering (only) 138. Colombia’s constitution says, “The right to life is inviolable. There will be no death penalty.” That same merciful attitude is responsible for the country forbidding lifetime imprisonments, too.
In 2006, the Superior Court of Bogotá reduced Cubillos’s sentence from 30 years to 22 because of a technicality. He is due to be released in 2021, though, if I understand correctly, with good behavior, he can be out by 2018. La Bestia will be 61 in 2018.
Many Catholics would say the mercy shown to Cubillos represents a true “pro-life” position and that those who say Cubillos should be executed say so only because they themselves are “eager to kill” and are “bent on maximizing killing no matter what.”
The official stance of the Catholic Church, however, as reinforced by some 2,000 years of teaching, is that the death penalty can be, has been, and continues to be a just punishment. In the case of Cubillos, it is surely his due. Scheduling his execution, offering him the sacraments, and then speedily carrying out the sentence is the best chance La Bestia has to save his soul. As it now appears (though only God knows), Cubillos is on a blood-greased slide to Hell.
I do not want to make light of this, but it is better than a good bet that unless, after his release, he is restrained by illness or circumstance or killed or otherwise incapacitated by vigilantes, La Bestia will kill again. That blood, if, God forbid, it should flow, will be on the heads of those authorities who refused their Christian duty.
Why Capital Punishment?
Enter By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette, a book so thorough and so relentless that it is difficult to imagine anybody reading it and coming away unconvinced of the lawfulness and usefulness of capital punishment.
Whether to hang any man is in each case a matter of prudential judgement, because the circumstances surrounding crimes always vary. Two Catholics can disagree whether Cubillos should be executed, but that execution might be a just punishment is a question long settled. This makes you wonder why some, including members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), say things like “human life is sacred … [which] compels us as Catholics to oppose … the use of the death penalty.”
Capital punishment is a theorem of the natural law, a philosophy the Church “strongly affirms” (and that is well examined in the book). “Moreover, since it arises from a natural inclination, the tendency to punish is a virtue, so long as it is motivated by justice, say, rather than hatred” – a position held by inter alia St. Thomas Aquinas, who (as quoted by Feser and Bessette) says, “Vengeance is not essentially evil and unlawful.”
Punishment should fit the crime – the legal phrase is lex talionis – which flows from the principle of proportionality.
The restoration of what Aquinas calls “the equality of justice” by inflicting on the offender a harm proportionate to his offense is known as retribution, and it one of the three traditional purposes of punishment, the others being correction or rehabilitation of the offender and the deterrence of those tempted to commit the same crimes the offender has. Other purposes are incapacitation … and restitution.
To “deny proportionality is implicitly to deny desert, and thus implicitly to deny the legitimacy of punishment.” Cursed be he that withholdeth his sword from blood (Jer. 40:10).
Aquinas says, “[T]he death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprive of the power to sin no more.”
Steven Goldberg makes the latter point in his When Wish Replaces Thought and Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences, pointing out the non-negligible frequency of murders (including of guards) that take place in prison and of those committed by criminals released who otherwise might have been executed. This argument is usually ignored by those who offer lifetime imprisonment as an alternative to executions.
Feser and Bessette acknowledge this argument. In one harrowing section, they list the gruesome crimes committed by the forty-three murderers executed in 2012 in the USA. Many are recidivists.
Take Robert Brian Waterhouse. In 1980, he beat a woman severely with a “hard instrument,” raped her, “assaulted her rectum with a large object, and stuffed her bloody tampon down her throat” and then drowned her. This was after he was released from prison for the murder of a seventy-seven-year-old woman; he served only eight years before being paroled. While in prison for the “twenty-one years and ten months” awaiting his execution, he “committed sexual battery on a cellmate.”
Or how about William Gerald Mitchell? He was “on parole … for the stabbing murder of a woman” when he brutally raped and murdered another woman, by “[running] over his victim several times with his car.” You could go on and on. Our authors do.
And this brings up a pretty point. We have all heard the media report on upcoming executions, giving full voice to the anti-death penalty activists who usually attend these events. These reports go something like this (my summary, but the quotes are genuine):
Critics of the death penalty gathered outside State Prison to protest the upcoming execution of Luis Cubillos. Longtime pro-life advocate Father Mercyme, a priest in the Catholic Church, pleaded with the governor that the death penalty is “a violation of the sanctity of human life” and that the state “is usurping the sovereign dominion of God over human life.” Cubillos was accused of a 1995 murder.
The media never give the details of the crimes committed, because this, they rightly suspect, would lead listeners to conclude that the criminal is getting what he deserves. (This is the same argument against showing the results of abortion victims.) Righteous anger is fled from and effeminacy embraced. John Crysostom: “He who is not angry, where he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but even the good to do wrong.”
Common pro and con arguments
The death penalty is racist and discriminatory. It is. Whites are disproportionately executed over blacks (this knowledge may cause some to support capital punishment). (Blacks commit violent crimes at rates about eight times higher than whites.) But, I hasten to add, those on death row earned their punishment.
The death penalty does not deter. Please, no statistical arguments. I have yet to see any statistical evidence, for or against, that is not wrong-headed. Of course the death penalty deters. Everybody knows that increasing the severity of a punishment leads to greater abatement of a crime. Why would not moving to the ultimate penalty prove the strongest deterrence (Goldberg makes the same argument)? Our authors supply anecdotes – which are perfectly acceptable evidence – of men who would have killed except that they were worried about getting the chair. Even just one instance of this is sufficient empirical proof of deterrence; fancy models are not needed. And the penalty would do a greater job of deterrence were it not common knowledge that even for the worst crimes, the legal systems lets men stretch their day of judgment out for decades or forever (as it were).
Why not life imprisonment? For one, if “mercy” demands the cessation of executions, why does not mercy also demand, as in Colombia, the cessation of life imprisonment, or the cessation of any punishment at all? For another, violent (even demonic) men in prison who would otherwise be executed commit crimes. And see the next point about rehabilitation.
The subject of how often the innocent are wrongly executed is a tangle, made so on purpose by those who want to exaggerate this rate. The authors delve into this thicket, and clarity does emerge.
What we do not know is whether any innocent person was executed during this period. From 1977 through 2014, thirty-four American states executed 1,386 convicted murderers and the federal government another 3. Were any of these 1,389 actually innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to death? Although there is no way to know this with certainty, it seems likely that at most 1 or 2 innocent persons – and very possibly none at all – have been executed since the Furman decision of 1972[.]
In Wish, Goldberg (p. 29) says, “[E]ven the opponent of the death penalty who emphasizes wrongful executions is willing to sacrifice thousands of lives each year for the social advantages of motor vehicles.” And he reminds us that if the death penalty deters, it saves lives.
The death penalty does not rehabilitate. Does it not? As everybody quotes, a hanging wonderfully concentrates the mind. In an excellent section, the authors tell the story of repentance of several of the murderers on death row – repentance, I say, the most important thing in any man’s life. All of us stand in need of it (at times), but those guilty of the worst crimes stand in greatest need. Concentration of the mind encourages salvation.
The death penalty encourages vengeance. Does all punishment encourage vengeance? If not, why not? The authors give a nice history and derivation of vengeance, incidentally, contrasting its old and new uses and its distinction from retribution. In another terrific section, the authors write of the family members of victims, of their satisfaction of the punishment of the criminals, and of their forgiveness, too. The feeling that a debt has been paid, not only by the family members, but by the criminals and members of society, is great. When that feeling is missing, there is often despair. And vigilantism. When people lose hope of the government doing its job, they often take vengeance into their own hands.
There is no decent argument that the Church does not authorize use of the death penalty. It is true that authorities lately have emphasized “mercy,” but mercy does not obviate capital punishment. And don’t forget that “forgiveness and mercy presuppose that the offender really does deserve the punishment we refrain from inflicting.”
What follows here is only the barest, briefest sketch of the vast wealth of material in the book. Experts on this subject may be assured that Feser and Bessette have covered every facet with the same assiduity of a lawyer preparing a Supreme Court brief.
First is scripture. God, you will remember, has warned that the potential punishments awaiting unrepentant sinners are far worse than the early shuffling off of this mortal coil. The threat of punishment (as we saw above) deters. And God said, “He who kills a man shall be put to death” (Deut. 19:11). Far from repudiating this law, Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets[.] … I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mt. 5:17). “Then there is Romans 13:1-4, traditionally understood as a straightforward affirmation on the right of the state to execute criminals.”
The Fathers and Doctors of the Church supported the death penalty. Among the others, “Saint Jerome … says that ‘to punish murderers, the sacrilegious, and poisoners is not the shedding of blood, but the duty of the laws.’” The First Vatican Council decreed that “it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture … against the unanimous consent of the fathers.” And:
… even those among the Fathers who were largely or wholly opposed in practice to capital punishment – and who thus had every incentive to try to find in Scripture or Tradition a warrant for an absolute condemnation of the practice – affirmed that capital punishment is in principle morally legitimate[.] … It is inconceivable that they could have been mistaken about this matter of moral principle, given the authority of the Church has always attributed to them[.]
The Catechism agrees on the licit nature of capital punishment, “not only in order to ‘protect the innocent’ but also to ‘punish the guilty’ and ‘avenge…crime’” (ellipsis original). And so do the popes agree – including even Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis. Yes, even Pope Francis, about whom our duo says, “Given the obscurity and lack of precision in some of Pope Francis’ remarks,” which is all the quotation I believe this audience requires, except to add that Francis’s words are “plausibly read as having rhetorical rather than doctrinal import.” Whether plausible or not, that’s the way they have to be read to keep his thoughts in line with the constant teaching of the Church.
Now, it’s true that the USCCB has waded into the debate, implying that the “‘values of the Gospel’ are contrary to the use of the death penalty” (where have we heard that language before?), but these good men forgot to mention the possibility of Hell. Feser and Bessette show that “every element of the [bishops’] case against the death penalty fails, including their scriptural interpretations, their moral and philosophical arguments, and their understanding of the practical effects of capital punishment.”
The authors are correct when they say “we now find ourselves in the rather odd situation in which the majority of churchmen appear to be against the death penalty but Catholic teaching is not. This is a recipe for massive confusion among the faithful.” Worse, if we do not execute our worst criminals:
Society will lose sight, first of the idea of proportionality, then of the idea of desert, and finally of the idea of punishment itself. And when the idea of punishment goes, the very idea of justice will go with it, replaced by a therapeutic or technocratic model that treats human beings as cases to be managed and socially engineered [rather] than as morally responsible persons. Nothing less is at stake in the death-penalty debate.
And so let us remind ourselves, as do the authors in their last word, of Genesis 9:16, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
William M. Briggs is author of Uncertainty. Previously a Professor at the Cornell Medical School, a Statistician at DoubleClick in its infancy, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and a sort of Cryptologist with the US Air Force. He obtained his PhD is in Mathematical Statistics, and now works as a Data Philosopher, Epistemologist, Unmasker of Over-Certainty, and (self-awarded) Bioethicist. He also holds an MS is in Atmospheric Physics, and a Bachelors in Meteorology. Briggs has authored or co-authored 75+ papers and two books in the fields of statistics, medicine, philosophy, meteorology and climatology, solar physics, and energy use. He blogs at wmbriggs.com.
Of course the arguments against the death penalty come from Mark Shea…
Is the author of this review stating that whites are disproportionately executed over blacks? Because I don’t think that’s accurate
Race and sentencing is another subject that the study shed light on. Conventional wisdom holds that African Americans constitute a disproportionately large share of those on death row, noted the authors. The study did show that the higher the proportion of murders by African Americans, the higher the proportion of African Americans on death row. However, it also showed that African-American murder defendants represent 50 percent of all murder defendants in the United States but only 40 percent of those on death row, and the gap is even greater where least expected — in the South.
See the rest for more details.
Thanks for your reply, William. I honestly did not expect a reply from author of the article himself! I will check out the link you provided and hopefully the book itself at some point when I have the money and time to devote to it (though my wife might inflict capital punishment on ME if a buy another book right now)
That’s a rather selective quotation, William. The two subsequent paragraphs explain that the disproportionate execution of white perpetrators has to do with the tendency to seek the death penalty only when the victim of the crime is white. (The victim and perpetrator are, of course, usually of the same race.) Black defendants charged with murdering white victims are executed at a higher rate than any other group.
I suppose that your comment in the article about racial discrimination against white perpetrators was flippant and not meant to be taken entirely seriously. But in any case, this claim is certainly not supported by the article that you link to.
One Peter Five shows its true colors- blood red. Why would the bulwark of conservative and traditional Catholicism (implicitly, through this article) support the death penalty? Because they secretly would like this penalty to be used on their real opponents: those philandering liberals and those demonic heretics and of course the Judeo-Masonic-Marxist-homosexual infiltrators on whom they blame for everything going wrong with the Church today.
In the final analysis, 1P5 proves itself to be a cabal of bloodthirsty inquisitors. Though their intellectual efforts are as laughable as their Monty Python counterparts, their influence and connections might yield a return of the noose, the stake and the rack.
As bloodthirsty as Pope St. Leo X, who condemned the proposition “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit” in his Papal Bull Exsurge Domine.
The death penalty is not evil. And no, we’re not advocating for firing squads for heretics and homosexuals — the latter were also condemned to laicization and death when found among the clergy by Pope St. Pius V in the apostolic constitution Horrendum Illud Scleus, by the way — but neither can we deny that the moral law permits and at times even recommends such action.
Taking a life in retribution to a crime that merits such a punishment is no violation of the 5th Commandment:
Read more about what the Church actually teaches here:
If you disapprove of the Catholic Church’s official and long teaching on capital punishment, you could always become a Protestant and offer your spare room to Cubillos upon his release.
Or you could read the book (or at least the review) and see why Scripture, all the Church Fathers and many Saints, and the Magisterium all agree that the death penalty can be just punishment.
I assume this is parody, a wan attempt at humor, so let me join in. Don’t mention the stake and rack too loudly around these parts, amigo Lorenzo. You’ll give many of us ideas about how to quell finally our extreme frustration with mitered fifth columnists like Marx, Coccopalmerio, and Danneels
Comrade, you are a complete twat.
Are you Spanish? Northern Latin America is non death penalty, nominally Catholic and the most murderous region on earth by UN figures of 2012 etc.. Brazil and Mexico, the two largest Catholic countries and non death penalty for secular reasons, have murder rates of 24 and 20 per 100,000. China is .3 per 100,000.
Japan is .03 per 100,000 but irrelevant due to affluence like Europe. The China vs northern Latin America relation is key. Where poor dominate…the death penalty saves tens of thousands of lives. Brazil has 50,000 murders a year with no death penalty….China has 11,000 murders a year with 7 times the population of Brazil. China could teach Brazil how to save 49,000 victim lives a year.
Who is bloodthirsty now, Lorenzo?
The CCC in essence relegates the death penalty to those places and times where civilization is so sketchy there is no other option than the application of the death penalty. I find it curious that some places where civilization is so sketchy could very well be BECAUSE the death penalty doesn’t exist, and more, that these same places appear to justify the death penalty as a “preferential option for the poor”……..
ccc 2260 is very good…ccc 2267 ( most quoted )….is delusional-liberal…and Euro centric.
Serbian jails e.g. allow knives to inmates for eating in the cells. You can do that when all or most inmates are Serbs…and there are no gangs. Do that in the US and they’d be ten knifings by next morning per prison. The two largest Catholic countries are Brazil and Mexico wherein ccc 2267 has zero relevance…their prisons are often gang controlled in both cases. Go to you tube and type in “Mexican prison murder”…then after watching it, read ccc 2267….fictional daydreaming. The catechism is generally wonderful….except ccc 2267…and the abscence of wifely obedience….the other cave in to the liberal world.
It does not help the modern Bishops and Popes who preach against the death penalty and life imprisonment that they have an unpleasant vested interest in the matter. One of Pope Francis’ fellow Jesuits is likely to die in a US prison after a lengthy sentence for the usual offences. And one of the Boston Archdiocese’s worst paedos was brutally murdered in prison.
One of the key arguments against the death penalty deployed by recent Popes is that, in the modern world, alternative means can be used to render the offender harmless. They obviously have not checked out Robert Maudsley, our real life Hannibal the Cannibal, who was sent to prison here in England after one murder. He has since killed three more people inside prison.
The British penal authorities are completely stuffed. The death penalty was abolished in England back in the 1960s, just in time to spare the lives of our worse child killers, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. And we obviously dare not ever release Maudsley. So he is held in a unique hyper-secure segregation unit, except when released for his legally mandated and massively guarded daily hour of exercise. Not much human dignity in this scenario.
More sinister alternative means to the death penalty or imprisonment can be easily imagined. Some form of chemical brainwashing or Clockwork Orange style conditioning could be deployed, as hinted at in the last part of the article. But I’m sure that any number of clerical gentlemen would rush forward to object to such practices.
And, somewhere along the line, modern clerics seem to have utterly lost the concept of a just punishment and publicly approved retribution. Probably this is because many of them are effectively atheists and have no belief in any life beyond the grave. Thus it is entirely logical to object to any shortening of the one life we have, or impose any excessive restrictions on enjoying that one life to the full. Even if the one life of any number of innocents is cut short.
All this great concern too, for murderers while millions of innocent children are killed in their mothers’ wombs by violent mass murdering abortionists. If prelates truly valued life they would never cease to condemn abortion.
I just finished this book a week ago. I started with the presumption that we should not be using the death penalty in this day and age, or at least that is what the Church teaches, development of doctrine sort of thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. You cannot read this book and not be persuaded. It is exhaustive and well reseached and argued. One of the best books I have read this year.
Few things have undermined my respect for Catholic prelates more than their recent preaching concerning capital punishment. I’m not a bloodthirsty individual, but the opinions concerning the death penalty of many bishops and of even some popes contradict the consistent teaching of the Church for 2000 years. They also make no sense in our society now awash in criminality, much of it unbelievably barbaric. These clerics have substituted liberal sentimentality for sound thinking. The only objection I have to capital punishment today is the attempt to make it ape medical procedures. Firing squads, the noose, and even the guillotine, the only positive thing to come out of the French Revolution, send a far more sobering and effective lesson to society in general. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, nothing so wonderfully concentrates men’s minds as the sight of the gallows.
“our society now awash in criminality”
Please do research before making such statements. We are living in the most peaceful time in history.
“We are living in the most peaceful time in history.” Please do some thinking before making such statements. I’ve seem your kind of specious and duplicitous argumentation before, mostly put out by intellectual leftists like Steve Pinker and corrupt pols like B. Hussein Obama. I don’t buy it. We’re living in a time when criminality is being redefined by those with an interest in doing so, viz. liberals. It’s embarrassing to them, for example, that Democrat-dominated cities like Chicago have become shooting galleries thanks to their insane policies, or that foreign criminals here thanks to scoundrels like Ted Kennedy could kill 3000 people in a few hours in NYC. Liberals are equally eager to suppress public interest in more irenic criminality like rampant welfare fraud, criminal border crossings, and illegal voting. Of course, if they were to include in their tendentious statistics the deaths their policies have fostered by protecting the barbarism of abortion, even they would have to admit this is far from “the most peaceful time in history.” As for statistical proofs like Pinker’s that these are peaceful times, Mark Twain said it best: “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”
Indeed, facts are stubborn things.
Nice to see we agree on something.
Show us your work. What evidence do you have to back up your statement? What research have you done?
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
I hope that the irony of arguing that one man should die to save the lives of many isn’t lost on all pro-death supporters.
We should hang all straw men like the one you offer us here. If you read the book — something you clearly have not yet done — you will see the authors dispose of your weak objection very near the beginning.
You should actually read the book. I don’t mean this as a dig. It will actually answer your point explicitly and on many different levels. The fact that mankind is created in the image of God calls for the death penalty, not vice versa. The attention should be on the victim who was also created in the image of God. Proportionate and retributive justice.
That is not the point…one man dying to save the lives of many ….that is the thinking of those who crucified Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. TGS explains that a man’s crimes can be so heinous that he has deliberately forfeited his own right to life and also society has a right to protect itself from murders .
I read the testimony of a priest who had been pastor of a parish within whose boundaries was a state prison. He was pastor there for something like 30 years. (This was more common years ago than now.) He said that out of hundreds of men who had been executed, not a single one had failed to make a good death.
It seems self-evident to me that some criminals have forfeited the right to life, so heinous are their crimes.
Those who are against the death penalty suffer from the same sickness that panders to the homosexuals. It’s all about this life, about false charity, about sentimentality. The only stricture I would accept on the death penalty is that it must exist only in those countries which have an established Rule of Law and a system of justice wherein the lady holding the scales and sword is blind.
I have been a for-it/ag’in-it for years. What you say gets to the heart of it.
Here in the USA various states have it. But since I have enough experience with the court systems and gub’mn’t istslef…I’m dubious about the administration of it. See, I don’t trust government one little bit
But I am NOT ambivalent about “it” as a moral issue. Murderers deserve to be executed. Simple as that.
It’s the details that are tiricky, and in fact, the Church has much wisdom to offer us on this regard, even if most of the prelates are fake-mercy peddlers.
Well, we fix the system then. If lawyers, judges and witnesses are corrupt we fix that – by moral teaching – but to do away with capital punishment because men are corrupt makes no sense. Baby = bathwater.
Barbara, what do you think it would take to fix the system? If you think “moral teaching” is going to solve this problem, then I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.
Is anyone seriously going to argue that America, as it stand now, is a nation of laws and not of men? Or that justice is blind in America? Or that we have a (functioning and impartial) ‘rule of law’? Or that the US legal system approximates anything remotely resembling “justice”?
At a recent State Bar Association convention, the director of a legal aid society dared to make the following statement to a roomful of attorneys, “I hope no one here in this room thinks there is justice in America.” Obviously, she made an entirely non-politically correct comment and she will not be invited back.
The lawyers in that room were acutely aware that “justice” is a matter of how wealthy one is and how much “justice” one can afford. That being said, sometimes there is an approximation of justice. One would have to be blind to not see two separate systems — one for the people and one for the elite.
Correct, comrade. I remember listening to the jury who sent Timothy McVeigh to his reward (he was a Catholic, and I believe died w last rites) and I said to myself, “I would trust my life in the hands of these good people.” The jurors really followed the law, and found no reason to commute the murderer’s sentence. Of course, that’s not to say every jury is so composed.
The quote about the knowledge that you are to be hanged in fortnight concentrating the mind has an ironic origin. A clergyman, Dr Dodd, did many good works but he was also a bit too fond of the good life (don’t we know that kind!) and in order to support that life forged a bond and was due to be hanged for forgery (they were tough on financial crime in the UK in those days , whilst now he would have got away scot free!). Dr Johnson wrote many pleas for clemency on his behalf some of which were intended to be passed off as having been written by Dr Dodd. When Dr Johnson was taxed with the question that one of the pleas was so good that it could not have been written by Dr Dodd he made this remark not wishing to tell a lie. So I am afraid this does not support your argument.
Personally, as a retired lawyer, I am certain there are many miscarriages of justice in our courts and I have always believed that it was better that many guilty men go free rather than that one innocent man be condemned to death. At least if an innocent man is condemned to prison rather than the gallows it is possible to make some recompense if he is subsequently found to be innocent.
How would you explain God giving over thirty death penalties to the Jews only and using two or three witnesses as the only guilt/ innocent process? God had to know conspiracies would be a factor. Likewise Romans 13:4, inspired by God was given within a defective Roman culture by God who knew that culture had just falsely killed Christ and James in Acts 12:2.
All your objections are addressed in the book that, once again, it is clear you have not read. I am not a lawyer and perhaps that is why I don’t accept the nonsense about letting many guilty men go that you parrot here.
All can study the current UN world homicide rates at wiki then check elsewhere which countries have the death penalty. Deterrence is hard to detect as long as you are looking at Europe, Canada or very white US states….middleclass or almost…dominant areas.
As soon as you go global and poor dominant, the death penalty saves tens of thousands of lives. Brazil, non death penalty, has 50,000 murder victims a year. China has 11,000 murder victims a year wth 7 times the population of Brazil.
Nominally Catholic, non death penalty northern Latin America is the most murderous region on earth. Death penalty prone East Asia is the safest area on earth.
the usual and typical argument against death penalty revolves around so-called “human dignity”.
But paradoxically, in the name of “human dignity” we deprive ourselves from the dignity of being responsible for our actions.
With all due respect to Feser and Bessette, I beat them to it by more than a decade:
Thanks for reminding us of the unbridled idiocy of some of our senior clergy. I particularly love the quote from Cardinal Martino.
‘“God has given us life and only God can take it away,” Martino continued’.
I don’t know if Cardinal Martino is denying the right to legitimate self-defence, though that is the next logical step along this path of reasoning. Presumably the inhabitants of London would be completely out of luck on occasions such as the recent London Bridge terrorist attack. The police would not be allowed to shoot the nutters and would be obliged to hope for divine intervention. And heroic civilians would be allowed to use only non-lethal force, e.g. a skateboard or their bare fists.
Capital punishment can be an act of mercy: http://www.americasfuture.net/1997/mar97/97-0323b.html