Skip to comments.Scalia Questions Catholic Opposition to Death Penalty
Posted on 02/05/2002 10:58:18 AM PST by meandog
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You may fume and splutter all you want, but
Scalia says it best. See above.
Just wondering... What happens to the Jews, and the other 3 billion or so who don't believe in/know about Christ?
Didn't you mean to say a Protestant/Catholic debate? Please do not attempt denying the name "Christian" from the church founded by apostles of Christ himself.
There is 2000-year record of Church-claimed successor popes to Peter, Bishop of Rome and apostolic church leader since the Pentecost. There is 2000-year history of dogmatic church councils since the first of Jerusalem recorded in Acts, that according to Rome, have defined doctrine inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Can we assume that the Council of Jerusalem, where Peter orchestrated the lifting of dietary restrictions on gentile converts, represented the workings of a validly Christian church? If so, then by the rulings of which pope or dogmatic council did the Church change from Christian to non-Christian?
It is not enough to claim pagan beliefs were introduced under Constantine because the emperor was not a church leader and did not define doctrine. A council or pope interpreting scripture at some identifiable point in time has publicly defined each doctrine taught by the church.
I've posted this challenge before and received no serious attempt at response. If there is an attempt on this occasion, I offer another puzzle as extra credit.
Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his church so there must have been no period of time since His coming that the authentic Church entirely disappeared. If Rome apostatized at some point, then what happened to the real Church? What are some names of non-Roman/Orthodox Christians from before the 1500's. Where did they live and what did they do?
Extra, extra credit: What of the famous Catholic saints who worked miracles bringing the Light to Christ to northern European pagan barbarians? Can we consider Sts. Patrick among the Irish, Aiden (martyr) among the English, Cyril (martyr) among the Slavs to be Christian?
This post is given in charity not meant to be a troll. Please reply with facts supporting your case or desist from suggesting that Roman Catholic Church is something less than Christian.
No, with regard to his opinion on the death penalty. This article doesn't make clear whether Scalia is correctly informed on the Church's position, but Pope John Paul II has made it clear that he continues to uphold the Church's teaching that the death penalty, in principle, is perfectly legitimate. It's just the current Pope's personal opinion that today, in today's current situation of civilized countries, there doesn't exist a necessity to continue the PRACTICE of the death penalty (although, like I said, he fully recognizes the legitimacy of the death penalty in PRINCIPLE).
The Pope's personal reasoning on this is that the death penalty should be an absolute last resort treatment for a criminal when there is no other means available to keep a society safe and secure from such a criminal (e.g., if the criminal lived in a society that did not have safe, secure prisons, or if there was any chance that the criminal could somehow harm any other member of such a society). It is the current Pope's opinion that, for example, in America we possess the facilities that can reliably keep a prisoner secure and ensure that he/she never harms another human being.
However, all this being said, it is completely within the rights of an individual Catholic to disagree with the Pope on this particular issue, because it is simply the Pope's personal opinion. However, neither the Pope nor any other individual Catholic is able to deny the legitimacy of the PRINCIPLE of the death penalty, and still remain a good Catholic (in the general sense of the term). And rest assured, there are many obedient Catholics who vehemently disagree with the Pope, and there are many obedient Catholics who vehemently agree with the Pope on his personal opinion on this subject.
Short answer is that, while it is not given to us to know what happens to any given individual (because we cannot know whether they have truly accepted the claims of Christ), but we do know that as to those to whom the claims of Christ have been presented, only those who accept Him will have Life Eternal.
God does not distinguish among the group self-identifications which men make. So, whether a man calls himself a 'jew', 'buddhist', 'catholic', 'baptist' or whatever, those are the rules which He outlined.
Now as to those who never hear of Christ (the old question of 'the native in darkest Africa'), Paul said, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." [Rom. 1:20]
Thus, God evaluates those who haven't heard of Christ on some other standard based upon their knowledge of Him from the display of His attributes in creation. We don't know exactly how that would work, but I am sure He does. Which is all that matters.
Well...what if he just announces it, and he says it is ex cathedra and God told him.
What do we do then?
(strayed)...all within recent history: (in 1854 and 1950 by popes who declared the Virgin Mary to be Immaculately Conceived and Assumed Bodily into heaven respectively) and (in 1870) when Vatican Council I declared the pope "endowed with infalibility, ex cathedra"... (not strayed) the Eastern Rite and Eastern Orthodoxy of the church--i.e. priests allowed to marry.
Rome considers Eastern Orthodoxy schismatic but not heretic because there are only relatively minor theological differences (such as whether the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit or the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.)
If anything, the Eastern reverence of Mary is greater than in the West. It was a Greek council that first proclaimed her Theokokos (Mother of God.) Before the 11th century schism, Greek councils did not considered their rulings official without approval from the bishop of Rome.
Priestly celibacy is discipline and not a theological tenet. Ukrainian and Byzantine Roman Catholic priests are allowed to marry.
The Church cannot produce false doctrine because the Spirit guides it as Christ promised. When settling doctrinal disputes, the pope cannot fail since the Spirit would never allow error included into official Church teaching.
Error has ever been introduced. You may not believe this, but in 2000 years, no doctrine has been defined to correct a previous error. Can any other organization on earth makes a claim like this? The Church is definitely unique.
For 2000 years, the Church has never wavered from the teaching that she is the one true channel established by God for leading sinners to eternal life in heaven.
>> QUESTIONER: Good evening Dr. Keyes. My name is Matt Jimriskoe, and I am a senior here at Hilton High School. First of all I would like to say I have a lot of respect for you; however, I disagree with you on one issue. You are obviously a pro-life activist; you are a Catholic. I am also Catholic and pro-life. However, I don't understand how you can be pro-life and Catholic and also be in support of the death penalty. Can you please explain that?
>>KEYES: Well, actually I think what you would have to do is explain to me first why the two things fall in the same universe? In other words you talk about the issue involved in abortion as if it is somehow is the same or commensurate with the issue involved in the death penalty. I would argue on the face of it is we're dealing apples and oranges. Why do you think they are both apples?
>>QUESTIONER: Because they are both involving killing human life.
>>KEYES: Yes and no. But you have just abstracted from one of the most important difference that we must respect if we are in fact to respect human life. And that is the difference between innocence and guilt. The scripture does not enjoin us from all taking of life. Quite the contrary as a matter of fact. So in the Judeo Christian tradition, it is not all life taking that is condemned. As a matter of fact certain life taking in the old testament was required. It was willed by God. Demanded by Him. And as a matter of fact that we today would find quite atrocious it was demanded by Him and when his Israelites refused to deliver on his demand, he punished them. And so the Old Testament at least, doesn't frown on it.
And then people try to pretend that the New Testament does. Of course the central reality of the New Testament is what? A sacrifice. The sacrifice in fact of a wholly and completely innocent life for the sake of the remission of our sins. So at the level at the principles of justice we are going to accuse God, are we, of the ultimately injustice towards his own son? I hardly think so.
That suggest that we should be careful what we do in terms of our understanding of what the death penalty might pretend. I am not trying to be flippant here because this is a serious issue. It was made even more serious for me years ago when I started to reflect on Christ's actions with reflection--respect to the death penalty. This came up, by the way, in one of the debates because G. W. Bush, who has had to make decisions whether to carry out the death penalty in Texas was asked, given that he had said that his standard would be "What would Jesus do?"
I want you to think now, especially Christian folks in the audience, think about Christ and think about the death penalty. And answer the question in two words what would Jesus do with the death penalty? What would Jesus do--Don't cheat Andrew[Dr. Keyes' son]. What would Jesus do with the death penalty?
Well, let's make it easier. What did Jesus do with the death penalty? He accepted it. He accepted it. And by the way, he accepted it knowing exactly what he was accepting. He was, of course, accepting the will of God in the plan of God for salvation. That is true. But God works through human instruments and agencies. And one of those instruments and agencies Christ was confronted with in the course of the passion--Pontius Pilate. Representing the authority of Rome, right? And what is fascinating is in the dialogue takes place--there is one part where Pilate is pressing Christ and is trying to get him to speak. And Christ hadn't spoken. And Pilate gets--do you remember this? Pilate gets all frustrated? And he says to Jesus, he says--you know, he is trying to figure out why he is not answering him. He says, "Don't you know--Don't you realize that I have the authority--." It was the Roman--in Greek the word that refers to the "lawful right" the authority, to take your life, to put you to death.
It is fascinating because in that passage, therefore, Christ is explicitly confronted by Pilate with his claim to have the lawful right to put Jesus to death. Now, based on what some people want us to believe, what Christ should have said at that point was, "No you don't." He should have said that. Based on what they want us to believe is he should have looked at Pilate and said, "No, you don't have that lawful authority." He could have said it on two grounds by the way. He could have said it on the grounds that people try to say would be the grounds we do it now, there can be no lawful authority in the state to apply the death penalty. I think he wouldn't have said that because he would have been on shaky ground. So he didn't. He could have also said something that would have put him on solid ground because none of us would suggest would we that it is okay to apply the death penalty to an innocent person. And Christ was surely an innocent person. He was the most innocent person imaginable. He was so innocent that he is more innocent than any of us could possibly be. He was free of the taint of our original sin, wasn't he? So there he was, the most innocent human being who ever existed and he is confronted by Pilate who says he has the lawful authority to put him to death. At the very least he could have said, "No, it is not a lawful authority because your exercise of authority is unlawful if you are putting me, an innocent man to death." Did he say that? Embarrassingly for those of us who would like us to think, otherwise he didn't say that. So what did he say?
And this is what gets most difficult of all. And I am not saying I know exactly to make of this. I would just suggest it to you as a passage to think hard about. Because it makes this whole issue of the death penalty a lot tougher than some Christians want to believe. What Christ says in response to Pilate's challenge is words to the effect that whatever authority that he, Pilot, has comes to him from above. And that phrase, from above, has, I think, a kind of clear ambiguity. It means from above--no. It means from above in the hierarchy of Roman authority and it is used in the New Testament to mean from the Father, God, from above. And so when Christ gives his answer he gives it in a sense that can be taken both ways. And he is basically confirming what we already know anyway that any authority exercised by Pilate or anybody else, comes by the Father's will. And that what it seems to me because it is a classic confrontation between innocence and the death penalty.
And Christ does not make the argument that some people would lead us to believe he ought to make. In fact, he makes a statement that undermines the premise of that argument and acknowledges that there is in the will of our Father, God, a place for the death penalty. So think about that because I think that is very important. Why would God make a place for the death penalty?
Could it be because he wants us to remember a couple of things? First, he wants us to remember the respect we ought to have for innocent human life. He wants us to understand that the Golden Rule, the measure by which you measure so shall it should be measured unto you. Isn't that what Christ said? I think he wants us to understand that he is not kidding about that. We don't want to take that seriously do you? Measure death to others, you have measured death to yourself. That is the logic of the death penalty. It is, kind of, a Golden Rule when it comes to respect for life. The blow you thought you struck against another struck home to your very heart. If that were literally the case, I think a lot of murderers would hesitate, don't you? But particularly the cold-blooded ones who are most deserving of the death penalty.
The other thing he might have wanted to remind us of, and I am just sort of a, you know, individual thinking aloud here, but he might have wanted us to remember that there is death and then there is death. And sometimes I think there is so obsessed with the question of physical death that we forget that it is not the ultimate death. See? The death that is involved in the taking of an innocent human life, is not just a physical death of the victim, is it? It is actually the spiritual and moral death of the perpetrator. And that death is far more lasting and significant if it is not remedied it the end by a repentant acceptance of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.
So I would--I would suggest--All I mean to say by all this is that this whole issue at a moral issue is far more complex than some people try to make out. But certainly, I think, at the level of my pro-life is not a problem at all. Because there is a distinction between innocent life and guilty life.
Now, admittedly, are we perfect people? Are we ever going to be absolutely sure that the judgment we made about somebody's guilt is the correct judgment? No. But we are not required in moral things to apply a perfection that we are not capable of. God does not require it. No one can require it. So we do the best we can with the nature that we have, and we make those judgments conscientiously as best we can. And if we do it conscientiously in a way that seeks justice, yes, sometimes we're not going to quite make it. And sad to say, and for this I think we need praying all the time and we need to remember, you see that is why God has mercy. He has mercy because we are going to make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions we are going to make mistakes.
But some of the people who think that for the reason you will sometimes make mistakes you therefore banish the death penalty and don't do your duty, are people who forget that there are limits to our responsibility. We must meet that responsibility within those limits and leave the rest to God. And that is the attitude that I take. That is the attitude that I take towards the death penalty. It does though mean that you want to--it has to be done as our Holy Father has said. It is one of those issues you approach with the greatest care. He has raised questions if whether or not, in fact, the judicial system that we have doesn't raise doubts about it at a practical level; whether any application of the death penalty in light of that system is going to be just. We see the situation in Illinois, which raises serious questions about that. But I would have to distinguish between those questions, which are questions about the sort of prudential reality of the system and its integrity, and question the principle with respect to the death penalty. The question of the integrity of the system is one that can be address how? By improving the integrity of the system. And that is within our power.
The question of the death penalty and principle, I think, has to be address in a way that in the end respects our responsibility to educate all the through the law, to the ultimate limit on their freedom. And that ultimate limit does consist in respect for innocent human life. And therefore the same principle I would ask to be respected with children in the womb is the one that in the death penalty I insist shall be respected in the law's execution. Thank you.
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