Capital Punishment Revisited

The recent state executions of Troy Davis and Lawrence Russell Brewer have once again raised the moral issue of capital punishment in the consciousness of our nation. And once again, Catholics are weighing in.

According to Tommaso Di Ruzza, the Vatican’s desk officer at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “it is not a message that is immediately understood — that there is no room for supporting the death penalty in today’s world,” cited in an article by Carol Glatz (Dead wrong: Catholics must no longer support capital punishment Catholic News Service 9/30/11).

The Catholic forum The Public Discourse has been host to an ongoing exchange between writer and philosopher Edward Feser and “new natural law” philosopher Christopher O. Tollefsen:

Back in April, Dr. Feser took issue with (and critically dismantled) the characterization of capital punishment as “state-sanctioned vengeance” by the Catholic Bishops of Arizona, as well as the recent Catholic claim that “defense” alone can justify capital punishment. Taking into account the teachings of recent Popes, he has articulated a summary of the Church’s teaching that takes every aspect of it into account — contending that the failure to present the full body of Catholic teaching on this subject gives the mistaken impression that the “liberal, secularist” position of complete abolishment is correct. Unfortunately, it is precisely such a mistaken position that some Catholics are taking in these times. A reading of his post, “Deadly Unserious” (April 3, 2011) is highly recommended.

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