Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Canterbury Tales: The Two Marian Maxims of St Bonaventure
First Maxim: "One should carefully beware of decreasing, even in the slightest, the honor that is due to Mary."

Second Maxim: "One should be ready to defend the privileges of Mary even at the risk of his life."

Where are they to be found in his corpus of writings?

Fr. Pritzl, RIP

Kurt Pritzl, O.P., RIP (via Mirror of Justice) (See also the post at

He was the head when I was accepted at CUA. He sounded a bit disappointed on the phone when I told him that I would be going back on my acceptance and going elsewhere for my graduate education. But when I met him in person several years later over at Notre Dame he was friendly. May he rest in peace.

Monday, February 21, 2011

This article by Thomas Osborne is available online: MacIntyre, Thomism, and the Common Good.
Orthodox Thoughts on Capital Punishment
By Peter-Michael Preble

What do other Orthodox priests and theologians make of the following statements?

1. "Without dwelling on the facts of the case mentioned above, let us look at the view of the Orthodox Church regarding capital punishment. First, no single official speaks for the Orthodox Church; each bishop is entitled to interpret church teaching and Scripture as he sees fit for his particular jurisdiction."

2. "The entire theory of capital punishment is based on retribution. All systems of law as far back as one can be certain espouse this right of the state. However, Jesus teaches that retribution is not right in the love that we are to have toward our neighbor.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

3. "Christians have always been opposed to capital punishment because it is the taking of a life – life that is created in the image and likeness of God. The clearest statement comes from the early Christian author Lactantius, who lived between 240 and 320 A.D:

'When God prohibits killing, He not only forbids us to commit brigandage, which is not allowed even by the public laws, but He warns us not to do even those things which are regarded as legal among men… and so it will not be lawful for a just man… to accuse anyone of a capital offense, because it makes no difference whether thou kill with a sword or with a word, since killing itself is forbidden. And so, in this commandment of God, no exception at all ought to be made to the rule that it is always wrong to kill a man, who God has wished to be regarded as a sacrosanct creature" (Institutes VI, XX, 15).'

4. "The bottom line in all of this is that each and every life is precious from conception until its natural death. Capital punishment not only plays into retribution, but it eliminates the possibility for reconciliation – another very important aspect of the life of a Christian. We now have the ability to keep a person incarcerated for the rest of his or her natural life, so the need for capital punishment no longer applies."

A New Wrinkle

Or just something I had forgotten...

For the discussion on torture over at WWWTW, I went back and reread what the CCC says about torture:

Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.[90]
2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

So torture as defined in the CCC includes its use for punishment.

Is Christian personalism just a variant of liberal moral theory? I wrote that this is a novelty and the appeal to human dignity and respect for the person is not reducible to what has been written by Thomists about the virtues of charity and justice. So how much weight should the CCC carry? I do not hold it to be an infallible document, and while it should be respected, I think there is a break with the past with regards to punishment. Now it might be that Sacred Tradition does not explicitly maintain the infliction of pain as punishment is licit. But it would seem that various moral theologians (and bishops?) have taught it.

Again, how is torture as it is broadly defined here different from corporal punishment by parents or lawful authorities?

Fr. Brian Harrison has an article from 2006 for This Rock, but I would think it has been superceded by his addendum.

Edit. I vaguely recall an attempt to harmonize the CCC with "traditional" teaching on the infliction of pain as a punishment, but I can find no record of having written about it on this blog. I may have written it somewhere else, or just done it mentally. One could interpret the CCC as prohibiting the torture of those who have already been sentenced and punished for an offense -- torture (or any sort of maltreatment) would in their case be going beyond what has already been determined to be a proper punishment for their offense. (Maltreatment might be justified on the grounds that they have lost human dignity, etc., but I do not think that this would be in accord with a traditional understanding of justice.)

Still, I think the more obvious sense of the sentence in the CCC is that it prohibits torture as a form of punishment. But this would only be a problem if the CCC were represent the highest teaching authority of the Church and protected by infallibility.