BEAR FOUND OLD TIRE TO PLAY WITH. COMMENTS CLOSED.
Pope Francis issued the most unequivocal condemnation of the death penalty that the Church has yet heard. In a speech before the members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, he said [NON-MAGISTERIALLY - so far. CORRECTION: IT IS MAGISTERIAL, BECAUSE IT APPEARS IN AMORIS LAETITIA 83. (Thanks to Bald Eagle for pointing that out.)] the death penalty should have "a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC). This, according to an EWTN/CNA article dated October 11, 2017.
So, first, what does the CCC say about the death penalty and where might Pope Francis be looking to add "a more adequate and coherent space?"
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Article 5 of the CCC deals with the Fifth Commandment:
You shall not kill.
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment." But I say to you that everyone is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.
CCC 2225-2262 begins with the recognition of the sacredness of human life because from the beginning it is intimately tied with God, its source and end. (Citing CDF instruction Donum Vitae, intro 5.) It continues with the Biblical witness beginning with Abel's murder in 2259 and 2260. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." (Citing Genesis 9:5-6.) 2263 cites St. Thomas Aquinas' famous "law of double effect" to defend legitimate self-defense. 2264 reminds us that "love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality," and cites St. Thomas Aquinas again in support. 2265 says "legitimate defense cannot be only a right but a grave duty for one responsible for the lives of others."
2267 is specifically about the death penalty. It first assumes "identity and responsibility have been fully determined."
"Identity and Responsibility Have Been Fully Determined"
1. Forget Bear is an acknowledged expert in the field. Readers will know the Bear was one of the foremost authorities on the practical end of the death penalty in the state of Illinois, as both a prosecutor (People v. Nielsen) and defense counsel (too numerous to mention; but several very high-profile cases) right up to its abolition in 2011.
Of course, he does not expect his expertise in such an esoteric matter to count for anything in argument. In fact, he has learned arguing about the death penalty is a complete waste of time. Nobody has ever changed their mind on this topic (except the Bear, the more he learned). People are strangely and emotionally devoted to a punishment that is rare, abolished in several states, is arbitrarily imposed, and, according to one study, sends innocent people to death row 4% of the time.
2. An odd conservative and orthodox Litmus Test. It is a litmus test for conservatism and, for many, for Catholic orthodoxy, although the Bear would argue it is a matter of prudence, rather than salvation, and one need not see Samson bringing down the temple in a change of prudential judgment that both reflects modern realities and highlights the mercy of Christ.
3. Thinking regarding the death penalty has steadily evolved, and do you really think that's bad?. Surely, no one will argue that the widespread use of hanging for petty offenses before 30,000 jeering spectators in Dickens' day is something to which we would wish to return. Is there anyone who will argue for a return of the "draw and quarter" method of execution? The offender would be hanged, cut down barely alive, castrated, have his intestines pulled out and burned before his glazed eyes, then cut into four pieces to send throughout the realm.
So, let us at least agree that the death penalty is something that has indeed seen welcome cultural and legal evolution. In more modern times, the death penalty for non-murder crimes like rape has been eliminated by the U.S. Supreme Court, and mentally retarded defendants have been spared. Only a tiny percentage of murderers are ever put on death row, even in the states that permit it. We are already making scores of sound exceptions.
There is an interesting overview at a link to a large site called Religious Tolerance, which the Bear does not otherwise endorse. The more specific Death Penalty Information Center has better and more up-to-date data.
If you really want to argue the death penalty should be stuck in the Middle Ages or Dickensian London, be Bear's guest. But unless you are, you are confessing that our thinking has evolved. If it has evolved, it makes sense for the Church to join in that evolution.
4. Emotionalism makes argument impossible. But it is impossible to keep people from rolling down the emotional gutter on this topic and get them back on the logical polished hardwood alley to knock down some factual bowling pins. The proof of this is that pro-death folk will frankly lead and end with emotional appeals related to specific victims, in Bear's opinion posting photos in a blatant emotional appeal as if someone against the death penalty is callously immune to sympathy for the victim and his or her families. Understandably, perhaps, the Bear finds this argument the most irritating.
Every case he did had a victim, and he knows more about each one than you do in his cases. Do you think the Bear really doesn't care about them or their families? That he is a psychopath, such as he recently discussed? His job was to keep another person alive. No guilty murderer ever left prison, unless it was in a box, at the end of the case. The sole exception was a factually innocent man acquitted by jury.
5. In this particular highly specialized topic, the Bear's expertise should count for nothing. So what if Bear saved an innocent man from death row? (And saved a lot of guilty ones from death row, too, in return for life in prison without parole, really and truly.) Big deal if he devoted the latter part of his career to it on the state payroll as one of a handful of lawyers overseeing the validity of the process in the entire state.
Why should any of that matter?
It shouldn't. So please ignore it. Bear speaks as just another old guy drinking coffee around the table at the Hardees with his friends, railing on the basis of what he knows from a headline and a picture of a guy doing the perp walk. Please forget the mysteries of compassion he might have personally learned and the unexpected glimpses of Christ he saw in some of the worst. None of that matters, nor does the innocent man Bear snatched from overzealous prosecutors before a jury.
6. Illinois' problem with "identity and responsibility." One of the problems Illinois faced with the death penalty was it had great difficulty with the "identity and responsibility" element of CCC 2267. The advent of DNA created a gold standard for determining factual innocence and Illinois was embarrassed to find too many innocent people on its death row.
Furthermore, criminal chicanery among DuPage County police and prosecutors and outright torture in Cook County blacked the other eye of the state.
Illinois took major steps to ensure the "identity and responsibility" element was satisfied.
A large fund was established upon which lawyers could draw on in death penalty cases. A few lawyers, frankly, abused it, racking up multi-million dollar defenses and getting rich as defendants went to death row anyway. (Bear economically obtained a perfect record at the very bottom of the spreadsheet.)
State Senator Barack Obama was allowed to introduce legislation (written by someone else) requiring all homicide interrogations be videotaped, which was a massive improvement. Before, interrogators would only turn on the camera when they had elicited the "I did it statement" by means fair or foul, and the video was used solely as evidence for the prosecution. Letting the jury see "how the sausage was really made" was a breakthrough and was an important element in the Bear's winning a jury trial in a death penalty case where the defendant was factually innocent.
And had confessed on video.
Less than 0.1% of Illinois lawyers were considered to have the training and experience to handle death penalty cases at the two separate levels: second chair and first chair. The Bear was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court for the screening panel. (Getting a personal phone call from the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court caused the Bear to break out into a sweat, he can tell you, until he was kindly told of the honor.)
Bear could tell you how innocent men get convicted, if is expertise counted for anything, which it doesn't. He might say eyewitness identification has been proven to be much more unreliable than people believe, especially cross-racial.
Next is false confessions. Not many, but certainly some. And nearly impossible to overcome at trial, as you might imagine. And we know exactly why those happen, both coerced-compliant and gaslighting. The direct result of bad training for most police interrogators.
Sad to say, Bear has learned police and prosecutors who just know someone is guilty can justify a little cheating to counter imagined "sleazy defense tactics," i.e. a vigorous defense. If the Bear knew what he was talking about - which he doesn't, remember - he might toss out confirmation bias. Bad defense lawyers fit in somewhere in other states. Texas has some nightmarish tales about those.
Bear by no means takes "identity and responsibility" for granted, especially before the death penalty reforms in Illinois, or in jurisdictions that have failed to implement similar. But why should anyone listen to just ignorant Bear on these matters.
7. Responsibility. Note that the Catechism requires a determination of "responsibility." That is because one may kill, but not be responsible. The law recognizes this, too. The difficult and rare "insanity defense," defendants who are mentally retarded, or a "failed self-defense," or perhaps the old "irresitible impulse" made famous by the legal chicanery in Anatomy of a Murder.
"The Traditional Teaching of the Church Does not Exclude Resource to the Death Penalty"
Once "identity and responsibility" have been determined, the death penalty may be used, but only if non-lethal means to protect the public (the legal term, "incapacitation") are unavailable. In reality, "the cases in which the execution of a offender is absolutely necessary, 'if not practically non-existent.'" (Citing St. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 56.)
What this means is that modern prison systems can lock up prisoners for the rest of their lives, removing them as a threat to the public. Life in Prison Without Parole (LWOP) is necessary for this to work. Illinois has it, and it means what it says. No parole. In states that may not have LWOP, the argument from the Catechism does not hold, unless prisoners are so old when they are released that they may be presumed to be no longer threats.
So, What Does Pope Francis Mean?
So, since the death penalty was, for all practical purposes, abolished from countries with an established penal system and laws to put offender away for the rest of their lives, what does "a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" mean?
Quite simply, abolition.
It must be strongly confirmed that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity.”
The death penalty, he said, “is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor.
According to Pope Francis, it is an historical relic from a more "legalistic" era. The article goes on to make this abundantly clear. The death penalty is an historical aberration and while admitting the papal state adopted it, it was "unfortunate" and neglected "the primacy of mercy and justice."
In his speech, Pope Francis said that in past centuries, where defense measures were poor and the maturity of society “still had not met a positive development,” the death penalty seemed like a “logical consequence of the application of justice they had to follow.”
He noted that “unfortunately” even the papal state at times adopted this “extreme and inhumane means” of punishment, “neglecting the primacy of mercy and justice.”
Francis stressed that God is a Father “who always waits for the return of the son who, knowing he has erred, asks forgiveness and begins a new life.”
“No one, therefore, can have their life taken from them, nor the possibility of a moral and existential redemption that goes back in favor of the community.”
“Let us take responsibility for the past, and let us recognize that these means were dictated by a more legalistic mentality than Christian,” he said.
Today, Pope Francis said the death penalty must be abolished. He bases his argument on the dignity of the person.
Bear-digression: Gun Control & CCC 2265
Query: in the sparsely populated areas of the United States, where law enforcement response is often slow, does the father of a family have not only the right, but "a grave duty for one responsible for the lives of others?" The Catechism speaks only of those who "legitimately hold authority." Is this necessarily limited to sworn peace officers? Or does a father (or mother) "legitimately hold authority" to defend the innocent lives of their children? And, if that defense is legitimate, is it not also legitimate to use even deadly force?
And if, as likely, an invader of the family home (especially one containing children who must place all their reliance on parents for their well-being and safety) is armed with a firearm is it unreasonable for a parent with responsibility for those innocent lives, to refuse to effectively arm himself so as to make self-defense a reality?
In other words, does a father bear not only the legitimate right, but a grave duty, to defend the lives for which he is responsible? Is there anyone who will argue that a father or mother is not responsible for the lives of their innocent children?
And if such an argument cannot be made, and the only adequate means of "moderate" defense of themselves and those for whom they are responsible is to meet the invader on an effective basis, i.e. similarly armed, how, then might one argue from this that guns must be possessed only by home invaders and never by householders with innocent children to protect?
In the United States, most citizens can possess firearms "legitimately" as a personal right under the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. (See Heller vs D.C.. 2002). Whatever other obstacles facing those who would confiscate firearms from the United States citizenry, there is the 2nd Amendment and controlling authority that gun ownership is a personal right.
"Gun banning" is not only arguably impossible as a practical matter, but gun possession is a right every bit as sacred as the 1st Amendment right for the Bear to scribble his disreputable articles and novels; the 4th Amendment right that prevents police from wandering into your home at 2 a.m. without a warrant and searching for contraband; the 5th Amendment right to a speedy trial, a jury trial, and no self-incrimination; the Sixth Amendment right for a citizen accused of a crime by his government to have a lawyer to test the prosecution's case in the crucible of the adversary system; the Eighth Amendment's protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."
Okay, the 9th and 10th Amendments may not mean anything, but the 13th abolished slavery, which is a pretty big deal, and the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Point being, those who after every shooting want to "ban guns" fail to realize they would have to somehow repeal the 2nd Amendment, which is every bit as sacred as the others the Bear cited. Furthermore, if possession of guns is legitimate, and the responsibility of a father to protect his innocent, helpless children does exist (and who would argue against that?), parents in areas where police cannot be counted on for an immediate response not only have a guaranteed constitutional "right" to have guns on their freehold, but a responsibility to have them and be prepared to use them in legitimate self-defense and as an exercise of their responsibility to defend helpless, innocent members of their family.