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October 30, 2014

Notable criticism of Pope's advocacy against LWOP and "nurturing mommy" approach to government

9780829441703_p0_v2_s260x420As noted in this post last week, Pope Francis spoke out last week against life imprisonment and harsh sentencing systems focused more on punishment than social justice.  This intriguing new American Spectator commentary by Mark Tooley takes issue with this papal advocacy, and concludes with complaints about governments failing to balance a "nurturing mommy" role with a "stern father role." Here are excerpts from an interestinf read:

Opposing life imprisonment raises questions. Should mass murderers be freed during their active lifetime? And what if they show no sign of remorse or rehabilitation? (My questions come respectfully from a Protestant who appreciates Catholic teaching.)

The Pope’s remarks acknowledged that official Catholic teaching still accepts the state’s rightful power to execute, quoting the Catechism that “the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” News reports say he quoted the Catechism that “cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” It is not clear but presumably he also included the Catechism phrase immediately before those words, which cites the “possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm.”

What power does the state have for “rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm” except for the option of life imprisonment for recalcitrant murderers? It seems unlikely that many Americans, Catholic or otherwise, will advocate abolishing life imprisonment for heinous crimes. But recently Colorado’s pro-death penalty Republican gubernatorial candidate, a Catholic, recalled that Denver’s former bishop, Charles Chaput, had assured him that church doctrine is not against the death penalty....

The subtleties of Catholic teaching on capital punishment are difficult to translate into media sound bites or political explanations. Pope Francis’s comments against life imprisonment seem to go beyond the letter of the Catechism. Some activist American religionists, Catholic or otherwise, may latch on to them for a new campaign. But such an effort potentially would provoke a backlash and embolden defense of the death penalty.

Much of the American religious political witness today is totally uncomfortable with the state’s divine vocation for punitive action, much less lethal force. The New Testament offers little direct counsel on civil government’s responsibilities except, in St. Paul’s Romans 13, which warns that that “if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoers.” This language is pretty punitive.

But so much of modern American religious political witness prefers a highly non-punitive version of government. Their preferred vision likens the state to an indulgent, nurturing mommy, whose primary role is to feed, clothe, and ensure health care for all her children, while also welcoming all illegal immigrants, protecting the environment, lecturing against politically incorrect “hate speech,” and offering universal love, while simultaneously disarming in a way ironically that likely inhibits physical protection for her children.

Most of this mommy work the Scriptures and Christian tradition actually assign chiefly to the church, which is metaphorically a mother and the Bride of Christ. The Romans 13 focus for the state more resembles a stern father, who dispenses impartial but severe justice for the protection of his children. This sort of paternal state, unlike the sensitive mommy, reserves its interventions for dangerous misconduct. And it lets its charges pick themselves up from their stumbles, that they might grow strong, not remain immature through ceaseless coddling.

A true balance in society aligns nurturing mommy with stern father, both fulfilling their complementary roles in creation. The absence of one distorts human reality and creates corruption and tragedy. Pope Francis doubtless has earnest reasons for speaking against even life imprisonment. But his sentiments will likely only inspire the chronic mommy vision of the state already preferred by so many do-gooding religionists.

Religious leaders need to restore balance by citing Romans 13 and explaining the punitive, morally imperative stern father role of the state that is divinely ordained and essential for human justice.

Prior related post:

October 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Religious works like the Bible open up this sort of selective picking and choosing of things that reaffirm personal sentiments. I have found the Bible a fascinating work myself though where it takes me is somewhat different from these authors. Check out Romans 13:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2013

I wonder how their readers, e.g., feel about this:

"6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

And, "whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted." Part of this "authority," and some aspect was present in 50 CE too, is a social welfare function. I'm glad to help promote respect for the government in so doing, though am also fine with criticism when warranted.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 30, 2014 12:56:51 PM

Regardless of what happens in civil law, the problem is more delicate for a believer when it arises from a religious perspective. The Catholic Church (with the consensus, on the other hand, the Orthodox and Protestants, and except for some minor heretical sects of reformed themselves) has never denied that lawful authority possesses the power to inflict death as punishment. The proposal of Innocent III, confirmed by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, according to which the civil authority “without sin can inflict the death penalty, provided he acts motivated by justice and not by hatred and carry it with caution and not indiscriminately “is de fide matter.(Vittorio Messori dixit)
So if the teacher recognizes the legitimacy of the death penalty the only explanation that theologians and bishops’ conferences in full have gone further to define any type of capital punishment as “contrary to the Christian spirit” or “disagree with the Gospel.” This is a desperate attempt by the bishops to remove or reduce the anti-Catholicism on the left. The bishops (and also the pope) believe that by supporting the cultural battles of the liberal left will decrease their anti-Catholicism and his support for abortion. Of course it is a failed strategy, Amnesty International has become a pro-abortion lobby. In other words the bishops sacrifice victims and their families in a pathetic effort to gain the support of the Liberals.

Posted by: Alfonso | Nov 1, 2014 3:43:46 AM

Regardless of what happens in civil law, the problem is more delicate for a believer when it arises from a religious perspective. The Catholic Church (with the consensus, on the other hand, the Orthodox and Protestants, and except for some minor heretical sects of reformed themselves) has never denied that lawful authority possesses the power to inflict death as punishment. The proposal of Innocent III, confirmed by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, according to which the civil authority “without sin can inflict the death penalty, provided he acts motivated by justice and not by hatred and carry it with caution and not indiscriminately “is de fide matter.(Vittorio Messori dixit)
So if the teacher recognizes the legitimacy of the death penalty the only explanation that theologians and bishops’ conferences in full have gone further to define any type of capital punishment as “contrary to the Christian spirit” or “disagree with the Gospel.” This is a desperate attempt by the bishops to remove or reduce the anti-Catholicism on the left. The bishops believe that by supporting the cultural battles of the liberal left will decrease their anti-Catholicism and his support for abortion. Of course it is a failed strategy, Amnesty International has become a pro-abortion lobby. In other words the bishops sacrifice victims and their families in a pathetic effort to gain the support of the Liberals.

Posted by: Alfonso | Nov 1, 2014 3:44:18 AM

Regardless of what happens in civil law, the problem is more delicate for a believer when it arises from a religious perspective. The Catholic Church (with the consensus, on the other hand, the Orthodox and Protestants, and except for some minor heretical sects of reformed themselves) has never denied that lawful authority possesses the power to inflict death as punishment. The proposal of Innocent III, confirmed by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, according to which the civil authority “without sin can inflict the death penalty, provided he acts motivated by justice and not by hatred and carry it with caution and not indiscriminately “is de fide matter.(Vittorio Messori dixit)
So if the teacher recognizes the legitimacy of the death penalty the only explanation that theologians and bishops’ conferences in full have gone further to define any type of capital punishment as “contrary to the Christian spirit” or “disagree with the Gospel.” This is a desperate attempt by the bishops to remove or reduce the anti-Catholicism on the left. The bishops believe that by supporting the cultural battles of the liberal left will decrease their anti-Catholicism and his support for abortion. Of course it is a failed strategy, Amnesty International has become a pro-abortion lobby. In other words the bishops sacrifice victims and their families in a pathetic effort to gain the support of the Liberals.

Posted by: Alfonso | Nov 1, 2014 3:45:28 AM

The comment is interesting. It cites something from 1215 by the pope while criticizing something a few months before the modern day 1000th anniversary of the comment.

The edit seems a tad care to take away criticism of "the pope" though the "bishops" here that seem too "left" appear to have support of said Holy Father.

I'm unsure the breadth of "minor heretical sects" (of which Catholics once were) though am comfortable saying as a matter of "power" that civil authorities have "legitimacy" in executing people on some level. I think the Constitution correctly applied makes the practice illegitimate but following the usual practices of determining the law, the courts and society has yet to so determine.

Also, the legitimacy -- see, e.g., a recent book by John Bessler on the 8th Amendment -- of punishments and other practices can depend on reasonably possible alternatives. The systems in place to deal with punishment, including in respect to mental illness and other matters, developed a lot, e.g., since the time of King John and the Magna Charta (or Innocent III).

Posted by: Joe | Nov 1, 2014 1:42:55 PM

Edit: 800th anniversary

Posted by: Joe | Nov 1, 2014 1:44:25 PM

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