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Prolifer: Spare abortion doc's life

One of the many things that make the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell interesting is that if convicted of murdering any of seven newborns allegedly delivered live in his West Philadelphia clinic, he would face the death penalty. Indeed, capital punishment plays an important part in the case since the district attorney allowed cooperating witnesses-- those who admit killing their tiny victims with scissors -- to plead guilty to lesser charges that don't carry the death penalty.Would Dr. Gosnell's execution by lethal injection be a concern for those who call themselves prolife? It turns out that the answer is yes -- at least for one prominent anti-abortion advocate, Princeton University Professor Robert P. George. In a post at First Things, he writes:

Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brothera precious human being made in the very image and likeness of God. Our objective should not be his destruction, but the conversion of his heart. Is that impossible for a man who has corrupted his character so thoroughly by his unspeakably evil actions? If there is a God in heaven, then the answer to that question is no. There is no one who is beyond repentance and reform; there is no one beyond hope. We should give up on no one.

It will be interesting to see the reaction George gets, including from the substantial number of Catholic bishops who hold his conservative views in high esteem. A call to spare Gosnell's life would make a powerful prolife statement, steeped in gospel values. George's column anticipated resistance to that:

I do not myself believe that the death penalty is ever required or justified as a matter of retributive justice. Many reasonable people of goodwill, including many who are strongly pro-life (and whose pro-life credentials I in no way question), disagree with me about that. But even if the death penalty is justified in a case like Gosnells, mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.I do not expect my request to be met with universal acclaim.

The comments on his post so far attest to that -- most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnell's life.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).

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Ken said: "Mercy is especially real and especially important, when it is extended to those who do not deserve it."Gracious: we agree! How many times to we shake our heads and mumble when we read of the survivors of someone who has been killed forgiving the murderers?How often do we grumble with the ACLU defends the rights of people who do things that our constitution permits but we find personalyl reprehensible? (Yes, this is a parallel, not a direct comparison.)Mt 18:21-22 ** is probably the least observed message of Jesus in Christianity.** 21 Then Peter approaching asked him, Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times? 22 Jesus answered, I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times."

I say the man must be psychotic, and so not guilty by reason of insanity. No sane person would do the things he has done. But other later-term abortionists do the same extremely horrible sort of thing to the baby before it is born. However, Goslinn did some things that other abortionists do not do, see the feet fetish. Still what's the difference between him and the others? Motive? The others are/might be motivated by the hope of helping the unfortunate women. Morally should that make a difference as to whether or not they should be allowed to practice? Does good will cancel out evil? Yes, we could spend a whole thread on this question alone.

"Fry the S.O.B.!!!"That's my universal reaction when I see/hear news reports like those reported in this thread.Then I consciously remind myself of Jesus' words, "Thy will be done". I realize Jesus would never push the button to set the execution in motion."Forgive us our trespasses..."In the end, I suppose for me it's "Let go and let God".

As a consistent ethic of life advocate opposed to capital punishment in all instances, I'm pleased that Robert George is speaking out on the issue. And Paul Moses is right...George is taking a drubbing at First Things.

I second Willliam's comment.

I disagree with Ann about his being psychotic.. I say he just moved the goal posts from early abortion to where-ever. Logical not crazy. Yes i agree that the consistent life ethic ought to be carried as the Catholic flag in even this most grievous offense.

I am not sure that psychotic fits him, although I am not a clinical psychologist. Psychopath seems to me to describe him better. It describes as a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse.

Sociopaths commit crimes so horrible that most people think they must be insane and therefore not legally guilty.But sociopaths are not delusory. They know quite well what they are doing, but they dont care about the pain they are inflicting, the evil they are doing.The lack of care, the lack of empathy, is what causes most people to think sociopaths are insane.Empathy and caring help us refrain from evil acts that hurt people; but they are not (or should not be) the reason we refrain from doing wrong. Objective reality, not our feelings, determines whether an act is right or wrong. Our feelings may help us discern that something is wrong, but our feelings are not always a reliable guide, especially if a person is a sociopath and lacks empathy. Too often I think that people confuse conscience with feelings. A sociopath can be a highly moral person; if he chooses to commit crimes, he is morally and legally liable.Sociopaths may even have different brain structures than most people; but this does not excuse them. It would help explain how they do horrible things without revulsion.

Professor George's argument is based on Gosnell's humanity, not on his mental state. That probably is more counter-cultural than his pro-life position. I'm sorry so many on his "side" don't get it, but he probably is hearing first from the ones who were still at Mr. Jaglowicz's "Fry the S.O.B." level of reaction. (Any relation, Mr. J, to Elizabeth Kubler-Roth? You described me to a T.)

Does "(s)he who is without sin, cast the first stone" come into play anywhere here?

Empathy and caring help us refrain from evil acts that hurt people; but they are not (or should not be) the reason we refrain from doing wrong.This may be a silly question, but: Aren't they the root of moral sense? Empathy is not (or should not be) the reason for a particular action at a particular moment, but isn't it where our moral sense comes from?

I don't think it matters whether he's mentally ill or not. I would not have him executed. If killing people is a bad thing, then killing people because they have killed people seems incoherent.

Would the death penalty even be on the table if, for instance, Gosnell had killed the babies by lethal injection before they exited the womb? If the answer is "no", then the quibble is about a technicality. There would be very little moral difference; perhaps marginally less cruelty with that method. The bottom line is of course still the same. Some abortionists already use that procedure. You can bet all of them are paying attention, and will be determined to make sure that there are no more "born alive" victims of abortion. It will be a tragedy if that is the only lesson society takes away from this debacle, and yet again avoids the hard conversation about what abortion really is.

Re: Paul Moses comment in regard to Robert Georges post in opposition to capital punishment for Dr. Gosnell and Georges expectation that his opinion will not be met with universal acclaim that the comments on his post so far attest to that most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnells life.; and See also William Colliers comment to Moses post: George is taking a drubbing at First Things.In fact, so far (at 5:50 EDT) the 16 comments in response to Professor Georges post are nearly all supportive of his opinion or take no position on whether Dr. Gosnell should be executed if found guilty.The breakdown is as follows: One commenter (no. 3) expressed strong opposition to Georges opinion. Six supported his position (nos. 1,2,5,6,7,8). Nine comments took no position on Georges opinion. Some of the latter comments consisted of back and forth discussions, but none included the one person who opposed Georges opinion. So why the suggestion that commenters oppose Professsor George's opinion?

Helen --Yes, psychopath id a better word to describe Gosnell, though I'm no expert either. The question is: are psycopaths crazy? It is my understanding that they are. They have not developed a sense of empathy so they do not interpret the world as the rest of us do. They do not realize the pain they are causing. We need to hear from the psychiatrists about them, or whatever it is that Gosnell is.

Claire,Empathy and care for others surely arise very early in healthy human development, but maybe not at the very beginning. I think the root of moral sense is the understanding that our own individual survival depends on the cooperation and help of others in our (originally) small group of extended family, nomadic band, or clan. That sounds selfish, but it is recapitulated in every baby, who starts out all take and no give, except for cuteness, but normally grows to accept a responsibility and assume a duty to sustain the group and the other people in it, sometimes at great personal cost.The history of morality is the refinement of that sense and the extension of it to include a wider and wider circleneighbors, trading partners, others who look and sound and think a lot like "our" people, eventually people who are quite different, and even members of other species. Obviously, we haven't got to the end yet.Religion and philosophy have aided the process and, sadly, sometimes impeded it. One of the impediments is the idea entertained in every age that we now at last have a secure hold on "objective reality." And we chuckle complacently at the quaintness and crudeness of previous ages, as later ages will at ours.Moral sense and a glimmer of empathy are not even confined to our own species, but occur in other social animals as well. And not just as the instinct-based sacrifices of certain insects, but as what seem to be fully aware and deliberate acts. There are even examples in other primates of "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life," and although none of us can say for sure what "above and beyond the call of duty" would mean to a baboon, a baboon knows what it needs to do.

Lee--Yes, conscience and feelings are often confused. But feelings of empathy are sometimes a good indicator of the morality of what we are tempted to do or not do, so they can be useful sometimes -- sometimes -- in making a moral decision. Unfortunately, the confusion of feeling and conscience sometimes leads to statements about the morality of an act such as, "That behavior makes me uncomfortable". But my discomfort in itself has nothing to do with whether or not the behavior or non-behavior is immoral. The discomfort is only a subjective reaction to something objective.I would like to hear from the psychiatrists as to whether or not psychopaths have enough understanding of their actions to make them culpable. Certainly brain deformities could lead to mistaken judgments in some cases.

Of course we should not call for the death penalty. While it is tempting for sure, vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to us. What good would killing this man accomplish? More blod running? Certainly it is not beyond our ability as a society, to sequester him for the remainder of his natural life, thus keeping society safe from him. Also, from the look of him (age and general condition) he probably will not try for a jail break. It is not easy for me to say, but the fact of the matter is that if we (you and I) are as pro-life as we like to think, we should call for life in prison for him, both to keep society safe from him and also, in the hope that he would use that time to realize his sins and repent of them before God calls him.Not to draw any too-close parallels, but there was a woman saint (I do not recall her name), that was murdered by a young man rather than submit to his desire. I think it happened in Europe and if I recall correctly, the man who murdered her eventually repented of his sin, confessed, and eventually became a monk.

St. Maria Goretti, b. 1890, Italy. Alessandro Serenelli, her attacker, became a lay brother.

"It will be interesting to see the reaction George gets, including from the substantial number of Catholic bishops who hold his conservative views in high esteem."Aren't Catholic bishops uniformly against capital punishment? I wold be very surprised to hear any of them call for the death penalty.

St Maria Goretti was the name of our Catholic girls' High School in South Philly. Not to take away from her personal saintliness, but when I was a teenager, I was more than a a little put off by the message (die rather than give up your virtue). Even now, I don''t think it is a great message for young girls.

I too find the church's custom of canonizing girls/women who would rather die than no longer be virgins kind of disturbing.

Of course, Kermit Gosnell, even if convicted and sentenced to death, will not, in all probability, be executed. He's 72, and the average time it takes to go through all the appeals and carry out an execution is fifteen years. Also, the jury, if they convict Gosnell, will then decide his sentence. They are not supposed to be reading or watching anything about the case, so if they read an appeal for mercy on Gosnell, they are violating the judge's instructions.I disapprove of the death penalty except in cases when society can be made safe from the offender in no other way than executing him or her, so I don't think Gosnell should be executed. But I think it is a little disingenuous to appeal for mercy for Gosnell when he is not in fact in any danger. I think Robert George is posturing. I will be more impressed with his stand against the death penalty if takes a public position against the execution of somebody who is actually sheduled to be executed. Texas has about ten executions scheduled between now and the end of July. I am sure any or all of the teams of lawyers working to save people currently on death row would welcome Robert George's support.

Jean, you are a fountain of knowledge!That story is oddly relevant. Wikipedia says that Maria Goretti expressed forgiveness for her murderer and wanted him to be in heaven with her. We might not want for Dr Gosnell to be executed for murder, but would we go as far as to wish to spend eternity in heaven with him?

mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.Similar, one supposes, to the wonderful power of mercy and love exhibited by the good doctor toward the most innocent and and helpless among us...Altogether now, let's hear it for mercy and love!

Mercy is especially real and especially important, when it is extended to those who do not deserve it.

Re: Maria Goretti, please forgive me if this is an insensitive or naive comment, but aren't women still counseled to resist and fight back against rapists? Would this advice still hold if the rapist is armed, as Maria's rapist apparently was?Here is how the incident is described in her Wikipedia entry: "On July 5, 1902, finding eleven-year-old Maria sewing alone, Alessandro Serenelli came in and threatened her with death if she did not do as he said; he was intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to hell .[7] She desperately fought to stop Alessandro, a 19-year-old farmhand, from abusing her. She kept screaming, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Alessandro first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times. The injured Maria tried to reach for the door, but Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.[8]"

Thank you, Claire. I have an idiot savant's encyclopedic recall of hagiography. I would also point those interested in forgiveness and mercy themes to St. Guthlac, in some versions a fierce warrior who took pride in the carnage he created on the battlefield ... and one day surveyed his destruction, wept, and became a holy hermit.Catholicism invites us to believe in these stories of redemption, however far-fetched they may seem. As a skeptic, it all seems far fetched. As a Christian, I must admit the possibility. Irene, while I see your point, I think, in all fairness, Ken was not advocating that girls die for their virtue so much as using St. Maria's story as an example of forgiveness.

Duh! My second PP is redundant and contains grammatical errors. I'm sorry.

Hi Jean- No I get that about Goretti and forgiveness. It always just pushed my buttons that my local Catholic Girls HS was named after her. The school was in a heavily ethnic Italian neighborhood, but there were lots of other great Italian women saints (Angela Merici? Rita of Cascia?) And talk about forgiveness, St Rita was no slouch.

We might not want for Dr Gosnell to be executed for murder, but would we go as far as to wish to spend eternity in heaven with him?Yes. In heaven we will see how everyone developed. We will watch one another's evolution and understand what twists of DNA, environment, etc. caused some individuals to be less perfect than we had the good fortune to be. -------- Do priests still preach about Maria Goretti and how girls should fight to the death to preserve their chastity? (Does being raped mean the victim is no longer chaste?) Should boys also fight to the death to preserve their chastity? (If a boy who was being raped by a priest had fought back and been killed by the priest, would he have been canonized? The Church teaches us that it is better to be killed than be raped. Is it also better to kill than be raped? If Maria Goretti had managed to overcome the rapist and kill him, would the Church have canonized her when she died of old age?)

Thank you Jean - you are correct. Gosh I guess it does not take much to veer off onto a tangent.In an effort to steer the thread back on-track then; the example I cited was not intended to be a comment on women but rather, was intended to be a comment on murderers and redemption; specifically how a murderer, if given the chance, might might see the error of his way and repent.Sorry to have inadvertently lead the conversation astray

The comments on his post so far attest to that most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnells life.Did any of those with their thumbs down offer to act as executioner? Or do they prefer to stay home with their computer while someone else kills for them?

"Yes. In heaven we will see how everyone developed. We will watch one anothers evolution and understand what twists of DNA, environment, etc. caused some individuals to be less perfect than we had the good fortune to be."Really? You been there? I'm sorry, but nobody knows what Heaven will be like (and if it's "perfect happiness" it will mean my memory will have to be erased). And I don't think that we are all merely thralls to our genetic code. We have urges and proclivities. We can also make rational choices. And we can also be redeemed with God's grace in God's time, which is why I am opposed to the death penalty.

please forgive me if this is an insensitive or naive comment, but arent women still counseled to resist and fight back against rapists?Jim,I forgive you. :PI can't imagine any responsible person or organization would advise women either to resist or not resist. Every situation is going to be different. I remember an argument in another forum in which some were saying that Maria Goretti was required to resist rape, because even when the choice is being killed versus being raped, "allowing" oneself to be raped is a mortal sin. The argument was that you always have a choice. It is not, per se, duress to have a gun to your head or a knife to your throat. In my opinion, that is absolute nonsense.

Gerelyn, I think you're more forgiving than I am. At least, if people in heaven are closer to one another than our closest friends here, I have to say that I have a reluctance to being that close to a man like him. Meaning, I'm not ready for heaven! Maybe we'll all end up in the same "place", and what will be heaven for some will be hell for others!!

Really? You been there?I'm there now. There's no time out from eternity.----- I think youre more forgiving than I am.Just older.

My own unsubstantiated opinion for why Gosnell is not being covered that much is that the media doesn't much cover terrible things that happen to poor black people. The obvious example is all the children that are killed by gun violence in Chicago. Sure, there is some coverage, esp. local or when a particularly gruesome video goes viral, but it should be much greater. Did you hear about the infant that was shot dead in Chicago last week? The real conversation we should be having is about how pro-lifers can help poor people like those who went to Gosnell and whose kids are shot regularly on the streets.

Well JC, I am not sure on your reasoning about why mainline media do not focus on violence against poor black people, but I agree with you about the terrible gun-related violence in Chicago, and I wholeheartedly agree with your contention that we pro-lifers should work toward helping the poor folk you describe.What happens in an abortion mill (or when a young man is gunned down in the street) is the Result Of a chain of errors, at the personal, family, and societal levels. Long term and on-going efforts to trim the number of those errors result in happier lives all around.While of course it is important to offer help for un-wed mothers, help that encourages life, that is really an exercise in picking up the pieces, arriving after-the-fact so to speak. Helping keep young folks on track in the first place should be the goal. Not only by word, but also by example, we should teach them why violence is so wrong, teaching kindness and mercy and forbearance and patience, that nobody is the king of the world, that we should love God, that we should respect ourselves and others around us, teaching young boys in particular to have special regard and respect for the girls, teaching about honesty and the hazards of laziness and gluttony, we should teach the importance of caring for and tending the gifts Gods gave us (from personal talents to the natural environment), teaching patriotism and good manners - All of these efforts help to keep young men from being shot in the street, and young women from entering the abortion mills.In summary JC; you make a very important point.

J: Really? You been there?G: Im there now. Theres no time out from eternity.J: Touche. Please let me know if my cats are up there. They're the ones making themselves at home on the dining room table. Tell them I love them and still miss them.

Tom, I'm no relation but I sure wish I had her book royalties :-)

There is an execution scheduled for tonight in Texas. Have Robert George and the pro-life movement called for mercy? I think it is a good thing Robert George is trying to associate pro-lifers with opposition to capital punishment, but it seems to me it is basically public relations. Gosnell's fate is currently in the hands of the jury, and should they convict of first degree murder and decide on a death sentence, there will be a decade or more to fight for mercy for Gosnell. Whereas there is a man in Texas who has a few hours to live, and ten more in line to be executed within the next few months.

"There is an execution scheduled for tonight in Texas. Have Robert George and the pro-life movement called for mercy? I think it is a good thing Robert George is trying to associate pro-lifers with opposition to capital punishment, but it seems to me it is basically public relations."I am not sure what "mercy" means but I personally know of about a dozen people (including myself), both Catholics and Evangelicals, who have both called and written the Governor and Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency for Mr. Threadgill. Since you seem to be interested in learning about Christians' efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty in these US, you should check out the websites of the Catholic Bishops' Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

Since you seem to be interested in learning about Christians efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty in these US . . . MAT,Thanks for the information. However, my point was that this plea for mercy for Kermit Gosnell is not to be taken at face value. His fate is in the hands of the jury. No plea will (or should) reach their ears. Even if they vote for the death penalty, there is plenty of timecertainly at least a decadeto plead for mercy for Gosnell. This is scarcely about Gosnell at all. It is about Robert George trying to influence the pro-life movement and to present a certain image of the pro-life movement to those not in it.

It is about Robert George trying to influence the pro-life movement and to present a certain image of the pro-life movement to those not in it.Well good. Prolife means anti-death penalty and once the broader culture renounces capital punishment, it will be gone.

Well good. Prolife means anti-death penalty and once the broader culture renounces capital punishment, it will be gone.Irene,It would be interesting to see how many people who call themselves pro-life (anti-abortion) also oppose the death penalty. There was serious resistance among some Catholics to John Paul II's remarks on the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae. Many claimed, in essence, that he was stating his own opinion, not defining a position for the Church.

"It would be interesting to see how many people who call themselves pro-life (anti-abortion) also oppose the death penalty."They're not morally equivalent. In the case of the death penalty, I believe distinctions and nuance are in order that mitigate against a simple, binary "for/against" stance.

Pope John Paul II's encyclical on this: "It is clear that the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent."I don't see much nuance there.

Irene, this phrase, "...except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society" makes this teaching (of whatever level it is) less than absolute. Someone has to make a judgment as to whether it is necessary, and whether the necessity is absolute (is there any other kind of necessity? :-)) for purposes of defending society, whatever that means. The argument could also be made that this teaching (of whatever level it is) is contingent on EV's claim that we live in an age characterized by a culture of death. If there are times and places not so characterized, perhaps this teaching on the death penalty would be subject to change. Indeed, a glance at history pretty much requires that we hold this view.

Sorry, Irene, I meant to address that to Claire!

It's ok Ken.

Theyre not morally equivalent. In the case of the death penalty, I believe distinctions and nuance are in order that mitigate against a simple, binary for/against stance.Jim,They may not be morally equivalent, but certainly they are morally related. I think Catholics who take John Paul II's position (as quoted in Claire's post) to be only his personal opinion are engaging in the kind of rationalizing that they brand "Cafeteria Catholicism" in others. John Paul II didn't articulate a simple "for/against" stance. I think the vast majority of those who oppose capital punishment (and I include myself) would not object to the execution of a dangerous person if there were truly no other way to protect society. We just don't feel the situation ever arises in the United States. It would be bizarre to maintain that our death-row inmates are so dangerous they must be executed, but nevertheless keep them alive for fifteen years while appeals drag on. I have no doubt that a significant percentage of people who call themselves pro-life are ardent supporters of the death penalty. For those who are Catholics, I think they are being inconsistent in following Church teaching.

. . . for purposes of defending society, whatever that means.Jim,The meaning seems clear to me. "Defending society" in this context is keeping a person who has committed a serious crime from continuing to commit additional crimes of the same nature. I do not think it can be stretched to cover such things as deterrence.

"It is about Robert George trying to influence the pro-life movement and to present a certain image of the pro-life movement to those not in it."I apologize, I was confused. You are making an ad hominem argument about Prof. George and the "pro-life movement". I mistakenly thought you were concerned about the execution of the now decaseed Mr. Threadgill or the 10 other criminals on the schedule to be executed thorugh July in Texas.

I fear that this discussion is circling back to comments that have been made many times before. To look for new ideas, let's see what Cdl Bergoglio said on the subject. He related the two subjects:http://www.lifenews.com/2013/03/13/new-pope-francis-called-abortion-the-...He once called abortion a death sentence for unborn children, during a 2007 speech and likening opposition to abortion to opposition to the death penalty.

I wrote, regarding abortion and the death penalty, "Theyre not morally equivalent." David replied, "They may not be morally equivalent, but certainly they are morally related."It seems to me the extent of their overlap is that a human being is killed in each case. At the risk of stating the obvious: that's an important commonality, and not one to lightly be set aside. At the same time, we shouldn't let this commonality overshadow the moral differences between the two, which seem substantial. Abortion always involves killing a human being who is innocent, who is being killed for reasons unrelated to his/her agency, and whose death has been decided for reasons that we deem personal and private (to the mom). It is never a just outcome.The death penalty, at least as it is practiced in the US, is thought to involve killing a human being who is guilty of a heinous crime, who is being killed for crimes that resulted from his/her agency, and is being killed in order to achieve justice, and after a process that is public and involves the extension of numerous rights to the convict and only after several layers of additional scrutiny. It is always a just outcome (to the extent that humans can reasonably ensure just outcomes).

Jim, what you say about the death penalty being just is your opinion, but it does not match JP2's encyclical - your reasons have nothing to do with his exception, namely, the defense of society when it has a dysfunctional penal system. But I'm not one to claim that you should follow an encyclical when it doesn't make sense to you. But, setting aside JP2 for the moment, I also think that, factually, it is incorrect to say that the death penalty is "always a just outcome". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful_execution

You are making an ad hominem argument about Prof. George and the pro-life movement. MAT,I find Robert George to be a very political person, and to a certain extent, I think his call for mercy for Gosnell was political (in a broad sense). As I said above, I think it is a little disingenuous to appeal for mercy for Gosnell when he is not in fact in any danger. However, on balance, in this case I think George is doing a good thing. So I am not making an "ad hominem" argument against George, or an argument against the pro-life movement.

It is always a just outcome (to the extent that humans can reasonably ensure just outcomes).Jim, So you disagree with Pope John Paul II? In 2012 in the United States, 43 people were executed. Was there no other way to protect society from these people than to kill them? I simply don't believe that. You are disagreeing with Pope John Paul II, at least as I understand him. Of course, I disagree with the Church and the recent popes on any number of issues, and I also think that "orthodox" Catholics have a right to disagree, at least where no dogma is concerned. I do not think John Paul II is right on the death penalty because he is the pope and papal encyclicals are authoritative. I think he was right because he agrees with me!

I think abortion and the death penalty are morally equivalent.I think trying to make a distinction between an innocent life and a not-innocent one is bogus.The Ten Commandments say:Thou Shalt Not Kill". That is an absolute. I understand the idea of necessity; when taking a life is the only way to protect another life. I don't think it comes into play in any way in capital cases in the US.

Claire and David - I don't know that I am disagreeing with JP II in the argument I've made here, but I am approaching the death penalty from a different point of view. JP II, in EV, refers to the death penalty as a "problem". By this term, I believe he refers to the conflict or contradiction that our conversation is bringing to the surface: from one point of view (the "culture of death" POV he advocates in EV), human life is sacred, and so there should be very few circumstances in which it can be taken. But from another point of view, some crimes are so horrible that no lesser punishment can adequately address the disorder and restore the disorder to communities and societies that the crimes have inflicted upon them. He solves the "problem" by favoring the culture-of-death approach. I don't really have an issue with that; but it's helpful to understand how he came to where he arrived, and where it may take us in the future.

But from another point of view, some crimes are so horrible that no lesser punishment can adequately address the disorder and restore the disorder to communities and societies that the crimes have inflicted upon them.Jim,It seems to me that is exactly what John Paul II is rejecting.

Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

Texas has executed Texas 495 people since 1976, 3 so far this year, 15 in 2012, 13 in 2011,and 17 in 2010. That is not "very rare, if not practically non-existent." I have heard people argue that with a population of 26 million, 10 or 15 executions a year can be considered "very rare." I am quite sure JPII would not agree with that reasoning. You certainly couldn't make that argument about something like lynching.

Jim, I don't think you can take a single word from JP2's encyclical, "problem", and comment on it alone. The context, I believe, (as quoted by David), shows that your POV is in disagreement with JP2. Why does it bother you so much to be in disagreement with him anyway? Plenty of people agree with you, and your reasoning is very natural for humans.

In fact let me quote the entirety of paragraphs 55 and 56 of Evangelium Vitae, so that it's crystal clear. (Again, I do not find it objectionable that you would disagree with it, but I wish you recognized that you are in disagreement with it!)http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_.... This should not cause surprise: to kill a human being, in whom the image of God is present, is a particularly serious sin. Only God is the master of life! Yet from the beginning, faced with the many and often tragic cases which occur in the life of individuals and society, Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what God's commandment prohibits and prescribes. 43 There are in fact situations in which values proposed by God's Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defence, in which the right to protect one's own life and the duty not to harm someone else's life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defence. The demanding commandment of love of neighbour, set forth in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the basis of comparison: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself " (Mk 12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defence out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.Moreover, "legitimate defence can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life, the common good of the family or of the State".44 Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason. 45 56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is "to redress the disorder caused by the offence".46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 47It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person".48

Claire - I admit that it does bother me to disagree with JP II, just as I know, from talking with people who do hospital ministry, that it bothers them to disagree with another controversial thing he taught: that hydration and nutrition are always to be considered ordinary (rather than extraordinary) care. I see his view on the death penalty as propounded in EV as a parallel case: a rather unilateral exercise in his teaching office that reverses a long and generally-accepted tradition in Catholic moral thought and that has not been "received" by a substantial group of the faithful charged with living and breathing these teachings and actually making them "real" on the ground. In the case of the hydration-and-nutrition rule, those are the pastoral ministers in healthcare that counsel patients, families and healthcare workers; in the case of the death penalty, it is prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials, legislators and citizens.In the case of this death-penalty teaching, my view is that it has been pretty carefully considered by those stakeholders, and they don't find the reasoning or the conclusion persuasive. That is not to say that JP II is wrong; but it does mean that the conversation continues.Let me add that I'm not a huge proponent of the death penalty. I accept to at least some extent the view that we have, if not a full-blown culture of death, at least a culture whose fabric is is marred by threads of death. (This description of contemporary culture as a "culture of death" is another statement by JP II that I know a number of pastoral workers disagree with, as it seems to gloss over the many life-giving things in our culture). I don't want to see Gosnell executed, and if the death penalty were abolished in all fifty states, I'd be ecstatic. I certainly agree that the risk of the death penalty being misapplied is too large to ignore. But as I've tried to explain here, I think the equivalence of abortion to the death penalty is a superficial and even false equivalence, and I don't think it's indefensible that a Catholic can simultaneously oppose abortion and support at least some applications of the death penalty - and in fact, I think it's a thoroughly respectable Catholic position that doesn't even contradict EV.And to push back just a bit to my liberal friends here: what I do find extremely problematic is to simultaneously *approve of* abortion and *oppose* the death penalty in all cases. And that's pretty much the views of large segments of the Democratic Party.

I stand 100% with Professor Robert George. Pro-life is as much (or more) about the right for every soul to have eternal life as it is about human life. God wishes every soul saved, period. To cut short the life of anyone, be it a person of great evil like Gosnell or an end-stage cancer patient, is to deny that person the full mercy and grace (often for repentance) willed by God. The reality is, abortionists like Gosnell get a lot of prayers said for them, and converting isn't as far fetched as some might think. One of the best articles IMO, ever written on that subject was also by Robert George, on the conversion of abortionist Bernard Nathinson, who went on to be one of the greatest defenders of life in America. Truly, this is a great read, regardless of anyone's politics on abortion or the death penalty.http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/02/2806/Paul Moses I wasn't aware of the Mother Teresa connection with the SCOTUS. Thank you the reference and the opportunity to have this much needed discussion.May we all have the grace to recognize the value of every human life, here and for all eternity.

I think the equivalence of abortion to the death penalty is a superficial and even false equivalenceI actually also think that those are not equivalent, because the death penalty is always applied to a person, while abortion, in the early stages, is applied to what I would call a potential person - not yet a person. But, like you, I also find it illogical to approve abortion even in egregious cases (say, at or near the limit of viability outside the womb) while opposing the death penalty in all cases.

while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.But if nothing concentrates the mind like the idea one will be hanged in a fortnight, isnt it possible the death penalty offers the offender the best incentive? Im not sure Blessed JPII fully considered that. What if the longer we live the more we have a chance to fall away?

while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.This is all well and good but it doesn't do a damned thing about the requirements of justice.

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