Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay, and He has given the state the role of avenging the wrongs of evildoers.
Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
The state had given the state the power and authority to punish wrongdoers, including, as is clear from the sword, by death.
We do not call God a murderer when people die in natural disasters; nor is the state a murderer when it justly kills someone. God has power over life and death; and he has given that power in certain circumstances to the state.
Both Jesus and Paul recognized the authority of the Roman state, and Paul said that he did not wish to escape the death penalty if he had done anything that deserved it. The Good Thief next to Jesus admitted he was dying justly.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church still admits all this, but says that the state no longer needs to execute people to protect the innocent.
This is an error in prudential judgment.
In Baltimore many imprisoned criminals have ordered the murder of witnesses to the point that it is difficult to get witnesses to cooperate. It is impossible to seal off an imprisoned convict from the outside world.
In any case it is not within the purview of the pope or bishops to tell public authorities how to carry out their legitimate responsibilities. We are not in a theocracy. Bishops and popes, including John Paul II, protected sexual abusers from justice, and this was wrong.
And the Catechism ignores the other purpose of punishment, expiation.
The mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis by the hierarchy showed two things:
They were completely uninterested in protecting the innocent;
They had forgotten that punishment is also meant to help the criminal expiate his sin.
If we repent and accept the punishment we deserve, we can expiate our sins.
Jesus came to destroy death, yet we all die. He has changed death so that it is now an entry into eternal life.
Jesus takes away the sins of the world, but we still suffer the consequences of sin. Our willing acceptance of these consequences, including punishment, changes the meaning of the punishment. It becomes expiation.
We do not know about the stages of death. Perhaps Ben Laden was able to repent and accept his death as expiation, and a small expiation, for the evil he had done. We can also bear our sufferings to help him, and all sinners, expiate the wrong he has done.
Many years ago, Robert Bork had a very good article on capital punishment in First Things. He made similar points to what you’re saying here, and he questioned why he should take seriously the opinion of the (modern) church on a matter where they have no expertise, and apparently not even any good judgment.
The modern RCC has gone off the rails on many topics. The death penalty is one of the more obvious ones.
“If a man sheds a man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Gen. 9:6
Tony de New York
“expiation”? R u kidding me? Few Catholics knows what that word means.
Stephen E Dalton
The death penalty is needed more than ever. In Peoria, Il, where I live, there’s a shooting or a homocide, on the average of once a month. Yet, our flako governor abolished the death penalty. Where’s the justice?
One of the things that bugs me about JPII is his penchant for a “things are different now” theology.
Sure, the Bible teaches the death penalty, but things are different now. Sure, the Bible teaches male headship, but things are different now. Sure, the church has always taught that there are souls in Hell, but things are different now. Sure, praying with heretics used to be condemned, but things are different now.
Catholics love to crow about how wise the church is, how it takes the long view and can see things in terms of centuries, etc.
Don’t they see that this “it used to be that way” theology undermines everything?
For example, I just saw this on another blog.
“Actually one of the most difficult aspects of Christianity to me was the ideals of no sex before marriage et al. Honestly I really hated it and figured it made minimal sense for the modern age. In the historical context of no birth control it certainly made more sense, but not really for now. It was a factor in why I stopped believing.”
Once the church starts saying that the moral precepts of Christianity depend on changeable social circumstances, how can they argue against people making this sort of conclusion?
Only one way — a raw assertion of power. You don’t get to make those calls, you silly laymen. Only the church gets to do that.
Very few people are fooled by that sort of thing.
Speaking of going off the rails, perhaps these new documents ,212 in all sent to researchers and an abuse victim of Maciel’s, from persons within the Vatican who were disgusted by the hypocrisy amongst those in the top of the Heirarchy ,will shed light on the newly Beatified and the present Pope and just what and when they knew about the Legion of Christ’s founder.
Crowhill and Leon, I would like you to read this piece I wrote for Front Page Magazine about the Vatican’s reaction to Saddam Hussein’s execution:
I think the fundamental problem with the contemporary Church is that it has either forgotten or deliberately disregarded the fundamental principles revealed in Scripture. Instead, it has created a “god” of its own making, through abstract, esoteric theorizing (which JPII and von Balthazar embodied).
One more point: The CCC’s discussion of capital punishment, if you read it carefully, is nothing but moral gobbledygook. It’s a cover for JPII’s arbitrary, revisionist, abolishionist stance. Of course, it was written by Ratzinger/Benedict.
Father Michael Koening
JDH — it’s a good article. I don’t have the historical background to know if your analogy to the Nazi trials is accurate, but I do know that the Vatican’s recent statements on the death penalty are both un-biblical and contrary to long-held Catholic positions.
It’s somewhat amazing to me that they get away with it, and the fact that they do supports the criticism of some Protestants, that the only real standard for Catholics is the “magisterium of the moment.”
If you quote the Bible against the Vatican, they say they get to interpret the Bible. If you quote tradition against them, they say they get to interpret tradition. All you’re left with is whatever the current “magisterium” claims.
This isn’t a necessary conclusion. It would be possible for the church to hold the Vatican to a fixed standard. But it doesn’t happen in practice.
Could you clarify your position. I have always struggled with Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the death penalty, partially because of the fact that prisoners can and do escape, and when they do they may murder more innocents. Also, those in prison are members of society as well, and deserve protection from other prisoners. My understanding has always been that the Church recognizes the right of the state to execute criminals for grave crimes if there is no other way to protect society. The CCC then says that such situations occur rarely if ever–or words to that effect. Are you saying that the Church is not competent to say that the death penalty is no longer necessary? Does the Church claim that competence?
Father Michael Koening
Crowhill, just read the postings on various Catholic blogs to see evidence of “the magesterium of the moment” theology. It seems to be widespread among some of the young fans of JP II. Certainly that ties into the younger generation’s (general) lack of knowledge about, and interest in history. As well, the current “feelingism” that’s supposed to pass for rational discourse doesn’t help. I do get the sense that some of these folks would make good members of mass movements like Communism, wherein history and positions are always being changed but the rank and file aren’t supposed to notice. “Eastasia has always been at war with Oceania.”, “Comrade Stalin has always admired Chancelor Hitler.”, etc. Ironically, upon examination, no novelty in the Church has been asserted with magesterial authority. It’s enough that a Pope even expresses an idea, makes a recommendation or expresses an opinion and a whole army of Catholics think they’re obliged to give their assent. So much for rational faith.
I wish more people learned to doubt themselves, their own ideas, and “their side.”
Fr, You are on the right track.
There are the media events for popular consumption and then there is the reality behind these events whether within or outside of the institutional church structure.
Rational Faith and common sense have left the common man .Effective brainwashing as demonstrated by Maciel within the church, has been played out in the world stage too. He did not come up with these tools on his own, irregardless of what people think ,he was not that brilliant.
Fr RE:”I do get the sense that some of these folks would make good members of mass movements like Communism, wherein history and positions are always being changed but the rank and file aren’t supposed to notice.”
It was Regnum Christi that organized the youth for the Pope’s WYDs. They had the kids all excited and chanting “John Paul II ,We love you”! It was the Legion and RC people who floated the hysteria papolatry fueled boat of feeligism for the last Papacy.
Mary, that is an interesting claim. Are you saying that the worldwide personality cult surrounding JPII was largely a creation of Regnum Christi? It doesn’t seem they were big or powerful enough to pull off something like that.
Father Michael Koening
Maybe Regnum Christi embodied a spirit that was more widespread. This is afterall the age of celebrity and stardom. With his personality, training as an actor, and chisled looks, JP was perfect for the role of a superstar.
Crowhill and Fr, YES it was RC and opus dei …But RC to the larger extent and they were behind the Beatification also.
I started the first Cath home school group in my state in the late eighties and after a few years the Legion caught wind it was a solid recruitment ground for their schools.
Under the title ‘TORCH” they infiltrated divided , conquered and took over every state’s (and in Canada) Catholic home school support group. Friend’s turned against friends if they would not join, and even a priest was labeled a schismatic because he was not LC/Torch . We discovered that one full service Catholic curriculum provider recieved 11 calls in one week decrying the same exact story from home school support leaders across the country. A priest even called into complain since he was the Spiritual Director of one grass root home school group. Lists of names were taken by RC and then LC priests showed up at the homes of where they had boys. Some parents told me they were advised by these priests that their sons of only nine years old “….had vocation to the priesthood and parents should consider sending them to the LC boarding schools.”
Calls came in for WYD from RC leaders all over the country planning transportation for groups of teens. Those who went said they were instructed to scream “JPII we LOVE you.”.They chanted this incessantly.
In one case an irate father of two boys called me . He accused me of giving the Legion his phone number and address and yelled that the priests had been their twice and were calling requesting a third visit at which time he told them in no uncertain terms ,”When and if my sons feel they are called to the priesthood ,we the parents will help them decide where they will study. Do not call ot come here again”!
I had to explain to him that several Regnum Christi women held a meeting with the home school mothers of which I was unaware, and that they took the list of members and started their own group under TORCH which is one of the Regnum Christi apostolates of the Legion of Christ.
“Torch is run by the elite. The rest must obey,” said Mrs. Meyers at that last meeting which was taped. She further stated that, since a good number of the TORCH leaders are members of Regnum Christi (lay members of the Legionaires of Christ – LC), and are under personal spiritual direction of LC priests, ”
Concerning the Legion being behind the Beatification please read the following……
“Back in May the Legion had announced the creation of a study centre on the life and work of John Paul II, to push for the beatification of the pope who had protected them to such an extent. Reactivation of John Paul II’s canonization process indicated that for the Vatican the Maciel episode apparently hadn’t happened.”
I ran across this website hosted by a woman who was an RC Chapter Leader for around seven years.
Many, who were either converts or reverts to Catholicism, never realized till it was too late that the Legion and RC did not follow previous practice of what it meant to be a Catholic. They put their children in LC schools and joined the Legion.They or their children were badly hurt.Some molested physically.All molested spiritually. The articles are very informative. the comments indicate confusion and Papolatry.One voice of reason in the 135 comments seems to be that of Mary Ann.
After submitting their testimonials to the head of the CDF, Monsignore Scicluna, they are amazed that nothing really has changed even after a supposed investigation ordered by Pope Benedict himself. However, if they had taken note of documents submitted as evidence in several abuse cases , they would realize that the present Pope followed the policy of congratulating Bishops for not turning in abusive clerics to authorities, as Cardinal Ratzinger when he headed the CDF.
The ex RC and LC, praise Ratzinger for acting “quickly” as Pope in censuring Marcial.
Quickly? They blame all inaction on others who advise the Popes without realizing that thiese policies were in place in the Vatican for most of the last century.They do not seem to know the real church history which included anti popes and popes with other evil abberations. Our Faith is not based on man and the Pope is not a God.
“expiation”? R u kidding me? Few Catholics knows what that word means.
Tony, that’s exactly the problem. They should know what it means. Outside of superficial details, I have found that few lay Catholics really have an in-depth knowledge about the crucifixion’s ultimate meaning.
I don’t know what expiation means.
Either. No one here defines it, just condemns Catholics for having lost the concept.
How does it differ from reparation or restitution ?
How is expiation different from the lex talionis, eye for an eye?
We cry justice but isn’t it really vengeance?
Caroline, the lex talonis (“eye for an eye”) is not a call to vengeance but to punishment that’s proportional to the offense and that’s meted out through due process. Vengeance, by it’s very nature, is extra judicial (think about vigilante groups). If you want to study the difference biblically, read Genesis 34 as an example of vengeance and Exodus 20-23 as an example of proportional punishment. Restitution is an example of proprotional punishment. So why does God say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”? Because God — who is considered infinitely righteous, ethical, merciful and compassionate — is not bound by judicial norms because He doesn’t need to be so bound. That’s one of the meanings of divine sovereignty. Expiation means experiencing and accepting personal punishment for sin as the logical consequences of that sin.