Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lisa Miller in Washington Post Accuses Justice Scalia of Cherry Picking His Catholic Faith - A Response

Lisa Miller wrote an Op-Ed on Justice Scalia and State Execution today at Justice Scalia speaks for himself on death penalty, not the Catholic Church

She ends her piece with rather a strong charge . She says:

...That’s fine with me. I don’t want a justice sitting on the Supreme Court who submits blindly to religious authority or who holds his religion above the laws of the land. So keep your job, Justice Scalia. Just don’t pretend your church approves of the death penalty. Or that you aren’t like most people of faith, cherry-picking the teachings of your church that suit you best.

Now I am not discounting the Church's views on State Execution in the modern era. I think too many Catholics go "oh well its not dogma and I can disagree" without giving the Church's teaching here anything close to sufficient reflection. That is a problem.

However for most of his life the now just deceased Archbishop Hannon had Scalia's views until he took a more modern John Paul II view of it in the very final years of his life. No one accused Hannan of "cherry picking". Further as the late Cardinal Dulles pointed out Catholics do have some leeway here. Now again too many Catholics do not even engage the Church's views and that is not being a good Catholic in my view.

Still I don't think Lisa Miller is paying attention. This is key to the Scalia controversy over execution:
“If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign,” he told an audience at Duquesne University Law School last month. “I could not be part of a system that imposes it.”

Now what does he mean by immoral. There is no doubt that Justice Scalia has to impose judgments all the time that he might think is immoral. I suspect Scalia finds PORN very immoral but he has to uphold laws or strike down laws that violate the Constitutional protections that surround porn in many cases. I suspect that he might have to uphold prison sentences that as to the crime is excessive and he might think is immoral. Scalia is already on record that he thinks the Fed Govt cannot do much about Abortion and it is a matter of the states. Thus we see Scalia , in his own words, most likely having to uphold some State laws on abortion that perhaps some Fed Legislation might want to change. I could go on and on about Judges having to apply law they think is immoral. It happens all the time.

I think he when he says "machinery of death" it is something akin to being involved in an abortion. It is a mortal sin and indeed by Canon law one is excommunicated if one participates in an abortion. That means being the person having it, the person that helps pays for it, the nurses involved, the doctor, and heck maybe the person that drives the woman to the clinic. It is an intrinsic evil.

As to State execution I have never heard at all that the Church demands you even go to confession if you are the Judge , juror, DA, or even the guy that pushes the button to start the death drugs to start flowing as to the machinery of death. Now maybe you should if after you have examined your conscious if that is where God is leading you. But we can see a difference.

It's clear that Scalia is not saying he would resign if he had to validate immoral laws from the examples I show above. Again I think he is seeing this through the prism of the abortion example I gave.


Claudio said...

I think a lot of good orthodox Catholics have given sufficient reflection on the latest teachings on the death penalty and the problem is that this latest teaching is incomplete. Most would agree and I include myself in that group that the death penalty is no longer needed as a mechanism to protect society from a criminal like a murderer. However that was not the only reason that murderers were executed in the past. The death penalty was also used as the approrpiate punishment for crimes like murder. Is this no longer a valid reason? Either the death penalty is a valid form of punishment or its not and this can not change. The Magesiterium needs to come out with an authoritive document and either state that it was never a valid reason or it needs to confirm that it is a valid form of punishment and then explain when it can be applied.

bill bannon said...

   One can over do the "religious submission of mind and will" due to the Pope in the non infallible area.  Germain Grisez's moral theology tome "Christian Moral Principles" states exceptions to Lumen Gentium 25's submission of mind and will on pages 853 onwards as do other moral theology tomes that few read....and almost no converts know about.
    John Paul II had two moral theology mistakes and you can easily test it.  He had the identical pattern on two topics: wifely obedience and the death penalty.  In both he lets the scripture verses which refute him....drop out of sight.  Read Evangelium Vitae and you'll see that he never once mentions Romans 13:4 which was classic for Aquinas on the topic of the death penalty and war.  John Paul cites repeatedly the half of Genesis 9:6 that he likes: "man is made in the image of God".  And he never once shows the reader the half he didn't like: " if any man sheds the blood of man, by man will his blood be shed."
     The result is that a Pope wrote on the death penalty while effectively hiding the two classic verses on it.
     Go to both TOB and "Dignity of Women" on wifely obedience.  John Paul loves one phrase in Ephesians..."be subject to one another" so he cites it and lets 5 other passages drop out of your sight because they simply say.."wives obey your husbands" in one form or other  ( I Cor.11:3/ Col.3:18/ ITim.2:11-12/Titus2:5/ I Peter 3:1).  The result was that his theory that both spouses must be subjecting themselves always in every decision to each other...removed husband headship from the place Pius XI gave it in section 74 of casti connubii in the most trenchant of terms.  The real result is that the catechism has nothing on the topic despite the Holy Spirit wanting it six times in the NT.  And the Church in an age of divorce is silent on wives obeying husbands.  Sorry folks.  That is not normal nor is it normal that the catechism affirms the death penalty but pretends that only in modern life are prisons secure for life sentences that make the death penalty unnecessary.
Prisons in past centuries were more secure for life sentences in that lifers could not order murders of witnesses from a court mandated freedom of phone calls.
      John Paul goes uncritically followed into mistakes because writing careers and clergy careers rise and fall on the degree of one's docility to everything a Pope says.  The problem with that is that it means the same docile writers and clergy would have followed the heretic burning Popes of 1253 AD and afterwards....Popes who had an opposite view of the death penalty.