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Q&A  June AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

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Capital Punishment?

Thapovanam, Shelter of Hope, Kerala, India

The Sacred Heart of Jesus


Our Lady of the Rosary
Capital Punishment?

    This June [15th-16th] the Pope also will play a central role in the Vatican’s annual celebration of the Gospel of Life—[Evangelium vitæ], the papal teaching published by Pope John Paul II in 1995 ([1]

    Question:    A friend told me that the Catholic Church forbids capital punishment along with things like murder and abortion.  Is this true?

    Answer:  Saint Thomas tells us:

    Now every part is directed to the whole, as imperfect to perfect, wherefore every part is naturally for the sake of the whole. For this reason we observe that if the health of the whole body demands the excision of a member, through its being decayed or infectious to the other members, it will be both praiseworthy and advantageous to have it cut away. Now every individual person is compared to the whole community, as part to whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6).[2]

The death penalty has its origin in the Book of Genesis, chapter nine:

[5] For I will require the blood of your lives at the hand of every beast, and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man, and of his brother, will I require the life of man.  [6] Whosoever shall shed man' s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.[3]

The Old Testament lists a considerable number of capital crimes:

Capital Crimes Under the Mosaic Law

Murder:  Genesis ix: 5-6;  Exodus xxi: 12-15.
Kidnapping:  Exodus xxi 16;  Deuteronomy xxiv: 7
Cursing one's parents:  Exodus xxi: 17;  Leviticus xx: 9; 
Negligence controlling a dangerous animal:  Exodus xxi: 29.
Sorcery:  Exodus xxii: 18;   Leviticus xx: 27
Bestiality:  Exodus xxii: 19;  Leviticus xviii: 23;  xx:15-16
Worship of false gods:  Exodus xxii: 20
Enticement to false gods:  Deuteronomy xiii: 6-16
Affliction of widows or orphans:   Exodus xxii: 21-23.
Offering children to Moloch:  Leviticus xx: 2.
Adultery:   Leviticus xx: 10;  Deuteronomy xxii: 22-27.
Incest:  Leviticus xviii: 6-18;  xx: 11-12, 14
Sodomy:   Leviticus xviii: 22;  xx: 13
Blasphemy:   Leviticus xxiv: 14-16
Mediums, fortunetellers:  Leviticus xx: 27.
False prophecy:  Deuteronomy xiii: 5-6;

    While the biblical list above is prescriptive, we do have the example of our Lord granting mercy to the woman caught in adultery.[5]  Under the Christian dispensation it is not necessary for society to exact the death penalty in all of the cases listed.  With contrition there is room for mercy, particularly with those violations which make no lasting physical harm.

    Some of the confusion about the Church’s approval of the death penalty comes from the general liberalism associated with Modernist clergy—they seem to oppose anything that might benefit society.

    Some of the confusion arises from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitæ (EV), wherein he quotes Genesis 9 twice, both times omitting the parts that refer to the killing of the man who sheds human blood.[6]

    Some of the confusion arose with the 1994 print edition of the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) which, in 2266, acknowledged “in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty” and then continued:

    2267  If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons’ public authority should 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

    The on-line version of the same Catechism (somewhat different from the print edition, and perhaps incorporating the thought of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitæ) says:

    2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, 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.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56).[7]

    There is, as usual, no mention of how “the state” is to pay for “the possibilities” that it “has for effectively preventing crime....”  Nor what happens when those “possibilities” fail and the criminal is freed to commit capital crimes once again.  As usual, the state is thought of as a sort of magical, all-knowing abstraction, with an infinite money supply.  It seems not to be considered that the state and its bureaucracy consumes the goods of the productive and devalues the money of everyone—taking a particularly large toll on the poor.

    Human life is precious, and later on (para. 57) in Evangelium vitæ, John Paul does make the distinction of “innocent human life, and that which is not so innocent.  But at what price must society keep alive those with no respect for human life.  Must the innocent bear the costs of housing, feeding, clothing, and guarding the guilty?  For 20 years?  For 50 years?  For the damage done if the guilty one escapes and kills again, or kills in prison?  And how high a standard of living must the innocent provide for the guilty?  If the state has all this money floating around, do not the relatives and dependents of the murder victim have a superior claim on it?  No one even suggests that the perpetrator be worked hard enough to cover his own expenses, let alone to make restitution! Most likely, even if it were possible, that would no doubt be called “cruel and unusual punishment”!

    “Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense,” we are told by the Pope, quoting the Catechism.[8]  But is this ever true?  Even for lesser crimes than murder, the disorder is not remedied by putting the criminal in jail or in the electric chair.  Even restitution (where it is possible) does not fully redress the disorder caused.  The idea of the criminal accepting punishment as a “joyful penance” for his sins is naive in the extreme.  The primary aim of punishment is to make criminals afraid to commit crimes.  It is said (perhaps in jest) that Hong Kong had an epidemic of purse snatching—that is, it had a problem right up until the first public hanging of a purse snatcher.

    The secondary aim of punishment is the taking of criminals out of circulation so that they cannot commit crimes again, even if they are unafraid of punishment.  But again, one must ask why the law abiding must pay for maintaining the criminals in jail.

    So, having said all of that, “It the death penalty something to be exercised in Christian society?  The quote given above from the CCC starts out “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined....” The problem is that in America, our corrupt society has progressively taken away the rights of due process and made it easier for an innocent person to be railroaded into conviction.  In recent years it has been asserted that the government has the right to indefinitely detain a person without charges being filed and without right to legal counsel.  It has even been asserted that the government has the right to assassinate such people.  Even when someone is brought to court, prosecutors and judges have the ability to censor the evidence presented to the jury.  As disturbing as an audit might be, it is naive to think that the IRS is the only agency used by the regime against its enemies.

    Yes, the Church permits the use of the death penalty.  But it must be absolutely sure that the due process of law be applied in each case, so that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined....”  And, in America, this due process cannot be expected in regimes that routinely violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    One may find the same corruption, even in State and County courts.  The citizen must be informed and ask questions—particularly when called to serve on a jury.  If there is evidence that due process is not being administered the Christian juror cannot vote for conviction.  Indeed, it is a mystery how any honest person can vote for conviction of any crime if he knows that due process has not been followed.

Our Lady of the Rosary

Your Help is Needed

Thapovanam, Shelter of Hope, Kerala, India

    Thapovanam is a charitable rehabilitation home of the Diocese of Bathery that provides medical treatment, care and security, without discrimination of caste or creed, to those women, children and men long-suffering with mental illness who cannot properly be cared for in their homes.  This institution also gives similar care to mentally ill and poor who live on the streets. The director and the volunteers fulfill the words of Christ “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  Bishop Joseph Mar Thomas is the home’s sponsor.[9]  Mar Thomas is the spiritual advisor of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (O.S.J.), with which our diocese is associated.

    The Order of Saint John is one of the military orders of the Church, dating back to the time of the Crusades.[10]

    If you are able to make a contribution to this work, Father will see to it that it gets to Bishop Mar Thomas, and that it is recorded with your annual contributions to the church.  Just be sure your contribution is clearly marked on your check or collection envelope.

Bishop Euler, Archbishop Humphreys, Bishop Mar Thomas, and Father Brusca
at the Order of Saint John Commandery in Jupiter



From the Sermons of St Bernard, Abbot
3rd sermon, on the Lord’s Passion.

    Now that we have once reached the Heart of Jesus, that Heart of exceeding sweetness, and know how that “it is good for us to be here,” let us never again suffer ourselves to be torn away from Him concerning Whom it is written “They that depart from thee shall be written in the earth.”  But what portion is theirs that draw nigh unto thee, Thou thyself, O Lord, dost tell us, for Thou hast said unto such “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”  Unto thee therefore let us draw nigh “we will be glad and rejoice in thee” when “we remember thine" Heart. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is to dwell in” this Heart!  Yea, let me cast away all things, all my thoughts, and all my feelings, let me cast them all away, and let me “cast all my care” upon the Heart of the Lord Jesus “and He shall sustain me.”

    Toward this Temple, toward this Holy of Holies, towards this Ark of the covenant, “will I worship and praise thy Name,” saying with David,” thy servant hath found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.”  And I have found the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of my King, my Brother, and my tender Friend.  And am I not to worship yea, O Jesus most sweet, now that I have found this Heart, Which is both thine and mine, I will worship thee, O my God.  And, O, do Thou graciously let my supplication enter into that Sanctuary of mercy Draw me altogether into that Heart of thine O Jesus, in the Perfection of thy beauty fairer than the children of men, wash Thou me  “thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,” that, being made pure by thee, I may be able to come unto thee, Who art thyself most Pure, and that I may be meet” to dwell in thy Heart  all the days of my life, to behold” thee, and to be strong to do thy will.

    To this end was thy Side pierced, that we might find a wide entrance there. To this end was thine Heart wounded, that we might be able to dwell in It and in thee, “hidden in the secret of thy presence from the troubling of men.” . Nevertheless, It was pierced to this end also, that behind that Bodily Wound which we see, we may perceive that wound of love which is not bodily. And how could that love be more strikingly shown than it is by Him Who has given, not only His Body, but His very Heart, to be pierced for us.  The bodily wound shows the spiritual.  Who is there that would not love that wounded Heart?  Who would not return love for love to Him that has loved so well Who would not embrace Him Who stands so pure? While, therefore, we yet linger here in this body, let us love and love again Him Who has first loved us.  Let us lay hold on that Wounded One, Wounded for us, Whose Hands and Feet, Whose Side and Heart, the wicked husbandmen have so pierced.  Let us stand waiting till He be pleased to constrain with the bond, and pierce with the spear, of His love, these hearts of ours that still are so hard and unrepentant.

    The Supreme Pontiff Clement XIII., to the end that Christ's faithful people might in still more godly and earnest sort call to mind, and more readily drink in the fruits of, the wondrous love of Him Who suffered for us, Who laid down His life for the redemption of man, and who hath instituted the Sacrament of His Own Body and Blood for a continual showing forth of His death, of which love His Most Sacred Heart is an embodiment, granted the prayer of certain Churches, which desired to observe a Festival in honor of the said Most Sacred Heart.  This Feast Pius IX. extended to the whole Church, and at length the Supreme Pontiff, Leo XIII., in accordance with the wishes of the whole Catholic world, raised it to the rank of a Double of the First Class.


Homily by St Augustine, Bishop
Tract XII on John.

    “But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water.”  The Evangelist speaks carefully. He says not that he smote the side, nor yet that he wounded it, nor yet anything else, but “pierced” it—to fling wide the entrance unto life, from which place flow the Sacraments of the Church, those Sacraments without which there is no entrance unto the life which is life indeed.  That blood which was shed there was shed for the remission of sins, that water is the water that fills the cup of salvation.  Therein are we washed and thereof do we drink.  Of this was it a type when it was said unto Noe: “The door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof.. and of every living thing of all flesh shalt thou bring into the ark... that they may live” –a type of the Church.


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