Thursday, May 7, 2015

Virginia Bishops: Focus on End to Death Penalty -Mirror of Justice

Kevin Walsh - the Richmond law professor and Antonin Scalia acolyte - has commended the Viriginia Catholic Bishops call to end the death penalty in the former Confederate capital which executed John Brown for treason against the State.
Contrary to Justice Samuel Alito's recent lament that the challenges to lethal injection are a sort of liberal"guerilla war" not to be taken at face value, Walsh welcomes the debate as one that may bring an end to executions.  An adherent to the free market  limited government gospel, Walsh is also an exemplar of the conservative trend away from mass incarceration and retributive justice. See for example Right on Crime.
But likely more important to Walsh is the Catholic catechism which declares that
2266  Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.672267 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."
- gwc

Virginia Bishops Call for End to Death Penalty
by Kevin C. Walsh

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo (Richmond) and Bishop Paul S. Loverde (Alexandria) have issued a statement seeking to shift away from discussing methods of execution in Virginia to discussing the end of executions in Virginia. 
" [I]n Virginia and elsewhere," they write, "we are having the wrong debate. We should no longer debate which inmates we execute or how we execute them. Instead, we should debate this: If all human lives are sacred and if a civilized society such as ours can seek redress and protect itself by means other than taking a human life, why are we continuing to execute people?"
I agree that there is something missing from a debate that focuses on means to the exclusion of ends. But rather than abandon the debate on means, I incline more towards a both/and approach that debates both ends and means. Because lethal injection cannot be carried out properly, we should not be using lethal injection on anyone ... which leads to the question why we should be trying so hard to execute anyone at all.
Because the best way to enter the debate the bishops seek to have on capital punishment itself may be first to _win_ the debate on lethal injection as a means, the method-of-execution debate remains one worth having.

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