instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, February 26, 2010

Amateur theologizing

Phillip and I are engaged in a discussion in the comments on this post on the nature of licit capital punishment. He opened with this comment:
I suspect the moral object in the death penalty is not the taking of life. Rather the moral object seems to be defense against an unjust attack.
My reply:
Yeah, except if he's still alive, they throw the switch again.
We kicked this thesis around some, and I've formulated my position thusly:
It is absolutely, utterly ludicrous to say that an executioner does not intend to execute his victim.

Someone who says so is likely engaged in the rankest of sophistry.

There remains the possibility, however, that he's just being an idiot.

But yeah: Sophist, idiot, or both. Those are the possibilities.
To expound on the possibilities: If you say the executioner does not intend to execute his victim and know it's sophistry, then you're a sophist. If you say it and don't know it's sophistry, then you're an idiot.

I gather that there are good intentions in saying such ludicrous things as "in using lethal force against a dangerous criminal, the state is justified only in using force proportionate to render him incapable of causing harm; if he dies as an consequence, his death would have to remain praeter intentionem (i.e., unintended)." After all, Evangelium Vitae does change the Church's teaching on capital punishment, and it's the job of theologians to understand the implications.

However, as I commented to Phillip, the blessed John Paul II was no sophist, so to read him as saying the executioner does not intend the death of the executed is to misread him.

I would also suggest that theologians ought to pick their heads up from time to time and actually listen to what they're saying.