The Catholic Church has in recent decades been associated with opposition to the death penalty. It was not always so. This timely work recovers, and calls for a revival of, the Catholic tradition of support for capital punishment. Drawing upon a wealth of philosophical, scriptural, theological, and social scientific arguments, the authors show that it is the perennial and irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate -not only to protect society from immediate physical danger, but also for purposes such as retributive justice and deterrence. They show that the recent statements of churchmen in opposition to the death penalty are merely "prudential judgments" with which faithful Catholics are not obliged to agree. They also show that the prudential grounds for opposition to capital punishment offered by Catholics and others in recent years are without force.
The extreme statements made by some Catholics in opposition to the death penalty do grave harm to the Church by falsely suggesting a rupture in her traditional teaching, thereby inadvertently casting doubt on the reliability of the Magisterium. And they do grave harm to society by removing a key component of any system of criminal justice which can protect the lives of the innocent, inculcate a horror of murder, and affirm the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures who must be held responsible for their actions.
By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed is a challenge to contemporary Catholics to move beyond simple-minded sloganeering to a serious engagement with scripture, tradition, natural law, and the actual social scientific evidence, and a faithful exercise of the "hermeneutic of continuity" called for by Pope Benedict XVI.
"Based primarily on the natural law, this excellent and much-needed book will be valuable to Catholics and readers of any faith who ask why capital punishment is justified."
— J. Budziszewski, Ph.D., University of Texas
"At long last, we have a serious and intelligent look at all aspects of the death penalty —its causes, its justification, its consequences for the victim, the criminal himself, and for civil society."
— James V. Schall, S. J., Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University
"An illuminating study of a subject often clouded by emotions. An essential read for anyone who wants to understand this thorny subject."
— Robert Royal, President, Faith and Reason Institute
"The arguments in this book have clarified many of the contentions of this critical issue in my mind."
— Fr. Robert A. Sirico, President, The Acton Institute
Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. Called by National Review "one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy," he is the author of The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Aquinas, Scholastic Metaphysics, and many other books and articles.
Joseph Bessette is a Professor of Government and Ethics at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in Southern California, and also teaches in the Dept. of Politics and Policy at the Claremont Graduate University. He has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. Prior to arriving at CMC, Bessette worked nine years in criminal justice.
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