The killing of the enemy: reflections on the death penalty and related matters

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KILLING THE ENEMY: REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH PENALTY AND ISSUES ANNESSE

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One might also ask if it was the case that the question of the death penalty had entered the Catechism, whose job is not to provide a solution to practical problems quota, but to teach the unchanging truths of faith. Anyway, happily welcome the decision of the Holy Father, which, with this gesture, if he does not exercise his ministry as teacher of the faith, however, in the full exercise of his pastoral authority, and precisely the power of the keys

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Author
John Cavalcoli, o.p.

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the imaginative and questionable pseudo-historical film In the Name of the Pope King, played by the great Nino Manfredi, Where does the story fictionalized terrorists Giuseppe Monti and Gaetano Tognetti

I join with my contribution the intervention of the Father Ariel [cf. WHO], on which are substantially agree, adding other topics and presenting some annexes.

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There is a book that on the issue of the murder seems paradoxical. No book like this enhances the dignity, the inviolability and sanctity of human life. And yet, while, none like this admits the lawfulness of murder in the name of God: war, invasions, massacres, punishments, death sentences, law of retaliation, tyrannicides, killing unjust aggressors. And this book is the Bible. The biblical law boycott Cherem was the total destruction of the enemy defeated that we can find news in the Book of Deuteronomy [cf. Dt 20, 10-20] and it is presented in the Bible as divine precept, so much so that Saul was punished by God for not doing the Cherem [And I 15, 9] after God had ordered him to "kill the people of Amalek" and:

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"Not give way to compassion for him, but slay both man and women, Children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys " [And I 15, 3].

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It can be said that the ethics of the Bible is an ethics of life. The good is that which promotes life; evil and sin are what offends or off. Hence the commandment not to kill:

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"You have heard what was said to your ancestors: do not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment " [Is 20, 13].

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At the same time, however, there are degrees of life: from that infima, vegetable, to climb, through animal life, to the human, all white angelica, the divine life. But the command "Thou shalt not kill" is not worth the same for all grades of life. The intra-human life can be sacrificed to the human. Already in Eden God authorizes the first married couple to use plants and animals to obtain food.

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As for the person's life, according to the Bible, his physical life, however valuable, It must be ordered to spiritual, for which Christ commands us to give up the physical life which can create hindrance to the spiritual life and the relationship with Him:

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"If your hand causes you to sin, toglila » [cf. MC 9,43].

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Photo Gallery de Alvariis – Rome, 1868: execution of the two terrorists Gaetano Monti and Giuseppe Tognetti

The physical life of the individual must be at the service of common good, that is, the life of the community, so if it happens that the individual, with his criminal conduct, endanger the good of society, this, according to Scripture, It can get rid of the death penalty from this dangerous element.

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In the past, death penalty It served to protect society from the damage caused by criminals. Indeed, the divine commandment "Thou shalt not kill" means "do not kill the innocent", but they not necessarily forbid to kill the wicked, indeed his killing by the legitimate authority is seen as an act of justice, as it is evidenced by the examples of Scripture and the whole history of the Church.

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This is why in the past the Church has justified the death penalty and she made it her own use in the Papal States. In this regard, suffice it to recall that the death penalty was abolished by the Basic Law of the State of the Vatican City 12 February 2001, after Paul VI had made in 1967 ineffective, while without deleting. Only in 2001 It was totally erased by Motu Proprio John Paul II.

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Photo Gallery de Alvariis – Rome, 1868: execution of the two terrorists Gaetano Monti and Giuseppe Tognetti

In the old Papal States, by the 1796 to the 1870 They were made about 516 death sentences. Presiding over the court of the Holy See were ecclesiastical judges, then of course the sentences were carried out by the laity, the so-called secular arm, They were not priests, brothers and sisters to carry out the death sentences. In the State of the Church for the death penalty it was practiced until 1870. The death sentences could not be carried out without the authorization of the Roman Pontiff, who, he is wishing he could switch them to life imprisonment, in another sentence or even pardon. The first death sentence passed under the pontificate of Pius IX was in 1852 to Girolamo Simoncelli who had spotted a number of offenses: murder, attempt at insurrection, false and outrageous aggression against Giusto Recanati Bishop of Senigallia. Another resounding condemnation was that of Giuseppe Monti and Gaetano Tognetti performed in Rome in Via dei Cerchi the 24 November 1868. These two condemned today are celebrated as martyrs after being constructed such as to certain legends of the Risorgimento. In truth, the two young men were stained with the crime of murder by killing a bomb attack at the barracks of the Zouaves located at Palazzo Serristori, in the current Via della Conciliazione, Twenty-three soldiers and two civilians, seriously injuring other innocent civilians, two of whom died later life, for a total of twenty-seven victims [List of victims WHO]. Among the civilians killed Francesco Ferri and little daughter Rosa. The massacre could have been much worse, because of the three explosive charges placed in the drains of the barracks just exploded; if they were all exploded, the tragedy would have been greater. It would be even with the explosion of a single charge, if most of the Zouaves were not released for reasons of service to Porta San Paolo, In fact, the Zouaves died in the attack were almost all the members of the band.

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Photo Gallery de Alvariis – Rome, 1868: execution of the two terrorists Gaetano Monti and Giuseppe Tognetti

A Pius IX was advanced pledge of grace, but he was forced to reject it not to irritate the families of many victims, but also not irritate the Roman population, which he had been deeply touched by the death of a child Rosa Ferri. The two terrorists, during a year-long process, not asked for mercy; and they not asked for the reasons narrated by legend, since they have decided to deny indomitable to come to terms with the "tyrant", but because they were so impressed by the effects of their actions and the deaths that were achieved, much to see in the scaffold a form of ransom for the gesture made by them [reference is made in this regard to the report published in 1868 the journal of the Jesuits The Catholic Civilization after their execution, WHO]. After the 1870, with the unification of Italy attempted to transform these two terrorists in heroic figures of fighters against tyranny, dedicating their streets and monuments, in total disregard of the victims died as a result of the massacre perpetrated by them. The legend of two young proclaimed later "martyrs of the Italian law" moved from the late nineteenth-century literature also the contemporary filmography, especially in film In the Name of the Pope King, played by the great Nino Manfredi, in which the two terrorists were raised to the rank of "martyrs of freedom" [cf. WHO].

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The last executed under Pope Pius IX before the fall of the Papal States was Agatino Bellomo, convicted of brutal murder and guillotined in Palestrina in July 1870, two months before the fall of Rome.

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In centuries long gone the same death penalty for heretics It was imposed by the so-called secular arm State after the convictions of ecclesiastical tribunals. The State, in these ancient times that can not be analyzed with contemporary socio-political criteria, He considered a heretic as destructive civil public order. In any case, the canonists and the Fathers of the Church - see, for example, St. Thomas Aquinas [QUESTION, II-II, q.11, a.3] - they believed that the heretic deserved the death penalty, as disturbing the faith of the Church, common good of the Church and the People of God.

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The Church has the right to be at the forefront of the abolition of the death penalty, as is happening today with the Pope Francis. This clearly implies a negative judgment on past practice. This decision of the Church should not surprise, because it is based on a deeper understanding of the dignity of the person and of his own physical life.

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Today the Church believes that the company can defend itself from the delinquent even without recourse to the death penalty. While incarceration may give hope to the prisoner to escape, it is also true that it can give you chance to repent. The death penalty can have a deterrent value, but experience teaches that not recede from their conduct certain criminals even knowing that risk of execution.

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Photo Gallery de Alvariis – Rome, 1867: the barracks of Zouaves in Palazzo Serristori atentato after the bombing of the two terrorists Gaetano Monti and Giuseppe Tognetti

This change of judgment Church about the death penalty is a better understanding of the absoluteness of the "do not kill" commandment, even if it was respected, although less perfectly, also from the previous conception. This judgment makes changing even better apply the evangelical commandment of love for the enemy, while in the past the Church was less willing to tolerate his enemies, and to consider its positive aspects and also it was easier to consider them guilty and more reluctant to admit extenuating circumstances or excuses the guilty. It was less feared mistrial, because unless we realized the complexity of the problem of having to judge a man when criminal law.

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The noble example of the martyr that, in the footsteps of Christ, while it is able to defend, lets kill the pursuer, It can not be built in a common rule of conduct, but it constitutes the heroic witness of a special gift of the Holy Spirit, not at all granted. It would give a sign of an intolerable demands rigor to lower a common rule that is only a privilege of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the heroism of the mother, who prefers to die to give birth to son, she in those tragic circumstances could have an abortion, It is not to be taken as a general rule without risking groped God.

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We must however distinguish the legitimate punishment by the action of the criminal coercive aimed at neutralizing an unjust personal assault or collective. Precisely because human life is sacred, must be defended, if required, also with the use of force, with the opponent's suppression. So it is lawful to the jeweler threatened by an armed thug, kill him before he does fire. It is permissible for a guardian of the order to kill a terrorist caught in the act of terrorism and crime it is going to make a killing. It is lawful for a soldier to kill the enemy of the country.

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Gaetano Tognetti Tombstone gravestone at the cemetery of Verano

Here is the solution apparent paradox of Scripture, which connects the command not to kill the murder legitimacy for cause, Whether self-defense or just war. As for the injustice aggressor, although it is a person, However, with its aggression it loses its right to existence, not as a person, but as harmful agent. The essential thing is to make it harmless. If to achieve this end, you can leave it in life, well; otherwise it must kill. In fact has reason for being the good life, not that evil. This is why in the Bible God destroys the wicked, thing to be understood not in the sense that God nullifies them, but in the sense that punish them eternally. The Bible, therefore, distinguishes murder from executed, just war by unjust war. Murder is a crime: suppress those who have a right to exist, for example, the abort; is executed act of justice, although it involves the removal of a man. Just War is one that defends the homeland and all its subsidiaries by the attacker. War is unjust aggression to another people. Consider unjust in itself every war is hypocritical fraud pacifists, who then they are the first to hate those who contradict them.

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The Church in the past believed that the physical existence of the person is not an absolute right, but it is conditioned by his conduct. The criminal lost this right, He is its harmful to society life. The Church, other parte, he cared especially the eternal salvation of the offender. For this to those sentenced to death he was assured religious assistance. The you could open the gates of heaven. Today the Church thinks differently. It gives more importance to the physical life of the offender and less importance to the damage he does to the society. Difficult to determine whether it was better before or is it better now. Anyhow, to be good Catholics, just stay with that.

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The Church does not intend to impose on Member waiving the death penalty, as if it were an absolute or a natural law requirement, but as a precautionary measure that may allow exceptions in cases serious. After all, it is a positive legal ground, in which the state retains a legitimate autonomy, because it does not touch the universal human rights and duties inviolable, but the positive law of State responsibility. At this juncture the church may invite, it may urge; but can not prescribe.

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Judith and her husband Giuseppe Tavani Arquati died in a clash with the Papal Zouaves 23 October 1867 during the raid on the premises where they were in the act of conspiracy plans with the armed forces of foreign armies and where an arsenal of guns and ammunition was stored. On the occasion of the celebrations of Italian unification it was placed this inscription. No stone has ever been placed on the barracks walls of Palazzo Serristori where twenty-seven people were killed as a result of the bombing of Giuseppe Monti and Gaetano Tognetti. Also to mark the 150th anniversary of Italy, It has confirmed the ideology meandering always in our country: there are righteous dead and unjust deaths, dead transformed into heroes, even though they were the bombers dead and doomed to eternal indifference. The Italian continues to be a people not yet able to bring down the historic peace on the winners and the losers, of those who fought a good clappers and over who induced, He forced or persuaded to be right, instead he fought an unjust battle. Italy is therefore a country where, to the test, the dead can not find peace, while the ideologues throw fuel on the fire.

Death penalty it's not a intrinsically evil such as abortion or murder innocent, my a that which was evil in the majority of, because in some very rare cases is the right punishment for serious crimes too, as was the death sentence of the Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg trial, about the execution of which it does not appear that either political, or ecclesiastical, nor the more radical pacifists, We have never raised objections. The Church, therefore, It does not impose the above waiver with the same force with which it imposes theoretical natural moral law or the rights inalienable and imprescriptible duties of the person, or absolute moral values, such as religious freedom, the dignity of marriage and the common good or the prohibition of abortion and stuff. nor, as also said the Father Ariel, the Church's decision should be seen like a doctrinal pronouncement which had the status of infallibility, irrevocability and immutability. We are in fact on the ground of dogma, but of pastoral care and the law, a plane on which the Church, as merits our respect, It is not infallible.

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It should therefore be noted that the prohibition does not belong to the natural law of death penalty, founded on divine right, immutable and binding, but of positive law, changeable and abrogabile, employee human authority, Civil and ecclesiastical. For this, Father Ariel rightly points out that, expected the current spread of corruption in society and in the Church, and considering - I might add - the prophecies and San Paolo final apostasy, we can not be so sure that does not return a situation that requires the restoration of the death penalty, albeit limited to exceptional homes, if not unique.

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The question of the death penalty is framed in the large issue of crime repression in state and Church. As for the latter, remember - just as an example - that the canon law still recognizes the existence of the crime of heresy and hits him with appropriate sanctions [can. 1364§ 1], although unfortunately often happens, for negligence and injustices authority, that heretics unpunished, whereas they are hit the faithful to the deposit of faith, Catholic doctrine and the magisterium of the Church. However, this in no way detracts common law of human justice, whose inevitable wrongs are then repaired by divine justice. The risk that we run today, as it is known to all, is not that of too severely, but it is to a misericordismo and a brand gooders roussoiana, that ignores the consequences of original sin, It opens the door to an increase in crime and corruption and discourages those who work for justice.

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One might also ask if it was the case that the question of the death penalty had entered, before and after, Catechism, whose job is not to provide a solution to practical problems quota, but to teach the unchanging truths of faith. Anyway, happily welcome the decision of the Holy Father, which, with this gesture, if he does not exercise his ministry as teacher of the faith, however, in the full exercise of his pastoral authority, and precisely the power of the keys, incarnating in history the perennial demands of the Gospel.

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Varazze, 4 August 2018

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2 thoughts on "The killing of the enemy: reflections on the death penalty and related matters

  1. El Papa has deleted omnino the need from the death penalty. Rome has spoken, Because over ? But it was not, Pope gesuita, the great champion of discernment case ?

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