there is much excitement over the "anathemas" I hurled last week concerning the execution of Saddam. Those readers with memories shorter than a fruit fly's will remember those stern anathemas, such as when I severed men's souls from the hope of the redeeming grace of God by answering the question "What did you think of the execution?" with, "I think we should listen to our Mother. Unless absolutely necessary, don't execute people. My *opinion* is that it was not absolutely necessary in the case of Saddam, but I recognize others have legit differences with that opinion. I have no problem with that."
Pretty withering self-righteousness that. If you can find something else in what I wrote that constitutes an anathema, please let me know.
I was basically referring to this:
Do I think some who supported execution were so motivated? Of course. But one need not look very far in cyberspace to find the overwhelming majority of commentary from the average pro-death penalty comboxer on your average news site to be marked, not by sober discussions of the nature of Justice according to St. Thomas, but by glee, gloating, and nakedly expressed hopes that Saddam not only die, but that he go to hell. One is hard pressed to believe that the millions of people who accessed the video of his execution did so out of a saintly desire to pray for his soul and not out of a fascination with and joy over his death. Call this what you like, but I think we kid ourselves if we believe that this is somehow furthering the mission of Christ in the world.
So, unlike most of the conservative Catholic blogosphere, I wasn't particularly bent out of shape by the Vatican press guy's denunciation of the execution. In point of fact, it did not meet the stringent prudential criteria that Evangelium Vitae gives for execution, and I'm just fine with that fact that Rome pointed that out. Many conservatives had various levels of denunciation for Rome on this. Some were disappointed. Some called the condemnation "prissy". I found myself thinking, "On the whole, I'd just as soon Rome be on the side of mercy as not." Yeah, the Vatican statement was not worded with exact theological precision. So what? At the end of the day, Rome came down on the side of not killing more people unnecessarily and I'm glad of it. Meanwhile, the conservative wing of St. Blog's tended, it seemed to me, to try to conform the Church's teaching to the national narrative rather than try to conform the national narrative to the Church's teaching. Yes, I recognize that the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral. Yes, I recognize that, in terms of strict justice, Saddam got what was coming to him and the state had the right to impose it. But I am haunted by the notion that the gospel is about more than the imposition of the bare strict minimum of what we have coming to us.
... Beyond the curious spectacle of right wing blogosphere gleefully rejoicing over the death of Saddam (I mean the whole right wing blogosphere, not St. Blogs), and the biblical quotations about justice (but not the quotations that say "I the Lord take no joy in the death of the wicked") and the earnest wishes for eternal hellfire as we celebrate the Birth of the Redeemer, my difficulties are prudential as well. From a purely practical perspective, we have achieved one thing: giving an Iraqi culture that is absolutely drunk on vengeance and reprisal one more big stiff drink. This seems to me like trying to cure an alcoholic by buying him a tavern. It will not do one damn bit of good to the Iraqis. At best it will simply be Reason #39485734985375 for yet another round of vengeance killings. But it did make a good end of year news cycle moment in a war that is increasingly sparse on good news. And Saddam will no be missed by many people. So why not?
... Much is made, as I have already pointed out, of the term "prudential judgment" in approaching what is admittedly not a dogma but more on the order of a counsel. As somebody who does not take a Minimum Daily Adult Requirement approach to the Church's teaching, I think that when Holy Mother Church says, "X is a good idea" it's generally wise to listen to Holy Mother Church even when she does not preface it with "We declare, pronounce, and define..."
Some Catholics are fine with this. The reasons for this vary. Some already oppose the death penalty on other grounds and, in fact, go further than the Church by trying to say the Church errs in permitting it at all. I think they are wrong both for theological reasons (i.e. Scripture clearly permits it at times) and for practical reasons (sometimes people just need killing for the common good). Some agree with the Church's teaching as it is laid out in Evangelium Vitae.
But some, at the end of the day, are very uncomfortable with the Church's teaching. And some flatly reject it. Indeed, some even lie about it and try to claim that it is a rejection of and a contradiction to previous Church teaching. Some declare JPII a heretic and routinely label any bishop who articulates the Church's teaching a Euro-weenie, a liberal, etc. The usual reactionary blah blah.
This was what I was intending to reference when I wrote "thus have missed Mark's latest anathema sits against all of St. Blogs and the entire conservative blogosphere for disagreeing with him over the issue of Saddam's execution and the death penalty in general." I intended to use anathema sit as a term of hyperbole rather than theological percision and in particular I strongly object to his characterization that the conservative wing of St. Blogs is motivated purely by politics in their desire to part ways with Rome on the need to execute Saddam Hussein. When added with his second post that seemed to indicate that those that parted ways with him on this were only engaging in what he terms "a Minimum Daily Adult Requirement approach to the Church's teaching," (and that certainly seemed to me to be what he was saying) I took issue with that and thought that it was worth it to note it.
Also, in both his comment here and the blog entry, Mark has referred to me as "Chris." I have no idea who this is intended to be, but if he thinks he has learned my secret identity he has little idea of just how funny this is.
As far as Mark's comment about my making a distinction between torture and prisoner abuse, if he had read rather than "skimmed" my post he would note that the point I was trying to make was:
... Mark makes a false conflation between prisoner abuse and torture (there is a difference between the former and the latter), just as he conflates disagreement with him and his bad arguments on Catholic teaching to a desire to condone torture.
Which it's pretty clear that he didn't understand either because he seems to be saying that I am "So bent on defending the indefensible that you just don't care anymore how silly your defenses sound." I never defended the fake baptism as described in the article and would note that my identification of it as prisoner abuse as evidence that I probably don't support the practice.