Prison Radicalization

This is not a new problem, including in the United States, but it is highlighted in this story from Breitbart.

An excerpt.

One of the terrorists who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby is radicalising other prison inmates who vow to become jihadists when they are released, prison sources have revealed.

Sources at Her Majesty’s Prison Frankland have told The Mirror that Michael Adebolajo, who along with fellow Islamist Michael Adebowale, murdered and attempted to behead Fusilier Lee Rigby near Woolwich Barracks in 2014, has already radicalised dozens of prisoners.

Non-Muslim prisoners are said to have converted under the influence of the terrorist and have sworn allegiance to Islamic State. His recruits have vowed to commit acts of terror when released, the paper reveals.

One prison official said: “Adebolajo spends most of his waking hours preaching his distorted form of Islam to anyone who will listen. He sees every inmate as a potential Islamic State soldier whether they are Muslims or not.

“He has a big personality and is very charismatic and some of the more vulnerable prisoners will fall under his spell. He is a very dangerous individual.”

The source told The Mirror that Adebolajo sees his role in life to recruit as many Jihadis as possible.

He added: “If he is suspected of trying to radicalise other inmates we step in and move him… But even in prison Adebolajo cannot be watched all the time. We don’t have the staff or the resources.”

Adebolajo was given a whole-life order excluding the possibility of parole, and Adebowale was given a minimum term of 45 years in prison.

In August 2016, a report found that political correctness was to blame for the flourishing of Islamic extremism in prisons, with guards reluctant to confront Muslim inmates for fear of being branded ‘Islamophobic’.

Reds Under the Bed

Though the general picture of American Communism is of an assorted cast of unimportant radicals who never threatened anything, the truth is quite different and this archived 2004 article from Claremont Magazine explains.

An excerpt.

From about 1955 to 1995, the dominant opinion in the United States held that the American Communist Party (CPUSA), founded in 1919 in the wake of the Communist revolution in Russia, was a small collection of admirers of the Soviet Union that never amounted to much. In the 1930s (so the story went) they mobilized a number of “popular fronts” to oppose fascism and promote various leftist causes. In the 1940s, a few Communists—probably Julius Rosenberg and (arguably) Alger Hiss—went so far as to commit acts of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. But Rosenberg was executed, and Hiss went to prison; so why all the fuss about domestic Communism?

Far worse than such rare cases of misplaced loyalty (in this view) was the damage wrought by opportunistic politicians who seized on the existence and supposed misdeeds of the CPUSA to alarm American public opinion and ruin the reputations of innocent liberals. One of the earliest such persecutors was Congressman Martin Dies, a Texas Democrat who in 1937 persuaded the House of Representatives to create a Special Committee on Un-American Activities, which became a standing committee in 1945 and lasted for 30 years, hounding Hollywood actors and many other victims.

But by far the greatest villain among Red-hunting politicians was, of course, Wisconsin’s Republican senator Joseph McCarthy, who raised the issue of Communists in government in February 1950 and rode it triumphantly for four-and-a-half-years, acquiring an immense popular following, until the Senate itself voted to “censure” him in December 1954. He died, of liver failure induced by alcoholism, in May 1957, at the age of 48. By the 1960s the CPUSA, reduced to a few thousand members, had been almost wholly superseded by the New Left, and barely survived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

That was the story of American Communism and its foes, as successfully propagated by the nation’s dominant liberals, and it remained, as we have noted, the conventional wisdom for forty years. Indeed, it is in some ways the conventional wisdom even today, for younger generations (including many conservatives) have never heard any other version of the facts.

But the year 1995 was an epochal one for the study of American Communism. For in that year, thanks to the insistence of the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who had long specialized in intelligence matters, some 2,900 documents collectively known as “the Venona papers” (a deliberately meaningless code phrase) were de-classified and published. These were radio messages from the top KGB agents in Washington and New York to their superiors in Moscow from approximately 1943 to 1948. They had been recorded at the time by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, but they were, of course, in code, and their decoding was an immensely arduous job carried out by a number of heroic government cryptanalysts over the period from 1945 to 1980.

A second new source of information on the American Communist Party was the archives in Moscow of the defunct Soviet Union, which began to be partially accessible to American investigators in the early 1990s, during the Yeltsin years.

The Venona papers, together with these archives, made it absolutely clear that the American Communist Party was from its beginning the willing agent of Soviet intelligence, obedient to its orders, financed by its contributions, and serving not only as a propaganda organ for Soviet policies but as a generous source for the recruitment of agents who would thereupon influence American policy and gladly commit espionage as well. It is now plain that by 1945 every important branch of the American government, from the White House itself to the State Department, the Defense Department, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA), and the Office of War Information, to name only a few, was infested with Communists busily doing the work of the Soviet Union.

Moreover, it is obvious that a penetration so complete would have been impossible if the Communists had not been able to depend on the blindness or indifference of many of the far larger number of ordinary liberals who dominated the Roosevelt Administration. As early as the late 1930s, even known Communists in government were often regarded by their colleagues as merely “liberals in a hurry.” And during the war, of course, they could be excused as simply enthusiasts for America’s doughty ally, “good old Joe.”

Vatican II & Sexual Abuse

This article from the Catholic Herald UK makes a connection and it is one well worth examining.

An excerpt.

A priest has told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council contributed to the Church’s “horrible mistakes” on abuse.

According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, Mgr Peter Smith, former chancellor of Glasgow archdiocese, said the Church accepted conventional wisdom of the 1970s that it was “better to repair the [abuser], to fix them or to redeem them”, than punish them. In that era priests accused of abuse could be sent for therapy rather than face criminal charges.

The Second Vatican Council, Mgr Smith said, “made a significant ­difference to the whole way that the Church proceeded … [It] asked us to proceed pastorally and [be more] caring for people”, rather than having an earlier “legalistic” approach.

“That pastoral care was exercised very strongly towards the priests who had been accused and perhaps less strongly towards those who had been on the receiving end of such a vicious thing,” he said.

Fatima, At the Center of the Church

I watched the wonderful video from Remnant TV filmed at the Fatima Center in Portugal and it also led me to the must read talk by Cardinal Burke about Fatima, from Life Site News.

An excerpt.

The Secret of Fatima and a New Evangelization

Editor’s note:The following address was given by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on 19 May 2017 at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum, which is organised by Voice of the Family.

May 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The final words of the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer recorded in the Gospels are the words she spoke to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana who came to her in anguish over the lack of sufficient wine for the guests of the newlyweds. She responded to them and their situation of great distress by leading them to her Divine Son, also a guest at the Wedding Feast, and instructing them: “Do whatever he tells you.”[1] These simple words express the mystery of the Divine Maternity by which the Virgin Mary became the Mother of God, bringing God the Son Incarnate into the world. By the same mystery, she continues to be the channel of all the graces which immeasurably and unceasingly pour forth from Her Divine Son’s glorious pierced Heart into the hearts of His faithful brothers and sisters on earthly pilgrimage to their lasting home with Him in Heaven.

By the mystery of the Divine Maternity, the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, assumed into glory, never ceases to beat with love for us, the children whom her Divine Son gave to her, as He was dying upon the Cross.[2] They are her sons and daughters in her Son, God the Son Incarnate. With maternal care, she draws hearts to her glorious Immaculate Heart and takes them to Him, to His Sacred Heart, and she instructs them: “Do whatever he tells you.” In the oldest preserved extant hymn to the Virgin Mother of God, found already on an Egyptian papyrus of the 3rd century, Christians pray:

We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.[3]

Similarly, in the words of the ancient hymn for Vespers on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ave Maris Stella, we pray:

Show thyself a mother; may the Word divine, born for us thine Infant, hear our prayers through thine.[4]

These words of the eighth-century hymn express in a clear and striking manner the mystery of the Divine Maternity by which the Virgin Mary is both Mother of God and Mother of Divine Grace. We ask the Virgin Mother of God to lead us to her Divine Son, in order that our hearts, one with her Immaculate Heart, may rest always in His Heart, the only source of our salvation.

In a most wonderful way, the Blessed Virgin Mary has shown herself to be our Mother in her apparitions to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria, near Fatima in Portugal, one hundred years ago, from May 13th to October 13th of 1917. The world at the time found itself torn asunder by the unimaginable destruction and death wrought by the First World War and fatally menaced by the spread of atheistic communism leading the hearts of men away from the Heart of Jesus, the sole font of salvation. Atheistic communion was leading hearts into a rebellion against God and the order, which He has placed in His creation and has written on the heart of every man,[5] the only earthly creature made in His own image and likeness.[6]

God prepared the messengers of the Virgin of Fatima, Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and the Servant of God Lucia Rosa dos Santos, by three visions of the Angel of Portugal which took place during the Spring, Summer and Autumn of 1916. During the first vision, while telling the shepherd children not to be afraid and assuring them that he was “the Angel of Peace,” he taught them to pray three times with these words:

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope [in] and I love You. I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope [in] and do not love You.[7]

The Angel, as God’s messenger to the shepherd children was already indicating the way in which the Mother of God would lead: the way of prayer, penance and reparation. He concluded the vision with the words:

Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.[8]

During his second apparition, the Angel urged the children: “Offer prayers and sacrifices to the Most High.”[9] When Lucia asked how the children were to make sacrifices, the Angel replied:

Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an action of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.[10]

The children were indeed led to pray as the Angel had taught them and to accept happily suffering for the sake of the forgiveness of sins and the repair of the disorder which sin always introduces into personal lives and into the world.

During the third apparition, in the autumn of 1916, the Angel, “holding in his hand a chalice with a Host suspended above it, from which a few drops of blood fell, taught the children a much longer prayer:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.[11]

The Angel then communicated the Sacred Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Francisco and Jacinta, with these words: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”[12]

The third apparition of the Angel of Portugal manifested to the children the essentially Eucharistic nature of their prayer and sacrifice. In fact, Christ makes ever new His sacrifice on Calvary through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, for the salvation of souls and of the world. Hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, are most perfectly united to the Heart of Jesus through participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice which reaches its culmination in the worthy reception of the incomparable fruit of the Sacrifice: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

The central message of Our Lady of Fatima was revealed in what is called the Secret of Fatima during the apparition which took place on July 13, 1917. The first part of the Secret has two essential contents. First, there is the terrifying vision of Hell, foreshadowed in the evils visited upon the world at the time. Then, there is the offer of God’s healing peace through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that souls may be saved from a life of grievous or mortal sin and its fruit: eternal death. Our Lady spoke these words to the shepherd children:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.[13]

While the first part of the Secret gives a severe admonition, it is also full of hope in the unfailing grace of God which brings about repentance for sins committed and peace in individual repentant souls and, as a result, in the world.

Referring to the punishments necessarily connected with the grave sins of the time, the second part of the Secret is the announcement of the peace which God wants to give to souls and to the world. The peace of God will come to the world through two means: 1) the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and 2) the practice of the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturday of the month. Our Lady spoke these words to the shepherd children:

To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.

In the end my Immaculate heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc.[14]

Our Lady indicated the spiritual remedy of the deplorable situation in which the world and Church found themselves. She also foretold the terrible physical chastisements which would result from the failure to consecrate the agent of the spread of atheistic communism to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through her Immaculate Heart and to undertake the regular practice of reparation for so many offenses communicated against the immeasurable and unceasing love of God manifested so perfectly in the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus.

In fact, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary did not take place, as she requested, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays did not become the practice of the universal Church. There ensued the terrible suffering of the Second World War and its aftermath, the spread of atheistic communism, resulting, in fact, in the persecution of many nations and of the Church in those nations, and the annihilation of some nations. The second part of the Secret also ends with the sure hope that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph through obedience to her maternal instruction.

Pope Visits Fatima

An interesting take on that May 12, 2017 visit from Tradition in Action. 

An excerpt.

DENYING FATIMA’S MESSAGE  –   I would say that Pope Francis’ visit to Fatima this month can be summarized as an attempt to empty and deny the message of Fatima. The essence of his remarks appeared when he spoke these words at the Chapel of the Apparitions on May 12: “Great injustice is done to God’s grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying – as the Gospel clearly does – that they are forgiven by his mercy! Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy.

“Obviously, God’s mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment. He did not deny sin, but redeemed it on the cross. Hence, in the faith that unites us to the cross of Christ, we are freed of our sins; we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:18).” (1)

These words are meant to “correct” the two parts of the message of Fatima that undoubtedly speak about God’s judgment of individuals and nations and threaten them with chastisements. In that message, although Our Lady showed great mercy to the souls and nations, the emphasis was placed on the punishment God reserves for men if they do not convert. That is, it was precisely the opposite of Francis’ input.

Punishment of individuals

If we put the parts of the Fatima message in perspective, we see that the first part refers to the punishment of a huge number of individuals who go to Hell because they abandoned the Commandments, while the second part refers to the punishment of nations.

Indeed, in the apparition on July 13, 1917, Sister Lucy reported: “Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.

“The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to Heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.” (2)

It is clear that this part of the message is turned to move Catholics primarily by means of fear, not mercy, inviting them to return to the path of grace. This way that Our Lady chose to send her message is in accordance with a multitude of Catholic teachings, which can be summarized in two maxims: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” and “Think about the last things and you will not die eternally.” (3)

So, what Francis did was an attempt to deny Our Lady’s message.

When Pope Bergoglio revolted against the pedagogy of fear, he fell into multiple errors.

  • The first is that by assuming that mercy always prevails over justice and that our sins were already forgiven on the Cross, he practically denied that sins are punished eternally.
  • As a consequence, he implicitly denied Hell. He seemed to return to the error of John Paul II that Purgatory and Hell are existential situations a person experiences in this life.
  • He further denied that each man must struggle against evil – the world, flesh and Devil – in order to merit his own salvation. Grace is only effective with man’s cooperation.
  • He also indirectly encouraged people to sin. His motto seems to be: “Trust in mercy and do whatever you want.” Quite similar to that of Luther: “Believe and sin boldly.”

This analysis is in reference to the first part of the message.

Christianity Failing in Europe?

A troubling scenario–especially considering the presence of Islamic recruiting within prisons–examined in this story from Crisis Magazine.

An excerpt.

On May 22, an Islamic suicide bomber detonated himself outside a pop concert in Manchester, England, killing and wounding dozens, many of them young children.

The terrorist was a 22-year-old named Salman Abedi. A few days after the attack, I was reading an article about the mosque he attended—the Didsbury Mosque. “That’s funny,” I thought looking at the accompanying photo, “that doesn’t look like a mosque, it looks like a church.”

Sure enough, as I discovered, the Didsbury Mosque was once the Albert Park Methodist Chapel. It had been bought by the local Syrian Muslim community and transformed into a Muslim place of worship.

Similar transformations have been taking place in other parts of the UK. St. Mark’s Church in London is now the New Peckham Mosque, St. Peter’s Church in Cobridge was sold to the Madina Mosque. The Brick Lane Mosque in London was originally a Methodist church. But church-to-mosque conversions are only part of a larger story. There are now 423 mosques in London, and the number is expected to grow. Meanwhile, 500 London churches have closed since 2001, and in all of England 10,000 churches have closed since 1960.

The transformation of the Albert Park Methodist Church to the Didsbury Mosque is emblematic of one of the most significant shifts in history: the transformation of Europe from a largely Christian continent to a largely Islamic one. The transformation is far from complete, and there’s an outside chance the process can be reversed, but time and demographics favor Islam.

In several of Europe’s cities, the Muslim population now hovers around the thirty percent mark. In ten years’ time, that will be forty percent. Of course that doesn’t mean 40 percent of highly committed Muslims facing 60 percent of deeply devout Christians. Both faiths have their share of half-hearted “nominals” for whom religion is more a cultural inheritance than a deeply held conviction. Still, the “nominal” problem is a much greater problem for European Christians than for European Muslims. In many European countries, Sunday church attendance is the 5-10 percent range whereas mosque attendance is very high in relation to the size of the Muslim population. In England, there are already more Muslims attending Friday prayers than there are Christians attending Anglican services on Sundays. A study by Christian Research predicts that by 2020 the number of Muslims attending prayer service in England and Wales will exceed the number of Catholics attending weekly Mass.

It’s also noteworthy that the expanding Muslim population in Europe is relatively young, whereas the declining “Christian” population is an aging one. Sixty-forty seems like good odds until you realize that the average age of the 60 percenters will be around 55 while the average age of the 40 percenters will be around 25.

You may object that if there is any fighting to be done, most of the fighting on the “Christian” side will be done by the army, not by citizens in walkers and wheelchairs. But keep in mind that the military draws its recruits from the ranks of the young. As the population of the people that Islamists refer to as “crusaders” ages, European governments will be forced to draw more of their new recruits from the Muslim population. The same goes for the police forces. Many Muslims will serve their country or their city faithfully, but many will have divided loyalties, and some will have signed up in the first place with mutiny in mind.

Most likely, however, the transformation will be effected without major battles. It won’t be a matter of numbers or of military strength, but of strength of belief. Those with the strongest beliefs will prevail. Those who are not sure what to believe will submit without a fight.

Catholic Support for Capital Punishment

This pre-publication book notice article from Catholic World Report repeats the reality that the Church cannot reverse past teaching on capital punishment; and now having perused the book, it is excellent (a must read), covering the same points I did in my book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support, but in more detail and excellent scholarship.

An excerpt.

Editor’s note: This first part of a two-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty was originally posted on July 17, 2016. It is reposted now that By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (Ignatius, 2017), written by Dr. Feser and Dr. Bessette, has been published. 

Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI — stated unambiguously that:

[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty… (emphasis added)

How could it be “legitimate” for a Catholic to be “at odds with” the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope’s opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not “present himself to receive Holy Communion.” If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics.”

The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a “prudential” matter about which popes have no special expertise.

We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty. What follows is a brief summary of some key points.

Sacred Scripture

The Church holds that scripture is infallible, particularly when it teaches on matters of faith and morals. The First Vatican Council teaches that scripture must always be interpreted in the sense in which the Church has traditionally understood it, and in particular that it can never be interpreted in a sense contrary to the unanimous understanding of the Fathers of the Church.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that capital punishment can be legitimate, and the Church has always interpreted them this way. For example, Genesis 9:6 famously states: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” The Church has always understood this as a sanction of the death penalty. Even Christian Brugger, a prominent Catholic opponent of capital punishment, admits that attempts to reinterpret this passage are dubious and that the passage is a “problem” for views like his own.i

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans teaches that the state “does not bear the sword in vain [but] is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (13:4). The Church has always understood this too as a warrant for capital punishment, and by Brugger’s own admission, there was a “consensus” among the Fathers and medieval Doctors of the Church that the passage was to be understood in this way.ii But in that case, attempts to reinterpret the passage cannot possibly be reconciled with a Catholic understanding of scripture.

Not only Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 but also passages like Numbers 35:33, Deuteronomy 19: 11-13, Luke 23:41, and Acts 25:11 all clearly regard capital punishment as legitimate when carried out simply for the purpose of securing retributive justice. The lex talionis (“law of retaliation”) of Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24 is also obviously a matter of exacting retribution for its own sake. Deuteronomy 19:19-21 talks of execution as a way of striking “fear” in potential offenders, and deterrence is clearly in view in Romans 13:4. Hence scripture clearly teaches that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate for the sake of deterrence.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church

The Church has always regarded the Fathers as having an extremely high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Now, some of the Fathers preferred mercy to the use of capital punishment. However, every one of the Fathers who commented on the subject nevertheless also allowed that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate. For example, in his Homilies on Leviticus, Origen teaches that “death which is inflicted as the penalty of sin is a purification of the sin itself.” Clement of Alexandria says that “when one falls into any incurable evil… it will be for his good if he is put to death.” In his commentary On the Sermon on the Mount, Augustine writes that “great and holy men… punished some sins with death… [by which] the living were struck with a salutary fear.” Jerome taught that “he who slays cruel men is not cruel.”

It is sometimes claimed that Tertullian and Lactantius were exceptions to the patristic consensus on capital punishment as legitimate at least in principle, but even Brugger admits that this is not in fact the case.iii And again, the Fathers also uniformly regarded scripture as allowing capital punishment, and the Church teaches that the Fathers must be followed where they agree on the interpretation of scripture.

Like scripture, the Fathers also speak of capital punishment as in principle legitimate for purposes like the securing of retributive justice and deterring others. (Indeed, neither scripture nor the Fathers refer to protection against immediate physical danger even as a purpose of capital punishment, let alone as the only legitimate purpose.)

The Church has also regarded the Doctors of the Church as having a very high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Like the Fathers, these Doctors—including thinkers of the stature of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri—are all in agreement on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Aquinas even dismissed as “frivolous” the suggestion that capital punishment removes from offenders the possibility of repentance, arguing that “if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers” (Summa Contra Gentiles III.146).

The popes

No pope from St. Peter to Benedict XVI ever denied the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment, and many popes explicitly affirmed its legitimacy, even as a matter of basic Catholic orthodoxy. For example, Pope St. Innocent I taught that to deny the legitimacy of capital punishment would be to go against biblical authority, indeed “the authority of the Lord” himself. Pope Innocent III required adherents of the Waldensian heresy, as a condition for their reconciliation with the Church and proof of their orthodoxy, to affirm the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Pope St. Pius V promulgated the Roman Catechism, which states that:

Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder.

The 1912 Catechism of Christian Doctrine issued by Pope St. Pius X says in the context of discussion of the Fifth Commandment: “It is lawful to kill… when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime.” Pope Pius XII taught that “it is reserved… to the public authority to deprive the criminal of the benefit of life when already, by his crime, he has deprived himself of the right to live.”

It is sometimes alleged that while Pope John Paul II did not contradict past teaching, he did modify doctrine on capital punishment in a more restrictive direction in the catechism which he promulgated. In particular, it is claimed by some that John Paul taught that it is in principle immoral to resort to capital punishment except for the purpose of protecting others against the immediate physical danger posed by an offender. However, then-Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly denied that there was any change at the level of doctrinal principle. He affirmed that “the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue” and that the revisions to the catechism reflected merely “circumstantial considerations… without any modification of the relevant doctrinal principles.”iv

Moreover, as Cardinal Avery Dulles has pointed out, had the pope made such a modification to doctrine, he would have been partially reversing or contradicting previous teaching rather than merely modifying it.v For as we have noted, scripture and the Fathers teach that capital punishment can be legitimate specifically for purposes of retribution and deterrence, and not merely for the purpose of counteracting some immediate physical threat.

Dawa, a Strategy to Understand

This is an important article from The Catholic Thing, especially so for those doing Catholic prison ministry.

An excerpt.

So, what do you know about dawa? You know what jihad is, and what sharia is. That is Islamic vocabulary 101.

At the more advanced end of the lexicon are terms such as taqiyya (a form of lying specifically permitted to advance the cause of Islam). Or the formerly obscure taharrush, which might sound familiar inasmuch as it – the practice of groups of men surrounding and sexually assaulting women in public – rudely materialized in several European cities recently. That there is a name for it suggests it is a frequent enough occurrence. Charming.

These are all terms with which we were happily ignorant not so long ago. But how many of you are familiar with dawa? That is the question Ayaan Hirsi Ali posed last year to a crowd of admirers who had come to honor her for contributions to culture and civilization. Yet few of even her highly educated and engaged audience could answer.

And so she took them to task. In a way, obviously, that can only be done among friends: “You are honoring me and I am thankful, but I almost want to say to all of you who do not know what dawa is, ‘Shame on you.’”

That’s not what you’d expect at such a banquet, making it all the more effective as a way of seizing the audience’s attention. Not a bad idea. But she wants the attention of the wider public and so has elaborated upon the concept in a new report accessible through the Hoover Institution. Dawa can be likened to proselytizing, but it is much more than that. It might be summed up as the insidious project to Islamize the world – as cultural imperialism bent on corroding Western liberties and ultimately imposing sharia law. It is an all-encompassing precursor to jihad, a summons to conquer non-violently, and utilizes any number of mechanisms to achieve that end.

Some – too many – will say: that sounds like paranoia. Pope Francis can lament the cultural imperialism of today’s degenerate West. But to the extent that the exportation of stifling, dehumanizing ideas is critically acknowledged in the “progressive” West at all, it can only be self-directed – and confined to the past.

Dawa is nothing short of the effort to subvert from within. It is “to the Islamists of today what the ‘long march through the institutions’ was to twentieth-century Marxists.” We have a hard time imagining the immutable designs of Islam, even though Islamic leaders themselves forthrightly say they will conquer Europe and America though dawa, not the sword.

It would be hard to find this more explicitly spelled out than in the Strategic Plan of the Muslim Brotherhood for North America – a land they see as territory to be settled:

The [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

To bring this about, alas, they are to become masters in the art of cooperation and coalition building. Authorities happened to stumble upon that document back in 2004, making their partners in “dialogue”– however much they want to seek common ground – all the more willfully credulous today.

Here Islamic actors have their (frequently Catholic) “partners” right where they want them – for now. Hirsi Ali pleads that we should be able to see – in our supposed “information age” – where the road of dawa leads: to subjugation.

Nostra Aetate

This was the Vatican II document helping Catholics understand the Church’s response to other religions and this article from Crisis Magazine is an excellent analysis of it.

An excerpt.

I have encountered serious Catholics who have invoked the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions) as seemingly discouraging or even reproving any kind of searching public examination and criticism of Islam. What exactly does this short statement of the Vatican II Fathers have to say about relation of the Church to non-Christian religions and to Islam specifically?

It says, first, to be sure, that the Church seeks to promote fellowship among all men (#1). Secondly, it speaks about how all historic religions that have grown up in the context of well-developed cultures have attempted to provide answers to the most central questions that confront man, such as who he is, what the meaning of his life is, and what kind of moral life he is to lead. Thirdly, it makes clear that there are elements of truth in all of these religious traditions, and so the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in” them (#2). Finally, it “exhorts” Catholics to engage in “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions” so they can recognize “the good things” found among them (#2).

The document also makes clear the following. While the “precepts and teachings” of these other religions differ in many respects from the Church’s, they “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men” (#2)—that is, they obscurely express Christ in some way. It also stresses that the dialogue and cooperation with them must be “carried out with prudence and love” (#2). In other words, while acting in charity Catholics must always bring discernment to their dealings with adherents of non-Christian religions. The Church—and by extension, the faithful—“ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’” (#2) and “the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows” (#4). What this means is that they can never back away from holding—always charitably, to be sure—that she alone teaches the fullness of the truth.

As far as Moslems are concerned, Nostra Aetate regards them “with esteem,” because as a fellow Abrahamic faith they submit to the one true God, revere Jesus as a prophet even if they don’t recognize him as God, have devotion to the Blessed Mother, and like Christianity “value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting,” and also await the resurrection of the body on Judgment Day (#3).

The document also affirms that Catholics cannot refuse to treat any person “in a brotherly way,” since all are created in the image of God, and that there is no basis “for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned” (#5).

A key point here are that Catholics cannot let themselves slip into a kind of religious syncretism when viewing other religions or in their dealings with their adherents. Charity is exhorted, but so is prudence. When the document says that dialogue and cooperation must be carried out with these things in mind, it is essentially cautioning Catholics not to slip into a mindset of moral or religious equivalency. When it says that these other religions have elements of the truth—which unwittingly, for them, reflect the truth of Christ—it is making clear that, as stated, the Church alone embraces and teaches the fullness of truth and the complete path to human salvation. She, in effect, is reminding the faithful that they cannot forget this or cease to make it a central element motivating their dialogue. Indeed, it has been just such a neglect that has abundantly characterized ecumenical relations since Vatican II and has helped retard the Church’s efforts at evangelization. Where Catholics have not succumbed to a functional religious syncretism, many have failed to understand that a charitable attitude can make it possible to stand solidly for principles and even speak the truth and still get along with people.

If anything, these points from Nostra Aetate invite, rather than discourage, a careful and honest examination and evaluation of the beliefs of non-Christian religions and a clarity in pointing out—especially to fellow Catholics, in the interest of their increased understanding—the realities about their origins, problems in their teaching, and ways in which they conflict with Catholic truth. It goes without saying that this is always supposed to be done charitably and respectfully, but getting to the point and laying out the realities is not the same thing as engaging in polemics. Many Catholics who have invoked this document to discourage blunt, even if well argued, criticisms of Islam have confused this.

Some of the things that would seem to be fair game in a careful examination of Islam are whether some of its basic teachings may encourage violence as a way to spread the faith, the historical background and character of Mohammed, whether an arbitrariness and radical voluntarism took deep root in Islam way back in the Middle Ages when it turned its back on philosophy (as Robert Reilly brilliantly discusses in The Closing of the Muslim Mind), how much Islamic teaching really permits coexistence with and equal treatment of other religions once it gains political power, whether its basic teachings give rise to the Islamic radicalism we witness today or if this is a divergence and corruption, and whether for it religious dominance also means political domination. In light of what we have witnessed historically and in the present crisis caused by Islamism, these are hardly red herrings or an unjustified sounding of alarms.

Let’s remember that the Church never asks the faithful to surrender reasonableness or good judgment in considering things. Nostra Aetate does not ask us to do that in our evaluation of Islam.

Saint Joan of Arc Feast Day

Today is the celebration of one of the greatest martial saints in Catholic history and this profile from the Tradition in Action website is remarkable.

An excerpt.

On May 30, 1431, the eve of the feast of Corpus Christi, Joan was led to the old market square of Rouen. She was tied to a stake surrounded by a pile of firewood ready to be lighted. From her neck a placard was hung with the words: “Heretic, apostate, and idolater.” A great crowd was present in the square. Six hundred English soldiers guarded her.

When she arrived at the site, she asked for a cross. An English soldier broke the stick of a lance, tied the two pieces together in the shape of a cross and gave to her. After receiving the precious symbol she was tied to the stake over the firewood. Then, she called out loudly to St. Michael. The executioner lighted the firewood that was soaked with oil, and the fire grew furiously from bottom to top. As the flames enveloped her, Joan shouted out strongly, reaffirming her fidelity to her mission: ‘I was not mistaken, the voices came from Heaven!’

In a few minutes everything was finished. The ashes were swept into the waters of the Seine River. Even the heart of the Maid, which remained intact since it had not burned in the flames, was cast into the river.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

We can comment on several points in this very beautiful martyrdom.

First, the injustice of the sentence on the placard hung around her neck causes indignation. She was a saint – a virgin who had accomplished the mission God gave her to save the French people. And now she was going to be burned at the stake on the orders of French Archbishop Cauchon, the president of the tribunal, for an infamous reason. To understand the significance of this, I ask that you, you who have offered your lives to fight against Progressivism, imagine that you were condemned with a placard around your neck with the word “progressivist” written on it. It would be an analogous unjust injury, a similar fabrication, a comparable lie.

Second, there are her words about the voices from Heaven. She used to say that those voices came to her from Heaven; and that it was by following the orders of those voices and through the strength communicated to her by them that she had accomplished the marvelous work that she did – the partial liberation of France and the restoration of the legitimate King.

On the contrary, the tribunal that judged her – a mixed tribunal, ecclesiastical and civil – affirmed that all those wonderful victories she achieved over the English troops were accomplished through witchcraft. They said that the English army had been defeated because she had made a pact with the devil. Therefore, according to them, the voices came from Hell.

The problem, then, was not to determine whether the voices were true or not. No one questioned that fact, because they still were not yet under the deleterious influence of the systematic doubt of Protestantism. People had faith and knew that this kind of communication was not rare. The problem was that the tribunal had to say that the voices were coming from Hell because they did not favor the Kingdom of England. It was for this reason Joan was condemned as a heretic, a witch, etc.

Right before she expired, when she was preparing herself to stand before the tribunal of God, she gave another manifestation of sanctity. What did she do? She asked for a cross – a cross because an oath made in the presence of the cross is much graver. A warrior until the end – she died fighting. She did not die meekly permitting her enemies to kill her, but she died calling out a challenge, a protest, and an encouragement to the French resistance against English domination. Her shout said this:

“French people, continue to fight, because the voices in whose name I led you to victory truly spoke orders that came from Heaven. Heaven will give you, therefore, the complete victory.”

For this cry she chose the perfect, supreme, and most tragic moment, the moment when she was already being consumed by the fire. The members of the tribunal were present assisting at the scene, the English soldiers standing guard, the Catholic people watching. She was tied to the stake, the flames were growing rapidly since the wood was soaked with oil. The fire was rising from bottom to top, so it had not yet reached the vital parts of her body.

At this crucial moment, no wail of pain, no cry for mercy came from her lips. She called out loudly to St. Michael, probably to ask strength from the Archangel – her great protector – to do what she would do. After that, like Our Lord who cried out in a loud voice before He expired, she also cried out in loud voice, a voice that could be heard throughout the square. It was her protest:

“Know this, all of you – you friends and enemies, you men of my time and you men of the future until the end of the world – know that the voices I heard came from Heaven. With this last proclamation, my mission is accomplished.”