Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Padre Pio: A Fountain of God’s Healing

St. Padre Pio: A Fountain of God’s Healing

Just about everyone has heard of Padre Pio, the Italian stigmatic whose death at age eighty-one on September 23, 1968, was even reported by the New York Times. The biographies that sell steadily year after year, including one by the author written with help from Pio’s friary, are crammed with accounts from people whose medically inexplicable healings came to them from God, they believe, through the gloved, bleeding hands of this Capuchin Franciscan priest.
Once Pio became the first known stigmatic priest — Francis of Assisi having been a brother, not a priest — people began to seek him out. Eventually, they were coming from all over the world. In the confessional, where he spent up to nineteen hours a day for the first five years after receiving the stigmata, he healed lives. Georgetown theologian Monika Hellwig — hardly one whose name is synonymous with pious excess in regard to saints — was living in Italy in the years just before Pio’s death. During her three-year stay, what she heard convinced her that, in or out of the confessional, Pio led people to “deep conversions” as he “mediated the presence of the divine . . . [leaving his visitors] inspired and assured of God’s presence and care for them.” Slowly, at the beginning of his world ministry, then increasingly, the gift of physical healing became an important adjunct to this primary work for God.

St. Padre Pio and a friend’s restored eye

A verified case was that of Padre Pio’s friend, construction worker Giovanni Savino. Savino was the father of eight — two of whom had been “saved” by Pio when seriously injured in separate accidents. In February 1949, the thirty-five-year-old local man was working at the friary on an addition to the building. Each morning he attended Pio’s Mass before work. From February 12 to 15, as he, as always, approached his priest benefactor for a post-Mass blessing, Pio repeated, “Courage, Giovanni, I’m praying you won’t be killed.” On the fifteenth a charge of dynamite blew up in the workman’s face. A doctor friend of Pio’s and two priests, one Franciscan, one not, rushed the man to Foggia’s hospital where “numerous” fragments were removed from his left cornea. There was nothing to do for the right eye. It had been blown to a smear of jelly.

Pio’s doctor friend returned to tell him Savino was blind. Pio indicated he thought some sight might be saved. And actually there was some slight hope for the left eye medically. Ten days after the accident the injured man, face and head bandaged, was awake, praying the Rosary, sometime toward one in the morning. He smelled a wonderful odor and felt three slaps on his head, understanding Pio was with him (by one of the saint’s many bi-locations). That morning the ophthalmologist came to see how the left eye was doing after all the fragments had been removed. It was not functioning. In fact, all sight was gone permanently. But Giovanni could see perfectly with the right eye that had been blown to a smear. Somehow it had been replaced. The doctor, an atheist, became a believer from that moment, exclaiming that he had to believe because “this happened right in front of me.”
Interestingly, the new eye which functioned so well, according to Giovanni’s wife Rosa “always looked a mess.” There is a photograph of the healed man in the early biography Padre Pio by Fr. Charles Carty.

A hint of Pio’s redemptive role in healings may be found in two details of Giovanni Savino’s cure: Pio spent days of intense prayer, and asked many others to pray, between the accident and the eye’s restoration. He also told Giovanni when, finally released from the hospital, the workman came to thank Pio, “You have no idea what this cost me.” More detail of this cure will be found in a biography easier to find than Fr. Carty’s, that of ordained Lutheran minister C. Bernard Ruffin.

Many other healings

This article is from Nothing Short of a Miracle. Click image to learn about other modern saints and healings.
Today many of the books on Pio by his fellow friars have been translated into English. Particularly recommended by Fr. Joseph Pius Martin is the one by Padre Alessandro (see footnote 115). However Ruffin’s also recommended revised Padre Pio: The True Story remains one of the best from its uniquely American perspective. According to Ruffin, the archives of Our Lady of Grace show that in Pio’s lifetime “over a thou­sand people pronounced hopelessly ill by their doctors, were delivered of such grave maladies as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, congenital birth defects and paralysis caused by spinal injuries.” Follow­ing his death, a second thousand cures were attributed to Padre Pio’s intercession in the first twenty years, that is 1968 to 1988. The first edition of this book appeared that year, and I have no precise figures for the healings that took place from then until 2002. That year, St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s canonization took place on June 16 before at least five hundred thousand people, perhaps the largest crowd ever assembled for such an event.

Canonization ended any need to keep track of the numbers of cures attributed to Pio by those who received them, in order to prove God was speaking of Pio’s holiness by answering prayers that invoked his intercession. Perhaps consequently there are fewer letters printed at­testing cures in the friary’s bimonthly magazine, The Voice of Padre Pio. Nevertheless, since canonization, as before, Padre Pio has continued to be a fountain of God-given health to many. Perhaps the most touching to me is a 2011 cure of advanced Parkinson’s disease. The Irish sufferer from this disease had, she wrote the friars from Dublin, reached a point beyond simple acceptance of her loss of dignity, loss of mobility, and great pain — all of which, she volunteered, had taught her a lot. She was actually living in peace and gratitude to God, in spite of her condition, when she was visited by a priest from Pio’s friary. The Italian visitor seemed to affirm her state as one offering her sufferings for the salvation of souls and said nothing about healing. But not long after being blessed for Pio’s intercession by the visitor, she found herself grateful to God and Pio for a return to perfect health.

Here is a sampling from just one recent issue of The Voice:
Katherine Beck had deadly, fast-moving ovarian cancer. Surgery, she writes, “was not a success.” On what should have been a last re­union with her three sisters, Katherine had a mystical experience of dead Padre Pio one night shared by a sister. Since there was a witness, it is fair to conclude this was no dream or fantasy. After this she returned home and her doctor, examining her, could find “no reason [for her] to visit him.” She is healed.

In the same issue a man from North Ireland writes in thanksgiving for his mother’s recovery from “a heart attack plus a large blood clot on her lung, also a very bad chest infection.” Although she was in intensive care and had received the last rites when William O’Reilly “prayed to Padre Pio to ask Our Lord to show His divine mercy,” the woman got better daily and is now back at home.
A Texas couple write of five anxious months having been told, after a routine ultrasound, their third son will likely be born with Down syn­drome. The wife says, “It was a very difficult and stressful time for our family. My husband and I prayed to St. Pio day after day. During this time, we learned to trust more in God.” The child was born with perfect health, no syndromes. The wife closes, “We give thanks to St. Pio for his intercession and for guiding us to trust more in God’s tender mercy. Thank you, St. Pio. We love you.” You note that although the mother uses that misleading term “praying to Pio,” her subsequent comments make clear her excellent grasp of a saint’s role vis-à-vis God.

I have dozens of other testimonies in my files, some of which will be found in my other books. There are still more in the friary archives. The only thing the recipients have in common is a willingness to ask Pio’s prayers for themselves or someone else.

This pertains also to the beatification and canonization miracles. With the problem of sorting out supernatural from medical intervention, in a day when every ill tends to be copiously treated whether it will do any good or not, a jokester might claim the beatification miracle was a miracle, even outside the cure: a woman hospitalized for a serious condition was healed by God, after she appealed to Pio’s prayers, before any treatment could be started. You will find more details in my Pio biography, Meet Padre Pio: Beloved Mystic, Miracle-Worker, and Spiritual Guide, but a brief summary here: Mrs. Consiglia De Martino was devoted to Padre Pio, the holy priest whose heroic virtues had been recognized at this time by the title Venerable. Living in Salerno, a city not too far from Pio’s friary, the Italian housewife used to make a monthly pilgrim­age to the tomb of her heavenly friend and mentor.

On October 31, 1995, as she was exerting herself strenuously, she felt a frightening and painful “tearing” in her chest and around her left clavicle. She went to bed in painful discomfort. By morning, her neck had on it a protuberance the size of an orange.
Her husband away, she phoned a brother-in-law to take her to the hospital, where a scan showed her thoracic duct had ruptured. Surgery would be necessary. At that point both she and her daughter made phone calls to a friar who had been very close to Pio and was one of their family’s close friends. Br. Modestino prayed for the injured woman “with confidence” since Pio had promised him that, once Pio was in Heaven, he would always get God to give positive answers to Modes-tino’s prayers. Surgery could not be arranged the day of her admission. The next morning, nothing having yet been done for the rupture, Mrs. De Martino woke in her hospital bed to find the big swelling almost gone. November 3, that is, four days after the injury, both an x-ray and another type of scan showed every abnormality had disappeared. With these tests plus the original scan and doctor’s examination for compari­son, Mrs. De Martino’s case proved a perfect example of a formal mira­cle. Certified by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, her healing permitted Pio’s beatification.

Also given in more detail in the latest printings of my Pio biography is the canonization miracle. Let me sum up for you here the cure of a dying child in a coma. It took place right in San Giovanni Rotondo, and once again humble little Br. Modestino played a role. Near death and without hope of recovery just eight months after the beatification, seven-year-old Matteo Pio Colella lay comatose in the little town’s modern hospital. Called The Home for the Relief of Suffering, it was across from the friary, built by the charity of penniless Padre Pio when the town had no medical facility. Matteo, whose middle name shows the family’s devotion to Pio, was the younger of two sons of local doc­tors. The father worked at the hospital. They would later testify to the miracle cure and their cries for Pio’s help, both as the praying parents and as physicians who had understood only too well that for Matteo in early 2000 a miracle was the only hope.

The tragic situation had begun on January 20, when their younger boy came down with “flu,” feverish, headachy, and vomiting. That eve­ning the child began breaking out in notable purple spots. More fright­ening to his physician parents, since it is a sign of septic shock, Matteo did not recognize his mother.
Matteo, in fact, had acute meningitis, sometimes termed “brain fe­ver.” As the next days passed, deep in a coma, his kidneys, liver, and heart weakened, as did his pulse, and he was breathing only by ventila­tor. Eventually, in spite of all the pediatric colleagues of his father, Anto­nio — a staff urologist at the hospital — could do, Matteo died. Standard efforts to revive him failed. But these doctors are men of prayer too, and one, calling on Padre Pio’s prayer help, injected the dead child with a dangerously large dose of adrenaline. Matteo returned to life. This was not recovery, however: it only postponed his death in the sense of “while there is life,” among believers at least, there remains hope.

Antonio had taken Matteo’s mother, Maria, out of the treatment area the first night because of the boy’s heartrending screams of pain as doctors tried to find a vein in a shut-down circulatory system. For the next ten days, she did not see her comatose son as he drifted toward death in a sterilized room. But she was working for Matteo every second. She spent all her time praying and seeking prayer from every convent in the area. Naturally, this doctor, wife, and mother sought prayers from Pio’s confreres at his Our Lady of Grace Friary. It had been in Pio’s cell, by special permission, that she had begged her friend in Heaven to watch out for the newly created family on her wedding day. Various individual friars now reached out to her, while the entire community let the distraught but praying mother join them in their evening community prayers at Pio’s tomb.

Br. Modestino was one of those who reached out. Meeting with both Antonio and Maria, he counseled them on attitude and prayer. He revealed he himself was urging Pio, “Pray for Matteo; let this be the miracle for your canonization.”
As stated, there are many more details in my biography, and even there I could not give all the incidents in this precisely documented series of events. Suffice to say here, after eight days in a coma, Matteo woke up — speechless and glassy-eyed but recovering from the unrecoverable. The next day he began talking — calling for Padre Pio. Seven days later, he was still covered with deep ulcers, still unable to move, but he could share with his mother that Padre Pio, angels, and a very bright light he believed to be Jesus had all been with him in the coma. Pio had told him not to worry. He would get well and do that quickly.

The eventual investigation of this cure found that ill beyond medical help — for even getting his heart to start again was no cure for the disease that was killing him — Matteo had made a medically inexplicable, complete, permanent, and relatively sudden recovery. As Br. Modestino — who, after all, had been promised by God’s friend Pio himself a positive answer to his prayers — had asked, Matteo’s was the miracle chosen from many others to be accepted for Pio’s June 2002 canonization.

Maria Colella, who had asked Padre Pio to bless her family on her wedding day, could never have dreamed how far the humble Capuchin would go to do that.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Patricia Treece’s Nothing Short of a Miraclewhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Time Is on His Side

Time Is on His Side

Sunday, September 4, 2016
Chesterton said, “Hope is not hope unless the situation is hopeless.” He meant the theological virtue of hope may be easy during good times (and therefore illusory), but difficult during bad times when human reasons for hope in a happy future evaporate (in illness or social upheavals). So we perhaps unwittingly place our faith in the things of the world, rather than Christ.

King Solomon – initially the model of human wisdom – was so intent on protecting the peace God gave Israel that he presumed the good times were the result of his diplomatic acumen. So he “celebrated diversity” by allowing the worship of false gods. Ironically, his “politics of inclusion” brought division and destruction – the kingdom itself was divided. Solomon failed to remember that God alone delivers on all His promises, according to His schedule and in response to our faith.

A good part of our trouble today, of course, stems from the false god of sex. Suicide bombers blow up themselves and others to enjoy their seventy-two virgins in Paradise. And where would Hillary Clinton stand with Millennials without her unconditional support for abortion, the ugly outward sign of sex-on-demand?
When the “” bubble burst at the turn of this century, pornographic Internet sites stood nearly alone as profitable Internet entities. Porn site technology even provided the tools for Internet credit-card and identity security, further enshrining the “right to privacy,” i.e., access to contraception and abortion.

Amidst our multiple crises, we ask: Is God listening? Is God dead?
But how can God be dead when the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or when it rains on the just and unjust alike, or when birds soar and wheat waves in the wind, or when a baby is born into the world? How can God be dead when acts of human virtue and kindness continue to attest to His presence?
There is also a glimmer of hope – humanly speaking – in news reports emanating from the dark side, as a recent front-page article reports:
A growing body of research shows that online pornography is warping men’s brains, diminishing their sex drives and producing addictive behaviors commonly found among drug abusers, as porn producers experiment with technologies to make the viewing experience more compelling. Advances in neuroscience have helped support the findings: At least 25 major studies published since 2011, 16 of which were released within the last two years, link habitual use of erotic videos with deleterious developments in brain structure, often mirroring those of drug addicts.
The Canaanite's Daughter (La Chananéenne) by James Tissot, c. 1890 [Brooklyn Museum]
The Canaanite’s Daughter (La Chananéenne) by James Tissot, c. 1890 [Brooklyn Museum]
Is the world growing weary of the sexual revolution? Will we eventually turn the corner and come to our senses? Will medical science once again become an ally of good morality? This report offers reasons for hope in the future. But our faith in the Gospel provides a theological reason for hope based on revelation.

In Matthew, we read the account of Jesus entering into the Canaanite territory of Tyre and Sidon. The Canaanites perhaps were not aware of it, but as they worshipped their false gods, they were really worshiping demons. (Demon worship today can be largely traced to the Canaanites. I remember a “devil worship” chapel adjacent to a seminary I attended in the 1980s – apparently they target seminaries – one of the adventurous seminarians took a peek through the window and saw the skeletal head of an animal on the altar.)

There are consequences of worshiping false gods, and those consequences occasionally include diabolical possession of the vulnerable. This may explain how the daughter of the Canaanite woman became possessed as a result of her mother’s unwitting worship of demons.

Although she is a pagan, the woman pursues Jesus, calling Him by his messianic title: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David.” She is exhausted and desperately hoping to change her life and her daughter’s. Her persistence receives its reward. The dialog concludes with her humbly begging, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith!” The daughter was healed from that hour. Message: Persist in prayer.

When AIDS burst onto the scene in the 1980s, the gay bathhouses in San Francisco were temporarily closed in response to the health crisis. Many Catholics and others hoped the horror of AIDS – like the atomic bombings that ended the war with Japan – would bring a definitive end to the sexual revolution.
We were wrong. The sexual revolutionaries viewed the crisis as too important to waste, and those with behavior-related AIDS were recast as “victims” of an uncaring, even brutal ruling class. When industrial strength condoms and pharmaceuticals were developed to manage the AIDS infection, the bathhouses were reopened and the sexual revolution continued unabated.

The late Charles Rice, Notre Dame’s renowned legal scholar, used to say, “God always forgives. Man sometimes forgives. Nature never forgives.” When man’s nature is habitually violated, whether through false worship or otherwise attempting to tamper with the Natural Law of the Ten Commandments, destruction, exhaustion – and ultimately death – ensue because we’re dealing with demons who hate us.

A world growing increasingly weary of pornography may still turn again to pharmaceuticals or frontal lobotomies for salvation. So we must admit, unless the end times are upon us, it may take a very long time before an exhausted culture definitively turns to Christ in faith and hope. But even if there is no immediate sea change in the culture, the futility of the worship of false gods may be the grace that brings many individuals to their senses – and Confession.
Time is on His side. This is our faith. This is our hope. Or it should be. Without presumption and with God’s grace, may we remain strong and remain faithful. And may the Lord gaze upon us and our holy persistence and say, always, “Great is your faith!”

© 2016 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The New Ignorance Far Worse than the Old- by Anthony Esolen

The New Ignorance Far Worse than the Old


“Education,” wrote Malcolm Muggeridge fifty years ago, “the great fraud and mumbo-jumbo of the age,” had not brought to the mass of men the best that has been done and thought and said, but rather spread ignorance and folly across the land. Muggeridge understood, though he did not feel he needed to say so explicitly, that the modern ignorance is a new kind of thing, not like the ignorance of old. We Catholics who wish to bring the good news of Christ to the world must now reckon with the malady, because it will require of us something other than what was required of the old missionaries when they went among a heathen people, to show them that the best of what they already believed was but an adumbration of the truth, whole and living.

The old ignorance is easy to describe. All it meant was that people did not know how to read, or had not had a chance to study arts and letters and the sciences, or were never introduced to the gospel. Among peoples already Christian it had more to do with what class you were born to than how intelligent you were. So an Italian mason would know how to dress a block of marble for a rounded pillar, so that it would sit securely in place, tapering it towards the top, too, lest it look as if it were beetling above you and getting ready to fall upon your head. The miller knew how to rig the carpentry so that he could engage and disengage the water wheel with ease. The painter knew how to build scaffolding, and where to get the earths, greens, shellfish, bones, berries, and whatnot to create his pigments. You could not get through an ordinary day without putting into act a wide variety of skills, and practical knowledge of the world around you, and this was true of both sexes, and even of children. But they might not know who Cicero was, or how to read The Divine Comedy, or, unless they were sailors, what route you would take on the sea to get to Ireland, or what a logarithm is, and so forth.

I could now say that the new ignorance is just the old ignorance, without those skills and that practical knowledge. The new ignorant are vague about what a mill is, nor do they know who Cicero was, even though they have attended school, that efficient emptier of brains, for twelve to sixteen years. That would be bad enough, but it would still not be exactly correct.

Lately I followed a lead to an article written by our good friend Joseph Pearce, on the fact that students coming to college and students leaving college do not really know much at all about the history, theology, philosophy, art, and poetry of the Christian heritage. He is quite right about that, and I’ve long known about it. I’m sure he is aware of an even deeper ignorance, though—the ignorance you have to be educated into; the ignorance on gaudy display in the comments below his article.
For examples:
Constantine decreed that the Church had to believe in the Trinity.
Christians adopted a pagan festival to celebrate Easter and Christmas.
Christians were pacifists who sapped the strength of the Roman Empire (hat tip to you, Edward Gibbon, sour skeptic and despiser of the Church).
Christians massacred people who did not convert to their religion.
Christians burned down the library at Alexandria.
Catholics persecuted the “heretic” Copernicus.
Jesus preached socialism and the redistribution of income.
Christians despised pagan philosophy.
Christians are responsible for the rejection of centuries of scientific achievement.
Christians caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
Catholics burned a million people at the stake for being “witches.”
If it weren’t for Christians, we might have been driving around in automobiles fifteen centuries ago.

Those are just from the one article. I can supply more. 
The Founding Fathers were mostly deists. Enlightenment skeptics were primarily responsible for abolishing slavery. Nothing important culturally happened between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. 
The American Indians were largely peace-loving until Europeans arrived. Women in the Middle Ages were no better than chattel. Michelangelo and Shakespeare were homosexuals. Scholars in the Middle Ages fought over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. People believed the world was flat until Renaissance scientists (or Columbus) proved otherwise. The American economy flourished because of the slave trade. People used to practice abortion every bit as commonly as now.

“Wise women” used to give herbal remedies to people, and that is why they were accused of witchcraft. The drafters of the American constitution determined that a black man was worth only three-fifths of a white man. Women were not allowed to own property before (pick your year). The Catholic Church in particular, and Christians in general, have always been afraid of sex and the human body. Islam was peaceful enough until the Crusades. Pope Pius XII was Hitler’s man.

Catholics believe, and have always believed, that all Protestants are surely going to hell, and vice-versa, and both Catholics and Protestants believe, and have always believed, that every person not baptized with water by a priest or minister is going to join them there. Religion is just a means of “controlling” people. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Saint Paul invented the Church. Jesus was just an ordinary teacher, like the Buddha. The gospels were written down a hundred years after the facts. The first Christians suppressed the “real” gospels.
The human race was matriarchal until (pick your event: the ancient agricultural revolution will do). There was no division of labor between men and women until (pick your event: the industrial revolution will do). Very few people in the United States knew how to read anything much until the advent of compulsory schooling. The account of creation in Genesis is just like every other account of creation from the ancient world.

And on it goes. I will soon be meeting my college freshmen for the first time, in our program in the development of western civilization, and I know that I will have to un-teach them a great deal of nonsense that they have been taught. Much of it is sheer blinkered stupidity, such as that you must never use the personal pronoun “I” in an essay, or that you may not begin a sentence with “because,” or that you should never use the passive voice—defined as using any form of the verb “to be.” But much of it is this new kind of ignorance, the shallow bigotry of people who have been malformed in their schooling and in their reading of bad books or sloppy journalism, over the course of many years, so that they “know” all kinds of things that are not true, and “know” them as ingrained prejudices. 

I have seen it many times before: we will spend a whole semester teaching them about the glorious art and literature of the Middle Ages, introducing them to Dante and Giotto and Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, and still some of them will repeat that canard about darkness covering the world in gloom for ten centuries, until Petrarch or somebody was born.

The situation would be bad enough if we encountered it only in the graduates of high school and of the “lesser” colleges and universities, but not from places like Princeton and Harvard and Yale. Alas, that is not the case at all. The graduates of still-Catholic and still-Christian colleges are more likely than are their counterparts from the Poison Ivies to know some things about the western heritage. You cannot graduate from my school, Providence College, without at least brushing up against Homer, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, inter alia. But it is highly unlikely that a graduate of Brown University, that overpriced bohemian stew pot across the city from us in Providence, will have read a single play by Shakespeare for his or her classes, let alone anything of Virgil or the Scriptures.

We will also encounter it among the self-styled prophets of our time: the journalists, and journalistic writers of memoirs and cultural analyses. Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates, new darling of the left and a recipient of one of the MacArthur “genius” awards, admitted recently without embarrassment or apology that he had never heard of Saint Augustine; which is rather like a prize-winning author from England having never heard of Charlemagne. Since Coates writes about racial issues, his ignorance of the great intellect from North Africa was all the more stunning. And yet he can speak endlessly about racism and the Christian faith. Such a thing is common among journalists and the writers of popular journalistic books, and it comes from all races, all political persuasions, and both sexes.

That is what we have to deal with now. In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis said that the task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. That is still true, except that the desert-dwellers we meet suffer one jungle-mirage after another, a veritable fantasyland rain forest of monstrous untruths and massive foolishness. We will have to help them clear their heads of the hallucinogens before we can fill those heads with truth and beauty.
Editor’s note: The image above depicts Bugs Bunny’s nephew Clyde in the final scene from the Looney Toons cartoon Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grief as Spiritual Purification and Renewal

Grief as Spiritual Purification and Renewal: It is our Lord’s will that you should taste of the sorrows of this vale of tears, and not of the milder but of the most bitter kind. May His name be ever blessed, His judgments adored, and His will fulfilled, for the creature owes its Creator reverence and sub­jection in all things, be they pleasant or painful. To test our obedi­ence, and to teach us what great things we are bound to do and to suffer for so great a Master, God is wont to deprive us of what is as dear to us as the light of our eyes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tolerating Terror - Crisis Magazine-by Fr. George Rutler

Tolerating Terror - Crisis Magazine: by Fr. George Rutler

We do not know what Father Jacques Hamel thought about capitalism or climate change, but it is obvious that he loved, and loved intolerably, and, because of that, his last words to his killer were: “Va-t’en, Satan!” – “Begone, Satan!”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Healing and Change

Franciscan Penance Library

Healing and Change
They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, 'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.' And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.' So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.' And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road. (Mark 10: 46-52)
I have to think that Jesus so often felt like a biological parent. Obviously, Jesus was ready for it since he is God and we are his children.
Look at the Gospel story of Bartimaeus. Doesn’t this sound like a parent and his kids? “I need something and I want it now!” That incessant tugging that a child would do. It makes me think of little kids in a grocery store line right by the candy station. Whoever invented that station, I think moms hate the most. “Mom, mom, mom, look, Snickers!” Doesn’t that drive you nuts?
Isn’t that what Bartimaeus was doing in this Gospel? “Jesus, son of David, hear me! Please!”
And so often God does to us just like a parent would. Our Lord desires what is good for us and, if we are persistent, he is going to listen and hear us. The theme of this Gospel is that we have to work for God’s graces. If we wish to live as Christians, and wish to have the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our lives, then we have to work for it.
This story of Bartimaeus shows us what the stages of conversion are. These are the four things that we must do.
First Bartimaeus wanted to ask Jesus for healing. Have you noticed that, when Jesus heals someone, he does not just heal them, generally speaking, although he could. But that is not what he does. Instead he waits and allows us to call out to him. And then he asks the question, “What is it that you want me to do for you? What do you want from me?”
There is a lot going on with Bartimaeus. He was not just blind. He was also sitting at the roadside begging which meant that he did not have money. He did not have a family to support him. This man had issues!
What the Lord really wanted to know was, “Have you actually thought about what you really need?”
So often that is the problem with kids. They asked for things without thinking about what they really need.
We need to ask, “What is the root of our problem? What is the root of my sin?” Whether our sin is greed, or lust, or sloth, or gossiping, or whatever it might be, those sins are usually just the external manifestation of what is going on internally.
We need to think about what is going on internally. What is the root of our problems? Is it trying to find our fulfillment in this world? Is it the fact that we do not even think about the next world? We should be living for the next world rather than living for this world.
When Jesus asks you, “What is it that you wish me to do for you?”, what answer are you going to give him? You have to know what your problem is before you ask for the right solution.
The second thing we have to do is call out like Bartimaeus and keep calling out. But we need to expect to be answered in his time not ours. Jesus wants to see persistence in us, just like all parents want to see persistence in their children.
What does it usually take to get parents to say yes to something? Do they normally just give it the first time the child asks? No! The child generally has to beg and beg and beg, and then the parents say, ”Sure, if you clean the dishes and clean your room and be nice for a month and get A’s in all of your assignments from now to the end of school.”
Ultimately that is what Jesus does. He is asking, “Do you really want this? Do you really want the healing that you are asking for? Because if you do, you are going to seek it out in the way that I have offered you.”
What does Jesus tell us, “If you go to confession, if you deny yourself, and practice penance, offer up your sufferings, fastings. If you actually want this, are you willing to put effort into it?”
So once we find what the root of our problem is, the next thing is you have to put your money where your mouth is and say, “Lord, I not only know what the root of my problem is, but I am going to search out those many ways that you have given me to fix it.” And all the while you do this, you know that it may take a long time. And our answer may not just happen, just like that.
The third thing is to not be silenced. When Bartimaeus was crying out, the people following Jesus were telling him, “SHUT UP! Go back to your mat! Here is a quarter. Go sit there. Stop bothering Jesus. He is trying to save the world. Go sit in the back of the line, honey.” They were constantly trying to silence him.
People will try to silence us well. Because when you find the root of your  problem and start going to confession regularly, and you start trying to build up your life in the way of holiness and trying to deny yourself, and take on little sufferings, what are people going to tell you? They are going to tell you that you’re crazy. They are going to try and silence you.  They are going to say, “Obviously this is not working. Why do you even bother?”
There was another person who tried to do the same thing to Jesus. His name is Peter, and what did Jesus say, “Get the behind me, satan.” Struggling is worth it. Do not be silenced.
Life is like being on a football team. You have to work hard to get on the team. You have to put in that effort. And you have to know that the first year you start, you will not be playing on the field, because you have to work hard before you get to play on the field. And you can’t let anyone silence you and say, “You might as well give up, because you are never going to make it.” That’s not the attitude of a football star! You keep going because you have grit. You have tenacity. That’s what makes a great athlete. You do not just become a great athlete. You have to work for it.
So, step one -- we are blind and we have to find the root of the problem. Step two -- we have to never give up and we have to put some work into this. “I am going to deny myself, and, Lord, I am going to show you how much I want to be healed. I am not going to give up.” Step three--I will not be silenced by the world. I will not let this failure in my life hold me back. I will not give into the devil.
Lastly, we have to change. We have to be ready for change. Did you catch that nuance in the Gospel? When Jesus called Bartimaeus, he threw off his cloak and went to Jesus. If he thought he would not be healed, he would have carried his cloak with him. Bartimaeus was ready for change! He believed he would be healed so he would be able to see where he left the cloak once his sight returned.
Are we prepared for change? Bartimaeus did not just go back to his mat after he was healed. No, he changed. He said, “Lord, I will now follow you.”
Brothers and sisters, we have to change something in our lives. If you ever wish to be healed, you must change. Because the greatest temptation for Bartimaeus is that, now that he can see with the eyes that the Lord gave him, he could still be spiritually blind and fall into sin. All of us can still fall back into blindness.
We all have to change our lives. There has to be something that changes to live the Christian life. Following the Gospel is not easy. But it is worth the effort.
Do you want to be healed enough to change your life? Do you want to be healed enough to keep calling out? Do you want to be healed enough to spend time thinking about what the root of your sinfulness is? If you follow . Bartimaeus in these four steps, I cannot promise you success in this world, but I can promise you success in the next. Do you want heaven are not?  May the victory of salvation be yours, through the sufferings you have in this life.
--Father Jacob Meyer

America’s rising tide of stupid people

America’s rising tide of stupid people

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
Stupidity is on a wildfire rampage in America. Yes, the champions of what-won’t-work are in the ascendancy.
stupid questionStupidity is not limited to unintelligent people. Plenty of educated folks sport decent or high IQs, yet they harbor dumb beliefs or devotion to causes that don’t meet the test of common sense. Where these people went wrong, it seems, is failing to apply critical thinking when forming their belief systems. Intelligence does not always bring wisdom. Most intelligent people know they’re smart, but they may not know their judgment is fatally flawed.
Poor judgment sometimes flows from reliance on inaccurate or inadequate information. Most folks in the stupid category have no sense of history, are unwilling to learn the lessons of history, and are unschooled in civic responsibilities and the rule of law. Ignorance of economics is one telltale trademark of stupid political activists, although New York Times economist Paul Krugman has found a way to be both an economist and stupid at the same time.
For some serious fun, let’s survey some categories of stupid people in America:
  • Bernie Sanders star-struck supporters. These are people who support socialism — a destroyer of nations — because they are ignorant of how free enterprise creates vibrant economies and jobs. Sanders believes the private sector role is to transfer revenue to the public coffers. But why would you embrace the judgment of a man who accomplished nothing worthwhile in life and who couldn’t keep a good job until he reached his 40s? And who extolled the virtues of Ortega’s communist regime in Nicaragua, while Ortega killed or tortured 15,000 people and practiced legalized theft?
  • Minimum wagers. Among the prominent members of the Unintended Consequences Club sit the minimum wage backers. The people who push for minimum wages are too stupid to understand how it hurts more than it helps. It causes minority unemployment, “underground jobs” where people are hired off the books and no taxes are paid, people permanently priced out of jobs, stores closing. The real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of laws.
  • “Black Lives Matter”. Radical blacks are driving cops away from protecting innocent blacks and businesses in America’s largest cities. The people being killed in inner city areas are young men of color — and it’s not the police doing the killing. Black Lives Matter is fanning the flames, hastening the plunge. Only crooks, racists and political opportunists say BLM is credible.
  • Tax-the-rich socialists. These people are killing the great job-creating mechanisms that fueled America’s greatness and quality of life, a beacon in the world. If government is going to penalize the risk takers and investors by taxing away the fruits of successful capitalism, too few will expose their own capital to the risk of building innovative companies that employ large numbers of people.
  • “It Takes A Village” Multi-culturalists. These people have barged their way into the ranks of the stupid in recent years by insisting that cultural diversity has no dark side and by denying the truths of human nature and its tribal ways. Powerful tribal coteries can rip a country apart, trampling on minority groups’ rights and sometimes slaughtering religious or political opponents. Stupid multiculturalists are prattling on that there is no danger allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into this country, relying on Obama’s ineffective vetting system. Every single day, Islamists attack somewhere.
  • Spoiled brat college students. Too many college students enter stupidhood by taking college majors that offer little chance of good jobs that produce livable wages. Their participation-trophy childhoods push them toward wanting to be shielded from competition and “micro-aggressions”. These naïve, pampered college students think it’s more fun to play the victim and stage protests, than the hard work of solving problems. Well, you’re not a victim, you’re a psychological problem who wants to be handed a free education. Get over it.
Quibbles are possible, but these people afflict America. Mainstream media culprits often are reluctant to expose stupid and politically correct people, because they frequently espouse such media’s political agenda.  Worse, in too many instances the media won’t reveal the facts that prove stupid people are stupid.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions? - Crisis Magazine

Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions? - Crisis Magazine:
After every Islamic terrorist attack, whether in Europe or the U.S., people ask what can be done to prevent it from happening again. But when the obvious solutions are proposed, they are invariably met with the objection that “you can’t do that,” or “that’s unconstitutional,” or words to that effect.
Some of the obvious solutions are to close radical mosques and radical Islamic schools, to monitor suspected mosques, to deport radical imams, and, of course, to restrict Muslim immigration or ban it altogether. If you dare to say such things, however, it quickly becomes apparent that—for many, at least—only politically correct solutions are acceptable. The trouble is, the politically correct crowd doesn’t have any solutions. In the memorable words of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, “France is going to have to live with terrorism.”
Catholics are frequently in the forefront of those who object to these “drastic” measures for preventing terrorism in the West. Pope Francis, for example, has made generosity to refugees and immigrants a hallmark of his papacy. Christians, he has reminded us on several occasions, should build bridges, not walls. Others, Catholics among them, have objected that restrictions on Islamic immigration would violate the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution—as would surveillance of mosques and Islamic societies.
Catholics are understandably touchy about the subject of religious liberty. But concerns over Christians being forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow some other basic questions about religious liberty.
One of the questions is this: does a religion that doesn’t believe in religious freedom for others qualify for First Amendment protection? Another, related question might be framed as follows: Is a religion that calls for the subjugation of other religions entitled to the “free exercise” of that mandate? The underlying issue, of course, is whether or not Islam really qualifies as a religion. As any number of authorities have pointed outIslam is a hybrid—part religion and part a geo-political movement bent on world domination.
The “world domination” bit, by the way, is not confined to the fevered imaginations of right-wing fanatics. In a recent interview with Religion New ServiceCardinal Raymond Burke said “there’s no question that Islam wants to govern the world.” “Islam,” he continued, “is a religion that, according to its own interpretation, must also become the State.”
Here’s what I had to say about the matter four years ago:
Does this [the 1st Amendment] make the exercise of religion an absolute right to do anything in the name of religion? Should the free-exercise clause be extended to protect suicide cults or virgin sacrifice? The First Amendment also prohibits the establishment of a state religion, but one of the main purpose of Islam is to establish itself as the state religion. It can be argued that Islam’s raison d’etre is to be the established religion in every nation. Hence, another question must be asked: does the First Amendment protect its own abolishment?
Cardinal Burke is a canon lawyer—a profession that requires one to choose words carefully. Hence, when he talks about Islam becoming the State, he should be taken seriously. According to him, “when they [Muslims] become a majority in any country then they have the religious obligation to govern that country.” As we have seen, however, long before Muslims become a majority they begin demanding that their fellow citizens comply with sharia laws regarding diet, dress, and blasphemy. Allowing Muslims the full and free exercise of their faith is tantamount to restricting the freedom of others. Or, as Dutch MP Geert Wilders likes to say, “more Islam” means “more intolerance” for everyone else.
Wilders is referring to the consequences that follow upon the mass migration of Muslims into Europe. Although his was once a lonely voice, numerous polls show that the majority of Europeans now believe along with him that Islam does not belong in Europe. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has been in the habit of chiding Christians for their opposition to accepting more Muslim immigrants. He recently went so far as to warn them that they will have to answer to Christ at the Last Judgment because he (in the guise of the migrant) was homeless, and they did not take him in.
But, although charity is the paramount Christian virtue, there is another virtue that governs the exercise of charity. It’s called “prudence.” And prudence would suggest that spiritual leaders and secular leaders should exercise caution when advocating acts of charity that put the lives of others at risk. In Europe, there are now numerous prudential reasons for slowing or halting the flow of Muslim immigration: the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Bataclan Theater massacre, the massacres at the Brussels airport and subway, the massacre at Nice, the Munich mall massacre, the axe attack aboard a German train, the bomb attack on a wine bar in the city of Ansbach, and the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults which targeted over 1,200 German women.
The most recent outrage was the slaughter of a French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, by two Islamic terrorists who burst into a church in Normandy during Mass and slit his throat. Pope Francis condemned the attack, but on the same day in Krakow he spoke once again about the need to welcome refugees. He called for “solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety.”
But how about the right of Christians and Jews to profess their faith “in freedom and safety?” Fr. Hamel is no longer free to profess his faith, and now that the Islamic State has proclaimed its intention to target more churches in Europe, Christians are going to feel considerably less safe at Sunday service. Jews in Europe already know the feeling. Most synagogues in Europe are now protected by security guards during Saturday services.
But if you really want to see the European future, just look at those nations where Muslims are already a majority. In Nigeria, where Muslims make up about 60 percent of the population, Christians are regularly attacked during church services, and on some occasions entire congregations have been burned alive inside their churches.
All of which prompts a question: should Western nations passively stand by as their own population balance shifts in the direction of Nigeria’s? A curtailment or a moratorium on Muslim immigration is one of the obvious solutions to the problem of terrorism in the West. But, as I’ve suggested above, many Americans think that such a moratorium would be unconstitutional. After all, doesn’t the Constitution forbid a “religious test” in scrutinizing immigrants? Indeed today’s top news story concerns the attack on Donald Trump by the father of a slain Muslim soldier. At the Democratic Convention, Khizr Khan challenged Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration by asking: “Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”
In fact, the Constitution has no ban on a religious test for immigration. In a recent National Review piece, Andrew McCarthy points out that Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The clause has nothing to do with immigration and, as our bien pensants like to say, it has nothing to do with Islam.
The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 actually gives the president wide latitude in restricting immigration:
Whenever the president finds that the entry of aliens or any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, the president may … suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
One of the main intents of the act was to prevent communist ideologues from entering the country, but it was also invoked in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to keep Iranians out of the U.S. And—surprise—according to McCarthy, “under federal law, the executive branch is expressly required to take religion into account in determining who is granted asylum.” As McCarthy notes:
We have a right to require scrutiny of the beliefs of aliens who petition for entry into our country … this includes beliefs the alien may regard as tenets of his faith—especially if such ‘faith tenets’ involve matters of law, governance, economy, combat and interpersonal relations that in our culture’s separation of church and state are not seen as spiritual.
In short, if you believe your religion allows you to execute apostates or subjugate infidels, don’t bother to apply.
When Pope Francis visited Poland for World Youth Day, security in Krakow was at its highest level. Forty thousand security personnel were deployed and, according to The Guardian:
Mobile X-ray devices and metal detectors, as well as dogs trained to detect explosives, are in use at railway and bus stations, major road hubs and venues where papal events are due to take place. Police said that gas tankers and large trucks had been banned from Krakow following the use of a 19-ton truck in a terrorist attack in Nice earlier this month.
Does that suggest anything? Are the officials worried that Protestants or Jews are going to attack the Catholic youth? Are they fearful that Buddhist will attempt to bomb the popemobile? Before the era of mass Muslim immigration into Europe, such precautions would have been deemed as overkill. Now they seem like prudent measures to prevent overkill. The heightened security at World Youth Day and all over Europe is a tacit acknowledgement that Islam differs radically from all other religions. This is a point that Cardinal Burke made in his interview when he criticized Catholic leaders who “simply think that Islam is a religion like the Catholic faith or the Jewish faith.” Just so. It’s well past time to question whether a religion with totalitarian ambitions should be treated like all other religions.
In the Guardian story about the Pope’s visit to Poland, he is described as a “modern pope.” But in some respects he, along with many bishops, seems to belong to an earlier era—an era when it seemed that all people desired nothing more than peace and friendship. At a time when the world is faced with the resurgence of a seventh-century warrior religion, that sixties sensibility no longer seems so modern.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty. Part 1 was titled "Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment" and was posted on July 17th.

As we showed in Part 1 of this  essay, for two millennia the Catholic Church has taught that the death penalty can be a legitimate punishment for heinous crimes, not merely to protect the public from the immediate danger posed by the offender but also to secure retributive justice and to deter serious crime.   This was the uniform teaching of scripture and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and it was reaffirmed by popes and also codified in the universal catechism of the Church promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in the sixteenth century, as well as in numerous local catechisms.  
Consider the standard language of the Baltimore Catechism, which was used throughout Catholic parishes in the United States for educating children in the faith for much of the twentieth century:
Q. 1276. Under what circumstances may human life be lawfully taken?
A.  Human life may be lawfully taken: 1. In self-defense, when we are unjustly attacked and have no other means of saving our own lives;  2. In a just war, when the safety or rights of the nation require it;  3. By the lawful execution of a criminal, fairly tried and found guilty of a crime punishable by death when the preservation of law and order and the good of the community require such execution. 1
Thus, killing another human being in self-defense, during a just war, or through the lawful execution of a criminal does not violate the Fifth Commandment’s rule “Thou shall not kill” (which many modern editions of the Bible translate as “Thou shall not murder”). The permissibility of these three types of lawful killing (unlike the deliberate killing of the innocent, which is always prohibited) depends on contingent circumstances.  As long as (in the words of Pope Innocent III) “the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation,” the death penalty may be imposed if it genuinely serves the common good.  

Generally, the Church has left these and similar prudential judgments to public officials.  For example, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly affirms that when it comes to judging whether a decision to go to war is morally justified, “the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good.”  The institutional Church respects the authority and responsibility of public officials, guided by the sound moral principles it preserves and promulgates, to make these judgments.  Similarly, to the best of our knowledge, the Church has fully respected the authority of lawmakers to write statutes on self-defense that detail the conditions under which individuals may use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and others.  

Unfortunately, in recent years churchmen have not been equally respectful of the authority and duty of public officials to exercise their prudential judgments in applying Catholic teaching when it comes to the death penalty, despite the fact that churchmen bring to the debate over capital punishment no particular expertisederived from their religious training and pastoral experience.  Given the Church’s longstanding and irreformable teaching that death may in principle be a legitimate punishment for grievous crimes, the key issue for Catholics is the empirical and practical question of whether the death penalty more effectively promotes public safety and the common good than do lesser punishments.  We maintain that it does and thus devote about half of our forthcoming book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, to making this case.

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church  affirms that “[l]egitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense” and that “[p]unishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.” 2 Thus, punishment is fundamentally retributive, inflicting on the offender a penalty commensurate with the gravity of his crime, though it may serve other purposes as well, such as incapacitating the offender, deterring others, and promoting the offender’s rehabilitation.  
The significance of this point cannot be overstated.  Secular critics of capital punishment often reject the very idea of retribution—the principle that an offender simply deserves a punishment proportionate to the gravity of his offense—but no Catholic can possibly do so. For unless an offender deserves a certain punishment—whether that be a fine, imprisonment, or whatever—and deserves a punishment of that specific degree of severity, then it would be unjust to inflict the punishment on him.  Hence all the other ends of punishment—deterrence, rehabilitation, protection of society, and so on—presuppose the retributive aim of giving the offender what he deserves. This is why the Catechism promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching that retribution is the “primary aim” of punishment.

Among the many reasons why capital punishment ought to be preserved (all of which we set out at length in our forthcoming book), the most fundamental one is that for extremely heinous crimes, no lesser punishment could possibly respect this Catholic principle that a punishment ought to be proportional to the offense.  We devote the remainder of this article to developing this point.

In the American states today the only crime for which the death penalty may be imposed (according to U. S. Supreme Court decisions) is murder.  (The Court has not ruled on the legitimacy of the death penalty for the national crimes of treason and espionage.)  Western societies, both before and after the rise of Christianity, never imposed the death penalty for all unlawful killings.  As far back as our records go, laws reserved the ultimate punishment for intentional and malicious killings and usually imposed a lesser punishment for negligent killings and those resulting from a “heat of passion.”  The thirty-one American states with capital punishment today are even more selective, reserving the death penalty for the most heinous murders, such as multiple murders, rape murders, torture murders, and the murders of the very young and the very old.
A close analysis of the 43 murderers executed in 2012 reveals the true depravity of the crimes and the criminals that merit the death penalty in the United States today.  Here are nine of the cases (space does not allow a complete listing):
David Alan Gore, who, with his cousin, cruised central Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, abducting, raping, and murdering at least half a dozen teenage girls (and the mother of one of them).  In his last murder, the 17-year-old girl, repeatedly raped by Gore, had managed to free herself and then ran naked from the house where she was being held.  Gore chase down the girl, dragged her back towards the house, and shoot her twice in the head in the driveway in full view of 15-year-old boy who was bicycling past the scene.

Edwin Hart Turner, who during a robbery shot and killed an unresisting convenience store clerk pleading for his life and then shortly thereafter robbed a customer at a gas station and shot and killed him while he was on the ground also pleading for his life.

Robert Brian Waterhouse, who early one morning left a bar with a 29-year-old woman and later beat her with a hard instrument, raped her, and sexually assaulted her with a large object.  She was alive throughout this assault.  He then dragged his victim into the water where she died of drowning.  She was discovered completely naked and her injuries were so severe that she was unrecognizable.  Fourteen years before, Waterhouse had broken into a home and killed a 77-year-old woman, for which he served 8 years before being paroled.

• Timothy Shaun Stemple, who murdered his wife to collect her life insurance by beating her in the head with a baseball bat, driving a truck over her head, beating her again, driving the truck over her chest, and then driving over her at 60 miles per hour, killing her.  While awaiting trial Stemple tried to get other inmates to arrange the death of several witnesses in his case.  

• Henry Curtis Jackson, who, in an attempt to steal money from his mother’s home, murdered a 2-year–old girl, a 2-year-old boy, a 3-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old girl.  He injured two other older girls and stabbed a 1-year-old girl, leaving her unable to walk. 

Daniel Wayne Cook, who, with an accomplice, killed a 26-year-old man after beating, torturing, and sodomizing him over a 6-7 hour period.  A few hours later the offenders sodomized and strangled to death a 16-year-old boy. 

• Robert Wayne Harris, who in retaliation for his firing from a car wash, murdered the manager and four other employees by shooting them in the back of the head at close range while they were kneeling on the floor.  Another survived but was left with permanent disabilities.  When he was being interviewed by police about this crime, he volunteered that he had previously abducted and murdered a woman and he led police to her remains in a field.  

Richard Dale Stokley, who with an accomplice abducted two 13-year-old girls from a campsite, drove them to a remote area, raped them, stabbed them in the eye, killed them by stomping on their necks, and then threw the naked bodies down an abandoned mineshaft.  

Manuel Pardo, Jr., who killed seven men and two women in five separate incidents over a four-month period.
Altogether, the forty-three offenders executed in 2012 killed a total of 70 individuals and injured another 12 during the capital crimes for which they were executed.  We also know that eight of the forty-three (19%) had previously killed at least one other person, and several had killed more than one.  And many of those who had not (as far as we know) killed in the past had previously committed other very serious crimes.  Altogether, at least two-thirds of those executed in 2012 had previously committed a homicide, sexual assault, robbery, felony assault, or kidnapping.

As these facts and a wealth of other data show, we reserve the death penalty in the United States for the most heinous murders and the most brutal and conscienceless murderers.  This is not, as some critics argue, a kind of state-run lottery that randomly chooses an unlucky few for the ultimate penalty from among all those convicted of murder.  Rather, the capital punishment system is a filter that selects the worst of the worst Here is one particularly telling statistic:  of the murders that resulted in the 43 executions in 2012, more than a third involved the rape of the murder victim or of another person either by the executed offender or his accomplice.  Yet, among all homicides in the United States in recent decades, only about 1% involved a sexual assault.  In nearly all of the thirty-one American states that currently have the death penalty, legislators have identified rape murder as especially heinous and thus potentially deserving a death sentence.  Indeed, before someone can be executed in the United States legislators must agree that the kind of murder committed potentially merits death and prosecutors and juries must agree that this particular murderer deserves to die for his crime(s).

Put another way, to sentence killers like those described above to less than death would fail to do justice because the penalty – presumably a long period in prison – would be grossly disproportionate to the heinousness of the crime.  Prosecutors, jurors, and the loved ones of murder victims understand this essential point.  As the mother of the murder victim of one of those executed in 2012 said to the sentencing jury, “I would beg this court and this jury to see that justice is done.  And justice to us is no less than the death penalty.”  Even offenders themselves sometimes recognize that justice demands their death, as three of those executed in 2012 fully acknowledged.  One who killed two men after a minor traffic accident said, “I killed two people.  I’ve always accepted responsibility for the taking of their lives. . . .  I believe in justice and I believe that the victims, their hatred, their anger, they need to have justice.”  Another who killed a 63-year-old prison guard during an escape attempt pleaded guilty and waived all appeals, resulting in his execution just one year after sentencing.  In a letter he wrote a week before his execution he commended the prosecutor and affirmed the justice of his punishment:  “I do not want or desire to die, instead I deserve to die; this I have always stated.”  In concluding he wrote, “It’s not about me or any future killers, it is about ensuring that in contested cases that the victims and their families get their intended and needed swift justice.”  And one who abducted, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old girl told a federal court, “I killed the little girl.  It’s just that the punishment be concluded.  I believe it’s a good thing, that the death penalty does inhibit further criminal acts.”  He added, “I killed.  I deserve to be killed.”

We have focused here on the retributive purpose of the death penalty because, again, according to Catholic doctrine retribution is the “primary aim” of punishment.  In By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed we also show that capital punishment has various practical benefits, such as protecting prison guards and other inmates from the most dangerous offenders, and protecting members of the community by giving “lifers” who escape from prison strong reasons not to kill while on the run. We also argue that capital punishment almost certainly deters at least some potential murderers, and gives murderers a strong incentive to plea bargain to very long prison sentences, which likely saves lives by increasing the deterrent and incapacitative effect of long prison sentences over shorter ones.  (We also refute the common charges that the capital punishment system in the United States results in the execution of the innocent and discriminates against minorities and the poor.)
But make no mistake:  retributive punishment in and of itself makes the world a safer place and upholds the common good:
• It powerfully reinforces society’s condemnation of the crime of murder, making it less likely that those growing up in a community with the death penalty would even consider killing someone in the first place.

• It anchors the entire schedule of punishments for serious crimes to the principle of just deserts, ensuring the survival of retributive punishment as a key element in the criminal justice system and thus shoring up the schedule of punishments against powerful modern tendencies toward ever greater leniency in criminal punishment.

• It reassures the families and other loved ones of the victims of grave crimes that they live in a society that is just, and that shows respect for the lives of victims by inflicting on their killers a penalty that is truly proportionate to the gravity of the offense. 

 It encourages repentance insofar as it makes offenders aware of the extreme gravity of their crimes and also of the shortness of the time remaining to them to get themselves right with God and to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims.

• Perhaps most importantly, in its supreme gravity it promotes belief in and respect for the majesty of the moral order and for the system of human law that both derives from and supports that moral order.
For well over a millennium the popes of the Catholic Church exercised civil authority over a large swath of territory in central Italy called the Papal States.  In that capacity they frequently authorized the death penalty for murderers and others.  Although we do not have data for how often they did so before the nineteenth century, we know that between 1796 and 1865, six popes authorized a total of 516 executions, four-fifths for murder.  

This papal endorsement of capital punishment, though rather recent in the history of the Church, is largely ignored in Catholic debates over the death penalty, as is the striking fact that from 1929 to 1969 the criminal code of the Vatican City itself included the death penalty for the attempted assassination of the pope.  The many dozens of popes who approved executions in the Papal States and the representatives of the Church responsible for the Vatican City criminal code understood a truth that too many in the modern Church have forgotten:  that justice demands the death penalty for the most heinous crimes and that if “the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation,” it promotes public safety and serves the larger common good. 

1 The Baltimore Catechism is available from many online sources.  The death penalty is addressed in the third volume of the catechism, which is for older students.  See, accessed June 4, 2015. 
2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), sec. 2266, p. 546.