March 31, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/31/2015 (Extra)

The only objection, then, to the new heathen, contraceptive morality will be that the second condition I mentioned - near-universality of contraception where there ought not to be begetting - simply won't be fulfilled. Against the background of a society with that morality, more and more people will have intercourse with little feeling of responsibility, little restraint, and yet they just won't be so careful about always using contraceptives. And so the widespread use of contraceptives naturally leads to more and more rather than less and less abortion. - GEM Anscombe

Rules of Racialists-Part II - Victor Davis Hanson, Pajamas Media

Indiana: The Holy War of the Left - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Ending The Real Rape Culture - Matthew Cochran, The Federalist

Is Indiana Protecting Discrimination? - Josh Blackman, NRO

Mike Pence, Hoosier Daddy - Debra Saunders, SF Gate

Compulsory Voting is Unconstitutional - Hans von Spakovsky, Human Events

Self-Enforcing Discrimination - Walter Williams, Human Events

Generals of Regulation - Paul Nolette, Liberty Law Blog

Colorado Pushes Back against Oklahoma and Nebraska Marijuana Suit - Adam Bates, Cato

Conservatives Are Responsible for Liberalism - Ben Peterson, Intercollegiate Review

The End of Tolerance And Enforced Morality - Ben Domenech, The Federalist

Tim Cook’s Moral Confusion—and Intolerance - Roger Pilon, Cato

A Time for Testing - R.R. Reno, First Things

The Surrogacy Industry And Human Trafficking - Elise Hilton, Acton

Clinton...Destroys Remaining Emails - Helle Dale, Daily Signal

Con “Law” Theory, New Haven-Style - Michael S. Greve, Liberty Law Blog

Let’s Reinvigorate Public Discourse - James Lopez, The Federalist

CathCon Daily - 3/31/2015

A democracy, the realistic observer is forced to conclude, is likely to be idealistic in its feelings about itself, but imperialistic about its practice. - Irving Babbitt

Music Hijacks Perception of Time - Jonathan Berger, Nautilus

Indiana's RFRA Act - Robert J. Araujo, Mirror of Justice

Welfare Reform and Mobility - Scott Winship, E21

The Hypocrisy of Marc Benioff - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

The ACLU’s Hypocritical Defense of Laws - Carson Holloway, Daily Signal

Minecraft Over Marriage - Mark Regnerus, First Things

Conservative Scholarship and the Problem of Myth - Forrest McDonald, Imaginative Conservative

Ross Douthat's Questions - Rick Garnett, Mirror of Justice

Big Box Urbanism - John Sanphillippo, New Geography

The Role of Religion - Richard J. Mouw, First Things

Put a Stop to Stoplights - Jonathan Coppage, American Conservative

Stand Up for Indiana - Patrick Buchanan, American Conservative

March 30, 2015

The Sunset of the West

In recent days, with the passage of the Indiana RFRA, an act mirroring that enshrined in statute or court decision in more than half the states of these United States and in the federal government, and the ensuing uproar created by those ignoring the text of the act and judging it based on feelings alone, I think we have finally reached a point where the veneer of claims about "tolerance" can be dispensed with, and social conservatives must, must, cease deluding themselves about any return to a situation of neutrality in the law.

Having now wiped away the final semblances of "equal protection under the law," and transformed all social jurisprudence into a variation on the passage from the Supreme Court case Casey v. Planned Parenthood (which states "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life"), the State turns its head towards ensuring that nothing - no person, intermediary institution, law, regulation, or smaller government - interferes with what philosopher John Haldane calls "hedonistic consequentialism," or the idea that "ethics is about promoting or respecting the good of persons, where that good is understood as consisting in the satisfaction of considered preferences."

In other words, the State is now at war with portions of its citizenry, at the command of an elite, educated, mob. This mob sees every limitation as an insult, every hesitation the result of bigotry, every pause as insufficient commitment to the cause. It has overcome resistance to contraception, abortion, gay marriage (and soon, plural marriage), pornography, adultery, norms against suicide and "assisted" suicide, and other activities through a moral crusade from which it has stolen the Christian language of rights, used recently to great effect in ending slavery, and stripping that language of any purpose beyond itself, of any boundary save consent, and any responsibility save obtaining that consent. Need we doubt that the modern mind, considering slavery, believes that the problem was that slaves had not consented to their condition, and that Lincoln's statement that "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master," is incomprehensible in at least part?

For mastery is what the modern mind seeks - mastery over nature and over self. The given-ness of life, the gift of life, is gone. There is nothing beyond oneself to thank for where one is (though perhaps one may blame others for not being a rich genius). Only in such a mind could the works of the New Atheists take hold and grow - the works which fail to understand, or attempt to understand, religious ideals - and be endless mimicked and repeated as if themselves gospel. And religious commitment is already being used as a weapon in divorce matters, whereby atheist parents (or even those seeking to get a foothold against the other party) demand that children not be taken to the religious worship of the other parent, and insinuate that such is a form of child abuse (aping the works of many a New Atheist). It will not be long (indeed, the day may already be here), before religious faith is considered a negative factor in cases where a court must balance custody decisions, and a negative factor which may implicate the intervention of child protective services. For the mob knows that the surest way to achieve its goals, even surer than courts, is to get at the children. Do we not see millennials, after years of bombardment by the media of the idea that "gay parents are just like everyone else, and are born that way, and only want to have committed loving families, and anyway, how dare we judge?" turning surely and slowly (or even rapidly) in that direction?

That the mob is a descendant of the mobs of revolutions past we need no longer doubt. Witness the slavish devotion to ideals, under girded by no support in reality, and similarly, undercut by no contrary realism. Witness the studies which at least provide pause for whether same-sex-lead families provide better or equal parenting to traditional families - they are not challenged well on any findings, but dismissed as bigoted or biased. Classical rhetoric dismissed in an emotive windstorm of ad hominems and tu quoques - calling C.S. Lewis: your Bulver's day has arrived.

The Indiana RFRA is welcome. But it is weak, and will fall in front of the storm. As predicted by a friend in a recent Facebook post, at some point in the near future, within 1 - 5 years by my own reckoning, the RFRA laws, federal and state, will be overthrown in a Supreme Court decision. This will surprise only those who have lived with their heads under rocks, for it will be the logical outcome of the Court's long jurisprudence of sexual individualism.

We are at war. It is a war we did not wish, but it is thrust upon us.  And the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can raise the barricades. We must take every opportunity in law to argue against the eventuality. But we should not expect the law to do much for us any longer. There are those who will say that what is written here is "divisive" or seeks no compromise. This is untrue. For we must compromise, if only to hold the peace as long as possible, while we form communities and keep alive what tradition and religion we can. But, while we will not breach the compromise (laughably, the RFRA is seen as such by many!), it will certainly be broken. The fleeting withdrawal from the federal RFRA has shown us as much. And the refusal to read and understand - this law, our religious faiths, the philosophy of the West - is evidence that compromise may be possible only for a little while longer.

CathCon Daily - 3/30/2015

What seems to me to be driving our whole civilization toward the abyss at present is a one-sided conception of liberty, a conception that is purely centrifugal, that would get rid of all outer control and then evade or deny openly the need of achieving inner control. - Irving Babbitt

Why So Many Empty Church Pews? - W. Bradford Wilcox, AEI

Singapore without Lee Kuan Yew? - Joel Kotkin, New Geography

You Can Argue with a Progressive - R.J. Snell, Intercollegiate Review

Presidency Is a ‘Sacred Trust,’ Not ‘Some Crown’ for ‘Two Families’ - Kate Scanlon, Daily Signal

A Sunday in Nisan - Fulton J. Sheen, The Catholic Thing

What Exactly Congress Is Spending Your Dollars On - Ed Feulner, Daily Signal

Sucker Bet - Stephen Eide, City Journal

Same Religious Freedom Law Obama Voted for in Illinois - John McCormack, Weekly Standard

Affirmative Consent Laws Criminalize Everyone - Robert Carle, The Federalist

Federalist Society Panel on Sexual Assault on Campus - Mike Rappaport, Liberty Law Blog

Indiana’s “Defense” of Religious Liberty - Roger Pilon, Cato

Perishing for Want of Imagery - Russell Kirk, Imaginative Conservative

Laycock on State RFRAs - John McCormack, Weekly Standard

Must Catholicism Be Patriarchal? - Fr. Dwight Longenecker, National Catholic Register

A Low Point for Catholic Marriages - Nate Madden, Catholic News Service

The House of the Future Will Be Solid State - Richard Reep, New Geography

Postmodern Citizenship - David Conway, Nomocracy in Politics

Judicial Tyranny UnMoored - Adam MacLeod, Public Discourse

America’s Death Is Greatly Exaggerated - Darren Patrick Guerra, The Federalist

March 28, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/28/2015 (Weekender)

Not the free individual but the lost individual; not Independence but isolation; not self-discovery but self-obsession; not the conquer but to be conquered; these are major states of mind in contemporary imaginative literature. - Robert Nisbet

When My Father Told Me He Wanted to Be a Woman - Denise Shick, Public Discourse

A Civilizing Cinderella - Daniel McInerny, The Catholic Thing

The Federalist Society in Legal Education - John McGinnis, WSJ

Whether Government Programs Are Working or Not - David Mulhausen, Daily Signal

Charter Schools...Introduce Some Necessary Competition - Rich Cromwell, The Federalist

How to Read Willmoore Kendall - George Carey, Imaginative Conservative

March 27, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/27/2015 (Extra)

When I had journeyed half of our life's way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.

Philip Glass Half-Full - Terry Teachout, Commentary

More Executive Overreach, This Time from the EPA - Ilya Shapiro, Cato

Frog and Toad: Arnold Lobel’s Little Gems - Sophie Hileman, Imaginative Conservative

The Mystery of Extraordinarily Accurate Medieval Maps - Julie Rehmeyer, Discover Magazine

Robert Putnam's Mission - Kay Hymowitz, City Journal

The 4th Amendment is Another Victim of the Drug War - Adam Bates, Cato

Dilbert on Economists - Mark Perry, AEI

Beyond Vergara - Larry Sand, City Journal

Equal Rights for All - Donald Devine, Liberty Law Blog

A Win for Educational Choice in Mississippi - Jason Bedrick, Cato

How Not to Read the Bible - Collin Garbarino, First Things

Restoring the Old-Fashioned Budget Virtue of … FDR and Truman?!? - Daniel Mitchell, Cato

CathCon Daily - 3/27/2015

Mr. Madison wished to relieve the sufferers, but was afraid of establishing a dangerous precedent, which might hereafter be perverted to the countenance of purposes very different from those of charity. He acknowledged, for his own part, that he could not undertake to lay his finger on that article in the Federal Constitution which granted a right of Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. - Annals of Congress

Victim of Vulgar Keynesianism - Anthony Mueller, Mises

Hiding Gay Texas - John Murdock, First Things

I Can Do Business With Communist China, But Not Indiana - Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

Inequality Benefits Everyone - George Will, Washington Post

Mysterium Iniquitatis - Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing

Can Family Breakdown in Low-Education America Be Reversed? - Michael Barone, Human Events

Was ‘American Sniper’ Antiwar? - David Franke, American Conservative

Common Ground With Iran - Patrick Buchanan, American Conservative

Why An Urban Church Abandoned Traditional Charity - Joseph Sunde, Acton

Still Moving to Texas -Wendell Cox, New Geography

A Manifesto for Liberal Education - Eva Brann, Imaginative Conservative

March 26, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/26/2015 (Extra)

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. - Frederic Bastiat

Rules for the Fed to Live By - Calomiris & Ireland, Weekly Standard

Why a Higher Minimum Wage Will Hurt the Poor - Diana Furchtgott-Roth, NY Daily News

Colleges and Sustainability Indoctrination - Peterson & Wood, Intercollegiate Review

Pension Sticker Shock - Stephen Malanga, City Journal

When Jefferson Read the Qur'an - David Forte, Liberty Law Blog

Originalism and the Rule of the Dead - Joel Alicea, National Affairs

The Common Law Roots of the Duty of Clarity - John McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

The Campus Left Begins to Implode - Jonathan Last, Weekly Standard

Limit Tax Breaks for the Rich - James Pethokoukis, AEI

On Creeping and (Sometimes) Creepy Individualism - Peter Lawler, NRO

Mike Pence Signs Religious Freedom Bill - Kate Scanlon, Daily Signal

‘Where I Might Be Wrong on Gay Marriage’ - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Protecting Religious Freedom - Rick Garnett, South Bend Tribune

Education Savings Accounts Sweep the Nation - Burke & Corona, Daily Signal

CathCon Daily - 3/26/2015

All of us need an identity which unites us with our neighbours, our countrymen, those people who are subject to the same rules and the same laws as us, those people with whom we might one day have to fight side by side to protect our inheritance, those people with whom we will suffer when attacked, those people whose destinies are in some way tied up with our own. - Roger Scruton

Forgetting Allen Tate - C.C. Pecknold, First Things

The Hideous and the Damned - Michael Davis, Imaginative Conservative

The ACLU’s Betrayal of Civil Liberties - Carson Holloway, Public Discourse

Why Is the Angry Left So Angry? - Robert Tracinski, The Federalist

The Campaign To Make You Care About Climate Change - David Harsanyi, Federalist

A Helluva Show - James Panero, City Journal

Gustave de Molinari’s Final Words - Louis Rouanet, Mises

Conservative Reform, Chesterton, and the Chieftains - Peter Lawler, Imaginative Conservative

I Wanted That Kid Dead - Russell Saltzman, First Things

CA Should Prioritize Regular People - Joel Kotkin, New Geography

Edmund Burke and Patriotism - Jack Kerwick, Nomocracy in Politics

Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd - Bee Wilson, The Guardian

Cold Comfort - Robert Bryce, Weekly Standard

How Poor Are the Poor? - Thomas Edsall, NYT

March 25, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/25/2015 (Extra)

Are “Facts” the Only Kind of Truth? - Randall Smith, The Catholic Thing

Internal Constraints on Agencies - Mike Rappaport, Liberty Law Blog

Feds Paid Politico $432K in 2014 - Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard

Illegal Immigration Is Illiberal Immigration - V.D. Hanson, Front Page Magazine

ISIS and Sexual Slavery - Stern & Berger, Lawfare

Reflections on Leonard Bernstein - Alex Montgomery, Intercollegiate Review

Congress's Archaic Information Practices - Jim Harper, Cato

CathCon Daily - 3/25/2015

People crushed by laws, have no hope but to evade power. If the laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have most to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous. - Edmund Burke

The Best Reason I’m Wrong On Gay Marriage - Editors, The Federalist

Four Policy Problems With Physician-Assisted Suicide - Ryan T. Anderson, Daily Signal

Common Core as Nationalized Drone Training - Bruce Frohnen, Nomocracy in Politics

Score a Victory for Cruz over Brown - Paul Knappenberger, Cato

Just Don’t Smoke While Pregnant - Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

What ‘Justified’ Reveals About Manhood - Rachel Lu, The Federalist

The Theocracy Brief - Rick Garnett, Mirror of Justice

Doing a Good Job at Tedious, Detail-Oriented. Work - James Pethokoukis, AEI

P.J. O’Rourke Addresses the Supreme Court - Joe Carter, Acton

The American Right Is in Serious Trouble - Chase Padusniak, Intercollegiate Review

The Effective Cardinal Pell - George Weigel, First Things

Federal Gaming Ban Undermines Federalism - Michelle Minton, Human Events

California GOP Embraces Gun Banning - Steven Greenhut, Human Events

Building an Underclass - Benjamin Schwarz, American Conservative

Natural Rights Conservatism—The Case of Leo Strauss - Patrick Deneen, American Conservative

The Case for Suburban Renewal - Ross Elliott, New Geography

“Catholic” Rights and the Problem of the Nation State - Bruce Frohnen, Imaginative Conservative

March 24, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/24/2015

He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative. - G.K. Chesterton

Liberty Students Excited About Cruz Speech - D.C. McAllister, The Federalist

No Rape at UVA - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Why Should a Jew Care about the Fate of Christianity? - David Gelernter, First Things

Is the U.S. Back in the Coup Business? - Patrick Buchanan, American Conservative

What's Gone Wrong with Democracy? - Walter Williams, Human Events

Searching for a Better Dystopia - Gracy Olmstead, American Conservative

The Paradox of Title IX - Ashleen Bagnulo, Public Discourse

Science Narrows in on Imagination - Stephen Masty, Imaginative Conservative

Harnessing Moral Truths Among Millennials - Christopher Nelson, Imaginative Conservative

The Judiciary Should Interpret, Not Construct, the Constitution - John McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

The Same Thing, but Different - Hadley Arkes, The Catholic Thing

The Death Of Catholic Universities In America - Dominic Lynch, The Federalist

Meet Real Trauma - Chris Hernandez, The Federalist

The Wealth of Cities - Matthew Mitchell, Liberty Law Blog

Stop Equality-Mongering - Matthew Cochran, The Federalist

March 23, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/23/2015

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires. - Marcus Aurelius

What’s Behind the Gender Wage Gap - Andrew Syrios, Mises

Iran and the Lessons of History - Myron Magnet, City Journal

Can Faith Survive in the “First World”? - David G. Bonagura, Jr., The Catholic Thing

Elizabeth Warren’s World, and Mine - Michael Greve, Liberty Law Blog

Being a Climate Change Skeptic Isn't Like Fearing Vaccines - Stephen Moore, Daily Signal

The Extended Republic Theory of James Madison - George Carey, Imaginative Conservative

Mis-Judging Law, Meaning, and Justice - Bruce Frohnen, University Bookman

DHS Shutdown - Chris Edwards, Cato

Cardinal Kasper Responds to First Things' Review - Kasper & Moloney, First Things

Celibacy in Question – Again - Brad Miner, The Catholic Thing

Beyond the Screen: Love in a Time of Social Media - Samantha Schroeder, Public Discourse

Luther and Calvin on the Mosaic Law - John D. Wilsey, Nomocracy in Politics

The Walking Dread: “It Follows” - Eve Tushnet, American Conservative

Does the GOP Really Want War? - W. James Antle, III, American Conservative

How Community Leaders Are Reducing Poverty - Kate Scanlon, The Federalist

March 22, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/22/2015 (Weekend Extra)

Man created in the divine image, the protagonist of a great drama in which his soul was at stake, was replaced by man the wealth-seeking and –consuming animal. - Richard Weaver

Turbocharge the ‘Molasses-Like Economy’ - Thaleigha Rampersad, Daily Signal

Is Academic Freedom Inherently Good? - Patrick Deneen, Imaginative Conservative

Say No to the ‘Utah Compromise’ - Walter Olson, Cato

How to Make a God Movie - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

DEA ‘Cold Consent’ Encounters Constitute Federal Stop-and-Frisk - Adam Bates, Cato

Hurting Kids Isn’t The Way To Make Gay People Happy - D.C. McAllister, The Federalist

The Alphabet of Satire - Stefan Kanfer, City Journal

In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas - Judith Shulevitz, NYT

March 21, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/21/2015 (Weekend Edition)

National School Choice Proposal? - Andrew Coulson, Cato

Dale Hansen's Greatness - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

11-Year Old Suspended for Bringing Leaf to School - Jordan Richardson, Daily Signal

Poe, Dickens, Ravens, and Nevermore - Sean Fitzpatrick, Imaginative Conservative

Catholic Schools Forced to Fund LGBT Groups? - Kelsey Harkness, Daily Signal

Four Common Myths About the Flat Tax - David Allen, Daily Signal

GOP and the Great War Spending Scam - Jason Friedman, Cato

If the Family Spent Like the Government - Michael Sargent, Daily Signal

Contraception, Conscience, and Church Authority - George Sim Johnston, The Catholic Thing

From Farm to Front Door - Gracy Olmstead, American Conservative

The American Dream in Crisis - Robert L. Smith, Plain Dealer

The New Life of Veronique Levy - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

A Flawed But Important Take on Immigration - Peter Skerry, American Interest

March 20, 2015

Catholics and the Death Penalty - A Reply to Dr. Tollefsen

      I see this morning that the philosopher Christopher Tollefsen has written an essay, intelligent and thoughtful, posted on The Public Discourse website, of The Witherspoon Institute. Dr. Tollefsen is (in no particular order of importance) a professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, a public intellectual, a Catholic, and noted for his opposition to the death penalty. As such, being a lawyer, and lacking any special training or study in philosophy or theology, I approach my response to his essay with some trepidation. Nonetheless, I believe that a response to Dr. Tollefsen's essay is merited, and I hope that I may contribute some small thing in the discussion. 

      His essay, "God, Death, and Capital Punishment," in fine, consists of Dr. Tollefsen's responses to two critiques of his arguments against use of the death penalty. He frames his responses in two sections. The first section is entitled "Can a Catholic Hold My View About Capital Punishment?," to which he replies in the affirmative. The second, "Can a Christian Hold My View About God and Death?," to which he similarly replies in the affirmative.

      I am mainly concerned here with the first prong of his response, which consists of a response to the question "Can a Catholic Hold My View About Capital Punishment?" Dr. Tollefsen argues that the death penalty is intrinsically wrong, and that, though the Catholic Church has taught in the past that "without mortal sin it is possible to exercise a judgment of blood as long as one proceeds to bring punishment not in hatred but in judgment, not incautiously but advisedly," this is not a brief for use of the death penalty. In light of the foregoing, an oath required by the Church of followers of the heretical Peter Waldo, he states:
But the Church has never taught that the death penalty is mandatory, nor has it taught that one sins if one rejects its permissibility.  At most, the Church has taught, and perhaps only accepted, its permissibility.
      He also responds to those concerned that, were the Church to change from "permissible" in its stance on the death penalty to "impermissible," then it would be a change in doctrine. He puts forward the idea that, as the Church changed (or seemingly changed) position on holding slaves or coercing heretics, so a change on the Death Penalty, wrought by "deepening insight into the nature and dignity of the human person, and the inviolability of human life," would be development that need not concern Catholics that the Church is freely modifying long-standing teaching.

      I would like to focus on the four strands of the sentence I quoted in block above, namely that the Church: (1) Has never taught the death penalty is mandatory, (2) Has never taught that one sins if one rejects its permissibility, (3) At most, the Church has taught that the death penalty is permissible, and (4) At most, the Church has only accepted the permissibility of the death penalty.

      Dr. Tollefsen's first proviso I take to have two meanings, first that the Church has never taught that the death penalty must be used for any given crime, and second, that the Church has never taught that the death penalty must be part of a society's criminal justice framework. While there is some difference between the two of these, in either case, I do not think there is much disagreement that the Church has never taught the death penalty is mandatory. In short, throughout my own readings in punishment theory, legal history, and Catholic theology (admittedly not as extensive as I would prefer), I have never seen a statement by the Church that any form of punishment is mandatory. The Church, rather, has focused on the conditions and application of punishment. To borrow from the Catechism:
Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.
The Church has a long history, especially from philosophers and theologians such as Aquinas, Gratian, Innocent III, and any number of Decretists and Decretalists, of ruminating on punishment, its nature and effect and so on. The short paragraph from the Catechism is shorthand, in a way, for thousands of years of such meditation.


      The second statement, whether one sins if one rejects the permissibility of the death penalty, gets us into more sticky territory, as it begins to shade into questions of prudence and individual conscience. I take Dr. Tollefsen to mean here that this is a question of whether one sins if one disagrees with a teaching of the Church that the death penalty may be legitimately available as a form of punishment ever, rather than in any specific legal system.

At the very least, then-Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to agree, when in a letter, he stated that:
For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
This, then, is indeed a matter of prudential judgment - permitting Catholics to disagree with the teachings of the Church without themselves incurring mortal sin. For instance, it seems like there is no mortal sin incurred by true pacifists, provided that they are not rejecting the overall use of capital punishment or of war. More on that below.


      It is difficult to determine what Dr. Tollefsen means when he says, "At most, the Church has taught that the death penalty is permissible" and "At most, the Church has accepted the permissibility of the death penalty," and why he differentiates between the two. The latter, of course, changes the matter from "Church teaching" to "Church acceptance," without explaining the distinction or difference. The Church seems to have taught that the death penalty is permissible, even if limited - the Oath required of the Waldensians and the statements in the Catechism ("the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor") indicate as much.

      We are left, to some extent, attempting to guess where and why Dr. Tollefsen is drawing distinctions. In order to explore this further, I think it is worthwhile to find out what exactly it was that Peter Waldo taught, that the Church required his followers to take an oath. There are few translations, but from Pierre Jourdan, a follower of Waldo in the 1400s, we have:
The final precept that we teach is our opposition to the death penalty and any taking of life. The judge who condemns a man to torture or death, no matter what the circumstances or the motives, acts contrary to the Gospel.
      To this sort of teaching, the Church replied that the followers of Waldo who wished to return to the Church swear that: "without mortal sin it is possible to exercise a judgment of blood as long as one proceeds to bring punishment not in hatred but in judgment, not incautiously but advisedly." Dr. Tollefsen seems to be saying that the Church's oath was formulated in regard to the judge or executioner, which could condemn a man to death and execute him without any personal mortal sin attaching. Dr. Tollefsen argues:
[T]here is a considerable difference between swearing that a type of act is not intrinsically wrong, and swearing that those who undertake that kind of act, under particular circumstances, and given certain states of mind, need not commit mortal sins in doing so.
      At this point, we need to pause and consider those statements in conjunction. The Church states, "without mortal may exercise a judgment in blood." Dr. Tollefsen interprets this to mean, "one may undertake a judgment of death without incurring mortal sin, even though the death penalty is intrinsically wrong, provided there are particular circumstances and the judge has a certain state of mind." 

      The requirements of mortal sin are that it be a grave matter, committed with full knowledge of it being a grave matter, and with full consent of the will. If the Church teaches that one may execute a judgment of death without mortal sin, provided that one does so without hatred or incautiously, then it seems that such a judgment is not a grave matter. But, Dr. Tollefsen may be focusing less on the question of whether such a thing is a grave matter, and more on questions of full knowledge or full consent, the only other mitigation for mortal sin.

      Therefore, Dr. Tollefsen asserts that particular circumstances or certain states of mind might make the difference. Such must be related to knowledge or consent. But, then, what would these circumstances or states be? As, Dr. Tollefsen claims that the death penalty is always a grave matter (that it is inherently wrong), it could never be other than a mortal sin, unless the judge who hands down the sentence is not aware that it is intrinsically wrong, or that the judge hands down the sentence without full consent of the will. 

      The latter, to borrow from a famous jurist, is "too extravagant to be maintained" - I suspect there are few who could, with a straight face, argue that all judges who would hand down judgments of death without incurring mortal sin are under internal or external compulsion such that their freedom of decision in the matter is compromised.

      However, the former seems almost as problematic. It seems like Dr. Tollefsen argues that the Church teaching is that, because most judges at the time the Oath was taken had no awareness that the death penalty was grave matter, they could hand down sentences of death without incurring mortal sin. Is Dr. Tollefsen now arguing, however, that because our modern judges have more fully-formed consciences, due to "deepening insight into the nature and dignity of the human person, and the inviolability of human life," the death penalty must now always be considered a mortal sin? This would seem to contradict arguments at which he hints the death penalty was more acceptable in earlier societies, where the "subjective state is one we should expect to find in a culture that uniformly accepts the death penalty as just and indeed divinely permitted." In a culture such as ours where the death penalty may no longer be seen a divinely permitted, it would seem like the Oath is even more applicable. How does one reconcile the claim that the death penalty was more acceptable in earlier societies where it was seen as divinely permitted with the claim that we now have more knowledge into the nature and dignity of the human person, and therefore, the death penalty is more likely to be a mortal sin for the judge?

      Moreover, if we take Dr. Tollefsen's approach that the Church claimed that a judge could hand down a death penalty without mortal sin because of the lack of insight into the nature and dignity of the human person, part of the oath becomes superfluous, namely that one may judge worthy of death provided that one does so without hatred or incautiously. It is a canon of legal interpretation that one ought to choose an interpretation of a text that does not make parts superfluous, but this is what happens, it seems, if one is going to seriously apply the question of mortal sin to the death penalty, using Dr. Tollefsen's criteria.

While this has been an extensive essay, I hope it provokes in some way further clarification and discussion of this quite important topic.

CathCon Daily - 3/20/2015

The Keynesian Illusion - Donald Levine

3 Reasons to Oppose Mandatory Voting - Joe Carter, Acton

Mandatory Voting: Why Not? - Jim Swift, Weekly Standard

We Are ‘Synthetic Children' - Hart & Newman, The Federalist

Hesburgh and Rice - Richard Maggi. First Things

Family-Suicide and the Duty to Die - Wesley J. Smith, First Things

Good Side of Deflation - Edin Mujagic, Mises

Of Genocide and Other Liberal Nostrums - David Warren, The Catholic Thing

What Would Eisenhower Do? - Patrick Buchanan, American Conservative

What is Social Media Doing to Us? - Andrew Cleary, C.S. Monitor

Why the Ethanol Mandate Is Terrible Policy - Josiah Neeley, American Conservative

Inside the Bubble - John Sanphillippo, New Geography

My Only Begotten Sin - A.G. Harmon, Patheos

The Political Imagination of Charles Sarolea - Peter Rieth, Imaginative Conservative

March 19, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/19/2015

Why Staying Put Matters - Gracy Olmstead, American Conservative

Till We Contemplate Faces - David Conway, Nomocracy in Politics

On Loving Literature - William Giraldi, VQR

The Bible, Science, and Higher Education - Vic Sizemore, Patheos

Questions About The Fertility Industry’s Lack Of Oversight - Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

What’s at Stake in the Dolce and Gabbana Controversy - Doug Mainwaring, Public Discourse

Clarifying Judicial Restraint - John McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

Reid Blocks Bill to Help Sex-Trafficking Victims - John McCormack, Weekly Standard

A Realistic Immigration Policy - Pete Spiliakos, First Things

The Fledgling Legacy of the Great Pope Francis - Pascal Emmanuel Gobry, The Week

Faith and Suicide - Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing

A Necessary Correction in the Oil Industry - Peter Wong, Mises

No to Common Core - Michael Greve, Liberty Law Blog

March 18, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/18/2015 (Extra)

Policing Wikipedia - Matthew Hennessey, City Journal

Ted Cruz: A Probable Natural-Born Citizen - David Upham, Liberty Law Blog

No Guns Until Child 18 - Eugene Volokh, Volokh Conspiracy

UT-Austin’s Secret Racial Preferences - Ilya Shapiro, Cato

Anatomy Of A Failed Media Matters Smear - Cam Edwards, The Federalist

The Breakdown of Where Your Tax Dollars Go - Romina Boccia, Daily Signal

The Hunt for the Clinton Emails - Helle Dale, The Federalist

It Really Was The Culture, Stupid - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Culture Helped Kill the Two-Parent Family - Jordan Weissman, Slate

Revolutionizing Law - Bruce Frohnen, Nomocracy in Politics

CathCon Daily - 3/18/2015

Beware the Loss of Literature - Nicole Russell, The Federalist

Eliminate Handouts for Ethanol and Wind - Nicolas Loris, Daily Signal

Synthetic Children - Roberto Oscar Lopez, First Things

Of Human Dignity - Archbishop Charles Chaput, First Things

Does Windsor Strengthen or Weaken Religious Pluralism? - Greg Forster, First Things

What the Italian Confessional Scandal Reveals - Fr. Mark A. Pilon, The Catholic Thing

In Defense of Difficulty - Steve Wasserman, American Conservative

Behind the Driving Increase - Wendell Cox, New Geography

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Are Not Like Race - Ryan Anderson, Public Discourse

Feds Invade Native American Gathering - Kristina Arriaga, The Federalist

March 17, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/17/2015

Natural Law and the Unity and Truth of Sexual Ethics - Finnis & George, Public Discourse

Who is Paying Sam Singer? - E. Michael Hamill, First Things

Five Elements Of An Excellent Home Economics Class - Jennifer Doverspike, The Federalist

Master Yourself - Gretchen Rubin, NPR

The Skeletons in England's Closet - B.D. McClay, Washington Free Beacon

The GOP Risks a Return to Bushism - Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative

Obamacare’s Tangled Web - Richard A. Epstein, The Federalist

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting - Heather Barwick, The Federalist

The California Bar’s Self-Serving Proposals - John McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

This Year’s Austrian Economics Conference - Jonathan Newman, Mises

On “The Paradox Of Abundance” - James V. Schall, The Catholic Thing

Climate Research Is Booming - Michael & Knappenberger, Cato

I Deny I'm a Denier - Pat Sajak, Ricochet

Debt-Fueled Bubbles - Mark Perry, AEI

San Francisco's Biggest Megachurch is Wrong About Sex - Robert Gagnon, First Things

March 16, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/16/2015

The Scholarly Abuse of Edmund Burke - Bruce Frohnen, Nomocracy in Politics

Privilege Exists, but Government Can't Fix It - Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

The Return of the Debt Limit - Romina Boccia, Daily Signal

Government Regulation: Another Hidden Tax - D. Brady Nelson, Mises

VA Governors With Different Estimations of....Catholic - Kevin Walsh, Mirror of Justice

Suicide at the Oscars - Lauren Schuhmacher, First Things

Danse Macabre - Andrew Nagorski, Weekly Standard

When Did America Become France? - Bruce Frohnen, The Imaginative Conservative

A Defense of Judge Roy Moore and the Alabama Supreme Court - John Eastman, Public Discourse

The Bike Helmet Paradox - James Hamblin, The Atlantic

Apple’s Watch Makes One Giant Leap For Gender Equality - Michelle Fillebrown, The Federalist

5 Apps to Help You Get More Out of College - Chris McCaffery, Intercollegiate Review

Happily Ever After - Francesca Wade, TLS

March 14, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/14/2015 (Weekend)

Banks Under Stress - Irwin Stelzer, Weekly Standard

Liberal Economist Backtracking - Salim Furth, Daily Signal

Trying to “Queer” Natural Law - Daniel McInerny, The Catholic Thing

How Italy's Government Enables the Mafia - Daniel Howden, Mises

Beanie Baby Mania - Laura Vanderkam, City Journal

The Green Spike - Chris Reed, City Journal

The Secret God of the Secularists - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

What Scares the New Atheists? - John Gray. The Guardian

Wealth in Light of the Apple Watch - Jordan J. Ballor, Think Christian

Watson Comes to Law - John O. McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

West Virginia...Passes Law Banning Abortion After 20 Weeks - Kate Scanlon, Daily Signal

Despising Jean Danielou - Matthew Schmitz, First Things

Lifting This Ban Could Reduce Gas Prices - Marshal Wilson, Daily Signal

Walker Defeats the Unions (Again) - James Sherk, Daily Signal

Are We Ready to Use Bitcoin? - Norbert Michel, Daily Signal

March 13, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/13/2015

Women Can't Have it All - Nicole Russell, The Federalist

Why Won't Anyone Challenge Hillary? - David Harsanyi, Human Events

How States Hurt Low-Income Entrepreneurs - Stephen Slivinski, The Federalist

"A Rather Antinomian Christianity": John Updike’s Religion - Gerald R. McDermott, Public Discourse

The the EU Dying? - Patrick Buchanan, Human Events

Clinton is Clueless When it Comes to the Economy - Donald Lambro, Human Events

Werewolf Cop - John Wilson, Books & Culture

Life is Good in St. Louis - Wendell Cox, New Geography

Indiana Jones: American Epic Hero - Stephen Klugewicz, The Imaginative Conservative

Is There Room for Zaytuna College? - John Breen, Mirror of Justice

Please Stop Helping Us - Greg Collins, Washington Times

Prophecy of Modern Man in The Euthyphro - Phillip Goggans, The Imaginative Conservative

The Dangerous Weakness of Modern Progressivism - John McGinnis, Liberty Law Blog

Sanford Levinson’s New Constitutional Settlement - Kevin Gutzman, Nomocracy in Politics

God, Reason, and Our Civilizational Crisis - Samuel Gregg, Public Discourse

Federal Reserve Reforms Should Not Be a Partisan Issue - Norbert Michel, Daily Signal

March 12, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/12/2015

Piketty and Liberalism - James Pethokoukis, AEI

Rude? Moi? - Claire Berlinski, City Journal

Did Republicans Violate the Logan Act? - Eugene Volokh, Volokh

You've Got Mail? - Heather Sims, AEI

St. John's Seventh Sign - Russell Saltzman, First Things

America's Kingly Constitution - Kevin R.C. Gutzman, American Conservative

Morality, Facts, and Opinions - Randall Smith, The Catholic Thing

Did Common Core Do That? - Neal McCluskey, Cato

Morality, Facts, and Opinions - Randall Smith, The Catholic Thing

Signs, Parables, and Lord of the Rings - Jessica Griffith, Good Letters

The New, Improved? Rust Belt - Ben Schulman, New Geography

Libertarianism—Revisiting Hayek - Patrick Deneen, American Conservative

Hillary's Judgment Problem - Lawrence Kudlow, Human Events

March 11, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/11/2015 (Extra)

The Folly of Fed Obeisance - George Selgin, Cato

Stagnant Wages: Fact or Fiction? - Salim Furth, Heritage

Judging What? - Adam MacLeod, Liberty Law Blog

Record Spending on Transit - Randal O'Toole, Cato

Do Enterprise Zones Work? - James Pethokoukis, AEI

GOP Puts Social Conservatism on Ice Floe, Pushes - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Cyber Compliance Is Not Cyber Protection - Jennifer Guthrie, The Daily Signal

Middle Class Stagnation for 40 Years? - James Pethokoukis, AEI

CathCon Daily - 3/11/2015

Economic Opportunity, Not Redistribution - Emily Weithman, The Federalist

Watching Interstellar with Wendell Berry - Peter Lawler, Intercollegiate Review

Chelsea Clinton’s Authenticity Gap - Amy Otto, The Federalist

World Doesn't Need Angry Daddy Bloggers - Rich Cromwell, The Federalist

Tolkien's Hope for the Modern World - Bradley Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

Global Warming - Walter Williams, Human Events

Souls Matter - William Carroll, Public Discourse

The Media Vs. Republican Senators On Iran Letter - Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

Walker or Bush v. Not Hilary - Peter Lawler, NRO

Sub-Zero Interest Rates as an Endless Daylight Saving Time - Brendan Brown, Mises

A Real Downside to Any Deal With Iran - Michael J. Totten, City Journal

Beauty and Subjectivity - Michael Novak, Patheos

Supreme Court to Administrative State: Enough is Enough - Michael Greve, Liberty Law Blog

A Pay-Phone Candidate in an iPhone World - Ron Fournier, National Journal

Keeping Catholic Schools Catholic - George Weigel, First Things

Handwringing Over “Polarization” - Hadley Arkes, The Catholic Thing

Ferguson, New York, and Eric Holder’s Policing Problem - Bruce Frohnen, Nomocracy in Politics

State Department Scraps Million Dollar Granite Sculpture - Jeryl Bier, The Weekly Standard

What's Fair? - John Stossel, Human Events

March 10, 2015

CathCon Daily - 3/10/2015 (Extra)

Opposition to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Grows - Ted Bromund, Daily Signal

Why Local Food Freedom Matters - Gracy Olmstead, American Conservative

Wasting Billions on Improper Payments - Nicole Kaeding, Cato

How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Narcissists - Francie Diep, Pacific Standard

Really Bad Idea Department - Roger Clegg, NRO

Racist Speech Constitutionally Protected? - Eugene Volokh, Volokh

The Cotton Letter and Iran - Danielle Pletka, AEI

The Cost of Relativism - David Brooks, NYT

Expulsion Of Racist Students Sets A Dangerous Precedent - David Harsanyi, The Federalist

CathCon Daily - 3/10/2015

American Islam - Richard Mouw, First Things

Privilege Theory Destroys The American Ideal Of Equality - David Marcus, The Federalist

True Paradox: Breaking Down the Barriers to Faith - Charles J. Chaput, The Public Discourse

The Millennial’s Guide To Reaching Adulthood - Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

Forced to Hire Pro-Choice Employees? - Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

Remembering Cardinal Egan - George R. Marlin, The Catholic Thing

Black Like Kerouac - Alan Pell Crawford, American Conservative

Can Libertarians and Conservatives Coexist? - David Harsanyi, The Federalist

The Art of Evil - Peggy Rosenthal, Patheos

The 12 Principles of Conservatism - M. Stanton Evans, Intercollegiate Review

Fifty-Six Shades Of Gender Insanity - Walt Heyer, The Federalist

Lost in Transition - Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Warning About the Constitution - Luther Martin, The Imaginative Conservative

Is God Really Infinite? - Stephen Webb, First Things

Superbugs are Outstripping Antibiotics - Steven Chapman, Wisconsin State Journal

The Wrong “America Works” - Andrew Klavan, City Journal