Saturday, March 05, 2005

This Catholic Supports Judge Pryor

Nathan at Sollicitudo Rei Socialis has a problem with Catholics supporting President Bush's re-nomination of Judge William Pryor. Below is my comment to his post on this matter.


You are distorting the truth of the Catholic teaching on capital punishment. The Church does not teach that the death penalty should "never" be carried out, it teaches that it should be "rare" and "practically non-existent". So to suggest that Judge Pryor is violating Catholic social teachings and is a "bad" Catholic unworthy of other Catholics support seems to me either a lack of understanding of Catholic social teaching or a display of pure political bias.

I would also point out some parts of your post which are misleading:

You state: "According to his opponents, Pryor wanted these executions moved up..." What were Judge Pryor's reasons? You make an assumption based on what his opponents said. Why not find out what he said?

You state: "He has also objected to Ring v. Arizona, which mandated that only juries could impose the death penalty." Is it immoral for a Catholic to oppose the idea that only juries impose the death penalty? Where is that in Catholic social teachings?

You state: "It is also true that Pryor's home state of Alabama has sentenced more juveniles to death per capita than any other state in the Union, indicating that Pryor must oppose the recent Supreme Court decision to prohibit the execution of juveniles." Do these numbers encompass only the time Judge Pryor served as AG of Alabama? Is it a longer period? Or does that even matter? I doubt you have Judge Pryor's actual opionion on this case since he is only a federal judge and the case was at the SCOTUS. Though it may be true that Judge Pryor disagrees with the decision in Roper, again is it immoral for a Catholic to hold such a position?

You state: "I see little difference between the killing of a fetal human being and the killing of a juvenile human being, but apparently Bill Pryor thinks it's fine to execute a juvenile but atrocious to have an abortion. To be frank, that doesn't make any sense and it flies in the face of Catholic social teaching." It may not make sense to you but it surely does NOT fly in the face of Catholic social teaching. There certainly is a difference between the killing of an innocent human being in the womb and the killing of a human found guilty of a capital crime.

Does Judge Pryor oppose the entire Voting Rights Act or is it just parts of Section 5? You do not say. This seems an attempt to make him out to be a racist. As far as support from civil rights leaders Judge Pryor has the support of Alvin Holmes and Chris McNair. Who are these two men? Here is what Byron York wrote about them regarding their support for Judge Pryor:

To attack Pryor on race, Democrats would have had to counter the evidence contained in a detailed testimonial for Pryor sent to the committee by Alabama Democratic state representative Alvin Holmes. Offering his "full support and endorsement" of Pryor, Holmes, who is black, listed several examples of what he called Pryor's "constant efforts to help the causes of blacks in Alabama." Pryor had sided with the NAACP against a Republican lawsuit challenging state-legislative districts, Holmes wrote, even after he "came under heavy pressure from other white Republicans in Alabama for fighting to protect black legislative seats." Pryor played a key role in the prosecution of the last men charged in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, took the lead in ending racial disparities in criminal sentences, worked to strike the state's ban on interracial marriages, and wrote a bill strengthening penalties for cross burning, Holmes wrote.

The committee also received a letter from former Alabama state representative Chris McNair. While McNair noted Pryor's stands on legislative districting and other issues, his testimonial was more personal. McNair's daughter, Denise, was one of four girls killed in the 1963 bombing. "Bill Pryor's personal support for the recent trials of the men convicted of bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church and the murder of my daughter has meant a lot to my family and this community," McNair wrote. "By designating the prosecutors as Special Assistant Attorney Generals and by providing financial assistance through his office, he demonstrated a commitment to justice that had been long overdue. I had numerous conversations with him about these cases and his desire to see that justice was done. His commitment to the cases was sincere and has been very much appreciated."


Enough said on that, don't you think?

Is it immoral to oppose the decision in Lawrence? Though sending offenders to prison may not be a Catholic social teaching on this issue, can not a Catholic make a prudential judgment and determine that the harm of allowing such a decision is greater than the good of not imprisioning offenders? Is it not possible that Lawrence will lead to further acceptance of behavior which Catholic teaching does condemn and consider evil? I believe to suggest that Judge Pryor's submission of an amicus curiae brief, as the AG of Alabama, is somehow un-Catholic is very misleading and again smacks of a political agenda.

Let me add what Judge Pryor has said about abortion and the Roe decision:

He has stated, Roe v. Wade was "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." Any Catholics here disagree with that?

When asked by Senator Schumer if he believed this now, Pryor simply stated, "I do." When Senator Specter asked him if the quote was accurate, he replied it was. When asked if he stands by his words he responded, "I stand by that comment. I believe that not only is [Roe] unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it has led to a morally wrong result. It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children." Again, any Catholics here disagree with that? For more on this see Byron York's piece referenced above.

And here is what he said concerning former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore displaying of the Ten Commandments, “Although I believe the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of our legal heritage and that they can be displayed constitutionally as they are in the U.S. Supreme Court building, I will not violate nor assist any person in the violation of this injunction.... We have a government of laws, not of men. I will exercise any authority provided to me, under Alabama law, to bring the State into compliance with the injunction of the federal court….” Gee, rule of law rather than rule of men. Is that immoral and violate another teaching of our Catholic Church?

Bottomline, you may believe that opposing Judge Pryor is the right thing to do and that is your right as a citizen and as a Catholic, but to submit, even subtly, that it is immoral for any Catholic to support his nomination and confirmation, is truly a misrepresentation and a sad attempt to use the teachings of the Catholic Church as a way to make a political point.

4 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Some additional comments for Nathan:

Your claim of Judge Pryor's "unabashed support" of capital punishment is misleading and unsubstantiated. Your problems with Judge Pryor's support of executing juveniles and the mentally challenged only goes so far. Is this what the Holy Father means by "rare" and "practically non-existent"? Or is it that any support of the death penalty in this country is "immoral"? I submit that since "rare" and "practically non-existent" does not mean "never" it is up to the prudential judgment of the proper authorities to make the decisions on the use and need of the death penalty. The Holy Father's words in Evangelium Vitae 56 should be taken into consideration by all Catholics, including Judge Pryor. But who is to say that he has not? "Rare" and "practically non-existent" is not direction, it is an observation (and an astute one at that) that capital punishment, as used and carried out today, may not be the best means to defend the common good and curb the spread of harmful behavior. We should look at the wisdom of the Holy Father here and act accordingly, but that does not mean that there is never a need for capital punishment. Is the execution of juveniles unconstitutional. It is today. Is it immoral. Maybe, but that is up to each of us to decide. I suggest you also read a Avery Cardinal Dulles article on capital punishment here.

10:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

Martin Luther King III trumps anyone on my list? Why? I included men who know Judge Pryor and know of his efforts in the civil rights arena. To suggest Mr King "trumps" anyone else is disrespectful of these and other civil rights leaders, as if the only thing that matters is one's name. Your ignoring of the statements from Mr Holmes and Mr McNair smacks again of political opportunism rather than a serious attempt to express Catholic teachings.

Could one not argue that the Lawrence decision will be utilized to not only defend the approval of private behavior but public as well? No? Well the Justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Court cited Lawrence in its decision to allow same-sex marriages in their state. That seems a pretty good reason to uphold a law which was rarely enforced.

Your comments on Judge Pryor's motivation in upholding the federal court ruling to remove the Ten Commandments monument is absurd. What evidence do you have of this? I would add that not only did Judge Pryor uphold this ruling but he also directed his state district attorneys to take "the narrowest construction available" on the states partial-birth abortion ban, rather than a more strict one, which was the desire of the pro-life community in Alabama. Political grandstanding at the expense of the unborn so he could gain a position in which he could defend the unborn? That is a very untenable argument.

My apologies for not commenting on those additional concerns you posted. I do believe that based on what information you posted that Judge Pryor's positions are not immoral. What encyclicals deal with the Voting Rights Act and Violence Against Women Act? And more specifically, how do those encyclicals deal with the specific positions which you claim are held by Judge Pryor? There is no "Catholic position" on these. And if a Catholic takes the opposite position which you hold it does necessarily follow that they are violating Catholic teachings. I am sorry and sadden that you and others refuse to believe this.

I confess to not knowing much about your other concerns, but I do trust President Bush, who nominated (and recessed appointed) Judge Pryor and those members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who approved of his nomination. Is that wrong of me? Maybe. Yet, why is it we do not hear or read about all the positions of all the judges nominated by President Bush and approved by the Senate? Since the attention on Judge Pryor was generated by Democrats and not Catholics, I believe you have a political purpose in speaking against Judge Pryor rather than any serious defense of Catholic social teachings. I contend that Catholic teaching allows for the death penalty in certain cases. You disagree and that is your right. But to question the state of his soul (esp. in order to try and win a political argument) is another matter and one we should all be cautious of doing.

12:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Additional comments I had for Nathan:

It is without question inconsistent with Catholic social teaching to execute the mentally retarded.Though you and I believe we should not execute the mentally challenged, I know of no Church teaching which holds us, as Catholics, accountable to oppose such a position. Just because you say it, doesn't make it so.

You fail to answer my point about Lawrence. Regardless of the problem with the imprisonment issue, what about how the decision is being used to allow immoral public behavior?

Re: the Ten Commandments comment, I disagreed that it was political grandstanding and I based that on how Judge Pryor ordered his DAs to handle Alabama's partial-birth abortion law. Don't blow me off by saying it is Roy Moore's issue. How can you say it was grandstanding after it is pointed out that he has held to the rule of law before even when it angered those who he shares the same beliefs with?

So Pryor is FOR beating women? He is FOR denying the right to vote to some Americans? Come on. It is ridiculous to accuse someone of being for such things based on his constitutional views of some aspects of these pieces of legislation. BTW, the SCOTUS agreed with Judge Pryor and stuck down portions of the Violence Against Women Act.

I did not comment on Hope v. Pelzer because I do not know anything about the case and since I do not trust your presentation of the issues here I am withholding my comment. Do know that the immorality of torture has been waying on my mind and soul, but I will not comment on it here just to entertain you.

You think President Bush is evil? Based on what you have written above I would guess those who voted for him, esp. Catholics like myself, must also be evil? No Catholic I know, no bishop, no priest called Senator Kerry evil. That is questioning someone's soul as you claim you are not doing concerning Judge Pryor. Did you even notice?

As for my opposition to Senator Kerry, it stemmed from my belief that President Bush was more in line with Catholic teachings on life and family. My blog is Catholics for Bush, not Catholics Against Kerry. You have little idea how much Catholics, including this one, prayed for him and that God would change his heart. John Kerry is not evil. He is misguided and he was misguiding other Catholics. We are not to question another's soul, but we can question their motives and the potential harm of their positions on issues.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More comments for Nathan:
Nathan, I find it interesting that you leave out other sections of the Catechism or Catholic Doctrine when talking about the death penalty. Perhaps you don't know of them, so I will share them with you:
Pope John Paul II has never condemned capital punishment in principle when all the conditions for execution are met according to the requirements of the Christian Faith.

To the contrary, Pope John Paul II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (N. 2321) reaffirm 2,000 years of constant Church dogma, teaching that the Fifth Commandment is Thou Shalt Not Murder, just like in the Hebrew original. The killing of the innocent is absolutely forbidden, not the killing of a dangerous human being in the case of self-defense where there is no other way to defend one’s life.

The Books of Exodus XXII, 2-3 and Leviticus XX unambiguously teach that killing in self-defense and capital punishment are not against the Fifth Commandment, but in agreement with its correct interpretation.

The Church teaches that Christ never abrogated the moral precepts of the Old Law, only the ceremonial and legal ones which prefigured His advent.
The apostle Paul confirmed this correct interpretation of the Fifth Commandment in his Epistle to the Romans XIII, 4.

Whenever John Paul II has publicly spoken on the application of capital punishment to a specific person, his opinion has always been given as the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and not as Pope, seeking mercy from the legitimately established political authorities who have the power to commute any penalty of execution decreed to take place for a lesser penalty. He has never interfered in the conclusions reached by juries according to due process of law.

From our Catechism:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor.... The one is intended, the other is not."[65]
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.[65]
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.[67]

In closing my part of the discussion, if the state thinks that it can not properly protect society when someone is just in prison for life, they have the right, the duty to bring about capital punishment to save the masses of people. We do not have the equipment as lay people to make the determination as to whether or not one should be executed and one shouldn't. We must leave that up to the Government, and in the end God to judge.

5:04 PM  

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