Monday, August 6, 2018

Camus, Catholicism and the Death Penalty

John the Baptist, drawing by Thomas Merton

Last week, Pope Francis declared that the death penalty “is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

In late July of 1967, Merton made a recording for the Sisters of Loretto. He said the following regarding the death penalty, its connection to violence and war, and a need to reform Church teaching and education:

"That the Church should support social order in this particular way, established order – many Catholics would fully agree with this. They would not perhaps go so far as to say the death penalty is a means of salvation, but they would say that this is a practical, reasonable way of looking at things. This kind of thinking, let us face it, underlies so much of the teaching, so much of the indoctrination, so much of the preparation for life that we give in our Catholic schools. This is the sort of thinking that is taken for granted, is inculcated and accepted in Catholic education to a great extent. That is a very shocking thing because it means that we are committed to this sort of inhuman, self-righteous support of society at any cost. This comes out, for example, in Cardinal Spellman’s defense of the Vietnam War. Cardinal Spellman can defend the Vietnam War and can even say 'my country right or wrong' because he thinks in these terms – he has grown up thinking in these terms, has always thought in these terms; [it] is natural for him to think in these terms. For real renewal to take place in the Church, in religious life and in education, this kind of thinking has to be changed." [Follow the link to a longer transcript of this recording.]

HT: International Merton Society

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