Our death penalty regime is predicated on the schizophrenia of wanting bloody vengeance while refusing to look at what we want because we wish to think of ourselves as Good White Christians while we kill.
Time was, we held our executions and lynchings in public and had barbaric picnic feasts like the raw brutal animals we have been for much of our history. But we reached an uncertain tipping point in the past century or so when, for more people than not, execution–or any rate enjoyment of executions–became a shameful thing. In most civilized countries, the death penalty was outlawed altogether as the barbarous thing it is.
In the United States–a country in which civilized impulses have always warred with proud, stupid, brutality–the long slow push to abolish the death penalty has particularly put the emphasis on “slow” and the apostles of backwardness here, as in so many cases, have been the Greatest and Proudest Catholics of All Time, along with Good White Evangelical conservatives. They have spent the last 20 years or so spitting on and shouting down the popes and bishops who have called for the abolition of the death penalty, as well as declaring Catholic activists against the death penalty such as Sr. Helen Prejean “fake Catholics” by virtue of the authority they pull out of their asses.
Because of their evil work, America remains shackled–along with such deeply Christian regimes as Islamic despotisms and brutal Communist dictatorships–to a system that kills people who do not need to be killed, so that Qhristians who love death could continue to enjoy the frisson of slaughter combined with moral superiority to their victims.
But we no longer use the noose in the town square, or draw and quarter men before cheering mobs, or guillotine for the entertainment of savages, or invite the goodmen of the town to tar and feather the objects of our vengeful cruelty in the name of Justice. Rather, we execute quietly and away from the public eye. We perfume our Bronze Age bloodlust with shitty theology about “retributive justice” delivered by tweedy conservative Catholic philosophers puffing on pipes and spitting at the Magisterium in between Latin quotations to make it sound like our slaughter is Just and Wise because it is no longer public entertainment. We hide our butchery while still babbling incoherently that these killings nobody sees are a “deterrent” to those from whom we hide them.
In short, we are in the ridiculous position of wanting to indulge our bloodlust while refusing to admit it even to ourselves in our shame. And we are so eager to do it that we will butcher four innocents out of a hundred just to electrocute, poison, and strangle 96 who did not need to be killed. Unlike Abraham, who sought to spare Sodom for the sake of innocents there, the Greatest Catholics of All Time hunger to shed the blood of the innocent if only they can have the pleasure of killing those they believe they have the righteousness to kill. And they don’t mind treading down the teaching of Holy Church into the mud to do it.
2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.
Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.
Which brings us to one of the last achievements of this low, vile, vindictive, cruel administration and its sociopathic child-king, taking out his last violent vengeance on whatever victims he can lay hands on. To that end, super-Catholic Opus Dei member Bill Barr–winner of the Christifidelis Laici Award for being one of America’s Greatest Living Catholics (according to a gathering of MAGA Qatholics in September)–is rushing to reinstate federal executions and kill five people who do not need to be killed, because the teaching of the Church means nothing to him when his dimestore antichrist mob boss hungers for blood in his spite. Like Herod ordering executions on the day he died so that there would be weeping in Jerusalem, Trump just wants to spitefully kill a few people on his way out–and MAGA Qatholics are his biggest fans for doing it.
That’s bad enough, but in addition to this is a small but telling nod to the barbarism and culture of Saudi Arabia, where bloody executions are still a form of public entertainment. It’s this: Trump wants to return to the use of firing squads. In short, we can’t make executions a public spectacle, but we can at least make them as violent and gory as possible. No more of these clinical executions. Let’s at least make a push toward the splintered bones and spraying blood of yore. We can’t do everything, but we can do what we can toward making executions as satisfyingly violent as possible for Trump the Id Monster and his cult.
There are two ways of seeing this. One is to regard it as a huge step backwards, as indeed this whole administration can be seen. There is certainly a huge case to be made for that.
But I look at it (and indeed at the entire past four years), not as a step backward, but as revelation of what was always there and in need of exposure. It is a long-overdue battery of x-rays and CAT scans on a massively sick patient who has hitherto refused to see a doctor.
The great gift Donald Trump gives us is that, being pure Id, he does not give a shit about trying to hide his demonic desires for cruelty and savagery. He has no Qatholic cultural politesse he needs to uphold for the sake of appearances. He does not, like the Greatest Catholics of All Time, deny his naked bloodlust and pretend he is just being all Thomistic and stuff. He is frank and up front about his naked pagan brutality. He does not, like polite Qhristian devotees of the “prolife” Cult of Death, try to perfume the stench of his bloodlust with phony BS about “retributive justice” so as to make his bloodlust sound all Western Civilizationy. He does not want to sanitize the barbarism with clinicians in lab coats using sterile needles to administer slaughter disguised as medicine. Like the savage he is, he wants to see blood, viscera, and brain matter sprayed across a wall. He wants brutality the old-fashioned way. If he could, he would market executions on pay-per-view so that his mob could enrich him with howling at gladiatorial death matches.
And he makes very clear that he is giving the MAGA Cult exactly what they want, as he gave them what they wanted when he invited them to get down and roll around with him in the mud of misogyny, racism, cruelty, and selfishness for the past four years. He does all he can to tell his Cult to stop being so shy about their dark, demonic desires and indulge. He did not put these dark desires in them. They were there already, only awaiting the right enzyme to activate them, to give them permission to come out and prey.
Why call that a gift? Because it makes stark and clear that those Qatholics and Qhristians who join his clarion call to barbarism are enemies of the gospel and not people you need ever listen to again as representing some alternative view of it. This is not hard. You may or may not be Catholic. But given the choice between the Pope saying, “Abolish the death penalty. Do not kill people when you don’t have to” and a barbaric thug and his cult screaming for blood and telling the Pope to go to hell it’s just not hard to tell who is speaking by the Holy Spirit and who is a vengeful bloodthirsty antichrist savage at war with the Church.
Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:18-19)
Apropos of very little, the story of Sodom had nothing to do with innocence or innocents, It is perhaps the worst possible opening story for your otherwise excellent piece, WHICH I AGREE WITH 100% otherwise.
While he was sitting down to dinner— perhaps enjoying a nice chianti with a haunch of camel— with God, who was walking by his house on his way to sodom to find out what was going on there, Abraham bargained with God to save sodom if there were any righteous people there. Righteous, not innocent. That is a loophole you could drive a very large camel through.
So whom did God save? A “righteous“ man who offered his virgin daughters to a howling mob to rape, lest he look bad in front of that selfsame howling mob. A righteous man who later had sex with those daughters, after getting righteously drunk, leaving them no longer virgins. “Christ was I drunk last night. I don’t remember a thing that happened“ is not just the excuse that closet Case “heterosexuals” use so that they can keep on keeping on.
But irony of ironies! That only happened after God murdered everybody in Sodom, including the women who were unlikely to rape anyone, and including the little children who couldn’t have raped anyone even if they wanted to. “All the people of the town”— right? Including the innocent ones.
And what does that sound like? The very howling mobs of religious folk who, in their god like omniscience, can’t wait to execute all of those un-innocent, un-holy, unrighteous people you are writing about.
But wait! There is even more irony! (as if that were possible!) sodomy laws! They came about because of a deliberate miss translation, misapplication, misInterpretation and abuse of a story that has no more to do with homosexuality than it has to do with the price of a pillar of salt. Those laws have been used to denigrate, jail, or murder gay people for centuries, and yet another class of religious howling mob would love to see those laws re-instituted— or at least used as an excuse to make the lives of gay people as difficult, dangerous, unpleasant, and expensive as possible – if they thought they could get away with it.
Orban’s Faith party— It’s right there in black-and-white – just passed a constitutional amendment kn Hungary banning gay people from adopting, and defining family as only a man woman marriage. That’s Catholic Hungary. Duda’s Law and Justice Party, in collusion with the Catholic Church, cassock deep in its own molestation problem, has managed to get parts of Poland declared LGBT free. The Russian Orthodox Church, fornicating with Putin’s Russian government, has managed to make the lives of gay people in Russia as difficult as they can. The great irony there is that were it not for a gay rights group in Moscow in the early 90s, the communists might have taken over Russia again 15 years before Putin came into power. And took it over anyway.
You really need to find a better example to open your otherwise excellent peace, Mark. This ancient, ancient story – so ancient that God doesn’t know what’s happening in sodom, has to walk there to find out, and has dinner with Abraham – is, as I say, a really terrible example to lead with.
There is fascinating evidence that an exploding meteor caused the utter destruction of Sodom and Gommorah
And no, God didn’t kill anyone because they were gay. He didn’t kill anyone at all. BUT, history IS in fact filled with examples of supernatural warnings concerning terrible events that were about to happen. (Yes, I agree with you, Lot was a piece of work.)
When my kid was asking me “who wrote the bible?” I explained the difference between the gospels, the letters, and the Old Testament. I said, “you know how you like to play video games, watch nature shows and get all excited about the next episode of the Mandalorian?–Well imagine a world where the only entertainment was storytelling around the firepit–storytellers were the rockstars of their day.”
Anyway, for the umpteenth time–you already know that Catholics don’t read the bible like fundies! It’s a good thing nobody sanitized the story, so we can see what colossal creeps God had to work with in his plan for saving humanity. Which brings us *back* to the subject of this blogpost…
I’ve wracked my brain to try to understand the bloodlust of the people who are passionately in favor of the death penalty–the common thread is that they are ALL cowards. They don’t want to take ANY responsibility for allowing an unjust and society and inequality among her citizens either. They LIKE the way it feels to have the skulls of brown people under their heels–or knees.
It all boils down to racism, a hatred/fear of the poor, (don’t touch my stuff!!) and the fact that they think their white sins smell nicer than the sins of brown people. Who would have thought that a bunch of bored boomers could be so dangerous? And crazy?? I was listening to this podcast that was unraveling the role of social media in the brainwashing of the elderly. Fox news is favored by those 65 and older–and Facebook is worse than pornography. They are addicted.
I agree with what you wrote, with the exception of one small point. Genesis 19:12 says, “ 12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
Fonally read the story. It wasn’t bad until the last sentence: “ Did someone, perhaps a deity, order an asteroid hit on Sodom?”
Also, as i said in my election piece, theTrumpers could see perfectly clearly who trump was. And they liked it. This blood cult, getting all hot over exeutions, also amazes me. But I think it is part and parcel of what I have written about repeatedly: religious megalomania, and over identification with God. It makes them feel powerful for some reason, much as looking at the Venal, corrupt man like trump makes them see someone who is strong.
“We are right to life Christians!“ Except for you, and for him, and those people over there, and anyone we don’t like. This was really driven home for me at the beginning of the pandemic, the number of people who claim they were right derive Christians but kept saying that the economy was far more important than the collateral damage to the entire population of the world.
It would be so nice if you could read ancient texts on their terms and not like a flat-footed village atheist brandishing devastating *PROOF* that Bronze Age people operated by different moral code than your enlightened self.
It would also be nice if people could read these ancient texts And see How they have been used to justify, excuse, and look away from every kind of immorality and harm to their fellow humans, something that Jesus was quite clear on: DON’T!
It would be nice if people could read these ancient texts and stop attributing them to their holy and loving God there’s some kind of example that we should follow and learn from in a positive way, instead of a negative way.
The Sodom story is particularly egregious in this way, whereas the story of the woman of Gibeah is completely ignored. But this wasn’t my point at all. My point was that you could come up with a much better biblical text to illustrate your otherwise excellent essay on the subject of the death penalty.
If we want to talk about the destruction of the innocents, the frisson of the pro-death Qhristians which you, I, and all civilized people rightly abhor, then the political purposes to which the Sodom story have been turned is a very good starting place. If you want to talk about moral lessons and the literal truth of the Bible, then the Sodom story is the last place to look. It is clearly one of the most ancient stories in the Bible, and the God of that story has absolutely nothing to do with the god which you worship
It’s like the game “telephone”. The story about an epic event (and it must have been truly epic!) is repeated over and over and over again. The most riveting parts (which always involves human drama), makes the listeners hang on the storyteller’s every word. If you were a storyteller you would take note of this. The Jewish people had it fixed in their psyche that God was a God of vengeance, and they were the sole protagonists in an epic battle against evil.
Remember when Jesus admonished his listeners not to find fault with people when a random tragedy occurred? (a tower that fell on the workers)–The Jewish people even blamed birth defects upon the sins of their parents.
People *still* think in those terms today.
@Ben, I didn’t like the last sentence of the article either, but yep, that’s what storytellers like to do.
I’m in the same state of utter disbelief as you are. I’ve never felt so shocked about anything, or felt the bedrock of what I believed in about this country so shaken. It’s like group insanity. My Mom is convinced we are in the fight of our lives against communism. She photocopies articles from something called the Epoch Times and sends them to everyone she knows (My kid needs to keep installing more ink in her printer). A group of them got together to pray the rosary “for the country” last weekend in front of the Church (that I was married in, and baptized most of my kids in) Apparently, Fr. Cesar was not pleased by a gathering he hadn’t approved. She recounted the story of their small clash, flush with excitement. I wonder if their little rally was in conjunction with Vigano’s. I just smiled and said “really?”That was the happiest I’ve seen her in a long time. Breaks my heart. At the end of the day she’s lonely and bored, and needs to turn up the heat on the monotony.
Yes, she thinks Antifa is coming to a neighborhood near you, and that rapists from over the border are here to rape. I think it’s her friends. She wasn’t so “religious” when we were growing up. In fact she rolled her eyes a lot about my father’s friends.
My Mom is convinced she’s doing the work of Jesus. She has lived in the same spot for over fifty years, has never seen an R-rated movie, and ended up in Bakersfield after she dropped me off at college in San Diego, because my Dad did all of the driving. I don’t know how Stormy Daniels’s most famous date ever– cast such a spell on her. It. Is. Utterly. Bizarre.
So you read it?
The Epoch Times is a publication of FalunGong, who are on the Chinese government’s scheiss list. The government sees them as a threat. When they got started 30 years ago, they may or may not have been. As a response to the persecution from their government, Falun Gong turned political, and sharply to the right. Conspiracy theories, Donald Trump, everything you would expect to find in the far right you find with them. And of course, the leader of following gone lives in New York and lives quite well. There’s a lot of money involved, as there isn’t right wing religion in general.
Ironically, they use the reversed swastika as their symbol. It’s a common enough symbol in Buddhism, but takes on greater significance in the post World War II world. It’s no surprise that your mother reads them religiously, so to speak.
As I was reading what you had to write about your mother, I flashed on this thought. Some people really love to scare themselves. It’s why we watch horror movies and/or slasher movies. They get a little frisson from thinking about it.
I don’t read anything political that she hands to me. She used to harp at me about taking vitamins and homeopathy,– I can’t think of anything more unhealthy than Trumpism and his horrifying cult. I miss the hippy newsletters now! Like I said, I place the blame squarely at the feet of her friends who can’t live without their secret sauce. They’ve infected her. Jesus has *nothing* to do with any of it. It fills a space that should have been set aside for him and “the least of these”.–Just what you should expect from the spirit of antichrist. Fake religious fervor.
After I read what you wrote, I Googled The Epoch Times and read a NYtimes article. –Boy do people love cults–but they love $$ even more! They have a cult headquarters called “Dragon Springs”! Hahahaha. That will probably be the name of the Netflix series when it comes out someday.
Jonesing for “Frisson”–the ultimate first world problem, eh?
I laughed a lot as I read that comment.
I’ve started reading “The Hill” since the election to see what the other side thinks and commenting on some of their articles. For a Rupert Murdoch publication, it is normally fairly even handed. Quite a few anti-Trumpers comment on it. Epoch Times gets linked a number of times by the far right Trumpers; there’s one other that I can’t remember the name of in addition to Bannon’s old haunting grounds that I’m too lazy to check the spelling (Breit?). I think most of the Trumpers are actually trolls, either foreign or idiots who just like to push buttons (I think a good number of those are the ones who walk a very thin line between wishing people dead and some down right obscene comments – which surprises me, considering it Disqus. Those get blocked no matter which side of the fence they’re on.) Anyway, when there’s a semi-real conversation going on, the Trumpers eventually get around to delving into blithering idiots and name calling.
Uh, devolving, not delving. My spelling is devolving as well!
It may be even worse than we think: