Monday, November 26, 2007

Capital Punishment: Ultimate Tough Love?

For starters, let me adduce three quotations:

St. Augustine: In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; cum omnibus, charitas. My translation: In all things essential, let there be unity. In things debatable, freedom by all means. With everyone withal, let mutual understanding and love, even tough, prevail.

Let this serve as our epigraph as we join conversation. Just a thought on "things debatable": In every conceivable situation there is objectively one best prudential stance. While we each strive to reach it (and we might think we have and even may have hit upon the single contingent truth), we have to recognize that others may see things differently and are to respect them. So, let's keep ad hominems to a minimum.

Dr. Johnson [only approximate]: "Nothing quite concentrates the human mind as a pending hanging."

John Wesley [somewhere Ronald Knox mentions this as Wesley's complaint]: "The condemned criminals, whom he'd converted so that they attained complete certainty they were going straight to heaven, used to get reprieved by the kind offices of sympathetic person then and generally went to the bad."

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