E. Christian Brugger
Why is the Catholic Church against the death penalty? This second edition of Brugger’s classic work Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition traces the doctrinal path the Church has taken over the centuries to its present position as the world’s largest and most outspoken opponent of capital punishment. The pontificate of John Paul II marked a watershed in Catholic thinking. The pope taught that the death penalty is and can only be rightly assessed as a form of self-defense. But what does this mean? What are its implications for the Church’s traditional retribution-based model of lethal punishment? How does it square with what the Church has historically taught? Brugger argues that the implications of this historic turn have yet to be fully understood.
In his new preface, Brugger examines the contribution of the great Polish pope’s closest collaborator and successor in the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, to Catholic thinking on the death penalty. He argues that Pope Benedict maintained the doctrinal status quo of his predecessor’s teaching on capital punishment as self-defense, with detectable points of reluctance to draw attention to nontraditional implications of that teaching.
Reviews of the first edition:
“Highly recommended for sophisticated undergraduates, graduates, and especially Catholics who seek strong moral and theological arguments against capital punishment in principle.” — Religious Studies Review
“Brugger’s book is a veritable gold mine of information, tracing the history of doctrinal and moral thinking about the death penalty . . . [A] valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of and possible changes in the Roman Catholic teaching on the death penalty. [T]he conversations his book will spark are timely and critical.” — Catholic Books Reviews
“[Brugger] very skillfully describes the intellectual and sociological changes which have assembled to alter the course of the Church’s approach to capital punishment.” — American Catholic Studies
“This book ranks as one of the clearest and most elegant statements of Catholic moral teaching on the death penalty. This volume should be included in every Catholic college library or seminary, and will be a valuable addition to all graduate libraries.” — Choice
“Brugger presents a tightly argued case for reconsidering the traditional Catholic teaching on capital punishment, which has, with varying degrees of hesitation or enthusiasm, consistently recognised it as legitimate. In particular, he argues that the magisterial documents from the papacy of John Paul II, specifically Evangelium Vitae and Catechism of the Catholic Church, move firmly in the direction of an abolitionist position. Brugger concludes by arguing that despite the weight of tradition, the teaching that capital punishment is legitimate has not been infallible, and therefore may be revised; moreover, there are strong grounds for holding that it ought to be revised as incompatible with the recognition of the dignity of every human being.” — The Heythrop Journal