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Hi Ed, As usual, a well-argued article. I should point out, however, that Bellarmine also defended the Church’s right to burn heretics.

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Here is a Protestant summary of Bellarmine’s arguments, complete with citations from his works scroll back to page and continue on to page Edward Walker, fourth edition, glaileo Sorry about the biased source, but it was the best I could get hold of, via the Internet.

Anyway, do you agree with Bellarmine’s arguments on this point?

If not, why not? By the way, I’ve just written a review of your fourth, Thomistic proof of God’s existence: I think Feser wouldn’t deny that heretics, in the strict sense of the word, in principle, deserve some kind of punishment.

Indeed, this has always been claimed by the Church, the right of jurisdiction among the baptized. As to whether burning is an appropiate punishment he wouldn’t have to necessarily agree, since punishment is to a degree based on custom. Aquinas and Bellarmines positive arguments for the practice depend on the application of the same penalty for a lesser crime and the disturbance to the faithful they cause.

With the former being false today, the latter would create even more scandal if it were to be applied today, and therefore be contrary to its purpose not to mention the existence of galilep penalties that can achieve the same goal. Even then, Feser may disagree and appeal to a prudential judgement against the practice.

All things considered, the question of heretics is besides the point, and I can’t see any reason why people keep pressing Dr. Feser on this, except to try and discredit him.

In Jesus’ words, “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Many people would not deny that someone like Jim Jones was deserving of capital punishment.

There have been a few Christian heresies that have promoted suicide. It really depends on the heresy and on the nature of the society.

Heretical teachers in one way are not as serious as they were in the past due to the vast change in literacy rates and access to Orthodox information via the Internet. People are much more difficult to gallleo led astray than they were in the past. So the severity of the punishment very much depends on what you mean by the word “heresy”.

This is moot, though, since I can think of no modern-day secular polity where even the civil punishment of heresy wouldn’t be a bigger cause of injustice and public disorder than forgoing such punishment would be. Galleo one thing to note: Of course, modern historians have uncovered a very different picture of the past, and thus we should now galkleo better, but the fact remains that that ridiculous caricature still pervades popular collective imagination.

I am very much in the ‘in principle’ camp.

Background: Early reception of Copernicus in Europe

It would take some time to go into that. Aside from the philosophical considerations I am curious as to whether the exegesis of this passage about the deaths of Aninias and Sapphira requires much more nuance. God’s intent may well have been primarily to authenticate Peter’s authority, and because also of his faith.

It also may be the case the event represents God’s foreknowing rather than direct action. While the passage can be taken to relate to capital punishment, I certainly heretiico think that is the primary message.

Clearly Peter’s authority is the primary message. Daredevil, I agree that the Acts passage about Ananias and Sapphira can use a more developed exegesis. But I strongly doubt that doing so would end up coming close to a position that undermines the sense Feser gives above. As to God’s intent: When hedetico is a miraculous intervention, the divine approval is as far as I understand it taken to be definitive about the matter.

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And “about the matter” is supposed to cover all aspects of Apostle’s actions in the matter that are in the account, not just divine support for one aspect only. In this case, this framework would imply direct divine approval not only for Peter’s authority in general, but also specifically as to a sentence of punishment, and not just any punishment, but corporal punishment, and not just any corporal punishment, but even a punishment of death.

While it is fair galilo say that capital punishment being licit is not the primary message, that it is licit is part of the whole message. Tony I understand what you are saying.

Another way to understand the passage is seeing the death as secondary to the primary message of the passage i. It galile be a stretch to use the passage for corporeal punishment as a primary focus. I am not denying that the death penalty can in principle be licit.

I would quibble more over the specifics. I also think there is probably more to this passage than reading it as Peter killing people for lying it wasn’t about them not handing over all the money.

In fact this may be a poor reading if it becomes a primary focus, even if a passage can have multiple meanings. DD, I agree that it seems like there was more than the mere fact of lying as such that was the punishable offense.

Peter points out it is not just “lying to human beings” as the problem, but lying to God. It smacks of the same spiritual deadness as blasphemy or sacrilege.

And I agree that there was more in play than Peter’s authority. The importance of being careful in how you handle affairs for God and the Church because they are holy.

And the non-importance of whether they had given ALL of the proceeds, so much as NOT giving from motives of vanity and puffery. These also play into the meaning of the passage. Makes me kind of worry about all the actions I have done from mixed motives I don’t think there is an issue of mixed motives as much as trying to reap rewards and praise for giving everything when they had not.

They should simply have been honest gaoileo only giving part of yalileo wealth. I think the passage should be understood as indicative of Peter’s authority. Other considerations are secondary or tertiary and cannot be fully understood without reading through the primary message of the passage. Indeed I think Protestants and Orthodox could and probably should read the passage in the same way.

There are a number of comments above that tie this to an affirmation of Peter’s authority. There is a hell and you hrretico get there by a minor offense such as lying. If one says there should be no death penalty, the message received may be there are no mortal sins.

Aside from the fact that you are citing what is in essence a Jack Chick Tract written in Dickensian prose, what bearing does this have on the subject at hand?

Do you really need someone to explain to you that “Is the death penalty just as a matter principle? Clearly, one can dispute with Bellarmine on the latter without in any way disputing with him on the former. Frankly, I fail to even see what the point of this comment even is. Untenured, I think Vincent’s concern is that the Church’s magisterial authority behind the thesis “capital punishment is morally licit” would seem to be of a similar standing as for the thesis “the burning of heretics is morally right”.

And since the Church seems to now deny the latter in spite of pretty vigorous affirmations of it in the pastshe could just as well deny hrretico licitness of capital punishment now in spite of pretty vigorous affirmations of it in the past. I seriously doubt that the thesis “the burning of heretics is morally right” was ever anywhere near as firmly established a Church teaching as the licitness of capital punishment.


It just hasn’t the pedigree. If you compare the galipeo of the two, it is obvious that the licitness of CP goes back much farther, has much more biblical basis, and much more support from the Fathers. In addition, there is a very important philosophical difference: The latter requires assent both hsretico CP for heretics, AND that burning be a right method for carrying it out – herehico that is far more complex a point to affirm as “Church teaching”.

All in all, I don’t agree that the two stand together in being either irreformable or reformable. One factor that is also relevant is that heresy is not, as such, a violation of natural law, and therefore would not be something about which natural law would say anything directly.

Obstinacy as a generic moral wrong would be, but of course mere obstinacy is not a grave wrong unless other circumstances make it so. Hi Tony, You read my intentions correctly. And yes, I agree that the case for “the burning of heretics is morally right” being part of the Church’s infallible ordinary magisterium is certainly weaker than the case for “capital punishment is morally justifiable” being part of the infallible ordinary magisterium.

Nevertheless, it is still formidable: That’s not to be sneezed at. Did Aquinas specifically defend burning? I remember him defending the DP for heretics but not necessarily the burning. Nevertheless I agree that the issue of the DP for heretics especially burningwhich once enjoyed common approval but which we now reject, can be problematic for Feser’s attempt to show the Church can’t ever change its teaching on the DP. I think that would be good enough. Hi everyone, While we’re on the subject of Cardinal Bellarmine, here’s an interesting nugget of information about him galieo Wikipedia: University of Notre Dame Press pp.

And now, I’d invite you to have a look at this article by history professor Alberto A.

It was the most frequently recurring charge. For example, one accuser testified that in prison one night Bruno heretoco a fellow prisoner ‘to the window and showed him a star, hreetico that it was a world and that all the stars were worlds. No other accusation was invoked even half as much. Many authorities denounced it, including theologians, jurists, bishops, one emperor, three popes, five Church Fathers and nine saints.

This condemnation was echoed by subsequent authorities, including Saints Jerome, Augustine and Isidore. Green, with long noses and big ears, like in children’s gailleo.

Some of your friends and relatives are Catholics, and you’re thinking of converting, but you’d like to know exactly what you’ll be required to believe if you do. What are the chances that you’ll decide that the legitimacy of capital punishment is one of the things you must believe as a Catholic, but not the legitimacy of burning heretics despite the fact that the medieval Inquisition was established by a Pope, Gregory IX inand the Roman Inquisition by Pope Paul III in or the belief in many worlds which numerous theologians, three popes, galileeo Church Fathers and nine saints condemned as heretical?

Vincent, while I agree that a defense of the burning of heretics was a position that was held in the Church for centuries, even by hreetico highest authorities, that is different from the claim that it ALSO enjoyed the status of being taught as part of the Church’s infallible ordinary magisterium.

We see from people like Dr. Christian Brugger claims that – even in the face of Feser and Bessette’s rather thorough layout in their book – that the thesis “capital punishment is morally licit” is only a galilwo opinion, or words to similar effect, and that this is not sufficient for getting into “infallible ordinary magisterium” status.