Thesis Statements File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat A thesis statement A) is clear, B) is concise, and C) goes beyond fact and becomes *Capital punishment is a remnant of times when humans were uncivilized.
For example, if your essay was to argue that Hamlet's madness was faked, your The Death Penalty Thesis Statements: The death penalty should be abolished.
Moreover, even if the passage were a proverb, that would by no means show that it is not a sanction of capital punishment. In scripture, proverbs are often used precisely to instruct us to do certain things. For example, when scripture says “Happy is the man who finds wisdom” (Proverbs 3:13), it is not merely observing that wisdom will tend to lead to happiness. It is commending wisdom as something to be pursued, and regarding its connection with happiness as something fitting. Similarly, for all Megivern or Brugger has shown, Genesis 9:6 would, even if interpreted as a proverb, be saying that execution is not only the typical fate of murderers, but a fitting one.
It is also irrelevant (contra Brugger) that the passage does not make reference to state authorities, possible exceptions, etc. When Christ commands his followers to “give to him who begs from you” (Matthew 5:42), it would be ridiculous to argue that this is not really to be understood as a command to give alms, on the grounds that the passage does not distinguish between governmental assistance and private charity, between the truly needy and those who might take advantage of us, etc. Obviously, the passage is teaching the general principle that we should aid the needy, even if it doesn’t address every question that might arise about when and how, specifically, we should carry out this obligation. Similarly, Genesis 9:6 is teaching the general principle that capital punishment is fitting for murderers, even though it doesn’t answer every specific question we might have about how to apply that principle.
It is also important to emphasize that in both the Jewish and Catholic traditions, Genesis 9:6 has for millennia been understood precisely as a sanction of capital punishment. Megivern’s and Brugger’s novel reinterpretation is ad hoc, motivated by the desire to find a way around what Brugger had earlier admitted is a “problem” facing his position that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral.
A fourth problem is that whatever one says about the Mosaic Law, there are also scriptural passages that sanction capital punishment both prior to the Mosaic Law (in Genesis 9:6) and after that law was no longer in force (for example, in Romans 13:4).
More than that, he does so with great vehemence and with an emphasis on the good effects of capital punishment. For example, when commanding the death penalty for various offenses, God says, through Moses:
A similar problem faces Brugger’s treatment of Romans 13:4, which says that the state “does not bear the sword in vain” and is “the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” This too has for millennia been understood by the Church as an affirmation of the legitimacy of capital punishment. And here too Brugger reiterates an ad hoc re-interpretation that Joe and I have already refuted at length in our book, with objections that Brugger again largely ignores rather than answers.
The first problem with this is that the alleged parallel between divorce and capital punishment is bogus. In the relevant texts in the Pentateuch, God does not positively command the Israelites to divorce. Nor does he say that divorce is a good thing. He simply tolerates their divorcing, and establishes some rules they have to follow if they are going to do it. By contrast, he does positively command the Israelites to execute criminals, and for a large variety of offenses.
As to capital punishment, relatively few fathers comment directly on its morality. Those who do affirm the right of civil authority to carry it out. Can this be considered a “unanimous consent of the fathers”? I think not.
One problem with this is that it gives a highly misleading impression of the extent of the patristic evidence. By Brugger’s own admission (in his book), the Fathers who comment on and either explicitly or implicitly affirm the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment (even if not always the practice of it) include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras of Athens, Tertullian, Lactantius, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Eusebius, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ephraem of Syria, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, and Jerome. That is not a short list, and it includes some very big names. It is not for nothing that Brugger himself referred in his book to a “Patristic Consensus” on the legitimacy of capital punishment (to which he devotes a whole chapter). Brugger even went so far in the book as to argue against those who would deny such a consensus. It is understandable, but not really fair, that he now wants to minimize the significance of that consensus.
If there were any doubts that this conclusion is inescapable, the weakness of Brugger’s attempt to escape it should dispel them. Consider first his proposed way of dealing with the numerous texts from Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers in which God, through Moses, commands capital punishment for various offenses. Brugger suggests that this was comparable to Moses’s permitting of divorce, a practice that Catholic theology regards as contrary to natural law and no longer permitted. Capital punishment too, Brugger proposes, is an intrinsically evil practice that God merely permitted temporarily.
Another problem is that Brugger’s remark implies an indefensible interpretation of the First Vatican Council’s teaching about the unanimous consent of the Fathers. He insinuates that there is no real unanimity in this case, because not every one of the Fathers comments on the subject of capital punishment. But this is an absurd standard, which would make the Council’s teaching inapplicable to any theological issue on which even one Father has refrained from commenting. That is simply never how the Council’s instruction has been understood in Catholic theology. On the contrary, as , the needed consensus requires only that: