Saturday, August 27, 2005

Newsweek Profiles Fanciscan U. Students

And, not surprisingly, describes them as "ultradevout" (i.e., fanatics) and some as "unapologetically judgmental" (i.e., "holier than thou" types). I especially like this "we of the elite secular media think you're a bunch of religious kooks" line:

Even under John Paul II's conservative successor, it is a stretch to say that young Catholics like these—whose numbers nationally are impossible to determine—represent the future of the church.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is Assassination Morally Justifiable?

Amidst all the flak -- from both the Left and Right -- that Pat Robertson has been getting for suggesting that Hugo Chavez ought to be assassinated, I don't think I've actually heard or seen anyone wonder whether the assassination of a tyrant could ever be morally justified. There seems to be an almost automatic acceptance, especially among a Catholics, that assassination is always wrong. But is it?

Well, I did a little searching on the 'net and I found this illuminating article from 2001 by a priest in the Arlington Diocese who expounds a bit on what St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote about eliminating tyrants.

St. Thomas Aquinas gave the most substantial argument for tyrannicide. He based his position on his arguments for just war and capital punishment. St. Thomas concluded, "He who kills a tyrant (i.e. an usurper) to free his country is praised and rewarded" (In 2 Sentences, 44.2.2).

A tyrant by usurpation has illegitimately seized power and, therefore, is a criminal. When there are no other means available of ridding the community of the tyrant, the community may kill him. According to St. Thomas, the legitimate authority may condemn him to death using the normal course of law. However, if the normal course of law is not available (due to the actions of the tyrant), then the legitimate authority can proceed "informally" to condemn the tyrant and even grant individuals a mandate to execute the tyrant. A private citizen who takes the life of a tyrant acts with public authority in the same way that a soldier does in war.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority; that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper; and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

A tyrant by oppression is one who has come to power legitimately, but rules unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily. Here the community must confront the tyrant, and if necessary, depose him, formally or informally, according to the course of law available. In most circumstances, a private citizen morally cannot kill a tyrant by oppression, because the tyrant came to power through a legitimate means and thereby the community must depose him. If the community does depose the tyrant, according to St. Thomas, he becomes now a tyrant by usurpation and thereby may be eliminated by an act of justifiable tyrannicide in accord with the above norms.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen, jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils, then a private citizen can morally commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself, is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant, then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes an usurper.

Whether the proper conditions actually exist for legitimately killing Hugo Chavez by way of assassination, I don't know. But given what one of the great philosophers, theologians and Doctors of the Church has apparently said about tyranicide, maybe it's worth some analysis.
Jurisprudential Maxim of the Day

California Civil Code Section 3537: "Superfluity does not vitiate."

This was pointed out to me by my boss the other day after he reviewed a rather lengthy worded complaint (i.e., lawsuit) I drafted for a client.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Religious Conflict in Ukraine

Ukraine's Eastern Rite Catholics on Sunday moved their church headquarters to Kiev amid protests from nationalists and objections from Orthodox believers whose leaders warn the move will further stoke inter-church tensions.

Cardinal Lubomur Husar conducted a ceremony for more than 1,000 believers and priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church after he was declared Metropolitan of Kiev and after a priest announced the church's move from the western city of Lviv.

While priests and believers sang hymns against the backdrop of a new church being built, several hundred nationalists and Orthodox believers gathered under red flags, carrying Orthodox icons, chanting through loudspeakers and partially drowning out Husar's words.

``Orthodox or death!'' some yelled as others jostled believers trying to attend the service. ``You can kill us but you cannot take our faith from us!'' others yelled.

Wow. This level of hostility toward the Catholic Church easily exceeds a lot of the stuff that I've seen coming out of some quarters of American Protestantism. Then again, since the conflict between the Orthodox and Catholic Church has been around for over a thousand years, I suppose it really shouldn't be too surprising.