Thomas Aquinas, Gerard Bradley, and the Death Penalty

Lawrence Dewan

in Wisdom, Law, and Virtue

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227969
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237210 | DOI:

Series: Moral Philosophy and Moral Theology

Thomas Aquinas, Gerard               Bradley, and the Death Penalty

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In 1970 Germain Grisez published a paper criticizing St. Thomas's view of the legitimacy of capital punishment. Grisez rejected Thomas's fundamental conception of political society and indeed, the absolute primacy of the common good. Grisez taught that no one, not even the political authority, could ever licitly intend the death of a human being. Gerard Bradley, in a paper for a Grisez Festschrift, argues that Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Evangelium vitae (EV), tends to agree with Grisez. In so doing Bradley recalls some of the contentions of Grisez in his criticism of Thomas. This chapter reviews passages of Thomas on capital punishment to show the shortcomings of the Bradley criticism. It focuses on two lines of discussion found in Bradley and shows that there is a misrepresentation of the implications of Thomas's doctrine. It starts with the point that for Thomas capital punishment is in keeping with the fundamental human dignity of the criminal.

Keywords: Thomas Aquinas; capital punishment; human dignity; Germain Grisez; capital punishment; Gerard Bradley; Pope John Paul II

Chapter.  5980 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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