Frodo: I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum. … he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.
Gandalf: Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.
— J.R.R. Tolkein. The Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring. Book One. II. The Shadow of the Past
The Great State of Missouri executed three men since November and that prompted me to get down to work on this essay again. It had been cooking in my mind since this past summer. I don’t recall the circumstances, but a conversation had turned to the topic of capital punishment. I’d cited the Catechism on the point, and asserted that in Missouri in 2013 capital punishment isn’t licit. I heard something like this in reply:
The Church is not against the death penalty – she leaves it as a matter prudential judgment by Catholics, and that means the plain, everyday Catholics. The Church does not tell them they have to take college courses in theology, or do advanced research before making prudential judgments; she trusts them to make these prudential decisions for themselves. My prudential judgment is for capital punishment.