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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
C.S. Lewis on Punishment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1871  Tuesday, 10 September 2002

From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Sunday, 9 Sep 2001 10:00:10 -0500
Subject:        C.S. Lewis on Punishment

Sam Small writes,

 In reading CS Lewis' excellent "MERE CHRISTIANITY" I came upon the
chapter on "forgiveness" which startled me.  I include a section below.

 "Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him?  No, for loving myself
does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment-even to
death.  If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do
would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. ..."

[No. An examination of the terms of the sacrament of Confession will
show that the murderer is NOT required to surrender himself to the
police and be hanged. Private, secret restitution is required, yes.
Only if another is to be punished for one's crime is the perpetrator
required, as a term of absolution, to give himself up to the police.  I
am amazed to read this remark as that of C.S. Lewis.

[This curious muddling of legal with moral duty and the attendant belief
that the criminal has "offended society," as though "society," - an idea
after all - is a *person* (or God!) is a continuing sickness in the
public mind, leading us to forget that we are all sinners and
malefactors and hardly in any position to administer justice with the
indignation that "punishment" implies, rather than with sadness.  We are
beginning to call our prisons "correctional institutions," which is a
step in the right direction; now if we could only conduct them in a
manner that suggests we believe that...]

         [L. Swilley]

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