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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: C.S. Lewis on Punishment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1879  Wednesday, 11 September 2002

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 12:21:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment

[2]     From:   D. Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 16:42:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 00:50:00 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1868 Re: To kill or not to kill


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 12:21:06 -0400
Subject: 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment

From:           L. Swilley <
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>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.

Lewis (who, to begin with, was not a Roman Catholic) does not, in fact,
say "required".

>[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...]

The United States has been using euphemisms for "prison" for over a
century, and I don't see that it has done much good.  (Indeed, the very
notion of incarceration, per se, as punishment is very recent.) And the
alternative to the legal fiction that a criminal has harmed the state
(or "society") is to return to private vengeance.  But this is all
getting quite far from Shakespeare.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D. Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 16:42:27 -0500
Subject: 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1871 C.S. Lewis on Punishment

Hoping this is not too far afield, let me offer a few questions and
comments.

>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. ..."

L. Swilley responds:

>[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.

1 -- I am puzzled as to the meaning of the phrase, "the terms of the
sacrament of Confession." Is he (or she) referring to that sacrament as
practiced in the Church of England? If so, could these terms be cited
for us -- perhaps in both their modern form (relating to CSL) and their
Elizabethan form (WS)?

2 -- I am not persuaded that by saying "the right Christian thing to do"
CSL meant "the thing required by the terms etc." Presumably the latter
is an example of the former, but the former may exist without being
explicitly referred to in the latter.

3 -- It strikes me that "private, secret restitution" is often
impossible, and not just in the case of murder or other violent crimes
(such as rape or torture) where you can never restore what has been
taken or damaged. Suppose you are the CEO of a large corporation who
mishandles billions of dollars entrusted to you by your employees (much
of their life savings, in fact), squanders it on worthless investments
while paying yourself an exorbitant and wholly unjustifiable salary.
What is "the right Christian thing" for such a man to do? (And what are
the odds that he'll do it? )

I am always reminded of Claudius on his knees, wanting to pray and
failing. It is one of my definitive examples of the difference between
remorse and repentance, between the ugly, disgusted feeling you get
about yourself when some crime or sin or sneaky trick has come back to
haunt you, and the need to expunge the sin by dealing with it head-on.
Claudius is a cold-blooded murderer.  That fact cannot be undone by
"private, secret restitution." It cannot be undone by specious praying.
He knows it and tells us so. What is the "right Christian thing" for him
to do? What could he possibly do except to "give [him]self up to the
police and be hanged"?

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 00:50:00 +0100
Subject: 13.1868 Re: To kill or not to kill
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1868 Re: To kill or not to kill

John Kennedy quotes,

"It is lawful for Christian men at the commandment of the
       Magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars."
                -- 39 Articles, Article 37, "Of the Civil Magistrates"

and comments,

"...so pacifists are, at least as far as the Church of England is
concerned, heretical."

This is far too strong. The Article does not say that it is unlawful to
refuse to bear arms. What it says is that it is unlawful to refuse to
obey the higher powers. The issue is not bearing arms, but "lawfulness",
that is, socio-political obedience and responsibility. Bearing arms is
just one obvious point at which obedience might be seen to contradict a
Commandment (notice that the word used for the orders of the magistrate
is "commandment", this is no coincidence). It offers us as much leeway
as we need to identify the higher powers in the way we wish: the
magistrate, or God. As such, the Article, like most of the 39, is
remarkably liberal and open in its potential for interpretation
according to the free conscience: that's really the point of the 39
Articles, to clarify the Church's thinking on adiaphora in order to free
up consciences. They are certainly not meant to be used to identify
"heresy", which the Church of England has always been concerened to
locate in the deliberate refusal to accept the essentials of the faith
(belief in one God, that Christ was his only Son, that he rose from the
dead, etc.).

See Richard Field, *Of the Church, Five Books* (London 1606), Book I.
Perhaps the greatest contribution to the "Anglican" canon since Hooker.

m

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