I fully share the view of the Magisterium that Capital Punishment, though not formally excluded, is, in normal circumstances, an unnecessary and undesirable feature of modern societies. Earlier, and Christian, societies in which it did exist very probably needed it because they were unprotected by the sophisticated coercive agencies possessed by modern states. I could stomach either one of these unpleasant alternatives, but I profoundly dislike the idea of being burdened with both.
Even if such state killing is allowed, I regard as totally and thoroughly abhorrent the thought of private individuals without juridical status taking it upon themselves to "execute" those of whom they disapprove. Whoever they are; whatever they have done.
Consequently, I am horrified almost beyond belief by the events in France. Our hearts go out to the people of Paris; we saw the horrors of terrorism in our own Capital when the London Underground was bombed and, before that, during the Irish troubles. And we remember with gratitude the deep sympathy and sense of solidarity which swept through France when British Regiments, bandsmen and horses included, were bombed in Hyde Park and Regents Park.
This does not mean that I feel obliged to join in all the current rhetoric, or to proclaim, in solidarity, Je suis Charlie. Among those who have been so wickedly attacked there appear to have been some very hate-ridden and corrupted minds, whose venom was not confined to ridiculing Islam. Je ne suis pas Charlie.
One can find on the Internet a front cover of the periodical concerned in which the Holy and Blessed and Glorious and Undivided Trinity is blasphemed by means of an obscene cartoon of a very explicitly sodomitical nature. It surprises me that images of such indecency were allowed to be publicly displayed for sale in a civilised city. One can also find a cartoon of Pope Benedict holding a mole inside his unbuttoned cassock and saying Ca me change des enfants de choeur. "Freedom of expression"? Would indecent cartoons defaming prominent pro-homosexual activists go unnoticed by the French equivalent of Mr Plod? And what about the constant attempts in more than one country to prevent pro-life activists from showing, in public, pictures of aborted foetuses? "Freedom of expression"? What world do some of these people live in?
But in one respect I do reluctantly admire these victims of terrorism. In Britain, we have nasty and unwholesome people who feel free to blaspheme our Holy Faith. But they are careful not to take on Islamic militants. Like all seasoned bullies, they have an acute and skilled eye for the soft target. Like all practised bullies, they are very careful not to tangle with the truly Hard Men.
At least the minds of those dead Parisian cartoonists were not devoid of the simple human virtue of courage. Unlike their British counterparts, they were prepared to take the risk of putting their own survival where their mouths and their pens were. In this, if in nothing else, they were not unmanly. Being prepared to die for ones beliefs is not nothing, whatever those beliefs are. God bless them, and may they know the mercies of Christ.