1. An email in response (I think) to this post: “Before you condemn the death penalty, you should remember that one of the first Catholic saints, St. Dismas, was promised a spot in Heaven specifically for accepting the justice of his execution.”
My response: I think you can oppose the death penalty on moral grounds while affirming both that certain criminals deserve to die and that governments have a legitimate power to mete out justice to criminals. The key is that to inflict the penalty requires people to form the intent to kill other human beings — and not as the side-effect of acting on the intent to protect others from those human beings, but as the goal of the penalty. One can (and in my view should) hold that the formation of this intent is immoral without concluding that the Good Thief was in error on his cross.
2. An email in response to this column: “Republicans aren’t going to replace Obamacare [in the event federal courts strike it down]? Good. The federal government has no business in health care under the Constitution.”
I am sympathetic to where you’re coming from. But if Obamacare is struck down, it won’t be on that ground and the federal government will remain deeply involved in health care. It may even get more involved within a few years as a result of a backlash to the law’s being struck down and not replaced.