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David Bentley Heart reviews Catholic pro-death penalty book

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Deacon John Flanigan holds a sign during a vigil outside St Louis University College Church on 28 January 2014 ahead of the 29 January execution of Missouri death-row inmate Herbert Smulls of St. Louis. PHOTO: CNS

I would be lying if I claimed that my initial approach to By Man Shall His Blood Be Shedwas an unprejudiced one—I am firmly convinced that no Christian who truly understands his or her faith can possibly defend the practice of capital punishment—but I was not unwilling to give the book a fair hearing.

My convictions on the matter may be fixed, but they are not always passionate. There have been various occasions over the years when I have found myself desiring the deaths of some especially vicious criminals, including two who casually murdered an exceptionally gentle friend of mine when I was in college. And I have never shed a tear over the Nazis executed by the Allies after the Second World War. I am quite able to be heartless toward the heartless. But this book would exhaust the ruthlessness of Torquemada.

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