To Kill Another
Homicide and Natural Law
Basing his argument on natural law, Graham J. McAleer asserts that only public authority has the right to intentionally kill. He draws upon the work of Thomas Aquinas and Francisco de Vitoria, defending the claim that these natural law theorists have developed the best available theory of homicide. To have rule of law in any meaningful sense, the author argues, there must be protections for the guilty and prohibition against killing innocents.
Western theories of law have drifted steadily towards the privatization of homicide, despite the fact that it runs counter to rule of law. Public acts of homicide like capital punishment are now viewed by many as barbaric, while a private act of homicide like the starvation of comatose patients is viewed by many as a caring gesture both to patient and family. This subversion of the rule of law is prompted by humanitarian ethics.
McAleer argues that humanitarianism is a false friend to those committed to the rule of law. The problem of human vulnerability makes political theology an inescapable consideration for law. Readers will find much to reflect upon in this book. McAleer’s argument can be read as a cultural chapter in the history of moral ideas, but also as a close and timely reading of a grim subject.
"This study, which offers an interpretation of Thomas Aquinas's treatment of the morality of homicide in his Summa Theologica, documents the ongoing "privatization of homicide" in modern life. This volume's sharp dissection of what novelist Flannery O'Connor called the "tenderness [that] leads to the gas chamber" makes this work required reading for all who are morally serious. Highly recommended."
“To Kill Another: Homicide and Natural Law is a pick for any college-level legal history, religion, and political collection and offers an assertion that only public authority has the right to intentionally kill. He defends the claim that natural law theorists have developed and argues there must be consequences for the guilty as well as prohibition against killing innocents. Legal and social issues history holdings alike will find this a scholarly argument re-assessing humanitarianism.”
“Graham McAleer brilliantly focuses on the fact that in recent decades Western democracies have drifted away from a tradition in which public authority alone retained the privilege of intentional, lethal force. As it has become more common to deny that war can be just and to reject capital punishment as barbaric, we see increasing acceptance—even institutionalized embrace—of private homicide, especially medically controlled killing . . . McAleer persuasively traces this shift to our having adopted “the mistaken ethics of humanitarianism.” . . . McAleer support his claim that Aquinas and Vitoria together have developed the best available theory of homicide by choosing a series of contemporary topics—such as NATO bombing in Kosovo and the surgical separation of conjoined twins—and using them to illustrate the moral and legal superiority of their natural law to our humanitarianism. A strong defense of the privilege, reserved to political authority, to kill intentionally only the guilty exceeds in justice, in mercy, and in decenty of humanitarianism that tends inevitably toward the destruction of the innocent.”
—Daniel P. Maher, Society
"Without God, law will collapse into tyranny. This book is a stunning exposure of the paradoxically inhumane implications of secular humanistic ethics. McAleer's study of homicide and the social order examines the modern embarrassment about capital punishment, as if it were barbaric, and the recent drift toward the privatization of homicide (e.g., the routine starvation of the comatose, on the grounds that compassion requires killing them). This penetrating critique of the perversion of real humanism by utilitarianism demonstrates the dangers of undermining the rule of law in the name of some abstract commitment to egalitarianism."
—Joseph W. Koterski SJ, Fordham University