On the Death Penalty, a Catholic Dissents

 

“Imagine if a state announced that murders committed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays would be punishable by execution and murders committed the other days of the week would be punishable by imprisonment. Would murder rates remain the same as they are now on all the days of the week?” — Ernest van den Haag

In his recent piece, “The Bishop and the Executioner,” Kevin D. Williamson made the Understatement of the Year when he observed that, “Pope Francis is a spiritual leader. He is not an intellectual leader, and in that he stands in contrast to his immediate predecessor and Pope John Paul II, a figure of world-historical consequence.” Paraphrasing one of the Pope’s advisors, Williamson remarked that Pope Francis, “…didn’t really have any rigorously developed and systematically applied view of political economy at all.” More’s the pity, because it is precisely the kind of counter-intuitive and emotive prescriptions of which the Holy Father seems so fond that, A) destroy innocent lives, and B) make some people so very uncomfortable at the above question posed by Professor van den Haag.

As a relatively new convert to the Catholic Church, I understand the authority with which the Pope speaks, even when not speaking Ex Cathedra, which is to speak in a clearly stipulated manner which is binding to all Catholics. And I have to believe (or at least hope) that Pope Francis is at aware of the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, who in The City of God and in Summa Theologiae acknowledge and endorse the right of civil authorities to put to death those who, in the words of Aquinas, are, “dangerous and infectious to the community.”

“Every part is directed to the whole, as imperfect to perfect, wherefore every part exists naturally for the sake of the whole. For this reason we see that if the health of the whole human body demands the excision of a member, because it became putrid or infectious to the other members, it would be both praiseworthy and healthful to have it cut away,” wrote Thomas Aquinas, whose views are at variance with Pope Francis who enjoins us to oppose the death penalty because, “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor.”

Unhappily, a great many things remain unimaginable to the Pope, including the concept of deterrence as something which can actually save lives. Of course, there are a great many people who dismiss the idea of the deterrent value of capital punishment who nevertheless acknowledge its existence in other areas. Anyone who has ever reduced their speed when driving through a town notorious as a “speed trap,” acknowledges that the threat of severe penalties can and do influence behavior.

“Whether any activity-be it lawful or unlawful-takes place depends on whether the desire for it, or for whatever is to be secured by it, is stronger than the desire to avoid the costs involved,” wrote Professor van den Haag. This applies whether one is contemplating an expensive dinner, a sky-diving experience, whether or not to purchase various types of insurance, or whether or not to rob a liquor store and the idea that these natural considerations would suddenly evaporate in the face of a consistent and sure application of the death penalty defies all logic which, predictably, is where Pope Francis and a great many well-meaning people land all topsy-turvy.

Correspondingly, where threatened punishments are infrequent, or light, or both, lawlessness proceeds apace, and in some instances, increases. Anyone who has been passed by a speeding police car (with no lights or sirens turned on), and has seen the general pace of traffic pick up as drivers realize they may speed with impunity, knows exactly the point I’m making. Indeed, a few weeks ago in USA Today, Brad Heath noted that:

Just before a wave of violence turned Baltimore into the nation’s deadliest big city, a curious thing happened to its police force: officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime.

Police officers reported seeing fewer drug dealers on street corners. They encountered fewer people who had open arrest warrants.

Police questioned fewer people on the street. They stopped fewer cars.

In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 – as Baltimore faced a wave of rioting after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van – officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since.

“What officers are doing is they’re just driving looking forward. They’ve got horse blinders on,” says Kevin Forrester, a retired Baltimore detective.

The surge of shootings and killings that followed has left Baltimore easily the deadliest large city in the United States. Its murder rate reached an all-time high last year; 342 people were killed. The number of shootings in some neighborhoods has more than tripled. One man was shot to death steps from a police station. Another was killed driving in a funeral procession.

In other words, lax enforcement and light or nonexistent penalties prompt increases in carnage and mayhem. Under the circumstances, the sacredness which a civilized society places on human life can be expressed precisely by its willingness to exact the ultimate price from those who violate that sacred trust. Even as an individual has a right to protect himself against mortal threats, society can and must protect itself against similar threats. This includes, by the way, nullifying the potential for certain terrorists or criminal ring leaders to instigate and orchestrate further loss of life while incarcerated.

In his speech to the United States Congress nearly three years ago, Pope Francis said at one point that, “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” which had many of us on the edge of our seats anticipating that the Holy Father would mount a vigorous defense on behalf of those who are most innocent and cannot defend themselves.

Instead, we heard him add that, “This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.” Counterintuition has its place, but when it is employed to emphasize the defense of those who murder over those who are murdered, we are rendered rudderless and adrift in a sea of moral relativism.

Pope Francis would do well to consider how many innocent lives might be spared if would-be murders knew that their crime against humanity would cost them their own lives. As for this Catholic who loves the Church and its teachings, I can applaud certain advances in mankind’s progress over the centuries, but I cannot pretend to be ignorant of human nature knowing full well, as I do, which way the body count would trend if the death penalty applied only on three days of the week, or not at all.

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There are 32 comments.

  1. 1
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  1. Thatcher

    You are not alone. )-:

    • #1
    • August 8, 2018 at 12:29 pm
    • 5 likes
  2. Member

    I’ve given Papa a pass on many things. Though I was never a strong defender nor detractor of the USA’s application of the death penalty, his re-writing of the CCC for what feels like virtue signalling is, well, deeply troubling and theologically vapid.

    This change is even more so troubling, now that yet another pedophile scandal unfolds. And, yet; “Master, to whom shall we go?

    • #2
    • August 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm
    • 10 likes
  3. Coolidge

    Perhaps I am not as good a person as I should be, but the death penalty, to me, should be available to be used in some situations. The case that I tend to point to is the brutal rape and murder of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena in 1993. If you read about that crime, the callous and brutal nature of the individuals that killed them was apparent and the guilt was not in question. The State exists as a different entity than the individual and the State can do things that individuals cannot. For example, the State can go to war, and in doing so, soldiers are expected to kill other soldiers as part of their duties. Those actions are not murder per the Church as long as the conflict is just per the guidelines:

    the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    there must be serious prospects of success;

    the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition

    those guidelines should also apply to the application of the Death Penalty. It should be used only in the gravest of crimes (murder). The “other means” would be life imprisonment which isn’t always the optimal solution. Execution certainly reduced recidivism and can be a deterrence (though the inapplication of the Death Penalty undermines this). The last one should be considered, though since the other option is the removal of the individual from society permanently its hard for me to see how execution would produce worse evils that the chance that the person might kill again, and would place their jailers in a constant state of danger.

    • #3
    • August 8, 2018 at 2:34 pm
    • 2 likes
  4. Member

    Dave Carter: Counterintuition has its place, but when it is employed to emphasize the defense of those who murder over those who are murdered, we are rendered rudderless and adrift in a sea of moral relativism.

    Beautiful sentence, Dave.

    • #4
    • August 8, 2018 at 2:37 pm
    • 7 likes
  5. Member

    I am a Christian, but not a Catholic. I was struck by what I gather was the Pope’s focus on the purpose of the punishment to be to prevent further crime. But, at least in the case of murder, the death penalty is a moral statement – it is a statement that the murdered person’s life had inherent value. To say that the death penalty is never appropriate is to risk diminishing the apparent value of the victim’s life. 

    • #5
    • August 8, 2018 at 6:17 pm
    • 7 likes
  6. Inactive

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am a Christian, but not a Catholic. I was struck by what I gather was the Pope’s focus on the purpose of the punishment to be to prevent further crime. But, at least in the case of murder, the death penalty is a moral statement – it is a statement that the murdered person’s life had inherent value. To say that the death penalty is never appropriate is to risk diminishing the apparent value of the victim’s life.

    Francis’s position, with which I am in tepid agreement, is that all human life has value, and not even the most heinous of crimes can take that away. 

    • #6
    • August 9, 2018 at 5:57 am
    • Like
  7. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    You are not alone. )-:

    Nice to know. Thanks!

    • #7
    • August 9, 2018 at 6:51 am
    • Like
  8. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    George Townsend (View Comment):

    Dave Carter: Counterintuition has its place, but when it is employed to emphasize the defense of those who murder over those who are murdered, we are rendered rudderless and adrift in a sea of moral relativism.

    Beautiful sentence, Dave.

    Well it came from the heart, so thanks very much sir. 

    • #8
    • August 9, 2018 at 6:51 am
    • Like
  9. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am a Christian, but not a Catholic. I was struck by what I gather was the Pope’s focus on the purpose of the punishment to be to prevent further crime. But, at least in the case of murder, the death penalty is a moral statement – it is a statement that the murdered person’s life had inherent value. To say that the death penalty is never appropriate is to risk diminishing the apparent value of the victim’s life.

    Exactly the point I was making. Thanks much!

    • #9
    • August 9, 2018 at 6:52 am
    • Like
  10. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am a Christian, but not a Catholic. I was struck by what I gather was the Pope’s focus on the purpose of the punishment to be to prevent further crime. But, at least in the case of murder, the death penalty is a moral statement – it is a statement that the murdered person’s life had inherent value. To say that the death penalty is never appropriate is to risk diminishing the apparent value of the victim’s life.

    Francis’s position, with which I am in tepid agreement, is that all human life has value, and not even the most heinous of crimes can take that away.

    I don’t disagree that all human life has value in a transcendent sense. But when a person murders and takes an innocent life, they reduce their own value to society at large, becoming as Aquinas noted, “dangerous and infectious to the community.” Under the circumstances, it seems to me entirely appropriate that society place the preservation of innocent life over that of the person who seeks to destroy innocent life. Which is why it boggled the mind that Pope Francis chose to focus his concern on those with blood on their hands rather than the unborn – by definition the most innocent among us.

    • #10
    • August 9, 2018 at 6:59 am
    • Like
  11. Inactive

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    I don’t disagree that all human life has value in a transcendent sense. But when a person murders and takes an innocent life, they reduce their own value to society at large

    Agreed, but that doesn’t mean their value is reduced to zero, which is what it would need to be to justify ending their life prematurely.

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Which is why it boggled the mind that Pope Francis chose to focus his concern on those with blood on their hands rather than the unborn – by definition the most innocent among us.

    Here, you’ll find no disagreement from me.

    • #11
    • August 9, 2018 at 7:15 am
    • 1 like
  12. Member

    There are still a lot of people who think, or say they think, that the death penalty does not deter crime. I can’t tell from what the pope has said if he’s one of them. But isn’t it crazy that such a debate could even happen? That punishment deters crime and higher punishments do it more effectively is axiomatic. It doesn’t need to be proven. The burden is on those who say it does not deter crime. If the penalty for drunk driving was death, would drunk driving go down or not? Not implementing the death penalty is itself an act of injustice. 

    • #12
    • August 9, 2018 at 7:40 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I am a Christian, but not a Catholic. I was struck by what I gather was the Pope’s focus on the purpose of the punishment to be to prevent further crime. But, at least in the case of murder, the death penalty is a moral statement – it is a statement that the murdered person’s life had inherent value. To say that the death penalty is never appropriate is to risk diminishing the apparent value of the victim’s life.

    Francis’s position, with which I am in tepid agreement, is that all human life has value, and not even the most heinous of crimes can take that away.

    I am neither a Catholic nor a churchgoer, although I consider my very devout, in that I am strong God-believing man. I agree with Tabby, about the death penalty being a moral statement. Of course all human life has value. But, to me, this is a starting off point. If a person turns away from God, in such a way as to want to destroy His most noble creation, why should we then think of his life being just as valuable as a person who has always tried to uphold God’s values? As I understand it, though far from being a Biblical scholar, the Bible takes this same point of view. I believe that Capital Punishment is our way of showing God that we honor Him, that we will not put up with people who betray Him in this way.

    • #13
    • August 9, 2018 at 7:47 am
    • Like
  14. Inactive

    Let me make one thing clear, if we’re going to have this conversation: I do not condemn those who support the death penalty. My problem is with the assertion that opposing the death penalty means devaluing the life of the victim.

    Prematurely ending a human life is never good. One can make an argument that there are cases where it is the least bad option, but it should never be celebrated, and it should certainly never be considered obligatory.

    • #14
    • August 9, 2018 at 7:56 am
    • Like
  15. Member

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):
    Prematurely ending a human life is never good. One can make an argument that there are cases where it is the least bad option, but it should never be celebrated, and it should certainly never be considered obligatory.

    I agree on one thing, Umbra: I will not besmirch anyone who is opposed to the death penalty. But I still say they are very wrong. I do believe they are engaged in a devaluing of that life, which was taken. Of course they don’t mean it that way. This is a moral situation for most of the people who stand with you, I am sure. I just believe that an ultimate punishment, arrived at through a deliberative process, is the moral and correct thing to do.

    • #15
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:15 am
    • 1 like
  16. Reagan

    My opposition to the death penalty is based on a conservative principle, that is, that the state ought not have that kind of power over the individual. 

    For one thing the state makes too many mistakes, and too many innocent people have been executed. Mistakes in the justice system are inevitable, of course, but mistakes in the application of the death penalty are irreversible. I can agree in principle that the death penalty can be justified on a Christian moral basis, but the institution charged with responsibility has to be reasonably reliable, and the American justice system is anything but. Perhaps there exists a justice system that is competent enough to have that power, but it’s not the one we have.

    For another thing the way that the death penalty is carried out in the US in my opinion has become too bizarre. It’s a byzantine ritual that stretches out over as many as 20 years. Embodied in the ritual is all of the ambiguity with which our society regards the death penalty, every condemned man becomes a political pawn.

    • #16
    • August 9, 2018 at 8:48 am
    • Like
  17. Thatcher

    Years ago there was a joke.

    Person1: Do you want a beer?

    Person2: Is the pope Catholic?

    Person1: here is your beer.

     

    Present day.

    Person1: Do you want a beer?

    Person2: Is the pope Catholic?

    Person1: So no beer?

    • #17
    • August 9, 2018 at 9:47 am
    • 1 like
  18. Inactive

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Years ago there was a joke.

    Person1: Do you want a beer?

    Person2: Is the pope Catholic?

    Person1: here is your beer.

     

    Present day.

    Person1: Do you want a beer?

    Person2: Is the pope Catholic?

    Person1: So no beer?

    Both of Francis’s predecessors opposed the death penalty, for the same reasons.

    • #18
    • August 9, 2018 at 10:22 am
    • Like
  19. Member

    If life in prison actually meant life in prison, such protection of society from further depredations by the murderer might be sufficient. But in too many jurisdictions, a sentence for, say, 2d degree murder is around 20 years, of which a third or so may be reduced with credit for good behavior in the joint.

    It was no coincidence that the Clinton era sentencing reforms led to longer sentences in general, and along with the popular “three strikes, you’re in for life without parole” movement in the states started a trend of a major drop in violent crime.

    And what suitable punishment can there be if there is no death penalty to address the most heinous, the truly horrendous murderers like serial killers (Ted Bundy comes to mind) who live for the thrill of sadistic murder?

    Or the prison escapees in Connecticut that brutalized and murdered an entire family for fun?

    What should they get? Restricted TV? No lollipops?

    There are two reasons why executions take so long in the US: first and most important, is the value of due process and fair trial. Multiple levels of review are intended to ferret out mistaken convictions or to cool passions that perhaps led to overcharging or a runaway and vengeful jury.

    The second comes from the anti-death penalty/industrial/legal complex made up of people passionately opposed to the death penalty under any and all circumstances. Over the years these anti-death penalty advocates have crafted hundreds of angles from which to challenge and impede the execution of the sentence. Because, as the saying has it, “death is different,” courts are loath to foreclose potential challenges which each must be fully researched, briefed, argued, deliberated and decided upon. Hence years go by, first working through all layers of the state judiciary, and then mounting collateral attacks in federal courts.

    I do not have the answers to these dilemmas, as the rule of law is paramount to me. Justice delayed is often justice denied, and so too is dragging out the process for years and decades, which takes an unbelievable toll on the victims’ loved ones. Meanwhile, Democrats like our state’s governor declare that (even in this state where each time the death penalty has been voted upon, it has been overwhelmingly supported by some 60% of the vote) no matter the case or the criminal or the victim, he will not sign any death warrants while he is in office. Talk about ignoring the law of the land. He isn’t issuing pardons, just not allowing the sentences to be carried out. Sad.

    • #19
    • August 9, 2018 at 11:14 am
    • 2 likes
  20. Thatcher

    So I guess you are following the news about execution in TN this week? About 30 years to late in my opinion. 

    • #20
    • August 10, 2018 at 5:45 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    Before anyone argues that there is an “inalienable dignity” to all human life, let me tell you a story. Warning: it is disturbing. Stop reading now if you are sensitive to gory stuff.

    One of my former bosses in the LA DA’s Office was responsible for trying Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker, the “Toolbox Murderers”. In addition to kidnapping, raping, and murdering 5 young women, the pair enjoyed tape recording their torture/murder sessions with their victims, during which they ripped at their bodies with pliers, smashed them with a sledgehammer and plunged ice picks into the girls’ ears. Part of my boss’s preparation for trial required that he repeatedly listen to hours of those nightmarish recordings to identify the statements of the killers between the screams of the victims. 

    Norris took a deal of life in prison for testifying against Bittaker, who got the death penalty, but is still alive. My former boss got a lifetime of nightmares, as did the judges and jurors on the trial, the investigators on the case and everyone in the office who could hear the tapes through my boss’s closed door. Where was the “inalienable dignity” in Bittaker’s life? How would letting him live be fair to the victims, who had a far better claim to respect for their lives than he?

    Phrases like “the inalienable dignity of human life” are fantasies composed of blind ignorance, cowardice and wishful thinking; euphonious claptrap with no relation to harsh reality when applied to people like Bittaker and Norris. 

    Humans exist along a moral spectrum, from angels at one end to devils at the other. Most of us are a lot better than we have to be. But as the ancient sages recognized, those guys down at the devil end wreak havoc on the body politic. What does it say about our society, that we love our neighbors so little that we will harbor a rabid dog because “he should have a right to live, too.”

    • #21
    • August 10, 2018 at 10:23 pm
    • 3 likes
  22. Inactive

    Mole-eye (View Comment):

    Before anyone argues that there is an “inalienable dignity” to all human life, let me tell you a story. Warning: it is disturbing. Stop reading now if you are sensitive to gory stuff.

    Phrases like “the inalienable dignity of human life” are fantasies composed of blind ignorance, cowardice and wishful thinking; euphonious claptrap with no relation to harsh reality when applied to people like Bittaker and Norris.

    Luke 6:32-36

    32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

    I guess this has no relation to reality?

     

    • #22
    • August 11, 2018 at 8:01 am
    • Like
  23. Member

    @umbraofnex: Of course Jesus’ teaching has a relation to reality. But reality is complex, and even Jesus had his limits, as he demonstrated when he took a whip to the money lenders in the temple. The Gadarene pigs were destroyed, the tree that bears bad fruit is chopped down, and Jesus takes for granted that the homeowner is permitted to use a sword against the night-time intruder.

    We could get into a scripture fight here, but that’s a waste of your time and mine. My point is that Pope Francis is pushing a grandiloquent abstraction that fails in confrontation with reality. He is a poor shepherd if he cannot distinguish the predator who slaughters his lambs from the lambs themselves.

     

    • #23
    • August 11, 2018 at 12:48 pm
    • 3 likes
  24. Inactive

    Mole-eye (View Comment):
    My point is that Pope Francis is pushing a grandiloquent abstraction that fails in confrontation with reality.

    Isn’t that what Christianity is supposed to do? Aren’t we called to be better than “reality?”

    • #24
    • August 11, 2018 at 1:22 pm
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  25. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Mole-eye (View Comment):
    My point is that Pope Francis is pushing a grandiloquent abstraction that fails in confrontation with reality.

    Isn’t that what Christianity is supposed to do? Aren’t we called to be better than “reality?”

    Well now, let’s pause just a second here. If, by the term, “reality,” we are talking about the world around us in all of its fallen, violent and sinful nature, then yes, we are called to stand apart from it. We are, after all, sinners ourselves though we strive to heed to a higher calling. While it is true that as Christians we are called upon to turn the other cheek, we are neither obliged nor authorized to turn our brother’s cheek for him. 

    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives as I have stipulated in the above piece. I think the importance that Mole-Eye places on, “…distinguish[ing] the predator who slaughters his lambs from the lambs themselves,” is a useful one and one which, unfortunately, could stand more attention from the Holy Father. 

    • #25
    • August 11, 2018 at 5:47 pm
    • 2 likes
  26. Member

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives as I have stipulated in the above piece. I think the importance that Mole-Eye places on, “…distinguish[ing] the predator who slaughters his lambs from the lambs themselves,” is a useful one and one which, unfortunately, could stand more attention from the Holy Father.

    Amen, Dave. I couldn’t have said it any better.

    Look, I am sure there are people more religious than me. If you mean by that those who go to church. I do not attend church. And I know there are people who forgot more of the Bible than I will ever know. But I bow to no Man at being a bigger or more devout believer than I am. And I do believe that the Bible says that God hates evil. And I’ve heard scholars of the Bible say that it defends Capital Punishment. I just believe using this line of argument – that God values every life the same – is wrong. I am sure He did when they started out. But once they turn from God, and start practicing evil, I can’t believe that He looks at them in the same Loving manner.

    • #26
    • August 11, 2018 at 6:21 pm
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  27. Inactive

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    While it is true that as Christians we are called upon to turn the other cheek, we are neither obliged nor authorized to turn our brother’s cheek for him.

    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives

    And no one disagrees with this. The question is not whether capital punishment can save lives, but whether capital punishment is necessary* to save lives. I, and not just Francis but his two celebrated predecessors say, “It is not.”


    *I wouldn’t even have said anything if not for the ones arguing that capital punishment is not only justifiable, but obligatory.

    • #27
    • August 12, 2018 at 5:08 am
    • Like
  28. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    While it is true that as Christians we are called upon to turn the other cheek, we are neither obliged nor authorized to turn our brother’s cheek for him.

    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives

    And no one disagrees with this. The question is not whether capital punishment can save lives, but whether capital punishment is necessary* to save lives. I, and not just Francis but his two celebrated predecessors say, “It is not.”


    *I wouldn’t even have said anything if not for the ones arguing that capital punishment is not only justifiable, but obligatory.

    Okay. I understand your point, and thank you. I certainly respect your perspective here, and I understand that you’ve not arrived at this point without careful and prayerful thought, so please understand that I’m not being contentious at all, but rather genuinely curious on the following particular point. Which is, how do you handle instances in which someone serving out a life sentence either murders another person in prison or orchestrates/directs the murder of others outside of prison, i.e., would not their execution have been vital to saving the lives of those they murdered? Again,..I’m genuinely interested here and not vying for debate points. I’m confident you have an answer and I’d like to understand it please. 

    • #28
    • August 12, 2018 at 7:17 am
    • 1 like
  29. Inactive

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    While it is true that as Christians we are called upon to turn the other cheek, we are neither obliged nor authorized to turn our brother’s cheek for him.

    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives

    And no one disagrees with this. The question is not whether capital punishment can save lives, but whether capital punishment is necessary* to save lives. I, and not just Francis but his two celebrated predecessors say, “It is not.”


    *I wouldn’t even have said anything if not for the ones arguing that capital punishment is not only justifiable, but obligatory.

    Okay. I understand your point, and thank you. I certainly respect your perspective here, and I understand that you’ve not arrived at this point without careful and prayerful thought, so please understand that I’m not being contentious at all, but rather genuinely curious on the following particular point. Which is, how do you handle instances in which someone serving out a life sentence either murders another person in prison or orchestrates/directs the murder of others outside of prison, i.e., would not their execution have been vital to saving the lives of those they murdered? Again,..I’m genuinely interested here and not vying for debate points. I’m confident you have an answer and I’d like to understand it please.

    I suppose in that case you could make an argument that it is necessary, and for the record, such a scenario had not been ruled out by either Benedict or John Paul. Their position, with which I agree, was that effectiveness alone is not sufficient, but less brutal means must be ruled out. In your scenario, it could be argued that the second condition has been met.

    But, I find it difficult to believe that the scenario you present is sufficiently common as to be applicable the vast majority of executions** currently being carried out. At the very least, I think it should be abolished*** for first offenses.


    **However, a point against interest to which I must admit, it seems only 31 death sentences were handed down in the US in 2016, which is far less than I expected.

    ***On a state by state level, of course.

    • #29
    • August 12, 2018 at 11:41 am
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  30. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    While it is true that as Christians we are called upon to turn the other cheek, we are neither obliged nor authorized to turn our brother’s cheek for him.

    The first duty of government, as has often been said, is to keep its citizens alive and free. In that regard, it is absolutely the imperative of good government that it protect the innocent against those who seek to hurt or destroy them. In that regard, it is the contention of others including myself that capital punishment can indeed save innocent lives

    And no one disagrees with this. The question is not whether capital punishment can save lives, but whether capital punishment is necessary* to save lives. I, and not just Francis but his two celebrated predecessors say, “It is not.”


    *I wouldn’t even have said anything if not for the ones arguing that capital punishment is not only justifiable, but obligatory.

    Okay. I understand your point, and thank you. I certainly respect your perspective here, and I understand that you’ve not arrived at this point without careful and prayerful thought, so please understand that I’m not being contentious at all, but rather genuinely curious on the following particular point. Which is, how do you handle instances in which someone serving out a life sentence either murders another person in prison or orchestrates/directs the murder of others outside of prison, i.e., would not their execution have been vital to saving the lives of those they murdered? Again,..I’m genuinely interested here and not vying for debate points. I’m confident you have an answer and I’d like to understand it please.

    I suppose in that case you could make an argument that it is necessary, and for the record, such a scenario had not been ruled out by either Benedict or John Paul. Their position, with which I agree, was that effectiveness alone is not sufficient, but less brutal means must be ruled out. In your scenario, it could be argued that the second condition has been met.

    But, I find it difficult to believe that the scenario you present is sufficiently common as to be applicable the vast majority of executions** currently being carried out. At the very least, I think it should be abolished*** for first offenses.


    **However, a point against interest to which I must admit, it seems only 31 death sentences were handed down in the US in 2016, which is far less than I expected.

    ***On a state by state level, of course.

    Perhaps our positions are a bit closer than they appeared at first blush then. I appreciate the clarification immensely.

    • #30
    • August 12, 2018 at 1:46 pm
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