Friday, September 3, 2010

The Death Penalty

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (CCC 2267)
We live in a world surrounded by death. Abortion, murder, suicide, war, genocide, etc. Horrible atrocities abound in some parts of the world. Considering these circumstances, we must ask ourselves if killing anyone (even those guilty of the horrible crimes above) is witnessing to the value of every human life. Revenge never helps anyone, ever.

From not quite as authoritative a source:
Soup To Nutz


Lake County Right to Life said...

It is not a matter of revenge. People get hung up on that word I think. It is a matter of trying as best we can, in a human limited justice system, to mete out justice to the best of our ability. God's scales are always balanced between justice and mercy. Tipping these scales one way or the other affects society as a whole. On the death penalty it is a great deterrent. If a society does not have a deterrent, because of our fallen nature, the rule of law becomes impotent. Certain criminals can never be reabilited. This is why the Church never changed its teaching on the death penalty.

Marcel said...

I disagree with several points in your comment.
1 - It is very much about revenge, because (as the Church teaches) there is no practical reason to use it anymore in most countries, including our own. Justice can certainly be given without killing.

2 - The teaching has been developed, not changed and might get to the point of opposing all applications of it. We should be ready for this to happen soon.

3 - If you believe that some cannot be rehabilitated, then you must believe that Christ's power is impotent. It is dangerous to think that Christ can't transform even the most hardened heart - is Christ God or not? Paul participated in murder and became an apostle...

4 - No murderer has ever been deterred from killing because of the death penalty. It is more of a deterrent to spend the rest of life in prison.

5 - God's scales are NOT balanced. If they were, we would all go to hell, because it is what we deserve. God's mercy fulfills what justice requires and goes beyond it. God allows us to choose justice, but wants to give us mercy.

I think Mark Shea is quite accurate in his assessment -

Deacon Mike said...

As one who ministers in a prison I totally agree that anyone can be rehabilitated and repent. I've witnessed it many times. And from being on the inside no one has ever admitted to me that the death penalty was a deterrent. In a modern technologically advanced country like ours we should NOT HAVE the death penalty!

Lake County Right to Life said...

What about Richard Speck? He really had a good time at taxpayer's expense, living it up in jail, taking drugs and engaging in pornagraphic activities with his gay lover. What repentence was there? What rehabilitation was there with this depraved serial killer? I believe all this talk about rehabilition is missing a very pertinent point here. The word penitentiary has to do with "penance, punishing and disciplining, as well as reforming. We now focus merely on the reformation or rehabilitation of an offender, while forgetting the penitential aspect of conviction. The death penalty is not so much a form of deterant,nor is it a form of revenge, as it is meant to be a balancing of the scales of justice. Many crimes may be paid back by the perpetrator, such as thievery, destruction of property etc. But how does one give back a life that he/she has taken? How does a child abuser return the innocence he/she has stolen from the child? In the case of the death penalty, it is more a form of laying down your own life, to at least balance the scale of justice in paying for the life you denied another, with the denial of your own life.

Marcel said...

"Nor can I fail to mention the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty when other "bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons. Today, given the means at the State's disposal to deal with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of their redemption, the cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with an offender 'are now very rare, even non-existent practically'".
(Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America January 1999)

Lake County Right to Life said...

The teaching of the Church has never been changed since Thomas Aquinas. Pope John Paul II, was speaking personally on the death penalty. He never formerly changed the teaching of the Church.

Marcel said...

Your flippant dismissal of JPII's statement is very telling (and the ensuing change of the Catechism) - see here: