Mensch tracht, und Gott lacht

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Capital Punishment

The Vatican's position is that it opposes capital punishment. It's the normative Roman Catholic teaching, although as far as I know one can still be a Catholic in good standing if he or she still favors capital punishment.

Me, I think the arguments are stronger in favor of capital punishment, not about justice so much, but especially Dennis Prager's argument that murderers tend to kill again in prison, guards or fellow prisoners. Once you can bring yourself to kill a fellow human being, adding another to you list isn't a big deal.

So, Prager argues, if and when the murderer murders again, the moral responsibility lies with those who kept him from his deserved justice and fate.

I've tended to agree with that unassailable logic.

My best and perhaps only counterargument has been that executing a human being dehumanizes his executioners.

His name is Romell Broom. I could call him a convicted rapist and murderer---which he is---but I think we should call human beings by their names.

In Ohio a few days ago, the state sent Romell Broom to go meet his Maker. Mercifully, by lethal injection. In theory, you just go to sleep. Eternal sleep.

You can read about what happened here

In short, they tried to find a usable vein to deliver the lethal injection but couldn't find one. They tried for hours. Hours. In fact, Romell Broom tried to help them find one. He pinched his arm, he rolled over onto his stomach.

No luck.

Finally, the warden called the governor and told him of the difficulties. The governor postponed Romell Broom's rendezvous with destiny for a week, the execution is scheduled for then.

"What Would Jesus Do" is an often-abused political question. But He wouldn't do this or be any part of it, and more importantly, He wouldn't ask his followers to do this, far lesser mortals than He.

He wouldn't put them through it, no way, no how. Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord, and that means vengeance belongs to God, not man. "Vengeance" doesn't mean revenge, it means justice.

No to capital punishment. I guess I just made up my mind, finally. Wish I knew why it took me so long...


Brian said...

The Catholic position, in my research, accounts for the potential for murderers to act again. The position holds that, absent any other alternative to protect the public (which includes others incarcerated and guards), the death penalty could be justified. However, we do have alternatives. Solitary confinement, isolation, restraint, and other measures can be put in place to avoid repeat offenders. Obviously, you cannot reduce the likelihood to 0, but when can you ever? Now, obviously, there are other issues associated with these remedies, both ethical/moral and legal. And this says nothing of the rehabilitative process, something decidedly absent from our system.

As I'm sure you know from many of my statements on PL, I don't believe in deriving American legal policy from religious positions. However, in terms of what the Catholic position is, capital punishment is not justified based upon our current system (I studied theology at a Jesuit University).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank Brian. Yes, the Catholic position rides on capital punishment being unnecessary, not intrinsically wrong.

Jason said...


The death penalty is a matter of economics to me. Pure and simple, it would have cost less than a million bucks to house Ted Bundy for the rest of his life. However, I have heard that it cost either 7 million, or 40 million to put him to death. Whichever amount is correct, the death penalty simply makes no sense. I will always be opposed to it anyway. Life in prison, without parole, without release, until the person dies, is the better legal, moral and ethical thing to do.

your old friend,

Jason de Groot.

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