Sunday, October 30, 2011

There was a letter in a Catholic paper recently that was intended to vilify people who oppose the death penalty. The writer’s point of view is that   horrible crimes deserve horrible crimes require a horrible response and that repealing the death penalty is not an urgent Pro-Life cause. The only reason given for the second argument is that babies are being aborted. Yes, they are, and yes, that is truly horrible. But what does it have to do with the death penalty?  I have no idea.

The controversy is hot, even within the Church communities.  Secular arguments play out as follows:
Arguments Against Death Penalty
Arguments For Death Penalty
  1. Financial costs to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life.
  2. It is barbaric and violates the "cruel and unusual" clause in the Bill of Rights.
  3. The endless appeals and required additional procedures clog our court system.
  4. We as a society have to move away from the "eye for an eye" revenge mentality if civilization is to advance.
  5. It sends the wrong message: why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong.
  6. Life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent.
  7. Some jury members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death.
  8. The prisoner's family must suffer from seeing their loved one put to death by the state, as well as going through the emotionally-draining appeals process.
  9. The possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death.
  10. Mentally ill patients may be put to death.
  11. It creates sympathy for the monstrous perpetrators of the crimes.
  12.  It is useless in that it doesn't bring the victim back to life.
  1. The death penalty gives closure to the victim's families who have suffered so much.
  2. It creates another form of crime deterrent.
  3. Justice is better served.
  4. Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims.
  5. It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence.
  6. DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person's guilt or innocence.
  7. Prisoner parole or escapes can give criminals another chance to kill.
  8. It contributes to the problem of overpopulation in the prison system.
  9. It gives prosecutors another bargaining chip in the plea bargain process, which is essential in cutting costs in an overcrowded court system.

I cannot respond to all the above points in one page, but do have a Christian argument against capital punishment, which I have not seen anywhere else.  My point is completely related to our Catholic faith:  Death is not punishment.      It is the entrance to a new and eternal life.  It is a reward.  That is the essence of the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus.  It is the mystery of our faith.  Death has no dominion.  So how could Christians see putting someone to death as a punishment?  Because we are speeding up their sentence to hell?  Is not abortion also speeding an unborn child’s entry into eternal life?  We have never seen either as our job.  Our job is to be Pro-Life, to support each life at every stage, no matter our judgment of its worth.