Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Gas Chamber Returns

In other Life news: My homestate of Missouri is threatening to bring back the gas chamber since they can't get their hands on the three-drug cocktail for lethal injection and they have a court case pending on whether or not the one-drug injection is humane.

There's nothing humane about killing a human being.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
2267    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.”
In Ethics class, the professors explained it this way:
If we are in a village in the middle of nowhere and we have no way to keep the community safe from the aggressor, the death penalty is justified for the safety of the group. These circumstances are virtually non-existent in the industrialized world, so there is no reason for any industrialized nation to practice the death penalty.
I've had lots of discussions with people about the death penalty. Being a very active Catholic, many of my friends are politically conservative and have to justify some conservative ideas in light of their Catholic faith. They'll usually grant me that it's not a deterrent, that it costs more than keeping someone behind bars, and that it is not fairly applied in all cases. What they get stuck on is this: justice. Often, those facing the death penalty are convicted of murdering someone. My friends put themselves in the shoes of the victim's family. They know if someone in their family was killed, they'd want someone to pay.

There are a few ways for someone like me to approach this:

1. Ask them to put themselves in the murder's family's shoes. All that the death penalty will accomplish is the creation of two grieving families. It won't bring the victim back.

2. Ask them to consider the definition of the word "justice." The Catechism defines it as:

1807    Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
They've already admitted that it is not fairly dealt out. And our judicial system isn't perfect. It's made of people, and any organization made of people is not going to be perfect. You cannot undo the execution of an innocent man.

The first part of this definition calls for the just person to respect the rights of each person. Many of my friends are against abortion; they hold that the most fundamental right is the right to life. As an unborn child has the right to life, so does everyone else.

Execution in China. China is one of only 3 countries that regularly execute more people than the US. The other three are: Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
3. A very good argument against the death penalty from a conservative perspective is this: it limits government. The death penalty is "an expression of the absolute power of the state." What gives the state the right to take life? The same people who are up in arms about death panels should be up in arms about the death penalty as well.

A fascinating article I found as I was researching for this post:


  1. The two largest Catholic populations on earth are Brazil and Mexico.
    Neither has the death penalty. Both are safety disasters in terms of murder. U.N. figures are instructive (see homicide by country at wiki)...Mexico has 23.7 people murdered per 100,000; Brazil has 21 people murdered per 100,000. Non Christian Japan has .4 people murdered per 100,000 and has the death penalty. Your family members are 50 times safer in Japan than in the two largest Catholic populations on earth. From 1800 til 1850, the papal states executed 500 criminals ( see Bugatti papal executioner wiki). Obviously the papal states ( not in the middle of nowhere) could have given each criminal a life sentence in a locked room since those are cheaper but the papal states knew that life sentences are not what Romans 13:4 nor Gen.9:5-6 were talking know...those Biblical verses that were actually from God in their origin.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Numerous studies has shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent. When someone murders someone else the last thing on their mind is getting caught, much less what the penalty will be when they are caught. For more info:

    Actually between 1800 and 1850, execution was probably cheaper because you didn't have the lengthy appeals process. That is where a lot of the expense is now. The appeals process helps us to "insure" that we have the right person (although innocent people are still put to death).

    I do not know whether or not you are Catholic (we all know what assume means), so know that I do not mean to talk down to you but what you say touches upon the Catholic understanding of revelation and Scripture.

    While doctrine doesn't change strictly speaking, doctrine does become more and more clear as time goes on. Not to say that the Church's teachings on the death penalty is "doctrine." The Papal states no longer exist, but the Church has not executed any one since 1850. Church teaching on the death penalty evolved around the time of Vatican II. The Church has never taught that the death penalty is a necessity, just that the state has the right to. Technically, the Church still says the state has the right to, but there's a huge difference between can and should. The Church realized, however that there is an inconsistency in upholding human dignity excluding the prisoner. Everyone has dignity, regardless of any action they take. There is nothing, "neither life or death, angels or demons..." (Romans 8:38-39) that can separate us from the love of God. To read more:

    In the Catholic Church, we have two authorities, Scripture and Tradition. "Scripture" is pretty self-explanatory, it's the Bible. "Tradition" is the oral and sometimes written tradition handed down through the Apostles to the current age. These two authorities are deeply dependent on one another and can never contradict. Without Tradition, we would not have Scripture, nor would we have a way to interpret it (you may have experienced this yourself, 6 people read the same verse and all 6 people have different interpretations of that verse. Who can tell us which interpretation is right?). Without Scripture however, Tradition would not have been enough to keep the Church going and could have veered off-track centuries ago. They both keep each other in check and they support one another. Both Tradition and Scripture have God as their origin. To read more:

    Sorry that this response is lengthy. I didn't mean to drown you with words.

  3. Don't agree and have 16 years of Catholic school...8 with Dominicans, 8 with Jebbies and on the Dean's list. But I got you to admit that the death penalty is not what costs money at all...which you averred in blue above. So that's progress. The death penalty parts of Evangelium Vitae never show the reader Romans 13:4 at all...the classic NT passage that was pivotal for Aquinas. And the other classic passage relating to Gentiles and execution is Gen.9:5-6 which John Paul quoted four times but hid from the reader the death penalty part. Easily checkable by you. He did a similar " hide the offending verses" trick when he twice discussed wifely obedience in TOB and in Dignity of Women where he quoted Ephesians only which helped his point but did not show the reader the pastorals and other passages that leaned against his point. The result is that the ccc has zero on wifely obedience despite the NT addressing it six times. Good luck. Church teaching below the infallible level (which is tons) is not quite as pretty as you aver and in the case of ccc 2267, you're dealing with a fantasy description of modern penology since the two largest Ctholic countries do not have it....Mexico and Brazil...the ones you leap frogged over. You have a good heart.
    Do I think you intelligently read EV with a critical intelligence? No. But neither did an entire magisterium. The problem of unthinking conformity is linked at times to incomes or careers really in the Catholic matrix. These same Bishops would praise the opposite position if the Pope after Francis wants the death penalty position of all Popes from 1253 til 1952 back in a new catechism. Toynbee was right...we have an arrested culture in part ( and he admired Catholicism in many respects).


What do you think? I want to know.