Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief, and they rightly demand justice. Real murderers deserve punishment; but even properly tried and justly convicted murderers – men and women who are found guilty of heinous crimes -- retain their God-given dignity as human beings. When we take a murderer's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.
Both Scripture and Catholic tradition support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited conditions. But the Church has repeatedly called us to a higher road over the past five decades. We don’t need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty. And we should never be eager to take anyone’s life. As a result, except in the most extreme circumstances, capital punishment cannot be justified. In developed countries like our own, it should have no place in our public life.I had an online conversation years ago on a mostly Christian, mostly pro-life discussion group, where I told a very conservative, staunchly anti-abortion, evangelical woman that I found it hard to convince people to embrace the humanity of babies they cannot see when those attempting to convince plainly refuse to embrace the humanity of grown people they can see.
She relied that we would never convince people to care about the lives of guilty men on death row if we didn't care about the lives of the innocent unborn.
I said yup, that I agreed, I was genuinely pro-life.
I was 100% against the killing of the unborn, no deliberate abortions, no exceptions.
Would she take a similarly unapologetic pro-life stance, against capital punishment as it is practiced in this nation, which possesses the means of absolute protection from criminals via incarceration?
She said she was pro-life.
I asked, so you are against capital punishment?
She said she was pro-life.
I asked again, will you come out against capital punishment?
Sh stopped responding on that thread.
I still believe that, we will never carry the hearts and minds of ou countrymen on this with inconsistency.
(I also hold to traditional Catholic teaching.
There could be circumstances when the death penalty were the only way for a society to be safe from a particular miscreant - a time or place where technology did not allow for both humane and secure permanent imprisonment; an incontrovertibly guilty miscreant whose presence in prison would be an unacceptable danger to those charged with his custody, or to those whose lives might be taken in revenge, kidnapped to obtain leverage to free him, etc. I believe the Red Brigade met that requirement, and could have warranted execution. I believe Osama Bin Laden could have proved such a danger if still alive, so I am not sorry that he did not live to stand trial.)