Florida bishops on death penalty: "Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for life"

“An execution re-opens the emotional wounds of victim’s families and does not bring back or honor their loved one. True peace can only be achieved by forgiveness.

Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for life and promotes a culture of violence and vengeance. We affirm the right and duty of the State to assure public safety and punish the guilty by incarceration, which allows the inmate an opportunity for reflection on their offenses and sorrow for the pain they have caused others.”

– Letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott from Florida Catholic bishops

Read the full text.

Background on case in question.

Comments

  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    I too find cap punishment repulsive.But the bishops show no awareness of one big problem in keeping murderers incarcerated for life. Who is to guard them?? The average number of prison guards murdered in prison each year is 9- usually by incarcerated murderers (That does not include the much higher number of prisoners in jail for lesser crimes and sentenced to only a few years who are murdered in jail .)
    And try to find any consciousness of this issue among those against cap punishment is almost impossible.
    Should the families of 9 guards each year be sacrificed to make those of us who do not like cap punishment have eased consciences??? Shouldn’t some solution to murderers murdering in jail be found before eliminating cap punishment??? And what should be done to murderers who murder guards??? How many bites of the apple does a murderer get?
    A young store clerk here in Ma. was cold bloodedly murdered. In many states the murderer would have been executed. This murderer soon murdered a guard to escape. He was later caught and sent back to jail. To plot his next escape by murder?????

  2. pagansister says:

    Sorry, but I totally disagree with the Bishops on this. IMO, when totally proven guilty, he/she should pay the ultimate price. Why should the murderer be fed, clothed and given health care for the rest of his/her life? He/she did not give the victim that gift, nor their families. The person who committed the murder had no respect for life—and their life is supposed to be respected? I think not.
    The above post (#1) brought up something I did not know and is yet another reason to continue with that punishment.

  3. Throughout my life I’ve oscillated on capital punishment. I’ve gone from pro to con to pro to con several times. I’m pretty opinionated but this is one issue I acknowledge I’m wishy-washy. In theory I would love to say that mercy requires us not putting someone to death. But then you read about what a murder did to some living human being, denied them their most precious gift from God, and what by such an act did to the family of the victum, something from which they will never recover from, then justice screams for the death penalty. Just read the horrific details of the crime and the impact and how can one not advocate capital punishment?

    Sorry to disagree with the Bishops, putting the murderer to death does not diminish life. Quite the opposite. It raises life to such a value that only the ultimate punishment is warrented.

    However, in my vascillations, I am currently on the side of mercy. But ask me tomorrow and I may have flipped once again.

  4. Richard Johnson says:

    As I see it, if you support capital punishment then you are accepting that the state will execute innocent people. Our judicial system is imperfect, and innocents have been executed in the name of justice.

    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/executed-possibly-innocent

    http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/texas-observer-exclusive-dna-tests-undermine-evidence-in-texas-execution

    And then this…

    “On January 7, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted a full and unconditional posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy, who had been convicted and executed as an accomplice to a murder that occurred in 1936. The pardon came 72 years after Arridy’s execution and is the first such pardon in Colorado history. A press release from the governor’s office stated, “[A]n overwhelming body of evidence indicates the 23-year-old Arridy was innocent, including false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else.” The governor also pointed to Arridy’s intellectual disabilities. He had an IQ of 46 and functioned like a toddler. The governor said, “Granting a posthumous pardon is an extraordinary remedy. But the tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution on Jan. 6, 1939, merit such relief based on the great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution. Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history. It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”

    The Bishops are right on this one.

  5. Manny, I to have gone back and forth on this issue. When JPII made the strong statment on capital punishment, I had to give his opinion a lot of consideration. After doing so and talking with a friend at The National Catholic Bioethics Center, I have finally come down on the side of supporting capital punishment until they can find a way to insure that the criminal will be kept apart for their entire life from any way to do harm to anyone else. This would include the guards and their families as pointed out by Deacon John M. Bresnahan above and also to other inmates. Lets face it, if you know you are going to be in prison forever and have nothing to gain, it means you have nothing to lose to kill the guard or someone else. The obvious solution is to confine them in a separate cell in maximum security. However, the ACLU and other groups are constantly attacking this type of punishment demanding ever more rights and never ending examination of every possible way to have them released or to spend more money on keeping them in prison. Since there is no assuring that they will indeed be able to be held in this way, I see the only path as the death penalty. JPII was clear that the death penalty was allowed if the State could not protect the public and he felt that the state now had the ability to do this job forgetting that we have had people who have killed who have been able to get out after long terms in prison or by some technicality discovered by some lawyer. It pains me to be on the side of death, but I believe it is the right thing to do for those who have taken life in such a way as to convince a jury they deserve to die.

  6. Thanks Greta. Those have been part of my thoughts too. My conflict with capital punishment comes from Matthew 5:7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

    All logic and sense of justice leads one to the death penalty. However Christ’s words strike a chord.

    As to the argument that it’s possible an innocent man might be executed, well, it’s possible that we will be killed in a car crash today. The odds of beinng convicted and executed erroneously are infitesmal, microscopic actually, and until that risk comes anywhere close to the common risks we assume every day by just going out of the house, then that’s a silly argument.

  7. Richard Johnson says:

    “As to the argument that it’s possible an innocent man might be executed, well, it’s possible that we will be killed in a car crash today. The odds of beinng convicted and executed erroneously are infitesmal, microscopic actually, and until that risk comes anywhere close to the common risks we assume every day by just going out of the house, then that’s a silly argument.”

    Manny, before you assign odds to this you may wish to educate yourself.

    http://www.innocenceproject.org/know/Browse-Profiles.php

    These are just the people who have been helped by the Innocence Project. Many, many others have yet to be helped.

    You know, I would think that someone who is pro-life for innocent children would understand this.

  8. Richard, I believe that every effort should be made prior to an execution including DNA testing. The numbers of people we kill a year is very small. Seems like we could do this right. I note that you do not address the concerns for guards trying to take care of prisoners with nothing to lose or other issues raised here. You can bet that pro life people who are supporting the death penalty do so with great reluctance. I also note that no preisdential candidate from either major party has come out against the death penalty in all cases. However, I wish we would see the same level of concern with those who are adamant about killing an innocent person show the same level of concern for each and every one of the 4,000 babies killed each and every day. I think most pro life people would go along with ending the death penalty for everyone if we ended abortion as well.

  9. Richard Johnson says:

    Greta: “However, I wish we would see the same level of concern with those who are adamant about killing an innocent person show the same level of concern for each and every one of the 4,000 babies killed each and every day.”

    It’s interesting how you seem to consistently deflect any discussion of other social injustices by bringing the abortion issue into the mix. Are you so concerned with these deaths that the issue occupies every waking moment of your life? Or is it that the death of 4,000 innocents each day is a convenient shield for you to throw up so you don’t have to address how your own actions (or inactions) in other areas may have contributed to the death of other innocents?

    And before you jump on your hobby horse and accuse me of not caring about the innocent life lost in every abortion, let me assure you that I have done my service in abortion protests in the past, and I contribute both time and money regularly to organizations which work to not only prevent abortions but also help those mothers and their children have healthy and safe pregnancies and births.

    So put away your indignation and work with me here. Why bring up the abortion issue in each and every thread on these boards if not as a deflection from possibly dealing with your own “difficult beliefs” and their aftermath?

  10. Richard Johnson says:

    Greta: “Seems like we could do this right.”

    I bet Eve thought the same thing when she went shopping for fruit that day.

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