Gosnell Is Guilty! Should He Be Executed?

On May 13, after seven days of deliberations, a federal jury has found abortionist Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first-degree murder (in the deaths of Babies A, C and E, who were born alive and then killed by having their spinal cords “snipped” with scissors) and one count of second-degree murder (in the death of an adult woman).  Baby A, the largest, was estimated to be 29 weeks gestation, and was so large that clinic workers took photographs before his life was snuffed out by Gosnell’s scissors.

Granted, the shocking murders are only the tip of the iceberg, and hundreds or thousands of others likely met a similar death in his grimy clinic.   But now what?  What penalty should be assessed against this brutal killer who held innocent human life in such disregard?

One option facing Gosnell is the death penalty.  If you’re a Catholic, however, your preference should be that the man responsible for the grisly deaths of newborns be given a life sentence.  In the face of such abject evil, a desire for vengeance is certainly understandable.

Capital punishment, however, does nothing to restore the victims to life; but it does potentially impede the action of God in the heart of the offender.   When we are injured, Jesus asks that we turn the other cheek; likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists that capital punishment not be used unless there is no other recourse.

In a nutshell, the Church asserts that:

  • The State has a right and responsibility to protect the human rights of its citizens, and to preserve the common good.
  • Legitimate public authority (a police force) may inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.  This penalty serves the purpose of redressing the disorder, and—as much as possible—should help in restoring the offender.
  • In certain situations (such as during wartime), when capital punishment is the only practical way to defend human lives against the aggressor, it is not wrong to employ the death penalty.
  • However—and this is most important—if bloodless means are available to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means.
  • In contemporary American society, when the option of secure imprisonment is available, cases of absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

The Church hopes with Christ that the sinner—even the very great sinner—will freely repent and be reconciled with Christ.  To forcibly take the life of a criminal, thereby taking from him the opportunity for repentance, would be wrong.

 

  • Deborah

    Absolutely, pray for his soul and that he will come to seek forgiveness from Almighty God. Forgiveness is there for anyone who seeks it.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    It doesn’t matter. At 76, he’ll never survive the appeals process. The only difference between life and death for this guy is the cost to the taxpayer, he’ll never live to see the execution chamber.

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  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I said this over at Anchoress:

    “Count me among those who believe the death penalty is not just warrented but crucial. Part of why the death penalty has to be a societal tool is because society needs to draw a line of demarcation on certain crimes, that they are so heinous that we must segregate these crimes into a catagory that is beyond the mundane. That line delineates an anathema. Killing babies is such a heinous crime, or rather should be such a crime. Currently it is not. We live in a society that supports pseudo infanticide. If you want society to have that line of demarcation on abortion, then Gosnell needs to have the ultimate sentence. Let me summarize it this way: Give Gosnell a wishy-washy sentence, society remains wishy-washy on abortion.”
    How many babies will not be aborted in the future by personal choice if society has that respect for the unborn that we agree it should have?

  • AngelNiteLite@yahoo.com

    Absolutely the Death Penalty for the largest mass murderer in America’s history. This will not only send a message to the MANY other monsters, it will force this monster to reflect and hopefully repent! The Death Penalty actually may save his soul. Nothing like numbered days to get a monster thinking and Praying. I’ll continue to Pray for his Salvation while he’s on death row. Justice for the thousands of Holy Innocents must be served to it’s FULL EXTENT! AMEN!

  • Carol Robinson

    I believe dr. gosnell should be executed because in this instance the punishment of death fits the crime.

    Part of assessing the punishment for killing the 3 babies will be if the babies felt any pain and if they did how painful was it. I believed the 3 newborns felt some of the worst pain imaginable especially and since i am pro-life i have always felt that the sin of abortion inflicts unimaginable pain to the unborn while in a mother’s womb. In this case the babies were killed after being physically born. Their senses were more alert then if inside their mothers. One baby was even being played with by one of the nurses/attendants and one was swimming/treading water in a toilet before being killed. They were very sensate.

    Part of the virtue of justice by the lawful state is to exact punishments that fit crimes.

    For the state to want the death of unborn babies who have done no crime of any kind, through the state’s legalization of the medical procedure known as abortion, is another travesty of the modern age. It distorts the virtue of justice especially the meting out of justice through the death penalty.

    But for death to be meted out, especially if an actual horrendous crime is committed, is not revenge or vengeance but true justice. The executioner is not carrying out the death sentence for the same reason as a typical abortion: an abortion is typically carried out due to a mistaken or an unwanted pregnancy being at an inopportune time (due to finances, professional career, shame, etc….) or a rapist’s seed being terminated even though said baby due to the rape had nothing to do with the crime.

    The legal use of the death penalty shows society that what is being punished, what transpired by the loss of life of the innocent, is abominable.

    In addition, it is possible that the convicted will think about his actions and possibly repent of them before he is executed. That is why priests or ministers were/are always available for last minute confessions and repentance of the convicted.

    Dr. Gosnell will not be executed in 2 or even 12 but probably in 15-20 years. He may die before then. But he will have hanging over his head what was done was a very very serious crime.

    But the punishment of execution is not vengeance or revenge if done for the right legal reason and why executions were done in the first place ie certain crimes warranted them. Not all but some.

    Please do not confuse a death penalty enacted due to a terrible crime as the same thing as an abortion of an unborn baby. But you are free to have your opinions, either for or against the death penalty, and the RC Church supports BOTH.

    …and yeah I am a cradle catholic, love all the popes of the last 2000 years, though some certainly needed more prayer then others for their own personal conversions for their own personal sins. Not all were saints but many were. I also attend the latin mass in my local diocese for the last several years as well as the novus ordo all my life.

    may God have mercy on Gosnell’s soul as well as the souls of the babies who he killed. I wish true justice to be carried out for the positive benefit of all.

  • Brian Anthony

    St Thomas Aquinas would disagree with you. Remember that the teaching on the death penalty is part of catholic social thought, with which a faithful Catholic can disagree in good conscience.

  • $362439

    In 1961 an Israeli judge said to Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Nazi extermination of the Jews:

    “. . . . . we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.”

    In Gosnell’s case, the teaching of the Catholic Church goes only to the terms on which the death sentence may be executed, and it has nothing to do with the power of the State to pronounce it.

    The incarceration of a criminal is not always sufficient to protect the public, since he may participate from prison in crimes having harmful effects in prison or elsewhere. One also has to consider whether there is an unacceptable risk that he will interfere with the rehabilitation of other inmates, which he might do if he tries to persuade any of them that a woman has the right to kill her unborn child.

  • philomena

    I wonder what the potential outcome would be if every single Catholic who prays a daily Rosary would offer just one Rosary for the conversion of Mr. Gosnell’s heart, using the Fatima prayer after each decade (O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy). I would like to cling to the hope that perhaps one outcome of all that prayer would be that Mr. Gosnell’s conversion end up being a significant force in stopping the madness of abortion.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    The following is long. But please read to the end, to know where I end up on the topic….

    I am concerned that this teaching is in the process of development and, as currently presented, does not do adequate justice to the requirement to do adequate justice.

    If Person X kills another man in a fit of rage, it is unjust to execute him.

    If Person Y kills another man in a planned murder, it is just to execute him but as a society we do not implicitly deny the sinfulness of his deeds or spit on the idea of proportionate punishment by putting him in prison for life. Such a sentence is still within “spittin’ distance” of justice for his crime, and reflects a not-disproportionate degree of mercy and aversion to shedding blood.

    But if a Person Z kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and murders, and desecrates the bodies of several hundred innocent children over decades, chatting casually with neighbors and eating hearty meals and sleeping soundly in-between sessions, carefully documenting his exploits, and seeing that the documentation gets sent to the parents if/when he finally gets caught, for the sheer fun of causing additional pain?

    What shall we do with Person Z? Do not tell me such monstrous things do not happen; they have happened and will continue to happen every couple of decades while the Lord tarries.

    So what shall we do with Person Z? Will we put him in prison for life, just like Person Y in the prior paragraph? What then of the notion of proportionate punishment? Does such a policy not shout from the rooftops that we think Z’s crime more or less the same as Y’s? Certainly not different enough to warrant a different category of punishment?

    I fear to live in a society so death-hungry that it legalizes abortion or conducts frequent executions. But I also fear to live in a society so comfortable with pretending that sin is not sin, or that serious sin is not serious, that it would take a fiend like Person Z and merely lock him up.

    I do not comprehend how it could be anything other than a sin against justice if punishments are not sufficiently proportionate to reflect, however imperfectly, a sufficiently-pronounced difference in the relative degree of evil of two crimes.

    Yet that is the missing element in the Catechism’s teaching on this matter, as described above. It is, for example, entirely absent from the sentence, “if bloodless means are available to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means.” Well, no blood is spilled if all offenders, for all crimes, receive a stern scolding and probation. And that would be a perfectly fitting punishment for spitting on the sidewalk. But it would be a sin against justice if it were the punishment for a million-dollar embezzlement.

    I agree that we must not see this as a matter for revenge. If that is our motive, then our only relevant command from the Lord is to turn the other cheek. And I agree that we cannot be quick to kill, or cavalier about killing: The heart of God does not long to spread death but to overcome it.

    But we already know that the Church cannot ever entirely write off the death penalty as intrinsically wrong. That would require the belief that God commanded intrinsic wrong on various occasions; which would make God not God as Catholics understand Him; which would make the Magisterial teachings about the fundamental character of God incorrect; which would falsify the promises of Christ, which would debunk His divinity, which would falsify Christianity.

    So that view is out.

    What then of the Church’s command that it should be extremely rare? That command ought to be obeyed. But, please note: In a country of 300+ million people, “extremely rare” will mean that a crime worthy of the death penalty occurs once every few years, not once every few centuries. Anyone who doubts this is not paying attention to the kind of world in which they live.

    Luxembourg would not see a justifiable capital case for centuries. But the U.S.? Well, any segment of the U.S. as small as Luxembourg would not see justifiable capital cases more often than one every hundred years or more, but the U.S. is a whole lot of Luxembourgs, and when you put ‘em all together, you’re going to be hearing about an execution on cable news every 15 months or so.

    Cable news will not, of course, tell you about the multiple-murderers who were given life in prison. So you won’t process that for every person being executed there are five thousand being sentenced to life without possibility of parole. The image received by the public will be one of frequent executions; but that is the consequence of a 24-hour news cycle.

    Sorry; I digress.

    The above are all firm convictions of mine.

    And yet…yet.

    There is the Catechism.

    And I accept that as a sure norm.

    And I accept as true and profess to be true all that the Catholic Church in her Magisterium teaches to be true.

    Hmm.

    I have to admit: I’m looking for a way to circumvent the missing concern for justice and proportionality. I’m not supposed to be circumventing. I’m supposed to be embracing.

    Dammit.

    All right then. I guess I’ll bend. A justified capital case every fifty years for the U.S., perhaps. Is that bending enough? Making it rare enough? It’s not that I want men killed, but look at what some of them have done! What does it even mean, to say that a sin cries out to heaven, if the most we’re willing to do about it is set the perpetrator up with uncomfortable accommodations for several decades?

    I wonder, didn’t earlier Catechisms and encyclicals speak more about the importance of proportionate punishment for justice? They must have: The Church would not leave that out! Perhaps what we must do is interpret the current Catechism in light of the continuing tradition. Perhaps it sounds more anti-death-penalty than it is because we’re neglecting the Hermeneutic of Continuity?

    There I am, squirming, looking for an out, looking to circumvent. Dammit, again.

    Okay, fine. No &*$#!@!ing death penalty. Even for Person Z, if you press me. Better that Z eats steak, or peanut butter sandwiches, or whatever, for decades, than that I wind up a heretic.

    Arrrrrrrrrrgghh! It is not just.

    But I give in, if I must.

    But maybe, pretty please, Holy Mother Church will kindly write something to help those of us who feel that the concern of justice is being disregarded understand why, in her wisdom, this is okay? Or how it isn’t being disregarded after all?

    ‘Cause some times I feel like the Church is a math whiz who solves complicated problems and hands me the startling answers but blows me off when I ask her to help me understand by showing her work.

    Argh. I’m going to go have a beer, and pray that if Person Z or someone equally bad shows up in my community in my lifetime, that he does the world a favor and gets himself shot by a cop or innocent person in a justifiable act of self defense. ‘Cause I just don’t want the agitation of sitting through his trial and forcing myself to pray that he won’t get the death penalty.

    Sorry if that’s a rather ungracious reception of the Church’s teaching.

    But it’s what I can muster right now.

    • DesDaly

      Bravo… A wonderful articulation of the deepest agony a follower of the Way must suffer….. dealing with the mystery of evil, especially when one is the innocent victim of evil, and that means all of us at one time or another in our life. Your reflection is a very noble prayer. Thank you for it.


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