A Heavy Moral Question

A reader writes:

I would like the justice system to prevail in the case of the Boston Bomber suspect but I don’t want the death penalty for him, if convicted.

Besides the moral issues, I don’t want him to turn into a martyr for jihad that tells other radicals “if your bombs don’t kill you, then America will!”

What I would like, if convicted, is for him to have to sit in a cell for the rest of his life with a television that only shows the Kardashians, the E! network, and the Bravo network.  My question is, does this constitute torture?  Should I go to confession?

This is tough.  On the one hand, it is obviously torture. On the other hand, what the heck?  Why not? If the rest of America has to endure those shows, why should a terrorist be exempt?

Have I mentioned that we have not TV connection to the outside world?

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  • ForsythiaTheMariner

    Having never seen the Kardashians (that’s one good thing about not living in the US, I suppose), it still sounds to me like this may amount to worse than torture…

  • Bob_the_other

    It is not torture if he can switch the TV off at will, I am tempted to say. I hope that is not defining torture down… In all seriousness though, I certainly wouldn’t, from the other side of the world, want to see capital punishment imposed here. I don’t think the catechism’s requirements for the imposition of capital punishment are present in his case, and as your reader points out, it could easily make him a martyr.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Unless he presents a serious and present danger to the public (which I just don’t see possible at this point), he should not be executed. He should sit in a cell for the rest of his life, and every day someone should come in and tell him something about one of his victims. Something like, “My son would have turned 12 today, but he never will because of you,” or, “Three years ago today I left the hospital after losing my leg because of you.” And he should hear something like that every day for the rest of his life. People should send him pictures of their lost and maimed loved ones.

    • Patrick J Loveless

      In charity, love, and not in bitterness and anger. Other wise, yes, they should tell him.

  • wlinden

    We have a constitutional prohibition on cruel or unusual punishments.

  • Why couldn’t we make him watch EWTN 24/7? Not only would it expose him to a worldview rather different from radical Islam, but the Eye of the Tiber blogger thinks that the theme song of “Life on the Rock” is torturous enough to have soul-cleansing effects:


    Forcing someone to watch, instead, daily updates from the sewer of the cultural apocalypse really is cruel and unusual punishment. 😉

    • B.E. Ward

      Life on the Rock is a soothing balm compared to Crossing The Goal. The latter makes me cringe every time it’s on.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        We have 2 Catholic TV channels: EWTN and another one. I watch the other one. All of EWTN’s programming seems to be geared toward people 65 years of age and over.

  • ModerateMom17

    I say he should have to watch Duck Dynasty and infomercials with his eyes propped open so he can’t escape it.

  • Matthew

    What I find odd, and what is happening already in a few of these posts, is the argument that we should NOT execute him because it is not cruel enough. I regularly run into people who are opposed to the death penalty because they want the convicted criminal to really suffer and not “get off easy”.
    All that being said, I wonder how long he would survive in the general population of any prison.

    • Donna

      The late Fr. Neuhaus, God rest his soul, wrote about this sort of thing back in 2006.

      ” For reasons I will not repeat here, I am opposed to capital punishment, believing it is warranted in only extremely rare circumstances. Yet I find myself in the odd position of frequently being portrayed as a supporter of capital punishment because I have on occasion publicly challenged the claims of some who oppose it. The most common claim, advanced by those who appear to be much more concerned about capital punishment than about abortion, is that the two are morally equivalent. This rather conveniently ignores, among other things, the difference between guilt and innocence. It is generally agreed that criminals should be punished. Nobody, or at least nobody I know, argues that the unborn baby should be punished. Although some feminists describe a pregnancy as an “unjust aggression.” A further claim is that supporters of capital punishment are lacking in compassion. No doubt some of them are. It is chilling to see, as we sometimes do see, crowds outside prisons cheering an execution. This is not solemn punishment but gleeful vengeance. But some of the most blood-curdling statements I’ve read come from those claiming the moral high ground in their opposition to capital punishment. Some years ago, in the paper of the New York Archdiocese, there was an editorial opposing the death penalty for a bombing in which children had been killed. The editor said he should be locked in an isolation cell, fed on bread and water, and be forced to listen to high volume simulations of the screams of his victims, without interruption, for the rest of his life. More recently, Michelle Cottle of the New Republic came out against the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the terrorist in the crash of Flight 93. He is, she says, a “sorry excuse for a human being” and “scum,” but he does not deserve to die—”not because death would be too harsh a penalty, but because it would be too easy.” She continues: “I mean, how bad can the idea of lethal injection be to a guy who was ready to fly a plane into a building? So while I personally believe that, in a just world, Moussauoi would be torn apart by angry ferrets, I can’t help but question our rush to turn him into a shining example of martyrdom for all his aspiring terrorist pals. Better to throw the failed jihadist into a cell with a large, surly redneck with a scorching case of xenophobia and let him spend the rest of his miserable life learning about pain and terror firsthand.” Whatever else may inform Ms. Cottle’s opposition to capital punishment, it is hardly compassion. Principled defenders of the death penalty do not view criminals as sub-human scum or hatefully wish upon them perpetual humiliation and suffering. Rather, they see the criminal as divinely endowed with human dignity and responsibility, and, precisely as such, required in justice to forfeit his life for the life or lives he has taken. As I say, I do not find that argument convincing, but it is the argument that needs to be engaged, and it is in sharpest contrast to the viciousness of the more zealous opponents, and supporters, of capital punishment. “

  • Pat

    I hope he is able to be visited while in prison by Christians (preferrably Catholic) and a friendship develops and he is converted by our Lord. That would be the ultimate torture to the father of lies. Most importantly it would save his soul.

  • B.E. Ward

    Along these lines, in the event that Gosnell is found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty, I would love to see a broad team of Christian legal organizations come together and file many, many briefs and petitions to have his sentence reduced to life in prison.

    • wlinden

      And along THOSE lines, I did not notice any of the leftwing “anti-capital-punishment” groups oppose the execution of Paul Hill. (I would be delighted to be proved wrong.)

  • Lisa O

    Maybe Obama could avoid the whole issue by “droning” him. It’s worked well on a thousand more or less guilty people in other parts of the world.

    Otherwise make him watch The Golden Girls and Frazier.

  • Patrick J Loveless

    Not having cable, I am too poor to be subjected to such evils.

    • Red_Tory

      Blessed are the poor …

  • tz1

    It does not constitute so much torture as a slow lobotomy.