Scott Peterson – Destructor of Love

While the Peterson jury worked manfully to do the right thing, there is every reason to believe that the death sentence they issued will eventually be set aside, changed to life in prison, in appeal. He’s in California – bluest of the blue states, where killing is bad, and the death penalty is worse.

Between Isabella’s birth and my brother’s arduous leave-taking, I have, over the course of the last six months, come to a new appreciation precisely why life is sacred…I understand as I have never understood before that when you snuff out a life, either because you are aborting it, or because you are “compassionately” hoping to take suffering out of the realm of human experience, you are getting in the way of love – you are stopping it from coming, growing, forming, building, sharing and forgiving and moving back to God. When you stop love, you impede God (who is Love), and God’s purpose. This cannot be a good thing. If the action of stopping life, and therefore stopping love, does not serve God, then exactly who does it serve?

God is all Good. What is not serving God is not serving Good. It must therefore be serving evil.

My husband and I were in my brother’s room tonight, watching the late news, and we heard the Peterson verdict. My brother is asleep now. For the first time – ever – he was not able to rouse himself from sleep during the whole of our visit. With us was a wonderful young man whose job is to sit with the dying when their families are not there to do so. When we heard the verdict he turned to us and nodded his head. “Good,” he said. “Man kills his wife and baby, you’ve got to send that message.”

I must admit that while I tend to see-saw on the issue of captial punishment, I nodded my head, too. There was a moment of wholly unedifying satisfaction – a destructor of love doesn’t deserve love, does he? And Peterson is certainly a destructor of love.

But, I appreciate John Paul II’s position on this issue, too. Scott Peterson’s soul is in serious, serious trouble. Do we decide to end his time on earth before he has had a chance to learn contrition, to seek redemption and forgiveness?

Some would say, “he’s got about 15 years to find his contrition, and seek redemption, knowing he’s going to die eventually; if he can’t manage it in that time, to hell with him.” Literally.

Others – like John Paul – would say, “it’s not up to any man to decide how long it takes another to come to wisdom about his wrongdoing and to seek forgiveness. It is up to God, whose ways and means are not our ways or means.”

I can see both points. Like I said, I see-saw.

But I guess I lean toward John Paul’s point. I’ve watched my brother spend considerable time going over his life, I’ve heard him ask forgiveness. I’ve watched his shrunken arms reach out toward something I could not see, a tremulous reach, accompanied by a dazzling smile.

And now, he sleeps. We don’t know if he will awaken again, in this world. But he had his opportunity to get right with God. God is love. What a grace. It is offered to all.

Maybe someday Scott Peterson will reach his arms out, after a long, hard slog through his conscience and his sins, and get right with God. We can hope so.

I understood what the soft-spoken young man in my brother’s room meant tonight, about “sending a message,” though. He spends his days watching people who, with great love, try to enhance diminishing lives that are almost gone. Scott Peterson destroyed two viable, vibrant lives to enhance nothing. To those who work in hospice, there must be no greater ogre than a Scott Peterson.

Peterson will probably live a long life in prison, on the bounty of the county, so to speak. He will very like not fry, or be tied down to a gurney to face a lethal injection.

But he killed his wife and his baby, and you’ve got to send a message that such an act is a grave, grave, horrendous and, yes, evil thing.

About Elizabeth Scalia