Recently, Pope Francis reiterated what Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI understood: the death penalty goes against the mercy and hope established by Christ in the declaration of the Gospel. We, who seek mercy and grace, shall likewise give mercy and grace to others, and this is especially true in regards to the issue of life, for life is sacred and it could be seen as an act of blasphemy to willingly and knowingly take it away from someone else.
The death penalty is deceptive, like all evil; it proclaims itself to be good and says it works for justice, but as Vladimir Solovyov understood, its practice does not establish justice but promotes more injustice. Its use validates the so-called culture of death; the question is not whether or not we can take a life, but which life and for what reason. Once we can objectify the other and turn life into a conditional good, then the state and the people within the state will take what has been established and use it to destroy more lives; it will follow the logic which has been established and show how and why many people can be and should be legally destroyed. Killing people is no longer shown to be a problem; it is only the right people who need be destroyed. Who determines who those right people are? History shows that it is those in power, and who want to keep a hold of that power.
Yet, as a tool of power, as a tool of enforcement of absolute control and authority, we find many gravitate to its use, seeking an easy solution for the problems which lie ahead. Again, the death penalty here is deceptive; many think it will serve as a deterrence, but as the history of the world demonstrates, the reverse is the case. The death penalty has not stopped crime; indeed, it often has made criminals bolder, seeking to increase their reputation and fame, hoping to die a pseudo-martyr’s death. What is put down by the sword rises back up with its own more powerful sword, and then the truth of Jesus’ warning, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52b) will be fulfilled.
Yes, the attack in New York was a great evil. But we must not justify it by saying that there are some occasions when it is right to take a life. Taking life is an intrinsic evil; certainly, the culpability differs when it is an act of self-defense or in the act of a just war, but even then, Christians have historically understood there is culpability and guilt which needs penance. We must never forget that life is sacred, and that we should do what we can do to preserve it when it is possible to do so naturally, without any artificial prolonging of the process of death. To follow Trump and take a life now is to follow the same logic and reasoning of the terrorists, to say the means justify the ends, and the question is not the use of death but the ends which are in question.
[Image=By DonkeyHotey (Donald Trump Is Not Going to Sue Pope Francis) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
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