Pope Francis has changed Roman Catholic policy regarding its previous endorsement of the civil death penalty. Now, saying this, I’m not going to get into the important and big discussion about jurisprudence on how convictions ought to be decided.
Pope Francis’ main argument is that the death penalty always “attacks human dignity.” I think he’s quite wrong about that because the Bible teaches otherwise. If a person clearly commits first degree murder, that person automatically forfeits his or her human dignity by destroying the image of God in that other person, since all humans are made in God’s image. Plus, God’s law in the Ten Commandments in the Law of Moses says, “You shall not murder;” and the next one says, ‘You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20.13-14). The penalty for both was death.
But murder is only one of several crimes that so destroy the image of God and thereby are deserving of the death penalty to be enforced by the state. I believe pedophilia falls into that category as well. If the Law of Moses required the death penalty for adultery, it surely required the death penalty for pedophilia, which probably happened very rarely in Israel.
The Roman Catholic Church has been suffering from decades of public exposure to a crisis of clergy pedophilia. That is such an abomination against humanity and in the eyes of God. And although the Church has lately been addressing this situation after denying its existence for so long, the Church still is not handling the situation adequately. Worse yet, it’s hierarchy has covered it up and applied pressure on the state to do so also. But not in Pennsylvania this week.
Yesterday, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its findings into this Catholic Church clergy pedophilia. Its report is 900 pages that covers 70 years of such misconduct in Pennsylvania by 300+ priests who so abused 1,000 children. Many of these people who were so mistreated by priests are now aged adults. They testify that their psychological suffering has hurt their faith in God. I believe the death penalty should cover pedophilia.
Many people would argue with me about this. Some would say Jesus would be forgiving of such people and therefore not be so stringent. I think that is quite wrong. Those who say this do not properly know the Bible. Jesus upheld the Law of Moses. He said of it in his Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5.17 NRSV). Therefore, when he later taught in this sermon, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (7.1), he certainly did not contradict himself by abolishing laws.We also read in the Bible, “the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt. 18.1-6).
When Jesus returns at his so-called “second coming,” he will establish his worldwide kingdom on earth that God gives him. He will rule as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19.16). Everything will not be lovey-dovey and all-forgiving. Jesus will “rule with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2.27; 12.5; 19.15). He will do as the Law of Moses says, “purge the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 24.7). That’s what good laws and their enforcement do. As they say, it “puts the fear of God” in people. After all, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10; Psalm 111.10).
And do not think that good laws and their enforcement do not work in helping to correct misconduct. They certainly do (see Deut. 13.6-11). For when Moses came down from the smoking Mount Sinai and gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments that God gave him, Moses said to the people, “God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin” (Exodus 20.20).
Many people think Jesus was different from God by being all-forgiving because of how he treated the woman caught in adultery (John 8.2-11), as if he negated that law against adultery in the Law of Moses (Deut. 22.22) by saying to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” Not so. See my post on April 17, 2015, entitled “What Did Jesus Write on the Ground?”
God gave his laws to human beings in order for them to protect their dignity and thereby, by obeying those laws, not forfeit their dignity.