Russell Saltzman on the Lust for Vengeance

Russell Saltzman on the Lust for Vengeance April 11, 2015

in his essay “I Wanted That Kid Dead“:

I don’t ever remember such personal outrage as I felt watching that smirking kid in court. My feelings were primeval, primitive, and raw. That’s why I oppose the death penalty, not because killers don’t deserve it, but because in some way its application is intended to assuage all those visceral sensations, yet rarely does.

The mistake that is consistently overlooked by death penalty advocates is that they do not take into account the effect it has on those who support it and, especially, on those who inflict it.  The appalling spectacle of death penalty zealots waving frying pans and calling it a sober love of justice or, worse, of Catholics making sick arguments like “the crucifixion of Jesus shows that God loves the death penalty” demonstrates the warping effect of this hostility to the Church’s teaching.  When Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the Communist Chinese are the closest allies you have in your quarrel with the Magisterium, the odds are extremely high that the Church is right and you are wrong.

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