Four major Catholic journals: End the death penalty

Four major Catholic journals: End the death penalty March 5, 2015


I used to favor the death penalty. It feels right, bracing, and perfectly just. When people commit intolerable crimes, they should be removed from society, cleanly and permanently. It just feels right.

But as civilized people, the powers we grant to the state must be based on facts, not on feelings. Here are the facts about the death penalty in the United States:

  • It does not decrease crime.
  • It does not bring closure to the families of victims.
  • It is not the only way, in this country, to ensure the safety of other citizens.
  • It is often administered cruelly.
  • And it is sometimes imposed on the innocent.

A few years ago, my husband Damien Fisher interviewed Kirk Bloodsworth, a man who was convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl, strangling her, and beating her to death with a rock. Five witnesses placed him at the scene, he matched the description of the killer, and he made statements to police which seemed to incriminate him.

He spent nearly nine years in prison, two years on death row. And then, after urgent demands from the defense team, investigators discovered the physical evidence for the murder case, which had gone missing. It was in the bottom of a judge’s closet, inside a paper bag inside a cardboard box, and it had never been tested.

The state did a DNA test, and discovered that Bloodsworth was innocent. Another inmate, who looked nothing like Bloodsworth or the description given by the five witnesses, had raped and murdered the little girl. The case had gone through all the right legal channels, but the conclusions was disastrously, criminally wrong.

In the interview, here reprinted by an anti-death penalty advocacy group, my husband says:

A bad prosecutor, a bad judge, bad police work, bad forensics, shaky witnesses, all contribute to death penalty cases on a regular basis. Bloodsworth said one in every eight death row cases are overturned because the person convicted is innocent, and yet all of those cases went though trial and appeals and were reviewed by investigators, lawyers, and judges. In his case, at least 50 people looked at the supposed facts before he was sentenced to death.

And because of this, an innocent man lost nearly a decade of his life, and almost died at the hands of the state. This is intolerable.

But what about the guilty? Don’t they deserve to die, when they commit heinous crimes?

Not according to Catholic teaching. Today, the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, the National Catholic Reporter, and America magazine have simultaneously released a strongly-worded joint editorial statement calling for an end to the death penalty in the United States.

The Catholic Church in this country has fought against the death penalty for decades … The practice is abhorrent and unnecessary. It is also insanely expensive as court battles soak up resources better deployed in preventing crime in the first place and working toward restorative justice for those who commit less heinous crimes.

The editorial quotes Archbishop Chaput’s statement on the reprieve of death row inmates in PA, and challenges us to face our moral responsibility as citizens:

Archbishop Chaput reminds us that when considering the death penalty, we cannot forget that it is we, acting through our government, who are the moral agents in an execution. The prisoner has committed his crime and has answered for it in this life just as he shall answer for it before God. But, it is the government, acting in our name, that orders and perpetrates lethal injection. It is we who add to, instead of heal, the violence.

Note, my fellow Catholics, the significance of the four papers who came together for this project: The National Catholic Register and OSV lean right, and the National Catholic Reporter and America lean left. The clear message is this: opposition to the death penalty should unite Catholics, rather than polarizing them. It is not a political issue; it is a moral one. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that the death penalty in 21st century America is almost never just, nor moral, nor necessary:

2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68

This is the teaching of our Faith. If this teaching feels wrong to us, then we are the ones who must come into conformity with the mind of the Church. Because we have the guidance of the Church, Catholics should be at the forefront of the push to end the death penalty in this country.


Further reading from my fellow Patheos bloggers:

An endorsement from Elizabeth Scalia on behalf of Patheos Catholic: We Are Catholic
Tom Zampino: 
3 Reasons Why I No Longer Actively Support the Death Penalty
Dwight Longenecker: 
C.S. Lewis and the Death Penalty
Kathy Schiffer: 
Last Meals and Redemptions


Image is of cellblock housing on death row in Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, photo  By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Antiphon411

    The death penalty is not essentially designed to decrease crime, bring closure to the families of victims, nor ensure the safety of others. Its primary purpose is retributive, to restore justice in a situation wherein justice has been violated. It might do the other things or it might not, that is not the point.

    The death penalty, as with any punishment, is sometimes imposed on the innocent. True. So limit the death penalty to cases wherein guilt is absolutely assured.

    It is administered cruelly? So is murder.

    “Bloodsworth said one in every eight death row cases are [sic] overturned because the person convicted is innocent.”

    Wow! Then what is the ratio for non-death row cases? Sounds like the “Justice” System needs an overhaul.

    “The Catholic Church in this country has fought against the death penalty for decades…”

    And for the better part of two millennia the same Church supported it throughout Christendom. But, hey, decades?! Right here in the land of Americanism?!

    “The teaching of the Catholic Church is that the death penalty in 21st century America is almost never just, nor moral, nor necessary.”

    Well! With clear teaching like that, how can there be any dissent? A few questions: Can things be moral at some times and immoral in others? Can things be moral in certain countries, but immoral in others? “Almost(!) never just”? So sometimes it is? When? Are “just”, “moral”, and “necessary” equivalent terms?

    When has the Church’s support of capital punishment ever hinged on the question of its being “the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”? Are those St. Thomas’s words? Is that the standard measurement applied in centuries of moral theology?

    “This is the teaching of our Faith. If this teaching feels wrong to us, then we are the ones who must come into conformity with the mind of the Church.”

    Okay. I’m all ready to change. For twenty-ish centuries the Church said capital punishment was legitimate and now it doesn’t. Are we still good on the other teachings or can my wife get on birth control? Cuz that might change, too! And could we, PLEASE, scrap the stuff on homosexuality? Think how united the Church could be if we just celebrated homosexuality!

    Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus.

    • Antiphon411

      What a great argument! Who needs theology, reason, philosophy, 2000 years of Church history and doctrine when you have sentimentalism, a hashtag, and a non-sequitur statement with absolutely no basis in Sacred Scripture? And two up-votes, to boot?! OMG!

      • Antiphon411

        So if someone rapes and murders your daughter, Jesus wants you to give him your blazer? There must be more to it than that. Oh, if only there was some institution that might help us to interpret Sacred Scripture! Wait there is, the Catholic Church. And She taught that capital punishment is a proper activity of the State. Phew!

        • Antiphon411

          I hate USA. Republic is an abomination. Liberalism, the foundational philosophy of USA, is heresy and of the devil. I fully expect to die a martyr’s death (with God’s Grace lest I stumble) or to be killed by one of my vibrantly diverse fellow USAans. I think the USA “Justice” system is deeply flawed and routinely punishes the innocent. None of this is an argument against the justice of capital punishment.

          All things considered, a moratorium on the death penalty is an idea that I could entertain. What I cannot accept, however, is any argument that rests on it being immoral. The Church as never taught so, present nonsensical silly teachings to the side.

          Particular points:

          “[T]he Church teaches that while permissible in theory, the circumstances that permit it are vanishingly rare in the modern first world.”

          An act is either just and moral or not. It is either acceptable for the State to execute suitable criminals or not. Capital punishment (and punishment in general) rest primarily on the justice of retribution (this is Fagothey’s ethics handbook stuff). It does not rest on contingent benefits: safety of society, the rehabilitation of the criminal, etc.

          “This is a republic; we are the state.”

          HAHAHAHAHA! Thank you! I needed a good laugh. I assume that you are joking. Otherwise, you are a complete idiot.

          “If we direct our power with hate in our hearts – which is exactly what
          your contrived example about my hypothetical daughter was meant to
          inspire, let’s be honest – God help us!”

          Huh? You never finish up your conditional sentence. The murder of your daughter is not contrived. It is meant to be a real example. Some people have had their daughters murdered. Does Our Lord suggest that the murderers should be given pieces of your wardrobe?

          This is a real example. People (perhaps like you) often like to keep everything nebulous and abstract. I am giving a concrete example. I have a daughter. If someone raped and murdered her, I would want him punished. I might forgive him, but that doesn’t mean that he must not pay for his crime. (C’mon this is Baltimore Catechism stuff! The stolen watch?)

          So, real example: Your daughter is raped and murdered, what do you do? Call the police? Try to invite the rapist/murdered to take your son as well? Do you want the man punished? Do you want him to spend some time in prison? For life? Is that more humane than killing him? (BTW: I would hope that the murderer of my child is ultimately reconciled with God. I would hope that with God’s Grace I would not wish damnation on him. I would, however, want him punished.–cf. St. Maria Goretti, a big saint for our family.)

          • Antiphon411

            Haha! You never did. Go back to Shea’s blog. Shea blocks anyone who actually argues against him in an effective way. You’ll do better over there in the kiddie pool. Once you’re ready for argument you can start visiting real blogs.

          • gregcamacho8

            “Once you’re ready for argument you can start visiting real blogs.”

            This is probably the saddest thing I’ll hear today.

          • antigon

            ‘Shea blocks anyone who actually argues against him in an effective way.’
            Well, we can argue whether my disputes with Mr. Shea are presented effectively, but said disputes are frequent enough, & t’aint been blocked. Just for the record.
            Meantime – would you, or can you, list, say, five blogs you’d qualify as real & worthy of a good swim?

          • Antiphon411

            I find Shea to be a sloppy thinker. He makes sweeping, unnuanced statements. He seems to think that he speaks with the voice of the Magisterium. He also seems to be one of those Protestants who thinks he has something of value to say to Catholics based on his heretical background. I find him obnoxious, but would respect him if he allowed for strong dissent in the combox. Alas he is a combox control freak. I was banned in the midst of a discussion on race. I have known others banned for being too this or that.

            Comboxes are a place for the agon. I have learned so much in good comboxes. Frankly I prefer the comments and discussion down below much more than 95% of the actual post.

            The good blogs at Patheos are the ones that allow free-wheeling conversation. I have found Simcha Fischer, Pascal-Emmanuele Gobry, and Kyle Cupp good in this regard (though I am usually not terribly keen on their personal thoughts). I used to frequent Fr. Longenecker (and found his actual postings congenial), but he closed him combox after a heated exchange over the possibility of salvation for that motorcyclist fellow who thought he was a bishop–I don’t remember his name…Tony Something?).

            For the most part I only hang out at Patheos Catholic during Lent and Advent, when I take a break from my more usual haunts.

            My A No. 1 hangout it Taki’s Magazine. It is an “alternative right” site. You’ll get a mix of Traditional Catholics, Nietzschean neo-pagan types, Libertarians, traditional American conservatives, etc. The combox can be robust and is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. There are some opinions represented that are pretty out there.

          • antigon

            Dear Mr. 411:
            While hostile enough to gli’ebrei, the consistent & steady theme in the Taki combox is race hatred of blacks. And I mean hatred, as for example its celebration of all the Africans dying from Ebola that got much support & no protest despite hundreds of comments. Same was true when Planned Parenthood got lauded by name due to – as the Taki comboxers put it – all the ‘niglets’ it slaughters.
            Thus you’re wrong. The weak of mind would find themselves most comfortable in that milieu, as also the pathetic of soul.

          • Antiphon411

            You are right about Taki’s, though it is my experience that particularly egregious comments will usually be challenged.

            As for the content of the Taki’s combox, there are many unconstrained conversations about race, politics, religion. As I said some of the ideas are wrong. What I like is that robust conversation is allowed.

            The comment above wherein my interlocutor declared that he had nothing more to say would be the sort of weak-minded and faint-hearted person unwelcome at Taki’s. There are certainly weak-minded people there and spiritually empty people; this is why I don’t recommend it for everyone. One has to be on one’s guard.

          • Boris Badenov

            En Garde ! HAHAHAHAHA

          • Antiphon411

            No need to get touché, Boris!

            So you’ve found me, faithful Stanley to my Livingstone. Here I wallow in these malarial swamps, doing my Christian duty of bringing light to the ignorant savages!

            I have been checking in at Taki’s on Sundays, but fear I haven’t missed much. I have so far failed to get myself blocked from any of the sites here, a goal I set myself every Advent/Lent. I am finding Patheos more infuriating than usual this season. I am reminded of the title of Rimbaud’s other famous po’m.

            With best wishes to you for a fruitful Lent, I remain your Faithful,


          • Boris Badenov

            You certainly have not “missed much.”Your seminars here prove to be much more interesting and quite instructive.

            During the last year or so, Boris has found that the modus operandi of catechizing and enlightening savages may be a bit rewarding for Boris but, otherwise, nugatory. And that reward, of course, should not be the focal point of our ambition. If it were not for some of the more truly enlightened commentators such as yourself, Theodora, as well as some of the articles, we could forego takimag as often as we do other sites. Takimag, Chronicles, Remnant, Bro. Nathaniel are among the better sites so we best enjoy them while we may, until further notice, etc.

            Following your example, Boris tried to lessen his visits to takimag promising himself to respond only to the most egregious comments. His covenants notwithstanding, he has participated in a few, brief, minor dustups; declaimed Truths, as usual, to no avail; and shared some limericks found in the less disturbed corners of the internet.

            With respect to our past, Boris was born in Europe but not bred there; he was bred here by his European parents. That experience creates a sense of being an “outsider” which allows one to view the passing scene much more objectively than, say, the average citizen residing on the Upper East Side or in Jolo, WV.

            Wealth and hubris seem to have predictable consequences: it’s quite depressing to see a culture and a nation, which had every benefit imaginable bestowed by God, destroying itself for all the reasons which have caused the downfall of virtually every empire. It is also quite depressing to realize that the Fatima prediction, to wit, “various nations will be annihilated,” applies to one’s own … y’know, the one that’s hurtling down an abyss of its own creation. With that understanding, arguing with savages takes on a new dimension.

            Well, let’s see if we can’t salvage as much of the remainder of Lent as possible. With all good wishes for Easter, for your continued health, and for your family’s well-being…. Boris.

          • Antiphon411

            I feel that each commenter is like an actor portraying a position. The audience is not the other commenters, but the “silent majority” of readers who don’t comment. We are putting our philosophies out there on display. I am confident that you and I and other sound thinkers have invited these readers to think new thoughts. That is how I justify the time spent commenting.

            An interesting tidbit concerning the life of Boris! I have taken quite a different path to the same feeling of detachment. The direct paternal line of my family was one of the founding families of Springfield, Mass., coming over from Wales. Paternal-line descendents fought (on the wrong side!) of all USA’s wars: Revolution, 1812, Civil, etc. There has been a healthy admixture of Catholics (Irish and Italian). I was raised a functional atheist, but always felt at odds with USA. When I entered the Church (by the Grace of God) those vague feelings crystallized. As a Catholic, I cannot be a USAn, too.

            USA had many material blessings, but few spiritual, I’m afraid. From the seed grows the tree. But, yes, sad.

          • Boris Badenov

            Fair enough and a good reason to continue. Never gave much thought to the “silent majority”; Boris presumes/d that most of them are over on the sports-tmz-photobomb sites.

            Providence certainly has intervened in your life. Boris’ best friend is a bona fide Son of the American Revolution who also (sheepishly) admits his forbears were stalwart abolitionists who fought on the wrong side in the War of Northern Aggression. He denies any relationship to the English responding only by bragging about his “Celtic heritage,” which may or may not be accurate. Boris responds by heaping ridicule on his manufactured lineage and facile religious heresies. O/w he is a robust paleocon with quite a grasp on American and European history. He also happens to be an excellent writer with a good sense of humor but does not comment anywhere. Boris told him it is pointless to try and hide. He is on an unedited list somewhere ….

            The spiritual blessings were developing slowly but surely. In the 50’s and early 60’s, as you may recall, Bishop Sheen had one of the most popular shows on tv. Many noted personalities including the infamous, such as Bella Dodd, converted as a consequence. The Church in the USA was at its pinnacle in terms of clerics, nuns, laity, conversions, and cultural power. And then they, including Sheen, inhaled the vapors of Vatican2. JFK’s election was probably seismic in the nativist demographic.

            And now here we are at a nadir and digging deeper. That was a bad seed indeed; rotten to the core; and the roots have infected the entire vineyard. Oh well, have a good Sunday

      • Antiphon411

        St. Peter’s words seem to limited to the Brethren, i.e. our fellow Christians and have nothing immediately to do with justly punishing murderers.

        As for St. Paul’s words, yes, the Christian is called upon not to engage in self-help vigilantism. “If possible, so far as it depends upon” us we should live peaceably with others. If a malefactor kills someone is St. Paul really saying he should not be punished?

        Regarding Our Lord’s own words: Again He is speaking in the personal, private sphere. We should, it seems perhaps, not seek personal revenge. But can we change His words thus: If any one rapes and murders your daughter, turn over to him your wife also? It appears later that he is speaking particularly of persecution.

        A few thoughts:

        1) Return not evil for evil. Homicide is not evil, it is a morally neutral act. Murder (illicit homicide) is evil. The State executing a murderer does not return evil for evil, because the state does not murder the criminal.

        2) Execution vs. prison. According to your logic, killing a man who kills someone is returning evil for evil. What then is locking him in a cage for the rest of his life where he will be subjected to every degradation with no hope of freedom or earthly redemption? Have you ever thought how awful incarceration is? But that is okay according to you. Lock a man in a cage where he’ll be raped, etc. for the rest of his life = not evil.

        3) All punishment is evil, I suppose, according to your logic. So how can we punish at all? The clear import of Our Lord’s words is that when people do something wrong to us we should not punish them, but invite them to do us more harm. Is that how you live your life? If someone were to steal your car do you avoid calling the police? Do you park your other car on the street with a big sign saying “Please, steal this one, too! The keys are in the ignition!”? If someone picks your pocket and steals your wallet, do you chase him down to give him your wife’s purse, as well?

        4) As usual there is much to chew on in the Bible. There is much to think about. There are good and bad interpretations. We rely on Holy Mother Church to help us. Holy Mother Church has not said that criminals should not be punished, though self-help might be limited. The Church taught for centuries upon centuries that capital punishment was just. Now a few popes and bishops, who are all deeply dyed in Liberalism and Modernism, object to the perennial teaching of the Church. It says a lot about someone to see which side he leans towards.

    • See Evangelium Vitae for your answers.

      • Antiphon411

        Romano Amerio, in his book Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, has a good chapter on the changes in the understanding of the death penalty. He sees the current position of bishops (and popes) as rooted in utilitarianism rather than the supernatural Faith.

    • Sue Korlan

      The Church says that capital punishment is to be used in cases where society can only be kept safe is a person is executed. That’s not true in the US; it probably is in some cases in Mexico. That’s the standard stated by the Church hierarchy, which is the actual teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church and which faithful Catholics follow. The unfaithful believe and do what they will.

      And yes, the same thing can be moral in some cases and not in others because intention is part of what makes something moral. See the Catechism part 3 section 1 chapter 1 especially article 4. The example I was given as a child by a priest who had learned it well before Vatican II is of a war pilot whose plane is about to crash. He sees an enemy munitions plant and aims his plane into it. If he did so because he was trying to destroy enemy munitions and save lives, what he did was right. If he did so because he wanted to kill as many people as he could what he did was wrong. Same action in both cases.

      The Church believes in the development of doctrine. Or don’t you believe in the Immaculate Conception?

      • Antiphon411

        Whatever the bishops say and wherever they say it, the principle purpose of the death penalty is to right the balance of justice (retribution). It can have a rehabilitative effect on the condemned. It can also serve as a deterrent for others. Finally, it will serve as a defense for society against future attacks, by both the condemned and others.

        The principle basis, as I said, is retribution. In especially grave cases wherein justice has been especially offended and society has been gravely attacked and a victim and his or her family has been deeply grieved the execution of the criminal is restorative.

        The bishops say that executions are not necessary because society can be defended against the criminal in other ways, say through incarceration. Yes, but this was always the case. Society could also be defended by blinding and paralyzing the criminal, but the bishops don’t advocate this.

        St. Thomas says, “It is permissible to kill a criminal if this is necessary for the welfare of the whole community.” This means something quite a bit broader than the mere protection of society from the particular criminal. Society’s well-being is harmed in many ways by serious crime, as I noted above. The execution of the criminal goes a long way to righting things. In other words there is a deeper understanding of capital punishment than the merely utilitarian one pushed apparently by today’s bishops.

        You should also remember that when God punishes, He punishes permanently with death. It is retributive, not rehabilitative.

        Finally (sorry long comment–but don’t read if you don’t want to), as for your example of the pilot crashing into the munitions factory, it is really beside the point. The example deals with the subjective morality of an act, but the case can be made for any action that is morally good or neutral. A person can baptize an infant with an evil intention in mind (perhaps he hopes to drown the baby). A person can give alms to the poor with an evil intention (he hopes the bum will go buy drugs with the money and die). In neither of these cases is the act itself, judged objectively, evil.

        So, the Church has always recognized the right of the State to execute criminals–we assume with the good intention of serving the welfare of the community. This act cannot have been objectively moral and now be objectively immoral. Nor can it be objectively immoral in USA, but objectively moral in Mexico (as you suggest perhaps facetiously). An act is either moral or it is not moral.

        But this is to judge things according to traditional understandings. This is to think of the natural and supernatural elements and ends. Our current churchmen are utilitarians who judge things according to earthly usefulness. Not only are they wrong to do so, but it should make the Catholic rather uncomfortable with their “moral” pronouncements.

        And lastly, your appeal to the Immaculate Conception is another red herring. The Church had never defined the doctrine, but She had never said it was not true. It was an open question. To be apposite to your case regarding the death penalty, the Church would have had to say at one point that Our Lady was not immaculately conceived, but then after some doctrinal development–hey presto chango!–Our Lady now was immaculately conceived. Or perhaps her Immaculate Conception was true in Mexico, but not in USA because it was unnecessary there.

        • Sue Korlan

          While the Church never opposed the Immaculate Conception, some theologians including St. Thomas did oppose it.

          As far as retributive justice goes, I believe that Jesus died in reparation for the sins of everyone, including murderers, so there’s no reason to execute people.

          There was a prison in Mexico where the guards were letting the prisoners out at night to commit murders for a drug cartel. In that case only execution can keep society safe. But that’s a prudential decision.

          • Antiphon411

            1) Re: the Immaculate Conception, you prove my point. The development of doctrine does not mean: One day the Church says X is true, the next day the Church says X is not true. The Church has always recognized the moral right of the State to execute criminals. She cannot now say that it is not morally right.

            2) Re: retributive justice. Then I guess since Our Lord died in reparation for the sins of everyone we don’t need to punish people who commit crimes. And I guess there is no need for Hell. I assume that God has put the “Out of business” sign up over the old “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” sign. The State does not punish sins; it punishes crimes.

            If the only reason to punish people is to make society safe, then we shouldn’t wait for crimes to be committed. Let’s just round up all the people who are known gang members and who fit the criminal profile and lock them up. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent crimes before they occur?

            3) Re: Mexico. Sounds lovely. Maybe we’ll have an even nicer “Justice” System and country more like Mexico once we’ve welcomed enough of our Mexican brothers into USA, as our bishops and pope would have us do. I guess then we’ll get to use the death penalty morally again.

  • Who says it doesn’t bring closure? Sure there is no way to bring back the dead, and so you can never unturn events. But if you think that some child rapist murderer with life in jail sentence living a work free life, getting three meals a day, working out and watching TV to break up the day while masturbating over the memories of his child rapes at night time brings the same closure as capital punishment, then we just disagree.

    • Dan C

      You mistake closure for vengeance.

      • No, a lynching is vengeance. When a body of legislators deliberate to a retribution, pass it, the executive signs the legislation, a jury of peers comes to a verdict under the guidence of a judge, then that is justice. If you think the death penalty is vengeance, then why wouldn’t life in jail be just as vengeful? Why wouldn’t 10 years in jail be just as vengenful? Why wouldn’t a day in jail be just as vengeful if the criminal apologized and said he wouldn’t do it again? He could even go to confession if that makes you happy. Let out of jail the minute they get absolved of their sins.

        • Sue Korlan

          Society has the right to be safe. If a convicted person is truly the one who committed the crime, then society is safe from him. If the convicted person isn’t the one who committed the crime, hopefully he will eventually be vindicated and freed to rejoin society.

          I’m with Gandalf on this one, not Frodo.

        • Antiphon411

          A quibble: A lynching might not be vengeance. It could truly serve justice and be intended to do so. The problem is that the people are not vested with the authority to carry it out. That authority is reserved to the State.

          But what happens when a State goes bad? What if the State consciously refuses to administer justice on criminals and the community is endangered, could there be a justification for self-help in those cases? We might be getting to just such a situation, so the problem must be thought out. I don’t know where I stand on the issue.

          • Well, though there are many problems with this country, I can’t say it’s a state gone bad. So I don’t know what to do then. I’ll have to cross that bridge if I ever get to it.

      • Jasper

        Hi Dan C, would you sign the same if said and end to abortion and homo marriage?

        • Dan C

          The orthodoxy test! I love this game! Why don’t you just man up and ask if I use condoms or other forms of birth control? Because that’s really the question. This line of questioning ends up there all the time.

          Man up and ask what happens in my bedroom.

          • Jasper

            Thanks Dan. I kind of expected that you wouldn’t sign.

          • simchafisher

            Oh fer.

          • Dan C

            I do not use condoms or artificial birth control. Because you wanted to know.

          • Jasper

            Thanks for being honest Dan that you wouldn’t sign off on an end to legalized abortion and homo marriage. You confirmed what I already knew.

          • Dan C

            Where did I say that? I don’t sign petitions. They don’t work.

          • simchafisher

            In fairness to Jasper, I’ll let everyone know that he’s now banned. For future reference, readers: you can be a jerk and you can be stupid, but not indefinitely.

    • Antiphon411

      If one of my children were raped and murdered, I would prefer that, provided I didn’t get the guy first, the state executed him. Though I would chafe at how long it took. Blood demands blood.

  • Emily Kimmel

    Thank you for posting this. It’s an angle in the fight for human dignity that not a lot of people are brave enough to fight.

  • antigon

    ‘Four major Catholic journals’
    My understanding – The Eye of the Tiber being my & I think we can all agree an infallible source – is that the journal calling itself the National Catholic Reporter isn’t actually a Catholic journal, but rather, if to be sure less reliable, a parody thing like the Onion. Since with America magazine, it’s really friendly to people who dig mass murder of the unborn, this opposition to the death penalty is, you know, either selective or more likely – again like America (& arguably the order that publishes it) – just a joke.

    • IRVCath

      To America’s credit, they’ve stopped that “friendliness” when the Holy Office had Reese kicked out. It’s become a different animal than what it used to be. Largely because a lot of the worst dissenters left with Reese to the Reporter.

      • antigon

        If true, very glad to hear it. Admittedly haven’t read the thing in years, & thus just assumed it still held the apostles got it all wrong since clearly Christ meant the Church to be a kind of homosexual rotary club from the get-go.

    • johnnysc

      The evil of abortion isn’t obvious?

  • johnnysc

    There is a man in San Francisco taking a real moral stand upholding the teachings of Jesus and His Church. Archbishop Cordileone is being attacked by those left leaning ‘catholics’ you speak of. Any chance of a unified stance in support of the Archbishop with those ‘left leaning’ publications? Yeah…..didn’t think so.

  • Lisarose

    That photo of a death row cell block looks worse than death.

  • Jasper

    when will the joint statement be coming for the end of legalized abortion and homosexual ‘marriage’ ?

    what’s that you say? you won’t be doing one? Yea, that’s what I thought…

    • wineinthewater

      The existence of one grave evil does not justify silence on other grave evils.

  • HenryBowers

    Here’s a twist: if DP is wrong if vengeful, but okay if protectionist (in those rare cases), is nuclear deterrence also wrong if vengeful but okay if protectionist (in that rare event)? On the contrary, I say nuclear deterrence is immoral because it is a conditional threat to kill innocents; is DP the same conditional threat to kill the guilty? So I wonder if those categorically opposing DP should oppose nuclear deterrence, for consistency.

    • Sue Korlan

      Since the death penalty is a conditional threat to innocents who are incorrectly condemned, I would call it immoral in most instances. It is a conditional threat to kill innocents.

      • HenryBowers

        But the courts don’t knowingly kill the known innocent.

        • Sue Korlan

          They do, however, know the error rate for these kinds of cases, which is not negligible. We should err on the side of caution because we are responsible for what our courts do. And sometimes the prosecutors know they have the wrong person but want to look like they’re effective by solving lots of cases even if they get the wrong person.

          • Antiphon411

            So the problem is a flawed “Justice” System? The death penalty is not inherently immoral. It might, however, make sense to have a moratorium in USA, until the “Justice” System were overhauled. This would be the argument against the death penalty, not standing twenty centuries of doctrinal history on its head and making a hash of logical argument.

          • Sue Korlan

            It’s immoral when it’s not necessary to protect society. That means it depends on the circumstances whether it’s okay or not. In the US today it seems to me that it’s not okay.

          • Antiphon411

            An objectively moral act cannot be moral or immoral based on circumstances, as I mentioned elsewhere–your kamikaze pilot example notwithstanding. Banzai!

  • Very well stated! Here in CT we’ve seen far too many innocent people given death sentences- tragic! And I agree with your excellent points. I too am completely opposed to the death penalty, though my reasoning is a bit different than those stated at the National Catholic Register.

    In Christ,

    Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner

  • Lagos1

    “But what about the guilty? Don’t they deserve to die, when they commit heinous crimes?” Not according to Catholic teaching

    Where does Catholic teaching say that the guilty don’t deserve to die? Of course they do. In fact, we all deserve to die, which is why we need Jesus to save us.

    The point is rather that we are called to mercy. And we cannot be merciful if the person involved is not in some way needing our mercy and actually deserving of punishment.

    We might support the idea of getting rid of the death penalty (although the irony is that this removes the idea of mercy from the situation) but lets not get rid of the idea of justice.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    One correction:

    “But what about the guilty? Don’t they deserve to die, when they commit heinous crimes?”

    The answer to this question is, “Yes. Of course. They deserve hell, next to which a botched execution is nothing.”

    This is not a matter of whether the person deserves it or not. To say that an unrepentant multiple-child-rapist-and-murderer does not deserve hell, or even to die, would make God a worse criminal than any human criminal.

    No, it is a matter of whether we are fit to bear the burden of carrying out such a heavy slice of God’s justice on His behalf.

    Because we are prone to error, because we are prone to sin, because our hearts are already hardened to the point that we habitually treat persons as things, we are not, as a country, up to the task of capital punishment. We are not morally fit for it. We are not wise enough to handle it.

    There is a very great danger in eliminating it, however. Another aspect of our unfitness, our unwisdom, is our society-wide failure to believe in the existence of sin, and our inclination to pass of horrific injustices as “no big deal.” The death penalty, like all institutions in a fallen world, contains a mix of advantages and disadvantages; and one of the advantages is: It IS bracing. It DOES communicate the message that morality is absolute and that some sins truly are heinous. It FORCES us to take certain evils as seriously as we ought to take them. (Or, well…somewhat more seriously than we otherwise would.)

    This is a message our culture badly needs; that would be one advantage to keeping capital punishment.

    How, then, can we correctly judge whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Well, we can draw up lists of each, of course. But are we wise enough to correctly weigh the list of advantages against the disadvantages, and determine whether Ol’ Sparky is a keeper or not?

    Well, no.

    That’s the problem.

    It is for situations such as these that we need a divinely protected corps of shepherds, which, guided by the Holy Spirit, can assist us in making such judgments.

    God, being a merciful God, has provided just such a Shepherds Corps. It’s called the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.