Sunday, April 21, 2013

Off With Their Heads!

I guess there is seriously something wrong with me, because the death penalty is the last punishment I think of no matter how heinous a crime is occupying the headlines. I never understood how a civilized society can think the best way to respond to violence and death is with more violence and death.  Now, if I were to make this comment in certain comboxes, I would be roundly condemned by people who can quote Scripture, Canon Law and that Thing Known as the Catholic Blogosphere as certainty that we are not only permitted but compelled to play God when it comes to criminals.

I also say here unequivocally that those who have been victims of violent crime or have family members who have been victims  are entitled by virtue of their experience to think anything they want about the death penalty without criticism or comment from me.  For the rest of us, there is simply no excuse when our first response is to want to kill someone for killing someone else.  

I have heard the argument made that condemning a criminal to die might have the benefit of a death row-induced admission of guilt, renunciation of sin and act of contrition.  Maybe so, but the jails are full of men and women who found God while in prison.  Anyway, I don't approve of the death penalty and I can say that and still be a faithful Catholic, no matter what some bloggers say to the contrary.

Meanwhile, the prosecution in the Kermit Gosnell trial has wrapped up its case.  Sometimes, it's hard for me to distinguish the prosecution from the defense.  After all, the Assistant District Attorney has repeatedly referred to a cardiac glycoside as "an abortion drug".  Digoxin, a derivative of foxglove, was never developed as an abortion drug.  It's a cardiac medication that is used to treat atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.  Some barbarian realized it would make a potent toxin for use in inducing infanticide and now it is referred to as an "abortion drug".   That anyone could make that statement with a straight face is chilling.  How far have we sunk as a people when we think it's OK to poison, burn or dismember a baby that is still in it's mother's womb, but we feign shock and outrage over what Gosnell did?  The only difference when you look at is that one form of murder is slightly more grisly than another.

The defense attorney, who will get his opportunity this week to try to defend the indefensible,  insists that what Gosnell did was not murder because the infants whose spines he severed "were already in the death throes" of Digoxin when they managed to enter the world still exhibiting signs of life.  My prayer is that abortion proponents will stop and think about this - that we as a nation have legalized treating the most vulnerable among us as we would rodents or other pestilence in need of extermination. 

I know people who won't eat meat, wear fur or allow a mousetrap in their homes but who willingly participate in abortion procedures at the hospital where they work.   

Show us Lord, the error of our ways while we can still beg for Your mercy, lest we perish in the last trial and find ourselves in the eternal inferno.


  1. I'm not sure why you feel the need to defend your anti death penalty position as a Catholic. It's the position of the Catholic church that there is no real need to implement the death penalty in today's world. So it's the pro-death penalty Catholics who need to defend their (which is mine) position.

    So as a pro-death penalty Catholic let me try to defend it. There are some crimes that when you look for a measure to achieve justice, everything falls short. Life in prison if a prisoner behaves himself in today's world is not that bad. When you look at some of the heinous crimes against children, against defenseless women, against masses of people who had no idea what was coming from some demented, evil person, what amounts to justice other than ending their lives? Anything but the death penalty is a mockery to justice.

    That said, I will say that I waver on the death penalty. I keep telling myself when it's in the abstract that mercy needs to win over justice. Taking a life is still a step too far. But then a real life case presents itself and I have to say, no; how can I let justice be belittled. Society requires justice or it all feels hollow. Anyway, that's me, and I do think most Catholics are against the death penalty. And I think the death penalty is appropriate for Gosnell and this bomber.

  2. Manny, I still think the decision to end a life is God's alone, except in valid cases of self-defense (which would include but not be limited to just wars and certain police actions for the protection of society).That doesn't mean I think jail should be a picnic, either. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of "Lockdown" but I can imagine some inmates would prefer death to living out the rest of their lives in a dirty, crowded jail full of violent criminals. If the taking of life is abhorrent to us, and it should be, it is abhorrent regardless of the circumstances. We should not appropriate for ourselves that which distinctly belongs to God.

    BTW, from what I've read about the injury to the younger bomber, he may never be able to speak or eat again. He might prefer death to living the rest of his life that way. I don't know that there is an appropriate measure of justice for someone who would set a nail-laden bomb down in front of an 8-year-old little boy or for that matter a so-called doctor who would joke about severing the neck of a baby. We should do what is within our jurisdiction as Christians to do and leave the rest to God. He knows best.

  3. I understand your position Joyce, and in truth I want to have your position. Blessed are the merciful and I want to be merciful. I keep trying to push myself toward being against the death penalty, but every time I'm confronted with a real circumstance I just can't bring myself to go there. Anyway I think the country is moving to a majority against it, at least for most states.

    I did not hear that about the younger bomber. What a comedy of errors. The two of them practically blew themselves up with their own bombs and I heard the older brother may have actually died from being hit with the car the younger brother was driving. Not sure if that's true, but it seems to be reported in more than one place.

  4. It's understandable Manny. I have been called a "bleeding heart" and I guess deep down, I am one. Whenever there is a heinous crime where the perpetrator is a young person, I immediately think that there is not one but two families devastated. No one wants to have a child that is a murderer. I don't know that either is preferable - losing a child whose life was claimed by violence or losing one who willfully destroyed their life by taking someone else's.

    My husband, on the other hand, would like to see the Red Sox hold a bats and beer night and allow the fans to mete out justice to the bomber.

    It is probably one of, if not the most difficult aspects of our faith. The Church permits us to have that difference of opinion as the death penalty is not considered an intrinsic evil.

  5. I also have felt a parent's heartbreak for this kid. Who knows what his parents are actually feeling, though. :/
    I always remember how Bl. Pope JP II went to the cell of his attacker to forgive him. While people are still alive, they still have a chance at conversion.

    1. Yeah, I have found it difficult to feel anything for these particular parents. It was actually the first uncle that the media interviewed who seemed appropriately sorry and stunned. And lest anyone think I have forgotten the sheer evil of what he did, I haven't. Older brother's influence or not, at that age we still know right from wrong. It just never ceases to amaze me the lengths the devil will go to to enlist his minions here on earth and when we consider that Islamists do not have the sacraments like we do, they are especially without protection from his attacks. So far as forgiveness and mercy, yes, I too will never forget Bl JP II meeting with his would-be assassin and also the Amish families of Nickel Mines extending forgiveness to the killer of their children. I also think of little Therese praying for Henri Pranzini's conversion.

  6. Joyce, This is really a hard one for me...I've been thinking about it since you posted it, but I waver and wind up not being able to firmly stand against it. So many family members in law enforcement (including my own son), so many stories I have heard through the years and then my own situation.
    I have no issue with forgiveness and even the blessed hope that one day my own attacker could be saved.. Though mine was not a capital case because I lived... for many,many years... well, you know the story.
    Here's the other issue that I struggle with. For all the church does--rightly so-- for those incarcerated, I wish they would do equally in outreach for the victims. In our bulletin this week is a whole page devoted to prison ministry: letters to those incarcerated, Bible study leaders needed, prayer groups for families of those incarcerated, a diocesan march against the death penalty ..I put it down and just cried, because never once has there ever in any church I've ever been in been any outreach to those imprisoned by the crime committed or the suffering of those families. I talked to my pastor about it once and he just said no one knows how to reach out to the victims because they don't like to come forward, but that he would remember to mention them in the talks he gives against the death penalty. Ya, I cried that day, too.
    I'm sorry for the long answer, but this is such an important issue in our times..It needs so much prayer and the loving leadership of people who can see that both needs are addressed.
    I'm glad you shared your thoughts..I hope I didn't ramble.
    Love and Blessings +

  7. Hi Caroline
    If I were the mother of the 8-year-old little boy who was killed in the bomb blast, perhaps I would have a different outlook. That is why I say that victims of violent crimes as well as the families get a pass for their views on this subject. On the other hand, I will never forget Gayle Willard, mother of murdered athlete Aimee Willard who, despite the brutal rape and murder of her daughter, did not want the man who committed these acts executed because of her strong opposition to the death penalty. I never understood where she drew such strength, not only to sit in that courtroom every day and hear the details of her daughter's violent assault and death, but in actually standing up before the judge and making her case for the murderer to get life in prison.

    I would also say that if I or a family member were a victim of violent crime, I too would probably find it offensive to see so much of the Church's attention given to criminals and the incarcerated while seemingly ignoring the victims. I don't know the answer to that. I also find the attention given to prison ministry a bit lopsided in some places. Clearly Christ gave us the commission to visit the imprisoned, etc and clearly, there are families who, through no fault of their own, have a lost a loved one to incarceration. However, when we compare the number of deaths via the death penalty to those as a result of violence (including and most especially abortion) there does seem to be a disturbing bit of disparity. In fact, the only reason I wrote about it now is because of the growing chorus of those who want to see the 19-year-old bomber executed by the state.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this and I know it is a difficult subject for you in a way that the rest of us are most fortunate not to know. Thank you for your continued strength and courage. No, there are no easy answers but as Christians we are especially compelled to give prayerful consideration, not knee-jerk reaction.
    Love and prayers,


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