The first thing I want to do is commend Pope Francis on his courage to call for the ancient and most inhuman act of violence we have accepted, to end. No doubt this article may bring contentious comments from some who advocate keeping the death penalty on the books and to look the other way saying; “this will deter heinous crimes”. There are 31 states that consider it legal while 19 (and DC) see it as illegal.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, August 3, 2018; “Pope: Abolish death penalty” His critics say Scripture allows the punishment. Of all the commentaries on this issue from the Old Testament, most go back to Gen. 9: 5-6, Noah and the Flood, God purifying the earth by destroying the evil of mankind and beginning anew through Noah and his descendants. As in any controversial issue the advocates for keeping it around will search throughout the Old Testament and even the New Testament to support their argument. This will also, unfortunately, occur with proponents who are regular church attendees.
School shootings; too many to enumerate, Las Vegas and the many who were deliberately shot from a hotel room window, violent behavior in every state between law-enforcement and gangs that run amuck on our streets, and who can forget the domestic tragedies that appear daily; one family member kills one or more without any explanation. Sure, are these not enough reasons to support the death penalty? One time we were shocked about a killing reported on the news. Then the shock went to unbelief when the first school shooting was announced. And now; Oh another mass murder! When will all this stop? Where were the cops when this began? A decry of hopelessness is heard everywhere.
However, there is another side to this agonizing monster that plagues each person who reads the paper or watches the 6:00 PM news. This newspaper article mentions St. John Paul II began urging an end to the practice of Capital Punishment, and stressed that the guilty were just as deserving as innocents. The article continued; “Today there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.” Remember Sister Helen Prejean, the anti death penalty campaigner whose ministry to a death row inmate inspired the book and film “Dead Man Walking”, said she was "high as a kite” over Francis’ decision to close what she said were loopholes in previous Church teaching that failed to recognize that when a prisoner is strapped to a gurney, he is rendered defenseless before his executioner.” Taken from the same article. Our hats are off to her and the many who believe in eliminating this insidious act of punishment.
May I go one step further in asking; who did Jesus allow Himself to be nailed to the Cross for? Could it be that God relegated the presence of sin to be catalogued in increments? For instance, which sin is listed as the least obnoxious to God and from there incorporate the loss of Precious Blood to be shed for only those who are liars, crooks, even adulterers, but stop short of murderers. Isn’t it strange how we can look upon the horrible sins of so many and overlook our own plank. Lest we forget, all sin is evil in the eyes of God. Certainly some sins are easier to live with, but in the end, can anyone stand before Almighty God and say; “My sins were not as bad as his”? Now our sin is worse since that makes us better than God. We have pronounced judgment on another and wait until someone else hands the same judgement on us.
God made us, male and female, and looking upon all He made; “God looked at everything he made and found it very good.” Gen. 1: 31. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3: 16) Who is to say that one or more people who have sinned by murder does not believe in God?
I would not dare to say that, and when we use murder to eliminate another person, through capital punishment, we deny that person the opportunity to make amends with God. When our judgement is so purposeful to condemn another, for any reason, we better pray not for judgement, but God’s eternal Mercy.