The Death Penalty!


The death penalty is one of the most controversial and debated-about issues among Christians and non-Christians alike. A survey on Christia.net.com
reveals that believers are divided over the morality of the death penalty.

Of the Christians surveyed, 49 percent were in favor of the death penalty, pointing to the line in Leviticus 24:20 - "...eye for eye, tooth for tooth...". They also believe that Genesis 9:6, which states: "Who so sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man," condones the death penalty.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, 38 percent of Christians stand adamantly against the death penalty. These respondents point to Matthew 5:38-39: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

A small group of Christians are unsure about whether or not the death penalty should be condoned. One person in this category argued that DNA testing often reveals false convictions. Proof of innocence does not do anything for a person who was already given the death penalty. According to another respondent, "We can't look back to the Old Testament to make a decision because we're not under that now. I just know that I wouldn't want to be the one to decide. But something needs to be done with those who murder and maim people.

I've never understood how a Christian can be both pro-life and pro-death penalty. I don't buy the "he forfeited his life the moment he took another" excuse, since not all convicted death row inmates are actually guilty. Are the innocent ones who are executed just collateral damage? It's all fine and good to advocate killing murderers, but I doubt most death penalty advocates would be so quick to condemn if they (or a loved one) were wrongly accused.


  1. So what do you think?
  2. Where do you stand on the death penalty?
  3. Where should a Christian stand on this life-and-death issue?

Comments

  1. Hello there!

    As a person who experienced the death of her own mother due to senseless and calculated murder, I can say that I am 100% AGAINST the death penalty.

    I would never have supported the death penalty for my mother's killer. I will even go as far as to say that it is POSSIBLE that he has asked for God's forgiveness and will one day greet me in Heaven. And I will say, "I greet you in the name of Jesus, my brother."

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm against the death penalty epsecially with the broken justice system we have for the poor and minorities, and it's certainly not a deterent for capital crimes.
    And as a christian I can't rationlize life beginning at conception but if that life later on takes another then, that life gets taken away.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Death Penalty Support: Modern Catholic Scholars
    Dudley Sharp

    1) Avery Cardinal Dulles: "Recent popes, Dulles conceded, beginning with John XXIIII, seem to have taken quasi-abolitionist positions on both matters. Yet used sparingly and with safeguards to protect the interests of justice, Dulles argued, both the death penalty and war have, over the centuries, been recognized by the church as legitimate, sometimes even obligatory, exercises of state power. The momentum of "internal solidification," he said, may lead to some reconsideration of these social teachings." (1)


    2) Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., considered one of the most prominent Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century.

    "There are certain moral norms that have always and everywhere been held by the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Although never formally defined, they are irreversibly binding on the followers of Christ until the end of the world." "Such moral truths are the grave sinfulness of contraception and direct abortion. Such, too, is the Catholic doctrine which defends the imposition of the death penalty." (2)

    "Most of the Church's teaching, especially in the moral order, is infallible doctrine because it belongs to what we call her ordinary universal magisterium." (2)

    "Equally important is the Pope's (Pius XII) insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity." " . . . the Church's teaching on 'the coercive power of legitimate human authority' is based on 'the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.' It is wrong, therefore 'to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.' On the contrary, they have 'a general and abiding validity.' (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2)." (2)


    3) Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.

    "The most irreligious aspect of this argument against capital punishment is that it denies its expiatory value which, from a religious point of view, is of the highest importance because it can include a final consent to give up the greatest of all worldly goods. This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is . . . Summa, 'Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.' The moral importance of wanting to make expiation also explains the indefatigable efforts of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist Beheaded, the members of which used to accompany men to their deaths, all the while suggesting, begging and providing help to get them to repent and accept their deaths, so ensuring that they would die in the grace of God, as the saying went." (3)

    see also
    "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx


    1) "An unpublished interview with Avery Dulles", All Things Catholic by John L. Allen, Jr., NCRcafe.org, Posted on Dec 19, 2008, http://ncrcafe.org/node/2340


    2) "Capital Punishment: New Testament Teaching", Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., 1998
    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm


    3) "Amerio on capital punishment ", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007 ,
    http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
    Dudley Sharp

    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?

    Unlikely.

    Enhanced Due Process - No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law. Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

    Enhanced Incapacitation - To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers. Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

    Enhanced Deterrence - 16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence. A surprise? No. Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life. Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.

    What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one.

    Enhanced Fear - Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out. Reality paints a very different picture. What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

    This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

    What of that more rational group, the potential murderers who choose not to murder, is it likely that they, like most of us, fear death more than life?

    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

    Innocents released from death row: Some reality - Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking. There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

    In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.

    copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Using the Old Testament to support the dealth penalty is a week position as I see it. I do think there are times wheen the death penalty is warranted; based ont he laws of the land. I do not support it unconditionally; too many errors and false convictions for one. The dealth penalty was also appropriate for adultery, ultra rebelllious children, some cases of rape and homosexuality. We don't keep that law for those sins; why then for murder?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I personally do not support the death penalty, for me it doesn't offer the opportunity for redemption or reconciliation. but I also don't think we can argue that it is sinful. Some Christians often try to use this argument. Saint James, I actually think the the OT is a good defense of the death penalty - for those who want to use it. But not within specific laws, but rather, as you suggested, the laws of the land. It God condoned and supported this process we cannot turn now and say that it is wrong. I DON'T think anyone can argue that the death penalty is God's initial desire, but I find it hard to say it is completely against who God is.

    I know this is sticky and complicated, but that is how I see it. And as I stated, personally - spawning from the theological ideas of reconciliation and redemption and the inconsistencies of our system - I don't support the death penalty.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Saint James:

    These, above, are all New Testament scholars speaking of support for the death penalty, based upon the New Tetament.

    Blackwasp19, reconciliation and redemption are both covered.

    Here are some more, with some secular also:


    4) "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", at
    www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx


    5) John Stuart Mill, speech on the death penalty
    http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/Mill_supports_death_penalty.htm


    6) Pope John Paul II: Prudential Judgement and the death penalty
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2007/07/23/pope-john-paul-ii-his-death-penalty-errors.aspx


    7) "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective", by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
    http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm


    8) "The Right of Punishing", Immanuel Kant, http://web.telia.com/~u15509119/ny_sida_9.htm


    9) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.


    10) "What Do Murderers Deserve?" by David Gelernter (unabomber victim & Yale U. Computer Professor), Commentary Magazine, April 1998
    Reprint, Utne Reader, March/April 1999, http://www.utne.com/1999-03-01/WhatdoMurderersDeserve.aspx

    NOTE Gelernter ERROR: Karla Faye Tucker did not, voluntarily, end her appeals


    11) "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice", Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September 2004 found at
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml


    12) "Defending Capital Punishment" by William Gairdner
    http://www.williamgairdner.com/defending-capital-punishment/


    13) "Why I Support Capital Punishment", by Andrew Tallman, sections 1-6 secular review, sections 7-11 biblical review,
    http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/search?q=Capital+punishment


    14) "THE ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT: A DEFENSE", Ernest van den Haag, Harvard Law Review, 1986
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/haagarticle.html


    15) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at http://www.ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm


    16) "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).


    17) "God’s Justice and Ours" by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022


    18) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)", by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003
    http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4


    19) Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray, 1991 (first published 1957) by Wm. B. Eerdmans
    http://tiny.cc/JVfzh


    20) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?", KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
    http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp


    21) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS", KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, 11/22/05
    http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp


    22) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty" Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007
    http://www.tfp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=957


    Personal Note: I support the death penalty because it is a just and deserved sanction - the same foundation as for all legal sanctions. Secondarily, the death penalty is a greater protector of innocent lives

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dudleysharp - I know there are NT arguments for the death penalty, but I also think that the OT gives argument to capital punishment. This is not a disregard of the NT argument, but rather a more holistic perception.

    My personal belief is against the death penalty, but I don't think that is a "biblical stance". I actually think societies with both the death penalty and without it can be seeking after God. I am not sure if God establishes if one is right and one is wrong, I think they are different ways of governing. As for reconciliation and redemption, the way our justice system is set up everything is about punishment and though punishment is not bad in an of itself we don't try to help those who are on death row. We just see them a squalid people instead of needy people - which they are. For me it is the system, as is, I am against not the ideology of capital punishment.


    Also, I don't know if the death penalty is a protector for innocent lives. I think life in prison - which I think the system needs to be seriously revamped - is just as much of a protection.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Blackwasp19 (funny handle, btw)

    Thank you for your post.

    I find that the biblical and theological support for the death penalty overwhelms any denunciation of it.

    The reconciliation and redemption I was speaking of were in the realm of the eternal, so we may have been, unknowingly, speaking around each other.

    I think both concepts also work well, from a secular, worldly position, for all criminal sanctions. Your writings didn't touch on holding criminals responsible for their crimes and how that will help them to determine societies condemnation of their actions and what they mean to the community, in a manner that should cause reflection for the harm the criminal acts have inflicted and why that sanction was viewed as the appropriate response.

    Execution provides greater protection for innocents, than does a life sentence, in, at least, three ways: enhanced deterrence, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced due process.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Blackwasp19 (funny handle, btw)

    Thank you for your post.

    I find that the biblical and theological support for the death penalty overwhelms any denunciation of it.

    The reconciliation and redemption I was speaking of were in the realm of the eternal, so we may have been, unknowingly, speaking around each other.

    I think both concepts also work well, from a secular, worldly position, for all criminal sanctions. Your writings didn't touch on holding criminals responsible for their crimes and how that will help them to determine societies condemnation of their actions and what they mean to the community, in a manner that should cause reflection for the harm the criminal acts have inflicted and why that sanction was viewed as the appropriate response.

    Execution provides greater protection for innocents, than does a life sentence, in, at least, three ways: enhanced deterrence, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced due process.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello there!

    As a person who experienced the death of her own mother due to senseless and calculated murder, I can say that I am 100% AGAINST the death penalty.

    I would never have supported the death penalty for my mother's killer. I will even go as far as to say that it is POSSIBLE that he has asked for God's forgiveness and will one day greet me in Heaven. And I will say, "I greet you in the name of Jesus, my brother."

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
    Lisa

    ReplyDelete

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