The Pope has a message for death penalty hypocrites

Pope Francis, who has caused the heads of right-wing Catholics to swivel before, has done it again, proclaim...

Posted: Aug 3, 2018 9:19 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2018 9:19 AM

Pope Francis, who has caused the heads of right-wing Catholics to swivel before, has done it again, proclaiming that the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases "because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person." He also said that Christians should work "with determination" for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

Good for him, and good for the teachings of Jesus in this important regard, which have been wildly neglected, particularly by Christians in the United States.

Belief, religion and spirituality

Capital punishment

Catholics and catholicism

Christianity

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Law and legal system

Papacy and the Pope

Religious groups

Societal issues

Society

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was absolutely clear about vengeful justice. He summoned the Old Testament teaching of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," and then overturned it sharply. "But I say to you, do not resist evil; but if anyone should strike you, turn the other cheek." Then he went further: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who abuse you."

He didn't say: "Kill those who kill people." He said that we should not even "curse" anyone who acted badly, lest we bring judgment upon ourselves.

As ever, the apostle Paul expanded on and clarified the teachings of Jesus in interesting ways. Consider Romans 12:17: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil." A few verses later, he adds: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

I have never understood Christians who oppose abortion but support killing prisoners. Life is life, and it is not our right to decide when it must end.

The death penalty is an abomination. It goes against human dignity and lowers the bar for social behavior. It is an incitement to revenge. I can't imagine anyone with a conscience can look at the execution of even the most heinous mass killer, and think that doing to him (it's usually a man) what he did to others in any way makes up for his crimes, or benefits society.

As for punishment, living in an American prison -- with or without possibility of parole -- is punishment enough for any inmate. If anything, we should be working "with determination" to make American prisons less cruel almost across the board. Their brutality and inhumanity degrade us all.

America is a backward country when it comes to the death penalty. The Netherlands banned executions in 1870, Costa Rica in the late 19th century, Colombia in the early 20th century. Which countries are the murderous outliers? Libya, Uganda, Cuba, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan and more. And the United States, where studies show that capital punishment "disproportionately involves prisoners diagnosed with mental illness."

I often look to Dickens and Tolstoy as exemplary figures in the long debate over capital punishment. Dickens watched the public hanging of a Swiss servant in 1840, and wrote a series of letters to the national press abhorring executions, which were in those days public affairs watched by thousands of bystanders. Looking at the gaping crowd, Dickens saw nothing human: "No sorrow, no salutary terror, no abhorrence. ... It was so loathsome, pitiful, and vile a sight that the law appeared to be as bad as he, or worse."

It degrades us as a society to kill people as public policy, and this leads to a citizenry that devalues life itself. In a country where murder is commonplace, we should be doing everything we can to show our disgust at the taking of life.

And to take lives at public expense, as public policy, is nothing short of horrific.

Thank God that Pope Francis has finally acted, and firmly. Of course he speaks only to the 1.2 billion Catholics who look to him for guidance in Christian doctrine. But this is an important group, and it includes at least four members of the Supreme Court: Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. Should Brett Kavanaugh be appointed, that would make five Catholic justices.

Will these justices listen to Christian teaching, especially as it has now been articulated by the pontiff in Rome? Or will they side with those on the Christian right who have favored "an eye for an eye" justice, thus ignoring the teachings of Jesus and Paul?

I hope the time has come for the United States to join the modern world and abolish capital punishment once and for all. It's plain common sense as well as obvious Christian ethics and humanitarian sentiment.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 44°
Florence
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Fayetteville
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 43°
Scottsboro
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 50°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 232506

Reported Deaths: 3457
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson30318491
Mobile19260356
Tuscaloosa12446148
Madison12204146
Montgomery12000232
Shelby971276
Baldwin819984
Lee750464
Morgan610447
Calhoun5964113
Etowah585764
Marshall579453
Houston503338
DeKalb460835
Cullman409636
Limestone400844
St. Clair396055
Elmore391061
Lauderdale378353
Walker348096
Talladega334042
Colbert294341
Jackson290524
Blount275436
Autauga261739
Franklin243633
Coffee230315
Dale225454
Dallas219631
Russell21753
Chilton216137
Covington212333
Escambia194031
Tallapoosa168590
Chambers167548
Clarke154919
Pike154714
Marion133935
Winston122523
Lawrence121436
Geneva11678
Marengo116424
Barbour116010
Pickens114118
Bibb113617
Butler113341
Randolph99521
Cherokee98524
Hale91531
Washington89818
Clay88823
Henry8386
Fayette83116
Lowndes78529
Monroe76811
Cleburne74214
Crenshaw70030
Macon69420
Bullock68919
Conecuh66814
Perry6686
Wilcox62318
Lamar6227
Sumter55322
Choctaw41713
Greene39917
Coosa3064
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 340476

Reported Deaths: 4266
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby45436634
Davidson40436402
Knox17413137
Rutherford16668150
Hamilton15723135
Williamson1050373
Sumner9016134
Wilson692474
Out of TN668748
Montgomery614481
Sullivan594689
Putnam572279
Washington550298
Maury541957
Blount508055
Madison5064104
Bradley476833
Sevier458530
Unassigned416314
Robertson352550
Tipton345136
Hamblen328257
Dyer307149
Gibson297761
Greene281868
Anderson271525
Dickson264427
Coffee260841
Carter250951
Bedford250328
Obion250347
Lawrence249632
Cumberland240035
McMinn232255
Warren226517
Hardeman220337
Roane217723
Loudon216517
Jefferson212631
Fayette212137
Weakley205934
Lauderdale198721
Monroe197042
Franklin189631
Trousdale189012
Wayne179310
Hawkins178234
Henderson178030
Macon175727
Hardin170925
White166417
Marshall163117
Carroll162832
Haywood159129
Rhea155530
Cocke153928
Overton150034
Campbell146521
Cheatham146316
Lincoln144413
Henry141517
McNairy137232
Smith136919
Johnson136721
Giles134242
Fentress116219
Lake11445
Bledsoe11405
Crockett110925
Hickman109417
DeKalb108220
Marion103117
Chester97919
Scott9407
Grainger91314
Decatur91012
Unicoi77123
Claiborne7509
Benton74914
Grundy73414
Lewis70411
Cannon6962
Union6865
Jackson6579
Morgan6546
Humphreys6407
Polk62914
Houston56819
Stewart54614
Clay52418
Sequatchie4895
Meigs45912
Perry45520
Moore3652
Pickett36512
Van Buren3382
Hancock1453

Community Events