As DC Sniper's Execution Looms, Virginia Bishop Urges Mercy

I’m afraid I can’t agree with you. I’m also pro life, so I believe that no one can ever forfeit their right to live. Sometimes it seems that the only just punishment for some terrible crimes can only be the death penalty, but I believe this thinking represents the triumph of despair over hope which the Bishop in this case spoke about. Many of us will not lose sleep over the fact that John Muhammed has been put to death, but many who are actively involved in the process of putting people to death for the state do lose sleep and suffer tremendously for their participation in these actions. They often survive by blinding themselves to what they are doing and trying to forget that a human being is at the heart of this terrible process. The effects of the death penalty on society are similar. Like the effects of abortion on society, these rituals of death only serve to harden us and make us callous towards those who have seemingly forfeited their rights to life or to those we deem to be unfit for life. The death row inmate, the aborted fetus at an abortion mill or the handicapped patient in danger of losing his life support at the local hospital, though different and unequal in so many ways, are at least similar in that each one has a life that someone has decided is not valuable. No one has the right to decide that a life is not valuable except the God of life.

One thing people need to keep in mind is that if he had been sentenced to life in prison, he would have been put in general population. This is basically “criminal college” and no telling how many other people he would have passed his murderous criminal knowledge on to.

The man who killed the news reporter in Arkansas, hit her so hard her lower jaw was shoved into the back of her head cutting off the blood flow to her brain. The effect was not an immediate death, and therefore she possibly felt the multiple blows afterwards.

He got life in prison, and it will cost the taxpayer a good amount of money for him to eat and get medical care for the rest of his life in prison.

In my opinion this monster has forfeit his right to live by the actions of his crime. Murder is murder, but a brutal rape and beating before the murder makes it even worse.

And where does mercy come into play? Does it have a place in our personal dealings? If so, why not our collective (e.g. governmental) dealings?

John Mohammed was shown mercy. His knew the date of his death, he was able to plan for it, and it was quick and painless. That is all a government has to do to fulfill mercy for a hardened criminal with enough intelligence and upbringing to know right from wrong.

Maybe he would have passed his knowledge of death on to others and maybe he wouldn’t have. Maybe he would have acknowledged the depth of his sin and repented. The point is you are speculating about what he might have done. It seems unjust that he should be sent to his death or not be given the opportunity to repent based upon what he might have done. Again, this sentiment echoes the Bishop’s point that the death penalty is the triumph of despair against hope.

I agree that there are brutal crimes that make it difficult for us to look beyond any remedy for the crime other than the forfeiture of the criminal’s life. Nevertheless, I believe our faith calls us to move beyond this callous arithmetic to find a point where judgement can be made without invalidating human life and that person’s potential for redemption. You may indeed believe that someone may forfeit his right to live through his actions and that he is a monster, but our Lord has taught us otherwise. We are called to temper our justice with mercy in imitation of the Lord who tempers his own justice with mercy. An Execution merely imitates the criminal and makes his disregard for human life our own legacy.

John Mohammed was given a fair trial and, absent of Christian faith, his sentence certainly fits the crime, but he was not shown mercy, at least not the level of mercy our faith calls upon us to deliver. Allowing a condemned person to know the date of his death is something less than mercy, in my opinion. And actually, some nations, including Japan, do not allow the condemned person even that. The State of Virginia did do all that was required of it in conducting Mohammed’s trial and it is not obligated to show mercy. But Christians are actually called to live the values they proclaim and to permeate society with them. We cannot accept the bare minimum of kindness (or is it cruelty?) in letting the condemned person know his death date as fulfilling our responsibility as Christians, and we should be appalled if this is all the State of Virginia feels is necessary in fulfilling its role in capital punishiment cases. Civilization should hold itself to higher standards than that.

How many people are you willing to let die if you are wrong?

While I respect the Bishop’s opinion, it is just that: his personal opinion.

*[size=2]“When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death[/size] it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.”*[size=2] (Pius XII)


Like the effects of abortion on society, these rituals of death only serve to harden us and make us callous towards those who have seemingly forfeited their rights to life or to those we deem to be unfit for life.

We have lost sight of the enormity of homicide.

*Of these remedies {for the disease of murder} the most efficacious is to form a just conception of the wickedness of murder. The enormity of this sin is manifest from many and weighty passages of Holy Scripture. So much does God abominate homicide that He declares in Holy Writ that of the very beast of the field He will exact vengeance for the life of man, commanding the beast that injures man to be put to death. And if (the Almighty) commanded man to have a horror of blood,’ He did so for no other reason than to impress on his mind the obligation of entirely refraining, both in act and desire, from the enormity of homicide. *(Catechism of Trent)

No one has the right to decide that a life is not valuable except the God of life.

[FONT=&quot][FONT=Arial]Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. [/FONT][/FONT](Catechism of Trent)



So, a person who has some venial sins is just as guilty as a person who creates terror for an entire region and murders many people? Really?

Was God imitating criminals when He mandated the death penalty in the OT? Was God wrong? Was God somehow immoral?

Della, I agree with your last statement, but the bolded comment is wrong, in my opinion. It has nothing to do with justice for the victim, but it has everything to do with removing certain types of criminals from the human society.

Genesis 9:6, Genesis 9:6, and once again Genesis 9:6


This is a very good question. First we need to recognize the very great differences between the rights and duties of the individual and those of the State. The individual, for example, is forbidden to punish the guilty while the State is obligated to do so, so the fact that the individual is expected to show mercy does not automatically mean that the State has this obligation as well.

Regarding mercy in general, would you agree that the merciful punishment and the just punishment are different? I mean, if a person gets what he deserves (the just punishment) we really can’t say he received merciful treatment. Doesn’t mercy mean that the just punishment was commuted in some way? If you accept this, however, and you claim that life in prison is the merciful punishment, doesn’t that mean that execution would have to be the just punishment?


I’m glad that you prefaced you statement with an ‘If’. All I need to show that is that your qualifing condition “one has a right to another’s life” is false, and we can see that your conclusion would be false.

Here is Pope Pius XII in 1958

Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.

This shows that your premise is false, no man has a right to another’s life, but rather the condemnded, by their own actions, has given up their right to life in expiation of the crime.

So the Death Penalty, in the case of Capital crimes, serves to expiate the sin, to remove it’s temporal effects.

BTW, this also proves that the Death Penalty is not a “Right to Life” issue in the eyes of the Church.

Well we can look to God as an example of the correct applicaiton of Mercy.

He grants Mercy to those who repent of their sin prior to Judgement. Justice is then given instead to those who do not repent.

That is the Judgement we will be given and therefore the Judgement that should be rendered unto others.

Why should a cold blood murderer, especially one that has raped and brutally beaten an innocent woman or child receive the same judgement on earth as I would in heaven. Please explain that.

Because, not only do I not have a problem with the death penalty in such a case, but I would not have a problem carrying it out. You just tell me what he did, show me the facts and I’ll make sure the punishment fit the crime.

Things like murder and rape must be punished fittingly, if a criminal knows that he will face a brutal punishment before he commits the crime…he may not commit it.

No, Bishop this is justice. This is the best that the state is capable of.

The man was granted mercy. He had many years to reflect on his life and get ready to die.

Of course, the same question could be asked of you. How many people are you willing to let die if you are wrong? But then, I suppose it’s possible to argue that the lives of convicted criminals are worth less than the lives of others, and though this may be a popular point of view, it is not a Christian point of view and certainly not in line with the command of the Lord to love others as he has loved us.

I doubt the Bishop is the only Bishop to hold this opinion, but I’ll grant you that it may be a personal opinion. That does not invalidate the opinion.

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