Death Penalty and where it gets weird

For me I find it strange that most of evangelical America supports the Death Penalty which is based on Old Testament law. But if anyone really dug into the subject, they would come to another conclusion. From what I read, it is the Law which defined the Old Testament tribes of Israel. If one lived by the Law they were considered a sacred member of the community. If they committed the act of murder, the criminal would be judged by the law, and if condemned, would also be separated from the sacred community and executed. The Law was the binding connection to the convenient.
The problem with executing felons in the New Testament is in regards to The Lords infinite mercy and Baptismal promise. Anyone on Death Row that converts to Christianity has become a new creation. Meaning Jesus Christ is living inside this condemned person. Born Again with full sacramental grace:
The Christian justified by Baptism is a different creation than the Israelite who is justified by the Law.
So when you’re strapping the newly converted felon on to the gurney you’re also strapping in the new creation justified by baptismal promise… And I really feel this is creating a lot of judgement for the country. Execution and wrongful death has a huge part of the Gospels. The Lord is not saying someone is not deserving of punishment. He is saying that no human being has the right to take another man or woman’s life. Meaning someone has to commit murder in order to carry out the sentence. And in the judicial process, it is considered that it’s the People who are passing sentence. It is interesting to note that as Pilot washed his hands, also it will be the Governor who is washing his hands, declaring that it is the people who are handing out the death sentence. I believe that any one declaring themselves to be Christian and supports the Death Penalty needs a course in theology. He, who is without sin among you, can throw the first stone.

God Bless us all

[quote=djmason;11681234The Lord is not saying someone is not deserving of punishment. He is saying that no human being has the right to take another man or woman’s life. Meaning someone has to commit murder in order to carry out the sentence.
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In fact, Jesus never said that. The Church has always understood that individuals and the state do have the right to use force in some circumstances.

It is charitable that you have interest in murderers and their fate. Do you have concern for the victims of murderers?
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The law for execution was based that Israel was a nomadic tribe… Meaning they did not have a mobile prison. So the individual who was a danger to others had to be killed to protect others. The stoning of the adulteress: in the book of John chapter 8 Jesus had stopped a capital punishment in progress. According to the Law the woman was to be put to death but Jesus thought otherwise by condemning those who were ready to carry out the sentence. He was commenting that those who were going to do the killing were not worthy to deliver such a punishment. This scripture is implying that only God should do the killing because God is without sin. What else could this passage mean?

I don’t think the victims nor the executioners need more blood on their hands

I think you’ll find that your perception of capital punishment isn’t going to align well with what the church teaches, starting with this: support for the death penalty is not based on OT law, it is based on God’s covenant with Noah (Gn 9:6).

The problem with executing felons in the New Testament is in regards to The Lords infinite mercy and Baptismal promise.

What the NT actually says seems to be a bit different:
In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. … At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment. In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die” (Cardinal Dulles)

Anyone on Death Row that converts to Christianity has become a new creation. Meaning Jesus Christ is living inside this condemned person. Born Again with full sacramental grace:

Even if you make the case that someone who converts and repents should not be executed you still have to deal with the case of those who do not.

The Lord is not saying someone is not deserving of punishment. He is saying that no human being has the right to take another man or woman’s life.

Not at all, in fact the church has for two millennia recognized that the state does have that right.And for this purpose God hath given the sword into the hands of Princes and Rulers to do justice, in defending the good, and chastising the bad. And so, when by public authority a malefactor is put to death, it is not called murder, but an act of justice: and whereas the commandment of God saith: Thou shalt not kill, it is understood, by thy private authority. (Catechism of Cardinal Bellarmine - Approved by Clement XIII)

Meaning someone has to commit murder in order to carry out the sentence.

Again, not so (see above).

And in the judicial process, it is considered that it’s the People who are passing sentence.

No, it is the magistrate alone who has the authority to judge and to punish.*It must be remembered that power was granted by God [to the magistrates], and to avenge crime by the sword was permitted. He who carries out this vengeance is God’s minister *(Pope St. Innocent I)

I believe that any one declaring themselves to be Christian and supports the Death Penalty needs a course in theology.

*One of the chief **heretical *tenets of the Anabaptists and of the Trinitarians of the present day is, that it is not lawful for Christians to exercise magisterial power, nor should body-guards, tribunals, judgments, the right of capital punishment, etc., be maintained among Christians.

*It is the nearly unanimous opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church that the death penalty is morally licit *(Prof Steven A. Long, Univ St Thomas)
You should at least consider the possibility that your understanding of capital punishment is not as well informed as you believe it to be.

Ender

I’m not convinced that the executioner is void of the accountability of killing a person. And I certainly would not want to be the one who was in the duty of killing someone if my only security from judgement was in all the information you just provided. I have no faith that some human authority or Religious for that matter can give you a pass on this. You’re reciting from institutional dogmas as they were made in perfection… In the 2 millenniums of history, these same institutions have killed millions in inquisitions, witch burnings, not to mention a huge capacity for executing anyone who simply disagreed. And of course all this bad behavior was predicated on the belief that they had the divine right to do so. I don’t think it worked out well for these people.
And flip it around: what if the person was innocent. Now it’s not an execution; accordingly, it would be manslaughter or even murder, if there was a probability that the person was innocent and this issue was ignored. Innocent blood is a huge curse in the Bible, so who would be accountable?
Is it not rational that the story of the adulteress and the Lord’s intercession has some significant purpose on the subject of capital punishment? If not, what is the point of the story being there? Do we really need all the contradictions to find a loophole in this?

It is also in the New Testament

Romans 13:3-4

Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer.

This has been the constant teaching of the church for 2000 years. The point is not that I can find a few random comments saying this but that I can find dozens of them from popes, doctors and fathers of the church, and all of her catechisms at least through 1992.

I have no faith that some human authority or Religious for that matter can give you a pass on this. You’re reciting from institutional dogmas as they were made in perfection… In the 2 millenniums of history, these same institutions have killed millions in inquisitions, witch burnings, not to mention a huge capacity for executing anyone who simply disagreed.

It is reasonable for a non-Catholic to doubt Catholic doctrines but it surely seems that Catholics ought to accept them.

And of course all this bad behavior was predicated on the belief that they had the divine right to do so.

That the state has the God-given right to employ capital punishment does not mean that the right cannot be misused. Pilate had that right and rather significantly misused it.

And flip it around: what if the person was innocent. Now it’s not an execution; accordingly, it would be manslaughter or even murder, if there was a probability that the person was innocent and this issue was ignored.

If an innocent man was knowingly executed or a rush to judgment was made without proper investigation that would be a crime but that’s not really what we’re discussing.

Innocent blood is a huge curse in the Bible, so who would be accountable?

At least distinguish between crimes and mistakes. If a crime is committed then someone should be held legally responsible, but an honest mistake, even if it has disastrous consequences, is not a crime.On the contrary, Augustine says to Publicola (Ep. xlvii): “When we do a thing for a good and lawful purpose, if thereby we unintentionally cause harm to anyone, it should by no means be imputed to us.” Now it sometimes happens by chance that a person is killed as a result of something done for a good purpose. Therefore the person who did it is not accounted guilty. (Aquinas ST II-II 64,8)

Is it not rational that the story of the adulteress and the Lord’s intercession has some significant purpose on the subject of capital punishment?

If the church does not refer to that story as the basis of her position on capital punishment then neither I think should we. The passages she does refer to are Gn 9:6 and Rm 13:4. The first lays out the penalty for murder and the second explains why the state has the (divine) right to apply it.

Do we really need all the contradictions to find a loophole in this?

I think our biggest difference is the way we view capital punishment. You see it as an unfortunate loophole in the law while I see it as the fulfillment of justice according to the law. If you start with the presumption that all killing is absolutely forbidden then capital punishment would of course seem abominable, but the church has never forbidden all killing because life alone is not the highest value.

Ender

Life alone is the highest value according to the Church.

CCC2260 The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.

Due to the gravity of the subject, I feel it is necessary to respond in reply to Ender’s discourse. Maybe someone observing the forums is actually engaged in executing felons for the state and is having mixed feelings about their employment. So this discussion is important because your opinions are going to need enough merit be able to justify this person’s vocation without fear of consequences. I caution the reader, regarding all the citations and past Pontifical statements that have been contributed to this discussion, that the Church’s historical opinion on this subject is not infallible; this of course is due to the concupiscence of all men. It’s only in regard to Faith and Morals that the Church considers its views as infallible. I disagree that the Gospel of John on the Stoning of the Adulteress is interpretive. The Gospels are the summit of sacred scripture; they are not secondary to the Epistles, the Old Testament, and certainly not secondary to Pontifical opinions of the past.
But for the sake of argument, the Church has been governed by man and some of these men were notorious in killing innocent people. Over 30,000 being burnt alive at the stake in front of the community, over 150,000 recorded deaths alone for the Spanish Inquisition, and some of these religious authority figures that were in on this, have contributed to your opinion. The past is full of murder and cruelty in the name of God. Henry the 8th murdered almost a million Catholics in his self proclaimed role as Vicar of Christ. Not a Pope, nor a Theology professor, can advocate assurance on this issue because they are just human beings; and neither can you.
My mind is on the person who is starting to lethally inject poison into someone standing in a room full of people who want to see this person killed and is having second thoughts about why he’s there. If anyone is really going to defend capital punishment then there’s probably work out there for you. But there is no guarantee for absolution for being an executioner on behalf of the state. It is also a secular opinion that a humble mistake of killing an innocent person is without consequence. Also, I’m not quite sure of your sources regarding what Catechism you are referring to. Seeing that this is a Catholic Forum, according to Rome, Capital punishment is only justified when the felon is in direct danger to the community, such as the nomadic tribes of Israel who did not have a mobile penitentiary during their exodus. That’s not much of an issue in a Super Max facility.

“'Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Numbers 35:33)

That does not sound like God saying the death penalty for protection, that sounds like God that murderers ought to be executed because they deserve to die.

The stoning of the adulteress: in the book of John chapter 8 Jesus had stopped a capital punishment in progress. According to the Law the woman was to be put to death but Jesus thought otherwise by condemning those who were ready to carry out the sentence. He was commenting that those who were going to do the killing were not worthy to deliver such a punishment. This scripture is implying that only God should do the killing because God is without sin. What else could this passage mean?

“Vengeance is Mine,” God said, but He subcontracts. :wink:

If that was true then there would be no exceptions to the 5th commandment against killing, but in fact the church has always recognized three exceptions: war, capital punishment, and self defense. Beyond that, if mere existence was the highest value then the church would be hard pressed to explain the recognition and acclaim she gives to martyrs.

CCC2260 The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.

The teaching referred to here is not simply the explanation of what the term “blood” meant in the Old Testament. That simple statement of fact would hardly merit a comment, let alone a solemn statement that it remained “necessary for all time.” The teaching being referred to was the scripture citation immediately preceding it, viz. Gn 9:6. Given that this is part of the Noahic covenant, which will remain in effect for all time, it should be clear which teaching is being referred to.

Ender

Since we are discussing the morality of capital punishment it clearly falls within the purview of the church. Even with regard to faith and morals, however, the church does not consider every doctrine to be infallible, but the issue here is not about infallibility but about what the church teaches. It may be reasonable for a non-Catholic to ignore church teaching on the subject but a Catholic should consider himself reasonably safe in accepting church teaching.

I disagree that the Gospel of John on the Stoning of the Adulteress is interpretive.

Pretty much everything has to be understood in its context and this passage is no exception. You have your understanding of what it means and the church has a different one.

But for the sake of argument, the Church has been governed by man and some of these men were notorious in killing innocent people.

I am surprised you consider yourself a Catholic since it appears you reject what the church claims about herself: “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Dei Verbum #10)

Over 30,000 being burnt alive at the stake in front of the community, over 150,000 recorded deaths alone for the Spanish Inquisition, and some of these religious authority figures that were in on this, have contributed to your opinion.

There is no truth whatever in those figures. The actual number of executions from 500 years of Inquisitions (Medieval plus Spanish) was about 6,000.
answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100803202319AArykaj

But there is no guarantee for absolution for being an executioner on behalf of the state.

That are no guarantees that the church is right about anything at all. Still, if a person is Catholic he should feel pretty confident that following church doctrine won’t get him into trouble.

Seeing that this is a Catholic Forum, according to Rome, Capital punishment is only justified when the felon is in direct danger to the community…

Not exactly. Capital punishment is justified when it is the appropriate punishment for the crime and when it won’t lead to further problems. The new catechism asserts the belief that it causes more problems that it solves and therefore should not be used. There is no question that it is the just punishment for (at least) the crime of murder.

Ender

The way the Church defines just war, capital punishment and self defense are as legitimate defense. They are not direct, intentional killing, but a consequence of defending the life of others or oneself.

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others… the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

[quote]CCC2260 The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life. This teaching remains necessary for all time.

The teaching referred to here is not simply the explanation of what the term “blood” meant in the Old Testament. That simple statement of fact would hardly merit a comment, let alone a solemn statement that it remained “necessary for all time.” The teaching being referred to was the scripture citation immediately preceding it, viz. Gn 9:6. Given that this is part of the Noahic covenant, which will remain in effect for all time, it should be clear which teaching is being referred to.

Ender
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The whole of Chapter 9 of Genesis gives the context that throws light on what is important. You see it as definitively instituting the death penalty as the default punishment for murder for all time. I see it as establishing the important symbolism of life blood and the sacredness of mans life by virtue of that lifeblood coursing through him. Look at how that part begins with 9:4

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. “

That speaks in no way to the topic of punishment. It isn’t wrong to kill animals as food. But while the lifeblood is still in it, its life must be respected. This is a direct spotlight on the significance of lifeblood.

Next in 9:5 God tells Noah that He demands accounting for human lifeblood.

“And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. “

This isn’t just about the morality of killing as God needs accounting from soulless animals as well, who have no moral culpability and are not subject to punishment as we know it. Here God is establishing the inviolable nature of the human being.

“And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.”

All deaths of humans at the hands of humans has to be accounted for. By the Covenant that God had directly with Noah, Noah is ordained and accountable in his capacity. The Covenant we have with God is through Jesus and we are to be accountable to God through loving our neighbour as ourselves. Our accounting is demanded in this way, through the teachings of Jesus. In our day, unlike the day of Noah, no one comes to the Father except through Jesus.

So in the words that precede Gen 9:6, we have the context for the teaching and that is very much to do with the sacredness of human life. That is the main goal and principle to be honoured here. You might say why would there need to be such emphasis on the lifeblood… well behold the shedding of that sacred sign of life in abortion, euthanasia and suicide as being perfectly acceptable and not abhorrent at all. We are inculturated with a complete lack of respect for the simplest and earliest and most final sign of life. Life blood. As a simple principle, it easily makes all practices that end life, massive tragedies. Yet we value other things… cognisance or ability as the highest good. All killing of a person should be offensive to our human sensibilities. Even capital punishment and if it is not accounted for by way of being a defense of the sacredness of human life…then it should be easily recognised as morally illegitimate.

So I’m off on my statistics a little. I found this on the internet regarding religious execution and I remind the reader that this is not juried either for accuracy. I did read many forums conveying that records have been lost.

answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060903192705AAZ0Dnd

And if anyone can find a sample of a prison sentence in the book of the law please connect to this thread. Also in regard to the Inquisition, all religious could not participate in any act of torture that drew blood or execution, but would delegate this to the civil authorities. So it’s obvious from this scenario that there was caution from a spiritual point of view, which demonstrates that, technically, a believing Catholic was not allowed to execute a death sentence. And this is when the church was killing a lot of people. Then we have the story of Moses not being able to enter the Promised Land due to having blood on his hands regardless of his being God’s personal friend. The job of executioner is in dicey territory historically and in the present tense.

As a Catholic you cannot support capital punishment regardless of your personal opinion.
I challenge the reader to give a discourse on John Chapter 8 regarding the Lord’s stopping the (justified by the law) execution of the woman who committed adultery. According to our faith Jesus is the head of the body, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and felt this story to be important enough to be in the Gospels. I want to make this clear that I am not on the side of the guilty felon, I just think it’s dangerous if you just happen to execute people for a living and are feeling that something is wrong… well maybe there is.

Personally I feel spending the rest of your life in a cell would be more of a hell than having someone kill you. But at least no one had to cross an ethical line to put the prisoner in that cell.
For me be it’s about protecting innocent people that don’t have blood on their hands and to keep it that way.

“Seeing that this is a Catholic Forum, according to Rome, Capital punishment is only justified when the felon is in direct danger to the community, such as the nomadic tribes of Israel who did not have a mobile penitentiary during their exodus. That’s not much of an issue in a Super Max facility.”

Your argument isn’t internally consistent. On the one hand you are claiming that the Church does view capital punishment as just in some circumstances; and on the other you are claiming that no Catholic can support capital punishment.

I think that seeming inconsistency can be understood in Thomas Aquinas’ analogy of amputating an infected limb for the sake of the health of the whole body to explain the application of the death penalty.

Amputation seemed like a general rule in a time prior to modern medicine and surgery, but whilst amputation continues to be a last resort measure where modern medicine isn’t capable of containing infection, it is cruel and unnecessary to amputate on principle, when we have the capacity of saving limbs and retaining bodily wholeness.

That is a very good analogy.

If you give even the slightest thought to what war actually entails you would realize that the killing is both very direct and very intentional, which is still beside the point: if life itself was the highest good then killing would not be allowed under any circumstance. Since the church recognizes exceptions when killing is allowed it can only be to achieve some even greater good.

The whole of Chapter 9 of Genesis gives the context that throws light on what is important. You see it as definitively instituting the death penalty as the default punishment for murder for all time.

Not exactly. I’ve explained that this is how the church sees it. It isn’t my opinion, it is hers.

I see it as establishing the important symbolism of life blood and the sacredness of mans life by virtue of that lifeblood coursing through him.

We know man’s life is sacred because of Gn 9:6. That is the passage the church refers to whenever she wants to make that point.The Creator himself has written the law of respect for life on the human heart: “If anyone sheds the blood of a man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has he made man”, is said in Genesis (9,6). (JPII)

All deaths of humans at the hands of humans has to be accounted for. By the Covenant that God had directly with Noah, Noah is ordained and accountable in his capacity. The Covenant we have with God is through Jesus and we are to be accountable to God through loving our neighbour as ourselves. Our accounting is demanded in this way, through the teachings of Jesus. In our day, unlike the day of Noah, no one comes to the Father except through Jesus.

The covenant with Noah remains in effect until the end of time. Even as you admit that Noah had the right and the responsibility to adhere to his covenant with God, it is clear that this right and responsibility lies with us as well.
The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel. (CCC 58)
Ender

The clergy was banned from executing a death sentence; the laity was not.18. Clerics to dissociate from shedding-blood*
No cleric may decree or pronounce a sentence involving the shedding of blood, or carry out a punishment involving the same, or be present when such punishment is carried out. … A cleric may not write or dictate letters which require punishments involving the shedding of blood, in the courts of princes this responsibility should be entrusted to laymen and not to clerics. *(4th Lateran Council, 1215)

The job of executioner is in dicey territory historically and in the present tense.

Not so much, apparently.*What is more hideous than a hangman? What is more cruel and ferocious than his character? And yet he holds a necessary post in the very midst of laws, and he is incorporated into the order of a well-regulated state; himself criminal in character, he is nevertheless, by others’ arrangement, the penalty of evildoers. *(Augustine, On Order 2.4.12)

As a Catholic you cannot support capital punishment regardless of your personal opinion.

Sure you can.*“There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty” *(Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004)

I challenge the reader to give a discourse on John Chapter 8 regarding the Lord’s stopping the (justified by the law) execution of the woman who committed adultery.

There is a lot going on here but none of it has to do with capital punishment.2. Much agitated has ever been the question, and very famous this acquittal of that woman who in the Gospel according to John was brought to Christ accused of adultery. The stratagem which the equivocating Jews devised was this, that in case of the Lord Jesus acquitting her contrary to the Law, His sentence might be convicted of being at variance with the Law, but if she were to be condemned according to the Law, the Grace of Christ might seem to be made void.

  1. The Lord answered her, Neither do I condemn thee. Observe how He has modified His own sentence; that the Jews might have no ground of allegation against Him for the absolution of the woman, but by complaining only draw down a charge upon themselves; for the woman is dismissed not absolved; and this because there was no accuser, not because her innocence was established.**

  2. Then He said to her who had gone astray, Go, *and sin no more.*He reformed the criminal, He did not absolve the sin. Faults are condemned by a severer sentence, whenever a man hates his own sin, and begins the condemnation of it in himself. When the criminal is put to death, it is the person rather than the trangression which is punished, but when the transgression is forsaken, the absolution of the person becomes the punishment of the sin. **What is the meaning then of, Go, and sin no more? It is this; Since Christ hath redeemed thee, suffer thyself to be corrected by Grace; punishment would not reform but only afflict thee. (St. Ambrose, Letters #XXVI)
    Ender

The problem with the analogy is that justice does not change with time or place. Modern advancements in science - or penal capabilities - do not alter the nature of punishment or what punishments are just.

What makes a punishment just is whether it is commensurate with the severity of the crime, neither more nor less than what is deserved. Since the nature of the crime does not change over the centuries neither does the extent of the just punishment. If death was a just punishment for the crime of murder in the past it is equally just today. If it is unjust today then it must have been unjust in the past.

Ender

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