I have read that baptism removes one of all temporal punishment in the past.
So let’s say we have a murderer who has just committed his crime. Confronted with his grievous sin, he repents, embraces Christ and is baptised.
This baptism removes him of all temporal punishment.
He is arrested thereafter, and given a life imprisonment.
Now, my question is, does he deserve this life imprisonment? I’m not asking whether or not the authorities should or should not give him the punishment, for I think common sense would dictate it is best for society etc.
However, in the eyes of God, does the man deserve that temporal punishment, or is He spotless?
Make no mistake: we are speaking in terms of purely spiritual punishment, namely the “punishment” deserved by the immortal soul due to their sin against God, to their disobedience against Divine Law.
This has nothing to do with the physical punishment deserved by the mortal human being due to their offense against men and to their disobedience against human law.
Yes, the Sacrament of Baptism remits ex opere operato all temporal punishment, which is to say, he is indeed now spotless in the eyes of God the Father by having been united for the very first time to God the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. If this man were to die at that moment, he would neither enter the eternal prison of Hell, nor the temporary prison of Purgatory. Thus, his deserved imprisonment as man is deserved inasmuch as it fulfills human justice (as the Lord said to the Baptist, “it is proper to fulfill all righteousness”) but is “undeserved” from the purely spiritual standpoint - the Lord forgives by remitting the punishment.
An example of this in human law would be the Executive Clemency function of the Governor of a given State, described as “an act of mercy that absolves an individual from all or any part of the punishment that the law imposes…a power to grant full or conditional pardons, or commute punishment”.
Even from the standpoint of human justice, this leads to understanding the ultimate reason for the existence of prisons. Some would argue prisons don’t exist for the sake of keeping prisoners locked away, to “inflict punishment for the sake of punishment”, but rather, to protect society from a certain behavior and to assist in the moving away from that behavior towards an acceptable one. This is a reflection of the state of Purgatory, where souls are not kept away from the Beatific Vision for the sake of punishing their sins, but rather, because nothing unholy can enter heaven and because they need to be purified to become holy. It could thus be argued that a man experiencing this kind of conversion may be immediately fit to return to society, but which governor or president would be willing to acknowledge this?
Yet, we cannot forget an important, essential aspect of our mystical incorporation into Christ: the value of redemptive, sacrifical suffering.
In the scenario you prospect, namely a man who committed a very grave crime and a very grave sin against God and yet by His grace repented and was led unto justification, then this man is in the perfect position to become an image of Christ, by willingly bear this human sentence rightfully deserved, offering all sufferings not for his own soul, but rather, for the sake of all those who have not repented, especially those who are his companions of prisony. Christ, too, descended to the prison of the dead after experiencing His own death on the Cross - He did not descend to the prison for His own sake, but for the sake of the prisoners, that they too may see the Light and be freed. Thus it is written: “He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
In God’s eyes the matter of the temporal punishment is of no consequence - and neither should it be to the one imprisoned.
The issue that would impact the man’s soul would be how he reacts to the punishment. If he is truly repentant, he will accept the punishment and see God as putting him here in order to show God’s mercy to this group of people.
If the person balks at the punishment - then he needs to consider carefully the quality of his repentance and conversion. He needs to take this to God in prayer so that he can learn God’s will for him in this situation. At the very least he should learn to see the benefit of his suffering and be able to offer it up for the benefit of others…