It seems to me that the late Pope John Paul II made a significant ethical mistake in Evangelium Vitae. As most Catholics are aware, the Catholic Church has always recognized the authority of the state to administer capital punishment.
In Evangelium Vitae, however, the late Pope John Paul II suggested that the circumstances that would warrent the death penalty are rare, if not non-existent.
Here is the problem. I have many relatives who work at correctional institutions. Based on their stories and studies done by various penal organizations, the general consensus is that it is impossible to guarantee the safety of the prison guards or the other prisoners. The instances where guards or prisoners are attacked and killed by other prisoners can be minimized, but it cannot be eliminated.
If the Catholic Church changes its position on the death penalty and says that society can no longer execute convicted felons, then the corollary of that position is that society must provide prison guards to watch these people and protect society from them. But since it is impossible to completely protect prison guards and other prisoners, this obligatory requirement that society guard murderers rather than execute them will inevitably mean that society is ordered to allow some innocent people (i.e., prison guards) to be placed in positions where they run the risk of being murdered. Moreover, Evangelium Vitae seems to assume that society can be adequately protected by prisons without any consideration of the fact that many prisoners have outside accomplices that they can influence or order to commit murders. I fail to see the justification for the use of the word “non-existent” in Evangelium Vitae, and I noticed that the encyclical provided no support for that statement.
This position seems highly unethical to me. If a convicted murderer commits or causes another murder while in prison, it seems to me that the murderer should be put to death. An ethical position that the murderer should be preserved and more innocent people should be put at risk seems like no ethic at all.
Was Evangelium Vitae poorly written, poorly thought out, or am I missing something? What are your thoughts?