An article I wrote for my high school newspaper a few years ago responding to a student published piece advocating capital punishment. The hypocrisy of a Catholic high school endorsing the death penalty while the church they belonged to condemned it bothered me so, and since the newspaper published the pro-capital punishment article and not mine it was apparent that this was the case.
“An Incontrovertible Reality”: a response to “A Controversial Topic”
“If the man who murdered my grandmother was executed, it wouldn’t bring justice for her murder, nor would it bring her back.”. These are the words of Joanne Lynch, whose grandmother, Marion Carr, was murdered in Philadelphia in 1980.
Jesus, an innocent victim of institutional capital punishment, openly and profusely opposed the justification of human beings having the right to take each others lives. Jesus clearly stated this in the Gospel of Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”.
Being politically right-wing and a genuine Christian is a paradox, because there is a contradiction between the morally conservative support of capital punishment and the teachings of Christianity. The quintessential example of this is when Jesus defends a woman condemned to death by proclaiming in Gospel of John 8:7“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to [execute] throw a stone at her.”
Capital punishment is a social injustice because it puts society on the level of the criminal(a more percipient version of the banality “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”). A cliché argument is that capital punishment is necessary as a deterrent, but it is psychologically absurd to assume a criminal would take into account the death penalty as a consequence of their actions.
Even if the deterrent argument was valid it would not justify the horrifying reality of when the judicial system is at fault in the prosecution of a person and the accused face the consequence of innocently being put to death. In 1985 a Texan minor named Ruben Cantu was put on trial for murder and sentenced to death without any physical evidence supporting the case. After his execution by lethal injection in 1993, it was found out that even the circumstantial evidence of the prosecution was false and the lone witness of the murder lied. A friend stated “Texas murdered an innocent person”(Houston Chronicle).
The argument that lethal injection is painless, which therefore makes it not in violation of the right against cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment, is only a one-dimensional view of the words. Such an argument only attempts to nullify the physical cruelty of lethal injection, which is a preposterous assumption because no one has ever lived to tell how it felt. The “painless” argument is wrong because there is a cornucopia of unusual emotional cruelties inflicted upon not only the person being put to death, but on their friends and family also.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (p.605) states that “…executing a person is only necessary if there is absolutely no way to make sure the offender could do any more harm, the cases of which(because of modern imprisonment technology), “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”(Pope John Paul II, 1995).
The misguided notion that capital punishment saves money for taxpayers is wrong because according to a Californian death-penalty commission, “Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.”(Death Penalty Information Center) The commission found that the alternative of life in prison without parole was substantially cheaper mostly because of less court costs. “The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year.”(Death Penalty Information Center)
With these arguments, and compassion for all human life, a complex issue such as capital punishment can be simplified into four words. “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. The Fifth Commandment is so simple, yet the issue of capital punishment is deemed controversial by so-called Christians who cannot understand four words given to them by their own God.
The Holy Bible John 8:7 Matthew 5:38
Catechism of the Catholic Church (pg. 605)
Priests For Life Organization
Death Penalty Information Center