What Would Jesus Do On the Death Penalty?




I always find questions that begin “What Would Jesus Do?” rather obnoxious for two reasons.  First, because they are usually posed by people absolutely certain that Jesus follows their views in lockstep, and second, because Christ of course is God and the mind of the All-Mighty is unknowable to us.  As Lincoln put it so well in his Second Inaugural:

Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

So questions that begin “What Would Jesus Do”?, strike me as presumptuous at best and blasphemous at worst.

Johnathan Merritt at The Atlantic seems very confident as to the position of Jesus on the death penalty.  He would be against it:


Many forget that Jesus once served as a one-man jury on a death-penalty case. In a famous New Testament story, an adulterous woman was dragged to Jesus’ feet. The woman was guilty of a capital offense and had been caught in the act by at least one witness. The law mandated her death but Jesus prescribed a different response: “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” He was teaching that only a perfect being—only God—should have power over death and life.

Go here to read the rest.  Of course this ignores the fact that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity and God had absolutely no problem, according to the Old Testament, mandating the death penalty for a whole host of offences.  Additionally, when Christ wished to prohibit something allowed in the Old Testament He had no difficulty saying so plainly:  Divorce is the prime example of this, but ritual purity laws also enter in.  If Christ were opposed to the death penalty and wished to use the woman caught in adultery as an example of this opposition, presumably He would have said as much.  One would also have thought that the Apostles would have mandated an anti-death penalty stance for the Church, which they did not.   Christ could very well have viewed this application of the death penalty as unjust based on His knowledge of the hearts and souls of the accused and her accusers, and not intended for it to convey an objection by Him to executions in general.

None of this of course is to claim that I know the mind of Christ on the death penalty.  I do not.  However those who glibly assert they do, also do not, and they should be called on it when they falsely claim that they do.

More to explorer


  1. Thank you for this post, Donald McClarey. Equal Justice would require that Stephanie Neiman’s murderer be raped, shot twice and buried alive. The murderer of the woman whose head was chopped 47 times, (but, according to the court, he did not intend her death!!!), that murderer’s head ought to be chopped 47 times. That is equal Justice and God will and does save the court.
    In my own case, an individual beat my daughter and almost broke her ribs, then demanded a date with her. When he came to the house, not knowing what else to do, I met him outside the door, raised my fist and came down as hard as I could. He would be dead if I had my way. A stream of warm light guided my arm and fist in a zigzag course. The man? Boy? Was struck in the very exact same place he had struck my daughter and with the same force. The story ought to end here, but he called and threatened to burn our house down with us in it, so my daughter went with him to protect us.
    His friends were in the habit of burning peoples’ houses down and they burnt his house down with his mother in it, before they were apprehended. There is actually more but that is in book form, not yet. No, his mother did not die. She went back for the cat and was found “melted” on her bed. Her son must care for her.
    God save this court. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else will be added. Invoke Divine Providence.
    Next is a baby rapist. Lobotomy, castration? This little Hitler needs to be raped until dead. Life in prison, breathing God’s good air, is not equal Justice.

  2. Non glibly, I can say that Christ reiterated the death penalty for murder that He gave as Son in Genesis 9:6
    and He reiterated it in Romans 13:4. Vatican II states that God authored all parts of both testaments in chapter 3:

    ” For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)”

    Notice last words….” and only those things which He wanted.”. Now read Romans 13:4: ” 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.”
    Christ wrote that according to Vatican II which no one actually reads.

  3. Jesus is not recorded in the Gospels as saying anything to stop the Romans from executing anyone. Maybe He did, maybe He did not, we don’t know.

    For many years the murderer of Philadelphia policeman Danny Faulkner sits on death row in the SCI Greene (Pennsylvania) less than an hour from my house. Mumia has waged a PR war against the death penalty and its opponents are always receiving more press than its proponents.

  4. Mumia declared himself a sovereign nation of one person and denied to Faulkner, a peace keeping officer, the same acknowledgement as a sovereign nation of one person. Mumia ought to have been tried under the articles of war and treason for making war against the United States of America.
    Equal Justice would require that Mumia be executed by four bullets to the head and back while lying in the street.

  5. Well, there is also the Catechism for Catholics. Now Saint Pope John Paul II insisted that the only moral justification for the death penalty is if a convicted murderer would be a further threat to society. Catholicism is neither liberal nor conservative. A good Catholic should be pissing off both ideological camps.

  6. “A good Catholic should be pissing off both ideological camps.”

    Why, since the Church says nothing about most political issues, and what it does say is often fairly vague and subject to interpretation, with some notable exceptions such as abortion which the Church has condemned since the time of the Crucifixion.

    This pox on both your houses pose is as tiresome as it is predictable from Catholics who pretend to have Catholicism give them their political marching orders, while what they are actually usually doing is cherry picking among statements by representatives of the Church.

    The death penalty is a fine example of this. Saint JPII was opposed to it which did not jibe with Church endorsement of the death penalty for almost the entire history of the Church.


    The Church did not come into existence in 1965, contrary to what many contemporary Catholics seem to believe, and the Church has usually left up to her sons and daughters their choice of positions on political issues since the Church has understood that, absent a very clear moral issue, or a threat directed at the Church by a political movement, it is not her role to make such choices for them.

    Cardinal Ratzinger clearly understood this back in 2004:

    “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”


  7. Robert L. Olsen,
    The problem with both St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict and their mutual catechism on the death penalty was that neither man felt bound to believe that God mandated violence in the Old Testament in the first Person imperative as the Bible states He did. Read Section 40 of Evangelium Vitae by the former and read Section 42 of Verbum Domini by Benedict. The Scriptures have God commanding both the massacres of the Canaanites and the death penalties of Leviticus inter alia. Neither of those men believed that and Fr. Raymond Brown who didn’t believe Mary really said the Magnificat served on the Pontifical Biblical Commission under both of them. The death penalty section of the catechism pictures an entire world of perfectly functioning life sentences. They did zero research. The two largest Catholic populations on earth are Brazil and Mexico….no death penalty and both have porous prisons and sky high murder rates …prisons which a Mexican Justice official said are 60% controlled by the cartels who in one case entered a prison and machined gunned rival gang members with the help of prison guards…here:


    There’s that modern penology at work…making death penalties rarely necessary.

  8. Every sinner deserves the death penalty, I more than most. I know what I have done and what I deserve. It is God’s mercy that He does not give us the Justice we so richly merit. So no, I do not know the mind of Christ when it comes to the death penalty, but He has every right to give it to me. Indeed in certain cases and instances He may even use the State to mete out His Justice. Romans 13:1-7 says so. Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Thank you Jesus.

  9. PS, I have to wonder whether or not the opposition liberal Christians have against the death penalty is because they believe that they themselves do not merit such punishment so they want the possibility of the same to disappear. Of course that is utter nonsense. We have all committed Deicide by our sins. We have all lashed Christ’s back with a whip, crowned His head with thorns, pierced his hands and feet with nails, and punctured his side with a spear.

    The cry of no death penalty is really the cry, “I don’t deserve to be executed.” Christ did not deserve this fate, but He received it in our stead.

  10. Bonchamps: “The death penalty: I’m for it. It is more merciful to execute a man than to keep him in a cage for life.”
    Ask the victim if he would rather have a jail cell for life or the coffin.
    Bill Bannon: “The problem with both St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict and their mutual catechism on the death penalty was that neither man felt bound to believe that God mandated violence in the Old Testament in the first Person imperative as the Bible states He did.”
    The purpose of capital punishment is to restore God’s sovereignty over life and death; sovereignty that the murderer has arrogated to himself…the murderer is not God. In their efforts to drive God from the public square, the devils are denying God’s sovereignty over life and death.
    Human sacrifice, as is abortion, is the chief form of worship of the demons and devils and the devil’s legions. God would have none of it and instructed the Israelites, His Chosen People to drive out the devil worshipers from the lands of Canaan, for God is Lord of the Land.
    The Chosen People were instructed in the Ten Commandments and were forbidden to kill innocent human beings. Any nation that sacrifices its constitutional posterity to Molech does not deserve ti live.

  11. “Fr. Raymond Brown (who) didn’t believe Mary really said the Magnificat ”
    Fr. Raymond Brown, not really believing that Mary said the Magnificat, ought to have said the Magnificat for Her.

  12. from the Stephanie Nieman post:
    “from First Things and Avery Cardinal Dulles. “both cruel and unnecessary” emasculates capital punishment. The victim is dead.
    Both St. John Paul II and Cardinal Dulles cannot live another person’s life for them, nor can they run surety for a capital one murderer and guarantee safety for society. Therefore, both St. John Paul II and Cardinal Dulles cannot remove the protection guaranteed by capital punishment.”

  13. WWJD Jesus is God. Life and death are His thing. He would be prudent. He would judge each individual case perfectly. He can read hearts. He would be perfectly just. The killing in the OT (the flood, Joshua for example was just). HIs ways are above our ways.
    What Do We Do? We rely or our judges (who may not be religious) and who use precedent and guidelines. Unlike WJWD,our judges (and juries) have often not been prudent, have not judged each individual case perfectly.
    We have to be careful about taking even a single innocent life; unjustly taking a life. Our hands are full of innocent blood. We cannot follow sin with more sin.
    We have killed many innocent people through crime, abortion, euthanasia and miscarried justice. To save a single life is to save the whole world.
    For prudence we need to protect society from any continuing threat from a murderer. If capital punishment is necessary to protect society, we can do that.
    I stand with JPII on this.
    Numbers 35:33-34 Deuteronomy 32:35 Romans 12:17-19

  14. Anzlyne,
    He also called the death penalty “cruel” in 1999 in St. Louis. Inconsistent much?
    He opposed the Gulf War which simply wanted to remove Iraq from Kuwait which it had invaded….kinda of a “let invaders suffer no consequences” philosophy. He warned of dire apocalyptic consequences if we opposed Hussein.
    I think he was a genius as to understanding salvation as possible to the enclosed non Christian cultures.
    I think on violence and criminals and frankly protecting youth from criminal priests….he was a disaster.

  15. Do some crimes deserve the death penalty? Absolutely. Is the death penalty inherently cruel and unusual punishment? No, I don’t think it is — not even if the process of execution involves some brief period of suffering, which in most cases will be far less than what the victim of the crime endured. If your state or country is going to have a death penalty, I see nothing wrong with using a firing squad, since it will probably be far easier to find competent marksmen than physicians, pharmacists or phlebotomists willing to take part in a lethal injection.

    The REAL question, to me, is whether use of the death penalty is morally prudent when it is no longer necessary to maintain public order. To borrow a phrase from the Gospels, if a government can’t be trusted to be faithful in “small” things like respect for the Bill of Rights and the rule of law, how can it be trusted in “greater” things such as deciding who is worthy, or not worthy, of death?

  16. Elaine,
    Maintaining public order and deterring murders are entirely different. A country with a 20+ per 100,000 murder rate like Mexico ( very high) seems to have public order if you are in Mexico City but not if you are in Juarez for two months or if your daughter is being taken from you to be trafficked in the small wilderness towns by cartels. Evangelium Vitae and the catechism never even address deterring murders by those who are not in prison…both only oddly address stopping the murderer you caught already by modern penology….read life sentences. Then neither document faces nuances like the fact that gangs in prison order murders on the outside via phone calls or letters using code words. The NY Times years ago estimated 300 murders ordered from prison on the streets of California over a decade period ( California has a death penalty that is useless due to an average 20 year appeals period ).
    If the US Supreme Court’s 1976 note (as it ended the execution moratorium) that executions deter not passion murders but do deter premeditated murders is correct, then the current defacto Catholic position of abolition will get murder victims killed for decades or centuries to come until a wise Pope uninterested in elite liberal cultural opinion reverses it. This lady ( link below) says each execution deters 3 to 18 future murders if a state does them more than rarely. Prorate that worldwide and our current position, where instrumental as in the Phillipines, is getting more people killed than we burned in the Inquisition centuries on purpose.


  17. I think on violence and criminals and frankly protecting youth from criminal priests….he was a disaster.

    He was not in a position to repair the personnel systems of the 3,000 dioceses in this world whose ordinaries report to him. The responsibility for the passing of the trash so common in the Anglosphere between 1981 and 1993 (and to a degree before and after) lies with the diocesan bishops. The bulk of the trouble those problem priests caused they caused before John Paul ever sat on the Chair of Peter. Nor can you fault the bishops who ordained them for the most part, because the trouble was not brought to the attention of the chancery until decades later.

  18. It is a vast oversimplification to simply say JP2 was against the death penalty. The WAY in which the death penalty is administered in the US Injustice system IS A MORAL DILEMMA. In the OT, their had to be witnesses (more than one) who actually saw a Capitol crime occur in person–then after testifying to actually seeing a given person commit a Capitol crime –those who saw it & testified to it–had to throw the first stones at the condemned. Americans are put to death under much less certain circumstances–hence the killing of innocents.

    If the death penalty was fully sanctioned in the OT for modern day use, then should we be stoning rebellious children? fornicators? Etc?

  19. Art,
    We disagree. One third of the cases were known prior to 1993 according to the John Jay Report. The Pope knew in 1984-85 ( see link below) of widespread problems via Cardinals Laghi and Krol…and Cardinal
    Silvio Oddi who wanted all discasteries to meet in regard to it. So curia people knew it should be central. The Pope did deputize Bishop Quinn in 1985 to investigate so the
    pope knew it should be centralized but the below canon lawyer noted that Bishop Quinn was part of the problem perhaps as to insufficient zeal….he doesn’t say.
    The Pope could have decreed that such priests be handed over to police…just like Christ acted fast in the temple…not 20 years. The Pope’s power according to canon law 331 is ” supreme” and “immediate” and over all particular churches /canon 333…. and there is no appeals against his decrees..333-3. His CDF office, shown in court documents, in 1979 had a tape of Fr. Shanley speaking perverse ideas. Shanley would be promoted and molest two boys several years later. Whose area of responsibility is the CDF office? The Gauthe Case was 1985 in the national media print and tv.


    NCR may be bad on theology but historical accounts of key eye Vatican related players are not really them.

  20. I do agree with JP2 that governments do have the right to put people to death. I think the methods & courts used to find people guilty murder (& just about every other crime) in modern day America are completely morally bankrupt & corrupt.

  21. Barbara Gordon,
    He called the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary” to the world media in St. Louis in 1999 and his people worded the catechism to couch its use as next to impossible….and revised the catechism to do that inter alia.
    God’s requirement was for two or three witnesses. It like any rule is vulnerable. If two people murdered someone and then said you did it, your goose was cooked under God’s system. If three people wanted your land under God’s system, they could say they saw you with another’s husband and again, your goose was cooked. Romans 13:4 was written in the context of the Roman empire whose rules of evidence were probably as vulnerable as God’s. There never existed a system that could not be gamed but also established order.

  22. Bill Bannon—your argument is valid on its face but not valid in Biblical context. For example: when would you get both parents to agree that their child was rebellious enough to require death & throw the first stones hitting their child if it were a false hood?

  23. Also, I have always chaffed at the fact that there was no man caught in the very act of adultery that was brought right along with the woman caught in adultery who was presented to Christ for condemnation to death which He did not give.

  24. Barbara,
    It was not a judgement call by parents….it was factual…if the child cursed them.

  25. Barbara,
    The adultery case in John was precisely about bad men testifying and thus not bringing the male.

  26. Back about 2 years ago this death penalty issue was brought into a completely different perspective for me when I was reading about a huge uproar over the international scene re: a woman the state of Iran planned to execute by stoning for adultery. Again, there was no man who was being stoned with her. The state of Iran tried a compromise effort with the protesters by agreeing to kill the adulterous woman by hanging instead. Having grown up Protestant in a faith where the death penalty was never questioned under any circumstances–you will die if the people of my home county have a voice in it after you have murdered someone–it absolutely shook my rock solid convictions built into me by my upbringing & culture. The OT completely endorses stoning for sexual sin–yet the idea of Iran stoning this woman & the hypocrisy of the man not being stoned with her–is totally abhorrent to me. I figured out for the first time that I was picking & choosing what portions of the OT scriptures I wanted applied–leaving others put completely. Stoning just the woman fir adultery & not the man is a prime example of corrupt justice in Iran like we see here in the US despite claims of equal justice under the law. DNA has set both those convicted of rape & murder in this country free–sometimes after decades in prison.

  27. Barbara,
    Augustine explained why the OT execution laws were harsh and from God and were removed by Christ…except Gen.9:6 for murder. Prior to Christ, man had no access to sanctifying grace though he did have actual grace, Secondly Satan was stronger prior to Christ.
    Ergo without grace and with a stronger devil, man needed great threats and fear to avoid e.g. adultery.
    Now after Christ, man is stronger…Christians the strongest but non Christians due to a weaker devil and since Christ is drawing all men to himself…” and I if I be lifted up will draw all men to myself”.. which means actual grace is more available to even non Christians. Ergo Christ was ending those executions for personal sin in the caught woman episode you mention but was not ending executions for murder ie Rom.13:4.

  28. Bill, your point about murders being ordered from jail in the US is very valid IMHO.

  29. Bill,

    Back to the parents stoning their child for rebellion. These were real flesh & blood parents we are talking about here–not some card board figurine nor abstract concept. “Cursing” can cover abroad range of behaviors & words. So it is not as simple as you portray. Again these were real people applying this rule. You can curse someone without saying an actual word.

  30. It is also absolutely dumbfounding & ludicrous to me that anyone would indicate that JP2 had direct first hand knowledge of children being molested and did nothing about it. I simply do not believe it. Maybe I shud–but I don’t.

  31. It seems clear that there are many offenses for which death is a just penalty. Once we’ve decided that death shall be the penalty, I do not see the distinctions in form as particularly significant. Flaying alive and such intentional torture isn’t really a death sentence so much as a form of torture. Shooting or hanging or electrocution are not sufficiently different for me to get worked up about.

    However, I oppose the death penalty as unnecessary and, so, the accidentals such as the unfortunate condemning of innocent defendants have greater force. Surely remote communities faced with either killing or being repeatedly victimized can kill. It is an inherent right to defend our own. But, the ability to permanently incarcerate carries with it something of a duty to greatly limit the circumstances in which we prefer to kill.

    It may be that death deters some crime but the sufficiently unhinged to engage in the crimes most deserving of death are the least likely to be deterred and the ones rational enough to make that choice might just as well decide that no living witnesses is a rational choice. I can’t recall any credible evidence that the death penalty discourages crime, at least not such evidence as isn’t opposed by equally credible evidence.

    As a Christian, the subject is intimately tied into my feelings and understanding of redemption. My experience is that God has given many men time to open themselves up to Him. Many criminals – and I’m an enforcement officer with 18 years of experience with criminals – were warped by their environment. While this does not excuse their conduct, it does make it harder for them to see the larger significance of their choices than is true for those brought up in a healthier place.

    I do not know if that reality mitigates their guilt. I rather think it does in some cases but I think it makes a profound case for giving them such time to be redeemed as Christ gives them.

    So, I respectfully disagree with those who support the death penalty and suggest that the timing of death for such should be no more in our hands than ours should be in theirs. Let God decide when enough is enough, lest we send a soul to hell in our haste to exact vengeance.

  32. Elaine Krewer writes, “The REAL question, to me, is whether use of the death penalty is morally prudent when it is no longer necessary to maintain public order”

    I suppose the position really changed in 1949, when António Egas Moniz shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine of 1949 for the “discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses” followed a year later by the synthesising of Chlorpromazine and the other psychotropic drugs that followed.

    It is now possible to keep a prisoner more or less permanently tranquillised, virtually removing any danger to staff or other patients. That they have not been more widely used in the penal systems of many countries is little short of scandalous. In Scandinavia, they are routinely used, with excellent results. In Scotland, pioneering work has been done in the State Hospital of Carstairs.

    There will still be cases where capital punishment is necessary: to forestall or repress a coup d’état, to keep order in a beleaguered city, to maintain discipline in an army in the field being obvious examples.

  33. WE are talking about capital one homicide, a murderer plotting and planning to kill another person, and capital punishment, the death penalty.
    “But when a man kills another after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my altar (compassion, mercy) and put him to death.” Exodus 21:14
    The victim’s innocence must be vindicated, otherwise the murderer says that the innocent victim deserved to be put to death and that, he, the murderer acted according to the laws of the state. The death penalty is vindication of the victim’s innocence, not vengeance. In some countries, if a homicide is committed, a close member of the family is given 24 hours to pursue and inflict vengeance on the murderer with no questions asked. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, vengeance belongs to the victim and those who act in his stead.
    To allow the murderer to enjoy his crime is monstrous and accessory after the fact. To allow the murderer another chance to murder is accessory before the fact.
    Perfect Justice is a cardinal virtue bestowed by the Holy Spirit.
    Uncontrollable children were brought to the elders who held court at the city gate by their parents. Pater familias got to say who stayed in his family. A criminal in the making could be ostracized, driven out of the camp which usually meant death in the wilderness by lions or tigers or bears, or stoned.
    A blatant disregard for human life instills vengeance in a community, but retribution and vindication are an absolute necessity for a just community. Bringing a capital one murderer to Justice in the death penalty is an absolute necessity for a just community.

  34. Mary De Voe, your faith does you credit and your referencing sources in most of your comments is a refreshing break from the common practice of unsupported assertions. I do not, however, subscribe to the view that retribution is a religious or theological requirement of our faith. I’d see Hitler or Bundy redeemed if it were part of God’s plan. If He redeems Mumia Abu Jamal because accidents of law kept that well-deserving-of-death cop killer alive long enough, I should rejoice at God’s Grace and Mercy. I am reminded of Jonah.

  35. David Spaulding: “So, I respectfully disagree with those who support the death penalty and suggest that the timing of death for such should be no more in our hands than ours should be in theirs. Let God decide when enough is enough, lest we send a soul to hell in our haste to exact vengeance.”
    The murderer denied to his victim, time to make his peace with God, yet you demand that the murderer be given his time to make his peace with God even though the murderer may have sent his victim to hell. Justice? The murderer ought to go to hell and take his victim’s place, but this is God’s call.
    Being brought to JUSTICE on the gallows does force the murderer to repent, which is more than he gave to his victim.
    I vehemently disagree with your laissez faire attitude. Society owes to the capital one murderer, JUSTICE, immediately. Justice delayed is Justice denied. The eagle is the symbol of the swiftness of God’s Justice. The eagle is on your badge.

  36. Justice is not so easy to know as you imagine and the mercy we beg for from on high is the least we owe to one another.

    Certainly those who put Jesus to death deserved swift justice. Nothing in Scripture suggests that was meted out and I like to think that Christ redeemed them, that His mercy bought them time to internalize what they witnessed.

    So it is with heinous criminals: I do not know what He plans for them but I DO know that His ways are not our ways and that time is on the side of most men. Surely it is no sin to pray for the redemption of all and to create space for such a one to set their pride aside and accept His mercy?

    I do not deny that facing death may make one repent but my experiences in prisons suggest that the solitary existence of the condemned is as close to death as we can be before we die. Your proposition is likely true and, yet, does not negate my observation.

  37. David Spaulding, unless you disavow the murder victim, you and I have had our time curtailed by the criminal.
    “If He redeems Mumia Abu Jamal because accidents of law kept that well-deserving-of-death cop killer alive long enough, I should rejoice at God’s Grace and Mercy. I am reminded of Jonah.”
    Jonah was an innocent man. God’s Grace and Mercy…NO, only accidents of law, which must be ameliorated.
    You did not address the vindication that the state owes to the murder victim.
    You and I am the state. It has occurred to me that I am going to meet Hitler and Mumia in the hereafter and I must be ready to address them. So, too, you must be ready to address them.

  38. You are right, I did not address that point, though I should phrase it differently: “Does the State owe a victim justice?”

    I never thought of that before and I may have to think on it a bit. I’m guessing that the Church has covered the topic (is there any topic She hasn’t covered?) so that has to be credited in my response.

    Thanks for pointing it out and I shall get back to you.

  39. David Spaulding: “I do not deny that facing death may make one repent but my experiences in prisons suggest that the solitary existence of the condemned is as close to death as we can be before we die. Your proposition is likely true and, yet, does not negate my observation.”
    “the solitary existence of the condemned is as close to death as we can be before we die.”. Please understand that the life the condemned is living is the life he has taken from his victim. The murder’s life must be taken back and returned to his victim, in JUSTICE. If the condemned enjoys his crime, as Mumia does, he is digging his hell deeper and ought to be given no quarter.
    Jesus led a solitary life, and Jesus is God.
    Capital punishment, the death penalty, is the temporal punishment due to the sin of capital one homicide. Forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, the temporal punishment must still be performed for the forgiveness to be effective.

  40. David Spaulding,
    You wrote, ” I can’t recall any credible evidence that the death penalty discourages crime, at least not such evidence as isn’t opposed by equally credible evidence.”
    The US Supreme Court stopped their moratorium of the death penalty of 1972-1976 precisely because they reviewed opposing studies and sided with those studies that said execution deters not passion murders but premeditated murders. They made a decision that stopped eternally vying claims.
    Think of it this way. If you’re correct then God and His verbal agent Peter should not have executed Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 for lying to the Holy Spirit. And then Scripture tells you it deterred others in verse 11 at the end of this below quote…no studies needed…God says it deters:

    Acts 5:
    ” 8 And Peter said to her: Tell me, woman, whether you sold the land for so much? And she said: Yea, for so much.
    9 And Peter said unto her: Why have you agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold the feet of them who have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out.
    10 Immediately she fell down before his feet, and gave up the ghost. And the young men coming in, found her dead: and carried her out, and buried her by her husband.
    11 And there came great fear upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.”

    We have no account of anyone lying to Peter after that…” there came fear upon the whole church”. Deterrence….as in China which has hundreds of millions of poor and is a country twenty times safer than Catholic Mexico and Brazil which are the two largest Catholic populations on earth but have no death penalty.

  41. I can certainly see how being able to call down the wrath of God would give sinners pause. I like to think I’d never sin again if God’s justice was so swift and evident.

    Thing is, we aren’t dispensing God’s justice, only that bastard, ignorant, and misguided thing that mere Man is capable of.

  42. Yet God actively aligns us with that defective system in Romans 13:4 …one which killed His Son in that contextual case.

  43. Like Don, I cannot presume to know the mind of God; while I oppose the death penalty, it is strictly on empirical grounds. Dead men can’t repent and frankly, in some cases, the release of death for those who truly deserve temporal punishment is too good for ’em. It’s an out they don’t deserve.

  44. WK Aiken,
    But it can bring on repentance after which purgatory is no joke….and has no tv or weight rooms.
    Actually the good thief attained repentance only in his last time period as death approached. Prior to noon, he was ranting against Christ too…see Matthew 27:44… ” The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.”
    So the good thief was unrepentant at first even under the death penalty until death really really approached and grace approached also. Timothy McVeigh also was apparently saved at the last chance end when he was given the option of Extreme Unction which he took.

  45. Bill- True . . . some motivations are certainly more powerful than others. That said, TVs and weight rooms shouldn’t be allowed wthin prison walls to begin with but that’s a different discussion.
    In any event, in a purely theoretical realm where perfect justice was guaranteed at every stroke, the death penalty would be acceptable when merited – prima facie (hey, I used lawyer words there!) it is not objectionable under the Church’s stipulations. Maybe we’ll get there someday.

  46. WK Aiken,
    I had 8 years Dominican education, 8 years Jesuit….then I read all scripture cover to cover, most of Augustine and all the Summa T. The catechism article on the death penalty would get a failing grade in a good school. It knew it had to ackowledge Rom.13:4 so it did and then it circumvented its intent with the over praise of life sentences ( coded as modern penology). The two worst murder rate countries on earth, El Salvador and Honduras, by UN stats…have no death penalty and are heavily Catholic. If you assert that the Vatican wants the death penalty in rare cases where it is needed as per ccc 2267….then show me the money.
    Find one Pope or curia official who is watching those two countries with an eye to applying the rare exception clause of ccc 2267. They ain’t. It was always words and words only as far as we can see from Catholics news media who never mention the plight of 6 Catholic countries who are in the top 20 worst murder rate countries on earth and have no death penalty. I’m done….need to garden…something honest.

  47. “The catechism article on the death penalty would get a failing grade in a good school. ”

    Mebbe so, but as I ain’t nobody what’s been all edjumacated and such (only 4 years Jesuit, and simple parish Scripture study,) I have to go with what my moral authority teaches, and that’s the Church. Even if it’s not great.
    So, whatevs. Gardening sounds a lot more fun anyway. Happy loaming!

  48. “I do not, however, subscribe to the view that retribution is a religious or theological requirement of our faith.”

    There is the difference. Actually, two differences. The death penalty is not retribution or revenge. It is punishment. And, it’s not meant to protect sociery from the killer repeating the killing again. The repentent murderer death would see death as an appropriate penance. Retribution or revenge would be wherein I track down my son’s killer and kill him, out of spite/hate. And, two: the death penalty is not a religious requirement. It should not be a taboo, neither.

    Finally, (at last!) the recent revision of the Catechism broke near 2,000 years of Church teaching. So!! All of a sudden in 1996(?), 5,000 years of the works of divinely inspired authors of Holy Scripture; several hundred popes; and thousands of bishops/religious are all wrong and St. JPII has it right. Because the Holy Spirit changed His mind??? Not the way it works: God Almighty (eternal, perfect, omniscient, etc.) in the Holy Trinity, cannot have been wrong for 5,000 years; and St. JPII got the “word” to change it.

  49. This is posted over at Shea and I, a Follow up, but it is more appropriate here. I am glad to hear that bill bannon and WK Aiken are tilling the soil for their redemption.
    Genesis 4: 17-19: “Cursed be the ground because of you; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken; for dust you are and unto dust you shall return.”
    Our Creator gave the land to man to work out his redemption. To take the man’s land would prevent the man from working out his redemption as prescribed by God. Man would be brought to the brink of hell without hope of salvation. Until the day man returns to dust, it is his property, the land which God handed to Adam to toil and sweat over to redeem himself.
    “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.”. Taking a man’s land is a violation of man freedom to respond to God’s word, in thought, word and deed. Peaceable assembly cannot be violated.
    He, who violates God’s word is possessed by the devil.

    David Spaulding: “Thing is, we aren’t dispensing God’s justice, only that bastard, ignorant, and misguided thing that mere Man is capable of.”
    In God We Trust…so help me God…and with reliance on Divine Providence, we shall have Justice.Thing is, we have to petition God for Divine Justice…maybe by tilling the soil.

  50. I like the way T Shaw thinks. The death penalty is punishment – a punishment we all deserve as transgressor and which Christ received upon Himself.

  51. It was always words and words only as far as we can see from Catholics news media who never mention the plight of 6 Catholic countries who are in the top 20 worst murder rate countries on earth and have no death penalty. I’m done….need to garden…something honest.

    I would not deny the lack of a death penalty is a vector there, but both places have severe administrative, social, and cultural defects that are not going to be remedied by executions.

  52. Now Saint Pope John Paul II insisted that the only moral justification for the death penalty is if a convicted murderer would be a further threat to society.

    Since we have an in-prison murder rate– both inmates and guards– they obviously are still a threat to society.

  53. Please stop saying that Jesus being put to death by the Romans somehow justifies Capitol punishment. JESUS WAS INNOCENT!! Which is my point exactly! Do states have the right to put their citizens to death?? Yes. Should they? That is a whole different question. Are we & have we put innocent people to death?? Absolutely. That is the problem I have with it!! Under no circumstances should we be putting ANYONE who is innocent to death. The equal aPplication of the law in the realm of Capitol punishment is a joke! You are much more likely to be given the death penalty if you are male than if you are female–and you are much more likely to be given the death penalty if you are black than if you are white.

  54. One of my pastors taught us that in the original language (Hebrew) that God telling Cain that the blood of his brother Able which was crying out to God from the ground–also included the voices of all of the descendants that Able would have had that were never born due to Cain murdering him. Murder is a truly horrific thing–resulting in the inability of descendants of the one murdered never being born.

  55. Barbara Gordon-
    Will you please stop emoting and respond to actual arguments? Thus far you’ve mostly ignored them, and responded to arguments nobody is making.

    Perhaps it would help if you quoted what you are trying to respond to; to put things in italics and indicate they are a quote, you us the < marks with an i in the middle before and a /i bracketed with the < marks at the end.

  56. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

    I wonder if this was a mis-translation, or if BXVI meant it in a different way. It seems to me that capital punishment and war do have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. What they do not share is the same clear-cut lines of demarcation. There is much more room for prudential determinations in the application of cp and jw than there is in abortion or euthanasia, but how could anyone seriously argue that they do not carry the same moral weight (meaning, that they are not equal in their moral gravity or importance)? cheating at cards does not carry the same moral weight.

  57. Speaking of Cain, didn’t God also prohibit anyone from exercising “capital punishment” on him? Support/prohibition of capital punishment based upon biblical passages is confusing at best.

  58. c matt, I agree. The greater room for prudential determinations does have important practical consequences, one of which is the reduced room for confidence and self-righteousness. But logically the moral weight must be ocmparable.

  59. “I wonder if this was a mis-translation, or if BXVI meant it in a different way. It seems to me that capital punishment and war do have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.”

    No. Abortion and euthanasia are intrinsic evils. There is never any justification for them. This in contrast to war and capital punishment which are not intrinsic evils and which can be chose given the proper conditions. If those conditions do not exist, then they would be evil.

    But again, one can choose capital punishment and war licitly at times. One can never do so with abortion or euthanasia.

  60. I wonder if this was a mis-translation, or if BXVI meant it in a different way

    In context, it’s very clear– people want to treat supporting the death penalty the same way it’s proper to treat supporting abortion, and that is not correct.

    The fact that there is prudential judgement involved means it doesn’t have the same moral weight– always wrong vs might be right, even if an individual case may be clearly wrong, the overall question has different weight by being worth asking.

  61. c matt,
    St. John Paul II used the Cain immunity in a substantial section of Evangelium Vitae to lean people toward being averse to the death penalty. But in that early period, God was protecting Cain from vigilantes since there were as yet no kingdoms…and vigilantes seek their own wrath whereas Rom.13:4 later affirms the state carrying out God’s wrath with the sword.
    What St. John Paul did not tell his audience was that the same God a bit later mandated the death penalty for murder to both Jews ( Shem) and Gentiles ( Ham and Japheth) in Genesis 9:6. Why did the same identical God protect Cain and mandate execution a little later? Simple…God was about to inititate the first kingdom under Nimrod in Gen.10:8 and just like in Christian tradition, vigilantes are condemned ( hence Cain’s immunity) and capital punishment by governments are affirmed for murder ( Gen.9:6&Rom.13:4).
    St. John Paul II saw the Gen.9:6 verse mandating execution for murder because he quoted around it …around it four times in EV while never showing readers the death penalty part. What gives then? Was he being intellectually dishonest? Worse than that….he didn’t believe the death penalty part was inspired by God so he would not show it.
    Read sect. 40 of EV….he insinuates that the death penalties of the OT in Leviticus etc. were cultural and not really from God. Benedict in sect.42 of Verbum Domini did the same exact modernistic twist on the massacres ordered by God against Canaan. Because both Popes were conservative on sexual questions, Catholics assume they were conservative on Biblical questions like what does inspiration entail. They were not conservative therein. Fr. Raymond Brown served on the PBC under both men and Brown said that Mary never really said the Magnificat. Benedict infers that the massacres if the OT were really sins. They were not and Benedict couldn’t even face that the largest herem ir doom by far was brought about by God through the Romans in 70 AD because Christ noted Jerusalem had not ” known the hour of your visitation”…1.1 million people were killed in Jerusalem according to Josephus. Fr. Brown didn’t think Mary really said the magnificat, St. John Paul didn’t think God really gave the death penalties of the OT and Benedict didn’t think God ever mandated the dooms of the Canaanites. Check the sections I just mentioned for the two Popes.

  62. Foxfire: this is in direct response to your direct comments to my comments. Sorry to have gotten on your nerves. The day I cease to emote is the day I cease to breathe air. Also, since you have accurately detected that I am specifically minutely detail oriented, I will attempt to take your advise in the future & reference the specific minutia I am emoting to/commenting on/referencing–you get the idea on all future posts except Mary De Voe’s posts! I might just break out in songs if delight & praise at any time in relation to her written words. 😀

  63. Barbara-
    You’re still not doing anything but appealing to emotion, rather than answering arguments; you also are not quoting what you are intending to reply to.

    MDV usually responds in support of a post, and thus doesn’t need a lot of detail; you’re responding in resistance, which needs specifics.

  64. Foxfire, in response to your comments to me that u posted at 8:18 pm.

    I did those things on purpose sir. Please develop a sense of humor.

    Thank you.

  65. Major Catechism problems

    1) The Church acknowledges replacing the primary purpose behind sanction – redress/justice – with the false and tirtiary explanation of secular criminal justice systems being sufficient.

    2) She uses historical teachings, which don’t exist, to justifiy this remarkable change.

    3) She has acknowleged that this change is a prudential judgement, meaning the opposite of what the purpose of a Catechism is supposed to do – it creates a confusing (and false) teaching/judgement, which was based upon fa oundation which is opposite the secular facts and the eternal teachings.

    Fully reviewed, here:

    The Catechism and the Death Penalty

  66. To Bill Bannon:

    Note, that God could have killed Cain. But didn’t.

    Cain, himself, stated that God’s punishment, was unbearable.

    Of course, God knew that such sanctions would be bearable to Cain. God was, in fact, being merciful, giving Cain every opportunity to repent.

    Instead, Cain, continued his life in the same manner he had before, creating a great city in tribute to himself and sin.

    It is a factual certainty that the flood was designed to wipe out the entire progeny of Cain and allow to live, what could be considered the spiritand progeny of Able/Seth, which is. precisely what happened.

    To paraphrase one religious scholar, whose blasphemous response was along the lines of “Of course God should have killed Cain, as soon as Cain had killed Able. Duh”.

  67. Dudley Sharp: “To paraphrase one religious scholar, whose blasphemous response was along the lines of “Of course God should have killed Cain, as soon as Cain had killed Able. Duh”.
    Actually, capital punishment is for capital one homicide, in law and in the Bible. The temporal punishment due to capital one homicide can only be done under the rules for capital one homicide. Cain had never been exposed to death. While Cain struck Abel in hatred, anger and jealousy, Cain did not premeditate death, for he had no aforethought of death, the Ten Commandments had not been given to Moses and the Israelites, and Abraham had not fathered the nation. (Could Abel have been intended as Cain’s human sacrifice to God, in a twisted way? Human sacrifice had not been invented then either and was definitely forbidden by God to Abraham in Isaac. Human sacrifice was the cause of God commanding that unholy nations be put to the sword and driven from the land.) Moreover, I believe that the mark God put on Cain was the sign “ABEL” for now, Cain had to live Abel’s life since Cain had taken Abel’s life. Cain had forfeit his own life and the capital punishment at this was living his victim’s life. It does not make sense any other way.
    Barbara Gordon: The admiration is reciprocal. I have enjoyed many of your comments and have wholeheartedly appreciated them.
    Why we participate in these conversations is to share our knowing and grow in the experience of Truth, Who is Jesus Christ. And I appreciate and thank all who have encouraged and enlarged my education of the Faith. We, all, have our job to do.

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