Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why I loved the Catholic approach to Capital Punishment

I've been accused of not caring about Church teaching (despite the hell I've put my family through to become Catholic).  This is usually because I ask questions in the wrong environments.  One of the issues I've been bothered by is the Church's recent change regarding its position on Capital Punishment. As I said here, I'm far from pleased with the recent turn of events, and consider almost laughable the Church's reliance on the infallibility of our penal system to protect the innocent as the slam dunk reason to abolish the Death Penalty.

For me, who always opposed it on the principle that we could execute an innocent person, I admitted the opposite problem was also a possibility: an innocent person could be murdered by an individual who might otherwise have been executed.  And unlike the man on death row who will be given months to years to make his peace with God, that individual murdered in the blink of an eye will not have that chance, which all but nullifies using the importance of salvation in the equation (unless we only care about salvation for the criminal). 

So I warmed quickly to the Church's rather common sense, and darn well Christian, view that the Death Penalty should be avoided at all possible costs, unless there is clearly a threat or danger to the widow and the orphan, to the innocent and the good.  I actually changed my position and was glad to do it. Unfortunately there have been major changes and alterations in not a few positions in recent decades, and under Benedict's leadership, the Church has moved to call for an abolition of all capital punishment.  Period.  

Problem is, well here.  A story in which a man who would have been executed but wasn't because W. Virginia had abolished the death penalty, organized a mass breakout that resulted in the murder of an off duty police officer and another innocent person.  That's the dark flip side of my favorite reference point for opposing the death penalty.  I knew it was a problem, which is why I loved the Church's position:  mercy in all possible ways, but not at the sacrifice of the innocent.  If I want to die for the faith, great   But it isn't for me to let other innocent people die for my faith.  The Church had hit a home run as far as I was concerned.

Now, it not only sweeps aside the balance and invites the very problems I struggled with without so much as acknowledging them, and also inadvertently encourages that rascally old Ebeneezer approach to ethics, it bases its change on the most convoluted reasoning imaginable:  the efficacy of the American judicial and penal systems (apparently since 1981).  Wow.  It makes me remember that the Catholic Faith is Truth, but the Catholic Church has had its fair share of zigging when it should have zagged, and I don't believe that's something that the Church has outgrown, or ever will outgrow.  I'm sorry to say, this may be one of those instances that drives this unhappy point home. 

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