Mixed Emotions About the Death Penalty

A friend of mine from Mexico writes the following (warning: part of it is graphic):

Hey Joe, you may have read this already, but just in case you haven’t. It speaks volumes:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/documents/rc_seg-st_doc_20010621_death-penalty_en.html

As for my own views… I don’t know what to say, because I can tell you -because you will understand were I’m coming from- that they don’t count. This is a matter in which I submit by obedience, because I believe that the Church as teacher knows more than I do, but I have real difficulties sometimes with reconciling the mercy and compassion that I am bound to show with such horrible crimes as sometimes are committed.

As you know, my country is in turmoil right now. Crime has become common place, however, every once in a while you hear of something that stirs you and brings out the worst in you. About a year ago, a child was abducted in Mexico City. His parents owned and operated a tiny corner store, so they were not rich, not even well off, by any means. The kidnappers asked for a ridiculously high amount of money, and when the parents could not afford it, they killed the child by injecting car battery acid into his heart. If I could have two minds and two consciences, one would have killed those animals on sight, and in a very painful way… But I am whole, so even if I were the President of Mexico and I had the power to submit a Constitutional amendment to Congress to allow for the death penalty, I would not do it out of obedience.

I don’t have much of a scriptural basis for it, other than those you can find that support the Church as teacher.

I don’t know if it helps at all, but it’s all I can say. It’s an excellent discussion topic, though, and I will pray for that apostolate you’re doing with your friend.

Best regards.

I don’t have much to add, except that I very much empathize with where he’s coming from. I think the Disciples knew the feeling, too; the original Shake n’ Bake, James and John, were called Boanerges, “Sons of Thunder,” for good reason (Mark 3:17); in Luke 9:52-56, they try and convince Jesus to let them call fire down from Heaven on a Samarian village which rejects Jesus for being too Jewish. I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted from time to time to ask permission to bring down fire for much less cause (heck, I’d want to bring down fire from heaven just to impress people). It’s easy to follow the Church when it’s something we agree upon on a gut-level. It’s much harder to follow the Church (you can substitute “Jesus,” or “the Bible,” etc. here) when we’re being told what we don’t want to hear. As for me, I can mentally wrap my head around why the death penalty is evil (DJ AMDG does a great job here), but that doesn’t mean it’s not an evil I something find attractive.

All that said, Christians should remember that we worship a God-Man who was killed via capital punishment for a crime He didn’t commit (political insurrection). So maybe Jesus doesn’t need to tell us that capital punishment isn’t a silver bullet?

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