The Pope has a message for death penalty hypocrites

Pope Francis, who has caused the heads of right-wing Catholics to swivel before, has done it again, proclaim...

Posted: Aug 3, 2018 9:19 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2018 9:19 AM

Pope Francis, who has caused the heads of right-wing Catholics to swivel before, has done it again, proclaiming that the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases "because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person." He also said that Christians should work "with determination" for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

Good for him, and good for the teachings of Jesus in this important regard, which have been wildly neglected, particularly by Christians in the United States.

Belief, religion and spirituality

Capital punishment

Catholics and catholicism

Christianity

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Law and legal system

Papacy and the Pope

Religious groups

Societal issues

Society

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was absolutely clear about vengeful justice. He summoned the Old Testament teaching of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," and then overturned it sharply. "But I say to you, do not resist evil; but if anyone should strike you, turn the other cheek." Then he went further: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who abuse you."

He didn't say: "Kill those who kill people." He said that we should not even "curse" anyone who acted badly, lest we bring judgment upon ourselves.

As ever, the apostle Paul expanded on and clarified the teachings of Jesus in interesting ways. Consider Romans 12:17: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil." A few verses later, he adds: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

I have never understood Christians who oppose abortion but support killing prisoners. Life is life, and it is not our right to decide when it must end.

The death penalty is an abomination. It goes against human dignity and lowers the bar for social behavior. It is an incitement to revenge. I can't imagine anyone with a conscience can look at the execution of even the most heinous mass killer, and think that doing to him (it's usually a man) what he did to others in any way makes up for his crimes, or benefits society.

As for punishment, living in an American prison -- with or without possibility of parole -- is punishment enough for any inmate. If anything, we should be working "with determination" to make American prisons less cruel almost across the board. Their brutality and inhumanity degrade us all.

America is a backward country when it comes to the death penalty. The Netherlands banned executions in 1870, Costa Rica in the late 19th century, Colombia in the early 20th century. Which countries are the murderous outliers? Libya, Uganda, Cuba, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan and more. And the United States, where studies show that capital punishment "disproportionately involves prisoners diagnosed with mental illness."

I often look to Dickens and Tolstoy as exemplary figures in the long debate over capital punishment. Dickens watched the public hanging of a Swiss servant in 1840, and wrote a series of letters to the national press abhorring executions, which were in those days public affairs watched by thousands of bystanders. Looking at the gaping crowd, Dickens saw nothing human: "No sorrow, no salutary terror, no abhorrence. ... It was so loathsome, pitiful, and vile a sight that the law appeared to be as bad as he, or worse."

It degrades us as a society to kill people as public policy, and this leads to a citizenry that devalues life itself. In a country where murder is commonplace, we should be doing everything we can to show our disgust at the taking of life.

And to take lives at public expense, as public policy, is nothing short of horrific.

Thank God that Pope Francis has finally acted, and firmly. Of course he speaks only to the 1.2 billion Catholics who look to him for guidance in Christian doctrine. But this is an important group, and it includes at least four members of the Supreme Court: Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. Should Brett Kavanaugh be appointed, that would make five Catholic justices.

Will these justices listen to Christian teaching, especially as it has now been articulated by the pontiff in Rome? Or will they side with those on the Christian right who have favored "an eye for an eye" justice, thus ignoring the teachings of Jesus and Paul?

I hope the time has come for the United States to join the modern world and abolish capital punishment once and for all. It's plain common sense as well as obvious Christian ethics and humanitarian sentiment.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
Lafayette520598
Lamar505865
Washington4933125
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Oktibbeha408382
Panola386981
Pontotoc377460
Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
Leflore3118109
Lincoln306788
Hancock294262
Sunflower291975
Tate280662
Alcorn273154
Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
Yazoo256756
Prentiss253754
Coahoma249755
Copiah249749
Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
Grenada223972
Covington221073
Adams215171
Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
Newton199946
Attala197064
Tishomingo194961
Chickasaw189344
Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
Conecuh97922
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
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