View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Death Penalty Does Not Add Up

I have long been an opponent of the death penalty - even though my brother was murdered.

I have argued against it on moral and ethical grounds. I have argued that the Church considers it morally acceptable only under certain limited circumstance - circumstances that do NOT exist in the U.S.

None of those arguments seemed to resonate.

I have also argued that keeping a killer in prison for life is cheaper than executing him or her.

Apparently in these tough financial times that argument is finally hitting home.

According to a recent Associated Press article, "an increasing number of (states) are considering abolishing capital punishment in favor of life imprisonment, not on principle, but out of financial necessity."

Didn't some recent President say of other nations something like, "Sometimes money trumps morality"?

We're talking about "tens of millions of dollars" in savings, the article notes.

I believe that life imprisonment gives the killers every possible opportunity to reform and repent - even if it takes decades. And in some cases, it also prevents innocent people from being executed.

So if saving money is the way to get states to stop, fine. I'll live with that.

I believe that morality trumps money.

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5 Comments:

Blogger dudleysharp said...

Cost Savings: The Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

There is no need to abandon justice.

Reasonable and responsible protocols, currently in use, will produce a death penalty which costs no more, or will cost less, than LWOP.

Death penalty states could better implement justice, as given by jurors, and save taxpayers money, currently wasted by many irresponsible state systems.

1) Obvious solution: Improve the system. Virginia executes in 5-7 years. 65% of those sentenced to death have been executed. Only 15% of their death penalty cases are overturned. The national averages are 11 years, 14% and 36%, respectively.
With the high costs of long term imprisonment, a true life sentence will be more expensive than such a death penalty protocol.

Current cost study problems

2) Geriatric care: Most cost studies exclude geriatric care, recently found to be $60,000-$90,000/inmate/yr., a significant omission from life sentence costs. Prisoners are often found to be geriatric at relatively young ages, 50-55, because of lifestyle.

3) Plea Bargain to life: ONLY the presence of the death penalty allows for a plea bargain to a maximum life sentence. Such plea cost benefit, estimated at $500,000 to $1 million/case, accrues as a cost benefit/credit to the death penalty.

NOTE: Depending upon jurisdiction, the inclusion of only (2) and (3) will result in a minimal cost differential between the two sanctions or an actual net cost benefit to the death penalty. Adding (1) would, very likely, mean that all death penalty jurisdictions would see a cost savings with the death penalty as compared to a true life sentence.

4) FCC economist Dr. Paul Zimmerman finds that executions result in a huge cost benefit to society. "Specifically, it is estimated that each state execution deters somewhere between 3 and 25 murders per year (14 being the average). Assuming that the value of human life is approximately $5 million {i.e. the average of the range estimates provided by Viscussi (1993)}, our estimates imply that society avoids losing approximately $70 million per year on average at the current rate of execution all else equal." The study used state level data from 1978 to 1997 for all 50 states (excluding Washington D.C.). (1)

That is a cost benefit of $70 million per execution. 15 additional recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, support the deterrent effect.

No cost study has included such calculations.

Although we find it inappropriate to put a dollar value on life, evidently this is not uncommon for economists, insurers, etc.

We know that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers. There is no doubt that executions do save innocent lives. What value do you put on the lives saved? Certainly not less than $5 million.

5) The Disinformation problem: The pure deception in some cost "studies" is overt.

a) Some studies compare the cost of a death penalty case, including pre trial, trial, appeals and incarceration, to only the cost of incarceration for 40 years, excluding all trial costs and appeals, and geriatric care for a life sentence. The much cited, highly misleading Texas "study" does this.
b) It has been claimed that it costs $3.2 million/execution in Florida. That "study" decided to add the cost of the entire death penalty system in Florida ($57 million), which included all of the death penalty cases and dividing that number by only the number of executions (18). It is the same as stating that the cost of LWOP is $15 million/case, based upon all costs of 2000 LWOP cases being placed into the 40 lifers to have died (given an average cost of $300, 000/LWOP case, so far, for those 2000 cases.)

Justice

6) The main reason sentences are given is because jurors find that it is the most just punishment available. No state, concerned with justice, will base a decision on cost alone. If they did, all cases would be plea bargained and every crime would have a probation option.

----------------------------------

1). "State Executions, Deterrence and the Incidence of Murder", Paul R. Zimmerman (zimmy@att.net), March 3. 2003, Social Science Research Network, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID354680_code021216500.pdf?abstractid=354680

copyright 2003-2009 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites

homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www.dpinfo.com
www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www.coastda.com/archives.html
www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www.prodeathpenalty.com
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

1:11 PM  
Blogger dudleysharp said...

Catholic Scholars: Support for the Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

There are thoughtful writings on both sides of this debate, but the pro death penalty position is much stronger.

Recently deceased Avery Cardinal Dulles, in one of his final interviews, states that he thought the Church may return to a "more traditional posture" on the death penalty. "Recent popes, Dulles conceded, beginning with John XXIIII, seem to have taken quasi-abolitionist positions on both matters. Yet used sparingly and with safeguards to protect the interests of justice, Dulles argued, both the death penalty and war have, over the centuries, been recognized by the church as legitimate, sometimes even obligatory, exercises of state power. The momentum of "internal solidification," he said, may lead to some reconsideration of these social teachings." ("An unpublished interview with Avery Dulles", All Things Catholic by John L. Allen, Jr., NCRcafe.org, Posted on Dec 19, 2008, at http://ncrcafe.org/node/2340)

Based upon the strength of the Catholic biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty as, partially, revealed, below, I think the Church will have to.

Even today, a Catholic in good standing can call for more executions, if their prudential judgements finds for that.

(1) "Capital Punishment: New Testament Teaching", 1998, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., considered one of the most prominent Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. See bottom.
http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm

"There are certain moral norms that have always and everywhere been held by the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Although never formally defined, they are irreversibly binding on the followers of Christ until the end of the world." "Such moral truths are the grave sinfulness of contraception and direct abortion. Such, too, is the Catholic doctrine which defends the imposition of the death penalty."

"Most of the Church's teaching, especially in the moral order, is infallible doctrine because it belongs to what we call her ordinary universal magisterium."

"Equally important is the Pope's (Pius XII) insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity." " . . . the Church's teaching on 'the coercive power of legitimate human authority' is based on 'the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.' It is wrong, therefore 'to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.' On the contrary, they have 'a general and abiding validity.' (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2)."

about Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
http://www.mariancatechist.com/html/general/stjohnhardon.htm
http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/archives.htm
http://www.mariancatechist.com/html/general/fatherhardon.htm
http://www.saintphilomena.com/newpage4.htm
http://credo.stormloader.com/Saints/hardon.htm


(2) "The Death Penalty", by Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html

"Amerio has the great gift of going to the heart of a subject in a few lines and very neatly distinguishes genuine Catholicism from imitations and aberrations." "What makes Amerio's analysis unique is that he restricts himself to official and semi-official pronouncements by popes, cardinals, bishops, episcopal conferences and articles in L'Osservatore Romano, from the time of Pope John XXIII to 1985 when the book was originally written." (1)

titled "Amerio on capital punishment ", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007

About Romano Amerio
http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/176565?eng=y
http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2006/02/romano-amerio-and-pope-benedict.html
http://www.latin-mass-society.org/2007/romanoamerio.html
http://www.angeluspress.org/oscatalog/item/6700/iota-unum


(3) "Christian Scholars & Saints: Support for the Death Penalty", at
http://www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx


(4) "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective",
by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm


(5) "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice", Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September 2004 http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml

(6) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at
http://www.ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm

(7) "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).


(8) "God’s Justice and Ours" by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022

(9) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty"
by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007
http://www.tfp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=957


(10) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)",
by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003
http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4


(11) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?",
KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp


(12) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS",
KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
http://www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp


Christian, non Catholic Scholars


(13) Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray
http://books.google.com/books?id=phoqAAaGMpUC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA114&ots=mFvByHqGSy&dq=Murray+%22It+is+the+sanctity+of+human+life+that+underlies+the+sixth+commandment.%22&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=ACfU3U1b0mdM3BfpNSXnhrwFYXaE_9Ij9A


(14) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.


(15) "Why I Support Capital Punishment", by Andrew Tallman
sections 7-11 biblical review, sections 1-6 secular review
http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/search?q=Capital+punishment

----------
Religious positions in favor of capital punishment are neither necessary not needed to justify that sanction. However, the biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.

Many of the current religious campaigns against the death penalty reflect a fairly standard anti death penalty message, routed in secular arguments. When they do address religious issues, they often neglect solid theological foundations, choosing, instead, select biblical sound bites which do not impact the solid basis of death penalty support.

Footnotes:
(1) Books: 'Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church', by Romano Amerio, Fr Peter Joseph (reviewer)
IOTA UNUM: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century
by Romano Amerio (English translation by Fr John Parsons)
(Sarto House, USA, 786 pp)
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 9 No 8 (September 1996), p. 14
---------------------

70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.

copyright 1999-2009 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

1:12 PM  
Blogger dudleysharp said...

Pope John Paul II: Prudential Judgement & the Death Penalty:
The good Pope's death penalty errors
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
October 1997, with subsequent updates thru 5/07

SEE ADDITIONAL REFERENCES AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT

The new Roman Catholic position on the death penalty, introduced in 1997, is based upon the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, whose position conflicts with reason, as well as biblical, theological and traditional Catholic teachings spanning nearly 2000 years.

Pope John Paul II's death penalty writings in Evangelium Vitae were flawed and their adoption into the Catechism was improper.

In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church decided to amend the 1992 Universal Catechism to reflect Pope John Paul II's comments within his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). Therein, the Pope finds that the only time executions can be justified is when they are required "to defend society" and that "as a result of steady improvements . . . in the penal system that such cases are very rare if not practically non existent."

This is, simply, not true. Murderers, tragically, harm and murder, again, way too often.

Furthermore, the Church has always supported the death penalty, partially based upon a defense of society, but also on many other foundations, which the Pope never addressed, even though those foundations call for continuing the death penalty.

Steady improvements in the penal system are, really, quite irrelevant, regarding something as important as Church teachings. The state of the criminal justice system is not only secular and temporal, but varies in all jurisdictions of the world.

It seems unbelievable that such reasoning could be the basis for an amendment to a Catechism.

Many issues, inexplicably, escaped the Pope's consideration.

First, in the Pope's context, "to defend society" means that the execution of the murderer must save future lives or, otherwise, prevent future harm.

When looking at the history of criminal justice practices in probations, paroles and incarcerations, we observe countless examples of when judgements and procedures failed and, because of that, murderers harmed and/or murdered, again. History details that murderers murder and otherwise harm again, time and time again -- in prison, after escape, after improper release, and, of course, after we fail to capture or incarcerate them.

Reason dictates that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and/or murder again than are executed murderers - an obvious truism overlooked by the Pope.

Therefore, the Pope could err, by calling for a reduction or end to execution, and thus harm more innocents, or he could "err" on the side of protecting more innocents by calling for an expansion of executions.

History, reason and the facts support an increase in executions based upon a defending society foundation.

Secondly, if social science concludes that executions provide enhanced deterrence for murders, then the Pope's position should call for increased executions.

If we decide that the deterrent effect of executions does not exist and we, therefore, choose not to execute, and we are wrong, this will sacrifice more innocent lives and also give those murderers the opportunity to harm and murder again.

If we choose to execute, believing in the deterrent effect, and we are wrong, we are executing our worst human rights violators and preventing such murderers from ever harming or murdering again - again, defending more innocent lives.

No responsible social scientist has or will say that the death penalty deters no one. Quite a few studies, including 16 recent ones, inclusive of their defenses, find that executions do deter.

As all prospects for negative consequence deter some (there appears to be no exception), it is a mystery why the Pope chose the option which spares murderers and sacrifices more innocent lives.

If the Pope's defending society position has merit, then, again, the Church must actively support executions, as it offers an enhanced defense of society and greater protection for innocent life.

Thirdly, we know that some criminals don't murder because of their fear of execution. This is known as the individual deterrent effect. Unquestionably, the incapacitation effect (execution) and the individual deterrent effect both exist and they both defend society by protecting innocent life and offer enhanced protections over imprisonment.

Fourth, furthermore, individual deterrence assures us that general deterrence must exist, because individual deterrence could not exist without it.

Executions defend more innocent lives.

Fifth, actual innocents that are convicted for murders are better protected by due process in death penalty cases, than in non-death penalty cases. No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the US death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. That is. logically, conclusive.

Again, offering more defense of innocents and, thereby, a greater defense of society.

The Pope's defending society standard should be a call for increasing executions. Instead, the Pope and other Church leadership has chosen a position that spares the lives of known murderers, resulting in more innocents put at risk and more innocents harmed and murdered -- a position which, quite clearly, contradicts the Pope's, and other's, conclusions.

Contrary to the Church's belief, that the Pope's opinion represents a tougher stance against the death penalty, the opposite is true. When properly evaluated, the defending society position supports more executions.

Had these issues been properly assessed, the Catechism would never have been amended -- unless the Church endorses a position knowing that it would spare the lives of guilty murderers, at the cost of sacrificing more innocent victims.

When the choice is between

1) sparing murderers, resulting in more harmed and murdered innocents, who suffer through endless moments of incredible horror, with no additional time to prepare for their salvation, or
2) executing murderers, who are given many years on death row to prepare for their salvation, and saving more innocents from being murdered,

The Pope and the Catholic Church have an obligation to spare and defend more innocents, as Church tradition, the Doctors of the Church and many Saints have concluded. (see reference, below)

Pope John Paul II's death penalty stance was his own, personal prudential judgement and does not bind any other Catholic to share his position. Any Catholic can choose to support more executions, based upon their own prudential judgement, and remain a Catholic in good standing and they can also, thereby, defend more innocents.

Furthermore, prudential judgement requires a foundation of reasoned and thorough review. The Pope either improperly evaluated the risk to innocents or he did not evaluate it at all.

A defending society position supports more executions, not less. Therefore, Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement was in error on this important fact, thereby undermining his sole point in reducing executions.

Sixth, defending society is an outcome of the death penalty, but is secondary to the foundation of justice and biblical instruction. See some references, at bottom.

Even though Romans and additional writings do reveal a "defending society" consideration, such references pale in comparison to the mandate that execution is the proper punishment for murder, regardless of any consideration "to defend society." Both the Noahic covenant, in Genesis 9:6 ("Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."), and the Mosaic covenant, throughout the Pentateuch (Ex.: "He that smiteth a man so that he may die, shall be surely put to death." Exodus 21:12), provide execution as the punishment for unjustifiable/intentional homicide, otherwise known as murder.

These texts, and others, offer specific rebuttal to the Pope's position that if "bloodless means" for punishment are available then such should be used, to the exclusion of execution. Pope John Paul II's prudential judgement does not trump biblical instruction.

Seventh, the Roman Catholic tradition instructs four elements to be considered with criminal sanction.
1. Defense of society against the criminal.
2. Rehabilitation of the criminal (including spiritual rehabilitation).
3. Retribution, which is the reparation of the disorder caused by the criminal's transgression.
4. Deterrence

It is a mystery why and how the Pope could have excluded three of these important elements and wrongly evaluated the fourth. In doing so, though, we can confirm that his review was both incomplete and improper.

At least two Saints, Paul and Dismas, faced execution and stated that it was appropriate. They were both executed. Jesus invoked capital punishment on several occasions and never challenged it.

The Holy Ghost decided that death was the proper punishment for two devoted, early Christians, Ananias and his wife, Saphira, for the crime/sin of lying. Neither was given a moment to consider their earthly punishment or to ask for forgiveness. The Holy Ghost struck them dead.

For those who erroneously contend that Jesus abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament, He states that He has come not "to abolish the law and the prophets . . . but to fulfill them." Matthew 5:17-22. While there is honest debate regarding the interpretation of Mosaic Law within a Christian context, there seems little dispute that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect and that Genesis 9:6 deals directly with the sanctity of life issue in its support of execution.

(read "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).

"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). (Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000).

Saint Pius V reaffirms this mandate, in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), stating that executions are acts of "paramount obedience to this [Fifth] Commandment." ("Thou shalt not murder," sometimes improperly translated as "kill" instead of "murder"). And, not only do the teachings of Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine concur, but both saints also find that such punishment actually reflects charity and mercy by preventing the wrongdoer from sinning further. The Saints position is that execution offers undeniable defense of society as well as defense of the wrongdoer.

Such prevention also expresses the fact that execution is an enhanced defense of society, over and above all other punishments.

Eighth, the relevant question is "What biblical and theological teachings, developed from 1566 through 1997, provide that the standard for executions should evolve from 'paramount obedience' to God's eternal law to a civil standard reflecting 'steady improvements' . . . in the penal system?". Such teachings hadn't changed. The Pope's position is social and contrary to biblical, theological and traditional teachings.

If Saint Pius V was correct, that executions represent "paramount obedience to the [Fifth] Commandments, then is it not disobedient to reduce or stop executions? Of course.

The Church's position on the use of the death penalty has been consistent from 300 AD through 1995 AD. The Church has always supported the use of executions, based upon biblical and theological principles.

Until 1995, says John Grabowski, associate professor of Moral Theology at Catholic University, " . . . Church teachings were supportive of the death penalty. You can find example after example of Pope's, of theologians and others, who have supported the right of the state to inflict capital punishment for certain crimes and certain cases." Grabowski continues: "What he (the Pope now) says, in fact, in his encyclical, is that given the fact that we now have the ability, you know, technology and facilities to lock up someone up for the rest of their lives so they pose no future threat to society -- given that question has been answered or removed, there is no longer justification for the death penalty." (All Things Considered, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 9/9/97.)

Ninth, the Pope's position is now based upon the state of the corrections system -- a position neither biblical nor theological in nature. Furthermore, it is a position which conflicts with the history of prisons. Long term incarceration of lawbreakers in Europe began in the 1500s. Of course, long term incarceration of slaves had begun thousands of years before -- meaning that all were aware that criminal wrongdoers could also be subject to bondage, if necessary - something that all historians and biblical scholars -- now and then -- were and are well aware of.

Since it's inception, the Church has issued numerous pronouncements, encyclicals and previous Universal Catechisms. Had any biblical or theological principle called for a replacement of the death penalty by life imprisonment, it would have been revealed long before 1995.

Tenth, the levels of incarceration security and lengths of criminal sentences vary, wildly, throughout the world. Therefore, there is no uniform state of the criminal justice system, making the Pope's position even less universal and less responsible and much more problematic.

Eleventh, there is, finally, a disturbing reality regarding the Pope's new standard. The Pope's defending society standard requires that the moral concept of justice becomes irrelevant. The Pope's standard finds that capital punishment can be used only as a vehicle to prevent future crimes. Therefore, using the Pope's standard, the moral/biblical rational -- that capital punishment is the just or required punishment for murder -- is no longer relevant to the sin/crime of murder.

If defending society is the new standard, the Pope has decided, based upon secular standards, that the biblical standards of atonement, expiation, justice and required punishments have all, necessarily, been discarded, with regard to execution.

The Pope's new position establishes that capital punishment no longer has any connection to the harm done or to the imbalance to be addressed. Yet, such connection had always been, until now, the Church's historical, biblically based perspective on this sanction. Under a defending society standard, the injury suffered by the murder victim is no longer relevant to their punishment. Executions can be justified solely upon that punishments ability to prevent future harm by the murderer.

Therefore, when considering executions in regard to capital murder cases, a defending society standard renders justice irrelevant. Yet, execution defends society to a degree unapproachable by any other punishment and, therefore, should have been fully supported by the Pope.

"Some enlightened people would like to banish all conception of retribution or desert from our theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself. They do not see that by doing so they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it?" (quote attributed to the distinguished Christian writer C. S. Lewis)

Again, with regard to the Pope's prudential judgement, his neglect of justice was most imprudent.

Some Catholic scholars, properly, have questioned the appropriateness of including prudential judgement within a Catechism. Personal opinion does not belong within a Catechism and, likely, will never be allowed, again. I do not believe it had ever been allowed before.

In fact, neither the Church nor the Pope would accept a defending society standard for use of the death penalty, unless the Church and the Pope believed that such punishment was just and deserved, as well. The Church has never questioned the authority of the government to execute in "cases of extreme gravity," nor does it do so with these recent changes.

Certainly, the Church and the Pope John Paul II believe that the prevention of any and all violent crimes fulfills a defending society position. There is no doubt that executions defend society at a level higher than incarceration. Why has the Pope and many within Church leadership chosen a path that spares murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives, when they could have chosen a stronger defense of society which spares more innocents?

Properly, the Pope did not challenge the Catholic biblical and theological support for capital punishment. The Pope has voiced his own, personal belief as to the appropriate application of that penalty.

So why has the Pope come out against executions, when his own position -- a defense of society -- which, both rationally and factually, has a foundation supportive of more executions?

It is unfortunate that the Pope, along with some other leaders in the Church, have decided to, improperly, use a defending society position to speak against the death penalty.

The Pope's position against the death penalty condemns more innocents and neglects justice.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

(1) "Capital Punishment: New Testament Teaching", 1998, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., considered one of the most prominent Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. See bottom.
http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Sacred_Scripture/Sacred_Scripture_014.htm

"There are certain moral norms that have always and everywhere been held by the successors of the Apostles in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Although never formally defined, they are irreversibly binding on the followers of Christ until the end of the world." "Such moral truths are the grave sinfulness of contraception and direct abortion. Such, too, is the Catholic doctrine which defends the imposition of the death penalty."

"Most of the Church's teaching, especially in the moral order, is infallible doctrine because it belongs to what we call her ordinary universal magisterium."

"Equally important is the Pope's (Pius XII) insistence that capital punishment is morally defensible in every age and culture of Christianity." " . . . the Church's teaching on 'the coercive power of legitimate human authority' is based on 'the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine.' It is wrong, therefore 'to say that these sources only contain ideas which are conditioned by historical circumstances.' On the contrary, they have 'a general and abiding validity.' (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, pp 81-2)."

about Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
http://www.mariancatechist.com/html/general/stjohnhardon.htm
http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/archives.htm
http://www.mariancatechist.com/html/general/fatherhardon.htm
http://www.saintphilomena.com/newpage4.htm
http://credo.stormloader.com/Saints/hardon.htm


(2) "The Death Penalty", by Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html

I find this to be a thorough theological repudiation of Pope John Paul II's death penalty prudential judgements and of their improper inclusion into the amending of the Catechism.

"Amerio has the great gift of going to the heart of a subject in a few lines and very neatly distinguishes genuine Catholicism from imitations and aberrations." "What makes Amerio's analysis unique is that he restricts himself to official and semi-official pronouncements by popes, cardinals, bishops, episcopal conferences and articles in L'Osservatore Romano, from the time of Pope John XXIII to 1985 when the book was originally written." (1)

titled "Amerio on capital punishment ", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007

About Romano Amerio
http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/176565?eng=y
http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2006/02/romano-amerio-and-pope-benedict.html
http://www.latin-mass-society.org/2007/romanoamerio.html
http://www.angeluspress.org/oscatalog/item/6700/iota-unum


(3) "Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty", at
www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx


(4) "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective",
by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm


(5) "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice", Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September 2004 found athttp://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml


(6) "The Death Penalty", by Solange Strong Hertz at
www.ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/death2.htm


(7) "Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says", Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987.
The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.


(8) "Why I Support Capital Punishment", by Andrew Tallman
sections 7-11 biblical review, sections 1-6 secular review
http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/search?q=Capital+punishment


(9) Forgotten Truths: "Is The Church Against Abortion and The Death Penalty"
by Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Crusade Magazine, p14-16, May/June 2007
www.tfp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=957


(10) "A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World" by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).


(11) "God’s Justice and Ours" by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2022


(12) "The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)",
by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 2003 http://www.st-joseph-foundation.org/newsletter/lead.php?document=2003/21-4



(13) Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray
http://books.google.com/books?id=phoqAAaGMpUC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA114&ots=mFvByHqGSy&dq=Murray+%22It+is+the+sanctity+of+human+life+that+underlies+the+sixth+commandment.%22&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=ACfU3U1b0mdM3BfpNSXnhrwFYXaE_9Ij9A


(14) "MOST CATHOLICS OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?",
KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers, March 2, 2004
www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_040302.asp


(15) "THOUGHTS ON THE BISHOPS' MEETING: NOWADAYS, VOTERS IGNORE BISHOPS",
KARL KEATING'S E-LETTER, Catholic Answers,, Nov. 22, 2005
www.catholic.com/newsletters/kke_051122.asp
---------------------

70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.

copyright 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites

homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www.dpinfo.com
www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www.coastda.com/archives.html see Death Penalty
www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www.prodeathpenalty.com
http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

1:13 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Interesting.

I disagree with some of your arguments, but you have obviously put a lot of thought into them.

Of course, as a faithful Catholic - and a pro-life advocate - I follow the teachings as promulgated in the Catechism.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous American Phoenix said...

If I thought I could depend on the American justice system to NOT release a convicted murderer sentenced to life imprisonment AND if I thought other prisoners and guards would not be at risk from such a convict, I would not be in favor of the death penalty. Unfortunately, neither is true any longer in this country. It didn't used to be this way. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole used to mean just that. But I've seen too many instances where what the justice system has promised has not been delivered.

11:57 PM  

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