If you oppose killing unborn children, then you must be against killing… especially the death penalty, right?
Opposition to the death penalty has grown in the last few decades, especially (or even) among Catholic clergy. The Church used to hold a stronger stance in favor of the death penalty, but that is waning now.
Does that mean that Catholics, especially those who consider themselves pro-life, would be wrong to still support capital punishment? Does it follow that supporting the death penalty makes opposition to abortion hypocritical? Both these questions we will explore in this post.
PRACTICING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONSISTENT WITH CHURCH TEACHING
The Catholic Church has supported secular government’s use of the death penalty for its history.
Popes have ordered hundreds of executions over the centuries (ex. Pope Sixtus V) and the historicity of the Church’s support is well documented. As well, the Catechism used prior to the current one upheld the morality of capital punishment.
PRACTICING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS CONSISTENT WITH SCRIPTURE
The Bible states execution is legitimate. If someone takes a human life, then his life is owed in return. This is what God Himself said: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image,” God tells Noah (Gen 9:6).
The New Testament as well affirms capital punishment as just. Saint Paul states, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he (the earthly ruler) does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” Paul writes (Romans 13:4).
In addition, Jesus Himself upholds the morality of capital punishment. You heard me. He says it would be better a man be drowned to death than to commit the sin of scandal (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).
BENEFITS OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT ABOUND
Obedience to the Fifth Commandment: Thou Shall Not Kill
It seems counterintuitive. How is killing someone a means to follow the commandment not to kill?
However, the command is that you may not murder someone, not an absolute against killing in any circumstance. Consider that God commands people to go to war and the like, so we can be confident of this. Also, we reserve the right to defend ourselves and our neighbors from those who wish to kill us themselves.
The death penalty actually respects human life. The act avenges for the loss of another. It says a murderer ought not be allowed to go on living, when he removed that right from his victim(s).
“The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder,” states the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, as promulgated by Saint Pope Pius V in 1566.
Offering One’s Life Expiates for Sin
A forgotten aspect of the death penalty is that it expiates for the offense of murder. To expiate means to make amends for, or to extinguish one’s guilt.
In fact, Pope Pius XII, who passed away in 1958, states, “It is reserved to the public power to deprave the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation for his fault, when already the condemned has disposed himself of the right to live.”
The idea of death expiating for sin can be seen most apparently when we consider Calvary. Jesus Christ willingly died to expiate everyone’s sin for all of time. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Accepting One’s Death Is Extremely Meritorious
If someone (such as a murder on death row) knows precisely when he will die, this can be a tremendous grace afforded to him afforded by God.
Confronting one’s own death certainly has been known to straighten out morally-corrupt people. Knowing the date and time of one’s own execution, the convict can get himself right with his Creator, and he can frequent the sacraments.
If someone can accept his own death as the just punishment for his crimes, then he gains himself tremendous grace from God. He can consent to the loss of his earthly life as the will of God.
Consider the example given to us of Saint Dismas. He was the Thief on the Cross next to Christ who repented.
He accepted his death as “just” for his misdeeds. In return for placing His faith in Christ, he is now a saint in Heaven (Luke 23:40-43).
It does not follow that capital punishment should be done away because the convict needs ample time to repent. For one, he may never repent, no matter how much time he is given. And for two, giving him extra years to his life gives him opportunity to do more harm.
He could possibly kill again (ex. a prison guard or a fellow inmate). He may perpetrate other crimes, even while in prison, by getting messages out. Or he could even escape prison altogether.
Execution serves as a deterrent to would-be criminals. People (at least ought to) think twice about breaking and entering, if they know the home owner is packing heat inside.
Also remember that, at least in this country, an accused murderer has the right to a defense in his trial, as well as a lengthy appeals process. He is given time and the means to both clear his name or else delay his execution.
This Life Is Not the End
Many people executed for crimes in this lifetime have gone on to Heaven, assuredly.
Our society has rejected God. Our society has forgotten of hell. Our culture thinks Heaven is owed to everyone—if there even is one at all. Thus, if a whole peoples thinks this lifetime is all there is, then they will see the loss of life on this side of death as the end-all, be-all.
COMPARING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT TO ABORTION IS APPLES TO ORANGES
Don’t fall for the mistaken notion that opposition to abortion necessitates disapproval to the death penalty.
Yes, in both cases, a person dies.
Yet, in the case of the baby, she is innocent of any personal crime. Whereas, the murderer stands guilty of the crime of taking another person’s life.
The baby cannot hurt anyone, yet the convict has shown the ability to take someone’s father, mother, relative, or friend away.
The baby needs but one person to decide her life is expendable, and she can be murdered (her mother’s, in the case of abortion). Whereas, the accused man, at least in this country, is provided an attorney, faces a judge, is convicted by a jury, goes through court appeals, and is given access to priests or other ministers before his death.
Abortion is murder. Capital punishment is not, it is justice served.
Not everyone has to oppose the death penalty to be completely pro-life.
Having one’s life taken when one has already murdered is not a crime. It is just.
Being a baby is not a crime worthy of death, as in the case of abortion.
The cases of capital punishment versus abortion are hardly comparable.
Alright, I want to hear from my readers on this one.
Are you pro-life and supportive of the death penalty? If so, why?
Or, are you pro-life and oppose capital punishment? Why is this the case for you?
Please sound off below and please share this post around, thanks!