Friday, February 18, 2005

Capital Punishment: A Biblical Perspective

As a radical, right-wing, Christian neocon, I've long been in support of capital punishment. My belief is that the death penalty serves as a great deterrent for certain crimes, such as the murder of a police officer. In addition, some criminals remain unrepentant until their last breath, and no amount of incarceration is going to "rehabilitate" them. Some of my liberal friends have questioned my double standard since I'm also pro-life. Although it's curious that they fail to see the hypocrisy in their own pro-abortion, anti-capital punishment platform, I am left to wonder whether my position is indeed inconsistent.

After stripping out the radical, right-wing, and neocon from my tongue-in-cheek label, I'm left with Christian, more specifically a Catholic Christian. Turning to the teaching of the Catholic Church, I am left uncertain as to whether capital punishment is right or wrong. Some will say the Church is strictly opposed to capital punishment, others will say the Church allows for capital punishment. After a quick review of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is clear that capital punishment is allowed only in the most extreme situations. The Catechism states in paragraph 2267:
    The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.

For non-Catholic Christians and Jews, the Old Testament provides clear teaching on the matter (Ezekial 18):
    Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?

Perhaps those of us who are pro-capital punishment should reflect on these teachings, and pray for a change of heart.

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