Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Death Penalty

At the National Catholic Register , Christine Williams writes that Catholics Debate Fate of Boston Marathon Bomber. After asking if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev crime warrants the death, Williams presents arguments for and against Tsarnaev's execution, without actually taking a stand either way herself.

That's not the case with Jonah Goldberg, who believes that the Boston bomber conviction puts death penalty opponents in an awkward spot.

Goldberg is an unapologetic supporter of the death penalty; that column is pretty much a repeat of a piece from July, 2012 -When a murderer is unsympathetic, death-penalty foes hold their tongues.

I don't expect to change Goldberg's beliefs on the subject; he's unlikely to be convinced by any argument I could put forth.

He asks:

How about now?
Are you in favor of the death penalty now?
I ask because the preferred argument from opponents of the death penalty is doubt: We can never be sure; look at all of the people released from death row; we can't afford to risk ending a single innocent life.

No, I am not in favor of the death penalty now. "Doubt" is not my preferred argument. I have absolutely no doubt that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty as charged. He's guilty as Hell, but bringing up Michael Slager - "the North Charleston, S.C., cop who shot Walter Scott in the back as he was fleeing and then allegedly lied about why he did it"- doesn't change my mind either.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2267)

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

As Christians, we are called to show mercy and forgiveness. I realize that this will fall on deaf ears when speaking to non-Christians.

From a statement released by the four Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts:

"As the Bishops of the United States said in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death,'no matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.' We believe these words remain true today in the face of this most terrible crime".

So do I.

Further reading:Pope Francis: No matter what the crime, 'the death penalty is inadmissible'.
Pope Francis Would Spare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Life.

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