Quite recently, the Vatican released the statement that they are working to abolish capital punishment worldwide.
Pope Francis stated how the death penalty should be "inadmissible" as punishment for any crime since it attacks the "dignity of the person." Previous to this statement the death penalty had been allowed in certain cases in order to "defend human life against an unjust aggressor."
I am very supportive of the new stance of the Catholic Church and what it means for the value of life. There are several reasons why I do not support the death penalty, but it all comes down to the fact that I value human life and want to be a strong proponent for everyone's natural right to life.
Does it make sense to punish someone with death for murder? That's like you are saying, "Murder is wrong. You should not kill someone. In punishment for your crimes, we will do exactly what we just told you is wrong to do." This is not to say that the person shouldn't be punished for their crimes.
Of course, they should. Heinous crimes are wrong. But there are other options like life imprisonment without parole that can be much more humane and beneficial for the healing of the person's soul and shows that their life has value.
Many people are opposed to giving criminals a sentence of life imprisonment because they believe that this will be a much bigger cost for taxpayers. It is the case that many prisons are overcrowded, but it is false to believe that the death penalty is a cheaper solution. In fact, the death penalty costs much more than life imprisonment without parole. This is partially due to the fact that most people who receive the death penalty don't get executed immediately after their sentence. Often times it takes years for their sentence to be carried out.
Giving a death penalty charge also eliminates the possibility of repentance for their crimes. Usually only the most terrible criminals receive the death penalty, and it is because of the severity of their crimes. Here's where my Catholicism comes into play.
If someone is given the death penalty, they might be executed before they have the opportunity to recognize the sin of their crimes and reform their life. This is not to say that they should ever be released back into normal life, since they could still be a danger to society. Rather it is a personal convergence that could impact their life in prison by allowing them to atone for their crimes or, more importantly, develop a relationship with God and go to heaven despite what they had done in the past.
Shockingly there have been many cases where innocent people have been given the death penalty, but were thankfully released before their execution. The Death Penalty Information Center says, "Since 1973, more than 162 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence."
Thankfully they were exonerated, but what of those who were not? Before there was DNA testing and other technology, many more people might have been wrongly killed for crimes they did not commit. As more and more technology is developed, so does the possibility of discovering more about past crimes.
As a Catholic, I strongly support this new teaching and I hope that it will bring a greater sense of the value and importance of all human life.
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- Death Penalty Information Center: DPIC ›