Concentrating the Mind

Catholic opponents of the death penalty sometimes seem to lose sight of the primary purpose of punishment. The Ca­techism of the Catholic Church (final text) says, “Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.” If I commit a serious offense against society, I bring about a disorder, and the point of punishment is to reestablish the lost order. If I willingly accept my punishment, “it assumes the value of expiation.” And it can protect you from future crimes I might commit. The Catechism thus gives three purposes of punishment: defending public order, protecting people, and moral change in the criminal.

Paragraph 2267 reminds us that “the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty” but then adds, “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” This appears to make a secondary purpose of punishment override the primary. That appearance has led to some fuzzy thinking. The correct meaning must be that the primary aim of punishment can be achieved short of exacting the death penalty. A single means—say, life imprisonment—restores the order lost by the crime, protects society against future crimes of the incarcerated, and gives the prisoner a chance to repent.

The paragraph should not be read as making the protection of society trump everything else. Why? Because imprisonment protects society against future possible crimes. But the criminal cannot be punished for what he might do; he is in prison because of what he has already done. If life imprisonment is to serve the primary purpose of punishment, it must, like the death penalty, be primarily justified as sufficiently “redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.”

Paragraph 2267 is concerned exclusively with a secondary purpose of punishment: protecting society. Unless, as suggested, “protecting society” be taken to comprehend “redressing the disorder.” (Paragraph 2266 distinguishes “defending public order” from “protecting people’s safety.”) One sometimes hears in the clamor to end the death penalty that retribution is no longer the aim of punishment. But if there is no cause for retribution, punishment is unjust: All that would excuse it is the fear that someone might in the future harm us and that solitude might better his soul.

Enthusiasm sometimes obscures the fact that the Catechism “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty.” However rare such recourse might be, even if it were only once in a millennium, it would have to be justified. The long and rich tradition of Catholic morality has made clear what that justification is. That doctrine is what would justify capital punishment, however rarely exacted. Which is why that doctrine must not be, however implicitly, trashed. We should not preen ourselves, as we join the somewhat motley parade of opponents of capital punishment, that we have advanced beyond our tradition to a higher plane of morality.

Actually, the Holy Father’s campaign against having recourse to capital punishment is a corollary to his evaluation of dominant trends in modern culture. Ours, he has said, is a culture of death. We live in a country where, as Russ Hittinger puts it, the state whose primary purpose is to protect the lives of its citizens has farmed out the right to take innocent life to abortionists. Such a state loses the moral authority to exact the death penalty. It is not because we are so nice but because we live in such a bloody society that we might oppose having recourse to capital punishment.

Neither should we invoke human dignity as if our free actions do not specify us morally. A murderer and an innocent babe are poles apart morally. To talk about capital crimes as if they do not touch the moral essence of the agent is to trivialize human behavior and adopt the outlook of most others who oppose the death penalty. They are against punishment as such. They will go on from capital punishment to campaign against life imprisonment—it is already happening in Europe. In the all-too-familiar modern twist, it is the one who exacts just punishment, not the criminal, who is condemned.

Catholics must never forget how countercultural they are, even when they oppose the death penalty. Of course the liberal establishment opposes it but for essentially different reasons. They do not believe in moral responsibility. They do not believe in a life beyond this one. We should not even have words in common with the Gentiles, someone advised. That would be hard to do, but surely our thoughts have little in common with theirs.


This article originally appeared in the October 2000 issue of Crisis Magazine.

Ralph McInerny


Ralph McInerny was a popular writer, philosopher, and teacher, as well as the co-founder of Crisis Magazine. He passed away on January 29, 2010.

  • digdigby

    Life imprisoned murderous sociopaths are a horrendous danger to both other prisoners and guards. What do they have to lose? Society doesn’t end at the barbed wire. Prisoners are human beings and as degraded as their circumstances may be, prison is part of the social order. The threat (and the humans at risk) doesn’t end at the penitentiary gates. This must be considered in any discussion of the death sentence.

  • Briana

    I’m not liberal by any strectch of the imagination, but I don’t believe in the death penalty and I think it’s a bit much to say that liberals “don’t believe in moral responsibility.” In fact, if you were to study the injustices and problems in our country’s legal system related to how capital punishment is meted out and who usually receives it, I think many liberals are against it BECAUSE of their moral codes. here:

    • Dudley Sharp

      Rebuttal to the death penalty racism claims
      Dudley Sharp

      1) “Death Penalty Sentencing: No Systemic Bias”

      2) “The Death Penalty and Racism The Times Have Changed”, Washington Post reporter Charles Lane, The American Interest, Nov/Dec 2010,


      4) Race, Sentencing and the death penalty.


      5) McCleskey V Kemp

      Baldus’database and work in McCleskey was quite poor.

      Read Federal District Court Judge Forrester’s rejection of Baldus’ database for McCleskey.

      A more thorough review is provided by Joseph Katz, who did the methodological review of the Baldus database, which was rife with errors and problems. I have it, if you care to research.

      In addition, SCOTUS totally misunderstood the math involved.

      They ignorantly wrote: “defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times as likely to receive a death sentence as defendants charged with killing blacks.”

      Totally inaccurate.

      It was by odds of 4.3 times, which can mean a differential as low as 2%, “t w o” percent, as opposed to the 330% differential represented by 4.3 times.

      SCOTUS blew it big time on this.

      These two articles, below, give a good explanation of the Baldus problems:

      “The Math Behind Race, Crime and Sentencing Statistics”
      By John Allen Paulos, Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1998

      See “The Odds of Execution” within “How numbers are tricking you”, by Arnold Barnett, MIT Technology Review October, 1994

  • Briana

    *stretch of the imagination* I meant. Pardon my spelling error.

    • Cord Hamrick


      Thanks for the link.

      Point of contention: Is it not the correct response to implementation problems with the death penalty to fix the problems rather than to eliminate recourse to the death penalty wholesale?

      • Briana

        The way it’s implemented makes up the bulk of the problems I have with it, but that’s not the entire issue. There’s the hypocrisy of killing someone to show that killing is wrong; the fact that life without parole can be an equally effective deterrent; robbing the criminal of his chance to repent and turn his life around; having to bury more than just the victims of crime, and some other things. I tell you what, I’d recommmend that anyone read Sr. Helen Prejean’s book Dead Man Walking if they haven’t yet. She doesn’t believe in coddling criminals; she does believe that they should be held accountable for all the awful things they’ve done and she ministers to families who have been victims of crime. But she makes many wonderful arguments against the death penalty in this memoir. One memorable statement she makes is that people who believe in capital punishment should be willing to let executions be televised. If capital punishment is such a wonderful deterrent to crime, the public should see exactly how wonderful it is. I would argue the same thing, and I would also say that about abortion and euthanasia. So I would say either read this book or look up a guy named Bud Welsh. He lost his daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing and didn’t want Tim McVeigh to die.

        • Dudley Sharp


          No one is killing people to show killing is wrong.

          Most folks know that murder is wrong, even when there is no sanction.

          Just reciting nonsensical anti death penalty sayings doesn’t help the discourse.

        • Dudley Sharp

          ” . . .makes you realize the Dead Man Walking truly belongs on the shelf in the library in the Fiction category.” “Being devout Catholics, ‘the norm’ would be to look to the church for support and healing. Again, this need for spiritual stability was stolen by Sister Prejean.”

          The parents of rape/torture/murder victim Loretta Bourque.

          “I wouldn’t have had as much trouble with (Prejean’s) views if she would have told the truth . . .” ” . . . (Sr. Prejean) based her book on what was in I guess a defense file and what (rapist/murderer) Robert Willie telling her.” ” . . . she’s trying to mislead people in the book. And that’s something that she’s going have to work out with herself.” “(Sr. Prejean’s) certainly not after giving anybody spiritual advice to try to save their soul.”

          Case Detective Michael Vernado, in the rape/torture/murder of Faith Hathaway


          “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”

        • Dudley Sharp


          Bud was one our of about 2000 who lost loved ones in the Oklahomas City bombing and the only one, that I am aware of, that speaks against the death penalty.

          81% of Americans supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the OKC bomber,

          Why? Justice.

  • Gavin

    This is the first time I have seen someone address the problem of the CCC on the death penalty. If redressing the order is the primary end of punishment, then being able to protect society without inflicting death is a mute point (and naive assumption). Is death ever deserved? Can someone commit a crime that can only be properly redressed by inflicting death? This issue must be established first, before we decide that death is unnecessary to achieve secondary ends.

    • Carl

      Ralph said “three purposes of punishment: defending public order, protecting people, and moral change in the criminal.”

      Three equal parts, there are no secondary ends.

      Haven’t we inherited death from our original parents and their original sin?

      I see no confusion in the CCC. Modern society has the ware with all to isolate very bad people. This was JP II’s point.

      But not all society is modern; could Iraq be trusted to imprison Saddam Hussein for a life sentence?

      And as McInerny states modern society is now pushing for life sentence abolishment.

      • Ender

        “Punishment is held to have a variety of ends that may conveniently be reduced to the following four: rehabilitation, defense against the criminal, deterrence, and retribution.” (Cardinal Avery Dulles)

        It is really unfortunate that Mr. McInerny used the phrase “defending the public order” instead of the unambiguous term “retribution”, since that is what the phrase actually means.

        More to the point, the Catechism does identify a single objective as primary … making the other three secondary. Again, despite the use of the fuzzy phrase “redress the disorder” in the Catechism, what is meant – and what is identified as primary – is retribution (or retributive justice if you prefer).

    • Ender

      Thank you for asking the right question: “Can someone commit a crime that can only be properly redressed by inflicting death?” If the answer is no then any discussion about protection is, as you said, irrelevant.

      Clearly the Church has always taught that death is a just punishment for certain crimes since she has throughout her entire history recognized the right of States to apply it. Surely it is reasonable to ask: if the greater penalty is just how can the lesser penalty also be just given that the severity of the punishment must be commensurate with the severity of the crime?

      • Gavin

        Ender, thank you for correcting Carl’s mistake.

        Could you please clarify your last qustion?

        Also, as to the your answer that the Church has always held that the death penalty could be deserved: Is it possible that the Church recognized this right because of the necessity to safeguard the population, i.e. a secondary purpose of punishment? And perhaps this is why JPII and the Catechism says what it says in 2267?

        • Ender

          We know the death penalty is a just punishment for (at least) the crime of murder or the Church wouldn’t allow it under any circumstance. We also know that for a punishment to be just it must be of a severity commensurate with the severity of the crime (2266), so the question is: if death is just because it is of commensurate severity, how can imprisonment – which is a less severe punishment – also be just?

          The Church has long recognized that capital punishment provided security but never tied its use to that (secondary) objective. If it was unjust it could not be used even to obtain security but if it is the just punishment, what is the objection to its use?

          • bill bannon

            Further, if a life sentence of watching a small tv and playing cards and having three meals a day which millions in the third world don’t have (6 million per year die of starvation)….if that redresses the disorder of murdering one person…. then what if the man killed four people and it’s all caught on video tape? How does a life of small television, card playing and totally reliable food source satisfy for killing 4…even though we all agree it satisfies for one…not.

          • Ender

            Bill –

            If a man owes $1000 and has $1000 we would expect him to pay in full. If he has $1000 but owes $4000 would we still not expect him to pay the amount he is able to even if it is not the full amount? There is no logic in holding that because someone cannot pay all he owes he should therefore pay less than he is able.

        • CCC 2266 The PRIMARY effect of punishment is to REDRESS THE DISORDER caused by the offense.

          How do we redress the disorder?

          Cardinal Avery Dulles = McInerny = CCC

          Rehabilitation = moral change in the criminal = CCC 226 medicinal value
          defense against the criminal = defending public order = CCC 2266 render aggressor unable to inflict
          deterrence = defending public order = CCC 2267 bloodless means sufficient
          retribution = moral change in the criminal = CCC 2266 value of expiation

          There is no primary/secondary means to redress the disorder.

          Gavin said “the primary end of punishment” No, the primary end of punishment is to know, love, and serve God. CCC 101…

          Ender said, “Catechism does identify a single objective as primary … making the other three secondary” No it doesn’t.

          Our primary end, single objective:

          Act of Contrition: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

          • Carl

            Semantics and Salvation

            Was my title for the previous comment.

          • Ender

            As I said, it really is a shame that Mr. McIrnerny didn’t clarify this point: “redressing the disorder” as the phrase is used in the Catechism means “retribution.”

            This quote from a 1980 document issued by the USCCB is the closest thing I have found explaining this:

            “The third justifying purpose for punishment is retribution or the restoration of the order of justice which has been violated by the action of the criminal.”

            They merely listed the objectives, they did not prioritize them, so there is no particular meaning in their listing retribution – or the restoration of the order of justice – third.

          • Dudley Sharp

            Carl and Ender:

            Look at what Carl said:

            “Act of Contrition: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

            There is no doubt that redress of the disorder is based upon retribution and that contrition is an important part of just retribution, just as expiation is, when the saction is accepted by the criminal.

            Obvioulsy, expiation is a huge consideration and is tied to retribution and acceptence of the sanction, resulting in expiation, cannot be acceptence without contrition.

            That is why retribution is primary and why it does redress the disorder.

  • bill bannon

    This issue has proved that Catholicism while surely the True Church in its core de fide positions and in its sacraments and in its apostolic lineage….can be ludicrous at its surface level of the ordinary magisterium due to massive conformism based on career (of both clergy and writers). If we were healthy in terms of adulthood, two Popes would never be able to call the death penalty “cruel” without a Cardinal protesting since God gave death penalties numerous times in Scripture. They have insulted God with this term “cruel” and not one Cardinal has grabbed the media through which to protest their personal pacifism.
    If these two last Popes were truly interested in criminal justice, their foray into the field would would not be a quickie but would cover a host of issues like penance within prison, safety of prisoners from rape in prison, duration of sentences, and hard labor rather than card playing in prison.
    Cardinals wear a red hat to symbolize blood which they may have to shed with courage. And a few in every century carry that out against evil. But how is it they let
    these two recent Popes call “cruel” what God issued over
    thirty times in the Scriptures….when Paul showed in Galatians what Cardinals should do when Popes err….”I resisted Peter to his face because he was deserving of blame.”
    To biblically literate Protestants who haven’t been seduced by modern scholarship that makes each bible reader a judge of what to believe is really from God, we present the spectacle of two Popes calling what God mandated “cruel”. Neither Pope has a traditional grasp of the OT….John Paul didn’t think the death penalties were from God (EV section40) and Benedict announced (VD sect.42) that all the prophets challenged every form of violence. Lol…an 18 year old Dispensationalist knows that Elijah killed 450 prophets of Baal, Samuel killed Agag because Saul disobeyed God and didn’t kill him, and Elisha brought on the death of 42 sacriligious children. And Benedict announces that the prophets challenged every firm of violence. Both these Popes suggested that we cannot be sure that Judas is in hell while Augustine and Chrysostom said they were in hell in no contradiction to Trent which said you could not know outside revelation….Christ’s repeated dire words about Judas sufficed for the Fathers….”it were better for that man had he never been born”….”not one of them perished but the son of perdition”. Strange words to be said about a man bound for glory. Most of the clergy and writers has been feminized so as to be averse to all that is severe in
    It’s not just them. They can’t punish child molesters nor can they punish Cardinal Law….the US Congress can’t punish Wall Street structurers of mendacious CDO’s….the Vatican can punish Catholic Congressmen who support abortion which actually is infallibly condemned now in section 62 od EV. Nobody can punish anyone… gang lifers repeatedly shank other prisoners in prison and no Pope comes to the rescue in defense of the murdered convict and says: “this is the exception we meant”.
    And why don’t they? Because this issue is not real but is public relations to the Popes….it’s their way of saying sorry for burning heretics from 1253 til the 17th century.
    PR. Let me say it again. PR. That’s why these two Popes do not visit the families of victims when they intervene to save a convicted murderer. They are salesmen in this area.
    nothing more.

  • bill bannon

    correction: the Vatican can’t (not can) punish Catholic Congressmen who support abortion

  • hombre

    Great to see you up and running again. But why did I know beforehand that America’s Republican Catholic magazine would be in favor of the death penalty?

  • bill bannon

    Justice Scalia long ago in First Things pointed out that the redressing of disorder of 2266 simply disappears in 2267.
    And we had several years ago two men in the South and one in Canada who raped one little girl each and then killed the girls by strangulation or suffocation. This is the type of crime that is not expiated by life sentences according to Thomas Aquinas here:

    Summa Theologica 2nd of the 2nd part, Question 66, art.6, reply to objection 2:

    ” Wherefore, according to the judgment of the present life the death punishment is inflicted, not for every mortal sin, but only for such as inflict an irreparable harm, or again for such as contain some horrible deformity. Hence according to the present judgment the pain of death is not inflicted for
    theft which does not inflict an irreparable harm…”

    By campaigning for actual abolition of the death penalty, the current Pope and Bishops make it probable in my view that such men will likely commit thousands more sexual sins in prison while serving life since Romans one sees gay actions as an incremental stage of prior sinning; and with the priest shortage in some parishes, I suspect our priests are not covering prisons as the did long ago.

    So our leaders campaign now to make punishing the crimes of horrible deformity like child rape and murder….safe from execution. What a wonderful world….and I say that facetiously.

  • Michael PS

    Some crimes are, indeed, worth of death; unfortunately, they are seldom punished at all. One thinks of a Francisco Franco, using the army of Morocco to destroy the liberties of his country, of a Raoul Salan, raising a mutiny in the army of Algeria and inciting a similar mutiny in France, of a Bastien-Thiry, plotting the assassination of the President of the Republic, as a prelude to a military coup (he, at least, was shot) or an Augusto Pinochet, using the army to defy the will of the nation.

    One thinks of collaborators like Philippe Pétain (who was pardoned) and Pierre Laval (another of the few actually shot), men who regarded workers’ rights as a personal calamity, who would cringe before the Nazis, so long as they allowed them to crush organized labour.

    One thinks of the leaders of the French Communist Party, who disavowed their comrades in Algeria and even expelled those arrested for supporting the FLN.

    I am more than happy to include those intriguers who purchase the consciences of the people’s representatives, the traitors who sell them and their mercenary tools in the media

    So, let us keep capital punishment, by all means, but let us reserve it for the worst offenders, the true enemies of the people.

    • bill bannon

      Michael PS
      And what of those who rape and strangle little girls? Are you saying that macro quantity alone is horrible deformity?
      Aquinas wasn’t saying that …as we know from his exempting theft while not exempting a lone murder or rape.

      • Michael PS

        Certainly, I hold crimes against the nation, as such, to be objectively graver than those against individuals.

        Thus, the crimes of a journalist, like Robert Brasillach, rightly shot for advocating collaboration, or a would-be assassin like Bastien-Thiry, neither of whom directly injured anyone are, in my opinion, incomparably worse than those of a serial killer like Harold Shipman, a doctor who succeeded in killing some 200 of his patients. The difference is not one of degree, but of kind. Their actions are a repudiation of the social compact, on which their own rights, including their right to existence, depends.

        • Ender

          It appears that JPII opposed the use of capital punishment in modern societies not in a doctrinal sense but out of a belief that it did more harm than good, perhaps believing that a society that cannot distinguish retribution from mere revenge would simply fall further into what he called a Culture of Death.

          I think he misjudged, as this is where modern society has arrived: it holds “repudiation of the social contract” to be “incomparably worse” than the murder of 200 people and that the crimes differ not in degree but in kind.

          It appears we have utterly lost the proper understanding of the nature of murder and that not executing those guilty of that crime, rather than helping us better appreciate the value of life, has diminished our appreciation even more.

          • bill bannon

            He called the death penalty “cruel” in St. Louis 1999. He did not believe the commands from God for death penalties were really from God…read section 40 of Evangelium Vitae. Takes 5 minutes with search time included. He had doctrinal errors on what inspiration in the OT God commands means. Try finding one doctor of the Church who thinks God did not command the death penalties of the OT. That search will take you forever.

  • bill bannon

    Do you ever give a yes or no?

    • Carl

      Com’on Bill, you know it’s a rhetorical question:

      CCC 2266 …right and duty of legitimate public authority…death penalty.

    • Michael PS

      Yes, I should like to see capital punishment reserved for crimes more serious than murder or rape

  • bill bannon

    Prison gives guaranteed three meals a day per court ruling.
    Apparently 14% of the world’s population would be better off with what the last two Popes think is adequate punishment for murder. 295 million people in the world are undernourished which means that placed in US life sentences in prison, they would be healthier bodily but not mentally….although who knows about the mentally part…..being undernourished in Calcutta may be a worse milieu than prison mentally also.
    So Pope Benedict could petition the UN to put both murderers and undernourished people in life sentences and the murderers would try to escape because they don’t like the small tv’s… but 14% of the world population would not try to escape because adequate guaranteed food is relatively great to them….and they never had showers before either or tv rooms.
    So the new Church teaching is that a sentence that 14% of the world would like to have for health purposes….is also adequate as a punishment to redress murder….and murderers are more likely to repent with hanging out watching tv… rather than with execution which changed the good thief in a hurry.

  • Carl


    Aren’t you making the “life’s not fair argument?” The parable of the fair wages?

  • bill bannon

    No, I’m making the “one man’s Nobel Prize- ACLU-NYTimes-USCCB-two Pope- abrupt development… approved punishment for murder (life sentences) is another man’s first time eating three meals a day and being covered for medical and dental”… argument.

  • Carl

    Why didn’t Cain get the death sentence?
    First, he gave a second rate offering to God, left God’s presence in a huff after his just admonishment, and then killed his brother out of jealousy. How many Commandments did Cain violate? Coveting, murder, not honoring God, and there’s an argument for Cain making temporal things his idols (Cain kept the best crop for himself).

    Cain appears to have had a full life, got married, had a son, and died of old age.

    God’s punishment of Cain was if he tilled the land it would not produce, made Cain a fugitive and wanderer, and placed a mark on Cain preventing someone else of murdering him.

    I would guess Cain became a hunter/forager during his fugitive/wandering days but that punishment didn’t last long because Cain settled the land of Nod.

    Seems Cain made out better than a solitary life in prison with three square meals and a TV set! And that life protecting mark could come in handy in modern prison life! The fact that Cain was married and raised a family would imply being blessed with healthy body too! (No need for health care)

    Not a bad deal for a murderer. The shame of a scarlet letter and you loose your chosen trade.

    • bill bannon

      You open an old wound…..the absurd treatment of the Cain immunity by John Paul II who said it should teach us
      mercy toward the murderer. Apparently John Paul missed God mndating a death penalty for all murderers after the Flood in Genesis 9:6. Why did God protect Cain and then order a death penalty in 9:6????
      Because the first kingdom appears in 10:8….Nimrod the first king. God protected Cain as a first declaration that private vigilante revenge is wrong and a kingdom setting rules for the demise of the murderer is a good….even though the early form of it was for kingdoms to give the avenger of blood rules….like the sanctuary cities.
      John Paul had a spotty relationship to the OT and Benedict is the same. In Domine Verbum section 42, Benedict talks about the immoral nature of the massacres and trickery of the OT. ROFLOL. God commanded the dooms of the Canaanites or Benedict better remove the entire 12th chapter if Wisdom from the Bible. And the trickery was iften wisdom as when Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in half and thus he found out the true mother. Joseph in Egypt puts a chalice in Benjamin’s luggage, then accuses him of theft and makes him a slave and thus sets the mood for his brothers admitting their sin against him. Jesus when the Canaanite woman seeks his help, walks away from her without a word…the apostles plead for her….Jesus announces “I have only been sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (untrue…He helped the centurion immediately). The woman doesn’t believe Him either and continues to debate with Him and Jesus shouts…”
      o woman, great is thy faith” and He helps her. But
      Benedict is against tricks because the catechism says no
      lies. The Bible is about wise fib tricks from Joseph to Christ. Can we get the classical humorless logic out of the catechism?

      • Carl

        There is a strong suggestion that Abel was a pious lover of God. I like to think that Abel was much like St. Maria Goretti, the young girl who forgave her killer, who was released from prison after 27 years. Alessandro became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and lived till 1970.

        When Abel cried from the ground did he cry for blood thirsty revenge or did he forgive his brother and ask God to apply punishment to [redress the disorder]? CCC2266

        There is a strong statement here, what greater example of forgiveness, redemption and salvation could there be?

        Where is the Faith, Hope, and Charity in the slaughter at the gallows?

        • bill bannon

          Abel’s blood cried from the ground not Abel. It’s a metaphor for the act being evil per se no matter what the victim thinks. People like Judas would thank you for killing them…so the opinion of the victim is irrelevant. Since Ecclesiastes says, “The number of fools is infinite”. I doubt that your wonderful example is typical. We just had a murderer in Texas executed and he said the day prior to the execution that he would do it again (dragged a black man behind his truck for 3 miles
          until dead).

    • Dudley Sharp

      Carl & Bill:

      In addition, it is common in this part of the discussion, for anti death penalty folks to bring up Cain, which I understand.

      But, if they are going to use God’s acts as determinative of man’s use of the death penalty, how can they simply forget the flood, within which more than 99.99% of the worlds population was executed by God, and within which, we may presume 99.9% had never committed murder.

      I would be hard to determine the huge number of peoples who died by God’s direct hand or through those He chose to carry out those killings.

      We also know of those cases where He chose to spare murderers.

      What God chooses to do is far different than what He instructs us to do.

      So there is no confusion, God instucted us that we were to carry out executions for 30 or so sins/crimes for which the punishment was death, but with only one crime for which execution was mandatory – murder.

  • Carl

    Our world’s undernourished is a separate issue and the Church has something to say about that too!

    And I think you give too much credit to the Church and it’s influence over modern public policy.

    Really, we could only wish the USCCB and two Popes had such an influence.