Mercy & the Death Penalty

To:  COMMISSION TO STUDY THE DEATH PENALTY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
 
bcc: The New Hampshire General Court, Police Chiefs and media throughout New Hampshire
 
From: Dudley Sharp
 
Mercy & the Death Penalty
compiled by Dudley Sharp
 
1)  Saint Augustine: " . . . inflicting capital punishment . . . protects those who are undergoing capital punishment from the harm they may suffer . . . through increased sinning which might continue if their life went on." (On the Lord's Sermon, 1.20.63-64.)
 
2)  Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful.-- CS Lewis
 
3)  Saint Thomas Aquinas: . . . the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin anymore." (Summa Theologica, II-II, 25, 6, 2
 
4)   “. . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy.” Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey (1) (p. 116).
 
5)  Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
 
“The most irreligious aspect of this argument against capital punishment is that it denies its expiatory value which, from a religious point of view, is of the highest importance because it can include a final consent to give up the greatest of all worldly goods."
 
"This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is . . . Summa, ‘Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.’  "
 
"The moral importance of wanting to make expiation also explains the indefatigable efforts of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist Beheaded, the members of which used to accompany men to their deaths, all the while suggesting, begging and providing help to get them to repent and accept their deaths, so ensuring that they would die in the grace of God, as the saying went.” (2)
 
Some opposing capital punishment ". . . go on to assert that a life should not be ended because that would remove the possibility of making expiation, is to ignore the great truth that capital punishment is itself expiatory. In a humanistic religion expiation would of course be primarily the converting of a man to other men. On that view, time is needed to effect a reformation, and the time available should not be shortened. In God’s religion, on the other hand, expiation is primarily a recognition of the divine majesty and lordship, which can be and should be recognized at every moment, in accordance with the principle of the concentration of one’s moral life.” (2)
 
Some death penalty opponents “deny the expiatory value of death; death which has the highest expiatory value possible among natural things, precisely because life is the highest good among the relative goods of this world; and it is by consenting to sacrifice that life, that the fullest expiation can be made. And again, the expiation that the innocent Christ made for the sins of mankind was itself effected through his being condemned to death.” (2)
 
6)  William Law : "To say, therefore, as some have said, if God is all love toward fallen man, how can he threaten or chastise sinners is no better that saying, if God is all goodness in Himself and toward man, how can He do that in and to man which is for his good? As absurd is to say, if the able physician is all love, goodness and good will toward his patients, how can he blister, purge, or scarify them, how can he order one to be trepanned and another to have a limb cut off? Nay, so absurd is this reasoning that if it could be proved that God had no chastisement for sinners, the very want of their chastisement would be the greatest of all proofs that God was not all love and goodness toward man."
 
"And, therefore, the pure, mere love of God is that alone from which sinners are justly to expect that no sin will pass unpunished, but that His love will visit them with every calamity and distress that can help to break and purify the bestial heart of man and awaken in him true repentance and conversion to God. It is love alone in the holy Deity that will allow no peace to the wicked, nor ever cease its judgments till ever sinner is forced to confess that it is good for him that he has been in trouble, and thankfully own that not the wrath but the love of God has plucked out that right eye, cut off that right band, which he ought to have done but would not do for himself and his own salvation."   A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life,  http://www.answers.com/topic/william-law
 
7)  George MacDonald: God will give absolute justice, which is the only good thing. He will spare nothing to bring his children back to himself, their sole well-being, whether he achieve it here—or there.  http://www.george-macdonald.com/
 
8)  The Catechism of The Roman Catholic Church (2005) states: “The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense.” "When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation." 2266
 
This is a specific reference to justice, just retribution, just deserts and the like, all of which redress the disorder.
 
We must first recognize the guilt/sin/crime/disorder of the aggressor and hold them accountable for it by way of penalty, meaning the penalty should be just and appropriate for the guilt/sin/crime/disorder  and should represent justice/just retribution/just deserts and their like which “redress the disorder caused by the offence” or to correct an imbalance, as defined within the example of 2260:
 
"For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning.... Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." "This teaching remains necessary for all time."
 
9)  Jesus: Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Jesus) replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23: 39-43
 
Mercy, salvation and redemption will not be measured by the method of our earthly death , but by our state of grace in the context of the eternal.
 
10)  C. S. Lewis:  "According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. "
 
"I believe that the “Humanity” which it claims is a dangerous illusion and disguises the possibility of cruelty and injustice without end. I urge a return to the traditional or Retributive theory not solely, not even primarily, in the interests of society, but in the interests of the criminal."
 
"The reason is this. The Humanitarian theory removes from Punishment the concept of Desert. But the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust."
 
"My contention is that this (Humanitarian) doctrine, merciful though it appears, really means that each one of us, from the moment he breaks the law, is deprived of the rights of a human being."
 
"Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether . . .".
 
" . . . in the process of giving him what he deserved you set an example to others. But take away desert and the whole morality of the punishment disappears. Why, in Heaven’s name, am I to be sacrificed to the good of society in this way?—unless, of course, I deserve it. "
 
"The punishment of an innocent, that is , an undeserving, man is wicked only if we grant the traditional view that righteous punishment means deserved punishment."
 
"But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image."
 
"This is why I think it essential to oppose the Humanitarian theory of punishment, root and branch, wherever we encounter it. It carries on its front a semblance of mercy which is wholly false. "
 
" . . . the Humanitarian theory wants simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. " The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment
 
11)  C. S. Lewis:  "Some enlightened people would like to banish all conceptions of retribution or desert from their theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself.  They do not see that by so doing they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it? And if I do deserve it, you are admitting the claims of retribution. "  "The Complete C.S. Lewis", Signature Classics, The Problem of Pain, P407, Harper Collins, 2002
 
12)  Why do parents punish their children for transgressions? I think it easy to understand sanction of a child, by a parent, is a reflection in love.
 
They want the child to understand the level of transgression, which is reflected in the degree of sanction (retribution),  that the expected and hoped for result of that sanction is teaching, to encourage sorrow and apology that will be reflected in improved behavior,  that such rehabilitation will result in a better person that will improve the total moral good (rehabilitation and redemption).
 
Few are so naive as to believe that any or all of these can or will take place in many or most circumstances with criminals within a criminal justice system. It  does, however, recognizes that sanction/retribution is an essential requirement, which has a hoped for restorative and rehabilitative effect.
 
13)  "Executing a murderer is the only way to adequately express our horror at the taking of an innocent life. Nothing else suffices...A murderer sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole can still laugh, learn and love, listen to music and read, form friendships, and do the thousand-and-one things (mundane and sublime) forever foreclosed to his victims."  Don Feder, Boston Herald Columnist. "McVeigh Makes the Case for Capital Punishment". 21 May 2001
 
14)   Reconciliation has to be built with full recognition and accountability for the wrong. –Martha Kilpatrick
 
15)  G. K. Chesterton : Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy.”  http://www.online-literature.com/chesterton/
 
16)  William Shakespeare: Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.
 
17)  Never Forget Mercy for the Innocent   -    "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/05/the-death-penalty-more-protection-for-innocents.aspx
 
18)   “I have been asked on hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.” Billy Graham
 
19)  Nothing is to be preferred before justice.” Socrates
 
20)  Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens : Plato
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1) synopsis of “A Bible Study”, from Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. Dr. Carey was a Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College.
 
2) “Amerio on capital punishment “, Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007 ,
www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html