Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Catechesis v Emotional Response: Stanley Tookie Williams

I'll admit: I like talk radio. I get annoyed with Rush, and I work so I don't catch him that often. However, the other night I was on my way to dinner with friends when I caught the Sean Hannity Show. He had on two black ministers whose names I forgot. They were debating the issue of whether or not Mr Williams should get the death penalty.

Generally many of us consider ourselves to lean towards the Republican Party, mostly because the Democrat party has pro-abortion advocacy on it's platform. Myself and my friends and a great deal of the blog community tends to vote as such, though we will take issue with the GOP here and there. But this issue puts us on the other side of the fence and gives us some strange bedfellows, like Hollywood.

See, for Catholics, giving the thumbs up to capital punishment is something we are remiss to do. Our faith doesn't outright say that we cannot use capital punishment, but as John Paul II says in Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel Of Life execution is only appropriate "in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society".

Our Catechism tells us

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.

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 to 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 definitely 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 nonexistent."
(emphasis added)

In short, legitimate authority (the state, let's say) has the right to inflict punishment that is proportionate to the crime. Assuming we are positive about their guilt the Church won't exclude the death penalty but only if this is the ONLY possible way of defending safety. However since we have systems in place to keep these people away from society, execution is "practically nonexistent". And lets not leave out the line "without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself".

Because we have systems already in place to keep killers out of society we cannot say with surety that the death penalty is the only means of keeping society safe from killers. We also, as Christians HAVE to take in to consideration and the reality that even killers can have a change of heart. Even the most vile of criminals can be converted.

Does this mean we let them back out into society? No. They have broken trust severely with society and their debt must be paid. But with their life? Without possibility that a day from now, a month from now, even 10 years from now they might have a conversion to the Heart of Christ and repent of their sins? This is justice?

It tends to slide into an emotional issue. I don't agree with the Hollywood bleatings that he had paid his debt already by renouncing his gang life. I don't agree with the Governor or Sean Hannity that the only way to make a safe society is to kill our killers.

Issues on life must be consistent. They must be reasonable. They must be taught. They must be lived. They must be proclaimed. Tonight, at your religious Ed classes instruct the kids. Talk about it at Youth Group. Strike up a conversation with the kids at school. Teach them. Proclaim the Truth.

Catechism Entry
Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel of Life
Great Article

There is a lot to talk about on this topic. If you are responsible for Catechesis in your work or if you are one of the teachers, read up on the Church and the Death Penalty. Apply your mind to the text!!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. Totally disagree. I believe that the death penalty is sometimes the only JUST punishment for a cold-blooded killer. Punishment is not only about keeping criminals from repeating their crimes. It's also about meting out justice. As a Catholic, I value life. And, sometimes, the only appropriate response to murder is capital punishment.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best friend forwarded me your blog, so as a fellow youth minister, I would like to ask just one thing and I suggest you ask your kids...

Are we building a society of restribution or of redmeption and reconciliation?

5:10 PM  
Blogger TCYM Lounge said...

To first anon- why can't we give them a life time of work or solitary confinement? Does killing someone bring back the one who they murdered? Is it really just? Why is taking someone else's life justified in any regard? (I'm not talking about just war or self-defense here). Why isn't caging them up for the rest of their natural life enough? And take away all of their privilages, that's fine.

Reason with me: Why is it all right to take their life?

10:39 AM  
Blogger TCYM Lounge said...

Anon 2 (why don't peopl leave their names? just asking-maybe for the same reason I still haven't revealed mine, but that's a different entry):

I would like to hope that we are building a society of redemption. I would love to hope that even the worst of killers can indeed have a conversion. I would like to hope that in my murkiest darkest of my own sins that I would experience a deeper conversion and not be relegated to eternal death.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 1 here. CYM, I respect your opinion and I've thought about this long and hard (and I'm still thinking). You admit 2 exceptions to the rule of no murder: self-defense and war. I insist that capital punishment is the 3rd exception. I insist that retribution is a necessary ingredient of justice. If I rob someone, I can't just pay him back and walk away. I should serve time. Is it right to house murderers with drug dealers and burglars? To equate their very different debts to society? The commandment instructs us to not murder; to not take innocent life. In answer to your question: it is licit to impose capital punishment just as it is licit to kill in self-defense or in combat. (Laurrie)

1:26 PM  
Blogger TCYM Lounge said...

Thanks for responding Laurrie-

Retribution is not a "necessary ingredient for justice"-sincerity in the apology and RESTITUTION are the ingredients for justice.

However taking the murderer's life is not restitution for someone else's life. Taking Harry's life will not bring back Tammy's life. There may be no way to adequetely make restitution. A life cannot be brought back.

So I return to the original thought: "Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party." Death does not assit n correcting the guilty party. What if we thought about punishment as reform rather than an end in itself?

Some might say that reform is impossible. We will never know. There are parts of ourselves we should reform and never do. Cannot "restitution" be that the murderer is reformed-that he will never kill again? That his will, action and intellect has been transformed? Or at least in jail cannot have easy access to murdering?

Licit, yes, in that it is not morally evil according to the teachings of the Catechism. But as our system has ways of restraining killers from the good of society is this not the greater good? A chance at reform? A chance to repent? A chance at conversion??
Why is it not "right to house murderers with drug dealers..." One kills quickly, another kills slowly...they both do moral evils, who cares if they are housed together? That is of little importance. They are locked away from society where-in theory-they are unable to inflict harm again. (We all know jails have their fair share of drugs and killings too...)

Please show me biblically and/or through the teachings of the Faith where it is right for us to kill someone for killing someone else through our court system.

9:16 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home