Capital Punishment Essay Part III - Moral
The Christian reinforcement of the argument for the return of the death sentence in our land.
1. Inhumane and Brutal – The Life Term
Firstly let us come to the heart of the matter. What is the alternative? Simply life means life. Some describe that sentence offering no hope of liberty to the perpetrator of murder as brutal and inhumane. Yet we countenance it and implement it. That brutish interpretation is certainly arguable. Moves are afoot to secure the release of these indefinite lifers on humanitarian grounds. The death penalty would put paid to such arguments.
Fundamentally the Justification for the sentence of death is religious – Christian in my view. The Judges as the agents and officers of our Criminal Justice System must consider the elements of retribution: Justice must exact its price from the murder offender. He who commits such a grave crime must expect the penalty of death to be passed and enforced. Justice is not play acting nor is it legalistic. It is primarily concerned with imposing the correct punishment i.e. the retribution for the particular offence. Murder is by its very nature premeditated and therefore cries out for the ultimate punishment.
3. Coup de Grace
This is putting the murder convict out of his misery and removing his life means life sentence by imposing the death penalty. This French phrase is derived from hand to hand fighting where one of two combatants has to win and deliver the decisive blow – the coup de grace, as the French call it. It is seen as the merciful strike as the loser is despatched and put out of his misery. Literally it is the merciful blow translated from French. Thus the death penalty administers the coup de grace to the convicted murderer. This is particularly the case bearing in mind the agony of a life term with no hope of release. Should we inflict this torture? In reality the convicted murderers I have in mind for the death sentence will in all probability have no prospect of release:- Ian Brady, Myra Hindley dec’d, Peter Sutcliffe, Ipswich Strangler and Ian Huntley (both Krays are now deceased), (Capital Punishment Part II , R.M. Lamb – released on Kindle 24/09/13). The sentence of death is therefore merciful to many of these convicted murderers when compared to a lifetime in prison and no release.
4. The Christian Justification for the Death Sentence
This is primarily that the defendant is being sent to his death and then Judgement by God the Father Himself. We place God before Man, thus the death penalty is an act of Christian charity for a murder convict who, without doubt, has a mortal sin on his conscience and will be liable to stay in prison for the rest of his life. He may not be reconciled before he dies but he will go to the Judgement seat of God like it or not and in the unseen world he will know his fate, be he willing for that process or not. God the Father will banish him or consume him in love (dream of Gerontius – Newman). God’s Judgement is greater in every sense than man’s.
In Christian thinking we are taught to beware the sins of the heart as the Quran also teaches. These convicted murderers are not possessed by the devil nor are they the devil personified, nor the devil incarnate. They have each deliberately chosen to commit a very evil act ending the life of another person and must pay the penalty which the Judge imposes – I argue it should be hanging. Christianity supports the power of Caesar.
5. An Eye for an Eye
The quote is often given: an eye for an eye – a tooth for a tooth. No this is not what I am saying. You may argue one life should be taken as the first has been taken wrongly. That is logical; but the “tooth for the tooth” point misses out on the wrongfulness of the murder and the innocence of his victim and the Judge’s clean record. I argue that the judicially imposed death sentence is Justified by the evil crime of murder in all its turpitude as a matter of logical thinking. It is not tit for tat.
You cannot separate the criminal actor from his evil action (Actus Reus) and evil intent (mens rea). It is often said divide the criminal from his crime or his sin. No, he who commits a crime is gripped with that sin during his lifetime even if absolved from his sins. That is the basis of our criminal law. The stain may go in absolution but the sinner can never forget the sin nor can we in society. That is the psychology of men. Thus these convicted murderers cannot ever escape the consequence of their crimes in their thoughts and lives. Do they desire forgiveness? Some, possibly. Why did they commit these murders if they now feel sorry for doing them? There can be no justification for cold blooded murder. Any plea for mercy based on remorse by a convicted murderer should be closely scrutinised. It is simply and usually too little and too late (of course there may be exceptions). Thus I argue the psychology of Christianity and Roman Catholicism in particular reinforces the case for the return of the death penalty by stressing individual culpability and responsibility for a person’s actions. Catholicism may not support the brutal life means life policy. Therefore Roman Catholicism stands for right against wrong and she unwaveringly in my view will support the single judge who condemns the convicted murderer to death in years to come when the policy moves on. Wherever there is Justice there is Roman Catholicism. Let us therefore have the courage to restore the death penalty and empower our Judges to impose it where just and proper. The death penalty may be legitimately passed on those murderers who will not be given the so called “mercy” of life in prison due to the extreme gravity of their crimes.
Without doubt the public support the reintroduction of this penalty. They have not been asked to give their opinion – may we now stand up for them and speak their views on their behalf until their wishes are implemented in law.