Why I’m against the death penalty

By Tom Quiner

DownloadedFileFifty-four million innocent Americans have been unjustly put to death in the past forty years.

Each one of their lives was equally precious. They were convicted of no crime, other than they were inconvenient or simply unwanted.

What has abortion wrought for America? It has made this country less civilized. It has diminished humanity by dehumanizing pre-born humans.

I believe there is a long term goal to the sweep of human history, and that is the civilizing of man. Mankind’s history is brutal. Tribe after tribe, nation after nation has butchered their neighbors down through the millennium.

Are we making progress? I’m not sure.

The twentieth century was our bloodiest ever. Religious persecution was especially acute, as more people died for worshipping God a certain way, than the previous 19 centuries combined.

We witnessed an unprecedented expansion of so-called abortion “rights” in a country that was created with a creed that stated every single person is endowed with a fundamental right-to-life.

Human life is precious. It is more important than animal life. It is more important than Mother Earth.

I don’t mean to paint a totally negative picture. Mankind has made strides in the arts and sciences that have enhanced civilization in many ways. In this country, the poor live like kings compared to the average citizen of a third-world country.

But the dignity of man is under assault in Western Civilization as well as the rest of the world.

Historically, almost every culture has used the death penalty as punishment for murder. We’ve been hard-wired by our Creator to heed the message that “thou shalt not kill,” as I discussed in a previous essay (“The source of morality”).

Does capital punishment make us more civilized? I think not. It compounds one death with another. Many of my conservative brethren disagree with me. They site the Old Testament as validation of the efficacy and justness of the death penalty. They make a good point.

I get it.

Isn’t it time, though,  for man to grow up? It’s been two thousand years since Christ walked this earth. His message is, if anything, even richer, even more meaningful in this era when so many no longer find meaning in life, whether it is their own or someone else’s.

What is the meaning of life? It is that life has meaning, even that of a man who has murdered another man. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is still justice.

As a practicing Catholic, I am animated by the Church’s teachings on the subject. The Catholic Catechism acknowledges the state’s legitimacy in punishing capital offenses:

“Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.”

The Church does not deny the possibility of the death penalty for a capital offense, but frowns upon it:

“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.”

There are practical reasons I oppose the death penalty. Capital crimes that call for a death penalty are far more expensive to litigate, and more difficult to obtain conviction, than crimes which call for life imprisonment.

Even when conviction occurs, only one in ten are actually ever executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This prolonged process, which can take years, even decades, is difficult on the families and friends of the victim, as confirmed by researchers from the University of Minnesota and University of Texas at Austin. Their interviews revealed that those in Minnesota …

“show higher levels of physical, psychological and behavioral health” — since ostensibly “the appeals process in Texas was drawn out, elusive, delayed and unpredictable.”

Even worse is the possibility of convicting and executing an innocent man or woman. It has happened far too often in our nation’s history, especially to our minority populations.

The United States of America needs to return to being a nation that respects the dignity of human life. The first step is to stop aborting our posterity. The abolition of the death penalty is a lesser, but still significant, step in making our country a more civilized nation.


  1. Shawn Pavlik on April 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Death penalty has always been an issue I have struggled with personally as a Christian. I am vehemently anti-abortion, but I do believe the death penalty is appropriate for our most heinous crimes. For example, I do not believe that there is anything redeeming about keeping a mass murderer like Timothy McVeigh alive. Or a rapist/serial murderer like John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer. I believe the death penalty should be used sparingly. I believe the death penalty can help bring closure to the families of the victims. I do, however, believe the burden of proof needs to be higher for death penalty decisions. I think there needs to be a pretty serious DNA component, for example. There are some cases where the burden of proof is so overwhelmingly against the accused that there is pretty no doubt who committed the crime. I also believe that treason should carry the death penalty, as it often results in the deaths of their fellow soldiers. Major Hasan, after his trial, should have only a short time on Earth before his penalty is carried out. I think the 72 virgins he expects will more likely turn into a eternity of Hell fire.

    • Lisa Bourne on April 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      The Church does not teach that the death penalty is intrinsically evil. There are times when it is considered just. Unfortunately, this is among the many things misrepresented by those who would supplant Church teaching with their own liberal voice. Abortion, on the other hand, is always intrinsically evil. There are no exceptions, or for that matter, justifications. I bring these two together because it’s one of the numerous tired tactics of the left to toss the lame “you can’t call yourself pro-life and support the death penalty” schtick in the faces of pro-lifers. Really? The real question is, why would one have such opposition to those who oppose abortion, regardless of labels? It can only be because they actually support abortion, heinous crime that it is. The other reason I draw the death penalty and abortion together for comparision, is the ridiculous notion that there is even something to compare. Even were the death penalty immoral in all cases of its use, how many lives have been lost to capital punishment in the U.S.? I agree the flaw with its use is the possible execution of someone who is innocent, and I do not advocate for use of the death penalty. Any loss of life is serious. However, don’t even try to perpetrate that capital punishment negates abortion or is even on the par with it for consideration. I don’t know the official statistics for lives lost to the death penalty, but they are minimal, they aren’t unequivocally innocent lives, and they sure as hell don’t number anywhere near the 4000 per day killed in the womb in the U.S. The death penalty that deserves advocating for ending is the one given to unborn children in our nation, by and large for convenience.

      • quinersdiner on April 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

        I’m glad you approached the issue the way you did, Lisa. Your point is right on target, that those who favor human abortion use the death penalty as a club against pro-lifers who support capital punishment. You are right on: there is no moral equivalency between the two. I don’t view the death penalty as an “intrinsic evil” as I do abortion (and as does the Church). Even more, the death penalty can be a just punishment, where abortion is never just. Thanks for enhancing the conversation.

      • Shawn Pavlik on April 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

        No exceptions? Even for the life of the mother? For me that would be the one sticking point.

        I remember the doctor telling my wife they could test the fetus for any abnormalities so that she could “terminate” in the event of any problems. She told them they could run all the tests they wanted to; she was not killing her child.

      • Shawn Pavlik on April 5, 2013 at 9:29 am

        The ironic thing is that liberals would protect the guilty (convicted murderers, rapists, traitors, etc.) and kill the innocent (unborn children).

        • quinersdiner on April 5, 2013 at 10:03 am

          Again, I come back to my earlier comment: there is a lack of coherence in the thinking of the Left. I have staked out a pro life position that I believe is consistent, by opposing abortion and the death penalty. Abortion is never moral; but the death penalty can be, even though I oppose it. Thanks for writing.

  2. The Curried Nut on April 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Very eloquent, Lisa. Thought-provoking post!

  3. oarubio on April 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    An “eye for an eye…” is one of the Old Testament practices abolished by the new covenant of Jesus. Agree with you all the way! — Tony