Death penalty goes against Catholic values

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This is a common statement that comes up when discussing the subject of the death penalty. Capital punishment is the government-sanctioned killing of a person convicted of certain crimes, such as murder, treason, or espionage. I must admit, there was a time when I thought that capital punishment was a just punishment for those who committed terrible acts, but as time has gone on and I have done more research, I have come to the conclusion that capital punishment is morally, fiscally, and fundamentally wrong.

I recognize that not everyone shares the exact same moral code. So to clarify, the moral code I abide by is the one that I learned as a Catholic. For the sake of the article, this will be the code I use today to justify my statement. Through my views as a Catholic, I cannot morally stand for the death penalty, under the belief that all life is sacred. Saint John Paul II gave a statement in 1999 at the Papal Mass in St. Louis, Missouri that declared, “The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil … I renew the appeal I made . . . for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” In the Catholic belief, the sanctity of human life is critical, and part of that belief is the belief of forgiveness of someone’s sins, no matter how grave. The reasoning is the belief that all humans can regain grace. In this aspect, to end someone’s life because society has deemed it fit does not make in inherently right. It makes society just as bad as the criminal.

The second issue I take with the death penalty is the fact that it costs taxpayers a large amount of money. In fact, it is more costly to put a criminal on death row than life in prison. In Oklahoma, it costs one and a half times as much to put a man on death row as opposed to life in prison. A report done by the state of Oklahoma stated that this costs about $700,000 more than non-death penalty seeking cases. This alone should serve as a catalyst to deter states from using capital punishment. Personally, as a conservative, this seems like a no-brainer. The death penalty not only goes against conservatism in a moral aspect, as to take a life is not conservative in any way, but to spend more money on taking a life goes against the very idea of conservation as a whole.

The final issue is that there is no correlation between the death penalty and prevention of crime. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology titled, “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists.” The articles gives the conclusion, “There is overwhelming consensus among America’s top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty.” This is a big counter to the common argument that the death penalty deters people from committing crimes. There is no evidence to support this claim. Thus, we can infer that instead of attempting to prevent crimes, the death penalty is simply the sanctioned killing of criminals.

The problem with this is it goes against the very foundation of our justice system. Our justice system is based on the ideals of justice for all and innocence until proven guilty. The fact remains that there are still individuals who are put on death row who are later exonerated when counter evidence supports their innocence. But if a person is executed, and evidence is later found that would exonerate that person, it is too late. The deed is done. It turns into a matter of exacting vengeance rather than justice. For society to kill someone who killed makes society a killer as well. Instead of looking at killing someone as revenge, we should look at ensuring that we do not kill, lest we become the killers as well. As Marcus Aurelius said, “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”

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