“It is clear that for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
Since the article “CHURCH/ Enough of the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty” by Lorenzo Albocote, Ilsussidiario is a Spanish language website even though articles are published in English, I can only comment on that article here in my native tongue..
The writer used the recent execution of Troy Davis, a convicted cop killer (1989) as part of the reason for writing his brief article. The other reason was because he mentioned a number of people who publically opposed this execution, including Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote, “For this reason I thought that it would be interesting in this column to review what exactly the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the death penalty is.” And he inserted the italicized statement above of Pope John Paul II from Evangelium Vitae.
This position of the Magisterium is new starting with Pope John Paul II; and it is also wrong. It is wrong because of it is based on an erroneous assumption, and that assumption resides in the following sentence: “Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” What evidence does the Magisterium provide for that statement? Has anyone ever seen the evidence?
Here is evidence to the contrary, evidence not by a theologian but professionals in the penal system as well as Federal Prosecutors. The California “Corrections Department says there’s little it can do to stop the killings, ordered by inmates who have nothing to lose and nothing but time.” The Department was talking about prisoners held in the most modern, high tech maximum security prison who have been issued life sentences and are held in solitary confinement. “These inmates live alone in antiseptic cells that are painted with a glass wall so that guards can always see inside. Meals are brought to the cells and they are allowed outside only one hour a day, alone, to exercise in a small concrete yard.”
Federal prosecutors said hundreds of murders have been orchestrated from inside maximum-security prisons after “a three-year, $5 million, local, state and federal investigation began in Santa Rosa (Pelican Bay Prison) culminating in a 25-count indictment of a total of 12 men and one woman on federal charges of murder, robbery, conspiracy and drug-related crimes.”
It is disturbing that no evidence was sought or presented to justify this new direction on the part of so many bishops in the Catholic Church that goes against tens of centuries of common sensical Church teaching. Also, the fact that capital punishment is not moral in the U.S. because of our supposed ability to be able to protect society with our “steady improvements in the organization of the penal system,” yet, is moral in less developed countries is an indefensible position on the morality of the issue, itself.