This time, a supporter of abolishing capital punishment, takes the pope to task for his weak arguments for abolishment, from Catholic Culture.
Full disclosure: I oppose the use of the death penalty in America today, for prudential reasons that I may explain in another essay. When Pope Francis said execution is always inadmissible, I was not dismayed by his conclusion. But I was dismayed by the logic he used to reach that conclusion.
”For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure,” the Holy Father told the International Commission against the Death Penalty. Perhaps so. In an ideal world, all criminals would be fully rehabilitated; they would pay their debts to society and become productive members of society. For that matter, in an ideal world there would be no criminals. But we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes the system fails, and sometimes criminals remain dangerous to society despite our best efforts to rehabilitate them.
If capital punishment is excluded, then the most dangerous criminals must be kept behind bars indefinitely. Pope Francis argues that the death penalty is unnecessary because the prisoners on Death Row are no longer a threat to society; he says that their “current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized—they are already deprived of their liberty.” But that statement is simply inaccurate. Even if we set aside the possibility that an imprisoned killer could escape and terrorize the general population, we should not ignore the threat that a vicious criminal poses to his fellow inmates and to prison guards. Brutal and unrepentant convicts make prison life less humane, and thereby make it more difficult to rehabilitate less serious offenders.
But Pope Francis seems to exclude even the possibility of lifetime sentences, since he says that a life term maybe “considered as a sort of overt death penalty.” Is he contradicting himself here? Or is he proposing that a serial killer must eventually be released?
In making his case against the death penalty, Pope Francis reasons that execution is unnecessary because the killer has already been apprehended, so there is no danger that he will kill again. But here he assumes that capital punishment has no purpose other than protecting society from someone who poses an immediate threat.
Actually the death penalty (or any criminal penalty) has two other important purposes. First it is intended to deter other potential criminals, putting them on notice that they might pay dearly for their offenses. Second it is intended to show the society’s repugnance toward the crime.
Retrieved March 24, 2015 from http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1082