Pope Francis, like his predecessors in that office, is issuing some sweeping statements about political and moral issues on topics recently ranging from capital punishment to man-made catastrophic climate change.
From what I can gather about his ideas on these matters, his feelings are strong, there’s little ambiguity in his convictions and there’s almost no intellectual or moral argument offered to support his opinions.
Let’s take the issue of capital punishment, for example.
He said recently there is no justification for the death penalty any more in the world today. He called it “inadmissible, regardless of how grave the crime.” But the pope went even further than that. He also characterized life prison terms as a “hidden death penalty” and solitary confinement as a “form of torture,” saying they should be abolished.
His comments should raise several questions for the public to consider before reflexively responding to the emotional appeal of such statements:
- What exactly should we do with people who commit heinous crimes, such as mass murder of innocents including children and the helpless elderly and infirm?
- What is the appropriate punishment for acts of genocide?
- Since the pope has such a hatred of “torture,” what would he suggest is the appropriate sentence for someone who sexually abuses children and then murders them to avoid discovery?
- And, lastly, from what source does the pope get his moral convictions about such matters, considering the Bible clearly condones the death penalty for murder?
It’s easy to make sweeping condemnations of the death penalty as a religious leader to win accolades from millions as a moralist. It’s like declaring oneself in favor of world peace. The problem comes when you consider the alternatives – one of which, life imprisonment, has also been called immoral by the pope.
May I humbly and respectfully suggest we should expect a little more from the pope than the issuance of moral platitudes? After all, we live in a fallen world, as I assume the pope acknowledges. There is no perfect justice on this planet. But God, in Scripture, has offered us some practical guidelines, and even commandments, for how man should govern himself in our fallen state. Frankly, I see little connection between what the pope suggests and what God commands.
First of all, it’s biblical. I don’t know about you, but I get my ideas about right and wrong from the Bible.
I defy anyone to read the Bible in its entirety and tell me God doesn’t approve of capital punishment. In fact, God does not reserve it exclusively for the crime of murder. And He doesn’t just approve of it, He prescribes it.
I suggest to you the reason He does is because God so highly values life. The irony, of course, is that death penalty opponents believe they are valuing life by opposing it. But that’s just more evidence of what the Bible frequently refers to as man being “wise in his own eyes.”
The very reason capital punishment is moral is because it places such a high value on innocent human life. It is the ultimate expression of how highly we value life. It is meant as a deterrent to those who might consider taking a life. And, there is not a doubt in my mind that if we used it more frequently and with more certainty in murder cases, it would serve as a formidable deterrent.
It’s common sense. But in a world that increasingly accepts the death penalty in utero for the most innocent of human life – unborn babies – and denounces the death penalty for those who perpetrate the most hideous crimes against the innocent, it’s clear we are drifting away from God’s way of doing things.
Bringing about justice for heinous crimes is one of the reasons God institutes government. As usual, many in government want to abdicate their responsibility to performing the few duties for which government is useful – like defending the nation, controlling borders, controlling currency and bringing justice for those who are victimized.
Think about that last duty – bringing about justice for those who are victimized. Can you imagine what happens when government abdicates its responsibility for executing justice for victims and their families? It leads to vigilantism and a cycle of violence, bitterness, helplessness and despair.
Executing duly convicted murderers is not only a legitimate role for government; it is a duty.
The Founding Fathers understood this. They oversaw its implementation. There was no thought by any of them that this was “cruel and unusual punishment,” as some revisionists seek to suggest.
Of course, if further restrictions on capital punishment come to America, they won’t come by way of an expression of the will of the people – by popular or even by legislative action. They will come by way of judicial fiat – as so many other unpopular ideas have been forced down the throats of the American public.
That’s the world in which we live today – where black is white, up is down, left is right and right is wrong.
So from where does the pope get his moral convictions about the death penalty? Does he not owe it to his followers and non-followers alike to offer something more than his personal opinion? And if it’s nothing more than his personal opinion, should he not make that clear?
More to the point, is the pope suggesting he is wiser than God? Or is he suggesting that God has changed His mind about capital punishment?
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