Pope Francis’ new teaching on the death penalty rewrites the Bible

Aug 11, 2018 by

by Jules Gomes:

You don’t need God to defend the death penalty; the Golden Rule will do. The Golden Rule can be framed positively or negatively. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” says Jesus. “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others,” says Confucius. If you want others to value your life, you must value their life. If you inflict death on others, expect others to return the favour. Murder someone only if you are willing to face execution.

I’m not asking for revenge or retribution. I’m not arguing that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. I’m not calling for murderers to be executed so they will be incapacitated and won’t repeat the heinous crime of homicide.

I’m not pushing a Christian or religious morality. I’m not rooting for biblical or theological ethics. When arguing a pro-life position on abortion, I use exclusively scientific and philosophical arguments—I don’t go around bashing pro-choicers with my leather-bound ESV Study Bible. Scientifically, it can be argued that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Philosophically, it can be argued that none of the differences between the embryo I once was and the adult I now am justify killing me at that earlier stage of development.

So I don’t need to use an argument from authority to defend the death penalty. Conversely, I don’t need to use the reductio ad Stalinum argument and ask how just would it be to send Stalin to prison for life, perhaps with the possibility of parole for good behaviour. Anders Breivik is not exactly in the same league as Uncle Joe, but one must ask how justice is served when the mass murderer who went on a shooting spree in Norway killing 77 people, is given a sentence of 21 years in prison. That’s about 100 days per murder.

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