What Is The Moral Issue In Modern Day Society With Capital Punishment?
What is the moral issue in modern day society with capital punishment? The Moral Issue facing society that I want to address is capital punishment and the Catholic Church’s stance on the issue. The most fundamental issue with capital punishment is that taking a life is morally wrong. That is exactly what the United States government is doing when the decision is made to kill someone for their crime. Another issue is the argument that capital punishment is not morally wrong in cases where the punishment is necessary.
The article by Nancy Westlund in the Catholic Herald explains how a Parish in Sacramento drafted a public statement in opposition to capital punishment.1 St. Ignatius parishioners began drafting a public statement in opposition to capital punishment. Educational messages about the issue began to appear in the parish bulletin. Three parish listening sessions were conducted on the death penalty. Jesuit Father Gerald Robinson said, “The resolution finds its roots in our deep respect for human life.”
The statement put out affirms that “Belief in God as author of all life, in the dignity of each person from the moment of conception, in love as the antidote to violence, in reconciliation, and restorative justice” (Westlund).2 Publication of the death penalty statement has brought renewed dedication to parishioners’ and support of a candlelight vigil on the eves of executions. A goal to introduce similar statements in other parishes was also mentioned.
The article by Judy Gross in the National Catholic Reporter states that economically capital punishment is wrong, but the church has a previous history of endorsing capital punishment.3 The article also examines the state of Florida and their high execution rate. Florida struck down all prior penalty laws, citing concerns for racial discrimination, the poor quality of court-appointed lawyers and the risk of executing the innocent. Texas leads the United States in executions with one hundred and twenty eight from 1972 to 1998. Houston has sentenced more people to death than most states, of those sentenced blacks were sentenced to death twice as often as whites. This also goes for the rest of the nation. Presently African Americans are the highest percentage rate race on death row at this time. The Catholic bishops of Florida wrote that, “The death penalty falls most often on the underprivileged, the indigent, the friendless, minorities, and ethnic groups.”
On January 2, 1998 a retiring Chief Justice, Gerald Kogan, came out strongly against capital punishment in favor of life sentences without parole. Kogan stated that his reasons are more economic, legal, and moral.4 Attorney Greg Smith opposes the death penalty on religious grounds and also believes it isn’t a deterrent and that poverty is a big factor in deciding who dies. So not only is it a moral issue but a racial, social, and economic issue as well.
According to the Franciscan Sponsorship Values, religious reasoning toward a solution for capital punishment would be taken from Dignity of the Individual and Justice with Peace. “The dignity, value and worth of the human person is really infinite… but because their being is dependent upon God’s infinite love.” 5 My stance on capital punishment is that it is morally wrong because justified or not, it is still “playing God” and putting a human life to an end. As a citizen of the United States, I do not agree with the death penalty. As an African American I feel hurt by the racial factor of blacks being the highest percentage rate to die on death row. As a Roman Catholic I feel that taking a human life that God gave for any reason is morally wrong and no one has that right to severely punish someone, except for God.
1. Westlund, Nancy. “Two parishes take a stance against capital punishment.” Catholic Herald 6 October
2. Westlund, Nancy. “Two parishes take a stance against capital punishment.” Catholic Herald 6 October 2001.
3. Gross, Judy. “Executions Continue: Does Debate. (Death Penalty in the US).” National Catholic Reporter 20 February 1998
4. Gross, Judy. “Executions Continue: Does Debate. (Death Penalty in the US).” National Catholic Reporter 20 February 1998
5. Franciscan Sisters of Oldenberg, Pamphlet Entitled Franciscan Sponsorship Values, Publication Date Unknown