Don’t confuse what I’m saying here. I don’t question Tsarnaev’s guilt. He planted the bombs at the marathon, he helped cause the death of four people, and injured dozens of others. He helped put the city of Boston in a state of fear and panic. He is absolutely guilty of everything he was charged with. He deserves to be punished for his actions and crimes against the people of Boston, especially the people he harmed at the marathon. He is guilty. I wrote about this earlier on this blog and my thoughts haven’t changed about that.
However, I’m not a death penalty supporter. I’m strongly against it. I follow the Catholic view point on the death penalty almost to the point. First, take a look at it, then let me explain why it makes sense to me. First, here’s the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that touches on this.
2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
The main point of this is that the Church isn’t opposed to the death penalty. However, if the death penalty is to be administered, it must be the ONLY recourse to benefit society. If a society cannot keep a dangerous criminal away from society without the death penalty, then it’s the moral thing to do. However, due to the current state of our prisons, our technology, and our ability to run a secure country, we can keep criminals behind bars and run a secure prison. We can keep a murderer locked in prison in solitary confinement as pure punishment. In fact, I’d be more scared of solitary confinement than execution. If executed, I would be sent straight to the after life and I’d face my maker right then and there. In solitary confinement to a prison no bigger than a small hostel room with an immovable cement bed, a cement stool, a toilet and a sink, without human contact for 23 hours a day. That is a far worse punishment than death.
One more problem I have with the death penalty is that the act speaks of terrible arrogance. To take someone else’s life is the ultimate act of arrogance and control over another person. It’s the sort of control that no person should be able to exert over another. We don’t have the right to decide when people should die because of their actions, even if their actions are so heinous and detestable. There’s a line from Gandalf in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring.
I’d recommend that you read what the chaplain of Boston University, Father David Barnes, wrote about this today. It’s a bright insight on why the death penalty isn’t necessary, needed, and why mercy in this respect is the proper approach.
So, to sum up, the death penalty isn’t necessary, it isn’t the right punishment, and it’s wrong for us to use it in this case. There are all my thoughts on the use of the death penalty in the Tsarnaev case. This is one of the few things that I generally disagree with my family on, and it’s an important one to me. I hope and pray that we change our direction and path forward on this issue and that we don’t need to use it anytime soon. And I hope we recognize that it’s not a needed punishment now.