Today we woke up to find that Troy Davis, a man convicted of killing a Savannah police officer in 1989, was executed last night in Jackson, GA. This case has caught national attention lately and involves my hometown. I have neither read substantial amounts of the case nor have I educated myself sufficiently on its details, so I won't comment on whether or not I think he was guilty of his crime. I will say, however, that Christians seem to contradict themselves on the issue of "Life." You will find few Catholics and few evangelical Christians who are not against abortion. These passionate people will fight and fight to protect the lives of unborn children. Most of them are good, good people. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not define life as "the unborn." It states, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end…”
I saw one too many facebook and twitter posts from people who sit in a pew each Sunday using words like "ignorant" and "stupid. " I have seen them in church. I have heard their cries for the unborn. And yet, this man, this Troy Davis, his life doesn't seem to be as important??
I have about a Kindergarten education on the teachings of the Catholic Church and an even lesser amount on the legal issues in this case. But Pope Benedict's US Envoy sent a letter pleading for Mr. Davis' life. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is pretty clear on church teaching on capital punishment. Even pro-death penalty folks like Bob Barr asked for clemency. While what happened to Officer MacPhail may never become clear, it is clear that there is doubt in this case. As I said to a friend on twitter, "we are DEFINITELY going to execute a man that we think MAYBE commited a crime."
And clear or not, it doesn't matter. As people who claim to be pro-life, we CANNOT support Capital Punishment. This presents a billion political problems because you will be hard pressed to find someone who is both pro-life and anti-death penalty running for higher office. But as someone facebooked (though in a different context), I'd rather be spiritually correct than politically correct.
Now, Troy Davis had 22 years of appeals. Many courts have reviewed all of the facts of the case and 99% of the people commenting have not reviewed the facts at all. Officer MacPhail was a father, a brother, a son. His life was stolen. But we are not in the old testament. This cannot be a case of an eye for an eye. A college friend, John Rue, posed the question, "Would we be making this much noise if Scott Peterson or Timothy McVeigh had a chance at clemency?" This struck me, because my initial thought was, "no, there was clear evidence that proved their guilt." So I am as guilty as any in my own judgement as to who deserves to live and who deserves to die. My church says:
Catholic teaching says that the situations in which the death penalty can be used are “rare, if not practically non-existent.” Wouldn’t cases of heinous crimes, such as 9/11, be examples of the “rare” cases?
The test of whether the death penalty can be used is whether society has alternative ways to protect itself, not how terrible the crime was. Life in prison without parole provides a non-lethal alternative to the death penalty. We can’t know whether God has a purpose for a person’s life, even one who has committed a terrible crime and must spend his or her life behind bars.
So I guess all this rambling is really pointed to those, like me, who believe that life is from conception to natural death. (I could write another blog on the "to" part including the homeless, addicted, mentally ill, lonely, elderly, shut-in, sick). I just worry that as Christians, we sometimes stop with the conception part. We fight, rightfully so, for a child to be born. But then sometimes we stop. We don't protect that child, feed it, clothe it, nurture it and protect it when it grows up to do something awful.
End rambling. Sorry guys.