Thursday, January 18, 2007

Apologetic for a Random Reader (III)

Today's topic: the death penalty

How can we say we're part of the culture of life if we permit the death penalty? The culture of life bills itself as honoring the value of all life, so how can we execute anyone?

A similar argument can be make for Just War theory, but here isn't the place and now isn't the time.

First of all, while those questions are good ones, there's more to the culture of life than the matter of executing prisoners, which is why we normally associate "pro-life" with ending abortion. A well-ordered culture of life would seek to preserve all life, of both fetus and felon. The difference is the realization that we can't always do both; sometimes we need to protect the innocent from the criminal.

If we categorically refuse ever to use lethal force, then on the occasions that nothing short of lethal force will stop someone from causing great harm, we will be unable to prevent the harm. Our purpose is not just to refrain from causing violence; it is also to protect people from it when necessary (state of California notwithstanding, flight from an assailant is not always an option). If we are charged with protecting life, and we expressly fail to do so, then we are guilty of negligence. We can't wash our hands of it on the grounds that we avoided directly promoting a death. Life is a real thing we are obligated to try to preserve, not an abstract concept we serve only through personal avoidance of cause.

You'll get no argument that in this day and age, in this society, the necessity of applying lethal force after a criminal has been sequestered is just about nil. Thus, we admit the DP in theory, but usually deny it in practice.

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