"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Justice Done

Every time people begin to wonder whether the death penalty is really necessary anymore, a case comes along to re-affirm that indeed, some crimes just flat out deserve the ultimate punishment, not, mind you, because of some base motive of revenge, but simply because the crimes are so offensive against the moral order that only the punishment of death can approach a congruent satisfaction for the crime.

Anyone familiar with Aristotle will recognize this concept of proportionality and retributive justice. These classical principles, based as they are on the Natural Law, were easily absorbed into Jewish and then Christian thinking about Justice. No amount of modernization of the civil justice system can derogate from the moral necessity that calls for proportional, congruent satisfaction for crimes. It is in fact one of the most important duties of the state to guarantee this type of justice, so that the community is protected, crime is punished and is perceived as being adequately punished, and to discourage private acts of vengeance.

And so recently in Virginia we witnessed the execution of John Allen Muhammad, the so-called "Beltway Sniper," who with cold calculation and meticulous efficiency, slaughtered 10 people and wounded three others. His guilt beyond any doubt whatsoever, his crimes reprehensible, his just execution was the only punishment that would approach justice in his case. Living his natural life as a ward of the state, enjoying the comforts that the American prison must offer inmates (hot meals, reading material, recreation opportunities, access to cable TV) while it would curtail his liberty, would hardly proportionally address the horrific loss of life he wantonly visited upon the affected communities.

For those keeping track, for our Catholic governor Tim Kaine, this was execution #10 that he allowed to proceed despite his supposedly "deeply held religious conviction" that the death penalty is immoral.