The Church defends life
Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś
The issue of death penalty has appeared again in media space recently. The whole world is emotionally agitated because in Belarus two young people have been sentenced to death penalty. In this country such judgements are passed and enforced. Hence there is so much concern about these sentenced because there are suspicions that their legal process might have been carried out in an improper way, with using pressure on witnesses. We recommend this matter to the Divine Mercy. At the same time there were votes on the side of the Polish rightist party. Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of the Law and Justice Party (Pol. PiS), expressed his opinion that death penalty should be brought back in Poland. He justified his opinion, by referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Holy Father Benedict XVI asked politicians many times to ban death penalty. Let's note that Blessed John Paul II in 'Evangelium vitae' expressed his opinion about the matter of death penalty in a restrictive way, that is, he rejected it. In the Church there is always a binding commandment 'Do not kill'. It is expressed in the negative form and - as the theory of law says - 'Lex negativa obligat semper et pro semper' (The law expressed in the negative form obliges absolutely all the time). In the history of the Church throughout 2 thousands years there have been different periods, among the others, those when the Church allowed for death penalty because of the fact that criminals were exempt from punishment and the state structures of that time were not able to cope with, for example, recidivists. Nowadays popes and moral theologians convince that there are different times now. Countries are so prepared that the worst criminals can be rendered harmless and there is no situation in which we would be afraid that a recidivist will commit a crime again. Popes explain the situation of the man nowadays in this way and therefore they ask politicians to relinquish death penalty. Death penalty makes criminals afraid of committing crimes. However, there are countries where death penalty is used, for example, to eliminate political opponents. Maybe it is good that death penalty does not exist in Europe and is not executed. The Church teaches that every human life must be appreciated and respected. It says that life is very important and its natural process must be saved from the conception till the natural death. If we thought differently, we would introduce some interaction in this issue. If we fight for relinquishing death penalty, we fight not only about the sentenced but also those who may lose their life, for example, through abortion. Every embryo is a human being gifted with an immortal soul. If we have a lively human cell - the beginning of life, it leads to the development of the human being, not anything else. Hence, the respect for the human life from the conception till the natural death has a deep basis, factual fundament and therefore the Church defends the human life. It is one of the basic tests for different political or cultural groups. The Church will always ask: what is their attitude towards life? As far as death penalty is concerned, we must consider the issue of the respect towards life; especially when there are such situations that it is not completely known whether all premisses which caused the verdict of death penalty were true. In many cases innocent people were sentenced and the verdict of death penalty was executed on them. It is cruel that an innocent man is deprived of his life in the light of law. We must declare our support for life very strongly and firmly. It is extremely expressed by popes - the example can be Blessed John Paul II and the present Benedict XVI; because there are no doubts that the Church declares its support for life from the conception till the natural death. Only God has the right to take life and, in fact, there are no premisses which would point to the need of killing people. Even the worst murderer can be converted to Catholicism and count for the Divine Mercy and help. The Church will always defend life.