3.04.2006

walk of the cross

While I was on retreat, the bells tolled during evening prayer twice at the monastery for two men who were executed by our government. This morning I read in the local paper about a man who was sentenced to death. The reactions of the prosecutor, juror and victim struck me deeply.
I am not condoning the crimes this man committed. I have no intention of belittling the feelings of the woman who narrowly escaped with her life. I sympathize with the inner struggle of the juror who has sentenced another human being to death. But being "extremely pleased" that another human being is going to die? Why does that make me think back to the crowds 2,000 plus years ago shouting "Crucify Him!". Why does it seem to me more like blood lust than a search for justice?

You can read more in my post over at Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

2 comments:

Legally Insane said...

as i have learned, justice is a relative concept. what is just for one is an affront to another. unless, of course, you follow that "Jesus guy" you mentioned.

then justice attains an absolute measure. but, unfortunately, not eveyone's heart is home to Christ.

i feel ambivalent about the death penalty.

when reading shakespeare's hamlet, hamlet has an opportunity to kill his uncle claudio while claudio is praying to God. thus, hamlet decides against killing claudio because he reasoned that claudio, who was praying for forgiveness, would then go to heaven.

instead, hamlet decides that he would wait and exact his revenge after claudio has sinned again.

similarily, it bothers me in a way that those who murder may prevent those they kill from perhaps living out their lives to one day have an opportunuty to find God and—as you have—to follow that "Jesus guy." and yet, by abolishing the death penalty, the murderer may be extended an opportunity that the victim might never have had: a chance to discover eternal salvation.

a very difficult issue that more people ought to be thinking and praying about.

Legally Insane said...

here is the other half of my ambivalence. my first reaction was from from reading shakespeare, but my second reaction is from reading victor hugo's les miserables (i apologize for the long comment but hugo's eloquence captures the sentiment i feel):

—————
In fact, when the scaffold is there, all erected and prepared, it has something about it which produces hallucination. One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty, one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no, so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes: but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent; one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against. Some admire it, like de Maistre; others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte; it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral. He who sees it shivers with the most mysterious of shivers. All social problems erect their interrogation point around this chopping-knife. The scaffold is a vision. The scaffold is not a piece of carpentry; the scaffold is not a machine; the scaffold is not an inert bit of mechanism constructed of wood,iron and cords.

It seems as though it were a being, possessed of I know not what sombre initiative; one would say that this piece of carpenter's work saw, that this machine heard, that this mechanism understood, that this wood, this iron, and these cords were possessed of will. In the frightful meditation into which its presence casts the soul the scaffold appears in terrible guise, and as though taking part in what is going on. The scaffold is the accomplice of the executioner; it devours, it eats flesh, it drinks blood; the scaffold is a sort of monster fabricated by the judge and the carpenter, a specter which seems to live with a horrible vitality composed of all the death which it has inflicted.

Therefore, the impression was terrible and profound; on the day following the execution, and on many succeeding days, the Bishop appeared to be crushed. The almost violent serenity of the funereal moment had disappeared; the phantom of social justice tormented him. He, who generally returned from all his deeds
with a radiant satisfaction, seemed to be reproaching himself. At times he talked to himself, and stammered lugubrious monologues in a low voice. This is one which his sister overheard one evening and preserved: "I did not think that it was so monstrous. It is wrong to become absorbed in the divine law to such a degree as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone.
By what right do men touch that unknown thing?"