With the pending execution of Timothy McVeigh on May 16th, the death penalty issue has resurfaced in the minds of many Americans--especially Catholic ones. The pope has made several pleas for McVeigh's life. Beliefnet members examine what McVeigh's execution will mean to the families of the victims, the country, and McVeigh himself.
"Pray Instead for the Victims"
"As I understand the commandment often stated as "Thou shalt Not Kill", the correct translation from the Hebrew is "Thou Shalt Not Murder."
"Try to console yourself with these thoughts:
...We rid of homes of vermin
...This planet is our larger home
...There is no place on this planet for McVeigh
"Justice can never be served in this horrendous crime, unless McVeigh were to be blown to bits 168 times. Do not let McVeigh's paying the price for his acts weigh on your conscience. He is not worthy. Pray instead for the remaining victims, the families of those gone, and those who still survive, in some cases without all their body parts, definitely with their innocence shattered."
"He is Still a Child of God"
"We shouldn't want revenge. Timothy McVeigh is a child of God. One who has committed a very evil act but still a child of God. I am against the death penalty. I believe that he should spend the rest of his life in prison, but be allowed to die a natural death. I don't think the State should be in the business of killing people. The United States is the only Western Country to retain the death penalty."
"His peers have judged him by what he did, but there is a Judge to whom he may appeal for forgiveness, and who will judge him by his real motives. The fact that his error carries with it the death penalty imposed by man does not prejudice the chance of his soul to obtain justice and mercy before the heavenly courts.""
"We, as a society, can administer earthly punishment on Timothy McVeigh, and pray to Our Lord that he repents and is saved by the salvation that only Our Lord can give. We pray also for the victims of his terrible actions, they have to live with it the rest of their lives, as he should also. I don't believe in the Death penalty, it is only for revenge, if someone is deemed dangerous for society they should be kept in prison for life. Life is sacred and only God can end it."
"Personally, I am conflicted on the death penalty issue. Reason being, God MANDATED the death penalty in the Old Testament, so how can it be intrinsically immoral? I'm not saying we should go back to executing adulterers, but God doesn't tell people to do sinful things either.
How does the Catholic Church address this issue and justify its position? I understand rejecting the death penalty to avoid killing any possible innocent, but there are cases, like McVeigh, where there is absolutely no question of guilt. How is it that an action once mandated by God in such cases is now considered immoral?"
"Ironically we kill a killer for killing which in the true philosophical sense is not logical. I agree that emotionally I feel he deserves to die for what he did. But I personally couldn't start the IV drip. If I couldn't do it it's probably not "right" for the government to do it in my name."
Abortion and Executions: "Both Matter to God"
"Sure. People with candles and prayers at abortuaries get hauled off to jail under RICO anti racketeering laws. People with candles and prayers at executions get about three seconds of media coverage as a backdrop for a reporter to interview some spiteful member of the victims family. In neither case does it matter to people that candles and prayers are present- but it matters to God.
"Don't kill. McVeigh wants to die? That's the easy way out for him. Catholic teaching allows execution under some circumstances- and the killer wanting to die, and being guilty, and a danger if paroled- is not one of the reasons.
"The hard way for McVeigh, would be to repent. It's not for us to determine if he's done that, or if he's ready to go to heaven or hell."
What Happens After the Execution?
"We don't know what will happen once Mcveigh dies. Would he be received like the prodigal son and gain admittance to heaven? I keep getting this absolutely weird picture of Mcviegh meeting God and collapsing into his arms saying 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry' over and over again. The way I saw it reminded me of a child with a parent. Than again, I don't know exactly what will happen. I guess I am reminded who goes to what place, in the afterlife, is not for us to presume or decide."
"We can dismiss the fact that he wishes to die, since his opinion no longer matters after the crime he committed, but how are we able to distinguish right from wrong in taking his life to ourselves? To our Creator? Is it based totally on the fact that he took lives?
"From a religious stance, God promised to reveal Himself to All men, and to live a life sentence in jail forever without parole, once he has to face what he has done as God reveals to him his sins, will be much greater than a death sentence, since everyone must endure suffering in their physical bodies to even associate with heaven or hell, which also is why God doesn't want us to take a life, because He knows the time will come when every knee will bow, and every heart will beg, but no one can get to that point without having fully repented in his heart, and Tim McVeigh has to come full circle from within his soul to feel the suffering, not because we are worried about him going to hell. True punishment is having to feel it in our souls."
"Lust for Violence"
"We are as yet a barbaric people. Timothy McVeigh is ill. How can one be sound and do what he did and say what he has about what he did? The man may not be insane according to the legal definition, but come on...Do you think he is sane according to the human way of being in the world?
"Executions feed people's lust for violence and this is a great sadness to me."
Don't Make Him a Martyr
"I find it ironic that we are giving Timothy McVeigh what he wants. He wants to be a martyr for his hateful and ludicrous political "cause." He doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in a cage having to wake up each day to the reality that his revolution didn't happen and that he is seen as a demented outcast and a callous babykiller. He simply doesn't want to repent."
"My gut tells me I want him dead--I don't want him hurting anyone else, nor do I want him to become a martyr for his "cause". My heart tells me "no execution". My mind is against the death penalty."
McVeigh's Death: The Balance of His Actions
"Timothy McVeigh was an ex-military member. Military members are some of the few to take oaths to defend the Constitution with their lives. This guy killed 168 people who were in a Federal Building, and denied them their right to life. This is a public building that any American could have been in so it is a threat to domestic security.
"James Madison, Father of the Constitution, which is where our national form of justice is derived from, gives the best modern definition of justice that I've ever heard; "Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit." (The Federalist #5l) The ultimate justice is salvation or condemnation and the ultimate liberty is life which, in this nation, is balanced by death."