Execution about vengence, not justice
I wish to respond to Stacy Davis's letter on Thursday, in which she wrote the following: "Pray for Timothy McVeigh if you want, but please make no excuses for his actions. He brought his fate upon himself."
Of course, Timothy McVeigh's actions were cowardly, reprehensible and unjustified. No one can dispute this.
Of couse, Mr. McVeigh's crimes have taken something from all of the victims' families that they can never get back — loved ones and their peace of mind. No one can dispute this.
And of course, Mr. McVeigh's crimes cry out for justice, so that society may remain safe from murderous aggressors like himself. No one can dispute this.
Does Mr. McVeigh need to suffer consequences for his actions? Yes.
Do the victims of this horrible tragedy need to be comforted? Yes.
And does society need to take action to protect itself? Yes.
But does Mr. McVeigh need to be killed? Has he, in the words of Ms. Davis, "brought his fate" — execution — "on himself"? No.
Ms. Davis's assertion that Mr. McVeigh needs to die resonates with what others have said recently about the upcoming execution. Attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, has agreed to broadcast the execution on closed-circuit television so that families of the bombing's victims can "have closure." Mr. Ashcroft has said this is only just, and that Mr. McVeigh's death will serve justice. And Ms. Davis has concurred.
She and Mr. Ashcroft are both wrong, horribly wrong. Killing Timothy McVeigh isn't about justice. It isn't about righting wrongs. It's about vengeance.
Justice doesn't require killing Mr. McVeigh. In fact, true justice requires only that he be stopped from remaining a future menace to society. This could easily have been accomplished by putting him in a maximum-security prison, for life, without parole.
Pope John Paul II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church have recognized that capital punishment is permissible if and only if there is no other way for a society to protect itself against a murderous criminal. In other words, only those countries that can't afford to build prisons may practice capital punishment in the name of justice.
But the United States can afford to house dangerous criminals like Mr. McVeigh. Therefore justice dictates that he should be imprisoned. Executing him is excessive, unnecessary and, in the view of all who recognize the need to preserve the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death whenever possible, totally and irrevocably unjust.
And no should pretend this is otherwise. Killing Mr. McVeigh will solve nothing, will right no wrong, will help no one. It will merely give those already hurt by his evil deed the opportunity to exult in barbaric joy at his death.
Let no one pretend that this execution is about anything other than barbaric, uncivilized vengeance.
April 12, 2001
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, April 18, 2001