It is only January 16th today. Anthony Shore has been convicted of 5 heinous crimes (rape and murder) of young girls between the ages of 9 and 21. His conviction was November 15, 2004 some nine years after his last known victim. He is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 6 P.M.[i] He himself has asked for the death penalty and has a history of abusing his second wife’s children as well.[ii] Although he has a family and children – no one is going to his execution.
The Catholic Church’s teaching as of today does not absolutely rule out the death penalty – though Pope Francis has stated that “It is necessary therefore to restate that, however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”[iii]
Now imagine the great state of Texas has a conflict of interest and the court appoints you to fly in and fill one of the following roles:
- Confessor and consoler: you are provided the authority by your church and by the legal system to spend several hours with Anthony to console, to listen to his evil deeds, and if he is genuinely penitent provide confession so God may show him mercy.
- Executioner: Without guidance or counsel you alone will be the hand that pushes the needle or pulls the lever that brings death to Anthony. At 6 P.M. you alone can perform the execution or you can dictate life in prison. Your decision will be final either way.
What role would you choose? What would you do?
And if not the executioner, how do you answer the question from Anthony – what do you want the executioner to choose on Thursday? And if you avoided the executioner role on spiritual grounds are you guilty nonetheless in that you had the power to take that role and dictate life in prison? Or responsible to the victims and their families for not taking on the task of executioner and leaving it to chance of another person – perhaps not as inclined to take a life?
As consoler, can you genuinely find it in yourself to practice the mercy and love of Jesus Christ towards this vile human being who himself as requested the death penalty?
This is a very straight forward case of the highest degree. There is no legal ambiguity by man’s laws or standards. Race or IQ is not an issue. No claim of insanity has been made.
Whatever role you chose you would have to, if you are a person of faith, consider the victims and their families as well. Perhaps on your knees you may pray:
“O God, we pray for those who have been murdered on the streets of our city. We commit to your loving care those who have died, beseeching you to receive their souls into the mercy of your love. Comfort their loved ones who mourn. Enable them to meet the lonely and painful days ahead in the strength of your love. Let the love that you have made known to us lead us to create safer streets for all to walk upon. Amen.”[iv]
If you are a heroic prayer, you may even find the strength and inspiration to pray for Anthony, for the Anthony underneath the layers of evil and sin, for the innocent Anthony before his heart and actions became corrupted and gave way to horrible actions.
If you are a saint, you would be able to pray to God and provide consolation and healing to all involved, to find meaning in suffering, and to shoulder the immensity of pain, anger and rage that these crimes evoke from our most primal instincts. You would act decisively and perhaps unexpectedly in a manner that leaves everyone speechless and changed forever.
Anthony will be executed in three days. I am against the death penalty based on moral and political grounds given the frailty of our legal system to get it right.[v] 1032 people were executed on 2016 excluding China where it is believed thousands are executed every year.[vi] Many of these executions are not for the serious crimes committed by Anthony or possess the legal due process and certainty of this case. Egypt was recently in the news for a growing rate of systematic use of the death penalty and achieving the dubious claim in the New York Times of having “Execution Tuesdays.”
My opposition is not as high as that of Pope Francis that is opposed regardless of the crime. I have human affections that weigh heavily on wanting justice in Anthony’s case while recognizing I am seeing this situation through the eyes of being a man and not through the lens of God. I am not that confident that anger and emotion, if put in the eye of the storm, would not have me throwing the proverbial switch? Much less has driven me over the edge of sanity and beyond God’s intentions.
In today’s world we are all witnesses and participants to death penalty executions. Some would argue that every execution is an execution of Jesus, of God, of faith? There is no “blame free zone.” We support the death penalty or we do not support the death penalty. As much as I may want to have “a la cart” options – sometimes it just boils down to a straight forward decision: I am willing to pull the switch or I am not:
Where do you stand?
Consoler or executioner?
Anthony has stood trial and been convicted. Now, we are on trial as people of God on how we choose to handle the problem of evil. How will we be judged collectively and individually? What is the right thing to do with Anthony Shore and the Two thousand, eight hundred and sixteen others on Death row today in the United States alone?