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Prolifer: Spare abortion doc's life

One of the many things that make the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell interesting is that if convicted of murdering any of seven newborns allegedly delivered live in his West Philadelphia clinic, he would face the death penalty. Indeed, capital punishment plays an important part in the case since the district attorney allowed cooperating witnesses-- those who admit killing their tiny victims with scissors -- to plead guilty to lesser charges that don't carry the death penalty.Would Dr. Gosnell's execution by lethal injection be a concern for those who call themselves prolife? It turns out that the answer is yes -- at least for one prominent anti-abortion advocate, Princeton University Professor Robert P. George. In a post at First Things, he writes:

Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brothera precious human being made in the very image and likeness of God. Our objective should not be his destruction, but the conversion of his heart. Is that impossible for a man who has corrupted his character so thoroughly by his unspeakably evil actions? If there is a God in heaven, then the answer to that question is no. There is no one who is beyond repentance and reform; there is no one beyond hope. We should give up on no one.

It will be interesting to see the reaction George gets, including from the substantial number of Catholic bishops who hold his conservative views in high esteem. A call to spare Gosnell's life would make a powerful prolife statement, steeped in gospel values. George's column anticipated resistance to that:

I do not myself believe that the death penalty is ever required or justified as a matter of retributive justice. Many reasonable people of goodwill, including many who are strongly pro-life (and whose pro-life credentials I in no way question), disagree with me about that. But even if the death penalty is justified in a case like Gosnells, mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.I do not expect my request to be met with universal acclaim.

The comments on his post so far attest to that -- most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnell's life.

Comments

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Ken said: "Mercy is especially real and especially important, when it is extended to those who do not deserve it."Gracious: we agree! How many times to we shake our heads and mumble when we read of the survivors of someone who has been killed forgiving the murderers?How often do we grumble with the ACLU defends the rights of people who do things that our constitution permits but we find personalyl reprehensible? (Yes, this is a parallel, not a direct comparison.)Mt 18:21-22 ** is probably the least observed message of Jesus in Christianity.** 21 Then Peter approaching asked him, Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times? 22 Jesus answered, I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times."

I say the man must be psychotic, and so not guilty by reason of insanity. No sane person would do the things he has done. But other later-term abortionists do the same extremely horrible sort of thing to the baby before it is born. However, Goslinn did some things that other abortionists do not do, see the feet fetish. Still what's the difference between him and the others? Motive? The others are/might be motivated by the hope of helping the unfortunate women. Morally should that make a difference as to whether or not they should be allowed to practice? Does good will cancel out evil? Yes, we could spend a whole thread on this question alone.

"Fry the S.O.B.!!!"That's my universal reaction when I see/hear news reports like those reported in this thread.Then I consciously remind myself of Jesus' words, "Thy will be done". I realize Jesus would never push the button to set the execution in motion."Forgive us our trespasses..."In the end, I suppose for me it's "Let go and let God".

As a consistent ethic of life advocate opposed to capital punishment in all instances, I'm pleased that Robert George is speaking out on the issue. And Paul Moses is right...George is taking a drubbing at First Things.

I second Willliam's comment.

I disagree with Ann about his being psychotic.. I say he just moved the goal posts from early abortion to where-ever. Logical not crazy. Yes i agree that the consistent life ethic ought to be carried as the Catholic flag in even this most grievous offense.

I am not sure that psychotic fits him, although I am not a clinical psychologist. Psychopath seems to me to describe him better. It describes as a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse.

Sociopaths commit crimes so horrible that most people think they must be insane and therefore not legally guilty.But sociopaths are not delusory. They know quite well what they are doing, but they dont care about the pain they are inflicting, the evil they are doing.The lack of care, the lack of empathy, is what causes most people to think sociopaths are insane.Empathy and caring help us refrain from evil acts that hurt people; but they are not (or should not be) the reason we refrain from doing wrong. Objective reality, not our feelings, determines whether an act is right or wrong. Our feelings may help us discern that something is wrong, but our feelings are not always a reliable guide, especially if a person is a sociopath and lacks empathy. Too often I think that people confuse conscience with feelings. A sociopath can be a highly moral person; if he chooses to commit crimes, he is morally and legally liable.Sociopaths may even have different brain structures than most people; but this does not excuse them. It would help explain how they do horrible things without revulsion.

Professor George's argument is based on Gosnell's humanity, not on his mental state. That probably is more counter-cultural than his pro-life position. I'm sorry so many on his "side" don't get it, but he probably is hearing first from the ones who were still at Mr. Jaglowicz's "Fry the S.O.B." level of reaction. (Any relation, Mr. J, to Elizabeth Kubler-Roth? You described me to a T.)

Does "(s)he who is without sin, cast the first stone" come into play anywhere here?

Empathy and caring help us refrain from evil acts that hurt people; but they are not (or should not be) the reason we refrain from doing wrong.This may be a silly question, but: Aren't they the root of moral sense? Empathy is not (or should not be) the reason for a particular action at a particular moment, but isn't it where our moral sense comes from?

I don't think it matters whether he's mentally ill or not. I would not have him executed. If killing people is a bad thing, then killing people because they have killed people seems incoherent.

Would the death penalty even be on the table if, for instance, Gosnell had killed the babies by lethal injection before they exited the womb? If the answer is "no", then the quibble is about a technicality. There would be very little moral difference; perhaps marginally less cruelty with that method. The bottom line is of course still the same. Some abortionists already use that procedure. You can bet all of them are paying attention, and will be determined to make sure that there are no more "born alive" victims of abortion. It will be a tragedy if that is the only lesson society takes away from this debacle, and yet again avoids the hard conversation about what abortion really is.

Re: Paul Moses comment in regard to Robert Georges post in opposition to capital punishment for Dr. Gosnell and Georges expectation that his opinion will not be met with universal acclaim that the comments on his post so far attest to that most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnells life.; and See also William Colliers comment to Moses post: George is taking a drubbing at First Things.In fact, so far (at 5:50 EDT) the 16 comments in response to Professor Georges post are nearly all supportive of his opinion or take no position on whether Dr. Gosnell should be executed if found guilty.The breakdown is as follows: One commenter (no. 3) expressed strong opposition to Georges opinion. Six supported his position (nos. 1,2,5,6,7,8). Nine comments took no position on Georges opinion. Some of the latter comments consisted of back and forth discussions, but none included the one person who opposed Georges opinion. So why the suggestion that commenters oppose Professsor George's opinion?

Helen --Yes, psychopath id a better word to describe Gosnell, though I'm no expert either. The question is: are psycopaths crazy? It is my understanding that they are. They have not developed a sense of empathy so they do not interpret the world as the rest of us do. They do not realize the pain they are causing. We need to hear from the psychiatrists about them, or whatever it is that Gosnell is.

Claire,Empathy and care for others surely arise very early in healthy human development, but maybe not at the very beginning. I think the root of moral sense is the understanding that our own individual survival depends on the cooperation and help of others in our (originally) small group of extended family, nomadic band, or clan. That sounds selfish, but it is recapitulated in every baby, who starts out all take and no give, except for cuteness, but normally grows to accept a responsibility and assume a duty to sustain the group and the other people in it, sometimes at great personal cost.The history of morality is the refinement of that sense and the extension of it to include a wider and wider circleneighbors, trading partners, others who look and sound and think a lot like "our" people, eventually people who are quite different, and even members of other species. Obviously, we haven't got to the end yet.Religion and philosophy have aided the process and, sadly, sometimes impeded it. One of the impediments is the idea entertained in every age that we now at last have a secure hold on "objective reality." And we chuckle complacently at the quaintness and crudeness of previous ages, as later ages will at ours.Moral sense and a glimmer of empathy are not even confined to our own species, but occur in other social animals as well. And not just as the instinct-based sacrifices of certain insects, but as what seem to be fully aware and deliberate acts. There are even examples in other primates of "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life," and although none of us can say for sure what "above and beyond the call of duty" would mean to a baboon, a baboon knows what it needs to do.

Lee--Yes, conscience and feelings are often confused. But feelings of empathy are sometimes a good indicator of the morality of what we are tempted to do or not do, so they can be useful sometimes -- sometimes -- in making a moral decision. Unfortunately, the confusion of feeling and conscience sometimes leads to statements about the morality of an act such as, "That behavior makes me uncomfortable". But my discomfort in itself has nothing to do with whether or not the behavior or non-behavior is immoral. The discomfort is only a subjective reaction to something objective.I would like to hear from the psychiatrists as to whether or not psychopaths have enough understanding of their actions to make them culpable. Certainly brain deformities could lead to mistaken judgments in some cases.

Of course we should not call for the death penalty. While it is tempting for sure, vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to us. What good would killing this man accomplish? More blod running? Certainly it is not beyond our ability as a society, to sequester him for the remainder of his natural life, thus keeping society safe from him. Also, from the look of him (age and general condition) he probably will not try for a jail break. It is not easy for me to say, but the fact of the matter is that if we (you and I) are as pro-life as we like to think, we should call for life in prison for him, both to keep society safe from him and also, in the hope that he would use that time to realize his sins and repent of them before God calls him.Not to draw any too-close parallels, but there was a woman saint (I do not recall her name), that was murdered by a young man rather than submit to his desire. I think it happened in Europe and if I recall correctly, the man who murdered her eventually repented of his sin, confessed, and eventually became a monk.

St. Maria Goretti, b. 1890, Italy. Alessandro Serenelli, her attacker, became a lay brother.

"It will be interesting to see the reaction George gets, including from the substantial number of Catholic bishops who hold his conservative views in high esteem."Aren't Catholic bishops uniformly against capital punishment? I wold be very surprised to hear any of them call for the death penalty.

St Maria Goretti was the name of our Catholic girls' High School in South Philly. Not to take away from her personal saintliness, but when I was a teenager, I was more than a a little put off by the message (die rather than give up your virtue). Even now, I don''t think it is a great message for young girls.

I too find the church's custom of canonizing girls/women who would rather die than no longer be virgins kind of disturbing.

Of course, Kermit Gosnell, even if convicted and sentenced to death, will not, in all probability, be executed. He's 72, and the average time it takes to go through all the appeals and carry out an execution is fifteen years. Also, the jury, if they convict Gosnell, will then decide his sentence. They are not supposed to be reading or watching anything about the case, so if they read an appeal for mercy on Gosnell, they are violating the judge's instructions.I disapprove of the death penalty except in cases when society can be made safe from the offender in no other way than executing him or her, so I don't think Gosnell should be executed. But I think it is a little disingenuous to appeal for mercy for Gosnell when he is not in fact in any danger. I think Robert George is posturing. I will be more impressed with his stand against the death penalty if takes a public position against the execution of somebody who is actually sheduled to be executed. Texas has about ten executions scheduled between now and the end of July. I am sure any or all of the teams of lawyers working to save people currently on death row would welcome Robert George's support.

Jean, you are a fountain of knowledge!That story is oddly relevant. Wikipedia says that Maria Goretti expressed forgiveness for her murderer and wanted him to be in heaven with her. We might not want for Dr Gosnell to be executed for murder, but would we go as far as to wish to spend eternity in heaven with him?

mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.Similar, one supposes, to the wonderful power of mercy and love exhibited by the good doctor toward the most innocent and and helpless among us...Altogether now, let's hear it for mercy and love!

Mercy is especially real and especially important, when it is extended to those who do not deserve it.

Re: Maria Goretti, please forgive me if this is an insensitive or naive comment, but aren't women still counseled to resist and fight back against rapists? Would this advice still hold if the rapist is armed, as Maria's rapist apparently was?Here is how the incident is described in her Wikipedia entry: "On July 5, 1902, finding eleven-year-old Maria sewing alone, Alessandro Serenelli came in and threatened her with death if she did not do as he said; he was intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to hell .[7] She desperately fought to stop Alessandro, a 19-year-old farmhand, from abusing her. She kept screaming, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Alessandro first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times. The injured Maria tried to reach for the door, but Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.[8]"

Thank you, Claire. I have an idiot savant's encyclopedic recall of hagiography. I would also point those interested in forgiveness and mercy themes to St. Guthlac, in some versions a fierce warrior who took pride in the carnage he created on the battlefield ... and one day surveyed his destruction, wept, and became a holy hermit.Catholicism invites us to believe in these stories of redemption, however far-fetched they may seem. As a skeptic, it all seems far fetched. As a Christian, I must admit the possibility. Irene, while I see your point, I think, in all fairness, Ken was not advocating that girls die for their virtue so much as using St. Maria's story as an example of forgiveness.

Duh! My second PP is redundant and contains grammatical errors. I'm sorry.

Hi Jean- No I get that about Goretti and forgiveness. It always just pushed my buttons that my local Catholic Girls HS was named after her. The school was in a heavily ethnic Italian neighborhood, but there were lots of other great Italian women saints (Angela Merici? Rita of Cascia?) And talk about forgiveness, St Rita was no slouch.

We might not want for Dr Gosnell to be executed for murder, but would we go as far as to wish to spend eternity in heaven with him?Yes. In heaven we will see how everyone developed. We will watch one another's evolution and understand what twists of DNA, environment, etc. caused some individuals to be less perfect than we had the good fortune to be. -------- Do priests still preach about Maria Goretti and how girls should fight to the death to preserve their chastity? (Does being raped mean the victim is no longer chaste?) Should boys also fight to the death to preserve their chastity? (If a boy who was being raped by a priest had fought back and been killed by the priest, would he have been canonized? The Church teaches us that it is better to be killed than be raped. Is it also better to kill than be raped? If Maria Goretti had managed to overcome the rapist and kill him, would the Church have canonized her when she died of old age?)

Thank you Jean - you are correct. Gosh I guess it does not take much to veer off onto a tangent.In an effort to steer the thread back on-track then; the example I cited was not intended to be a comment on women but rather, was intended to be a comment on murderers and redemption; specifically how a murderer, if given the chance, might might see the error of his way and repent.Sorry to have inadvertently lead the conversation astray

The comments on his post so far attest to that most are thumbs down for sparing Dr. Gosnells life.Did any of those with their thumbs down offer to act as executioner? Or do they prefer to stay home with their computer while someone else kills for them?

"Yes. In heaven we will see how everyone developed. We will watch one anothers evolution and understand what twists of DNA, environment, etc. caused some individuals to be less perfect than we had the good fortune to be."Really? You been there? I'm sorry, but nobody knows what Heaven will be like (and if it's "perfect happiness" it will mean my memory will have to be erased). And I don't think that we are all merely thralls to our genetic code. We have urges and proclivities. We can also make rational choices. And we can also be redeemed with God's grace in God's time, which is why I am opposed to the death penalty.

please forgive me if this is an insensitive or naive comment, but arent women still counseled to resist and fight back against rapists?Jim,I forgive you. :PI can't imagine any responsible person or organization would advise women either to resist or not resist. Every situation is going to be different. I remember an argument in another forum in which some were saying that Maria Goretti was required to resist rape, because even when the choice is being killed versus being raped, "allowing" oneself to be raped is a mortal sin. The argument was that you always have a choice. It is not, per se, duress to have a gun to your head or a knife to your throat. In my opinion, that is absolute nonsense.

Gerelyn, I think you're more forgiving than I am. At least, if people in heaven are closer to one another than our closest friends here, I have to say that I have a reluctance to being that close to a man like him. Meaning, I'm not ready for heaven! Maybe we'll all end up in the same "place", and what will be heaven for some will be hell for others!!

Really? You been there?I'm there now. There's no time out from eternity.----- I think youre more forgiving than I am.Just older.

My own unsubstantiated opinion for why Gosnell is not being covered that much is that the media doesn't much cover terrible things that happen to poor black people. The obvious example is all the children that are killed by gun violence in Chicago. Sure, there is some coverage, esp. local or when a particularly gruesome video goes viral, but it should be much greater. Did you hear about the infant that was shot dead in Chicago last week? The real conversation we should be having is about how pro-lifers can help poor people like those who went to Gosnell and whose kids are shot regularly on the streets.

Well JC, I am not sure on your reasoning about why mainline media do not focus on violence against poor black people, but I agree with you about the terrible gun-related violence in Chicago, and I wholeheartedly agree with your contention that we pro-lifers should work toward helping the poor folk you describe.What happens in an abortion mill (or when a young man is gunned down in the street) is the Result Of a chain of errors, at the personal, family, and societal levels. Long term and on-going efforts to trim the number of those errors result in happier lives all around.While of course it is important to offer help for un-wed mothers, help that encourages life, that is really an exercise in picking up the pieces, arriving after-the-fact so to speak. Helping keep young folks on track in the first place should be the goal. Not only by word, but also by example, we should teach them why violence is so wrong, teaching kindness and mercy and forbearance and patience, that nobody is the king of the world, that we should love God, that we should respect ourselves and others around us, teaching young boys in particular to have special regard and respect for the girls, teaching about honesty and the hazards of laziness and gluttony, we should teach the importance of caring for and tending the gifts Gods gave us (from personal talents to the natural environment), teaching patriotism and good manners - All of these efforts help to keep young men from being shot in the street, and young women from entering the abortion mills.In summary JC; you make a very important point.

J: Really? You been there?G: Im there now. Theres no time out from eternity.J: Touche. Please let me know if my cats are up there. They're the ones making themselves at home on the dining room table. Tell them I love them and still miss them.

Tom, I'm no relation but I sure wish I had her book royalties :-)

There is an execution scheduled for tonight in Texas. Have Robert George and the pro-life movement called for mercy? I think it is a good thing Robert George is trying to associate pro-lifers with opposition to capital punishment, but it seems to me it is basically public relations. Gosnell's fate is currently in the hands of the jury, and should they convict of first degree murder and decide on a death sentence, there will be a decade or more to fight for mercy for Gosnell. Whereas there is a man in Texas who has a few hours to live, and ten more in line to be executed within the next few months.

"There is an execution scheduled for tonight in Texas. Have Robert George and the pro-life movement called for mercy? I think it is a good thing Robert George is trying to associate pro-lifers with opposition to capital punishment, but it seems to me it is basically public relations."I am not sure what "mercy" means but I personally know of about a dozen people (including myself), both Catholics and Evangelicals, who have both called and written the Governor and Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency for Mr. Threadgill. Since you seem to be interested in learning about Christians' efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty in these US, you should check out the websites of the Catholic Bishops' Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

Since you seem to be interested in learning about Christians efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty in these US . . . MAT,Thanks for the information. However, my point was that this plea for mercy for Kermit Gosnell is not to be taken at face value. His fate is in the hands of the jury. No plea will (or should) reach their ears. Even if they vote for the death penalty, there is plenty of timecertainly at least a decadeto plead for mercy for Gosnell. This is scarcely about Gosnell at all. It is about Robert George trying to influence the pro-life movement and to present a certain image of the pro-life movement to those not in it.

It is about Robert George trying to influence the pro-life movement and to present a certain image of the pro-life movement to those not in it.Well good. Prolife means anti-death penalty and once the broader culture renounces capital punishment, it will be gone.

Well good. Prolife means anti-death penalty and once the broader culture renounces capital punishment, it will be gone.Irene,It would be interesting to see how many people who call themselves pro-life (anti-abortion) also oppose the death penalty. There was serious resistance among some Catholics to John Paul II's remarks on the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae. Many claimed, in essence, that he was stating his own opinion, not defining a position for the Church.

"It would be interesting to see how many people who call themselves pro-life (anti-abortion) also oppose the death penalty."They're not morally equivalent. In the case of the death penalty, I believe distinctions and nuance are in order that mitigate against a simple, binary "for/against" stance.

Pope John Paul II's encyclical on this: "It is clear that the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent."I don't see much nuance there.

Irene, this phrase, "...except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society" makes this teaching (of whatever level it is) less than absolute. Someone has to make a judgment as to whether it is necessary, and whether the necessity is absolute (is there any other kind of necessity? :-)) for purposes of defending society, whatever that means. The argument could also be made that this teaching (of whatever level it is) is contingent on EV's claim that we live in an age characterized by a culture of death. If there are times and places not so characterized, perhaps this teaching on the death penalty would be subject to change. Indeed, a glance at history pretty much requires that we hold this view.

Sorry, Irene, I meant to address that to Claire!

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