Pope Francis Wants Life Imprisonment and the Death Penalty Abolished

Pope Francis called for capital punishment to be abolished along with life imprisonment on Thursday, October 23rd, addressing delegates from the International Association of Penal Law, specifically calling life imprisonment “a hidden death penalty”.

“All Christians and people of good will are called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty,” the 77-year old pontiff said.

Is he kidding? There is a reason that some people are “deprived of their liberty”. Someone should assemble a bunch of cases to show Pope Francis. How about the case of serial killer Lemuel Smith, currently serving life?

Already a suspect in a murder, Smith kidnapped a woman and nearly beat her to death at age 17. Convicted and sentenced to 20 years, he served about half that. About a year after being released, he kidnapped and sexually assaulted 2 women. He got 4-15 years for the second crime. Released in 1976, he went on a killing spree and brutally murdered 4 people. When finally caught, he had kidnapped an 18-year old woman and was forcing her to drive him to Albany.

In subsequent trials, Smith was sentenced to 10-20 years for rape; 25 to life for kidnapping and 50 to life for 2 of the murders. Indictments for 2 other murders were dismissed since there was no way he was ever getting out of jail. But that did not stop Lemuel Smith from killing at all. On May 15, 1981, Lemuel Smith murdered Corrections Officer Donna Payant inside the maximum-security Green Haven Correctional Facility. High-profile lawyers William Kunstler and C. Vernon Mason rushed to the defense of Smith, claiming the murdered guard was promiscuous and anything else they could make up, but were unable to overcome the evidence of bite marks Smith left on the victim’s body. Smith was convicted on April 21, 1983 and sentenced to death on June 10th. A year later, the death sentence was commuted to another life sentence.

Christianity and good will has to include protecting the public.

In the meantime, the Telegraph reports that Pope Francis will be sending a special envoy to the diocese of Albenga-Imperia in the Liguria region of northern Italy to investigate allegations that priests have posted naked photos of themselves on gay websites, raided church coffers and sexually harassed parishioners. Pope Francis really needs to get his own house in order before he starts worrying about the secular world.

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3 Responses

  1. Dudley Sharp says:

    Pope Francis: How Wrong on the Death Penalty?
    Dudley Sharp

    In a speech to the International Association of Penal Law (1), Pope Francis denounced the death penalty and life imprisonment, continuing the pattern of errors in criminal justice matters.

    1) Pope Francis condemned “a ‘penal populism’ that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.”

    Do any leaders say that “we must solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.”?

    Of course not. I can see no reason why the Pope would have said it.

    2) Pope Francis says, “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor.”

    “Impossible to imagine” is poor reasoning, nor does it have any biblical, theological or traditional support.

    On this serious topic, reality, not imagination, should be the rational guide.

    The issues are what represents justice and how can we best protect the innocent from unjust aggressors, within the reality of man’s criminal justice systems.

    Would anyone say: “It is ‘impossible to imagine’ that the Church would not protect innocents from sexual predator priests.”

    Of course not. Deal with reality.

    Reality says that the death penalty protects innocents to a greater degree than does LWOP (2) and both protect innocents better than lesser sanctions. (2).

    “Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm.” (CCC 2265). Clearly, the death penalty and LWOP do that better than any other sanctions.

    The Pope’s suggestion is to spare more violent criminals, putting their eternal souls more at risk, and to sacrifice more innocents.

    3) Neither the last 3 Popes, nor Evangelium Vitae nor the recent CCC have addressed, or even acknowledged, the huge problems that we have with all criminal justice systems, worldwide (3) – how common it is for criminal justice systems to allow known unjust aggressors, to harm over and over again (3). It is very common.

    Possibly, Pope Francis might consider:

    (To paraphrase the Pope)

    “All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to show their love and support for those innocents harmed by known violent unjust aggressors and out of respect for the human dignity of those innocent persons, who have been deprived of their safety, their lives and/or their property, to make sure that it will be “impossible to imagine” not protecting those innocents to a higher degree than we have in the past and, thereby preventing unjust aggressors from harming, even, more in the future, not only causing more harm to innocents, but also more harm to those unjust aggressors’ eternal future.”

    4) The Pope may have defined why the last 3 Popes have been such a disaster on criminal justice issues.

    Pope Francis calls sanctioned guilty criminals “sacrificial victims”, a true insult to actual innocent crime victims, a stunning moral error, with the last four decades of Church horrors staring him in the face.

    Hard to comprehend.


    1) Pope Francis calls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment, 10/27/2014 (LINK)

    2) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues (LINK)

    3) Catechism & State Protection (LINK)

  2. john blahuta says:

    the death penalty is barbaric. look what countries have it, besides the u.s.! real good company we are keeping here. with life in prison i am ok. society is protected and the criminal has a long time to think.

    and what about all the INNOCENT people, who were executed and later it turned out somebody else did it. you can release somebody from prison if a mistake was made (by accident or ON PURPOSE…) but you can’t bring somebody back to life. the dp is nothing else than murder by the government. all the necessary elements are there: intent to kill, deliberation.

    Intent whether by an individual or a government does not matter. murder is murder.

    • VJ says:

      I am with you on the innocent people. I happen to believe Bruno Hauptmann was railroaded and have read other cases where the trial was a travesty. But where there is incontrovertible evidence as in the case in this post, I would have been all for the dp. Look how many innocent people this guy harmed and killed. He even killed that woman while incarcerated! A predator like that doesn’t have any “human dignity”.