Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay, and He has given the state the role of avenging the wrongs of evildoers. 

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 

The state had given the state the power and authority to punish wrongdoers, including, as is clear from the sword, by death. 

We do not call God a murderer when people die in natural disasters; nor is the state a murderer when it justly kills someone. God has power over life and death; and he has given that power in certain circumstances to the state. 

Both Jesus and Paul recognized the authority of the Roman state, and Paul said that he did not wish to escape the death penalty if he had done anything that deserved it. The Good Thief next to Jesus admitted he was dying justly. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church still admits all this, but says that the state no longer needs to execute people to protect the innocent.

This is an error in prudential judgment.


In Baltimore many imprisoned criminals have ordered the murder of witnesses to the point that it is difficult to get witnesses to cooperate. It is impossible to seal off an imprisoned convict from the outside world. 

In any case it is not within the purview of the pope or bishops to tell public authorities how to carry out their legitimate responsibilities. We are not in a theocracy. Bishops and popes, including John Paul II, protected sexual abusers from justice, and this was wrong. 

And the Catechism ignores the other purpose of punishment, expiation. 

The mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis by the hierarchy showed two things: 

They were completely uninterested in protecting the innocent;

They had forgotten that punishment is also meant to help the criminal expiate his sin. 

If we repent and accept the punishment we deserve, we can expiate our sins.  

Jesus came to destroy death, yet we all die. He has changed death so that it is now an entry into eternal life. 

Jesus takes away the sins of the world, but we still suffer the consequences of sin. Our willing acceptance of these consequences, including punishment, changes the meaning of the punishment. It becomes expiation. 

We do not know about the stages of death. Perhaps Ben Laden was able to repent and accept his death as expiation, and a small expiation, for the evil he had done. We can also bear our sufferings to help him, and all sinners, expiate  the wrong he has done.

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