Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sermon Against Capital Punishment

John the Baptist was in prison for criticizing Herod for marrying his deceased brother’s wife, Herodias. John was at the mercy and whim of Herod, the leader of the Jewish Roman government. He could behead John for any reason he wanted. That was the law of the Roman Empire at that time in a drunken fit, to uphold his honor, he had John killed to please Herodias daughter – Salome.

Opera, drama, art and song have delighted at the scene of  John’s head on a platter in the hands of Salome while she danced.

We are all horrified, mystified and entertained by violent horror. Didn’t we all love The Sopranoes?

Jesus was also put to death on the cross for proclaiming the kingdom of God.  The Roman and religious authorities interested his message as a threat to the government.

Execution as punishment has been a popular brand of punishment since human beings have judged each other.

I will not go down through the ages giving examples of the uses of capital punishment. History is full of these most brutal tactics to punish alleged crime. Peter the Great of Russia killed two thousand men of his palace guards because a few of them threatened a revolt. The French Revolution saw the guillotine chop of the heads of the king and queen and killed thousands of others merely accused.
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hanged or shot alleged deserters.

President Obama allowed Osama bin Laden to be assassinated. Drone bombers drop bombs on alleged terrorists, executing alleged terrorists with trial. We pay our taxes for that.

I know many people sitting right here in this church this morning would agree that the president did the right thing. Right or wrong, it was capital punishment. One of the great things about our church and government is that we are free to disagree.

The General Convention has been on record since 1958 opposing capital punishment. Those resolutions are not binding on our thinking.

General Convention of the Episcopal Church opposed capital punishment on a theological basis that the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God, and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of Man.  
1979-D004 Reaffirm Opposition to Capital Punishment  

They are guidelines for our conscience.


Thou Shalt not kill

We are called upon by Jesus to forgive until 70 times seven.

Compassion is the ultimate Christian motivation for our behavior.

Here is a statement by the present Pope affirming the Roman Catholic view of Capital punishment:

In a July 10, 2009 statement welcoming Mexico's new ambassador to the Vatican, Pope Benedict congratulated the Mexican government for having formally repealed the nation's death penalty laws in 2005.

“It cannot be overemphasized that the right to life must be recognized in all its fullness,” the pope said. He called upon governments to enact laws and public policies that “take into account the high value that a human being has at every moment of existence,” and added: “In this context, I joyfully welcome the initiative by which Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005, and the recent measures adopted by some Mexican states to protect human life from its beginnings."

Most Christian churches hold similar views.

Capital punishment does not reduce murders or crime. We have had capital punishment forever. We have had murder and crime forever.

Certainly, we must be concerned for the victims and families of victims. That is our pastoral and personal responsibility but that is no reason to allow capital punishment to be a vehicle for vengeance.

My daughter Sarah, a pediatric nurse, told me once that she may believe in capital punishment for those who abuse, beat, burn with cigarettes babies and young children whom she must care for.

This country and society in general know that many people have been put to death who are innocent.

Lynching mostly of black men has declined but still goes on for minorities and homosexual in our blessed country.

The Communist Party and NAACP defended Scottsboro Boys- 1931.

Ox-Bow Incident is book and a movie about men hanged by a posse. Soon they discovered the person whom they assumed had been killed was alive and recovering from wounds.

A fair trial, conviction and life imprisonment without possibility of parole is one real alternative to taking a person’s life for murder.

Franky Carrillo was
released after
spending 19 years
in prison for a
murder he did not

Obie Anthony was
released after 17
years in prison for a
murder he did not

In December 2011,
Maurice Caldwell
was released after
21 years in prison
for a murder he did
not commit.

Ronnie Carmona Sandoval
supports SAFE CA. Her son was

The SAFE California Act will save the state $1 billion in five years by replacing California’s death penalty with life without the
possibility of parole. It requires inmates to work and pay restitution to the victim’s compensation fund. It also creates the SAFE
California Fund, which sets aside $100 million or $30 million per year for three years to solve more rape and murder cases.

I personally will vote for SAFE in November. I am opposed to capital punishment.

“The death penalty does only one thing well: it degrades us all."

This morning we are in communion with God in the mystical presence of Jesus:
with those on death row.
with the families of people murdered.
with those who approve of the death penalty. 
We are in communion with those who oppose the death penalty.


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