In a Sunday article on First Thing’s website , Robert P. George argued that pro-lifers should join him in requesting that Gosnell’s life be spared from the death penalty if the jury decides as much. George, who is overly optimistic, argues that no one- regardless of the moral depravity evidenced in the actions s/he has committed- is beyond spiritual conversion, repentance and reform. As such, Gosnell shouldn’t be condemned to death through capital punishment, but should be given an opportunity of spiritual reformation and rehabilitation.
(To those who aren’t familiar or not up-to-date on the Gosnell case, I would encourage you to read the grand jury investigation to see what Gosnell is accused of.)
First, unfortunately there are some people who are simply beyond spiritual repair. History is replete with examples of people who committed atrocities against others, small and large, who never repented of their evil deeds.
Furthermore, history also demonstrates that many people who were sentenced to prison, be it for a determined length of time up to life, didn’t experience a spiritual reformation or personal rehabilitation.
Therefore George is arguing that Gosnell’s life be spared based upon the potential of him changing his ways. He even admits as much when he says, ” But whether it produces that effect or not, we will have shown all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our pro-life witness is truly a witness of love—love even of our enemies, even of those whose appalling crimes against innocent human beings we must oppose with all our hearts, minds, and strength. In a profoundly compelling way, we will have given testimony to our belief in the sanctity of all human life.”
I understand what George is trying to communicate, but I think it’s a profoundly naive position to hold. It’s up to God to have mercy on Gosnell; we on the other hand, have to do what’s right and necessary for the preservation of civil society by protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. Sparing Gosnell doesn’t do that and it sends exactly the wrong message about life’s sanctity to other Gosnell’s that have yet to be brought to justice.
George says, “Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brother—a 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.”
Using this logic, no one guilty of murder would qualify for capital punishment. So according to him the accused should simply be imprisoned so their hearts can potentially be changed.
Also, George uses the very fact that man is made in God’s image as a reason to be against the death penalty even though the Bible says that it’s for that very reason, that man is the imago Dei, that murderers should be sentenced to death. George never squares that reality.
George’s position also rules out Gosnell’s (potential) spiritual change prior to his state-sponsored execution, which George apparently doesn’t or refuses to consider.
As for being created in God’s image, I couldn’t disagree with George more. Being created in the image of God doesn’t absolve us from receiving punishment (capital or otherwise) if we’re deserving of it. Being created in God’s image actually bestows upon us the responsibility to not only NOT take a life arbitrarily as Cain did Abel (1) and as Gosnell is accused of doing countless times over, but to punish those who do (Gen 9:6). This divine imperative is the only one repeated in each of the first five books of the Bible, which is an indicator of how God viewed the severity of murder. In addition, any man who has the capability or internal disposition to deliver live babies with the express purpose to kill them- engaging in this sort of depraved evil across several decades- is beyond spiritual reparation, period. Gosnell literally killed the most innocent and defenseless among us and for that he should be punished with something much more stringent than the “mercy” of life in prison, predicated on the potentiality that he may change and display remorse.
George also says, “If our plea for mercy moves the heart of a man who cruelly murdered innocent babies, the angels in heaven will rejoice. But whether it produces that effect or not, we will have shown all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our pro-life witness is truly a witness of love—love even of our enemies, even of those whose appalling crimes against innocent human beings we must oppose with all our hearts, minds, and strength. In a profoundly compelling way, we will have given testimony to our belief in the sanctity of all human life.”Sorry. A pro-life witness is one that supports (personal witness/political support) or punishes (as an agent of the government) with death those who cavalierly take the lives of their fellow citizens (2). Sparing the life of the murderer in no way demonstrates the sanctity of life; it shows the devaluation of it.(3) It also shows preferential treatment to the murderer (mercy) at the expense of those he murdered. But more to the point, if Gosnell’s heart wasn’t moved to repent as he was severing the spines of infants for as long as he did, the mercy George encourages pro-lifers to offer Gosnell will has no chance. None.
George continues, “But even if the death penalty is justified in a case like Gosnell’s, 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.”
The death penalty is justified in Gosnell’s case Mr. George, and as such, mercy isn’t a legitimate option. If we allow all murders mercy as recompense for their evil, the act of murder will increase. Furthermore, it simply isn’t biblical.
If those watching the case, regardless of their stance on abortion, can find it in their hearts to forgive Gosnell for both infanticide and murder, God bless them. But forgiveness and (capital) punishment aren’t mutually exclusive by any means. Gosnell can be forgiven but he also needs to be sentenced to and punished with death for what he’s done.
Even God may not have mercy on Gosnell.
1). Cain killed Abel and God pardoned him. God also pardoned David for being complicit in Uriah’s murder (even though technically, David didn’t murder Uriah but conspired with the conditions to have him murdered). That said, God can pardon who he pleases; we on the other hand, cannot. We are commanded first in Genesis 9:5-6 to punish with death those who shed’s man’s blood, be the offender man or animal. This was the requirement for justice because man is made in God’s image. The universality of this imperative is underscored by the fact that it was given in the covenant God made with Noah regarding all men.
2). Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14.
3). Ezekiel 13: 19.