You may remember from the Book of Genesis the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel and killed him. Rather than strike him dead for his actions, God "put a mark on Cain so that no one would kill him at sight." This shows, Pope John Paul II wrote, that "Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity..."
Today I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Faith Initiative Committee of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. New Hampshire has the death penalty but no prisoner has been executed in the state since 1939 and there is presently one prisoner on death row - Michael Addison who killed Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006 not far from Trinity High School. I remember the next day at school they had still not found the killer and we had to check all of the student's cars before they got into them at the end of the day. Addison is currently appealing his sentence. However, even if he ran out of appeals, New Hampshire doesn't have a death chamber in which to execute him.
There were 7 of us at the meeting including one man named John Breckenridge. John was quiet for most of the meeting until he mentioned that he was the partner of Officer Briggs. My jaw almost hit the floor - here was Officer Briggs' right hand man who was with him when he was killed and is now sitting on a committee to abolish the death penalty in the state. Most police officers believe that a cop killer like Addison should be executed but Officer Breckenridge changed his position on the death penalty after hearing Sister Helen Prejean speak in Manchester last year. Sister Helen is of course famous from the movie "Dead Man Walking" and is a strong advocate for abolishing the death penalty.
Officer Breckenridge is now retired but his witness to the dignity of human life is powerful. This is not to say that Addison should be let go free. He should certainly spend the rest of his life in jail but he should not be killed. As the old adage goes, two wrongs do not make a right.
More to come on this.