From the Editor

by Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak

In this our second issue of Wonder we look at Capital Punishment. We decided on this issue after attending the March for Life this past January.

For nearly a decade now the Orthodox Church, primarily through the Orthodox Church in America, has had a consistent presence at the annual March for Life. We thank God for that. During the Vesper Vesper service on the evening before the march Metropolitan Jonah offered the following words, “When we judge those who have chosen to abort, we abort them from our lives. And the second sin is greater than the first. “ I was deeply struck by that message. This is a true example of living and embracing the love offered to us through the Cross. And it is this message that best illustrates our uniquely Orthodox witness to abortion.

As a teen growing up in the Church in the 80’s I do not recall hearing much taught about the so-called “Sanctity of Life” issues. Indeed when a very good friend of mine had an abortion in college I was ill-prepared to deal with my emotions. I was left wanting for words of comfort and solace. But could find none. Her words to me at that time were the most instructive, “you will never know the pain I feel in my heart. I have done an awful thing. But I don’t need you to judge me, I just need to be loved.”

Thank God that over the past number of years our Orthodox witness to the world on the matter of abortion has become more present. There is no doubt that we still need more materials on these issues for our young people. For this month we thought to write about abortion. But at the same time we were curious about what the Church says about other, less publicized Sanctity of Life issues. So we have set out to look at what the Church says about Capital Punishment. I think you will find that unlike abortion Capital Punishment is not as black and white.

One Response to From the Editor

  1. Hal Smith says:

    My sadness over learning about unfairly executed and/or very repentant convicts in America made me feel the importance of Christianity in the last two years. I very much admire and am thankful for the Orthodox Church of America’s request for abolition of the death penalty:
    http://www.deathpenaltyreligious.org/education/statements/orthodox.html

    I think you are right that the death penalty is not very black or white. Maybe in Old Testament Times it could be justified to kill someone in the same way that they murdered someone else (“As he hath done shall it be done to him” Leviticus 24:19).

    However, in America in the last 3 centuries, and in the British empire before it, many people were executed for simple aiding a felony like robbery where someone died. Such a law, called the Felony Murder Rule, still exists in many states. In fact, a US Supreme Court Judge named Judge Story denied that Christians who could not condemn people more severely than the Old Testament could not serve on juries since “it is well known to us all, that our laws annex the punishment of death in several cases where the divine law is silent.”

    Not only do I believe that many states’ laws violate the old Testament’s “an eye for an eye, I believe Jesus overcomes harsh Old Testament rules and encourages us to have mercy on repentant criminals, like the prostitute he saved, instead of executing them.

    Thank you for your statement, which has strengthened my loyalty to the church.

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